Archive for December, 2009

Festive eats

Posted in La France at 16:04

Escargots
While at my local supermarket this morning, I noticed they’d put escargots at the end of an aisle. Some French people — not all, many wouldn’t touch them if their lives depended on it — eat snails, more specifically the Burgundy snail, escargot de Bourgogne. They’re usually served in a fragrant butter-based sauce called beurre à la bourguignonne (Burgundy butter), seasoned with garlic, shallots and parsley. I happen to love snails, but have never cooked them at home; they’re for very special occasions. I didn’t buy any today, although I will admit to being tempted. That said, there are better places to buy snails than canned from a supermarket.

Also tempting were the rows and rows of bottles of champagne. This year, however, I’m eschewing my usual bottle of holiday champagne for other wines: Sauternes to go with foie gras (and because I love Sauternes), Blanquette de Limoux brute, Crémant de Loire rosé (pink), and a Côtes du Rhône red. I’ve already had the blanquette, which was delicious. I found it to be smoother and with a better body than champagnes, which are more ethereal.

Living in France, it’s hard to avoid getting to know wines. Over the years I’ve discovered that I like fuller-bodied, earthier wines, which is interesting since my home state of Oregon produces one of the best examples of that taste: Willamette Valley wineries make gorgeous pinot noirs! As for French wines, my favorites are from Burgundy, Rhône, and Patrimonio (in Corsica). While there are Bordeaux wines that I enjoy, generally I like them less; there are several Bordeaux I dislike that other people find very good. As a result, when TV shows or movies have a scene where someone orders a Bordeaux to admiring oohs and aahs, I’m left cold! (Give me a Châteauneuf-du-Pape any day. Or an Eyrie Vineyards or Domaine Drouhin Oregon pinot noir. Help, I’ve become a wine nerd.)

Quinquennial snow

Posted in Journal, Nice at 15:20

Snow in Nice
This morning, Nice woke up to snow, for the first time since January 2005. I remember where I was those five years ago: in a run-down furnished hotel room, where I’d been since having ended the relationship with my ex of six years, who had taken everything. The lease on our apartment had been in his name only; according to him at the time, it was “easier”. The car was in his name too, so it was also “easier” for him to put everything in it and leave me with just my clothes, even giving away my cat, Malo, at Christmas after telling me I could come take care of him during my ex’s vacation. Furthermore, as a freelance translator at the time, his taking my computer effectively meant I was without a livelihood. And since I was a foreigner, in addition to being a freelancer, landlords did not want to rent to me.

Family chipped in to help me purchase a laptop so that I could get back to earning money. I found the cheap furnished hotel that offered long-term stays (these types of hotels are called meublés here). And three months after that snow, I got an email from two men — fellow freelance translators — who would soon become my landlords, mentioning they were readers of my blog and they had an apartment free to rent. In a joyous coincidence, Malo was returned to me at the same time, since his recipient had had enough of his fur. Six months after that, I was offered a job. With an income that bankers could verify as regular on paper, I was finally able to purchase an apartment a year and a half ago. Slowly but surely, I built a new life.

I was surprised by the strong memories that seeing snow outside my patio evoked. Five years ago, seeing the snow at such a dark time in my life felt cold and hopeless. Seeing the snow today cued those feelings, even while I felt happy to see plants and my patio roof covered in white. I realized how far I’ve come; the cold weather is merely cold weather now. My life is filled with wonderful colleagues, dear friends, fluffy kitties who are always waiting impatiently for me at the door, and of course a home of my own. I hadn’t thought of those difficult times in a while, my life being filled with, well, life now!

Eiffel on the sky

Posted in La France, Travel at 22:24

Eiffel on the sky
I’ve been busy lately, and today was no exception — I went to Paris for a business meeting. Once it ended, I hopped on a metro to the Eiffel Tower, hoping to see it in the sunset. I didn’t have time to visit anything else in Paris, which meant that I could devote what little time I did have, to photographing more of the Eiffel Tower than I would otherwise. It was a beautiful evening, and as always, my breath was taken away by Eiffel’s gorgeous conjunction of imposing mass and fine grace. You can see more of the “Iron Lady” in my photoset from today.