Monday, August 31, 2009

Off and running again!

So I began this year with a list of New Year resolutions. One of them was to log at least ten miles a week on my Nike+ Sport Band watch. I'm happy to report that I've maintained my resolution for the most part.

Being in Paris has in a way upped the ante on the walking. I'm logging in 16-18 miles a week so far. However, it's all just been a whole lot of walking. Back in the Bay Area, I'd get my ten miles in by running the Stevens Creek trail every other day.

This morning, I got up and decided to go for a run in the Luxembourg gardens. When I was in Paris a few years ago, I could have sworn I never saw anyone running in the gardens. Now the dirt trail around the garden is flooded with Parisians. The funny thing is that they don't really seem to be running. More like a casual jog, which makes my labored canter look somewhat normal.

People watching while running here is a lot more interesting than back home. From the lady who could really use another sports bra (or two or three) to waif like girls who look like they can barely hold themselves up and are desperately searching for some fried chicken to women in full makeup and regalia casually jogging as if afraid of looking 'gauche'. And that's only the women. I have to say the Stevens Creek trail has nothing on the Luxembourg gardens. Jogging in the shade of grand oak trees, surrounded by purple and yellow pansies and dahlias, listening to the gurgling fountains, and seeing Saint Sulpice church looming in the distance, it's pretty easy to forget the trail back home.

The only problem with the gardens is that it's a mile walk from my apartment. I actually contemplated jogging in the Montparnasse cemetery, but I don't know if that's really socially acceptable.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A "bonne marque" and the Monoprix

So yesterday I went with my landlady to her banker to fill out some insurance forms. Though my French is quite limited, especially in the presence of those who jabber on at a mile a minute, I picked up that the banker liked to travel to London to buy clothes.

Apparently there are some "bonnes marques" aka good brands, especially American, that you can find there and not find here. Upon further inquiry, the banker mentioned how he absolutely loves "Ahh-bear-crom-bieee" and how it's so much better than "Hole-eeesst-staire". It took me a minute to realize he was talking about Abercrombie and Holister. I mentioned that I can't stand the brands myself since the stores play music at a deafening volume and reek of perfume. Well I figure it's gotta be someone's cup of tea.

Today I decided to run some errands and check out the Monoprix located near the Montparnasse tower. I figured it would be like a Target with some basic house hold items and a line of clothing, but lo and behold I was wrong!

They have a pretty extensive food section. Imagine if Target and Trader Joes had a love child with a seafood, cheese, and meat section. Exactly. I perused and perused. I even found 'ethnic' food! Japanese, Indian, even Tex-Mex.

Now I bet you're all wondering what Tex-Mex is, at least to the French. Of course there was salsa, chips, and tortillas (yay!), but also lumped into this ethnic category included peanut butter (outrageously priced), popcorn, and marshmallow fluff. How marshmallow fluff is Tex-Mex is beyond me. I went a bit overboard and this is some of what I came home with. Can you figure out what I decided to make?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Random eats in Paris

Believe it or not. I'm getting tired of eating. To be honest, tired of eating out all the time. I can only handle so many restaurants before I'm craving a home cooked meal. Cooking is therapy for me, so naturally I crave it every now and then when I'm feeling down.

I've been craving some foods too from home. Particularly Mexican food and In-n-Out. It is possible to find burgers here, but they're just not the same. Their ground beef is actually of a higher quality... maybe too good to be put in a burger.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Le 14eme

So I live in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. Yes I know it's not the Latin Quarter, but it's the closest I could get to my school without paying both arms and legs (I'm already paying an arm and a leg, but lets not get into that). It's a couple miles from school, which isn't too bad.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Twelve miles around Paris

So today was a busy, but not so busy day. Forcing myself to relax a bit, the only thing on the agenda was to meet my landlady in the afternoon.

I walked down to the Bastille market. I love the markets in Paris; stalls abundant with produce, fish, breads, and even merchants hawking their odd wares. I even found an Asian stall and bought myself a spring roll for lunch! True they didn't get it quite right, serving it with sweet and sour sauce instead of peanut sauce, but it's still a small reminder of home.

After lunching by the Bastille, I walked through the Jardin du Luxembourg to Rue du Chateau to find my new apartment. By apartment, I mean studio. By studio I mean glorified closet. And by glorified closet I mean tiny shoebox that I'm not sure how I'll manage to live in. However my landlady is really nice and accommodating, so we'll see how it pans out. I'll save the apt rant for another post.

By the time I got home, I logged 12.5 miles on the pedometer. Time to give my feet a rest, perhaps tomorrow I'll opt for the metro.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Le Palais and bouillabaise

Today was our last day in Marseille before heading back to Paris via the TGV in Avignon. My dad went on a boat tour in the morning, but I decided to stay in and be lazy. Plus with temps in the high 90s, I think I did myself a favor.

I did however make a foray over to the Palais de Longchamp. Kinda dirty and overgrown with moss, but maybe that's the look they're going for.

Le Vieux Port

My dad and I are in Marseille for a couple nights. Our hotel is perfectly situated along Le Vieux Port and today you can still find fish markets aplenty. Marseille is the oldest city in France dating back over 2,600 years when it was originally founded by Greek settlers. It is a vibrant town full of diversity, but with equally as much crime. Even the police officers here don't walk the streets alone. We noted that they walk in pairs or triplets.

Still, it's quite picturesque.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cannes you handle it?

I sure cant. :) Cannes that is. Seems like the French Riviera is amounting up to be the same, especially popular cities like Nice, Cannes, St. Tropez. I feel like there's enough glitz and glam to make me go blind. It's a haven for designer brands and it gets a bit ostentatious in my opinion. A guy who looks no more than twenty-five driving a Ferrari, a girl younger than me with a Birkin bag, and countless tiny yorkies with Louis Vuitton dog collars. Really now, is that necessary?? It's enough to drive me mad.

Don't get me wrong, I do like nice things. I love nice things as much as I do a good meal. It feels though that if you have an overabundance of glamor, glitz, and high end goods, you forget how special each and every thing is.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Aix marks the spot

Today was another day spent in Aix-en-provence. Since we have the car, I decided that a quick trip to the Citadelle de Sisteron would be fun. I left my dad outside, as I climbed up the many stairs, walked out to the turrets, peeped out of sentry posts, and ran amok with my explorers cap on.

The fortress sits high up in the mountains and provides breathtaking view of the Haute Provence valley below. Pictures only capture part of the beauty. I can only imagine troops stationed and armed infantry storming up and down the ramparts!

Round the roundabout and pass the Sault

So today we left Avignon and began our travels by car. Though the French drive on the same side of the road as we do in the states, I forgot about the roundabouts.

I used to believe that roundabouts where chaotic circles of doom, implemented by road designers as a mean joke on indecisive or skittish drivers. The first time I encountered one was as a passenger and just remember careening around the bend worrying that we would slam into another car. How do you know when to go? When to exit? What lane to be in?

If executed correctly, I've found roundabouts to be a harmonious orchestra of cars, each drifting off in their own direction. Mind you only if executed correctly. If you stop, this defeats the purpose of the roundabout; suffice it to say, my dad isn't allowed to drive anymore.

Today we drove to Pont du Gard which is an ancient Roman aqueduct. Up to 5000 people visit the aqueduct daily, some families come to bathe in the river below. It really is a sight to behold.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sur le pont d'Avignon

Today was a hot day in Avignon, and though we didn't do any dancing on the bridge as a famous French nursery rhyme would suggest, my dad and I did do some sight seeing. We visited the Palais des Papes, a great example of Gothic architecture once occupied by several generations of Papacy.

Here are some pictures of the palace and the bridge:

It was so hot today, that I didn't really have an appetite. From the morning until around 8 PM, I had coffee, a croissant, and an orangina to hold me over. For dinner we dinned at one of the many outdoor restaurants at the Place de l'Horloge. I ordered the coquilles st. jacques gratinee (scallops), pasta, and ice cream! Yum. For dessert I decided to order deux boules de la glace (two scoops of ice cream) of strawberry and chocolate, and my dad ordered vanilla and coffee. I have to say the chocolate was insanely good. Very dark, slightly bitter with chunks of chocolate in it. Definitely tasty and I don't feel so bad since I skipped lunch and walked four miles today!

It's heating up

Today temperatures peaked in Paris. 32(?) degrees Celsius, though I'm not exactly sure what that means in Fahrenheit... and quite frankly I'm too lazy do the conversion. It just sounds hot.

However before I get to the heat... and fire, yesterday my dad and I had a pleasant dinner close to Jardin des Tuileries. We feasted on escargot, foie gras, lapin (rabbit), agneau (lamb), pots de creme, and this weird minestrone des fruits. Pretty much fruit soup.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Paris en vacances

So I made it. After a delayed flight and sprinting through the terminal to my connecting flight, I'm finally in Paris. I think I figured why I'm not freaking out about moving out here. For me it's like coming home. It just feels natural; the cobbled streets feel so familiar as if from a past life.

So Paris is on vacation. What does that mean? The streets are fairly empty. Shops are closed with obligatory notices stating that they'll be back in a month or so. What does this mean for me? It means that for dinner I dragged my dad out to a crepe restaurant just to find out they were closed for the rest of the month. I was pretty disappointed, seeing as they'll open again after he leaves. Oh well, we settled for L'As du Fallafel, if you count that as settling.

Our lunch today: Quiche, Croque monsieur and salad.

My dad enjoying a pita and going "Hey! This isn't French food!" I have a feeling as the trip progresses, there will be less and less pictures of him looking so amicable.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The last supper

For my last dinner in the states before moving to Paris, Wendy and Dave treated me to Gary Danko in San Francisco for a belated birthday/going away gift. If they were looking for a great present for me, a dinner with the two of them here definitely fit the bill.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Top 10 things

I've been thinking lately of the things I'll miss about California. Though I'll be back for Christmas, I can't help but imagine things here that I'll miss or that I won't be able to find in Paris.

In no particular order:

1) In-N-Out Burger
2) The Pham-ily
3) Half of a Los Charros jumbo carnitas burrito (the other half goes to Mary)
4) Perfect weather (we really are spoiled)
5) Wednesday night knitting group
6) Vietnamese food and a lychee martini
7) Tuesday night dinners with Dave and Wendy where we eat like kings!
8) Foisting baked goods on the folks at SYMC.
9) 0.7 mile commute to work and the Stevens Creek trail
10) Donut Wheel

As a tribute to all things American, tonight I indulged in a classic A&W root beer float.

Birthday clam bake

Yes, I know. My birthday has come and gone, but for some reason I haven't been able to bring myself to blog about it. I guess this year I just really didn't want to celebrate it.

I'm on a tirade of hedonistic gluttony before my departure for Paris, so I decided I wanted a low key, yet tasty dinner for my birthday. The weekend prior, we feasted on several types of red meat, thus I figured an old-fashioned clam bake would do the trick.

Into the pot went sauteed onions, white wine, stock, fingerling potatoes, four pounds of clams, two pounds of shrimp, and a very unhappy lobster named Ira. Why Ira? We had just watched "Funny People", which in my opinion, was not funny in the slightest.. and decided to pay homage to the main character.

Here is Ira and his friends. They made for a delectable dinner.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Nutella tiramisu

The past week I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off. From packing to moving to prepping for the party, I've been pretty exhausted. My brother and Wendy were so kind as to throw me a going away party that I was compelled to contribute. My offerings? Twenty pounds of korean short ribs, ten pounds of pulled pork (for sandwiches), two pitchers of peach sangria, 101 jello shots, chips, and a huge bowl of guacamole made of sixteen avocados. On top of that, we had a keg, tri-tip, rootbeer floats, and tons of other food brought by our guests. To say the least, we know how to party, especially when it comes to food. Of course I couldn't show up to my own party without a dessert, so I quickly threw together a Nutella tiramisu.

I used a basic tiramisu recipe that used marscapone cheese and whipping cream. To the cheese mixture I added about a half cup of Nutella. I garnished it with chopped up Italian chocolate with hazelnuts.

Now all I need is to catch up on some well deserved rest. But after all the eating, maybe a 10 mile run might be more fitting.