dimanche 22 novembre 2009

More cheese

Hm, I think I will procrastinate cleaning the bathroom and reading El Burlador de Sevilla by writing another blog post.

The lanquetot has stunked up our fridge to the point that anything that was refridgerated for more than 30 minutes smells like lanquetot. This is not bad. It just means, according to the French, that the lanquetot has "character." And character, chez les fromages, is a positive attribute.

So, when I pulled out my lunch at work the other day and someone across the room said, "Wow, I can smell that cheese you're eating," no one was surprised when I told them that there was no cheese in my lunch, this particular cheese had only sat next to my lunch. I told them about our plan to eat our way around the country's dairy products and that started a delightful conversation about everyone's stinky cheese preferences. "Oh, you should try such-and such! I'll bring you a sliver." "Oh, no, don't give her that, it would be mean to give that to a foreigner." And then another teacher, who is a young mother, sighed and confessed that she loves cheese so much that it was the only thing she missed while she was pregnant with her daughter (you can't eat cheese made from raw milk when you're pregnant because of the listeria risk). In fact, she admitted sheepishly, when she had just given birth and they put the squirmy newborn on her chest, she looked at the baby and sighed, "I can eat goat cheese again!"

I am falling in love with this country.

About that dog museum...

I just finished another chunk of the lanquetot cheese, and in thinking about the town of Lanquetot, I got to thinking about the dog museum, and then the time my stepsister Claire and I went to a dog collar museum, just because the idea sounded so bizarre. Not even a dog museum. A museum for dog collars.

We were visiting Leeds Castle in England (pictured above) on a family trip and saw that the Dog Collar Museum was on the grounds, so we took a detour there. It was actually pretty cool, for as weird as it was. Some cool medieval and renaissance jeweled collars for noblemen's hounds...I'm not quite sure why this is the only picture I took:

But then again, why did I even take this one?

samedi 14 novembre 2009

Tour de France

So, since Josh and I were in the States this summer during the Tour de France, we've decided to do our own version. Every week we're going to get a cheese from a different part of l'hexagone (as la France is known, thanks to its shape) and document it. This week's cheese is Lanquetot, a sort of camembert from a town in Normandy with the same name. From what I found on the internet, the town only has about 1,200 inhabitants. And a dog museum.

Not only did it win a medaille d'argent (silver medal) at some kind of cheese contest, but it's appelation d'origine controlée, which is some kind of certification authentic local products get, but I'm not sure what it actually means. I guess I should find that out.

And the cheese itself--it's pretty good. Creamy, slightly thicker than a brie, but sweeter and less earthy. Should go well with the quince I've been poaching all afternoon. I got two quinces at the market to make this recipe, but one turned out to be full of some kind of bug egg. This is the second produce fail this weekend; we got salad from our salad lady at the market and it was full of aphids. I ran it through the salad spinner again and again for about 20 minutes and those little guys were still swimming around in the water every time I washed the lettuce. UGH. I think we find something alive in our salad at least one out of three times that we get it from her. Next time we go to the market, we're going to stand in the middle and yell "OK, Who uses pesticides!?!?!?" and whoever raises their hand is going to get all our business for awhile.

But I digress.

Back to the Tour of France. You may worry about our cholesterol, but don't forget those cool bikes we got. Today Josh took his on the bus, and the bus driver went wild. Turns out he, too, has a folding bike. He talked to Josh about his bike the whole ride (there was only one other person on the bus) and then when Josh got off. . . the bus driver made him pose with his bike, next to the bus, for a picture. We live a magical life.

vendredi 13 novembre 2009


If it's possible, it's already done.
If it's impossible, we'll start right away.
If it'll take a miracle, expect a slight delay.

This was on the wall (in French, of course) in an office I had to visit today at the University. I'd filed my fiche pedagogique wrong, which means I wasn't appropriately registered for classes.

Now, this sign may be cute and funny, but if you've been paying attention around here, you know that there's more to it than that. You know that here in the south of France, if it's possible, they'll tell you it's not, just so you leave them alone. If it's possible, it probably won't happen anyway, so you may as well give up and take a pause café. And miracles--we haven't seen those since before the French Revolution. We've got laïcité, remember? No religion involved in the public sphere.

I pondered over the paradox of this sign while the secretary looked hopelessly at my fiche pedagogique, then at her computer screen, and then back at the fiche. "It's not going to let me register you," she sighed. "You need to get a derrogation to be allowed to take this class."

Ah, I pointed out. I know. My derrogation was stapled to my fiche. She shuffled through my papers to find it and sighed again. "It's not the right kind."

And then, the miracle happened. She stapled everything back together and told me, "I'll take care of it."

Well, maybe I should call it a tentative miracle--as the sign says, miracles do take a slight delay, and so maybe I should wait a month to see if this one has really come through or not. In the meantime, it's Friday, which is a small miracle of its own.

Joyeux vendredi!

lundi 9 novembre 2009

The Gorges were Gorgeous

NO, SLu, I will NOT put up pictures of my awful haircut, but I will make it up to you by posting pictures of our latest adventure in the Provençal countryside: public restroom hunting around the Gorges du Verdon, the French Grand Canyon.

Good friends came to visit us and Josh explained to them the fundamental paradox of French culture: we will pay a third of our salary in taxes so that everyone can have health care, because we believe in solidarity. But our bathrooms are for customers only.

Most of the other hikers were pretty comfortable using the "green room" as my mom calls it. This was not surprising, since the last time we went hiking (on cliffs over the Mediterranean), we saw a few people decide to cool off with a dip in the sea. . . au naturale. What they say about French beaches? It's all true.

But back to the Gorges--we had a great time driving around the perimeter, and crossing the canyon at one point on a bridge being used for... bungee jumping!

It was a long way down.No, we didn't try it. Instead, we drove into the little medieval village of Trigance... with a public restroom! Yay! Mission accomplished.
Trigance was crowned by the third (and final) castle of the day. The first we had passed somewhere around Allemagne-en-Provence (Germany in Provence--weird name for a town that looked exactly like every other Provençal town).
The second castle was in the town of Aiguines, on a hill overlooking the lake made by the river Verdon after it leaves the canyon.
Yup, that's a soccer field in front of the castle there. After all the driving around, we finally found a good jumping-off point for a hike: "Point Sublime"--the name was promising.
Turned out we were not actually at Point Sublime, but instead about 900 feet below it in the bottom of the canyon.
It was, however, a fortunate mistake. The bottom of the canyon was cool and shadowy and we got to see the rock features close-up.
It was a great way to spend a fall weekend!

samedi 7 novembre 2009

Revenge of the Euromullet

Sounds like a bad B-movie, doesn’t it? When I studied abroad in Spain, I made the mistake of going to the hippest, trendiest barrio (neighborhood) to get my hair cut (at the uber trendy salon in the basement of Mercado Fuencarral), and telling the girl “just do something stylish.” I walked out with the same mullet that the girl before me had gotten, and I was pretty sure the girl sitting down in the chair as I paid my bill was also going to leave with those same awful layers. . .

Anyway, my euromullet grew out, and in the meantime, more people than ever stopped me to ask for directions, thinking I was a real madrileña. All in all, the euromullet was a good cultural experience.

And now it’s back.

Quick parenthesis: unlike people I know who have a great unique style—like my rockin’ hipster brother Steve, who will wear pretty much anything as long as no one else is wearing it—I just want to blend in. Not that, if given the choice between the ability to fly and the ability to become invisible, I would pass on flight, but I don’t like to stick out too much. So, to go down to the university here, I’ve stopped wearing colors (unless it’s one colored article of clothing and everything else I’m wearing is black or brown), and majorly upped the beige, black and grey content of my wardrobe, because that's what everyone else does. No joke--one day I sat in a class with about 40 people and counted how many of them were wearing a color other than brown, grey, or black. Seven. Seven people were wearing colors.

So once I had the no-colors thing down, all I needed was a trendy haircut. (And a scarf, but I still haven’t found one that I like.) I realize I sound completely superficial and trend-focused, but I hadn't gotten my hair cut in two years and it was so bad my mom was dropping hints like, "So, how do you like your hair these days?" when we talked on skype. So, when I had last Tuesday off, I meandered around town to choose a salon. I settled on “The New York Salon,” decorated with giant canvases of taxicabs and the Empire State Building (and of course, Marilyn Monroe), since they offer a good student discount. And massage chairs at the hair-washing sinks.

My conversation with the stylist was rather illuminating. Not only did I learn quite a bit about her self esteem as I watched her check herself out in the mirror the entire time she cut my hair, but I discovered one more reason the French have such a reputation for being stylish: it takes FOUR YEARS to get certified to cut hair here. And it showed: I got a gorgeous, trendy haircut. And then I asked her to make the layers an inch shorter. And then, as Marilyn Monroe smirked at me from above, I walked out with another euromullet. But that’s okay. It will grow out. And I really, really liked those massage chairs. . .