A Letter in Three Parts, Part One: Why I Loved France

  • Posted on June 21, 2007 at 9:58 pm

When I lived in Aix-en-Provence, France, during my senior year of college, I wrote my friend Aubrey a letter. In this letter I included a list of everything I loved about France. To make it fair, I also included things I missed about the United States and things that I hated about France.

I think about this list often, especially when I dream about moving to an exotic, far-away land. I would love to move back to Europe–not forever, just for a year or two, or three.

I also think about this list when I meet or talk to people that just can’t deal with change, or trying new things, or anything out of their climate-controlled little boxed-in lives. I would fall into a serious depression if I couldn’t travel or try new things. It’s like some sort of syndrome, or a little bug inside me that makes me wander, makes me crazy with routine, makes me eat grasshopper tacos and makes me not want to go back the same way I came.

Thank god I had the foresight to photocopy this list before I sent it to Aubrey, because I JUST KNEW that one day I would want to type up this list and put it on my blog. (And yes, I had heard of blogs in 2000. Of course. Duh. I was so forward thinking and technical at the time, especially with how I had to SHARE AN EMAIL ADDRESS WITH 2 OTHER PEOPLE when I lived there.) And I think it’s interesting to see how things have changed in the past seven years (see number four, for instance). So here’s the list, with just a tiny bit of editing.

Everything I love about France:

  1. Bakeries everywhere-fresh, yummy bread and enough awesome desserts to make you really fat.
  2. Kinder eggs.
  3. Cute dogs everywhere-stores, streets, restaurants…
  4. Bars are open until 7 a.m. (um, I went out a bit more then. I’m on my way to work at 7 a.m. these days.)
  5. Cheesy pickup lines sound more romantic in French.
  6. The TV Commercials-they are hilarious. (Case in point-only in France would the Commission for Milk and Dairy Products make a commercial promoting milk that is sexier than any Madonna video. A girl eating cheese, glancing longingly at a gorgeous man, and oops! white milk dribbled on her chin. They make out, eat cheese and be sexy.)
  7. The men are mostly beautiful.
  8. The women are not. (sorry French women, but I guess that’s what I thought then.)
  9. Fresh produce markets every day.
  10. Little specialty stores-like for meat, for cheese, for tea, for salmon, for hats, etc.
  11. People drive like maniacs and all the cars are tiny. And stick shifts.
  12. The roads are narrow and confusing and cobblestone.
  13. Red roofs.
  14. They all take 2 hours off to eat lunch.
  15. The garbage men come everyday. And they’re cool mo’fos. (note from present me: actually, I thought they were so cool, I would throw them beers from the second-story window. And they would give me treasures they found in trash. On one of my last nights in France, I actually invited the garbage men up to the apartment and we had a little farewell party. I’m not joking.)
  16. French money is just prettier.
  17. The coffee is ten times better.
  18. Cafes. They’re everywhere. And men have no problem sitting at a cafe, even on a Friday night, discussing whatever it is men discuss together. Never would that happen in the United States. (well, I don’t know about that, or why I wrote that…I guess men in Indiana, where I went to college, weren’t big into cafes.)
  19. Men on the street notice you when you want to be noticed. (well, I was 21…)
  20. Wine. Is. Cheap.
  21. French children are adorable.
  22. The ATM machine gives you your card back before the money. Smart.
  23. People eat dinner around 8 or 9 pm.
  24. The shoes. The clothes.
  25. I can walk virtually anywhere in my town. The grocery store is 2 seconds from my apartment.
  26. I have a buzzer intercom!
  27. Olive oil abundance.
  28. Hardly any school work, ever.
  29. Classes only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
  30. Bisous. (Instead of shaking hands, you “do the bisous”–kisses on the cheeks.)
  31. There are no gang-banging low-riding mall trashers. Well, hardly any.
  32. Warm baguettes.
  33. 20 franc pieces.
  34. bon appetit, bonne journee, bonne soiree, bon voyage, bon cafe, bon examen, bonne chance.
  35. Other cool countries are just a train ride away.
  36. Preset menus.
  37. There’s no law against liquor containers in public (=walking down street, beer in hand.) (not really sure why I thought that was so cool…I don’t think I ever walked down the street with a beer. I guess it was just the idea that I could if I wanted to.)
  38. Opening the shutters in the morning. “Bonjour, Aix.”
  39. Hi, it’s France.

God, it makes me miss France.

Back and behind

  • Posted on June 19, 2007 at 11:11 pm

We’re back from vacation. I am so behind on blogging, on posting pictures to flickr, on laundry, on responding to emails…I need another vacation please.

The trip was gorgeous. Cape Cod is gorgeous. We had some crummy weather, but fortunately there was an international film festival in town, so we took advantage of that and saw some gorgeous movies. Oh, and I learned a new trendy superlative-gorgeous. Use it for everything, like they do in Ptown. Our beach house, not so gorgeous. Kind of a dump. But oh well, it was cheap. I tried not to touch anything.

I was only attacked by one animal on the entire trip–an evil cat that jumped through a window to attack me while I dined on smoked salmon. I can’t blame that kitty, because the salmon was delicious, but the whole effin’ restaurant heard me scream, and then they all pointed their fingers and laughed at me for screaming. But seriously, the cat was evil. You would have screamed if an evil cat was coming right for you through an open window, claws out and ready to poke your eyes out.

I took a gazillion gorgeous pictures, but here are a couple that caught my eye. You can see the rest on flickr.

Buoy buoy buoy

lift

Whale tale

Goin’ On Vacation

  • Posted on June 8, 2007 at 7:25 pm

Dear Loyal Readers:

We are going on vacation tomorrow! We are headed to Cape Cod, MA, where we rented a beach house for the week. We’re going with my brother Brandon, his girlfriend Amanda, and my brother Eric. It’ll be the first time us kids go on vacation without our parents. God, we’re so grown up.
We won’t have internet access at the beach house, but we’ll try to send updates to twitter by cellphone, so you can keep up with us. I’ll have lots of stories about all the animals that are sure to attack me when we get back.

Beer Review: Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter

  • Posted on June 3, 2007 at 6:14 pm

I recently discovered Total Wine and More, an amazing store with more wine and beer than you could shake a stick at. The beer selection is overwhelming, so Larry and I decided to start buying single bottles through the clever “make your own six-pack” feature so we can try them all. So without further adieu…the first beer review!

Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter

From Flying Dog’s website:

Alcohol Content: 9.0% ABV
Original Gravity: 1.093
IBU’s: 80
Specialty Malts: 120L Crystal, Chocolate Malt, Black Malt
Hops: Warrior, Northern Brewer, Cascade
Process: Double Porter recipe, dry hopped with a shit load of Cascade hops.
Ideal Drinking Occasion: Whenever fear and loathing strikes

What we thought: it’s flavor was as bold as Hunter S. Thompson driving down a desert highway with a head full of acid. That pretty much says it all.

Gonzo Imperial Porter

This beer is thick and dark. 

Rained out

  • Posted on June 3, 2007 at 1:15 pm

We were supposed to go to a DC Nationals baseball game today with our friends Ed and Kristin, but we got RAINED OUT. I don’t even like sports, but I do like going to baseball games. I can pass almost an entire game socializing, trying to catch t-shirts that the mascots catapult into the crowds, drinking beer and eating popcorn, and not even pay any attention to what’s going on down on the field.

Rained out

The view from the balcony today.

This picture reminds me of when I was a young child. If I was sitting in a car on a rainy day, I would trace the raindrops with my finger as they slid down the window, and I would name each drop after one of the Seven Dwarfs. I have no idea why.

Songbird Korean Restaurant

  • Posted on June 2, 2007 at 8:10 pm

I would like to thank Michaela for introducing me to the deliciousness of Korean food. Last Tuesday, Larry and I went with her to Songbird Korean Restaurant in Tyson’s Corner, VA to have a farewell dinner before she leaves D.C. to live in Vermont for six months. (Good luck, Kala!) The restaurant didn’t look like much, but the food was soooo good, and I can’t believe I’ve only now discovered Korean food! (Although my friend Kim did give me the names of two Korean restaurants to try in Annandale at least a year ago when we worked together…but Larry and I never made it there because Annandale just seemed so far. Silly me.) Before Tuesday, the only “authentic” Korean food I have ever had was when I tutored a Korean student, and her grandmother would make me fried egg sandwiches with strawberry jelly inside. I don’t know if they eat egg-jelly sandwiches in Korea, or if she thought she was doing me a favor by making me an “American” snack.

At Songbird, we ordered two types of BBQ and bibimbap, a rice dish with egg, meat, and veggies. I’m so glad Michaela is familiar with Korean food, or I would have had no idea where to begin. Once we ordered, a whirlwind of activity began at our table–they placed about 15 different little dishes filled with kimchi, salads, and other cold plates. And then the server fired up the BBQ grill in the center of the table, and we got our own little cooking show, watching him slice, dice and grill the meat, onions and mushrooms. But thank god, he didn’t do any cheesy tricks a la Benihana’s Japanese Steakhouse, like tossing knives and throwing shrimp at people. This is the real deal. And strangely, I didn’t see strawberry jelly and egg sandwiches on the menu.

I loved everything, especially the soy/garlic paste that they gave us for dipping. Where can I get some of that? Because I want to dip everything in it.

Kimchi

Korean BBQ...yum

Why do I love Asian food so much? I think it has to do with the fact that my mom always wished I was really Chinese.