Aix Marks the Spot

I was in Aix-en-Provence, France, from January to May 2012, during which I attempted to keep up a blog. This is what happened.

5 reasons why I already miss France

#2. Sticking it to the man on my last day in France. Photo by Kelly Gagnon

1. Cafes

The cafés in Aix are the city’s pulse. They wake up pouring espresso for the early-to-rise Aixois, serve lunch throughout the afternoon, hand out pre-dinner tapas with after-work drinks, and greet the night owls with cocktails into the wee hours of the night. They’re even open on Sundays, which alone is an accomplishment.

Besides providing a steady flow of caffeine and alcohol, the cafés allow the Aixois to pursue one of their favorite hobbies: people-watching. One large square called Place Richelme, for example, is home to five cafés, a daily a.m. farmers market, and three major pathways of pedestrian traffic. Most café customers sit outside, even in near-freezing temperatures, in order to best observe this slice of life (and to smoke legally). You could sit there alone from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. and have constant entertainment.

I still love the coffee shop culture of America — sitting in a comfy armchair with the latest New York Times bestseller or a MacBook — but I miss the social voyeurism, as well as the espresso, of French cafés. Continue reading 5 reasons why I already miss France

Mothers around the world

Happy Mothers’ Day…

...to Janis Feldman Siner

…to the woman who came all the way to France to see me.

…to the woman who made me the number one priority in her life.

…to the parent who inspired me to be successful but never demanded it.

…to the original copy editor, the woman who proofreads this blog every post.

…to the best, most resourceful networker I know.

…to a strong, resilient, beautiful Feldman woman.

And Happy Mothers’ Day to all of you mothers, grandmas, and aunts out there reading this post! You deserve a day, or probably a year, of recognition. Now go celebrate with some chocolate and bubbly wine (or grape juice, as my mother prefers).

62 things to do in France

Spending time abroad is truly a time-bending experience. My going away party at Allen Hall, for example, was five months ago. I remember it as well as some things that happened a few weeks ago — but I feel like it happened years ago.

This list was compiled by the wonderful friends who came to that party to wish me a happy time abroad, but I have to admit — I sort of forgot about it. I kept meaning to check it, but I never thought about it when I was actually by my computer. (Don’t you hate it when that happens?)

I’m surprised by how many I’ve done without even realizing. And with one week left in Aix, and two weeks left in Europe, I will try to finish it off. So, voilà! — here it is!

#12
  1. Buy a baguette — done
  2. Go to a Monoprix — done
  3. Eat cheese — duh
  4. Find a thrift store — done
  5. Find hidden French stores — done
  6. Take artsy pictures — always trying to!
  7. Read French newspapers and magazines — done
  8. Eat in a cafe — done
  9. Eat Belgian chocolate — I have not; however, I find French chocolate to be sufficiently delightful.
  10. Go to a nude beach —  The weather just recently got nice enough to even go to the beach, so I cannot confirm or deny whether nude beaches are as common in France as Americans think. Unaccomplished so far. Continue reading 62 things to do in France

The big result (Le grand resultat)

If you’ve ever auditioned for anything, ever, you understand what suspense is. You’ve felt it the moment right before the list goes up, right as you walk up to see if your name is printed on it. In that moment, you are powerless. You can’t change anything, and you don’t know anything, and you’re just hopelessly waiting for the next moment.

For the people of France, last night at 8 p.m. was that moment. Continue reading The big result (Le grand resultat)

La politique

France is in a political frenzy right now. The final election for president is this weekend, so politics is everywhere, non-stop. It’s on TV, in every newspaper, in my classes, on the street, at the bars. In fact, I can probably talk more about French politics in French right now than I can about American politics in English. Sorry, Romney. Sorry, Obama. You ain’t got nothing on Sarkozy and Hollande.

I’m sure you’re curious: What’s all the hype about? In the off-chance you’re not, you probably can stop reading this blog post now. But I personally find it fascinating, and I hope you might, too. Continue reading La politique

Vive la France

It’s obviously that point in the semester: the point when cheese or Nutella — dare I say it? — begin to look unappetizing (I never thought this was possible!); when my body starts craving sleep; and, of course, when my blog becomes neglected.

I put a disclaimer at the top of the blog page: “No promises [that I will keep up my blog]. Sometimes it’s more important just to live your life.” And indeed, I feel like I have been living my life pretty fully. In this catch-up post, I’ll explain some of the things I’ve been doing these last three weeks in hopes that you’ll agree. Continue reading Vive la France

Matt’s First Mille-feuille

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When I reread my journal entries from my high school European vacation, I can see a common theme throughout all of them: food. (It runs in the family.) I wrote about it more than I wrote about boys, which, for a 15-year-old girl, is saying something. In fact, I believe I wrote about almost every meal I had — every breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even some mid-day snacks. European food took my American taste buds for a joy ride.

Matt at the pâtisserie

My boyfriend Matt can confirm that my enthusiasm for describing the things I eat, in great detail, is still alive and well. Fortunately, he was able to get a taste of what I’ve been shamelessly raving about during his visit to Aix this weekend.

For my last blog post, I went to La Boutique du Glacier to photograph my favorite mille-feuille. I took Matt there with a little anticipation, as if he were meeting an old friend of mine who I talk about all the time, because, really, I talk about the mille-feuille all the time. What if they didn’t like each other?

According to the mille-feuille Wikipedia page:

Traditionally, a mille-feuille is made up of three layers of puff pastry (pâte feuilletée), alternating with two layers of pastry cream (crème pâtissière), but sometimes whipped cream, or jam are substituted. The top pastry layer is dusted with confectioner’s sugar, and sometimes cocoa, or pulverized nuts (e.g. roasted almonds). Alternatively the top is glazed with icing or fondant in alternating white (icing) and brown (chocolate) stripes, and combed.

Um … yes, please. Merci beaucoup. Continue reading Matt’s First Mille-feuille

Profitez

Mini pastries

The other day after lunch, I faced a serious dilemma: to buy a pain au chocolat (a chocolate-filled croissant, also known as a sweet taste of heaven), or to walk away from the pâtisserie — pastry shop — leaving my wallet and figure unscathed?

Seriously, there are so many sweets shops in this town that I’m not sure how I can walk down the street without gaining ten pounds. Chocolates, cookies, macarons, Nutella crêpes, and pastries — oh, the pastries upon pastries that lie seductively in windows like a lady of the night in Amsterdam. There’s even place down the street from my school that sells, in rare American fashion, overpriced cupcakes. Am I to be blamed for giving into temptation and trying one or two or all of them? Continue reading Profitez