Monday, January 31

Grandma Fern Visits!

I just had an absolutely wonderful visit with my grandmother from New York! We spent about 3 days and 4 night visiting Rennes and feasting. Before she came on Friday evening, I was talking to one of my colleagues and told her my grandmother was coming to visit, her first question was "Oh how exciting! What are you going to eat?!" Hopefully that gives you some indication of what we do here in Rennes ...

Opera House in Rennes
We did so much while in Rennes and really lucked out on the weather. Friday night, we had traditional galettes and crepes, along with some homemade Breton cider. She was jet lagged and I was exhausted from teaching all day we both passed out pretty early. Saturday we walked all around the market, got lunch, and continued to walk around Rennes, showing her the cathedral, museum, major streets in the centre ville, and the Parliament building. We ran into all my friend around Rennes which gave the impression I know everyone in Rennes; when in fact I know about six people and all six just happened to be out and about at the same time. We went on a tour of the Parliament building with my friend Caely Saturday afternoon. I had been before, in fact, the first weekend with my host mom probably the same weekend, two years ago. I was amazed at how much I actually learned this time around because a. I can actually speak French now, and b. I wasn't completely overwhelmed and exhausted from culture shock, jet lag and my first weekend in Rennes. The woman who gave the tour was really wonderful, she didn't over explain anything or go into too much detail - it was really nice.

Saturday night we went to a very nice restaurant and had a beautifully presented dinner: I had scallops so I couldn't have been happier! Sunday she came to see my apartment and I made us brunch. Coincidentally my host mom stopped by to say hello, so she was able to meet her which was nice. Sunday afternoon we got dressed up for the opera. The opera house is beautiful from the outside, and so elegant yet quaint on the inside. We sat in a little box and watched a production of Debussy's "Pelléas and Mélisande," which was beautiful and not too over the top. I had never seen a full opera there and I was very impressed and everyone was extremely talented (not to mention as a sidenote: the man who played Pelléas was from Missouri - America represent!). Sunday evening we had a low key steak dinner (which for some reason I have been craving for weeks now) and went to bed on the earlier side. This morning we walked up and down the quiet streets again, this time popping into explore the cathedral. It has been relatively warm and sunny here, but today was definitely one of the coldest days we have had - but with sun nonetheless! We warmed up with some soup for an early lunch, before I had to go to class and before she was en route to her next adventure ...

We laughed this afternoon because we didn't take any photos! I guess I never think of it because I live here. I will update with some more pictures later this week ...

Last week, I went to the movies twice: Sunday afternoon I saw "Another Year" by Mike Leigh, and Monday afternoon I saw "Les Emotifs Anonymes." "Another Year" was really well done, very much a "slice of life" as my friend Georgia called it. Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, and Lesley Manville were incredible. The movie was a bit long, but the actors make the movie completely worth it. I saw that it is up for an Oscar - so finger's crossed! My classes were cancelled on Monday so I went to see "Les Emotifs Anonymes" by myself (which is the first time I have done that and will NOT be the last ... who knew going to the movies on your own was so fun?). Anyways, it was about a man who makes/sells chocolates, but is very socially and romantically awkward, and his new employee, who is equally as awkward, but they are SO adorable and fall for each other it is the sweetest story - and perfectly light for a Monday afternoon. If it ever comes to the states I recommend it.

Last week I did a lesson on Romeo and Juliet and continued gun control in addition to starting to tutor a girl at school who was born in Scotland so she is fluent in English and quite bored in class so I offered to chat with her once a week. She and I get along really well and she is super bright so it will be nice to continue that this week. I'm preparing myself for another busy week, but getting very excited because Sarah is coming on Thursday and we are off to Strasbourg for the weekend on Friday morning!

More to come soon so restez avec moi! (stay tuned ...)

Monday, January 17

Janvier à Rennes

So I am back in Rennes after an epic New Year's, and an incredible Christmas break. The weather has been very not-Rennes, and not-winter. Knock-on-wood, the weather has been about 50 degrees and sunny for the past 2 and a half weeks, so I have been definitely taking advantage of being outside taking walks, going to the park, and going to the soccer matches. In fact, the last game I went to was the first play-off game, against Cannes, and we won 7-0! It was really fun to watch, even though it was a bit painful for the other team. New year, new adventures, so I am trying to do more! My friend Julia and I have started swimming in the brand new, beautiful, indoor pool in the park every Monday, which is great. I started a small job at a pre-school called "Les Petits Bilingues" for French/English bilingual kids. I have only been once so far, but I'm really hoping to go back. Last time we made cupcakes with 11 7-year-olds, it was messy and tiring, but so incredibly cute. I also went to IKEA the other day to freshen up my room a bit with living things, like flowers, so my studio is finally feeling very chez moi

Attempting to grow some
flowers in my room!
Beautiful sunsets outside my window

I also FINALLY bought what we call a "mini four" (which sounds much more glamourous than a toaster oven, which is essentially what it is). Nevertheless, I've been using it almost every night as my improve-culinary skills continue. Below I made pizza for myself using mushrooms and spinach, and instead of a sauce, I puréed sweet potatoes. It was absolutely delicious. 

I went to a professor's house for dinner on Saturday night and it went really well (by professor I mean teacher, and by teacher I mean colleague). He, Loïc, and his wife, Véronique, could not be nicer and there were two other couples including a French teacher from my high school, and an Italian professor from my high school. It was the most typical French evening I don't even know where to begin. My professor picked me up around 8 and we went to his house close the the lycée. We started with aperitifs (appetizers/cocktails), which were small, small bowls of cherry tomatoes, nuts, and chips. The drinks were raspberry juice, passionfruit juice, or orange juice with rum. We sat and talked and drank in front of the fire for about an hour and then moved into the dining room where we started with a homemade soup: celery, pumpkin, and leek (absolutely delicious). We took our time, had seconds, enjoyed some white wine and waited for the next course. We then had rice with scallops in a kind of cream sauce. The market was earlier that day, so Véronique was explaining how she had bought everything that morning - gah amazing. We digested with some mache, which is incredibly popular and in season, some fresh bread, and of course, four different kinds of cheeses. Something I learned: it is rude to have seconds of cheese, therefore, it is not rude to take mass amounts of each kind the first time. I guess that's fair. We then had dessert: little chocolate cakes, tiramisu, and vanilla bean ice cream - and yes, we got all three. We finished with some tea and coffee and talked more about travel and films. At the end Loïc gave me some French CD's (due to a prior conversation at dinner about my embarrassing lack of knowledge about French artists), and he took me home. Dinner was incredible, they were so welcoming, and when I got home my clock said 1 am! Dinner parties here are NOT like in the USA when you can assume to be out of there in 2 hours. If you RSVP 'yes' to a French dinner party, prepare to be there all night - which trust me, is NOT a bad idea ... 

So from reading this entry, and reading others, it pretty much sounds like all I do is eat ... which isn't completely incorrect. Well I have also been seeing a lot of films, both French and American. The films that I saw, that I recommend, are "Pieds Nus sur Les Limaces" with Diane Kruger, about two sisters which was very good, and a sort of French indie film. "Les Vrais Mensonges" with Audrey Tautou and Nathalie Baye (who is fantastic!). Before break I saw "Les Petits Mouchoirs" which some people said was only good because it had a lot of famous French movie stars, but I disagree. I didn't understand every single word, but still, it was a really great film - starring Marion Cotillard. At dinner on Saturday we were talk about another English film "Exit Through The Gift Shop" which is a movie by famous English graffiti artist Bansky. It is mostly about a French filmmaker, so the French have really enjoyed it. My friend Cait told me to see it over Christmas break, and I just got around to it. It was so good! A super odd and quirky documentary, but worth it. On Saturday morning, I was walking around Rennes and went to the market, and I found images by Space Invader - which is a pseudonym for a well known French graffiti artist. Below are the pictures - really cool!

Close-up of image
Space Invader above apt. building

Aaaand back to food - I hope that's ok ... Sunday afternoon I had a big brunch at my apartment with my friends. It was incredible. We had all been craving some real brunch I think so we made a big deal of it. It wasn't exactly an American brunch, but it involved quiche, croissants, and champagne. We had a pot-luck style brunch and everyone brought so many incredible things. We took our time and ate around 1:30, followed by a nice long walk in the park, and later we came back to either eat more, relax, and play cards. It was a typical French afternoon, slow and involving lots of eating, but it was nice to take our time and see each other and chat before a busy week. 

Mushroom/caramelized onion/gruyere cheese quiche
My toaster oven at it's best!

The spread: breakfast pizza, croissants, scones, jam, quiche,
baguettes and, of course, mimosas.

Fresh croissants and pain au chocolat - yum!
Berit's delicious almond and lemon scones. 

Taking a walk in the park we
discovered a merry-go-round ... 

and a bull ... which Caely decided to ride.

I have another ode ... and that is to Speculoos spread. I have been hearing about this spread for a while, and I haven't been able to find it. When I was in the grocery store shopping for brunch, I decided to grab some for the bread. Best idea ever. Worst idea ever. Speculoos, for those that don't know, is a ginger-y, butter-y Belgian and Dutch cookie. You often have one served with coffee or tea in the afternoon at many cafés all over France (you can read more about the traditional Dutch/Belgian use online). Anyways, this is the spread - sort of a cross between Nutella and Peanut Butter - but beyond. It is absolutely delicious, and I recommend eating it on warm bread ... but preferably solely with a spoon. To say something is better then Nutella is a very bold statement ... but I think half-a-jar later, you will agree.


There is more to come as we are only half way through January so stay tuned! Bonne appetite et à bientôt!

Monday, January 3

Bonne Année!

Happy New Year everyone!!

Music Academy at night - absolutely gorgeous.
When thinking about going back home to Maine, I thought about when to come back, and what better place to spend New Year's Eve than in Paris? I did my research and learned that places like the Champs-Élysées is absolutely crazy, à la Times Square in New York, so my friend Lindsay, her two cousins, and I, decided to rent a small apartment, go to a nice dinner, and go dancing. Mission accomplished. This was honestly one of the best New Year's I've ever had and while Paris was extremely busy and flooded with people during the day and night, it was so beautiful to walk around the city at this time with all of the lights still up. It was also a bit nostalgic because it was almost exactly two years ago that Lindsay and I were sleep deprived and culture shocked as we participated in orientation for study abroad in Paris, essentially sleep-sight-seeing. Our apt. was perfect, located in the 5th which was a perfect location and we had the best luck with finding our way around and doing the perfect amount of walking, eating, resting, and shopping.

Galaries Lafayette
 essentially the
Bloomingdale's/NYC Macy's of Paris

Side of the Galaries Lafayette building

Lindsay and I at dinner - Au Petit Marguery
Had duck and crème brulée

Lindsay's cousins Dyan and Loren attempting to read the menu in French

Home Sweet Home - who wouldn't want to stay next to Leonidas chocolates?
Looking for a place to stay? This place is perfect for 2-4 people - great apartment and incredible people
to work with. Go to for more information!
View from our door
 this can be seen from our window too!

Our New Year's Eve picnic chez nous!

Home Sweet Home

Even though I promised myself I would only write about my adventures abroad, I couldn't help, but include some pictures from my trip home - which technically counts as abroad now that I'm living in France ... right? Anyways, home was lovely. It was nice to be with family and friends for Christmas and eat some good food and just relax. I was home for 10 days and here were the highlights ... 

My friend Cait on her "surprise" bday dinner with her  boyfriend Alex -  her mom made
an incredible roasted dinner ... see below! 


Happy Birthday Cait!

While I was home a snow storm hit the east coast and we literally didn't leave the house for
almost two days straight ... not complaining. This is our front yard.

Christmas  tree!

Breakfast anyone? I tried Alice's Tea Cup "Pumpkin Cinnamon Scone" recipe
with caramel icing - they were delicious.

Traditional Christmas brunch chez moi - breakfast sandwich on a croissant?
Can't get any better than that ...

Christmas Morning (I attempted to include some non-food pictures ...)

Crown Roast for Christmas dinner
Dad did an incredible job

Mmmm White Chocolate Raspberry trifle
In true Mom fashion - delish

I promise my next post will be more about what I have been DOING and less about what I have been EATING, but I couldn't resist for now.  
Before winter break miss Sarah Marston came to visit me for a last horrah before we headed back to the States for Christmas - below are some great pictures we took of Christmastime in Rennes! 

Light show on the Mayor's office in Place de la Mairie 

Opera House all lit up

Hair pins!! Looking like candy, sushi, wrappers, and cookies - they looked incredibly real!

Christmas Market

Christmas Market