Monday, June 30, 2014

Four Days In Nice, Gushing Over Food Again and Bike Riding Adventures

It didn't take long to find lots of good food in Nice.

Everyday, I could walk around the block and pick up an almond croissant. Unbelievable texture and taste. An abundant almond creme filling.

I've also started lavishly coating my bread with butter as if it were sunscreen on my back in the Sahara Desert. It needs to stop, but I may have to wait until we board Delta Airlines headed for JFK. Tony just walked in the door with a brioche and I'm tempted to butter it. Brioche is gone and I made it!

We quickly adapted to the Nice/Paris on the water lifestyle. We're just about to head out for a nice little swim in the Mediterranean SEA.

Bike riding has returned to the bike-station to bike-station frenzy of riding. Here's what happens: 1. Before we leave the apartment, Tony checks the website to see which stations have available bikes. There are four bike stations pretty close in every direction from our apartment.

2.We head out to the station with the best odds. Yesterday, it was a sea-front location with 9 bikes.  Once the decision is made, we rush out the door....But within the 5 minutes it took to get there, only two remained, one of which didn't have pedals.

3. We go on a hunt for ridable bikes. Bike racks are everywhere, so this isn't  a big deal.

4. We start the process of checking out a bike on what is a unique electronic monitor. "Bonjour Tony" we are greeted after flashing our chip embedded cards. And then the proverbial: "Patienz."

While patient, we choose our bike, take out a large, heavy black chain, Tony sets his watch, and we ride off to find a bike path. The French are very kind and cooperative when you follow their rules, but when you don't,  or when ride in the opposite traffic direction on a one way street, it's another story.

5. The beloved brain usually knows where all the bike paths are. Usually. Occasionally, the French close off certain roads which throws the brain--remember the pork muffin? But he quickly finds an alternative route. This is where the race against money and time comes in.

6. From bike station to bike station, we only have 30 minutes. One minute over-time (up to 30 minutes) accrues an added charge of one euro. This equals approximately $1.50.  Per minute, this is an exorbitant charge. At one hour, it adds another euro and so forth. But when we barely make it back in time, sometimes with only seconds left, it is a cheap thrill. We often ride in at 27-30 minutes. The monitor lets us know time and "No charge."

7. Sometimes, we arrive at a bike station with two minutes left and no space to check in a bike! Is there an accomodation for this? Non!  At least in Paris, if one returns a bike to a bike station on a very steep hill, one receives a reward: an extra time credit. But Nice is merciless.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

In Search of Jonny DuPre

Our dear friends, the DuPres, have a family member serving an LDS mission in the south of France. Gina anxiously awaited news of her son's transfer to see if he would be serving in one of the cities we would be visiting. The great plan was to pack a large jar of American peanut butter and bring it to him. Alas, he was transferred to Corsica. We will not see Jonny, but at church each week, we ask the missionaries if they know Jonny DuPre or in missionary talk, Elder DuPre. They all know Elder DuPre and think he is a stellar person. The Elders directly below, from Canada and Utah, thought he was sent to Corsica because only the best of the elders go to Corsica. Our clout went up a notch when we told the Elders, I was Elder DuPre's mother's visiting teaching companion.

 The lovely Sisters we met on the Promenade who saved us a huge hassle by letting us know church had been changed to a hotel. We would have made a long trek on our bikes in the opposite direction and found a church undergoing reconstruction with no clue where everyone was.  These Sisters from Florida and Draper Utah also knew Elder DuPre.
 Elder Hendershot from Highland was in the MTC with Johnny and told us how surprised he was to find out his sport was golf.  You see Jonny is sort of a gentle giant. Or as one Elder put it, "He's the biggest guy I've ever seen." Yes Jonny is tall.

While in church, one of the sister missionaries was sitting next to a French woman with an arm around her. I felt how much a missionary loves her investigators by that small touch. We sat in the Gospel Essentials class which is a class for investigators and new members. One woman asked who was the leader of the whole church. I loved that question  because I take it for granted, the knowledge of President Monson.

I was so moved by the people who come to the gospel from such different circumstances than myself. I could feel the devotion of the men who served the sacrament. 

We met a couple on vacation from Sweden. I wanted to know what generation LDS they were. First generation. I told them how moving it is to meet people who are the first generation, who have had a their own conversion experience (though don't we all). She then asked how many generations I was connected to the gospel. I am third generation on my father's side and sixth and seventh on my mother's. She found equal fascination to meet a person who's lineage went so far back in our church.

There was one very old man in the Nice branch who spoke very good English and he'd learned it from the missionaries. I started thinking that he might be Freddie DeVynk's age. Freddie and Marie were baptized in Nice, if I remember correctly. Could this frere have known Freddie?  Yes, the name was familiar to him, and then his whole demeanor lit up with the memory of Freddie. Indeed, he knew Freddie. First thing he wanted to know, "Was Freddie still alive?" We were sorry to tell him that Freddie had recently passed away.

Monsieur Jacques Goulard

After church, we prepared to have a Sunday meal on the terrace. Tony and I had just sat down and were ready to eat when I burst out laughing. “What?" Tony asked. 

"Look at this" I replied. "You and me sitting on a terrace in Nice about to eat lunch. It’s funny. Not what I expected in life.  Who knows where life will yet take us?"

Saturday, June 28, 2014

We made it to Nice

Nice—pronounced Kneece. We arrived without a hitch in travel from the dreadfully expected rail strike. The trip was actually pleasant on a newer TGV train.

This is what I get for missing Paris the moment we stepped into quaint and quiet Avignon. I got Paris on the water--an adjustment after the aforementioned adjectives (quaint and quiet) of the village.

Absolutely stunning view and you can't hear the noise.

Every change in place requires adjustment, no matter the circumstances, but it has been a reminder that I need to adjust and embrace even more quickly because the very place you long for is the place you are at the moment, even though you don't know it, yet.  We will adjust to the sound living above the Avenue des Anglais. We will find the great food in Nice. 

Speaking of great food in Nice:
We didn't arrive until later afternoon after only eating cherries and cantaloupe on the train ride, which were delicious, but I needed something solid. First place we found was the kebab place--a staple for us around Europe when we can't find anything else. It's the gyro place. After ordering our food, what did I see in the food container window? Kraft wrapped slices of processed American cheese. I knew we'd left Provence.

But today! We found a mouth watering boulangerie. Always look for the one with a line! And it is the closest to our apartment. The almond croissant was magnifique and the baguette was supreme.

Speaking of the Promenade des Anglais:
As early as 1750, the English started to spend their dreary winters in Nice. Supposedly a harsh winter in Northern France brought beggars to Nice and the rich English enlisted them to build a promenade or very large sidewalk next to the sea. Our apartment sits above the drawing card of Nice. But after a day of adjustment, I'm enjoying it for what it is. It, along with almost every other French venue, reminds me of a Ravensburger puzzle.  Remember those girls? I loved those scenes. There is a constant flow of humanity: on foot, on bikes, on skates--it is also a Saturday night entertainment hotspot. People watching, impromptu as well as set-up concerts.  Next to the expansive promenade is six lanes of traffic. It is the place to drive one's expensive classic car. I've seen beautiful, convertible 1960 mustangs, old classic chevrolets, German luxury cars, Rolls Royces and restored vehicles that I don't even recognize. After the Algerians won their soccer match, it became the place to drive and honk horns. That was a long night! ***It will be interesting to keep track of all we see on Promenade des Anglais.

Speaking of apartments in Nice. 
This is the beautiful wood flooring.

 Tony thought the apartment was nicer when he rented it and it would have been if he’d rented it 50 years ago.  The apartment house had grand beginnings, marble floors columns, beautiful wood, but like an old woman it’s beauty has faded and there’s only so much you can do to keep her looking young. Our apartment has a charm that couldn’t be found any other place besides the Cote d’Azur. The view is stunning but the shower,,…Tony doesn’t really fit in it. Don’t try to imagine that. He explained that if he moves one way, he is in the curtain, and another way, he shuts off the water.

I once read that Helen Keller could enter an old house and detect seven layers of the different family smells, each having lived in the house. This building has at least seven layers. You can almost detect the smells fighting for prominence. It's such a unique experience to leave the apartment, walk down the halls, down four flights of stairs etc. One day it smells of perfume, then alcohol, then flowers, then mold, then bolognese sauce stucco... Tony accidentally went to the basement floor and was accosted by a whole other layer of scent.

The decoration is eclectic and there are parts of it I imagine as being absolutely French-lady-apartment. Which is exactly what it is. We met our host's son today and his mother spends six months of the year doing humanitarian work in Madagascar. That is what this apartment is all about—it is an eclectic mixture of a woman’s travels.
The variety of art is fun.
 A perfect little kitchen to place a baguette and to toss a salad.

And then there is this:
Which actually makes me appreciate art even more-because art is  personal preference. I appreciate that our rentee finds beauty in this piece even though I don't.  At first I tried to find a closet to move her into, but I have adapted to her presence very well (as aforementioned, someday I will even miss her). After five days, I only startle occasionally.

And when I see this, how could I mind? Ah, it is what we choose to see, or in which direction we turn our head.

And so lies in the beginning paragraphs of this post, the challenge of life: there will be change. It’s adjusting to whatever the new change is, what lessons, visions, experiences await. The comparisons will come but they must be shuffled and categorized like books on a shelf. Each book is read and enjoyed, but one looks forward to the next book and it may be completely different. We don’t compare a mystery to a memoir or compare Avignon to Nice. We accept each for its distinguishing uniqueness and enjoy the differences.

***What a spectacle that started at 12:30 a.m. after the Algerians made it into the final 16 of the World Cup!!!! Drag racing, horn honking. Their next week match with Germany ends at 12:30 a.m and we dread what that will be like if they win (Rick and Dan have assured Tony they won't), or worse, if they lose.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Cache of Treasure Ten Steps Away

European travel requires discriminating decisions about which museums to visit,  because there are so many and it's easy to lose one's appreciation if overdone. It's like sitting in a donut shop and instead of eating and enjoying one donut, one eats twenty and walks away wishing for none.  It is why I've included only six photos in this museum post.

Musee Calvert was literally ten steps away and because of this we waited until the last day in Avignon to visit. My pass de passion (a brochure picked up at the tourist office with slight discounts), said it was a private residence but the history sign said it was built as a hotel.  We've found that government offices are hotels as well as hospitals. Hotel has broad meaning in France. The museum could have been either-- hotel or residence. Given French extravagance or really anyone's extravagance regardless of nationality, with a lot of money, I'm hoping it was a residence and to have lived there would have been grand. It wasn't so outrageous-- just extremely luxurious digs for a large family.

The museum was a delight because of the variety of paintings, sculpture, Egyptian and BCE antiquity and even an 1800's globe of the celestial skies.  A two year old child mummy was shocking. The best was the small scale display that allowed us nose-close contact with Egyptian stelae and even fragments from the mysterious book of the dead. In larger museums we wouldn't have had that kind of closeness.

Book of the Dead fragments

 Egyptian stela

The mummy--this has become the missing mummy in Mimi Lost and Found. The painted cloth face covering made it look fake but the uncovered skull was hauntingly real.
 This was a marvelous painting of Ugolino-one of many characters from Dante's Inferno. Ugolino is imprisoned with his sons, sentenced to die of starvation. Ugolino contemplates eating his sons. The artist captured the madness and desperation the character deserves.
Probably my favorite painting because of its ingenuity.  Looks like an artist's easel, yes? Actually it's one solid painting made to look like an artist's easel.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why France and Not Switzerland? Musings On My Family HIstory

Why go to France and not Switzerland? My father asks this question and I've never had a good answer. Before we came to France this time, Dad let me know in each phone conversation and each time by his side, that if he were to die while I was away, I wasn't to return home for a funeral or for the comfort of family members. He tells me this each time I travel, and so I put him at ease by reminding him that each time I return home, he's still there. I wonder if he thinks back to the days when he crossed the Atlantic on a ship, when it was a long and arduous journey, when he was ill from sea sickness.

This sojourn in Avignon, I keep asking myself the same question: Why France and not Switzerland, because there isn't any beauty like the beauty of Switzerland.

As I ponder the question, I come up with a few possible ideas but the ideas usually bring more questions.

My grandmother Zobrist has been dead for 32 years, but I still think of the influence she had, still has in my life. Grandma had favorites and I wasn't one of them, but I still felt her love. While I was in high school, she wanted me to go to boarding school in Switzerland and learn French. It's something she pushed, though very lightly and I'm not sure if it ever went past our conversations. She might have mentioned it to my father once who would have rolled his eyes and humphed to her ideas about sending me away. While walking down a rue in Avignon, pondering the why-France question, I imagined her near and pleased that I was immersing myself in France and the French language. Just like she'd wanted. Finally.

Switzerland is Dad country. Though his parents physically immigrated from Switzerland, their hearts and souls never left. Their new country didn't change them to Americans. They were always Swiss, lived in Swiss-peppered Sugar House in Salt Lake City. Though both grandparents converted to a different religion, they never gave up habits  born in the old world (including enjoyment of some very smelly cheese). They passed this strong nationalist claim to their children, all American born.

When my father was in his twenties, he was called to the very home of his parents to serve an LDS mission. While there,  he strongly embraced the Swiss culture and his Swiss identity. He was drafted into the Swiss army, lived with an uncle and bought and sold Swiss watches.

Twice, my dad and mom have taken me to Switzerland. It was my robust, healthy father who drove us from alp to alp, city to city, who sat in his cousin's chalet enjoying fondue, who led us competently in his native-competent German. I don't know if I can return without him or my mother.

And yet my own grandmother only returned to the homeland once in 1958.  The first time she left Switzerland was during WWI and she remembered the silence she had to endure while crossing the Atlantic. The voyagers feared their sound would be picked up by submarine sonar and the ship would be torpedoed. When she returned in 1958 to serve an LDS mission with her husband, she again crossed on an oceanliner. Perhaps it is too much to cross the ocean not once but twice for the motherland. But now, I wonder, when a plane would have made travel so easy, why didn't she return?

While I am here on foreign soil, I think often of my father. My sister and my mother have both let me know his health continues to decline. It is painful to think of him because old age has left him  a fraction of what he used to be. How he longs to return to his homeland, to the first home from which we all leave as excited immigrants for the challenges of a new and foreign land. The return passage for him is proving more difficult than anyone expected.

If he were to pass while I am away, could I obey his wish? Could I stay on vacation? No, I could not. I would return to my motherland because home is much more than a place.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Beautiful Afternoon on the Sorgue

It was our last day cavorting around the countryside, driving through quaint French villages, the last day of singing the opening song from Beauty and the Beast "Little town, it's a quiet village, everyday like the one before...Bonjour good day, how nice to see you, ...there must be more than this provincial life."

We have now found a few of the best epicurean delights, the only problem is they are spread across Provence. The best tropizienne is found in an amazing boulangerie in Uzes. The best croissants are found in a tiny hole in the wall in Isle Sur La Sorgue. Heaven may very well be one golden paved road with one's favorite eateries placed side by side.

My favorite activities have been kayaking the Rhone, the Sorgue and the Gardon. The Sorgue was crystal clear with florescent green flora that made the water appear florescent green. It had a few rapids, one of which we paddled up river, dragged the kayak across some rocks and did it again. It was actually a concrete chute about 1/20 the size of a Disneyland chute.

The color was incredible. As was the weather and company.

Vibrant green growth. The water was amazingly clear.

 A perfect little island in the middle for a rest.
 As promised to self: A picnic on the river. The twice-run Disneyland chute is on the left.
We found this amazing tomato flavored cheese and accompanied it with a baguette, olives and cantaloupe we'd cut up and brought from our apartment. We found the cheese seller at an open air market and asked him for a thin slice. He started at the top very thin, then cut down to a very wide slab on the bottom.  We're not sure if he did it on purpose to sell us more cheese, but we were grateful in the end. He probably knew we'd want more. As did the olive sellers when we only bought a handful of olives.  They too were delicious and I could have some for breakfast right now if any were left.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I Try To Limit the Food Posts...

I Try To Limit the Food Posts...because I don't want anyone
~ Worrying that I'm getting fat   or
~Thinking we're gluttonous people  or
~Thinking it is the only reason we came to France   or
~Thinking we obsess over food

(one or more of the above may be true)

But we are in Provence and Provence is about delicious food and we enjoy good food.
So...voila ~~a food post.

The restaurant is Fou de Fafa. Yes, it is. Eight tables, one waitress and probably one cook. We think they might be husband and wife. We had previously tried to eat here, but had to make a reservation. Good sign.

It is located on a quaint winding street, wide enough for only one car sucked in on both sides. We arrived just seconds after a downpour started. There's something about rushing in from the rain for nourishment and comfort in a quant French village restaurant.

The hostess, waitress, cook's wife is charming and extremely hospitable.

Tony was sorely disappointed when they didn't have his first choice for his first course-the pork muffin. Oh well, he stretched his culinary limits and ordered calamari and was rewarded with a great tasting first course.

 Caprese salad for me. That little ball of mozzarella in the middle was legendary. Thicker on the outside but cream cheese texture in the middle-the flavor was so fresh, so amazing, with a perfect tang. The olive oil on this salad deserves the same praise. So fresh, it's put us on a constant search for good olive oil. It also had pesto, greens and a few toasted slivered almonds. I remember Holly and Annika sitting at the counter loving their caprese salad-this one, they would be doing cartwheels and handstands over!

My main dish: an eggplant souffle over polenta and a kind of tomato ratatouile.
 Tony's: a chicken coconut dish
Tony's banana cream pie
 A raspberry muffin and mascarpone cream

Usually, I eat a portion of my meal and share A LOT with Tony.  This is what you do with a Tony. But this meal, I pretty much ate it all.  I didn't think much about it, but of course he remembered and mentioned it tonight~there's some things he doesn't forget.

After two weeks in Provence, this was our third and final meal at a restaurant such as this.  It is rich, expensive, and there are other things to do besides eat at great French restaurants.

Last night's dinner was a baguette, some cheese, cherries and melons from the countryside. Tonight, we'll finish our salad, another baguette and pick up something from Tony's favorite patisserie.

I've  discovered an assortment of herbs and spices: Herbs de Provence. Or, herbs from Provence. After finding it in our kitchen and mixing it in our salad, I was now on the hunt for yet another item. I found a bag of it at farmer's market at Les Halles. It wasn't professionally packaged so I'm hoping I got something fresher and better than one can buy in the states. Poured liberally on the salad with the green olive oil, fresh lime and vinegar, it makes life worth living or salad worth eating.

I also purchased a bag of lavendar salt.  One puts it in a grinder and has the combined flavor of dried lavendar and salt.  I'm looking forward to eating this combination on I'm not sure what.

Wouldn't it be strange if two weeks in Provence triggered a cooking hobby when I returned home? It would be well worth the trip if it was the only thing that changed.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Le Bistro Lyonnais

I'm back to making podcasts but find I'm more impatient with perfection ...first take and it will have to do.

The text~~ in case the podcast doesn't make it to America:

When we walked into Bistro Lyonnaise, my eyes had to adjust to the speakeasy feeling of darkness. Two men sat in a corner like they were Chicago mobsters. I expected someone to burst through the doors with machine guns. The decor of the Bistro is frozen in the 1940's with a splash of classic French ambiance. ON the wall are old records, soda posters, a certificate from the first world war,  ancient radios, even a never used can opener still in its 1930's package.

There's no question who runs this place when the chef makes his appearance. He wants to know how we found his restaurant. "Trip advisor" Tony says, and the chef concedes that, "Trip advisor is a very good friend." After finding all positive reviews with such comments as "Once we found this place, we ate all our meals here," the restaurant had some big shoes to fill.

 First thing the chef does is put a box of morel mushrooms on our table. I knew what morels were and I can taste the memorable earthy flavor almost immediately. So when the chef tries to persuade me to order the chicken with morals, I'm easily convinced. Morals is how the word sounds in English with a French accent.  I'd never had moral chicken and believe it will be a tasty and a wise choice. 

Not much time passes when all the tables are filled and a low hum of content pervades.

Ah,,, but the chef, as much an entertainer as a cook, comes out to chastise a fellow diner's faux pas.  It is a work lunch and his computer is set up on the table. If he doesn't shut it down he won't get dessert. There is  joviality in the chef's voice but we all know he is serious. In the same way  he let Tony know he would never serve sweet sodas with the caliber of food he serves.

I was not disappointed, the chicken with morals was creamy, rich and as decadent as a chicken dish can  be, but we both walked away knowing one experience at Bistro Lyonnaise was enough.  Until today at lunchtime when all I could think about was the moral chicken.

Wall of records
Old posters
Old can opener
Old family
 Certificate of good conduct from WWI
  The deliciously moral chicken
Classic bistro interior
A place like no other

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Aujourd 'hui

One of the reasons we enjoy ourselves sooooo much. Lunch after a long bike ride. The ambiance was enticing.
Lunch purchased from an outdoor market and enjoyed at the village center next to the river.

I'm sorry if these videos won't play.  They play fine here. Mandi has let me know they don't work for her in Chicago--if anyone CAN see the videos, please let me know via email.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Why Doesn't the Beehive State Have An Apiary?

We took a long bike ride to visit L'Epicurean Center for Avignon. At the heart of the fruit and vegetable center is an apiary or beehive. It is housed in a small garden shed and the beehive or combs are on display. The bees enter the shed from an outside tube and the combs are placed inbetween glass so observers can watch the work of bees. We watched the queen bee lay her eggs, watched workers bring in and deposit pollen, watched a bee doing the classic figure 8 waggle dance. The waggle dance communicates distance and place of a good nectar source. It's like finding a good restaurant but instead of telling your friends about it, you have to dance about it while strutting in figure eights WITH a lot of excitement and while fluttering your arms.

Surrounding the apiary were different varieties of plants: berries, fruit and nut trees, vegetables, a green house, a water source, a kitchen garden. We watched a great documentary about bees. While there, we were in the company of two groups of children possibly on a field trip (school is still in session). I love listening to children speak in French.

I came away enlightened and once again thinking about the contribution an apiary would make to our state.  The Paris apiary sells its honey once a year and it sells out quickly.  Could a (possible) Orem apiary eventually be profitable? But maybe we need to think about profit in the context of saving agriculture. What could be more important?

How do we get started? I wonder if Thanksgiving Point has ever thought about an apiary.

These were human size posters on the pathway to la rouche--well written, informative and visually appealing. In French and English.

The Epicurean center also had several rows of healthy grape vines but as we looked closer, we were sort of grossed out cause snails covered the vines and leaves, and we figured they weren't taking very good care of the vines. Later that day as we passed a vendor from the country with a large white sack with snails clinging to the outside, I peeked inside the sack and saw it was full of snails for sale. ESCARGOT! How had I forgotten? I won't eat escargot now, but as a teenager, I enjoyed grossing out (impressing or so I thought) my friends when I would order them from the menu. The epicurean center didn't pick off the snails because it was another food source. A free food source. Plant them and they will come. Ingenious actually.

July 20 2014 update: I just learned that Thanksgiving Point has an apiary.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Honey Post

The famous lavender honey of Provence.

Les Francais aiment les belles chose!

While working on a project with beloved Doris Hallie (now deceased),  I learned from her an oft repeated phrase: Les Francais aiment les belles chose! En Anglais: The French love beautiful things. Her husband's and her own work (Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed and In the Eye of the Hurricane), took her to France many times.

The French are an aesthetic loving people. Their approach to food, architecture, art, film, couture are all tasted, seen and felt from a heightened awareness ~or so we assume (the French bum who asked us for money tonight didn't seem to have a heightened aesthetic awareness).

France is a country that values bees and honey. Their parks have apiaries and the rooftops of Paris are landing boards for milionss of bees.

The region of Provence is known for their lavender fields and consequently lavender honey. We drove through Le Luberon today and saw a few lavendar fields. Breathtaking.

I'm bringing home a honey collection so the queen bees can have a honey tasting party.
My first honey purchase.  Honey will be the new shoes.
If I could buy a honey a day, I'd be broke in no time. The selection is almost as big as the French yogurt. The acacia tree supposedly makes a delicious honey--Tony's favorite so far.  The tree can grow well in Utah and it's called a Black Locust tree or a Robinia psuedoacacia and I'm tempted to plant one.

Fortunately, today at the Uzes market, I found a solution to a growing concern.  I wanted more variety for the Queen Bee honey tasting party but acquiring different jars was adding up in suitcase weight and space.

And speaking of bees! Lisa and Nik did a Saturday hive check and took photos for me. The hive is thriving.
Notice Nikki doesn't have on gloves or a veil.  Lisa calls her the bee whisperer.