Saturday, December 17, 2011

Final Reviews (cont.)

The past two days have had the most architecture crammed into them than the entire past two months I've been here. Yet this was the side of architecture I've been wanting to experience for a long time now, and I think it's funny that it took me to move to France to be able to participate in this. As Adam mentioned in the last post, the students in Versailles presented their semester projects with both of us, along with the two design professors, and a few visiting architects as the judging panel. So fun to finally be on the other side of the fence making comments and suggestions. But wow, talk about an exhausting day for a reviewer! Presentations went on all morning through early evening as each of us continually replenished our caffeine intake to be able to keep focus on each project. It really is a whole game in itself trying to understand the presentation, piecing together the meaning of their drawings, then coming up with something helpful, thoughtful, unvague, and architectural to say. Then to start all over again with an open mind for the next project a half hour later. The worst is when one project shines, then the one following is more lacking. Those, obviously, are the ones that need the best insight, not a slap on the wrists, but putting together a cohesive, concise critique in response to something like this, I suppose, is more of a challenge for us as designers. A good challenge to keep us on our toes.

One of the the guest reviewers we met is from Catholic University in DC and has his own group of students in Paris. At the end of the evening, he invited us to come to his reviews the following night, so we thought, what the hell. Considering we'd just met and we'd heard his setup for reviews was much more casual, we came under the impression that we'd be there to more or less enjoy the wine and cheese and just hang out in the audience. Little did we know, upon arrival, the professor introduced us along with about 20 other guest reviewers (for only 8 students?!) and split us into teams to go student by student hearing their presentation....then even grading them. So for an entire evening, Adam and I did the whole review thing again, this time on a more intimate level. We thought this method was actually great practice for the students to have to repeat their presentation over and over again, and we thought it was great for us since this time, we got to review with wine in hand. You can tell just how much mr. engineer Adam was getting into this. Here's one of his wine-induced metaphors:

"If your sandbox didn't have the box, then you'd simply be left with a beach...."

I don't even remember what he was referring to at this point. Perhaps something about giving your design rules and boundaries to alleviate sheer nonsensical chaos? On the way home, we simply had to laugh at ourselves with all our sheer 'BS' we probably spat out that night. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!!!

(This is what living in France feels like.)

We're looking forward to seeing family, friends, and colleagues so soon!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Student Reviews

The past two days have been exhausting: final exam, grading, visa (re)applications, reviews, lectures, very late night dinners, espressos, Christmas cookies, champagne, trains, metro, more wine, and now I can see some sleep in the near future.

The exam went well, no big problems, large room full of test-takers with anguished faces; proctor fighting severe boredom imposed by the 3-hour labor. The reviews were a lot of fun. It was good to see the amount of graphic progress made by the students since the pin-ups two weeks ago.

The models even made some impressive strides. We were joined by Nicolos Kelemen in the morning as a guest reviewer, and I feel he provided the students with feedback from an honest, "real architecture" perspective.

And we wrapped up the evening with a bunch of holidays cookies smothered in excitement from a semester coming to a close.

First Macarons

We FINALLY had our first delicious macarons the other day, our chosen firsts being flavored with coffee, pistachio, and raspberry. If you're thinking of those chewy little coconut things from America, think again. It's not macaROON, but macaRON. I doubt any french person would even understand macaROON, but then again, I don't think they understand most of our twangy Franglish, ha. In any case, I had the wrong idea, too, when I first came over here, thinking, why do these people have such a fascination with coconut? Yet two and two finally clicked as I saw the word macaron associated with these tiny, multicolored cookie gems. In any case these little guys are just about as prevalent as baguettes and French stinky people, so there's no difficulty being able to pick one up while you're out and about. They're pretty dangerous, too, for each one of these delightful confections costs about the same, if not a bit more, than a whole baguette. Maybe it's good we've held out so long.

For more drooling pleasure check out these sites for more details:

Intro to French Macarons
(For you super cool archie/engineer nerds like us, there's a great cookie cross-section here for ya)

Making French Macarons: Instructions and Recipes
(David Lebovitz's blog 'Living the Sweet Life in Paris' is an awesome source of info if you're into Food, Paris, Food, or more Food : )  


It's been a while since we've posted anything regarding our "hoops." So, here goes:

At the advice of my administrator, Bridgette and I visited the prefecture (again) to let them know of our plans to return home for the holidays, and to kindly ask if there would be any trouble returning to France because my visa is technically expired. We learned that my dossier is still being reviewed, and there's not much they can do besides suggest we request from the Chicago consulate a return visa in order to, well, return to France.

I should mention that the attitude and unspoken innuendo was that as Americans, we won't have any problems and could probably claim being tourists to likely enter the country. And that's all only if they check our visas.

I've recently learned (a day or two after the prefecture visit) that my long-stay visa application has been denied, and that I need to completely restart the application process. Whoopee. Luckily the admins here are being more than helpful, and actually have commanded me not to do anything, ha! So it's in their hands at the moment.

So here I go, returning home for the holidays in a few days. Meanwhile my application will be restarted and sent to the Office / Department / Ministry / Whatevs of Labor, where they hopefully will accept my situation for working in France. Then those documents will be sent to who-knows-where. Technically, I believe they're supposed to be sent to Chicago, where I'm supposed to receive the "correct" entry visa, after which I can jump through the expected hoops in France of attaining a residence permit, medical exam, and sommelier lessons.

Oh, and Bridgette's still waiting to hear back from the OFII to keep her papers rolling.

When the legal paths are so long and tedious, is it a wonder that illegal immigration is prevalent in western countries (I'm looking at you, too, America)?

Friday, December 9, 2011

History is so IN This Season

As Adam and I expand our minds watching the French equivalent of MTV, called NRJ (they say it like 'energy' with a frenchy french accent) we notice something peculiar about video after video we see. Negating all the American videos we all know and love/hate, the French seem to have a fascination about depicting the past. So for your Friday enjoyment take a look at a few of the catchy French tunes/videos we've found going totally vintage/historic.  

History is so IN this season: 
(sorry for any commercials)

Directed by Jonny Depp, her latest video has been quite a hit...yeah, what do i know know. but hey, if JD's involved, she's probably big stuff.

This is from the animation " Un Monstre à Paris"

Check out this stylish blast to the past, 1920s style. Lorie is topping the charts with her Kylie Minouge flair and selling millions . She's even got a stature of herself her in local Paris museum.

I recommend everyone learn the dance to this for your next holiday party. there's some pretty sweet moves here.

This one really beefs up the intro...patience. it gets even more French. Prince Charming and Mermaids? And yes, watch closely, Prince charming even has the mermaid pull his finger to let out a fart. What? Why not?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How's Your Plumbing?

As I was cleaning the bathroom sink yesterday, the handle to the faucet broke. It didn't break off, it just wouldn't shut off the water. Adam was at work, and I was alone, and I started panicing as I searched everywhere for the sink's shut-off valve. Nowhere. I'm thinking, god dammit architect, if you can't find this..... after a bit of searching and tracing pipes, I found the lever in the kitchen. That's all great, but that shuts off the water for the entire apartment. So it's actually quite humorous. Every time we want to get some water or flush the toilet or whatever, we have to turn the valve and listed to the sink water just flowing away. Our landlord gave us the number for a plumber she knows, and that in itself was a whole morning exercise. And this was just to call to make an appointment! That's when your brain has to switch to full translate mode and you spend god knows how long looking up phrases for any possible scenario that might be met over there phone. It's even more nerve-racking when you know Google translate only helps you so far. What you translate doesn't necessarily come out to mean exactly what you want it to mean. This was my favorite:

Found this phrase online.

I cannot turn the tap off: Je ne peux pas arrêter le robinet.

Thinking I could simply change 'le robinet' (the tap) to 'mon robinet' (my tap) Google Translate informed me this was a no no. Now the phrase means:

I cannot turn off my cock

Lots to learn...looottttttsss to learn.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Learning French

So how does one learn a language? Good question. It still seems a miracle to me with any bilingual individual to be able to just get it. To be able to flip flop back and forth between one language and the next with ease seems miraculous to me. In any case, the more we learn here, the more we realize just how far we have to go to even become close to bilingual. It seems hopeless at times. Other times when a recognizable phrase comes out of the crowd or the TV or wherever, and we immediately understand without thinking, that's when the learning feels like magic. I think if there weren't any of that magic, we would have given up long ago. So in any case, how are we undertaking this seemingly impossible feat? Recently, we've been starting each morning with a 20 min podcast. Our hosts Mark and Anna have become dear friends of ours as we join them with our breakfast for a bit of enlightenment and new vocab. Another best friend besides Mr. Pocket Dictionary is Mr. Google Translate. He can talk both English and French for us, so we like him a lot. There's been many hours sitting with Mr. Translate forming sentences, and us talking to ourselves. Our neighbors probably think we're nuts. Especially when we yell out a new phrase we've just learned, then revert back to english for the rest of the thought. Adam and I have placed post-its around the apartment as reminders and try to speak in French to each other both at home, and especially in public so that our English twang doesn't fully give us away. Oh, most importantly, there's the awkward situations where we actually have to talk to people. This is a bit nerve-racking because you never know what to expect, your senses are on high alert with the hope your brain doesn't shut down when trying to form a response. One Sunday afternoon, we went out for coffee with some parisian friends we recently met. Although their English is great, they asked if we were would be speaking French this time. Through patience and persistence, and a bit of English here and there, we were able to sustain a fairly primitive conversation for over an hour. I'm sure the conversation wasn't as exciting as it could have been, but it was a start. Ben Franklin once stated that the moment you go to a place where you don't know the language, you automatically lose half of your intelligence. He's completely right. We've reverted back to the age of toddlers just starting out in society. Hopefully with enough wine, cheese, and coffee with friends, we'll hit a growth spurt soon.

Oh yeah, and there's youtube, too. Check out this gem. Learning about the word ' to go'...

Friday, December 2, 2011


Another hoop outa the way. We finally bit the bullet and went and bought phones. Ok, that was never the initial intention, but after visiting the SFR store (a particular phone company), we somehow each walked out with our own little shopping bags. The way it works, usually, is that students from the previous year sell their phones to the incoming students. Seeing that there were a few unclaimed after the students had their pick, Adam snagged two for us. We charged them up only to see a message saying our SIM Cards were invalid, and had thrown those aside for the past month thinking, ahhh we’ll figure this out later.  Yesterday, we finally made the leap. Stepping into a rather B.O. infested SFR store, we showed a salesman that our phones didn’t work…saying we needed new SIM Cards. He said something to the effect of, yeah, they’re no good. And I asked, so can we just buy new SIM Cards? He made some comment, and then brought us over to the new phones. Adam said he had understood something to the effect that if the phone hadn’t been used for 6 months, then it was no longer useable. I was skeptical, but followed the man. I wasn’t really sure how to refute this. Mind you, this was all in French, the gentleman speaking long fluent sentences with us stuttering stupid phrases. You’d be skeptical, too. So we picked out the cheapest of the texting phones, bought some minutes, slipped around getting sucked into a contract, then continued on our merry ways getting the things fired up. That man said a lot that night that flew right over my head, and that made me nervous, which made my French turn from bad to worse. For awhile, there was a long awkward standoff between all three of us as the man kept saying something about a ‘code-pin’….which sounds just like the French word for ‘friend’, ‘Copine’. It just didn’t click with us. God this language is impossible sometimes! So yeah, from smart phones back to dumb phones feeling even dumber at the phone store. For all we know, we could’ve just been ripped off. But hell, sometimes it just feels better to say whatever… at least that’s outa the way!

Thanksgiving (the store)

We signed up to bring some cranberry sauce to a Thanksgiving dinner over Thanksgiving weekend (I'll be using that word a few more times, so bear with me). Bridgette and I looked in several (4? 5?) grocery stores in the neighborhood, but alas, no canneberge to be found. We even took a looooong trip out to Auchan, some giant general store akin to a SuperTarget, but they only had tiny jars of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce for about $5 each. We needed to provide enough for 14 people at a Thanksgiving dinner.

Luckily (?), Paris has a store called "Thanksgiving" which sells year-round American goods. "Goods," meaning Pop Tarts, peanut butter, Jell-o, Mountain Dew, corn syrup, Aunt Jemima's, brown sugar... you get the point. Oh, and they have cranberries for sale, as well, at €4.50 for a 12 oz. bag.

I shouldn't make it sound like they only have sugary foodstuffs. They also prepare turkeys for American Thanksgiving meals, and provide a chance to buy some other American items, such as chili powder, canned chicken broth, chocolate chips (oops! sugar), corn meal, Mac n Cheese, cheddar cheese, refried beans, and much more than I can handle writing without needing to go eat lunch.

So Bridgette and I were able to whip together a successful cranberry sauce.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Alsace Road Trip (part 2)

To add a few bits to the Alsace Road Trip Weekend:

The morning after our squatting camping experience, fog had settled over the fields and really gave an eerie feeling to start the day:

Bridgette, my navigator extradinaire, led us successfully to Riquewihr, a little medieval town that has kept its appearance for a few hundred years, as well as its walls. I couldn't help but feel like I was transferred to Disneyland while walking around the tiny cobblestone streets with innkeepers and tourists. We saw no dwarfs or elves, unfortunately.

And we caught some good sunlight beaming into Saint Étienne de Metz. This is truly a huge, glorious cathedral. Almost too much.

Slideshow of our weekend.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Bridgette and I attended the SAPV Thanksgiving dinner last night, which was held at Au Chapeau Gris. Items we learned from last night:
  • Allegedly the pilgrims discovered America with Columbus sailing the ocean blue in the Mayflower.
    (These are architecture students. Not history buffs.)
  • One can draw direct comparisons between the Native Americans / Pilgrims and the French / American students.
  • Squanto was a good guy.
  • A French interpretation of Thanksgiving cuisine is delicious.
  • The youngest professor gets to make a speech. Guess who that was?
  • A 7.30pm dinner means show up at 8pm, sit down at 8.30pm, start eating around 9pm, then have to rush out to catch a train at 11.15pm.
Besides the abrupt ending to the night, we had a great time chatting with the students and other guests and enjoying some American tradition. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An Afternoon in Chambord

(Wrapping up the Saumur trip...)

The Saumur weekend trip ended with an afternoon visit to Chambord. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

And they will sketch. Always.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pharmacies - WTF

Every now and then, there’s one of the WTF moments…as we like to say, ‘What the France?!’ Our cultures have their differences, and that’s all well and good, but sometimes you have to just shake your heads and let out a confused ‘WTF?!’. We’ll be sharing these as they come up, but for now, here’s some randomness we just learned.

I’m reading a book called ‘At Home in Paris – Your Guide to living in the Capital,’ and there’s a section on pharmacies. Luckily, France hasn’t been overrun with Walgreens and CVS’s, but you will find the French version scattered everywhere throughout the city. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

“Identified by a green cross and governed by a strict set of legal regulations, pharmacists are highly trained professionals who do more that simply dispense prescribed medicines. They can give medical advice on minor medical complaints…and will also administer basic first aid. For instance, if you happen to fall on a sidewalk and cut your knee, go to the nearest pharmacy for treatment…”

Ok, that’s cool, right? But then, continuing on…

“ …Lastly, Pharmacists are also knowledgeable about mushrooms. If you pick mushrooms and aren’t sure if they’re edible, bring them to your pharmacy for identification and advice.”


We hit up the market again last Sunday, which is always an exciting and overwhelming experience. For anyone who loves to cook, it’s like being a kid in a candy store. The French take fresh food seriously, and market day is like a religion. Hoards of people swarm and push and wander through as venders yell, then yell louder. God knows what the hell they are saying, but it certainly pumps up the enthusiasm. It’s said that most of the time, the French just go to the market to see what to buy, then figure out what to make later. The trick, though, is finding those guys who are actually local farmers, not just some schmo who imports most of his stuff. We finally found a stand touting a huge homemade sign saying they were from Normandy, and we had to go back almost a full booth’s length just to get in line. Long line. They must be good. We stocked up on apples, pears, a cooking pumpkin, potatoes, carrots, and some lettuce (yes, the items we actually know how to say which can be a limiting factor at times) then pointed to the leeks.  We keep seeing everyone buy these things, and we’re thinking, what the heck do you do with those? But hey, if these food savvy locals dig ‘em, then they must be good, right? We bought the last of their stock, and the girl laughed at us as she taught us how to say it in French. ‘poireau’. It’s a tricky one. So for anyone wondering, it’s like a big fragrant green onion, and god does it smell good. I recently made some potato/leek soup that was to die for….definitely good comfort food for a cold rainy/snowy day. Give it a try, let me know what you think.


Coming home one night, we kept getting a whiff of something…something rotting? dying? Sewage? We opened the fridge, and man it was fresh. As Adam gave me that ‘what the hell did you buy’ kind of look, I sniffed around everything, but it was hard to tell with all the smells of fresh food melding into one. Then the culprit – the Pont-l’Èvêque – and unassuming square of cheese that had the same consistency of brie. This was more like brie’s older brother who liked to kick people in the ass. There was no warning label on the package, only cute little figures of farm girls and cows in Normandy. We ended up tasting it, and it was actually pretty interesting….not disgusting…but not something to chow down on. So we both had a taste, decided it could be left to live a while longer (vs. being executed straight to the dumpster), and we threw it into solidary confinement on the balcony in it’s own Tupperware. Thank god for moms who bring you that kind of stuff! Tupperware here is insanely expensive.  (Though I’m sure French people never buy enough at once to have to store things later) It’s also probably blasphemy to put riping cheese into any such thing. I will say, though, we had very few pigeons out near our sill as the cheese sat alone, thinking about what it had done. Long story short, we never got back to eating the cheese. It got more pissed the longer it sat in the Tupperware and let out its full revenge when we opened it again….we almost died that night. Lesson learned.

Mom and JoAnn's Visit

My Mom and Aunt JoAnn recently came for a visit from Nov. 4-15 to do the power tour of Paris as well as give me an excuse to get out and about and get used to the city. Unfortunately, upon their arrival, I got slammed with a horrible head cold and had to hold my head high and trudge through. No it wasn’t that bad, just bad timing to feel lethargic and already be whittling away at my scant supply of cold medicine only two weeks in. In any case, Paris stood no chance. We saw just about every highlight in town including all the tourist sites, gift shops, museums, the market, Versailles, the city sewers, and even the archeological dig under Notre Dame; not to mention…more importantly, dozens of boulangeris, patisseries, chocolatiers, salon de teas, wine shops and of course cafés. This is the city where calorie counting stops, and you learn to just indulge once in awhile and enjoy. Yes, girls trip of the century that I think everyone needed, and I think a great introduction of Europe for JoAnn. To top it off, we even headed to Germany for the weekend to visit our cousin, Scott, and his family as we stayed in their luxuriously renovated 200 yr old(?) barn. I will say, though, despite frying both their curling irons, those two did an excellent job fitting right in. Each learned a bit of French, could decifer a lot of menus, were able to figure out the Metro, quickly got the groove as to how to buy things at the outdoor market, got a taste of the high-speed rails, learned probably more history about the area than I can remember, took enough pictures to last a lifetime, and hell, just made it to/from/and throughout Europe and back all on their own. A huge success.

Alsace Wine Route

 Wow, this seems like forever ago with all that’s been going on lately. Just a quick relapse for ya. After night of surviving the forest, we headed east to the Alsace Wine Route that stretches from Marlenheim near Strasbourg to Thann near Mulhouse. This 170km of windy roads and roundabouts are pure heaven for any wine lover as it’s packed with gorgeous countryside, vineyards, wineries, tasting cavs, and medieval villages…all sandwiched between the Vosges mountains and the Rhine. It is definitely recommended to have your own car for this kind of trip. The interesting part was the tasting aspect. Some of these ‘Cavs’ or tasting rooms were classy established places while others were in some guy’s basement. A few times we turned around and got right back in our car because it literally seemed we were supposed to ring some guys doorbell and go in and sit with grandma in their living room. We had no idea how this all worked. So yes, there are literally 100s of places along the road you can stop and have a free taste or ten. The portions that were given also caught us by surprise, for some places were giving us half glasses for each taste. So unlike our Michigan bus tour where the sommeliers are just plain stingy. Can’t blame them, I guess, when they have huge busloads all coming in at once. Noticing this, we decided it best to at least buy one bottle wherever we stopped, which actually to our surprise, didn’t really break the bank. Of course, you could buy super fancy stuff, but they also had typical wines that were affordable and probably tasted just as good as anything fancy. Very comparable to Trader Joe’s, we’ll say. The best part, though, was the ability to be able to practice some French. A lot of the people serving us didn’t speak English in the first place, so it was great to learn some new vocab and gain a bit more confidence for the next place we stopped. No one ever looked annoyed with us, and usually helped us stumble through a description of what we wanted to taste. I told Adam that this was how they needed to teach French classes; learn a few words, then go out, taste some wines, loosen us, and use that vocab!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Leaf Peeping

A friend of mine from work once asked where a good place to go leaf peeping would be...a term him and his east coast friends use to more or less see the fall colors. This entire trip definitely had some of the best fall colors I've seen in a long long time...totally worth the long haul in our little Chevy Spark rental that took us all the way from Paris to the Alsace region... the area right at the border of Germany. Sorry Chicago, the French countryside has you beat in terms of leaf-peeping-capability ; )


And We're Back

Now to update you all on the going ons around here. Back to our first road trip we took two weeks ago from Paris to the Alsace region to hit the wine trail. As our travels began, somehow we took a wrong turn heading out of Paris and realized we were heading straight south instead of straight east as needed. We first thought, damn...then decided we'd push forward and take a more unexpected scenic route. As we wound through small towns and beautiful countryside, it was our plan to hopefully find a campground along the way to crash for the night. We had about two hours until dark and low and behold, the glorious brown sign with a tent appeared and we excitedly headed in that direction. The sense of relief was immense....until we reached our destination and found the entrance to the grounds locked up. Pondering for a moment as to the validity/legality of hopping the fence and camping anyways, we decided to press on and hopefully either find another campground down the road or find a discreet patch of forest we could hopefully drive to. Alas, no luck. Then we found this tiny road with a patch of trees in the distance, and we went for it. It almost looked too good to be true as there were wide open paths within and large clearings that had been created. Not having much else of a choice, we popped the tent just as we lost our last bit of light....hoping that no one would be lurking through the forest that night and find us. Though a peaceful setting, it was a bit terrifying just laying there in the dark listening to the sounds around us. The creepiest thing was the fact that once night fell, the entire forest fell silent. Absolutely silent. The simplest crunch of a leaf outside our thin walls was absolutely deafening. Even more so to hear the occasional footsteps of critters walking by. Sleep was a bit restless, but as the sun rose, and we stepped out of the forest, we saw we had been hidden the entire night in a huge cloud of fog. You couldn't even see the main road from our patch our trees. We survived the night and decided to get the hell outa there as quickly as possible.....just as the sound of a pack of dogs in the distance came tumbling our way. Onward....

Friday, November 4, 2011

No Bears

No, bears did not eat us. We had a successful weekend trip, and we now have family in town, so posts may be sparse over the next few days ... weeks? Be back asap.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Salle Illinois

Ah, for all you Versailles alums, remember this room? Salle Illinois? Hours and hours spent here in crammed quarters with 40 other students for EVERY class. Now that the school's renovation has been complete, the UofI kids no longer have class here, but will soon get use this as the Annex, or place to work, check out books, get supplies, etc. Yesterday, Adam, Prof. Lapunzina, and I made a huge dent in the clean out project by getting a ton of stuff sorted, thrown out, put away etc. (this being the before photo). God, we were finding equipment from professors who taught back in the 60s along with 1000s and 1000s of slides (oh all those slides!) And oh yes, tons of slide rules and t-squares still in their shipping packaging from students who even studied with we're thinking, man, look at all the money wasted on shipping! ha (not something a parent wants to hear, i'm sure ; ). Old class photos started showing up as well including those back before color was cool, but man, talk about all this history in this place! All the people who have come through these doors and left with their own stories to tell. And of course, besides the dust in the closet, we were also finding out a few skeletons in the closet from the program itself. Ooh, so much gossip on the administrative side of things ; ) So weird to think that we've now reached that status of admin vs. student with the privilege to now be let in on all this once-secret info.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Are there bears in France?

The key question for this weekend: are there bears in France? We'll let you know if we survive this camping / adventure / wine tasting / road trip weekend!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Last Almond

I meant to post this, naturally, the Sunday before Bridgette's arrival in Paris. However, somewhere in the midst of trying to get ahead on my grading and cleaning the apartment (because I need to keep up this persona of a tidy-freak male, ha!), I forgot to do so.

Anyways, this was the final chocolate-covered almond. During our time apart, those several weeks seemed like a long time, but now looking back, consuming a box-full of almonds over almost two months wasn't so bad. =)

I'm glad it's over though. Much to look forward to!

Coupé la tête! (Cut off the head!)

....Yes, a phrase we actually did pick up, as well as something quite well known to French history. Sorry Ms. Antoinette! As noted earlier during a history field trip Adam and I tagged along with last Friday, we were reminded of the insanity of ruler Robespierre during the late 1700s in Paris with his goal to purge France of all traitors...or merely anyone who was around to execute. It got to the point during this so-called Reign of Terror where there were 100s of people dying each week, including, yes, our favorite gal who supposedly (though some disagree) coined that most beautiful phrase, "Let them eat cake!."

As noted earlier, though, Adam and I wandered about this weekend to check out our neighborhood marchés (markets). On Saturday, we found a small one about a 10 min walk from our place in which we successfully bought a whole chicken, some fruit, and une grosse tranche de citrouille (a big slice of pumpkin...for some traditional pumpkin soup). The chickens were so fresh, it looked as if they'd just been plucked that morning. Most even had their heads still attached, and of course, out of politeness, our friendly chicken vendor simply asked, "Coupé la tête?" ahhhhhhh, Oui,?! One less thing for me to deal with in the kitchen. Too bad they didn't have a mini guillotine on the table. It would have been kinda of funny in a very demented, way ; )

In any case, Sunday dinner never tasted so good!  It's so great to be able to step back and really appreciate the simple things in how happy a successfully baked chicken can make you! Winner winner, chicken dinner : )

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saumur: City Hall and

(Continuing our field trip...)

After our morning visit to the chateau, we walked down the hill for a guided tour of the city hall. Our guide was excellent, had much information to share, and was able to show us inside to view some of the highly detailed interiors:

He then joined us for a short bus ride along the Loire for a visit to Notre Dame des Ardilliers. If I have the legend correct, a peasant found a statue representing The Pietà around the middle of the 15th century, and multiple times the statue was taken from the site, lost, and then re-found at the same location. So people gave up moving it, and simply built a church around it, despite the ground being full of clay (the spot is near the river). The French word for "clay" is something like "argile," and over the years that transformed into "ardilliers," hence the name of the church.

One thing I found interesting about this church is that it has many unfinished pieces, such as the pediment shown above (the triangular part above the columns). This simply has big blocks of stone ready for a sculptor to do his work, but the church has no records of what the intended scenes were to be, and this in addition to the extreme cost of such work leaves things incomplete.

More pics.

Things continue at Chambord.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Je suis ici!

 Hello all. And yes we are both alive : ) Been taking the past few days to get acclimated and become a little less nervous about wandering about barely knowing the language. Here you will see an exhausted photo taken after a long overnight flight and layover in Dublin...trekking home on the train from the airport to chez nous (our home) in the 15e arrondissement. The apartment is just perfect; tiny, cozy, and efficient. It really helps simplify life when you only have the bare essentials lying around and a few items in the fridge to cook with. Less decisions, yet more frequent shopping for sure! I've been to the store almost every day now picking up enough to carry home and get us through another meal or two. Today, Adam and I will attempt our first outdoor market to stock up on some fresh edibles for a great Sunday meal. More to come from that soon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Château de Saumur

(Continuing from our visit in Tours...)

The next morning (I think this puts us at Friday) we had a bright-and-early start with a quick intro to the history of Saumur from Tricia, which led us right to the castle in town. Ya know, 'cause French cities have those on occasion.

The Château de Saumur was originally built to defend against invading Normans in the 10th century. Then it got destroyed, built again, burnt, gifted, turned into a barracks, a McDonalds, a prison, and eventually transcended to where it is today: a tourist mecca that inspired Walt Disney. Okay, some of that I made up, but more of it is true than you may suspect (prison: yes; McDonalds: not so much).

With the cloudless skies and finally ample time, the students relaxed, explored, and had quality time with their sketch books:

The field trip continues here.