The alphabet as I found it in Aix en Provence.
Bring on the French Food
I’ve been immersing myself and taking advantage of the French culture. I’m pretty excited about how much French I can speak, or more so understand. Fun!
One of the best parts of France is, of course, its food. My friend, Clothilde, had people over for a Raclette party. This is a typical meal eatten in the winter time and especially in the mountains after skiing. There are small grills in the middle of the table and everyone gets a little pan where they put a slice of Raclette cheese (I have one in my left hand in the picture). It heats up in the grill until it starts to bubble then you scoop it onto your plate and eat it with bread, boiled potatoes, tons of different hams and meats, tomatos, little pickles, etc. So good! So unhealthy! So good!
I also went to a wine festival in Marseille for a day thanks to our French teacher, Gerome Casanova. There was really good wine from all over France presented by the people that make them. They also had other foods like saucisson (they are crazy about this dry sausage), foie gras (holy crap, this stuff’s good), cheese, chocolate, pain d’epices, and so much more. In my French class a couple days before I presented Chateneuf de Pape, a delicious dry red wine from the Avignon region. I had the honor to taste some… the best wine I’ve ever had. In the US we commonly categorize wine based on the cepage (the type of grape) for example Merlot, Shiraz.. Well here you know everything based on a certificate known as the AOC (Appellation d’Orgine Controlee or Controlled Designation of Origin): what kind of grapes and percentages of each, the region it’s grown, the method of creating it, everything. This was a really fun day.. mmm.
After the Americans threw an amazing Thanksgiving dinner, the French students were motivated to hold a French dinner… whoa it good. There was foie gras (upon request!), tapenade, onion pizza, quiche, quiche, quiche, tartiflette… and for dessert gallette de roi, macaroons, profiterolles, papillote, tangerines, and more. Thanks to Stephanie, Clothilde, Helene, Julia, Ludovic, and Vincent. You guys rock. This was the best time our group had together. A great way to bring the semester to an end.
Now… to enjoy pastries and baguettes for the rest of my time here…
said Stephanie eyeing my jar of peanut butter
(The only French person that I know that likes peanut butter)
Welcome to my French University, the IAE. This “lipdub” production is an annual tradition. I appear in it 3 times! (3:09, 4:28 and 5:22)
My final monthly update…
Today marks four months that I have lived in Aix-en-Provence… and signals that the end of my temporary residence is near.
The past month I was completely intoxicated with architecture. I began this month with an independent architectural excursion through Switzerland. I made great friendships, I experienced inspiring architecture, I visited highly esteemed firms, and I left motivated to continue my architecture journey throughout all aspects of my life. It was truly amazing, but as most of this month’s posts were about this fall break, I won’t belabor the point.
Locally, my architecture world here in Aix has exploded. I returned to find an Architecture and Film festival in Aix-en-Provence. Although I missed Jean Nouvel speak the day prior to my return, I attended as many of the events as possible, which I will elaborate on in a separate post. While leaving an event I randomly met Julie Shurtz Muyldermans, a local architect originally from the United States. Her support has been truly encouraging, as she has exposed me to great opportunities. Again, look for a post in the near future, but briefly: she has introduced me to a weekly meeting of local architects, she let me sit in on a meeting (in French!) while she discussed the drawings of her house, and she told me about a great winery nearby. A couple friends and I visited the winery this weekend and on the property there were works by Tadao Ando, Jean Nouvel, Frank Ghery, Richard Serra, Louise Bourgeois, and more. It was great! (and yet again, look for another post!) And! I met local architects Philippe and Lien Jonathan. We had tea in their studio/apartment in the center of Aix, then I visited their summer residence outside the city. Philippe and his architecture really left an impression on me. The fact that I have found my way into an architecture world right here in Aix-en-Provence is thrilling. It makes me want to stay, really.
It is as if right when I feel like I truly belong here, right when I am becoming “French,” right when I feel part of the greater community… it is time to go.
I’ve learned so much French recently since I am eager to practice with my French friends. Comprehension has increased substantially, but expression is still quite difficult. Thank you to my frenchies for your help and patience :)
This past month I’ve really gotten closer to my new friends and the French culture. My friend Clothilde hosted a Raclette party, a typical hot cheese and raw foods sampler. You each have a little pan where you heat a slice of cheese in heater pods in the middle of the table. Delicious! Also, I went to a wine festival in Marseille that introduced me to the best wines (Chateauneuf-du-Pape was my favorite) and French foods (foie gras! wow!). Then, the Americans hosted a Thanksgiving potluck dinner with all the staple recipes (and additional French specialties). It was such a perfect evening. Our French friends were so excited about being part of this dinner, that a week later we had a French dinner! It was amazing!! A special night that brought us all together. And, I’ve visited the Christmas market numerous times. I’m slightly obsessed with the vin chaud (hot spiced wine).
Why else does Aix feel like home… Well I’ve also grown closer to my yoga practice this semester. It is part of my life now. I love it. I’ve also been more active in helping the studio. I did two photo shoots, one of the studio and one of Heathir, one of the owners who is pregnant. They have really become friends. I’ve also gone all over town placing flyers in shops. It’s a great way to encourage me to continue to explore the city in my final weeks here.
And finally… jeez I even replaced the toilet seat at our apartment. Handyman Nicole in France… I haven’t had to do this in the States yet.
I have two weeks left… I feel both extremes: utter disappointment and pure exhilaration. Aix finally feels like home, a real home. I’m connected to the community, the people, the culture, the city, and I didn’t reach this potential until just recently. I will be terribly sad to leave. That is, until I get to the airport. I hate the travel time, that in between time where you are left alone to realize that a chapter of your life has closed (although one day I’ll come back). I’ll reminisce during this transition time… but mostly l will be sooo anxious to return to Raleigh. To my family, my friends, my boyfriend (can’t wait!), and to my city that I have grown so proud of. To regurgitate a cliche saying: Distance makes the heart grow fonder. It is true for all this aspects.
Two weeks feels like nothing to the part of me that wants to stay here and make the absolute most of the time I have left. But to say that I will be reunited with those I left behind in two weeks… I honestly have a hard time believing it. I have grown accustomed to thinking it would never come. It’s almost here, but it still feels like an unforeseeable future…
The Best French-Infused Thanksgiving Potluck Ever
Sure I love Thanksgivings with the family… but this one is possibly my favorite, and definitely the most memorable.
Zack Jones hosted this wonderful event (thanks!) at his parent’s place in Puyricard. It was pretty tricky altering the traditional recipes to accommodate our available ingredients here in France, but we pulled it off impressively well. Our feast included a real turkey!, ham, green bean casserole, mac & cheese, peas and corn, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie (made by me!), caramel cake, pumpkin bread and more. We covered the core Thanksgiving elements… then mixed in some French elements: quiche, baguettes, pizza, crepes, a cheese platter, and the best cheap wine you could imagine. Mmmmmm. We all had stomach aches from eating so much, but it was worth it.
What I loved most is that our French (and Slovakian!) friends that came were just as excited, if not more, for their first Thanksgiving ever as the Americans were for having their first one in France. In the years to come, we will all think back to this amazing evening where we shared the most special Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for this memory :)