memento and leftovers

as promised, and in a timely fashion, i am now updating on my thanksgiving dinner yesterday and i even have photos. ahem. because what kind of a person, or friend, or sister, or whatever, would i be if i didn’t put up regular postings or didn’t at least post photos so that you can all keep up with how i’m doing etc.? because unlike SOME people that i know, i understand the importance of being kept up to date and of pacifying my avid, avid readership. (coughBRIERcough)

let’s work backwards. memento-style.

i am currently eating a delicious concoction of leftovers. i put garlicky cheesy mashed potatoes in a pan with a bit of oil, cut up chunks of turkey meat, and fried this all together. i added a bit of pickle juice (don’t judge until you try it) and parmesan for a completely healthy and well balanced meal. it’s prettttttty good, i must say. also, i make mean mashed potatoes.

yesterday night i walked home from katrina’s apartment in the hopes of walking off some of the calories we had all just consumed. the lights are on in aix, and it’s starting to feel pretty festive – even if the weather is still quite pleasant and there are palm trees. the craft/artisan/food/junk/winter fair festival that is going on on the cours mirabeau from now until january 6th means that centre-ville is absolutely jam packed with people (and buskers) on a pretty regular basis. it almost makes me not want to go down there, except i keep getting sucked in by crèpe makers and candy floss… but i digress. if it is a little tacky, this is excused by the sheer monumental task it must have been to put up all the lights and decorations. observe:

yesterday evening claire, caitlin, josh and i took the bus with pots and pans full of goodness to claire’s friend katrina’s place for a celebration of american thanksgiving. there were 11 of us present, and only cait josh and i were non-americans. no matter. katrina had done up two giant turkeys, i had a ginormous pot of mashed potatoes, claire had sweet potatoes and stuffing, cait had an apple pie, a few of the american girls brought garlicky green beans and a chocolate pie, and the only guy present other than josh had brought a pasta salad. there was bread, gravy, wine, beer, and cider in addition to the mounds of food. in typical thanksgiving fashion, there was way too much food, and we ate feng shui style (university students rarely have enough chairs for themselves let alone 10 guests) on cushions on the floor until we undid our belt buckles and migrated to laying-down positions while we waited for digestion to ease our discomfort. we visited and laughed and initiated the aussies into a real american thanksgiving dinner until it was either time to sleep over or time to walk home. walk home it is.

yesterday afternoon the aforementioned four of us invaded our kitchen to prepare our thanksgiving food. who knew that you could bake an apple pie in a microwave oven? or that you could make two giant pots worth of boiled potatoes into one overflowing pot of deliciousness, while simultaneously frying up the garlic, butter and shallots for the potatoes, while simultaneously boiling two medium-sized pots of sweet potatoes and then baking them into deliciousness in aforementioned microwave oven, while also making said apple pie, while also making stuffing in said microwave oven, while the rest of the residence floor is also trying to make their lunches in the same kitchen? all at once?!? it was a gong show. and hilarious. and we escaped without anyone losing an eye or an arm, and the kitchen was left clean save for clogged sinks (again. shoddy plumbing along with shoddy everything else makes this nearly unavoidable. and i think i’ve unclogged that sink with a plunger more than the cleaning lady or any french plumber has. ugh. robyn: 4. france: 0). the next task was to transport our food – and my extremely heavy pot of potatoes – to katrina’s apartment across town. we were only a little late…

yesterday morning caitlin and i got up and walked into town to pick up our food supplies. i managed to get two sacks of potatoes for .50€ each! for some reason i also chose that trip to purchase more heavy things, like laundry detergent and milk, and suffered with the weight until we got to the bus stop. we also discovered that, apparently, disposable pie tins don’t exist in france. 12:30pm we return home and we have approximately an hour and a half to make: mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and apple pie. annnd go!

well that brings me back to the present and back to the other monumental task of studying. think i’ve sufficiently procrastinated for one afternoon…


beaujolais soirée

last week, on the 19th of november, the new vintage of wine was celebrated. beaujolais, which is both the name of a wine growing region in france, and also the stigma-ridden name of the first-to-be-ready wine of the year (‘disgusting, half-fermented grape juice,’ as a certain wine savvy boyfriend called it), was advertised in every café, brasserie, cave du vin, and restaurant in aix. the oenology club (of which i am a member) at my institute d’études politiques even had a soirée that evening complete with bottles of the stuff (drank out of plastic cups), a live band, and a dj set up in the courtyard that i typically walk through to get to classes. it was actually really fun, even if the wine was pretty awful. but that’s the fun of it! no need to be snobby about beaujolais, it’s just an excuse to celebrate. here are a few pics of us from the evening.

yesterday was american thanksgiving, and claire and a friend of hers from home who is also in aix have organized a thanksgiving dinner which is to take place tomorrow afternoon. i think there will be about 11 of us attending. i’m in charge of mashed potatoes. should be pretty great. i’ll be sure to take some photos and put them up. OH and the lights are on in aix! which also means some photographing.

i have just over a week before my first exam at the moment… my first one is on the 8th, and the rest are the following week. they are all oral exams of about 10 minutes in length. hmmmm….. my holidays begin on the 18th and i couldn’t be more excited! but for now it’s back to studying.


rata-tat-tat la ciotat


i’m feeling very accomplished today because not only did i NOT stay in aix all weekend, but i also completed TWO assignments (note: my first assignments ever, since starting school here…) this weekend. actually, i completed them both last night/this morning. they were due this afternoon. and hey, i was only 30min late for class!

since i’m pretty sure you don’t want to hear about my boring french assignments, i will instead tell you about my boring day today that passed in much the same fashion as every other day. kidding! i’ll tell you about my weekend. whether you want to hear about it or not! muahahaha.

actually, it allllll started way back last week. thursday night to be precise. i decided that it was time to open up the last bottle of ravine wine that i had brought back with me courtesy of the lovely retail manager of ravine vineyard estate winery. however! it was a pretty special bottle, and i wanted to do a pairing instead of just having it with dinner, comme d’habitude. i made a visit to la fromagerie, la boulangerie, et la charcuterie (well, not really. but let’s say monoprix’s meat section is like the charcuterie…(it’s not)), and proceeded to set up a little apéritif table in my minuscule room. there were three types of cow’s cheese (a blue one, a hard aged one, and a soft creamy one), prosciutto, duck rillette, fresh bread with olive oil and salt, and quince jelly.

it was delicious, and the wine was thoroughly enjoyed by all. however, my fridge proceeded to smell pervasively of one of the exceptionally potent cheeses until i managed to pawn the rest of it off on claire (days later… and in the meanwhile, i was literally scared to open my fridge door as the miasma permeated my entire room at turbo speed…).

saturday came early. claire, caitlin, josh and i woke up before dawn to catch the 7:50am bus to “la ciotat,” which is a very small town on the coast, east of marseille. josh even got up extra early to pick up fresh baquettes and croissants for us girls! we quickly realized, as the bus left the station, that there is actually a stop for that particular bus just steps down the road from our residence and we COULD have woken up a whole hour later than we did. yeah. you can imagine my reaction. regardless, i like bus rides, and i like mornings even if i like sleep more.

after arriving to what seemed like imminent rain, the weather actually got progressively nicer (though the wind picked up), and we spent the day wandering around this small, très french town taking photos and making ruckuses in the streets (not really though…). we stopped for lunch at a small restaurant where we ordered plates of aïoli and giant bowls of mussels and gorged ourselves on the fresh seafood.

we visited “eden cinema,” the oldest cinema in the world (according to the french… take that with a grain of salt… kidding!), saw its creepy interior, which was under renovation, and walked into the entrance of the musée of la ciotat, before leaving after seeing a 3€90 entrance fee and figuring it probably wasn’t worth it (don’t hate me laura…). we walked along the beach, had a photoshoot on a rock outcropping, and contemplated hopping the (heavily surveyed) stone wall of a giant seaside mansion to get a peek inside (we didn’t).

the bus ride home was uneventful, but before i fell asleep, we did pass through a vineyard region in the beautiful town of cassis which i vowed to return to soon.

it is now the beginning of my second-to-last week of classes, after which i have a week off for studying, and then a week of exams (bizarre right?!?!). oish… wish me bonne chance! or better yet, keep praying…

miss you all!

l’automne à aix

i’ve only heard one person complain about my lack of posting in the past two weeks…. what does that mean?? (ahemcommentmoreonmyblogpleasefriendscough…) in any case, here i go.

two weekends ago i had the opportunity to visit an olive grove in salon de provence. it’s a long story to explain the connection, but suffice it to say that claire had the hookup via her sister’s boss in utah, and rox and nico, the proprietors, were happy to have us come visit (read: work) for the day! so we hopped on the morning bus to salon, and were picked up by rox from the station when we arrived.

mas de bories grove

the olive grove is called “mas de bories,” which means, loosely translated, ‘shepherd’s stone house.’ it’s an ancient type of stone house built into the sides of hills, used by shepherds i don’t know how many years ago. or maybe they still use them… regardless, rox and nico have one that they house a tasting area in, which is pretty cool. the grove itself is comprised of 1400 olive trees of myriad different varieties (and some almond trees too), which are picked at varying times of the year.

claire, caitlin and i were put to work immediately, which we were happy for (haven’t done physical labour in quite some time, it felt pretty good), and claire was recruited to help assemble a grove-side picnic lunch for us, which we devoured and washed down with some fresh pressed coffee. then it was back to work! nico used a contraption to shake the olives onto the net-covered ground below, after which us girls sorted through and removed large branches while also gathering the olives into piles. claire’s sister’s boss, steve, who was also there, then sucked the rest of the leaves out of the piles with another contraption, and we then ‘crated’ the olives. after the crates were put onto the back of the tractor, we had to collect the nets and tarps and move on to the next section. this process repeated for five or so hours until our backs started to get a little sore and steve started mentioning “happy hour” every few minutes.

lunch in the grove. myself, caitlin, claire, and steve

rox then took us through a real olive oil tasting, complete with five different kinds of their olive oils (which have won numerous awards and are generally known as being some of the best olive oils in france), wine, olives cassées and two kinds of olive tapenade. in case you’ve never tried a raw, uncured olive, let me give you a word of advice: DON’T. unless of course you want the experience, in which case, yes, it is an experience. i learned this the hard way, and believe me when i say it was the most disgusting, bitter thing i’ve ever put in my mouth (a close second would be the caper berry garnish that i ate at AG once, which, to be fair, was not really bitter, just disgusting). olives cassées are an attempt to remedy this without the time it takes to cure the olive. essentially you take a hammer to each individual olive so that a crack forms, and through a series of salt-water soaks the bitterness leaves the olive. you can then put them in oil with whatever kind of flavouring you fancy. the ones i tasted were in olive oil and fennel, and they were delicious.

les olives cassées

i would be lying if i said that it wasn’t one of the coolest things i’ve done – harvesting the olives. and what fun with my two closest girlfriends here! we were only sad to leave, as we could smell the dinner nico (a retired french chef) and rox were cooking up. apparently we’re to come back and stay overnight next time, and then we’ll forsure get dinner. as it stood, we had a bus to catch and thus headed back to the station, laden with our day’s wages of oil and tapenade…

it happened to be hallowe’en that day. france doesn’t typically recognize this holiday, but i do live in a university town filled with international students who have managed to import this social event to aix. despite being exhausted, we managed to put together a costume (part of the cast from peter pan!) and drag ourselves into town. it was worth it…. to see the narrow streets crowded with every kind of costume, and to have laughed our stomachs sore at josh wearing tights… definitely fun. needless to say, i slept well that night.

“oh god, what am i doing…”
laughing, at josh
josh was none too pleased about the tights
the cast
peter, tiger lily, hook

last week and weekend passed with little fanfare, and somehow we’re into the teens of november tomorrow…. what the heck?? all the lights and decorations are out in the city, though not lit yet. it’s going to be pretty incredible when they are, i will make sure to document it well.

yesterday, remembrance day (if you’re canadian), veteran’s day (if you’re american), or armistice day (if you’re french), was pretty good. over in these here parts it’s a holiday, which means no school, but lots of other things still open. a few of us had intended to take a bus to la ciotat, a small town on the coast. well… we were running late that morning. after claire made josh run to the bus station so i her and i could bike using their bicycles, missing the bus by approximately 30 nanoseconds was slightly disappointing. this was compounded by the fact that it was morning, i had not had breakfast, i had not had coffee, and i had just biked, fast, to the gare routière. next plan: coffee and breakfast. at l’unic of course, our favourite place in aix.

l’unic boys

afterwards, it was lunch time. and after that? let’s go see a movie! we saw the imaginarium of dr. parnassus, which was probably the coolest thing i’ve ever seen, if also the most bizarre… and in the time we had to wait for it to start, we wandered around aix, had a photo shoot in a really neat street, and bought candy.

so, i’ve been trying to keep busy. it’s not too hard, although i should probably be even more busy with reading and studying and translating etc., it’s just pretty hard to be motivated for that when there are so many other cool things to do and look forward to. not to mention that i’m planning for a christmas and new years (spent with friends and a pretty great visitor) in paris, sweden and aix!

until then i really SHOULD get some studying done. for now i have to go to the international office to sign some papers that will allow me to stay here beyond november. you’ll know if something goes wrong because i’ll be kicked out of the country and sent back home at the end of the month! let’s hope, for that reason, that i don’t see you in december (except those i’m meant to see!), even though that would be really, really nice…

follow up

here are just a couple pics from the epic pain perdu, sirop d’érable et bacon (?) petit déjeuner from last week:

chef caitlin 🙂
claire making apple sauce. which would later turn into an epic fail, but the next time it was delicious…

et voilà! délicieux.