Saturday, July 7, 2012
This will be a short post as I am tired and the time is late. Or should I say early in the am. We are being hosted by a smashing British family. We were met at our arrival by being offered a tray prepared with English tea and homemade laduree macarons. We sat in a lovely, sunny English garden next to a koi pond with a waterfall. Does it get any better? Our host drove us around kent, which is known as the garden spot of England. We saw fields of red poppies, old churches and ate fish and chips at a pub dating from the sixteenth century. Did queen Elizabeth I eat there? We started our day today at the British museum for a Bible tour on the subject of Abraham and Sarah and their obedience. We took the tube to ottolenghi. A fabulous restaurant. We shopped a little. Found two brilliant dresses. Sampled aromatherapy oils at Neal's yard. Went to harrod's where we pushed our way through the horrendous crowds to find the tea shop. We refreshed ourselves with a cup of jasmin pearl tea, served from a china teapot, into china cups. We went to see the tower of London, tower bridge, Westminster abbey and parliament We took the train back to Kent where we ate the best Indian food I have ever tasted. London is a very big city with a lot to offer. It makes San Francisco seem very small. My new favorite drink is elderflower tea or soda. I love it's refreshing taste. Our friends knocked themselves out for us. Good night.
Posted by Renee at 4:46 PM
Friday, July 6, 2012
Lille is a lovely rainy French city. Our sister Clemence met us as we descended the train. Her husband Thomas drove the car that took us to their modern apartment in an eight story building covered with enlarged photos of flowers. For lunch placed a raclette maker on the table, heated it. We were each served boiled baked potatoes. The raclette maker has trays into which we put slices of cheese ( choice of plain raclette, mustard or black pepper) the cheese melts into liquid which we pour over the waiting potatoes. Wow! It was amazing. Cornichons are served alongside. Clemence's mother brought individual trifles made with a gateau sable Breton on the bottom and raspberries a top. I love trifle as some of you know. After this tasty meal we headed to centre ville ( downtown) on foot. We were privileged to have the sun shine on our walk. There is a saying in this part of France: northern French people have the sun inside their heart but it never shines outside. It sounds a lot better in French. We found this to be true when rain descended upon us as a cow pees (also a French saying) we got soaked as we entered and exited stores and metro stations. We visited hermitage gantois which was a convent and is now a beautiful hotel. We returned to the apartment for gouter ( afternoon snack) can you see why I love France? We're served cheese, macaroni, bread, saucisson made with cheese or hazelnuts, French spice cake and green tea. After gouter we left for the meeting, returning at 10:30 ( 22h30) at which point the sun had not yet set. The table was then set for dinner. Thomas made a mushroom omelet, accompanied by cheese bread, salad and flan chocolate moose. More later about French traffic jams or better known as bouchons, fleury micron ham and les grottoes de NAot's and the perfect meal prepared for us Friday by clemence's mother. Gotta go pack now for London
Posted by Renee at 2:04 AM
Monday, July 2, 2012
Tuesday in Grenoble Grenoble is a lovely place. Our host family has made us feel like part of their family. We have spent many hours sitting around the dining table talking, eating and getting to know one another. Yesterday we walked to the center or Grenoble in the light rain. We met Lucrez in front of galleries Lafayette and she toured us around the ancient Grenoble. Grenoble is surrounded by mountains and the ancient buildings are beautiful. Quite a few buildings are painted different colors. Many were built by Italians who came here to settle long ago. We walked along the quay of the isere river. Had I not been such a scary cat we could have taken a ride up to the Bastille situated high on a hill. The way to ride there is inside large plastic balls attached to cables, like a ski lift. Not for this girl, but I imagine the view to be spectacular. Maybe we will climb the hill by foot today. After sharing a coffee ( a noisette) with us Lucrez left us to the rest of our rainy day. We gave in to the soldes and to monoprix shopping. I bought many French beauty products that I hope to be able to cram into my bulging suitcase. I left the house yesterday morning unprepared for the cool weather so to warm myself I purchased two sweaters in the children's department at monoprix. Lunch was at the brasserie des fleurs. I ate a lovely fish prepared with butter ( bien sur) and red peppers; rice and salad. Jeanne had a large salad with warm goat cheese and a glass of wine. Our young French brothers and sisters met us and took us to visit a gorgeous castle, once lived in by Napoleon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Château_de_Vizille The gardens were manicured, one bed in the style of a knot garden, best viewed from a third story window. The garden contained trees manicured into triangles reminiscent of Versailles. We attempted the walk to an animal park at the end of a very long path surrounded by green fields and lined with tall trees, but our feet got the better of us and we returned to the car exhausted. One funny thing happened to Jeanne. She can laugh about it now, but at the time it was frightening. French public toilets self sanitize after being used. Jeanne entered the toilet after I had used it, without having let the door close. The toilet assumed itself to be empty and began the sanitization cycle. The lights went out and water mixed with sanitizer began to flood the unit. Jeanne was inside! I figured out what was happening when a red light went on by the door, but before Jeanne started screaming and trying to open the, now self-locked door. We were helpless to get Jeanne out. I pulled on the door in vain. Eventually a soggy shoe-d Jeanne emerged. But this is not the end. When Jeanne stepped out she allowed the door to close again before she re- entered the toilet. I think you know what happened next. The toilet again started the self cleaning cycle. Poor Jeanne was again trapped inside, while we guiltily could not stop ourselves from laughing hysterically at her plight. The now traumatized Jeanne refused to go back and complete her business until two hours later. Poor Jeanne. Today we will visit a local lake. The most wonderful thing abut staying with a French family is that three times a day the dining table gets layer out with lots and lots of wonderful, excellent food. For lunch today we had charentais melon, pineapple, bread, buratta cheese, a grenobloise salad of green beans, tuna, tomatoes in a homemade dressing, sprouted soy beans, the most flavorful salami, strawberries with lemon and tea or espresso for dessert. I want to be French!!! Tomorrow we will take a train at 4 am for Lille. The weather report ( meteo) predicts rain for the rest of our vacation.
Posted by Renee at 11:24 PM
Sunday, July 1, 2012
July 1 We are on the train (in first class thanks to Jeanne ) waiting to leave for Grenoble. We made our meeting this morning, late though, with only a small mishap requiring us to walk back and forth four times on the same four blocks ( Jeanne loved the extra walking at top speed ) before a very nice Parisian man helped us find our way. Marjorie prepared us a "small meal" to prepare us for our train ride. We ate smoked salmon on bread with herbed crime fraiche, salad, red wine, cheese plate, pâté, olives, charentais melon and flavorful strawberries with chantilly (whipped creme)for dessert. Yesterday we went to isle de la cite to walk around and have Bertillon ice cream. I had pear and rhubarb, Jeanne had chocolate noir and vanilla. The vanilla was amazing, and I loved my flavors. We are expecting nice weather today in Grenoble but tomorrow it is supposed to really heat up. ( yikes!) Our Parisian hosts were excellent! There home was very welcoming and beautifully decorated. Marjorie cooked for us nonstop and they both could not have done anything more to make us feel welcome, like family. All meals were made from scratch( a term which has no French equivalent and which took a while to explain) and came in several courses. Yum. The cheeses which accompanied every meal were superb. We had several goat and cow varieties. Last night's dessert was tarte tatin ( actually the only pre made food item), it had the wonderful flavor of French butter. Our hosts own a nespresso machine and to jeanne's delight, espresso was available on demand. We had our lovely multi course meal last night beginning at 21h ( 10pm) We spent a lot of time walking around the seine river area yesterday and toured the conciergerie ( principally known as the former prison for soon to be guillotined prisoners. We viewed Marie Antoinette's upgraded cell. We also visited st. Chapelle with it's beautiful walls of stained glass. Only my pushy impatience kept us from needlessly waiting in a two hour line to get in. Sometimes impatience pays off! We also did a bit of window shopping at BHV on rue rivoli. The soldes were very hard to resist, but our suitcases are already over full. After the meeting today we went to a marche de puces ( flea market) and found bargain earrings. There was so much to tempt us that I was glad for our too full suitcases. We are still not over our jet lag and we get waves of extreme fatigue. I hope to get a full night's sleep tonight and be cured by tomorrow when we are supposed to take our hike in the alps surrounding Grenoble.
Posted by Renee at 2:09 PM