Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Homeward Bound

I will be home before I know it!

Back home everyone needs to just go to sleep once and I will be home. :)  Over here, I technically should be going to sleep almost twice, but regardless I will be home soon!

To be honest, I am going to miss this place terribly.  My host family has become such great friends and the relaxed atmosphere and stress free living was much needed!  I tend to run and run and run and here, the closest thing I did to running was walking fast to the pastry shop to get a pain de chocolate.

People are right when they say it is a whole different culture over here, but truly I don't mind the differences.  They may not use GMOs or hormones in their beef, but they do have this local pride and friendly spirit that is contagious!

I am going to keep it short and brief because I need to finish up a few things before I catch my train to head to Paris, but look back in the next couple of days--I have so much to tell you about Angers.  I have three blogs started that needed to be completed with pictures even!

See you soon!  Call me, text me, Facebok me or visit me...I can not wait to hear what ya'll have been doing for the last 30 days!

Did I really just say ya'll?  I have been spending way to much time with these Texas people! :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Frenchest Sunday I Could Find

A good friend of mine warned me that I would have a culture shock when I got to France--which I have yet to have. The other day, I about thought and wondered why I was missing that common downfall of a study abroad trip; concluding that maybe I have been surrounded too much by Americans to feel the pressure of a new culture.  However, after this weekend I am disputing that idea as well. 

I think I experienced the Frenchest Sunday possible and I absolutely loved it. I don't know if you have picked this up yet, but I have a really great host family that has done a great job of introducing me to French culture.  I mean even if I was a little nervous about eating raw meat last night, they were giving me a great opportunity to try something new, like they always do!  I love being here and will be sad to leave them next week!

This past Sunday, they invited me with to a opening of a local winery that included dinner, music and of course wine tasting.  It was sooo much fun and completely French.  We ate under a tent that looked over the vineyard and we had a live singer serenading us in French.  Plus, the food was delicious (it always is in France)...we had bread that reminded me of a pita, except it was made fresh in front of us in a brick oven.  We ate the bread with a duck, goose and rabbit pattae for our appetizer; enjoyed it with a ratatuie or white bean mix for our main course; used it with our cheese for the third course and for desert we had French apple pie fresh from the oven!  Mmmm...and of course we had each course with wine.  Rose for the appetizer, white for the main course, red with the cheese and a sparkling wine with our desert! 

After dinner, (which took about 2 1/2 hours) we took a ride through the vineyard in horse-drawn carriage.  A friend from school, Taylor, also came with and the picture below is of us on the carriage ride.  I really loved the whole afternoon and when Phillipe and Lydie explained that this was a common event in the summer, I got really jealous.  It was such a fun experience and I got to taste four delicous wines...and of course, another bottle is now coming home to Minnesota (hopefully)! 

It was a perfect way to spend a Sunday in France, in fact, if I could go to a grand opening of a winery I would every day of the week!  J'adore Angers!

P.S. Watch for more pictures soon, Taylor took most of the pictures because my camera died and my words just can't do this place justice!

"World Famous" Creperie

The title of this blog is a little bit of a running joke with my classmates because on my first night here my host mother said nearly everything was famous.  It was pretty funny at first, but since then I have learned that most everything she referred to was actually well-known in France, like the Nespresso machine or the Basque region.  And now, my host family is so good at English that I take it to heart when she calls something famous, so when she pointed out a creperie in Angers that was "famous", I made note of it and headed there the next day for lunch! was an excellent choice!  If it isn't in Rick Steve's book of things to do in France, it needs to be added.  It was the cutest little shop a little off the main road and it had delicous crepes!  If only I could get crepes that good at home!

We had hear about a traditional crepe of the region called the Gillette Complete.  It has eggs, cheese and ham all within a crepe and sounded like home to us, so we ordered four. :)

I loved them.  It is like a whole breakfast wrapped up in a delicous crepe.  The eggs are over-easy, so the yolk soaks into the crepe and is to die for.  Way better than a plain old omelet anyday and it made Ty-Yann creperie famous in my book for sure!

If you know where they sell or make these at home, let me know!  Until then, I am going to try my best to perfect this yummy goodness every Sunday until I get it right!  :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I Spoke Too Soon....

I pressed the "Publish Post" button on my latest entry right before I went down to dinner. It was definitely a moment too soon because in fact, I got served red meat tonight.  Really really red meat.

And I know that this was from a cow because I am pretty sure I heard it mooo on my plate.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I ate raw beef for dinner tonight.

Yes, RAW beef.

I think it might be called steak tattae.  I don't really know, I just know it was cold, raw and bloody.


I didn't think so. I did try it because I feel too rude to ever refuse, but I didn't take any more than my little piece and instead I filled myself up on bread.  I probably won't be trying it again, because even though it might have been tasty, I couldn't tell because my brain was kicking my taste buds in the head every time I ate another bite.  I guess what I am saying is that I could not get over the fact that is was raw...even if they assure me it is safe...I just can't afford stomach problems right now!?! I have a castle to see tomorrow!

So...what's your thoughts...have you ever ate raw beef?  Should I have been more open?  Is it safe?  Is it really as delicous as my host family says?

Oh and I definitely will not be complaining about eating so much fish ever again!

La Vache :)

My host mother is an amazing cook.  Not only does she serve me delicous cheese for desert, but she can serve up some of the best fish I have ever eaten.  She trumps Red Lobster or any other chain restaurant that attempts to serve legitimate seafood every day of the week.  She loves the art of cooking and combines it with my host father's culture in Southwestern France to make the best seafood almost daily.  Since I have arrived I have had salmon, tuna, mussel, crayfish, white fish and clams.  Yet, regardless of Lydie's Iron Chef skills with fish, I am starting to crave my favorite source of protien--BEEF.

Around the end of last week, I was starting to wonder if beef was even consumed in France.  I had seen cattle in the pastures along the roads, but I had yet to see a slice of red meat on the table in front of me.  I was starting to miss my favorite animal, in both the live and edible version.

Lucky for me and you...I found out that cows do exist for a reason in France and people actually do eat beef (just not my family) and that farms in France still do remind me of home.  For starters, a farm still smells like a all of the city folks complained about the smell, I loved the scent of hard work and dedication.  Second, a cow still looks like a still moos and eats grain and has calves.  The farmers still care about their product and work hard to raise a quality piece of meat (viande in French) for their consumers.  They still have the small farms that many of us are able to call home and they pass those farms from generation to generation. A farm is a farm whether is is Minnesota, France or China...the values never change and that was one of the best lessons I have learned on this trip so far.

 (This is an advertisment I found in Angers that promotes Beef.  It makes me think that some people may enjoy my favorite meat!)

But, let me be clear there are major differences in our production practices.

Now I know, that there are variations in production practices even in the United States, but realisticaly our main goal is usually efficeiency.  We punch numbers to determine which genetics will produce a fast-growing calf that will make it to market with the least amount of is a matter of economics.  From what I am gathering, that is not the case in France.  Why?  Because French prefer old meat.  Wierd huh?  We prefer a fresh, "A maturity" carcass that is filled with marbling and they would rather have an extremely lean, tougher, older piece of meat.  So, in order to react to these demands a steer is usually fed out for 2 1/2 years and because of that, farmers often feed out bulls instead and harvest them at 15-17 months for beef.  That is just so odd for me.  That's a long time for one steer to be on my farm, but the differences don't end there--

  • Steers aren't typically castrated here until 12 months, sometimes at the earliest of 7 months.
  • There are no major feedlots in France.  Most steers and heifers get sold to Italy or Spain to be fed out.
  • There are many Appelations of Origins (AOC) dealing with beef breeds.  These AOCs guarentee the region, breed, handling and quality of beef from specific areas.  For example, there is an AOC Maine Anjou.
  • There is no real market for market heifers in France.  For example, the Maine Anjou AOC required all females to have at least one calf before they could qualify.
  • Cattle are not given hormones...ever.
  • Producers are given their prices on visual appraisal before the cattle leave the farms.  Little emphasis is put on our normal guidelines, such as marbling, size, condition and it is more on what the grader thinks that day.
My list could go on and on and on but instead, let me share with you some pictures from the birth place of the Maine Anjou, which happen to be one of my favorite breeds!  I was pretty excited about this visit, as I had made an assumption about their origin when I discoverent the name of Angers' region is Anjou and that a nearby river is named the Maine.  It turns out it wasn't just a coincedence and I was able to visit the farm where the first Maine Anjou (also known as Rouge des Près) was bred! 
However, the Maine Anjou in France are much different than the my heifer I lovingly showed in 10th grade or any of the steers we have ever raised.  These cows here are red and white and at home, they are definitely black.   It is obvious that there has been some crossbreeding in the American Maine Anjou breed, but I still love ours none the less.


The pictures above are from the AOC Maine Anjou (so basically like the breeds headauarters) and let me just say, while I love the American Angus Association, this office space was beautiful.  Plus, they still had the original stalls where the first cattle on the farm were stalled and they had two cows in their pasture, chickens in their yard and a barrell of cider the size of me in their barn.  I think the Angus Association maybe should take some notes :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Feels Like Home to Me

I think I broke my mother's heart yesterday when I told her that everyday I wake up and forget I am in France.  It just feels like home to me...well that is until I have my first interaction with a French person and get a friendly reminder that, no, I actually am halfway across the world.  However I think if there was no language barrier I would feel eerily comfortable in France.  It's almost like the stunning beauty of this country is becoming a common thing a person should see everyday!  I hope home can live up to these new expectations of constant beauty, but I am concerned it might not!  Sure, I love Minnesota summers and the miles of corn fields and the trips to the lake, but really a castle trumps Minnesota summer everytime. 

Yesterday, I got to visit another castle and this one definitely made my top five list (which I plan on updating completely when I get home) because of its history, location and beauty.  It was a good reminder that I was indeed in France and not home (and I could only wish a castle was home!)  Plain and simple, Saint Malo is gorgeous.

(Note: This picture is not one I took, a friend is borrowing my camera cord so instead I am
sharing a profesional photo from their website so you can understand is true beauty!)

Saint Malo is an 11th century city that still continues its historical beauty within its fortification walls.  It is a unique town that is fiercely loyal to its independence and traditions and because of that (and its dangerous tidal conditions) it has never grown or changed too dramatically.  The city may have had many periods of renovation and growth and of course adapted to the tourism, but it still seems so realistic and serene.  Plus, it had the most amazing beaches that I luckily got to explore with the Texas boys!  This was my first beach-sea creatures-tidal pools-seaweed-rock climbing-castle in the background beach exploring and was the perfect way to start!

Saint Malo sits on a string of beaches called Emerald Beaches and its ocean-front-view is one of the city's biggest advantages. First of all, Saint Malo is surrounded by two strings of coral reefs that has sank many ships.  Also, on the reefs barrier forts were built to stop invanding ships before they could harm the citizens within the city's walls.  Second, Saint Malo sits in a unique area of Europe that is greatly influenced by the tidal changes.  When we were there, there was very little tidal fluctuation, and by little I mean only 5 meters.

So basically, if I were standing on this shore at 2 pm and stood there until 7 pm, I would be covered by 15 feet of water.  Needless to say, that would be a problem for me (especially since I can't swim) and also became a problem for many enemies because the tide would change and leave them stranded or trapped!  And that is only in June, during March and October the tides are at their worst and can get extremely dangerous.  These trees are planted as wave breaks and often the water rushes over them and these fortification walls.

Plus, the city was so quaint and honest.  Check out this picture Travis caputred of the cathedral.

Finally, there was good shopping and great crepes.  Don't be surpised if your souvinear comes from Saint Malo. :)  It was amazing...and almost made me knock off La Buale from the top five list (almost!).

 Hope you are enjoying your Sunday afternoon--make sure to check back tommorrow to learn about my perfect French Sunday at the winery!  More bottles are coming home to Minnesota! 

Friday, June 11, 2010

An Amazing Birthday!

Okay...if you scroll down you can see I added a short post on my birthday and I informed you that is was amazing

Here are some of the amazing things I saw on my amazing 22nd birthday in amazing Paris.

I don't know if I said this yet...but it was basically amazing.  I don't really think the 23rd birthday can possibly top it!

Say Cheese!

I have almost finished day seventeen in France and I am still madly in love with this country.  There is just so much to see.  Today, I walked by an authentic cheese shop with a zillion different kinds and I couldn't help but peek in...even a cheese shop is interesting. :) 

Lately, I am starting to classify myself as sort of a cheese expert.  My host mom has gone out of her way to visit that particular cheese shop a couple of times a week so I can experiment with different varieties and flavors.  My favorites so far are the ones most similar to what we call bleu cheese, but in France it is never just called bleu cheese.   There are thousands of is a lot more complicated than the "American, Swiss or Cheddar" options we get at Subway.  Yesterday, I was served three different varieties of bleu cheese, a brie and a log of sheep fromaige that was interesting, to say the least. 

After some serious taste tests I give you my winner......drumroll please.... ROQUEFORT!

Before I came to France, I wouldn't touch bleu cheese with a ten-foot pole but there is something about living in another country that energizes your taste buds and this special variety of bleu cheese is my absolute favorite!  Mark is going to love me even more when I get back because I finally share his love for smelly,  moldy cheese!  But for real, this is some great stuff--it has such a strong, distinct taste that just fills my mouth, I love it.  However, I did learn today that the mold in Roquefort is penicillin and I am allergic to penicillin, but I am making an assumption that it is 1. a different type of penicillian or 2. that I am really not allergic to penicillin.  I hope one of the two is right or I may have a problem in the morning!

Now; I can't just share my favorites...I also have to share my least favorite too and this little guy below was not very good. 

I have been trying to find the name of the French speciality but all I know is that it came out of something that "baaaaad" and it definitely smelled like it could have been a sheep.  I don't know if it was the mold or the smell or the taste that turned me off...or maybe all three, but whatever it was I definitely will not be trying it again.  My suggestion is to stick with the blue veined cheese and you must try the Roquefort!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Je Taime France!

Life was good this week.

Actually, let me correct was amazing this week.

I have been in France for 10 days and I have loved every second of it.  It is fascinatingly beautiful here.  Every trip to school or to downtown I find something new to see and I feel like I am living out a fairytale.  During the week, I go to school every morning and spend time with 27 new friends and then get to go home every night to an excellent French family that makes excellent French food!  And sometimes I get to add in a chocolate pastry or glass of white wine...could I really ask for anything more?

Je t'aime France!

I just returned home from my weekend trip to La Buale, the largest and most popular beach in Europe.  It was gorgeous and amazing end to my perfect week.  After a little planning, fifteen of us from the group decided to pack a weekend bag and celebrate "Summer Break 2010".  It was my best summer break so far to date! ;)

La Buale was my first real experience swimming in the ocean and it was a pretty amazing.  The beach went for miles and we couldn't see the end of it.  Plus, there was people absolutely everywhere...and a lot of them were topless or nude.  It confirmed many French cliches... SOME people will make out everywhere, they are very comfortable with their bodies and they don't always shave their bodies.  AND, we Americans have been French kissing all is more of attach and suction kind of a thing, rather than a kiss and breath type of motion! :)

As the sun was starting to fade, we loaded back on the train and headed over to stay at a hotel we had found online in the town of Nantes.  This is where our backpacking across Nante adventure began....and ends. :) 

The bus lines had ended for the night, so our group had to literally walk miles to our hotel.  It was a pretty legit exploring/lost/backpacking across Europe couple of hours and I had so much fun!  We finally found our hotel (which ended up being an amazing find...two cute condos for only 85 euros per night) and found a great French pizza place and had a fun night!  If I can convince Mark...I definitely want to come back and backpack across Europe one day!

All in was the perfect end to a great week and I am excited to spend 2 1/2 more weeks and Angers and do some more exploring!  Talk to you soon!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

35 Hours A Week?

I am learning so much new information and just trying to take it all in.

Yesterday, I learned about the European Union and the history of agriculture in France; today we learned more about rural lifestyles and the French workforce...everything is SO DIFFERENT.

Today, we got to learn more about the French workforce and I realized I really have SO MUCH to learn!  First of all; until 2007/8 when Sarkozy became President it was COMPLETELY ILLEGAL to work on Sunday.  In fact; since 1906, Sunday has been a day of rest for the French.  No stores are ever open on Sunday:  When Sarkozy was elected, he made exceptions to the law, but French people still do not shop on this day of rest--they will only window shop.  What if America operated this way?  I would never be able to go shopping?  We do so much on Sunday!

Another perk of working in France--paid vacation.  Lots and lots of paid vacation.  Five whole weeks of vacation every year!  One whole month off plus bank holidays???  What?  What would I do with a whole month off ( plus one week and bank holdiays?)  The answer is simpe...I would love it and I would learn to golf and swim.

Plus, if the vacation isn't enough they ONLY HAVE TO WORK 35 HOURS A WEEK in France! 

This is a perfect world, right?  I need to move to France for good!

Ummm...well no.  It's a bit more complicated than that.  The 5 weeks vacation is prett cool and the Sunday's off isn't all that bad....but I forgot to say something about the 35 hour work weeks...they don't just only have to work 35 hour work weeks...the French citizens (until recent exceptions) could only work a 35 hour work week.  It was illegal to work anymore.

Okay...and even though I was trying to be open minded during this this point my American side came in.  WHAT?  It is illegal to work?  It is illegal to be open?  You can tell people what they can do?  How do you get ahead?  ...EVER?

Then the answser came.  You don't. 

Since 2000, when the law Aubry was passed limiting hours per week, workers were just forced to complete the same work in less time.  In fact; the goals of increased consumption and decrease unemployment didn't work.  Plus, taxes are extremely high; but they do get free health care and agriculture and rural stabilty.  And just when I stopped to question this lifestyle...I stopped to look at my French family and decided to ask them questions.  Their answers provided even more food for thought.  My host mom gets nearly 8 weeks of vacation each year because she works 40 hours a week instead of 35 and my host dad works for more of a salary type pay. 

Here is the main point--it's extremely complicated!

For me, it makes our own battle over healthcare and politics even more interesting.

I can't wait for tomorrow!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bonjour Angers!

Translating French when you don't know French is extremely difficult.  Trust me.

I am on day two with my French host family and it is an amazing experience and by amazing I do not mean easy but still great just the same.  There are so many things to adjust too...this keyboard for example is all messed up.  Excuse me if I write zqs instead of was...the W, A, Z, and M have been moved and Mr. Murray must have been a really great teacher after all because those home row keys are stuck in my head!

I am learning slowly though...tonight thank god we all loved George Clooney and Walt Disney becuase we could drink George's expresso and sing Disney songs.  Check out the French version of my favorite Mulan song that we sang tonight after dinner!

I have also learned that glaes means ice and it usually leads to ice cream and that the French don't like any water in their coffee...I definetely will be drinking my coffee black when I get back!  And even though the French word for crab translates to sea still is yummy! 

Stay tuned for some more stories from France!  I will write much more tomorrow!  I need to go call my mother!  :)