Winding down a semester, and getting ready for an awesome Christmas!
02.12.2014 - 12.12.2014 8 °C
A big part of the Christmas tradition in France, and throughout Europe, is local Christmas Markets (I’ve already posted a little bit about the one here in Besançon). Last weekend, the international group organized a trip to Lyon to see the market and famous Christmas light display. Nicolle and I both really wanted to go, but managed to both miss the sign-up deadline. Then we discovered that train tickets were ridiculously cheap over the weekend (16€), so we were going to try to do it on our own. Luckily, we searched for lodging ahead of time, because we found that there was literally NOTHING available that wasn’t a luxury hotel! So then we thought we’d try something else – remember La Petite Adresse? (If not, see Post 13 – French Down, German to Go! before continuing...)
It wasn’t but Friday, and we had no real plans for the weekend, so Nicolle (very bravely) called to see about a reservation. Because, as we all know, those are very important… After an interesting one-sided phone call from my perspective (the answer to the question “Do you have any open tables over the weekend?” apparently warranted a really long and convoluted answer, and the proprietor of this restaurant speaks with a very strong regional accent that can be difficult to understand…), we had a reservation for lunch the next day! The reservation had been made for three, because the initial attempt had been with our friend Jie. Luckily she was able to join us, so it worked out perfectly!
Apparently lunch is a bit less intense, because only four of the six tables were full… We had the choice between a couple of different menus (a very typical dining option here, consisting of a light appetizer (called the entrée, which kind of threw me off the first time…and which is often salad and bread), followed by the plat (the American "entrée"…), and finished off by a dessert. Generally, if you order a menu, the entrée is fixed, and you have the choice between a few different plats and desserts, and it’s cheaper than if you were to order all three individually. There was a special menu of the day and a few fixed ones. There were also a few individual specialty plats that came alone. But who would do that?!
We all ordered menus, so we were soon presented with a giant salad, a whole baguette, and a huge terrine, which is a pâté baked in a casserole dish and rechilled. It wasn’t too appetizing looking, but my, was it good with the baguette! Rich, a little salty, and with a hint of something great that I don’t know how to describe – way more interesting than the lump of crusty brown mush appeared at first glance! Next came the plats; I had ordered the Morbiflette (a very regional specialty that features morteau (more-toe, Ben) sausage and morbier (more-bee-ay) cheese, baked in with potatoes, onions, crème fraiche, and white wine). It came in an enormous individual casserole dish that was obviously straight out of the oven and it was oh, so so incredible. I have found that a lot of the regional foods here are quite basic (many are essentially different variations of potatoes, cheese, and meat), but the flavors of the different unique meats and cheeses are just so powerful and unique that everything is interesting and delicious. After knocking that dish back, I was already ready to not eat for three whole days, but we still had dessert to come! Luckily the dessert du jour was a small and simple (but awesome) crème brûlée. The perfect touch to finish off a fantastic meal. Final verdict: Definitely worth the awkward first attempt and following anticipation, and probably better than anything we would have seen/done/eaten in Lyon!
Getting back to Christmas, I have been surprised (and pleased) to discover that, despite the fact that Christmas decorations get busted out in November, the Christmas music does not. But now that we’re less than two weeks out, I’m starting to wonder…and hope that it happens soon! The closest thing to “Christmas music” I have heard was WHAM’s “Last Christmas” in the grocery store. Sorry Eva, but I refuse to count that. Also, this “winter” weather is messing with me a bit – there hasn’t been even a hint of snow, and I’ve only woken up to one morning of frost. In general, it feels like early April in Nebraska; often not freezing but chilly enough to warrant a coat and scarf, and a fairly regular cold rain.
A few days last week, I had the time to walk to class (it takes about an hour). Every time, I have – intentionally – taken at least one different turn. It’s unbelievable, but I have still managed to find multiple streets between campus and downtown that I had not seen before. I have discovered a Portuguese grocery store, a pet shop, a thrift store, some really interesting houses, and one incredible little passageway of apartment building entrances where every wall surface is covered with different artwork. (Luckily, I was early that day, so I had plenty of time to stop and admire!) Besançon has an impressive collection of street art, and I have found multiple works that are obviously by the same artist (I’ve discovered that she’s a Spanish artist called Hyuro, who apparently has murals all over the world), which I find super interesting.
Here is the muraled passageway:
And the Hyuro works (the stairs and landscape are both a few blocks from the alley pictured above, and I pass the wolves and women every day on the bus to downtown :
Yesterday, I hunted down my first French éclair. As many of you know, I am a sucker for anything coffee, so when I saw the words “éclair” and “café” on the same label, my decision was made quite easily. I had heard, but forgotten, that French éclairs tend to also be filled with whatever the exterior flavor is. So I was expecting coffee flavored icing and vanilla crème, but was pleasantly surprised to discover thick, rich espresso-y custard inside, which created a sweet, flaky little coffee-bomb!
I have one more week of classes to go – this semester has gone by so quickly, but looking back, I cannot believe all that has happened in the past three and a half months! I have a little bit more end-of-the-semester work; one more exam and a solo presentation for my oral expression class (ten whole minutes of talking about a controversial subject of choice…). At the beginning of the semester, this would have been pretty close to impossible. Even though the idea still makes me a little panicky (I hate delivering any kind of presentation, regardless of the language) it does feel kind of awesome to know that, in principle, it is something that I am capable of.
In other news, I will be meeting up with Eva (and probably squealing like a toddler) in 11 days!