Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fishy Pedi...

Who would have thought that sticking your feet into a carnivorous-fish-infested waters would ever be à la mode.  
These Fishy Pedi's are hugely popular here in France, and every spa has a room complete with man-eating-fish bowls.  
Though intriguing, I did not expect to partake in this experience, despite its potential to be, "culturally enriching".  But how can one turn down an opportunity on Groupon?  
For un bon prix we booked a spa date for Wednesday afternoon and took the plunge into the world of the Fishy Pedi.

If I had ever know the French word for tickle, I had forgotten it.  Laughing and squirming, we couldn't convey to our spa lady how chatouilleux we were! Nothing tickles more than the sensation of tiny fish nibbling at your toes and swimming around your heels!
If you remember the soles of my feet from the last time I was in France, maybe Fishy Pedis aren't such a crazy idea after all!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sunday Afternoons...

Everything here is closed on Sunday. 
For the past few weeks I have been bored out of my mind on Sunday afternoons.  And hungry too, if I forget to shop for groceries in advance.
Where are all the Bordelais on Sundays?  What do they do?
This weekend had the first clear Sunday since I've arrived.  We decided a picnic was called for, down the street at Le Jardin Public.

 We packed Bourru for our picnic, a traditional sparkling grape juice that is available only during the vendange, the grape harvest.  It is actively fermenting- each bottle has a hole pierced in the top and you can see the bubbles shooting upwards along the sides.  It is an ephemeral wine, sweet and slightly tart, but cannot be stored for more than the week of harvest.  We found this bourru at the Sunday Market.

The park was packed with people, enjoying the last weekends of summer.  Parent pushed strollers, children ran after one another, groups played frisbee or kicked soccer balls, couples lay in the grass doing...what the French do best.  We lay out our ragtag blanket under a chestnut tree and napped in the shade.  Finally!  This is what the Bourdelais do on Sundays!
I love it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Boeuf Tartare...

I am on a mission eat the most authentic, and delicious, French foods.
Boeuf Tartare, a traditional dish of raw ground beef, has the potential to go very wrong.

After walking by on numerous occasions, and always stopping to comment on the funky facade, Hannah and I finally stopped in for dinner at Michel's. 
a peanut dispenser?

Campy cutlery and zinc counter tops.

I don't have a lot of experience eating out in France and the customs of dining are still rather foreign.  Though I can read French perfectly fine, some of the dishes still evade me.  What is pêlée de gambas, entrecote, magret, bavette, and carre d'agneau au pain épices?  (By the way, I asked the butcher why the cut of pork was called arignées, he didn't know.) After many "Que-ce c'est ca?"'s in reference to the menus offerings, I finally turned towards my neighbor.  I'll have what he's having, I told the waiter. 
It's raw, he warned me.
Awesome.  (I feel like Anthony Bourdain.)
Bring it on.

My tartare was beautiful, served on a slate plate with pommes de terre and a swirl of balsamic vinegar reduction.  And, it tasted good!  It was cold and fresh, lightly spices and mixed with tomatoes.  And the parmasan...mmmm! I was so thrilled to have finally eaten something more than edible at a restaurant here, I had almost given up hope!
Even though boeuf tartare was supposed to just be something checked off of my list of French meals, I think I'll probably end up eating it again, and maybe at Michel's again.  The menu was reasonably priced, the ambiance relaxed (our waiters all looked like soccer fans), and, they filled Hannah's wine glass all the way to the top! (Madame Barry told us never to do that, it is not very ladylike!) Oh la la!

Where shall I eat at next?

15, rue Pas de Saint Georges
Bordeaux 33000

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Space Invader...

Paris is a city of icons- the Eiffel Tour, the Arc de Triompe, Sacre Coeur, and Space Invader.
Space Invader?
I live behind the red gate, in the window with the flower box. Can you see Space Invader?

This small tile mosaic is the work of Parisian grafitti artist, Invader.  The image is based off of video games from the 70's, with each tile representing a pixel.  The first Invader mosaic was found in Paris in 1998 and, to date, Invader has tagged over one thousand walls in the city.  
While this urban art is well-known in the capital, I had little idea that the artist had invaded other cities around France, and the globe.  
It was a surprise and a treat to find, then, a space invader on my street in Bordeaux!  I live on a very small rue by from my window, I can see a small green alien descending on my neighbors.
I wonder where the other Space Invaders are in Bordeaux...

Friday, September 23, 2011

In The Kitchen...

Here at number 10, we are wearing tracks into the linoleum of our kitchen floor.  The past week, it's been cooking central chez nous and every dinner we've eaten has been French themed!  Julia would be proud.

The yellow tint of all these photos frustrates me to no ends.  I've developed a habit that is very francaise, of eating really late at night.  Because it's dark when we start cooking, it makes it difficult to take pictures.  The yellow walls don't seem to help the situation either...
Just pretend you're looking at a cookbook from the seventies until I learn to use my camera.

 Moules from the Sunday market with fennel and shallots.
 The first time we made French Onion Soup, we realized that there just wasn't enough!  Using all the burners was the perfect solution.
 Araignée de porc (this translates to "spiders of pork"...I don't know why) from our local boucher down the street, with baked goat cheese rolled in an herb crust atop pain noir and sautéed wild mushrooms from Dordogne.
 Hot pressed sandwiches.

Fig cake with marscarpone frosting.  (Er, fig loaf I guess. We don't have a cake pan...)
Nectarine Jam made from fresh fruit from the Sunday Market.
This isn't really French at all, but Hannah taught me a neat trick:  when your pasta is ready, it will stick to the wall when you fling it.  This could become a bad habit...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Saint Emilion...

Bordeaux without wine is like a bee with no flowers.  The region is covered in a ribbed blanket of grape vines, with traditional chateaux tucked in among the vineyards.  History and heritage are important in this place, wine production began here nearly two thousand years ago when the Romans occupied the region and cultivated the grapes for the soldiers.  Following the marriage of Alienor of Aquitaine to King Henry II of England in the 12th century, Bordeaux wine became hugely popular and has remained celebrated to this day. 
Saint Emilion was the first town in the region to commercially produce wine.  Though a tiny, tiny town, the wines from this region are among the most highly acclaimed.  

This weekend, Saint Emilion celebrated Patrimoine, French Heritage Day, with music events and cave tours throughout the little town. We spent the day slipping and sliding along the steep cobblestone streets in the rain, tasting the regional Merlots, and snacking on almond macarons.
Perhaps the most impressive site in Saint Emilion was the Cathedral.  It is the largest church in France, and is carved directly into the side of a cliff.  Beneath the village and the surrounding vineyards stretches 200 acres of catacombs.  Today, many of the caves in Saint Emilion are in chambers of these same catacombs, with bottles and barrels stacked where bodies might once have rested. 
Do you think this means there are ghosts in the wine?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Early Bird Gets The Worm...

I remember a time when my mom used to have to drag me into antique shops.  I used to recite Shel Silverstien:  "I'm freaking, I'm freaking, my mom's gone antiquing." I don't know when exactly I become interested in "old things" but I couldn't imagine a life not surrounded by this type of nostalgia.
Though far smaller than the flea markets of Paris, Bordeaux has a once a week antique fair. 
On Sunday mornings place Saint-Michel becomes a Marché aux Puces.  

The reflection of Saint Michel.

I don't know whether it's a good thing or a bad that I haven't got a house to put all these treasures into.  Sometimes I have a lonely feeling inside because I have no permanency anywhere.  Though it's probably for the best that I'm not tied to one spot at this point, it would be nice to have a home.  Then I could decorate and redecorate and have a matching set of dishes...

A Night On The Town...

The best part about going out, is getting ready...

I think fuzzy pictures must mean fun times...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Apartment Therpy...

After three long weeks of shuffling around Bordeaux and relying on the generosity of friends, the apartment is finally ready!
My new home is located in the branché neighborhood of Chatron, right behind Le Jardin Public.  We live in a little alleyway down from the park entrance- I foresee quite a lot picnics in the near future!
Our landlord and lady just had the apartment renovated to fix the cracks in the walls and the appliances in the bathroom and W.C.  We arrived to a clean, freshly painted, but completely empty!! Lord and lady Richlewski drove us to the kitchen store and decked us out with all the kitchen equipment we could possibly dream of!  The best new tool is: a scale!

The view down our street.

In addition to all their help getting us settled, taking us to the store, and educating us on the regions wine and culture offerings, the Richlewski's left a surprise in our fridge:  a bottle of champagne and two chilled glass! 
Once we start decorating the apartment with plants and fresh flowers from the market, hopefully it will start to feel like home.

An Afternoon Excursion...

I've become so accustomed to hauling my camera around that even an afternoon without it has become a some what scary event.  Luckily, Danielle was prepared where I was not, and the following are her photos from an afternoon we spent in the countryside touring one of Bordeaux appellations, Sauturn.
I am a complete wine novice, so everything we learned today was new to me, from the regions "noble rot", to the grape epidemic a few years past when farmers turned to American root stock to save their crops.  
Sauturn was a special vineyard of sweet wine grapes, tiny, yellow and delicious right off the vine.  The grapes are left on the vine until they are the size and texture of a raisin.  This concentration of sugars makes for a sweet, sweet wine, best paired, I think, with a salty cheese platter.  
Though tasty, I still do not feel adequately equipped to properly taste a wine and determine its subtleties and tones.  
This will change soon however, I hope to take a wine class soon, here in Bordeaux!

Sauturn grapes.  Can you see them start to pucker near the top like raisins? 

The winery's owner, giving a tour of his vineyard.