Better Late Than Never: Christmas continued

I know I’m super late with this, but I still wanted to share my Christmas vacation adventures with my parents.  Better late than never, right?

December 26-27
After our train ride back to Nice on December 26, we took the afternoon and evening to settle in and go to dinner on the Cours Saleya and then to the Christmas market.  The next day, I showed them the medical school where I work, and we continued up the hill to Cimiez, where we visited the Franciscan monastery, museum, and garden, which was really beautiful, even in December.  Then we made our way over to the Matisse Museum, which was really cool and reminded us of some of Cat’s work 🙂  After a picnic lunch, we walked down to the Promenade des Anglais to sit on the famous blue chairs and grab a drink at one of the beach restaurants.  Pizza and pastries for dinner! 🙂

Franciscan monastery

Franciscan monastery

Garden behind the monastery

Garden behind the monastery

Flowers blooming in December!

Flowers blooming in December!

Matisse Museum

Matisse Museum

Blue chairs by the sea :)

Blue chairs by the sea 🙂

Aubergines on my pizza?  Yes please!

Aubergines on my pizza? Yes please!

December 28
I really wanted to show them the fruit/vegetable/flower market so we walked to the market in the morning and enjoyed a few breakfast pastries.  In the afternoon, we took the bus to Monaco, where we walked around the Christmas market and indulged in some waffles, typical French carnival food… yummm!  We walked around for the afternoon and saw the Monte Carlo casino (and actually went inside!), the palace, and the cathedral where Prince Ranier and Grace Kelly were married.  On the way back to the bus stop, we saw the most beautiful sunset, and the Christmas lights were spectacular!

Breakfast from the market

Breakfast from the market

Eating by the sea :)

Eating by the sea 🙂

Christmas decorations in Monaco

Christmas decorations in Monaco

Palace

Palace

Cathedral

Cathedral

Waffles with whipped cream and Nutella!

Waffles with whipped cream and Nutella!

Sunset over the port in Monaco

Sunset over the port in Monaco

Monte Carlo casino

Monte Carlo casino

December 29
Saturday morning started with a trip to my favorite museum in Nice— le Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC), followed by a picnic lunch and a walk up to and around the chateau.  The chateau is my absolute favorite view of Nice, and we even saw a rainbow in the waterfall!  A trip to Fenocchios for some ice cream before watching the sunset on the Promenade des Anglais was the perfect end to the afternoon.  Once again, an amazing dinner on the Cours Saleya.

Waterfall at the chateau

Waterfall at the chateau

ICE CREAM :)

ICE CREAM 🙂

Sunset on the Promenade des Anglais

Sunset on the Promenade des Anglais

December 30
On Sunday, we decided to spend the day away from “tourist-y” Nice on the small island of Ste Marguerite, which is a 15 minute ferry ride from Cannes.  There are no cars allowed on the island and since it was December, there weren’t many people there either.  It was beautiful!  There’s a small fort on the island, which we visited, as well as a museum.  We also visited the building where the Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned before he was transferred to the Bastille.  We ate lunch on a little beach and took a walk around the island and down the Allée des Eucalyptus.  Chinese for dinner 🙂

View of Cannes from the ferry

View of Cannes from the ferry

The fort and the museum on Ste Marguerite

The fort and the museum on Ste Marguerite

We found a friend :)

We found a friend 🙂

Allee des Eucalyptus

Allee des Eucalyptus

Beaches on Ste Marguerite

Beaches on Ste Marguerite

December 31
We managed to find a few places open on New Years Eve, so we spent the morning at the Chagall museum (the only museum in Nice that isn’t free), which is very nice.  But this afternoon was my favorite part of the week.  We went to St. Paul de Vence, which is a little walled village at the top of a hill with a bunch of little artist galleries, candy shops, and cafés.  We walked around looking at the art galleries for a few hours and watched the sunset from the hill.  We went home and made dinner (chicken and leek pie) and walked down to the Promenade des Anglais to see the few (measly) fireworks at midnight.  I missed our big family celebration, but to make up for it we went back at the apartment and indulged in pastries and champagne 🙂

Chagall artwork

Chagall artwork

Chagall artwork

Chagall artwork

A street in St. Paul de Vence

A street in St. Paul de Vence

Sunset from St. Paul de Vence

Sunset from St. Paul de Vence

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

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January 1-2
The last few days of visiting were spent mostly relaxing and hanging out, doing some souvenir shopping, walking around the Christmas market again, and eating more delicious food.  Then it was time to say goodbye 😦  I loved hanging out with my parents for a week.  It was a different, but fantastic and memorable way to celebrate the holidays! 🙂

 

Our French word of the day:
congélateur (con-JAY-la-tour)- freezer
Je garde toujours des viandes, des légumes, et des pâtes dans le congélateur pour un repas vite.
I always keep meat, vegetables, and pasta in the freezer for a quick meal.

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Christmas in Paris

I guess after almost 2 weeks I’m fully rested from my holiday with my parents, so over the next few days I’ll post about our Christmas adventures!

I met them in Paris on Christmas Eve and we went out almost right away to see the famous window displays at the original Galeries Lafayette (kind of like a Bloomingdales equivalent).  This year was the 100th anniversary of the store, and Louis Vuitton designed the displays.  We also went inside to see the Swarvoski Christmas tree, which is 70 feet tall and has over 5,000 crystal stars!

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Dancing penguins in the display window

Dancing penguins in the display window

Flamingos

Flamingos

 

A dog wearing headphones

A dog wearing headphones

LEMURS

LEMURS

We found a nice little Catholic Church called Sainte Etienne du Mont for 11pm mass on Christmas Eve.  It was small, but really pretty, and the mass was in French.

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On Christmas Day we spent the morning/early afternoon at the Eiffel Tower, walking around and taking a bunch of pictures.  We found a giant Christmas market that we walked through with delicious looking food and pastries and souvenirs and art.  Interesting fact: the Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris and was almost taken down in 1909.  It was saved by its use as a telecommunication tower.  Also, the Eiffel Tower sinks 6 inches in the winter!

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We went to Christmas lunch at Chez Clement, which I would definitely recommend.  Mom and I split the ravioli with wilted leeks for an appetizer, while Dad opted for French onion soup.  For the main course, I got the duck confit, Dad got the beef rotisserie plate, and Mom got the hanger beef.  We all got coffee and crème brulée for dessert.  It was a perfect meal, slow and leisurely, perfect portions, a nice atmosphere, and great company 🙂

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Mmm creme brulee for dessert :)

Mmm creme brulee for dessert 🙂

After lunch, we walked to Notre Dame.  This year was the 850th anniversary, so they were televising the masses and goings-on around Notre Dame.  Interesting fact: The largest bell in Notre Dame’s bell tower is named “Emmanuel.” It was cast in 1631, and weighs over 28,000 pounds!  Then we walked down the Pont de l’Archeveche and saw all the love padlocks, a “custom” in several countries by which padlocks are affixed to a fence, gate, bridge or similar public fixture by sweethearts to symbolize their everlasting love.

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Love padlocks

Love padlocks

After that, we took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe and started walking down the Champs Elysée, which was crazy busy!  But the lights were gorgeous.  We walked past another giant Christmas market with all kinds of carnival food and souvenirs.  We finally ended at the Place de la Concorde.  Interesting fact: Each corner of the octagonal square of the Place de la Concorde features a statue representing a French city, including Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, Lille, Strasbourg, Rouen, Nantes and Brest.  In the center stands the 3,200-years-old Obelisk of Luxor, which is a pink granite column weighing 220 tons and with a height of 23 meters that comes from the Egyptian temple of Luxor.

 

Looking down the Champs Elysee towards the Arc de Triomphe

Looking down the Champs Elysee towards the Arc de Triomphe

Place de la Concorde

Place de la Concorde

When we got back to the hotel, we Skyped Cat, Mel, and CJ and said hi to the family at home! J  It was certainly a different Christmas than I’ve ever experienced, but it was a good one 🙂

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French word of the day:
manchot (ma-SHOW)- penguin
Il y avait des manchots qui portaient des sacs à mains dans une vitrine aux Galeries Lafayette!
There were penguins carrying handbags in a window display at the Galeries Lafayette !

 

New Years Eve Dinner: Leeks

My parents have been here in Nice for the holidays and we’ve been eating out A LOT and enjoying every bite 🙂 (more on that later).  But I’ll start recounting our week backwards because I decided to make my Sunday Night Dinner this week on New Years Eve.  In France, New Years Eve is called la Saint Sylvestre and they celebrate with a feast at night called le Réveillon.  The feast typically includes champagne, some type of sea food, and foie gras (duck or goose liver), so we made do with what we had.  We got a small bottle of champagne, had shrimp and garlic butter sauce as an appetizer, and of course French pastries after dinner 🙂

Made by mom :)

Made by mom 🙂

This is my life :)

This is my life 🙂

This week’s ingredient: leeks (poireaux).  I was inspired by an appetizer my mom and I had on Christmas of mini ravioli on a bed of wilted leeks that was DELICIOUS.  Chicken pot pie is a dish I associate with home and cold weather, so I decided on a chicken and leek pie with mushrooms and potatoes, adapted from here.

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Ingredients:
Pie crust (I used a boxed one since that’s what I had in the cupboard, but any standard pie crust with flour, butter, and water or even a pre-made puff pastry crust will do)
1 large potato, peeled and diced (1/4 inch – 1/2 inch cubes)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
500 g (about 1/4 pound) boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in small chunks
2 leeks (just the white parts), thinly sliced
7-8 champignons de Paris OR medium-sized white button mushrooms, sliced
350 mL (about 1.5 c) chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cold water
4 tbsp creme fraiche
1 beaten egg for glazing
salt and pepper to taste

Key ingredients: potatoes, chicken, mushrooms, and LEEKS

Key ingredients: potatoes, chicken, mushrooms, and LEEKS

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C).  Prepare the pie crust, cover, chill for 30 minutes.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the potato.  Boil for about 10 minutes, until you can insert a knife easily into a cube of potato (but not so long that the potato starts to become mushy).  Drain.
3. Heat a large pan with the butter and olive oil.  Fry the chicken for 3-4 minutes.  Add the leaks and mushrooms and fry for another 5 minutes, until soft.
4. Add the stock to the pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

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5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, leeks, and mushrooms from the stock pan to a 1 to 2 liter pie or casserole dish.  Add the potatoes and stir to distribute evenly.
6. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and cold water to make a paste.  Thin with 2 tbsp stock, then add the paste to the stock pan and stir on the heat non-stop until thickened.
7. Remove from the heat, add the creme fraiche, season with salt and pepper.

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8. Pour over the leeks/potatoes/chicken mixture.

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9. Flour your counter and roll out the pastry dough until just larger than the dish.

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10. Carefully lay the pastry over the filling and push the edges of the pastry against the edges of the pie pan.  Make a small hole in the center of the pie.  Brush the pastry with beaten egg.

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9. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden.

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10. Cool slightly before cutting and serving.

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The great part about this recipe is that it’s SO versatile.  If you like more potato, add more potato; if you’re a vegetarian, take out the chicken, if you like more sauce, double the stock.  You could even add more vegetables, like carrots or corn.  Personally, I would probably use more chicken to make it more substantial, more leeks because it’s the star ingredient, and more sauce, and I’d bake it in a smaller, deeper dish to make bigger slices.  This recipe yielded about 4 servings.

So Happy New Year!  Here’s to a happy, healthy 2013, wherever you are 🙂

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French word of the day:
billet (bee-LAY)- ticket
J’ai acheté un billet de train pour aller à Paris!
I bought a train ticket to go to Paris!

Winter Activities

Even though it’s about 55 degrees and sunny everyday here, I’m still finding opportunities to do winter activities.

With the beach and the palm trees and the absence of snow, it’s hard to get into the Christmas spirit, but decorating my apartment has helped 🙂  I just got a little 3 foot tall artificial tree from the store, and a few decorations.  As a little craft project, I decorated my own ornaments!

My little Christmas tree

My little Christmas tree

Window clings

Window clings

Last week, I went to the Christmas market with some of my new friends.  It’s pretty big and impressive for such a small city like Nice.  There’s a small outdoor skating rink, a huge Ferris wheel, and a bunch of booths where vendors are selling everything from art to cheese to churros to toys.  Plus, there are beautiful lights all over the city!

Christmas tree made of little Christmas trees

Christmas tree made of little Christmas trees

Lights over the Christmas market

Lights over the Christmas market

One of the booths at the Christmas market, and a light show on the building behind it!

One of the booths at the Christmas market, and a light show on the building behind it!

Me on the Ferris wheel :)

Me on the Ferris wheel 🙂

A view of the square from the Ferris wheel

A view of the square from the Ferris wheel

I’ve been missing hockey a LOT, both playing and watching (but I guess I’m not missing much back in the US since the NHL is still locked out).  So when I found out there’s a French hockey league (and a team in Nice– the Eagles), going to a hockey game moved to the top of my list.  I went last night with my friend Donna (she’s Canadian, so she loves hockey too!)  They played Toulouse and Nice won 3-2!  It was much, much, MUCH smaller than any professional or semi-professional hockey game I’ve been to in the US—the rink was probably about as big and as full as a high school rink.  But it was still fun!  We were sitting behind some guys who were leading the cheering and had brought a big drum.  And it was only 6 euros to get in!  I’m definitely going to go again!

GO NICE AIGLES!

ALLEZ NICE AIGLES!

Me and Donna

Me and Donna

They won!

They won!

Finally, there was some talk at our expat coffee this morning of a ski trip… so stay tuned for that 🙂

French word of the day:
pantoufle (pahn-TOOFL)- slipper
Quand il fait froid, je me mets mes pantoufles.
When it’s cold, I put on my slippers.

How to celebrate Thanksgiving in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving

1. Don’t do work.  Any work.  At all.
Ok, to be fair I’ve been very productive in the past 2 weeks.  I’ve written an 18 page preliminary report and drawn up sketches to show my bosses from Nice AND Chicago.  I think I deserve a break.  Plus, it just wouldn’t feel like a holiday if I worked 🙂

2. Take advantage of the things that would normally be closed on this day in the US.
For example, museums.  On Thursday, I walked to the Nice Archaeology and Roman Ruins Museum.  It’s small, but cool.  I’m not that into history museums (I like the art museums better), but I liked looking around at all the ancient stuff.  Plus, since I’ve been around here for a little while, I recognized some of the modern areas mentioned in the posters around the exhibits.

Outside the museum is the site of the ancient city of Cemenelum, the capital of the Alpes Maritimae province.  Most of the remains are from the third century, but some of them have different construction periods between the first and seventh centuries.  These remains display an ampitheater, 3 thermal baths, streets, a sewer, a school, and shops.  Here are some pictures!

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I also went to the grocery store (usually not open all day in the US) and bought a steamer, which I am excited to try at some point for dinner this week!

3. Be sure to incorporate as many nationalities as possible.
In order to avoid eating Thanksgiving dinner by myself, I invited my friend Isabelle, who is from England, over to eat turkey with me.  So we had an American girl and an English girl celebrating an American holiday in France.  Doesn’t get weirder than that.

4. Eat turkey.
Obviously, come on.  I debated my menu for Thanksgiving dinner for a while, starting with duck, moving on to chicken, and finally settling on turkey because it’s just not Thanksgiving without turkey.  I got 3 turkey legs from the store, and potatoes, green beans, apples, and rosemary from the outdoor market.

This is going to count as my Sunday Night Dinner for this week, but sorry, no recipes this time.  Here’s the menu:
– roasted turkey legs with rosemary roasted potatoes and onions
– green beans almondine
– croissants
– mini apple tarts with cinnamon and honey
– and Isabelle brought a lovely white wine (Picpoul de Pinet)

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Loot from the market

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The delicious spread 🙂

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Apple tart for dessert

 5. Give thanks for everything!
I’m not going to lie, it was REALLY hard to be away from home for this holiday.  Because Chicago is only 7 hours from Cleveland, I’d always gone home for Thanksgiving.  I’ve never celebrated the holiday by myself or had to cook turkey by myself and it was intimidating.  I was sad in the morning, thinking that I should’ve been at home and looking forward to real apple pie, turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin bread, Mom’s stuffing, Grandma’s jello, sweet potatoes, green beans, and rolls.  I should’ve been sitting around talking to and laughing with my family, and getting ready to go Black Friday shopping with my sisters.  I should’ve been enjoying the colors of the changing leaves and the quickly cooling weather, and I should’ve been listening to Christmas music.  I was seriously missing all of it.

Walking home from the museum, I saw the first beautiful changing leaves I’ve come across in Nice.  That cheered me up a little bit.

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As the day went on, I kept telling myself that going home was obviously not going to happen and to quit dwelling on it.  I’m thankful for different things this year.  I’m thankful to be here in this beautiful city, having a once-in-a-lifetime experience that not everyone can say they’ve had.  I’m thankful I’m working on a project that I really like, with helpful supervisors and support in Chicago and Nice.  I’m thankful that I’m making friends here and I’m thankful that Isabelle came over for dinner so I didn’t have to eat alone 🙂  I’m thankful that things are starting to become familiar and I’m starting to feel a little bit less like a stranger.  And I’m SUPER thankful for the care packages I received today 🙂 🙂 🙂

Today’s French word is:
reconnaissant (ruh-ko-na-SAHN)- grateful, appreciative, thankful
Je suis reconnaissante de mes amis aux Etats-Unis et en France.
I’m thankful for my friends in the US and in France.

Bonne Toussaint!

La Toussaint is a two-day holiday encompassing both All Saints Day (Nov 1), a day for remembering Catholic saints, and All Souls Day (Nov 2), a day for praying for the souls of the deceased. In the US, All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation. In France, it’s an excuse for the French to take another day, or a couple of weeks, off. French banks and businesses close their doors for the holiday and students benefit from a two week vacation from school! I found out today, after walking to the med school to work this morning and encountering locked doors, that it’s a vacation day for me too!

So today after working diligently from home for the morning (read: Skyping Emily, Facebooking, and Google searching “pediatric inguinal hernia”), I decided to give myself a well-deserved break. I’d been wanting to go to the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC) for a while and I figured today should be the day, since it was open. It’s only a 15 minute bus ride from my apartment, and the bus goes literally door to door. The museum isn’t that big (1 floor of featured exhibits and 2 floors of permanent exhibits), but I spent a good couple hours walking around.

Front of MAMAC

One of my favorite exhibits was a collection of donations from Niki de Saint Phalle, a French sculptor, painter, and film maker. If you’ve ever been to the Pompidou Center in Paris, the fountain next to it is called the Stravinksy Fountain, and it was created by her and a Swiss sculptor, Jean Tinguely, whom she eventually married. Saint Phalle’s work was heavily influenced by Gaudi, whom she discovered after visiting Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain. This exhibit was really cool to see because I’ve also been to Parc Guell and I can definitely see the connection. Saint Phalle also has a sculpture garden in Tuscany called Giardino dei Tarocchi (Tarot Garden), that I’d love to see if I can make it to Italy!

Fonte des Nanas (Melting of Nanas)

Motorcycle Heart (this one is for Dad <3)

La mariée sous l’arbre (The bride under the tree)

My other favorite exhibit was from the Ecole de Nice (School of Nice). It was a fluxus exhibit that blends different artistic media and challenges the border between art and life. It was really interesting. One of the artists, Ben Vautier, included a lot of quotes from different people, and some of them were very thought-provoking. The quotes are actually all over Nice (bus stops, restaurants, even the med school lobby), so it was cool to see their origin. The exhibit reminded me of a French class I took at Northwestern about Guy Debord and blurring the border between real life and its representation by the media.

Fluxus exhibit from the Ecole de Nice

View on the inside– the poster says “la gloire c’est des emmerdements” (glory is hassles/bummers)

“If art is everywhere, it is also in this box”– blurring the line between art and life!

Plus, on the top floor of the museum, there’s a terrace that offers a 360 degree view of the city– breathtaking!

After the museum, I was planning on going to a coffee shop to get some work done, but I got caught up in the beautiful streets of Old Nice. In this neighborhood, the streets and alleyways are so narrow, there isn’t enough room for a car to fit through, and the streets are lined with boutiques, specialty shops, souvenir stands, restaurants, and épiceries. I ended up buying two scarves and ending my afternoon with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream from Fenocchio’s– they have 94 flavors, including cactus, tomato basil, Bailey’s, and bubble gum! My goal is to try all 94 flavors before I leave 🙂

YUMMM

So I didn’t make it to church today, but I managed to take advantage of the holiday 🙂  Bonne Toussaint!

 
Today’s French word is:
feu tricolore (FUH tree-ko-LOR)- literally “three-colored fire,” it’s a traffic light!
Tournez à droite au feu tricolore et vous arrivez à la faculté de medecine.
Turn right at the traffic light and you’re at the medical school.