27 December 2011

Holland : A Home and Mystery


My time in Holland was weird mix of tourism, culture shock and family time. I guess that's what they call "going back to your roots". And with good hospitality, lots of food and a temperate climate the roots are never ending-inspiring and a long learning process that might never be completed. 


Leiden met Dagmar

Een echte watermolen in Leiden


Amsterdam

Het grachten

14 December 2011

All I Want ...


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A labor of love done out of lack of cash. Love you all and wish you the merriest of Christmases.

12 December 2011

Stay tuned...

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All exams and 20 page research projects done. Thus now that I have finished my first semester in Montpellier I am able to return my attention to more important matters. Be aware, a feature music video is due to release on a computer near you... Here is a petit preview!

09 December 2011

Deck the Halls



The halls look like those of a mental institution. So I've made some door decorations to bring the Christmas spirit to Vert Bois.

04 December 2011

Des Chiffres

Saturday + Christmas market + Love Actually + Girly time + Cooking + My new favorite people + Semi-formal wear + Christmas decorations + Curry + Wine + Stolen things + Tzatziki + Beer + White elephant + Jackets and screws + Eggnog + Cake + Absolutely lovely people + 3 am walk + Laughs + French + Double jokes + English +  Speculoos + Singing
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An absolutely magnificent evening that makes me so grateful for the people, my life and living it in Montpellier. 

01 December 2011

Eating like a poor person...

Sweet Sour Carrot Soup

6 carrots
The carrot greens
A small onion
1/2 cup lentils
1/2 of a bouillon
Sesame seeds
Siracha sauce
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt, pepper, basil, butter

Sauté the carrots (sliced up) in butter. Add salt and pepper. After they are kind of soft and browned, add in the onion. Once those are caramelized, toss in the carrot greens. Add the half bouillon, lentils and water. Spice with basil. Simmer until the lentils are tender. Once they are nice and ripe, remove from heat. Sprinkle in sesame seeds, siracha and balsamic to taste. This meal cost me about 50 cents.

29 November 2011

Marky Mark

"We wish to learn all the curious, outlandish ways of all the different countries, so that we can 'show off' and astonish people when we get home."

- Mark Twain

27 November 2011

Grathiath

la Sagrada Familia para Gaudí
A charming apartment and park

 A lot of our adventures in the gorgeously temperate Barcelona were stumbled upon on our long walks through the almost confusing streets. By the middle of the first day, we might've been champs ... reading maps like the best of them.

We came across a pretty cathedral, as to the right




Here we have some of the Gaudí buildings, a strange architect that might just be a man after my own heart with his flamboyant glasswork and silly shapes. 

 No photo and travel trip to Barcelona is complete without some Spanish men arguing on the street.

Las Ramblas is the large street filled with tourist traps and men with weird bird calling whistles. It's lined with tempting shopping and bad food and leads to the sea. Walking it is a must, although I can't say it was the most enjoyable part of the trip. But hey! we did it.

I might've food my food heaven: Mercat La Boqueria. A tunnel of the freshest seafood (that lobster below is still alive), hanging meat, veggies and fruits. Artisanal chocolate, samples and chaos. I wish I could spent all day and all my money there. Instead I settled for breaded mussels and free Catalan treats.

24 November 2011

Acupunkhure

"Respiration. Concentration. Rénovation"

It's been a whirlwind week of a thought-provoking clown show (see quote above), a chinese-take-out Thanksgiving, loving family, amazing friends (new and old), school work, questionnaires, coffee, goofiness, champagne and now a bus ride to Barcelona.

I have a bundle to be thankful for.

20 November 2011

The Holy Pope and His Wine

Sur le Pont d'Avignon
Sur le pont d'Avignon
L'on y danse, l'on y danse
Sur le pont d'Avignon
L'on y danse, tous en ronde

Le "Pont d'Avignon" isn't actually called le Pont d'Avignon. It's something like The Herder's Bridge. And it's not functional anymore. And no one ever danced on it. It's still pretty pretty.

What little of Avignon I saw I was confused by. It was pretty but not in the jaw dropping whimsical way. It seemed to be a very serious city with a strange mix of modern and ancient.

16 November 2011

Red Hot Roasted Red Peppers-in-a-Soup

As inspired by Sarah J.

Far too many red peppers (like 6 - 7)
Bouillon
Garlic clove
Small onion
3 Dried hot peppers (or to taste)
Milk
Olive oil
Salt, pepper, oregano, basil

Roast the peppers by setting them straight on the burner. Any hot surface works really, just wait for them to get nice and blackened. In a medium saucepan sauté garlic and onion in olive oil on medium heat until golden. Add spices. Add bouillon and fill the pan halfway with water. Once all the peppers are all blackened, slice 'em up and add them to the soup. Add the sliced hot peppers. After a good 20 minutes of simmering add the milk (about 1 cup) and simmer just a bit longer. Pulverize and spice to taste.

Enjoy with bread and goat cheese (per usual).

14 November 2011

A List of Sunday Things

1. It's sunny, ride your bike to the beach!
2. Stumble upon an outdoor art exhibit.
3. Jump in the cold Mediterranean "à la Française".
4. Bike to a monastery to repent for jumping in the cold Mediterranean "à la Française".
5. Have no regrets about jumping in the cold Mediterranean "à la Française".
6. Bike back.
7. Take a hot shower
8. Confess your 'like' for someone.
9. Go to the Subways concert.
10. Be a rock and roll queen.
11. Jump and get bruised by mosh-pitters.
12. Rest up for your presentation about social conformity and marginality in sociology class tomorrow.

13 November 2011

How to Talk Someone Down

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Miss Sarah is afraid of heights. This is how you get her down in the ancient Arles coliseum.

72 AD to Van Gogh to One Fine Day

Every wood surface is painted a bright color: red, mustard yellow, forest green, aubergine. The sunlight sometimes peaked out of the clouds. Birds picturesquely snuck into my photos and yes, the city was vivid. Van Gogh was right in painting the streets with blocky splashes of color, the light can't seem to reflect any other way in the small town of Arles.

11 November 2011

Look at that f*ckin' ...

Only in France do you see a young hipster reading the newspaper at a basement hip hop concert.

06 November 2011

Red Alert

This weekend Montpellier was on red alert due to non-stop rain and 100 km/h (62 mph) winds.
Solution? Why sit around, eat, drink tea and talk, of course.

Crazy rain, cheese lady continues
Contrary to commonsense, Saturday I dragged my friends to the market (because they have become my ultimate addiction here). Walking there was manageable, a little sprinkle here and gust there; nothing threatening. Halfway through picking up my discount vegetables (three huge bowls of eggplant, avocados and bell peppers for 5 euro, by the way) the clouds opened their flood gates. And when I say flood gates I mean sheets and sheets of pelleted water. Bullet sized rain. We thought we could wait it out. Twenty minutes later it hadn't let up. So we braved it. We got to the center of town (Place de la Comèdie) and completely drenched, we decided to duck back into a café. A leisure coffee and torte later, we thought we might be ready for more.



At the movie theater
I have never been so soaked in my life. Not even when I had swimming lessons in Holland where I had to tread water fully clothed for two minutes. The streets were about knee high in water. Rivers were pouring out of drainage pipes and there wasn't any end in sight. Our coats, our shoes, our clothes underneath our coats: dripping sopping wet. The trams stopped and the only thing left to do was to sit inside, make a delicious meal (thanks Sarah) and listen to music from our middle school days. Sometimes taking it easy is just what the doctor ordered. This time the doctor prescribed it by way of red alert rain.

05 November 2011

Poisson, n'importe quoi

I found some fish on sale. I bought some dried lentils for next to nothing. This whole meal probably only cost me 1,50 euro.

lentils
any type of fish
carrots
onion
unflavored tomato sauce
basil, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper and olive oil

First you've got to cook the lentils. I had about a kilo (and plenty of reserves, now). I put them in water with salt and pepper and let them boil for about 20 minutes. Once they are tender, drain 'em and add a splash of olive oil, parsley and basil.

Then sauté up the carrots and onion with olive oil and all the spices. Once they're crunchy and browned, slide to the side. In the same pan, plop the filet of fish and quickly brown both sides. Turn down the heat and fill the sauté pan with the tomato sauce. Re-add the carrots and onions with some olive oil. Let simmer a bit. Add more spices. Then add the lentils. Not including cooking the lentils, the whole process should only take about 15-20 minutes.

Bon appétit!

03 November 2011

Dear French Bureaucracy,

Stop crushing my dreams. All I want is to peel potatoes and smell like onions and garlic while I do an internship at a restaurant. Is it so difficult to let me do this without filling out 20 papers and consulting the French national insurance system? Just think of the trees you're saving by simply letting me work nights and weekends behind a cutting board for little pay! I'll do you justice; make an awesome French onion soup and maybe even perfect coq au vin! I know you have a place and you are trying to help as many people as you can but, French Bureaucracy, sometimes I think you're here just to tell your citizens no. I've been offered an awesome opportunity to work in a French restaurant (!!!) and you're really cramping my style.
Sincerely from your American friend,
Rebecca

02 November 2011

Lemme Tell You About...

Halloween.

They do it all wrong here. Everyone half dresses up and there aren't enough decorations. I do believe we did it right: jack-o-lantern, decorated food and sloppy pictures.

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However, it was so bad we were inspired to write a song about it.

31 October 2011

Ganges

If there's anything I should learn from being here is to be alright with being in love with the moment.

Maaria, Erin and I went super spontaneously to a village named Ganges, somewhere an hour by bus (this seems to be the proper formula for a gorgeous exploration). It was a Sunday and the small deserted center quickly made me nervous. What were we doing in this average small town on full bladders and empty stomachs? So when in doubt go to the kebab stand. The lady gave us directions for an absolutely gorgeous walk. And as we walked the unpaved road shaded and shaped by fall colors; when the world looks like this, how can you not be in love with it?

25 October 2011

Tomato Soup with Fresh Basil Croutons and Grilled Goat Cheese Baguette

The winter cold is definitely headed to Montpellier. Thus, let the soup making and dinner parties commence. Here is my attempt at Julia Child-ing.

Fresh veggie broth
1/2 liter of water
clove of garlic
medium onion
4 carrots
oregano, basil, parsley, salt, pepper
veggie bouillon
Satay onions and garlic in olive oil. Boil all together for about an hour. The longer you boil, the tastier it will be. Strain and keep the liquid. You can use the veggies in the soup, too.

Tomato Soup (this fed 8 people)
12 tomatoes (peeled:boil in hot water transfer to cold and peel)
mushrooms
a bell pepper
clove of garlic
medium onion
veggie broth
2 carrots
salt, pepper, rosemary, basil, parsley
Satay onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrots and mushrooms with parsley salt and pepper in olive oil until tender. Add in peeled tomatoes. Add in all veggie broth. Simmer. Then pulse with a mixer. Voila!

Fresh Basil Croutons
Take very very old dry bread (that may or may not have been found in a bag outside of a supermarket) and break it up into pieces. Satay it with olive oil, basil, salt and pepper until gold brown.

Grilled Goat Cheese Baguette
Take two slices of baguette, butter one side, slather them with goat cheese, top with fresh basil, salt and pepper; make a sandwich with butter sides 'up'. Put on a frying pan, smash with plate. Turn over when golden brown. This works well with all types of cheese (camembert, gouda, emmental, brie, etc.)

24 October 2011

Allez! Allez! Allez!

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There was groping. There was wrestling. There was some running and at one point everyone was suddenly overjoyed.
Sunday morning I awoke at 9 am to walk to the Irish Tavern to watch the Rugby World Championship between New Zealand and France. A friend from frisbee had invited us to join her painted face and cheer for either team. 
Needless to say the crowd was mostly pro-France. They chanted their swears, national anthem and other rallying encouragements. After the one French score, they raised a caged rooster (which I later learned is France’s ‘mascot’) and sang with their beers raised and flung on our heads. Who knew a beer shower in the morning could be so revitalizing. All of a sudden I was getting anxious with the crowd, gritting my teeth when someone was battered and relieved when the All Blacks turned it over. However, I still don’t know the rules of rugby. 

22 October 2011

Fairytale Friday

I would call it a fairy tale town. An hour by bus there’s a touristy town with crepes, ivy, adorable elderly and cats. Basically, it’s perfection.

Saint Guilhem le Désert is tranquil, artsy and a lovely excursion with a maximum of five streets. Its on a beautiful river that I will swim in in the summer and grand rocky mountains. It looks like Snow White. 
Our group made the trip as well. Between all of us we shared about eight languages, five countries and different stories. English, French, Swedish, Finnish, Polish, Dutch and German was bouncing around in the bus there and continued throughout the afternoon. 
I think I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves… I’m all talked out.






18 October 2011

My New Crack Cocaine

Since my usual fix of cocaine is difficult to come by here in France, I have concocted my own little replacement:

A cup of fresh brewed coffee
Mint leaves, to taste
Dulce de Leche, to taste
Sugar if the dulce de leche isn't sweet enough

It's something like the Mojito Coffee I had in San Francisco and it's delicious.

17 October 2011

Courir Toujours

 {[Went on an ice cream date on Thursday. He didn’t get ice cream, but a Cola zero. I am not responding to his text messages any longer. You don’t go out and let the lady eat ice cream by herself, boys.]}
This weekend Cassie came from Barcelona to 
A. Visit Montpellier and I
B. Run a marathon, NBD
She’s a champ. 
Once again we found ourselves playing tourist and ‘food crawling’. You know, when you eat at every restaurant of interest, all desserts (Turkish delights) are on limits, super spicy Indian food to your hearts delight, coffee and ice cream. 
The big day was Sunday, so Saturday was spent taking it easy and walking through the botanical gardens of Montpellier. Fall has fallen here. And I like it. We got our swag bags complete with a bottle of wine, shirt, poster, applesauce, etc. 
Sunday came and we rose early to do some French warmup aerobics and get nervous for the course. It went all around Montpellier. I’m pretty sure Cassie saw more of Montpellier than I ever will! We thought we could start together but me being on a relay team was ripped from her and reprimanded and forced to wait 20 minutes while Cassie began her 42 km adventure. Then I started my 6.5 km jaunt. It was cool and I wish I could’ve gone farther before having to pass on the baton to a Couchsurfing teammate. After I hung out with an awkward Parisian boy for a few hours I set out to watch Champ finish. 200 meters before the finish line I saw her turn the corner and I almost cried. We grabbed hands and I could tell she was tired but the crowd was egging her on. “Bravo fille!”. She did awesome and we were able to finish together in la Place de la Comèdie and greeted by flowers and French congratulations. A victory kebab was well deserved. Chicken pox to marathon running, I’m lucky to have such an awesome friend.






12 October 2011

Stranded Sandy

It's on my list of things to do. But it wasn't quite the right time... I would like to tuck myself in between the sheets of sand and sky and last night was almost the perfect opportunity. The full moon shone on the Mediterranean and there was just a light breeze. It could not have been drawn more beautifully.

After a fun day of skipping class, going to the beach and playing frisbee my friends Emma, Kip, Sarah and Tony and I found ourselves chasing a bus that we would never catch. Luckily for Tony and Sarah, they were able to bike back to Montpellier (about 15 km). We were stuck with a choice: a 50 euro taxi ride or a night on the sand. So we thought 'what the hay', let's make an adventure of it. By this time we had walked about 8 km back and forth, and were hungry and tired. We tried to find food only to stumble on an expensive paella restaurant. Then we were struck with luck. It just so happened that Kip knew a girl, Lizzie, who lived in the beach village we were wandering. After a few phone calls, she was leading us back to her host mom's house.

Not only did this family open our their house to us silly stupid stranded Americans, but we got a delicious dinner, a warm bed and one of the nicest showers I've had in 6 weeks. A true beam of light; and although at first we were pretty excited about sleeping on the beach, it worked out much better this way. One less case of pneumonia, dengue fever and sandy bottoms.

When that special time for beach sleeping comes we will be prepared with blankets, snacks and a guitar.

09 October 2011

Lever de Soleil

 I’m having a difficult time explaining where my day started yesterday, Saturday the 8th of October. I’d say it has been one of the most relaxing and exciting 24 hours of sleeplessness in my short life.
Experimental Guitar
I guess the first moment I felt alive that day was when I found an amazing running trail that traces along a tree covered calm river. It was serene, brisk and the leaves are starting to change colors and leave their bark counterparts.
DJ at La Pleine Lune
Then a whirlwind bike ride with my newfound friends and Saturday quickly turned to Saturnight (I’m sorry, I’ve been pun deprived). We started our marathon of fun with a free cheese, honey, fig, wine and bouillabaisse tasting market. This weekend was kind of the official ‘welcome back students/let’s celebrate fall in classy way’. That being said, there were free guitar concerts everywhere. We went to a bar ‘La Pleine Lune’ and watched a marching band and then proceeded inside for DJ dancing hipster glory. We danced until 3 am. We had three hours to kill until the sunrise (lever de soleil)experimental guitar concert at the mini Arc de Triomphe and Parc Peyrou. It was bloody cold so we took refuge in a student house stuffed fully with cigarette butts, funny posters and joyous dancing. We set out for the park à vélo against a cold wind to find the gates to the dome to be open (which they never are) and lit by a bright blue light. We all laid down on the cement and relaxed while the serious experimental guitarist set up and listened to my friend play the harmonica loud and proud. Then experimental man strummed long effervescent tones to welcome the sun rising behind the Arc de Triomphe. People were chatting, laughing and we played tag and danced to stay warm. 
Lever de Soleil
I don’t know how to explain the overall coolness of Montpellier without saying hipster. Because it’s not as snooty as hipster: it’s a way of being. There is this joy in music, in drink, in food and in meeting new people here that is so relaxed and natural it can’t be superficial. It’s beautiful, it’s exciting and calm at the same time. I’m learning to take everything easy, sit back while surrounded by friends and not to expect to be rushed. It’s quite the adjustment which contradicts the pace of school here, but it has been a welcomed balancing act and challenge. 
It might as well come from another planet
After sunrise, we grabbed some croissants and coffee and went back to rest up. However, it turns out I had forgotten my keys at my friend Sarah’s apartment. So with a borrowed iPod I walked back downtown I set out on foot through the streets. Sometimes the sun shines perfectly on the buildings and you can’t help but stare. And it wasn’t just the fatigue. It’s the ultimate realization that you’re meant to be where you are.

07 October 2011

La Grotte




Today I went to some caves. Just an hour on the bus outside of Montpellier lies the mysterious and guided tours of La Grotte des Demoiselles. Believed to house the souls of abandoned fairies, la grotte is filled with expertly lit rock formations, eery ancient smells and an extreme serenity that was enchanting (although that could have been my hunger). 


Simply enough, it was one of the best field trips I have ever been on. After my methodology class I met up with some of my friends to make the trek out there. We had a rendez-vous with the tour guide at 2:30. We got off the bus at the right stop. Headed up the correct tiny road that wound through the French countryside (which, yes, looks exactly like the movies). Then we trailblazed our way up the side of the mountain, had a double rainbow moment with the breath taking views and sprinted. My friend Erin and I were late but, because we were panting and very sad looking, they took us to meet up with the rest of the group. Then we were lead through the wet, cold and spooky cave. I can’t say that I see this everyday. I can say that it might be one of the most mesmerizing landscapes I have encountered. The pictures don’t do it justice.

Then we hit the sunlight again. We started walking along the road once again before we saw what we thought to be a path. It ended up in an old man’s backyard. And one of the most adorable old men I’ve seen. He was excited to show his house dating from the 13th century and where his great-great-great-great grandfather hid a priest during a war I wish I was educated about. After meeting him; hungry, tired and completely satisfied with my day we took the bus back. 
I came home to my friends making dinner and chatting in the kitchen. I can’t help but consistently feel like this is where I am meant to be. School has homework and sometimes French can be alien but all-in-all I can’t help but love it. Montpellier and I have been dating for five weeks now and I’m starting to believe it’s getting more serious. Maybe soon we’ll tell our friends about our relationship.