Monday, March 31, 2014

The Bittersweetness of it All!!

In the last coupe of days , I have said goodbye to many.  At the school where I work, I said goodbye to two really wonderful teachers and yesterday, I said goodbye to a friend I made 3 weeks ago...yes that isn't very much time but time goes by far quicker in the world of a traveler.

We bonded and got to know personal things about each other that would have maybe taken months or years in our hometowns.  I think this has to do with the notion that we have limited time in any given place so we expect and want things to happen right NOW.  That being said change in itself becomes the routine.  Making new friends on a daily basis and sad goodbyes become things you are so accustomed to. I remember the day I said goodbye to my closest friends in Montreal.  I broke down and hugged my best friend as I sobbed uncontrollably!  That doesn't happen anymore but I always feel the loss when it happens.

Sometimes people are saying goodbye to me. I left Paris almost 4 months ago now and I had barely been there 3!!!  My last two weeks, I was fitting in farewell dinners and coffees left, right and center.  It was really bittersweet because somehow, I had grown close enough to those I had met in that little amount of time.  But at the same time, I knew that's where we would stop sharing our routines.  Daily yet again.

Some might say that with all these people that come and go and no fixed routine, life could get difficult.  But I can honestly say after all this time, that it is really worth all the sacrifice. Each and every friend I have made over the last few years has been a plethora of wonderful discoveries.  Each with their own cultures and experiences, I get to learn a lot about even the places I have never set foot in.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Golden White Chocolate Fondant with Dulce de Leche Ice Cream!

When living in a new country, you can sometimes be surprised at the ingredients you can't easily find at the supermarket.  Peanut butter, Icing sugar, whole wheat bread and the list goes on.  There is an up side for the more daring personalities.  Putting a little cultural twist into the traditional food you make can really get your creative juices going.  

My dark chocolate fondant is a pretty big success at dinner parties but I decided to give this recipe a twist.  It is amazing how common Dulce de Leche ice cream is here.  I thought white chocolate would work better with this particular type of caramel.  I am please to say the result was  a success. The recipe is simple.


To make this decadent treat you will need the following

100 grams of white chocolate
100 grams or about half a cup of butter
50 grams or 1/4 cup of sugar
3 eggs
3 tablespoons of flour.
Dulce de Leche ice cream or whatever type of caramel ice cream you can find.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt the chocolate, butter and sugar into a saucepan over a low-medium heat.  Beat the three eggs together and stir into the mixture until it is completely blended.  Fold in the flour and stir until completely blended.  Pour the batter into 4 small ceramic ramekins.  Place on a baking tray that is half filled with hot water.   Bake for 7-10 minutes (depending on the oven).  The dessert is ready when the top and sides are completely baked and the center is still runny. Use a toothpick to check.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 Ends With Tamales- 2014 Begins Grapes!

The best part about travelling is without a doubt all the amazing people you get to meet along the way.  When you are expatriated, you don't just meet the locals.  You meet people from everywhere.  This year for the New Year, my Mexican American friend invited me over to experience his New Year’s tradition.  It was great!!!

It started with making tamales...homemade tamales.  I had never had one before.  His mom spent the day working really hard in the kitchen.  We started the evening with everyone gathered around the table and spreading the masa paste onto the corn husks while sipping on sangria.  His sister and his friend would tell me about their trips to Mexico and where they would like to travel.  They tell me about what it's like to live in LA. All his while hearing different types of music and words being thrown around in English, Spanish and French.  Now that's what travelling is really about. It's more than seeing museums and historical sites.  It's about learning the real up close and personal life stories of the people.

 Before the clock struck 12, we headed to Plaza del Sol to experience the countdown as a Madrileno would. I don't like to throw myself into the middle of a crowd but I decided to take part in the tradition this year to really live what Madrid is about.  There were no fancy fireworks or crazy concerts. There were  no elaborate special effects of any kind!!! This is precisely why this New Year’s was so special.  There were literally thousands of people singing laughing and wearing funny glasses.   The simplicity of this event is what made it so extraordinary.  People were happy and excited and that was so contagious.  It was all that was needed.  The clock turns, surrounded by friends and family, we start chomping downs on the grapes with seeds. All of us trying not to choke as our mouths get fuller.  There is no way to chew and swallow in 12 seconds, but we are mostly trying not choke because we are laughing.  The tradition of eating twelve grapes on new year's originated in Plaza del Sol in 1895 and is meant to lead to a year of prosperity. (There was an excellent harvest that year and there were simply too many grapes!)

 I am really happy not to have seen fireworks this New Year’s!!!! That would have been the same old thing.  I am excited to have been introduced to 2014 like no other year... making homemade Mexican tamales and celebrating el Ano Nuevo in true Madrileno style!!! The little things really mean a lot.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

5 Places to Eat and Drink off The Beaten Path in Paris!

When travelling, it is easy to get suckered into those tourist trap type places so, 3 months in Paris and 10 pounds later, I want to share my favorite spots in the city with you.

For Dinner

Al Caratello

Not French but oh so worthy. This Italian restaurant is not only located in a neighborhood that screams Paris (Montmartre) but the food is amazing  and comes at a small price point. 20 Euros will cover your dinner, wine and then some.    The restaurant is cozy and the service personal.  Though the staff may take time to get to your order, it is only because the place is full every night of the week, so make a reservation.  If you love pasta, you will love this place.

Here is the Trip Advisor link since there is no website to speak of.

5 rue Audran
75018, Paris

For lunch

Le Pre Verre

Very rarely would I say you need to make a reservation for lunch at any given restaurant in Paris, but with a lunch menu like this one, it is almost a certainty that you will need one.  French bistro with a an interesting decor, the lunch menu here  is two courses for E  13.90 and includes a glass of wine and an espresso to finish off your lunch.  The food here is made with the finest quality of ingredients.  Located in St-Michel, taking a stroll around here after your long relaxed lunch is easy.  There are lots of shops around and the neighborhood also screams with Parisian charm.

Le Pre Verre
8 rue Thenard
75005, Paris

For Sweets

La Fabrique

An independent dessert spot unlike any other, Lisa and Alice have done an amazing job creating beautiful yet mouthwatering desserts to please the palette. Both of them specialists in their fields, the quality of their ingredients is top notch.  The presentation is undeniable. Located in the up and coming trendy neighborhood of Le Canal St-Martin, this remarkable little shop is surrounded by interesting independent boutiques, bars and other great little restaurants.

34 rue des Vinaigriers
75010, Paris

For Drinks

La Famille

A friend of mine who had been living in Paris first introduced me to this bar. The drinks are impressive to say the least and  the service here is quite striking. The bar tender-Thibault's -personal service and friendliness to the entire clientele make this fancy drink spot special without the pretentiousness that can often come along with this kind of place.  They have a selection of Mojitos made with liquid nitrogen and few other little twists to the drinks. I've never seen another drink quite like it. Also located in the cinematic setting of Montmartre, this place is worth the detour.

41 rue des Trois Freres
75018, Paris

For Happy Hour

Le Cri du Glacon

Some of the cheapest happy hour drinks in town-wine for  2.5 Euros and a variety of choices for around 4 Euros until 8 pm.  They have great service and atmosphere   and Wednesdays are quiz night (for those of you who speak french).  If you don't speak French, just watch the crowd get excited and try one of their cool cocktails.

74 rue Jean Pierre Timbaud
75011, Paris

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Meat Montreal! The Girl Who Started it All!

Have you ever heard someone call a city...just another city!  I understand how the perpetual tourist eventually starts to feel this way.  A lot of touristy stuff feels the same after a little while.  There are only so many churches and museums one can handle.

As someone who has lived in different places,  I have have developed intimate relationships with them beyond that and I would argue that places are in fact much like people-not made of the same mold.  We connect with some, we dislike others, we fall in love with them  and YES, there is chemistry. I think the energy of the world circulates in places just as they do do in people.  The histories and stories of places mark them and leave behind traces. Some traces are obvious  like the monuments and buildings but some  are simply felt, not put into words and completely abstract. This is where that connection comes in.

In  a small miniseries of blog entries to follow, I will Introduce to all my cities personified! To start it all, meet Montreal!

Montreal-My hometown- She's my best friend! My old friend!

She has an uncanny sense of style- boho, sexy and classy mashed up in her eclectic way!  She tends to succeed at this with a  casual  veneer to her  manner. She is a North American girl. She is a European girl. She is old and she is new. She is frightfully cold at times.  Few people know how painfully hot she can also be!

She is openly conflicted.  She loves her diversity  and her complexity but on some days, she gets into an emotional frenzy about whether or not office microwave buttons should be in French or in English.

Friday nights, her European flair comes out. Her streets come to life and with all the people out about who  make her who she is.  She is easy going.  Go on, just bring your own bottle and dine in those charming little bistros.  It's cold out tonight! No matter!  Al the more reason to have a good time!

We are not always together but just like an old friend, I see her again and it is like nothing has changed.   We reconnect and bond over old memories and create new ones with the familiarity our relationship has.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Criticize My Hometown or Anywhere for That Matter!!! It's Your Right to Do So!

When moving somewhere new, the biggest and most daunting challenge is meeting people and integrating.  I think I am pretty good at that now but-that said-I don't fit in everywhere.   No one does!

The simple truth is that every person comes with a set of values.  Sometimes the places we live come into direct conflict with our core value system.  There is nothing wrong with that.  "To thy own self be true."   The fact is, someone can live in a place that, say  has a beautiful landscape, but if their dream is to live in a cultural hub.  It's not negative to see what a place has to offer and to realize that it is still an incompatibility.

I was inspired to write this because I read something earlier this week that got me a little peeved.  Someone had expressed that they were having difficulty making friends where they lived on a Facebook group page.  The hostile responses “If you don't like it go home” and “It was your choice to come here” at this request for help baffled me. It takes a lot of courage for someone to ask for help when they are feeling lonely.

Moving is hard and travelling is an adventure.   This means that there are bumps along the way and the person who embarks on a journey is taking a chance on life.  No matter how much research you do beforehand or how many contingencies you put into place, there is only one guarantee.  Things will not go according to plan!  It takes a certain type of person to take this leap and their courage and sense of adventure should be regarded positively. 

It is alienating for the person who does not like the place they are in.  They are often referred to as negative or someone who talks a lot of s****.  What ends up happening thereafter, is someone who is both afraid to be themselves and ends up feeling secluded.  This will certainly not help improve the perception they have of the place!

Being from Montreal, and currently living in Paris, my hometown gets a lot of praise. Every once in a while, however, someone tells me that they didn't like their experience there.   That's fine because it is not a reflection of myself.  It was their experience.  To all you locals out there anywhere, please meet criticism of your hometown with some understanding.  Just because someone does not like the place you come from, does not mean that they don't like you.  Also, remember, that being a foreigner comes with a different set of challenges than being a native does!