Quatre questions: Passover en France

“How is this night different from all other nights?”

It’s a Passover tradition for the youngest child at a Passover seder to ask 4 questions during the seder. Two weekends ago I celebrated Passover AND Easter in Paris. I’ll recap my Passover/Easter weekend in question form!

1. Why is it that you can find brown sugar in any grocery store in the US, but only  large crystals of brown sugar in France? 

Matzoh Crunch!

Answer: I DON’T KNOW! All I know is that I spent a good 30 minutes meandering around the local Carrefour supermarket, searching high and low for some light brown sugar. I volunteered to make dessert for our Saturday night seder. On the menu: matzoh crunch- a tradition in my family. Matzoh crunch involves copious amounts of brown sugar, butter, and chocolate. And, of course, matzoh. (But really, the matzoh is only a excuse for eating the other three ingredients!) I ended up using large crystals of cassonade, regular (not fine) brown sugar. It didn’t caramelize perfectly, mais c’est la vie. Still tasted great, and every last morsel was gobbled up at the end of the seder!

Seder plate on the table- Prête à manger

2. What would be an ideal soundtrack for a seder among college students in their 20s? 

Answer: Top hits from the 90s… After savoring the delicious matzoh ball soup made by our host Hannah, chicken, gefilte fish, charoset, salad, and a few bottles of wine, our group of put-together dinner guests mysteriously regressed into 90s middle schoolers. We put away the haggadahs (which were in French) and enjoyed a lovely sing-a-long to some quality pop music. Props to DJ Nathan.

Reading from haggadahs en français

Bringing seder to rue Mouffetard, chez Hannah

3. What is better than homemade goat cheese quiche?

Answer: NOTHING. On Sunday morning, I celebrated Easter with Cara and Anna by baking a goat cheese quiche. Anna’s host family went away for Easter weekend, and everyone knows, when the cat is away, the mice will play! Je rigole (I’m kidding!) But, it was nice to have free reign of the kitchen and be able to play our own music in the apartment. I’m fairly sure baking a quiche is a not a traditional way of celebrating Easter, but we enjoyed ourselves nevertheless. My two friends reminisced about their own Easter family traditions, and I was glad to be able to celebrate in Paris with them. Our Easter feast also included homemade crepes! Mmmmm!

quiche au chèvre

4. How do you flip a crêpe without using a spatula? 

Answer: By boldly tossing the crêpe in the air and catching it with the pan!

Cara's a pro at flipping crêpes

Crêpe chez Anna

-A

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La Flèche d’Or

That’s “flesh of gold” for everyone who doesn’t speak French. Sounds like a horror movie or a creepy pawnshop, eh?

After having a mini-freak out over how little time we have left in Paris, Cara, Anna, and I decided to do some concert research and purchase a few concert tickets for the spring. We might have overwhelmed the guy working at the FNAC store, but after all was said and done we each had 3-4 tickets for concerts held at “La Flèche d’Or,” a concert venue in the 20th arrondissement.

“When I saw the gated exterior, clouds of smoke and grungy hipsters standing around out front, I felt that my choice of 2 euro, screw-top white wine was very appropriate for the evening.” – a lovely quote from Anna’s blog, une cuillère à café.

Here’s a peek of the two shows I attended. Performances by “The Rich Kids,” “Dog is Dead,” “Morning Parade,” and “Tall Ships,” and “Los Campesnios!” My favorite was definitely “Los Campesnios!”, a Welsh band that is probably the most well-known out of this bunch.

Going to two concerts was a welcome change from the usual walking around, eating, shopping, studying, and site-seeing. It was great to se lâcher, to let loose a little bit and dance to silly indie-rock music. I always want to dance when I’m listening to my iPod in the metro, but I never do since other French commuters would undoubtedly look at me like I have three heads. (I know, I know. It’s usually not socially acceptable to dance randomly in public in any country.)

Anyway, Anna, Cara, and I had a great time dancing during each set. (Cara missed out on the first concert actually, but she made up for lost time when she joined us for the second one!) While most of the older spectators stood on the periphery of the crowd, Anna, Cara, and I were amongst a group of hipster high schoolers right up front. No shame! We came with a mission to dance our socks off, and did so gleefully. The French spectators around us were happy to leave us plenty of space. Cultural difference altert: even at a rock concert, the majority of French people prefer standing and watching instead of dancing. Hmm! A very odd phenomenon, from an outsider’s perspective. My personal theory is that the French are too dignified to work up a sweat outside of a gym…! Whatever floats your boat, I suppose.

Vive la DANSE!

Dancing queens

-A

On being homesick

To preface this post: Over the years, I have rarely gotten homesick. Sleepovers, going to kindergarten, summer camp, going to college… I was always too busy having fun to miss home. 

Nevertheless, homesickness hit me in Paris recently.  And it hit me hard last week after my parents left. Throughout my time in Paris, I haven’t REALLY missed home, the US, or my friends and family. But, with the arrival and subsequent departure of my parents, I felt farther from home than ever before.

What is home?

“There’s no place like home!”says Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Home is comfort, stability, familiarity, safety. It’s the people, places, foods, and customs that you know like the back of your hand.

For me, home is taking a running start and flopping onto my little purple twin bed. Eating my favorite cereal and leisurely reading the Sunday paper. Sneaking up and giving my parents a big hug while they prepare dinner. Watching the neighborhood dogs frolic around the nearby conservation land. Sliding around in socks on wood floors. It’s sunlight streaming through a window on a fall afternoon. The smell of burning leaves. The corny little things that are important to me, but insignificant to others.

Home is part of my identity. Maybe it’s not a place, but a state of mind.

There’s no real translation for “home” in French. They usually use “chez moi” to refer to “home.” However, “chez” can also be used in other contexts. Like, Je vais chez le dentist. (I’m going to the dentist.) How can a dentist possibly be connected with the idea of home?! Semantically, chez is more of a physical place or a destination than home. Kind of an interesting difference.

Paris is a temporary home. I feel settled and comfortable navigating around the city. It’s a home, but it’s not my home. I love the excitement of the city, the attitude of the women strutting in heels in the metro, the smell of freshly baked croissants, the couples canoodling in the public gardens. But sometimes I crave often-boring suburban Massachusetts.

Dorothy has her magic red shoes to transport her home. Come on, modern technology! By 2050, we better be using super-powered shoes instead of cars and planes. And they better be sparkly.

Anyway, I found that my homesickness has dissipated after about a week. Kind of like a nagging runny nose that you just have to let run its course. Yes, I did just compare missing my parents to boogers. This is my blog, I do what I want. Please don’t take tissue with my comment. (haaaaa jokes).

Cara soaking up the Paris sun

My bout of homesickness has cleared up just in time for springtime! So beautiful in Paris. Just check this recent picture taken in the Jardin de Luxemburg.

Happy Easter/Passover to all!

-A

Pegs and Peter in PARIS

What’s better than living in Paris? Having two of my favorite people ever visit, that’s what! My parents came to spend seven days in the city. Wahoo! The only thing missing from our week together was, of course, my lil sister! We missed you, Jules!

I loved having my parents around and showing them some of my favorite spots.

Here’s a sparknotes version of my/our week:

-Going to a Jewish Deli for dinner with my parents, Sarah, and her mother and having the creepy and unattractive waiter tell me I was beautiful and shoud be a movie star… awkward… nice try, “Nice Jewish Boy.”

– Trying escargot for the first time.

– Walking to the Bastille only to realize that a manifestation was going on! There was a rally for the left-wing presidential hopeful, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Lots of red, lots of communism. The place was hoppin’.

-Attending a Vivaldi concert at Saint Chapelle church. The architecture inside and out was stunning, as was the music performed by a quartet. A very cool experience.

-Having a random French guy on the street tell my dad that he looked like he came from MIT. ?? Very odd.

-Walking along the Champ de Mars, the park near the Eiffel Tower.

-Going to a restaurant that incorporated chocolate into every dish. They pulled it off! I never imagined meat could possibly have a chocolate sauce, but I guess so! Best part of the meal was DESSERT- a chocolate soufflé shared with my friend Cara.

-Laughing at my mom’s facial expression when she saw the neighborhod where I live. (It is somewhat sketchy with lots of people hawking cigarettes and fake Louis Vuitton bags.) Don’t worry!! I will be a-ok.

-Climbing to the top of Monmartre and seeing Sacre-Coeur on a beautiful sunny day.

-Hearing a jazz concert at a hip and fun place that also had indian food (which I happened to be craving!)

-Turning in my first two papers of the semester. One was eight pages and the other one three… both all in French. Oy vey. Or should I say merde. Don’t excuse my French (hahaaa jokes.)

-Seeing a collison of worlds- host family and real family. Gaston the baby was hamming it up in front of my parents- he loves running around, laughing, and using anything as a makeshift hat.

Enjoy the slideshow!

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-A

Swan Lake sans Natalie Portman


Second row- not too shabby!

Thanks to my fantastique study abroad program, I got to attend the ballet in March! After class on a Tuesday night, I rushed off to Opéra Comedia for a showing of Swan Lake performed by a Russian dance troupe.

I had very cheap tickets. Nevertehless, the usher told me there were extra seats in the front if I wanted to move up… YES! Cue victory dance! The usher led me through the seats until we arrived in the second row. “Voilà!” she said. I sat waiting for the show to start, hardly believing my luck!

I felt just like the little 6 year old girl who was sitting to my left, staring adoringly at the beautiful costumes the ballerinas and ballerinos were wearing. I was so close that I could see the sweat on the performers! Ick. I could also see how INCREDIBLY skinny some of the ballerinas were- yikes. Somebody give those girls some hamburgers or something. Maybe some French cheese would do the trick.

The music washed over me and I was transported into the beautiful scenes with the black swan, the white swan, the prince, and the chorus of dancers. (Is chorus the right word? You know, the backup dancers who sway around while the leads take the spotlight.) Of course, I couldn’t help thinking about how the real ballet compares to the movie, The Black Swan!

All in all, a very cool experience. Only downside: the three (three!) couples sitting very close to me who decided to engage in too much PDA during the intermissions. (French PDA quickly becoming a theme of my semester, if you couldn’t tell.)

-A

In the land of waffles and beer… Belgium!

On Saturday March 10 at 6 AM I found myself on the steps of the Opéra Garnier with around 50 other people, awaiting a bus that would take us to Bruges and Brussels for the weekend. We blearily settled into our seats for the 4ish hour ride, arriving in beautiful Bruges around noon.

Impressions: Bruges was picturesque. Canals weave through the city, and people on bikes flood the streets. There are swans in the water! And beautiful old European churches. My friend Anna and I spent the afternoon eating, getting somewhat lost, and eating some more.

A cloudy Bruges

Historic center square- apparently there's a movie called Bruges and at the end the main character commits suicide off of the top of that spire-thing 😦

Frites! Bad for the body, good for the soul.

Chocolate hens and a street view of Bruges

BELGIAN WAFFLES

Anna and I took a long and tiring detour around the city- aka we got lost! It was worthwhile, though, because we had friendly encounters with a Belgian couple walking a golden retriever and three British teenage girls on bikes. But fear not, we meandered our way back into the center of the city- at a serious sugar and energy low and ready to consume our first Belgian waffles! I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest. I’m more of a pancake girl than a waffle fiend. BUT- the waffles we scarfed down in Bruges BLEW MY MIND. It was like eating a sugary donut in waffle form, but even better. Nothing like the dry, regular breakfast waffles that need maple syrup puddles in their square pockets in order to be edible. Real Belgian waffles are made with batter that contains yeast. Hm! I tried mine with some whipped cream. Perfection. After demolishing the waffles, Anna and I rejoined the group for the bus ride to Brussels.

Brussels: Slightly more modern than Bruges. An interesting twist of modern/old. After getting situated at the youth hostel, I went exploring with some friends in the program. The area around our hostel was very dead for a Saturday night! However, we walked to the main center and found plenty of restaurants, bars, and waffles stands.

Cool ceiling decoration at Delirium Café

On Sunday, we enjoyed walking the city by day. Cute little craft fair, lots of chocolate shops. I enjoyed the street art, which included cartoons!

View from hostel in the morning

Mannekin Pis, the little boy who peed on Brussels to save it from a fire!

Firework cartoon outside of a Firework shop!

Returned to Paris tired from walking, full from chocolate, and very content!

-A