Saturday, April 26, 2008

Day 2: Messe, maisons, and la pluie

D'abord, je vais commencer d’écrire un peu en français pour que ceux qui parlent le français puissent suivre mes blogs. Alors, si jamais vous voyez des fautes (d’orthographe ou de grammaire), corrigez-moi s’il vous plaît !

First of all, I am going to start writing a bit in French so that those who speak French can also follow my posts. So, if you ever see mistakes (in spelling or grammar), please correct me!

Le deuxième jour au Pays-Basque était le dimanche, donc je suis allée à une messe Basque dans le matin avec Dominique. La messe était la moitié en français et la moitié en basque. C’était intéressant d’entendre la langue basque... elle est pas du tout comme les langues romanes ! Après, j’ai fait un petit tour en ville et j’ai pris quelques photos des maisons typiques basques. Des maisons basques sont toutes blanches, avec des volets rouges, et des bords en pierre.

The second day in Pays-Basque was a Sunday, so I went to a Basque mass in the morning with Dominique. The mass was half in French and half in Basque. It was interesting to hear the Basque language… it is not at all like the romance languages! Afterwards, I took a quick spin in the village and I took some pictures of the typical Basque houses. Basque houses are all white, with red shutters and stone edges.

Elles sont vieilles aussi... cette maison était construit en 1570!

They are also old… this house was built in 1570!

Après le déjeuner, on est allé se ballader, mais d’abord, j’ai couru (et Dominique a pris des photos...).

After lunch, we went hiking, but first I went for a run (and Dominique took pictures…).

La course était tellement belle… même si il a plu un peau !
The run was really beautiful, even if it rained a bit !

Pendant notre ballade, on a vu plein des animaux…
On the hike, we saw lots of animals...

Des moutons,

Des chevaux,

Et des cheveux !

(Alice n’avait pas un elastic, alors elle a inventé une jolie coiffeur !)

The hike ended up a bit soggily- it rained and then hailed and then rained… We were very happy to reach the car at the end!

More soon…

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pays Basque

The Pays Basque (in English the "Northern Basque Country") is the southwestern part of France, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region. The Basque people are an ancient people who live in this region of France, and in the neighboring region in Spain. They speak their own language, Basque, though most of them speak French or Spanish as well. Basque nationalism is very strong, particularly in Spain, and the Basque people have long wanted to become their own independent nation. You can read more stuff about them on Wikipedia if you are interested!

The area is famously green because it rains a ton there (though we actually didn’t have that much rain), and there are a lot of farms. Basque specialties include peppers (slightly spicy and delicious), goat cheese, a specific type of horses called Potyioks (not sure about spelling), and a very distinct and ancient architectural style (you will see later in pictures). They also eat their cheese with jelly, (cherry or pepper flavored) which no other French people do. I found it delicious though!

We stayed with Monique, a friend of the family. Pascale, my host mom, has known Monique since she was a little girl growing up in Paris, because she was a teacher of Pascale’s brother, and a friend of the family. Monique has a lovely house in Ustaritz, a village outside of Bayonne, and has three cats that she adores. She is also an excellent chef, and loves wine- she has her own wine ‘cave’ with temperature control and everything. We drank at least one type of wine every night, and some nights two- one with the appetizer and one with the main meal.

Day 1: Bayonne, La Rhune, and Spain

Our first day in Pays-Basque was action packed. In the morning I went with my host dad for a quick tour of Bayonne, a very lovely town (about 40,000 people live there) close to the Atlantic coast. Bayonne is extremely close to two other towns: Anglet and Biarritz, and together they are called “le Bab” by locals. I visited Biarritz later in the week, but Bayonne proved to be my favorite of the two. So we went for a quick spin, French style: a bit of window shopping, to the cathedral, to the market, and a stop for a cup of tea, as it was a bit chilly.

Here is a bad picture of the outside of the cathedral of Bayonne

And the inside (it is gothic style)

The town of Bayonne is famous for two things: ham, and chocolate. Bayonne ham (jambon Bayonne) is one of the two types of ham you find all over France. Below, a charcuturie (a kind of butcher shop) with Bayonne ham hanging from the ceiling.

They slice it up first though; you don’t just gnaw on it like that!

Here, one of the streets of Bayonne, with a cozy little bar to the left.

Then we went to the big indoor market where there are stands that sell everything from fish to vegetables to local specialties to…

Fromage!! This is just a small collection, too. To the left there are goat cheeses (fromage du chevre), the round light ones as well as the darker ones in front. There is also some Rocmadour to the middle far left, which is a cow cheese that is very creamy, and a favorite of my youngest host sister Alice. The orangey-yellow one in the middle is Langres, which I tried in Paris and found delicious. There are some I don’t know, but the one in the very back middle, with the grayish outside and light inside is St. Nectare, a fairly common cow cheese that I eat often and like a lot. And then of course, to the right towards the back, the small round white cheese with a sign on top is the beloved Camembert, which we always have in the fridge, and which I eat nearly every day. It is a bit like Brie, but milder, and oh so creamy (note: French brie is not at all like the Brie you find in the US, because the milk is not pasteurized, so it is much stronger!).

Here is more of the same stall, the Camembert is to the left, and towards the front there is a nice Brie. This is only half of a Brie too… they are huge! Obviously you don’t buy a whole one (unless you really like Brie), you buy sliced parts of it. Then there is some feta, some butter and lots of meat.

Bayonne has a very pretty architectural theme, and it is also right on the Nive River, as you can see here.

We returned to chez Monique for lunch, and she made us Axoa, a typical Basque meal. It consists of ground meat with peppers and other vegetables. I only learned after I ate it (and it was delicious) that the meat was actually ground veal (which I swore I would never eat)! I guess it was a “when in France” moment…

Anyway, that afternoon, as it was not raining, we went for a hike (my host dad is truly a hiking fanatic). We ended up climbing ‘La Rhune,’ a peak nearby. It was a bit tough, but the view from the top was excellent.

Alice (to the left) was a bit tired… Behind us is the Atlantic coast, including Biarritz.

The mountain is just on the border of France and Spain, so at the top, we actually crossed into Spain. There was a little French restaurant/shop on the French side and a little Spanish restaurant/shop on the Spanish side. We went into the Spanish one and my host parents practiced their Spanish, while we bought yummy treats like Toblerone and nougat. Then I noticed, hanging from the ceiling this cool and extremely out of context bag, from my future university!

Here is a picture of me at the top, and behind me is Spain!

Here I am with Alice, after she has regained some energy from a Toblerone bar! She is 12, and very funny. She loves reading, and even brings books on our hikes sometimes so she can read when we stop for lunch!

While we were eating, some roaming Potioks came up to us to chat, and we befriended them.

Then we realized that they were just hungry (I have nougat in my hand)!

Here are a couple shots of the landscape


And French:

The city below to the right is San Sebastian (Spanish, obviously), which we visited later in the week.

Then we came down from the mountain and went back to Monique’s house for dinner!

(More about the rest of the trip soon…)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

La ferme!!

This post will be a bit brief, because I am going to a play with the family tonight, but I haven't written in ages, so I felt I should update you all. I am doing well, continuing to make progress in my French, also running and cooking, and doing all that good stuff. In two weeks we have our spring break for two weeks and I am going with the family to the Pays Basque (South Western France, near the border of Spain) for a week. I will take pictures for you all!

So for Easter weekend I went with my host family to a farm (la ferme Baume-Rousse) that their friends own. At the farm they raise sheep and make cheese from the milk. The cheese is delicious and the farm was great. People can actually go and stay there (like at Dwight's beet farm!!), and it is really quaint. Here is the site, English translation can be found in the top left corner (British flag icon), but it's a bit funky! It snowed while we were there, which was very cozy. And they had endless amounts of animals: sheep, cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, dogs, cats, geese, etc. many of which just wandered around the yard! So here are my pictures then...

Here the sheep are eating, while on the other side of the wooden thing, they are being milked.

They were very cute, and kept licking my hands...


To the left is the yurt-like structure they have for events and guests (people can rent it for retreats, classes, etc.). To the right is one of the lodgings people can rent, covered in solar panels because they are cool hippies like that.

Cats chowing down while it snows lightly.

The ram. He gets a lot of action (if you know what I mean)...

My canine buddy.

View of the house/barn from one of the fields.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Paris, je t'aime toujours

Well, sorry it took me a while to get this second part up, folks. It's been so sunny and nice in Montpellier lately, I've been spending a lot of time outside; running, hiking with the family, and walking whenever possible. I am also still cooking, and I made latkes last night for the family. I wanted to make matzoh ball soup as well, but I couldn't find matzoh meal anywhere, despite it being right before Passover. Jewish influence in France isn't particularly strong... But the Rouquettes liked the latkes, and we ate them with crème fraîche (sour cream) and compote de pommes (applesauce) just like at Hannukah. Yum! Today I only had one hour of school because most of my professors are on strike (how very French). So I went to my math class and then came home and went on a run, played a bit of guitar, read the newspaper, etc. It was rather luxurious.

But anyway, here are the rest of my adventures in Paris...

So the day after Notre Dame (see previous post), we started with a ride on a bateau mouche ('fly boat'... they are tourist-ey boat rides on the Seine). It was nice, even though it was a bit foggy.

Here is la Louvre + some tourists.

Notre Dame...

The side of Notre Dame.

The sister of the Statue of Liberty- it's a lot smaller than ours!

After the boat ride, we went to l'Arc de Triomphe and then the Champs-Élysées.

This is a terrible picture, but voilà les Champs-Élysées!

Next we went to the famed department store "La Samaritaine" where I took this lovely photo from the roof.

And to top off the day, we went to another lovely site, which some of you may know...

I took a few videos from the top (well not the very top, it was closed, but the second level anyway).

Here you can just barely see Notre Dame (it's the one to the left that is further away). Also, you can hear my host mom talking a little bit too, haha (something about "les grand-parents de Dominique").

Here you can see l'Arc de Triomphe and the Seine.

And this is just magnificent...

She does that every hour for 10 minutes!

Elle est pas mal, quand même...

The next day I forgot to bring my camera, but we went to la maison de Victor Hugo, which is located in the place des Vosges. It is the oldest square in Paris, and my favorite... all the buildings are of the same 17th century style, and in the middle there is a nice little park with a statue of Louis XIII. Here's are a couple photos which I did not take:

It was rainy that day, so we walked around a bit, and finished early.

The next and final day we went to the château de Versailles, but of course my camera died about 5 minutes after we got inside. I only got these two pictures of the chapel. The rest you can look up on Google images yourselves!

It was really magnificent though, especially the grounds, which we explored for almost 4 hours!

And the next day, it was back in the car for 7 hours to Montpellier. I had a grand time, but want to return soon and explore some more. So I hope that has given you all a feeling for my adventures in Paris, and sorry again that it was a long time in coming. I'm just busy, you know, learning French, eating cheese, exploring Montpellier, etc.