Yesterday morning as I was brushing my teeth, I tried to remember what I did last year for Thanksgiving.
After about 20 seconds, I remembered -- I was in Paris!
In keeping with that tradition, this year I had my fourth Thanksgiving celebration as an expat. And as a special treat, French television station France 3
visited the American University of Paris
(AUP) to speak to some American students about the importance of celebrating Thanksgiving while living abroad.
I had the opportunity to sit down with France 3 and briefly discuss why it's so important for those of us spending the holidays away from our friends and family to celebrate this American tradition of football, family and food.
I highly recommend watching the entire segment, which includes interviews with AUP President Celeste Schenck
President Sam Yehya.
But if you're in a hurry, don't understand French, or are only visiting this blog because you're related to me, feel free to skip to minute 1:40 to check out my short interview.
A link to the segment on the France 3 website can also be found here.
This interview forced me to reflect on the importance of celebrating something so typically American while living in France.
In general, Thanksgiving has never been that important of a holiday for me.
Maybe it's because I've always had a small family, or because no one in my immediate family ever ate meat, so that whole turkey thing wasn't a big deal for us (although I always make sure to bring back a few slices for my deprived dogs to enjoy.)
And as I said before, this wasn't my first time celebrating Thanksgiving abroad.
Back in 2005, I spent Thanksgiving in Paris at Blue Elephant
, a fancy thai restaurant in central Paris with some fellow study abroad students, and then had a second (all-vegetarian) celebration in Sheffield, England
that weekend. In 2007, I had fondue with my French friend in Montpellier, France
Last year a dear friend of mine from the U.K. hosted a fabulous Thanksgiving meal for myself and my friend while we were on vacation in Paris . A Brit dishing up a vegetarian-friendly Thanksgiving? It doesn't get much more impressive than that!
As much as I love spending the holidays with my family and friends back home, I've found that Thanksgiving becomes more important to me when I'm on the other side of the Atlantic.
I also get so much enjoyment sharing this tradition with non-American friends of mine. After all, why should the rest of the world be deprived of the joys of pumpkin pie?
This pretty much sums it up
I admittedly have a massive sweet tooth -- I've seriously contemplated getting hypnosis to kill my chocolate addiction.
But then I figured, life is too short, and in no way worth living without the occasional (or daily) Milky Way.
My recent obsession as of late are French macarons
(not to be confused with macaroons
, which are typically made with coconut and are a staple in most Jewish families during Passover
; not that they aren't delicious as well.)
My current macaron obsession is Pierre Hermé
, a gourmet macaron and chocolate shop which has been in Paris since 2001. I am actually waiting for the prime moment to dedicate myself to writing a blog post worthy of this brand -- so stayed tuned for that.
In the meantime, I wanted to tempt your taste-buds with two beautiful shops I discovered on my recent trip to Bordeaux:
M le Macaron:
As I was
walking down Rue des Remparts
, a cute street in the center of Bordeaux's old city full of tea rooms and gift shops, I noticed this little store called M le Macaron
(38, rue des remparts, 33000 Bordeaux
In addition to the funky window displays, I couldn't resist the vibrant assortment of colors and macaron flavors on display.
I had to go in.
I wanted to branch out from the standard flavors you can find in any typical French boulangerie, and take this opportunity to explore some of the unique flavors the shop had to offer.
If my memory serves me correctly, I'm pretty sure I tasted the following:
Adorable window display at M le Macaron
- Litchi Gingembre
- Lavande Pêche
I believe I also tried one they were featuring for fall, which was a mix of apple and hazelnut -- in any event, they were all delicious.
M le Macaron also offers a variety of savory macarons, including pretty adventurous flavors, such as Petit-Pois Chèvre Menthe
(peas, goat cheese and mint) and Volaille Fumée Moutarde
(smoked-chicken and mustard).
I could not make these things up if I tried.
I will admit: I wasn't crazy about the texture of these macarons. They were a bit softer, smaller and more crumbly than the ones I'm used to (aka Pierre Hermé
-- yes, I know, I'm a snob.) But what they lacked in texture, they completely made up for in color, taste and originality.
It's definitely worth stopping by M le Macaron if a) you like trying original and bold flavors b) you like macarons and c) well, if you are ever in Bordeaux.
Chocolaterie Biscuiterie Larnicol MOF
Chocolaterie Biscuiterie Larnicol MOF:
Another awesome find for anyone who loves window shopping and chocolate was Chocolaterie Biscuiterie Larnicol MOF
, located right at the Place de la Comédie
This was one of those stores that almost does itself a disservice, as its products look practically too beautiful to eat. Luckily, in addition to the works of art on display, this store also sells traditional chocolates
that you can pick yourself and pay for by the kilo.
As you can see from the sideshow below, this store offers everything from adorable chocolate cats and ladybugs to an edible electric guitar. They also sell macarons
, but stick to more traditional flavors like chocolate, coffee and pistachio.
I spent about five full minutes snapping pictures, until the woman in the store informed me that customers were only allowed two photos each. Oops.
I did also manage to do some sampling (purely for the sake of research). To be honest, I wasn't blown away by anything I tried. Don't get me wrong, every piece of chocolate I had was tasty -- but nothing I tried really mirrored the pizazz that was on display.
So while I would still recommend taking a trip to Larnicol if you're ever in Bordeaux, you don't really need to venture past the window displays.
Unless of course you're willing to shell out 25€ for a chocolate cow -- then I think it would be totally worth it.
Check out the sideshow below for more photos -- for those of you who might be trying to shed some pounds before the holidays, I would avert your eyes.
Place du Parlement, Bordeaux
The other weekend I traveled to Bordeaux
, a region in the southwest of France that is internationally renowned for its wines.
As I was browsing through the hundreds of photos I took on this trip, I realized that there was just too much to squeeze into one post.
So my plan is to take a quick break from blogging about Paris, and explore another beautiful city in France (there are just so many!)
I could start off blogging about the obvious: vineyards and wine.
But instead I want to begin with the actual city of Bordeaux.
When I arrived in Bordeaux, it felt like a breath of fresh air. I was so used to constantly maneuvering my way through the crowds, lines and confusing underground metro corridors of Paris, that it made Bordeaux seem almost quaint, even though it is a legitimate city.
It's important to keep in mind that there is a massive disparity in population size between Paris and all other major cities in France. Even Marseille
, which has the second largest population in France
, is less than half the size of Paris.
Place de la Victoire, Bordeaux
population only hovers around 230,000
, (tiny by U.S. standards), but the city remains one of the top ten largest cities in France by population. Note: Online data varies between ranking Bordeaux the 7th and 8th largest city in France. One of my cab drivers claimed it was the 6th largest -- wishful thinking dude.To put the size of the city in perspective, I was pretty much able to make my way around the centre-ville within a day or two of being there, and quickly located an amazing running route along the Garonne river.
Paris by Night -- Stunning! (Photo by A. Langer)
Walking around Bordeaux at night is also a sight to be seen.
In my opinion, France on the whole has
completely nailed it when it comes to lighting their cities after dark.
Whether it's decking out a town for the winter holidays, or just a regular evening strolling around the city center, when I've visited cities like Paris, Montpellier
, I am always stunned by the visions of cathedrals, theatres and other century-old structures glowing at night.Below are some more photos of Bordeaux by night -- many thanks to Clayton Englar for providing some of the content.Keep an eye out for more fun photos and facts from Bordeaux wine country, local macaroon shops and more!
Père Lachaise Cemetery
I always found it a bit odd that a cemetery could become such a popular tourist destination. But then again, leave it to the Parisians to make something like death completely chic.
So chic in fact, that model Kate Moss
announced this week that she intends to purchase "his and her" burial plots
with boyfriend Jamie Hince in Père Lachaise
cemetery, the largest cemetery in central Paris that dates back all the way to the early 1800s.
Located in the 20th arrondissement
, the cemetery spans over 118 acres
, has over 70,000 funeral monuments and hosts over 300,000 dead bodies
(a bit morbid, I know).
Oscar Wilde's Tomb
But this isn't just your usual resting place for the dead -- Père Lachaise has become the V.I.P. room for the deceased.
Here is a quick list of some of the famous musicians, novelists, composers and artists buried in Père Lachaise:
(it has become somewhat of a tradition to kiss the tomb of Oscar Wilde while wearing lipstick -- see my photos below and it will make more sense!)
Map of Père Lachaise
If you plan to visit, make sure to allow for plenty of time to get lost and wander around (I would say between one and two hours). Most of the famous graves are tucked away and hard to find -- Morrison's and Piaf's in particular are well hidden.
To help navigate the cemetery, you can purchase a map outside the front entrances for about a euro. Or,
if you're crafty (and cheap) like I was, just snap a photo of the main map (located at all entrances to the cemetery) and refer back to that along your way.Below are some additional photos that I took last week as I wandered through
I also came across this blog called Dead Famous
, which has lovely photos from the cemetery, and can offer additional insight into those well-known artists who made Père Lachaise their final resting place.
View of the London Eye along the river Thames
A few weeks ago I took a trip to London, which I always find to be slightly disorienting when I come over from France. I end up uttering things like “Excusez –moi” when I bump into people, or accidentally saying “bonne journée”
when leaving a shop.
I also feel like I standout more as an American in London than I do in Paris: since we’re all speaking the same language, my accent immediately sets me apart, whereas at least in France, they may know I’m not French, but they don’t know exactly where I’m from.
Not that I'm ashamed of being American -- au contraire
I just feel like I loose a bit of my anonymity when I'm hanging out with our former colonizers.
At the same time, it’s always a bit of a relief to visit a country that so closely resembles my own. Coffee to go is easy to come by, restaurants actually highlight vegetarian options on their menus (almost as if they’re excited about it!) And even though I’m always somewhat disappointed to discover that not every Londoner sounds like Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins
, I still think almost anything sounds better when spoken in an English accent.
Entrance to Borough Market
After spending some quality time at a few British pubs and getting drizzled on by the notorious English rain, I decided to take a trip to the famous Borough Market
in South London.
Since I spend so much time visiting and blogging about markets in Paris, I figured why not take a look at what the Brits have to offer?
Borough Market is a popular tourist destination and considered one of the largest markets in the world
, with up to 70 food stalls. The Market is also believed to date as far back as the 13th century, and has been used in several famous films, including Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004).
So if you get there on a Saturday afternoon, you can expect large crowds of people from all over the world (and an insanely long line at the Barclays ATM), wandering around sampling everything from English cheddar to hot Indian spices.
Here is some general information and helpful tips if any of you are interested in visiting Borough Market in the near (or distant) future:Borough Market Address:8 Southwark Street
SE1 1TL(Located beneath the railway viaducts, between the river Thames and Borough High Street)Borough Market Hours:Thursdays: 11am - 5pmFridays: 12pm - 6pmSaturdays: 8am - 5pm
According to the market's official website
:"The Market is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with Saturday being busiest after 11am. The sensible shopper gets here between 8am and 10am for the pick of the day. Thursday is usually a relaxed shopping day and our demonstration chef is on hand for ideas, tips and demonstrations in the Jubilee Market."
Below is a selection of photos I took from my visit to the Market. As you can see, they have similar items to the Parisian markets I've blogged about
(flowers, cheese, olives, etc.), but also carry plenty of specialty items, including spices from around the world, and of course those famous English pies!
Today the popular French public radio station France Culture
hosted a live broadcast from the AMEX
cafe at the American University of Paris (AUP)
, to discuss the results
of the 2010 U.S. midterm elections.
As I was one of the few students who actually made it to the first
7 a.m. segment, I had the opportunity to share my opinions as an American voter living in France.
On live radio. To millions of French people.Needless to say, this was both a terrifying and exhilarating experience.
Below is an audio clip of myself and another AUP student discussing our reactions to the elections.
To summarize for those of you who don't understand French, I basically said:
- I'm a Democrat.
- I'm from Maryland.
- I'm disappointed, but not surprised.
- I still love Obama. (But he has some work to do.)Feel free to click here for a recording of the full broadcast (my classmates and I make a brief appearance around minute 103.)
The morning segment from France Culture ("Les Matins") featured analysis and commentary from AUP
professor Steven Ekovich
and Zaki Laïdi
, a professor at the Sciences Po
Center for European Studies and founder of the French think tank Telos
The majority of the discussion focused on how the loss of Democratic control over the U.S. House of Representatives represents both "l'échec" or the
failure of President Obama's administration, and demonstrates a strong dissatisfaction by the American public regarding the state of the U.S. economy.
Two other segments were broadcast from the AMEX cafe later in the day, including a discussion of the role of women in U.S. politics
, and an analysis of the Tea Party movement
AUP Amex Cafe (www.franceculture.com)
Today was an eye-opening experience for me, and it was absolutely fascinating to get the French perspective on these historic midterm elections.
I felt that overall, the panelists had a solid understanding of our political system, and while the majority of them were more or less politically leftist, I didn't get a sense that they were being overly critical of American voters or our system of government.
Rather, they all seemed genuinely interested in the cultural implications of these elections, and how the political climate in the U.S. compares to France and the rest of Europe.
I also really appreciated the fact that a station that is so well-renowned in France (it is essentially the French equivalent of NPR
), spent so much time covering our mid-term elections. And it wasn't just French radio: every newspaper I saw open on the métro today had front page articles covering the election results -- some even had the same pretty red and blue maps
that the American media love oh-so-much.
In contrast, Americans are known for our lack of interest in international affairs. In a 2007 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
, only 36% of Americans polled could name the current president of Russia (Vladimir Putin at the time).
And even when it comes to domestic politics, the majority of Americans remain somewhat disinterested; in the same survey, only 69% of those polled could name Dick Cheney as the current Vice President (although frankly, the rest of them were probably better off staying in the dark about that one.)
Now, I understand that this disinterest in international affairs is the result of a variety of factors, including lack of emphasis placed on world geography and politics in our public school systems and by the American media.
And I completely understand that just by the nature of our country's size and position in the world, what happens on our shores generally has a greater affect on the rest of the world than the other way around.
But at the same time, I like to think that the more we can learn about other countries around the world, the better perspective we develop about our own. This is certainly what I've learned thus far over my time living abroad.
I am hopeful that all the recent developments in modern technology, which make it practically effortless to get updates on the world's breaking news, will boost our knowledge of international affairs.
In fact, here
is an amazing site that does just that -- and it's color coded!
Who knows? Maybe in the 2012 French Presidential elections, some lucky French student studying in the U.S. will get the opportunity to discuss her country's elections on national public radio in broken English!