I went to Versailles two weekends ago with a Frenchman.
He told me he would be fact checking this blog post, so I’ve decided to include an enormous amount of facts and maybe a couple that aren’t true. haha!
Here’s how the day leading up to Versailles went:
#1: I was given the choice of meeting at 8h08 or 8h39 … I think you can guess which one I chose… I am so not a morning person. haha!
#2: The super difficult decision of what to bring to the pique-nique. These things are important!
And then you stay up till 1am cooking in an itty bitty kitchen with one bowl, no tools, and a paring knife. Getting sewing lessons from mi madre over Skype. oh and drinking wine with your bestie because that’s what Saturday nights are made of!
But then you’re up at 7:06AM the next morning rubbing sleep from your eyes thanking the stars that you live close to the train to Versailles. oh and glad there’s no headache involved.
I arrived au pied promptly 3 minutes before Pierre- I think this is the absolute first time I’ve met him and been on time. I was just as surprised as he was. hm or maybe he was late? I conveniently can’t remember. ;-)
And we were off!
Here’s some tips for getting to Versailles from Paris:
– Take the RER C – If you have a Navigo, it’s free for you on the weekend. Otherwise it’s about 9 euros and tickets can be bought at the station.
– Look for trains heading to Versailles – Rive Gauche and move to the top of the platform (the train is a short one).
– Take a look at the overhead listing (just like in the airport) to know when the correct train will arrive.
– The trains have names which are noted beside each listing. Our train’s name was Steve! Like Steve Urkel, Stevo, Stevie, or Stephan. :-D
– It takes about 30 minutes to get there.
Plenty of time for you to observe sleeping people, have your bag commented on, and chat with an American seatmate.. who happens to be the same guy that commented on your bag (hm..).
And not yawn! nope! I love early mornings! err
What wasn’t open? The annual ticket pass area aka the ticket I wanted to get. Don’t worry, it opened at 9:15, just 15 minutes late. How normal. haha!
We talked with the the lady you must get past in order to buy tickets. In French. I understood about 50%? I’m getting better!! ;-) It’s only when the topic changes from what I’m expecting in the conversation that I get super lost. Like agreeing to a tour of the private apartments in the chateau. But this was after I correctly understood that I didn’t need an annual pass because I could get in for free, at least for the next two weeks before I turned 27. Donc 50/50- not too shabby.
I would also like to add as a semi-related note that it’s a lot more nerve-racking speaking French to a French person! A lot of it is that I don’t want to make a mistake!
By doing the private tour and paying just 7 euros more, we skipped the massive line outside and got to see what few people do! Une bonne idea! Complete with top-secret headsets to hear the tour guide, even though we were usually the only group in a room at a time… haha! I didn’t wear mine. The opera hall! The chandeliers along the wall are actually just half-chandeliers, reflecting in a mirror!
Our tour guide.
This very cool clock that still tells the time and date (month, day, and year!) accurately until year 9999, and shows the rotation of all the planets, except for Pluto. Or maybe Pluto was there, I didn’t look too closely. nahh!
Then we did a bit of fast walking through the chateau because we were starving! And saw several short beds with ostrich plumes that would have been perfect for a nap. Beautiful doorways. And lots of gold embellishments.
Guess what I forgot? dun dun dun.. the bread. For the second time! I shall never be trusted with this ever again.
But it’s ok sandwich fixings can be eaten by their lonesome along with Croustades aux champignons and chocolate-sea salt caramel cookies. :-D
Mom- you’d be impressed, I ate cherry tomatoes! and they were good! gasp!
Then we wandered through the gardens sans map and nap- which is definitely the way to go. No stress! (a nap would have been good though- what? 7am is early! Scratch that, 7:06 is early!) and we discovered about 3 different gardens we’d never seen before!
I got orange juice at one of the two stands in the garden and a line promptly formed behind the one we went too, while the other remained completely free. haha! We were shooed off the grass. And helped three different sets of people in English and French. Quite multi-lingual we are. He just needs to brush up on his Japanese, because I have German, Spanish, and Italian covered, and we would be able to help all nationalities.
Ready to be impressed?
Ich ban ick en rosa kuh flecken!
aka. The only phrase I know in German besides Gesundheit, which means I would like a pink cow with spots! Useful in all situations.
My Italian is even better.
Then we headed back to Paris!
It was one of those days where you head home completely exhausted but with a smile on your face, oh and ready to take a nap. or a run- one of those.
My kitchen here in Paris is approximately a 113cm x 145cm or 44in x 58in or if we’re talking feet, 3’x4′. Oh and part of this is taken up by the sink/stove top/fridge. But! I thought I would prove to you that size doesn’t matter (that sounds bad!) hahaha! :-D
If you have one bowl, a paring knife, cutting board, oven, frying pan, and bottle of wine (this is actually a necessary tool and beverage) you can make these beauties:
Pictured here at a picnic at Versailles!
I found the recipe over on Smitten Kitchen (a blog I’m a huge fan of). The one massive mushroom galette (or was it a galette?) looked perfect for what I wanted (well for what I wanted to tweak to get what I wanted ;-) ). The only thing that was holding me back was her explanation. She described it as an incredibly difficult recipe, that while worth it, took a very long time to do. Which to me means that the perfect time to start it is at 9pm in the evening.
I made some changes to the recipe and when excluding a Skype session with my mom for a sewing lesson, I can say that these take about an hour to make (maybe less, eh probably less, but I was occupied..?), and about 40-50 minutes to bake.
I love my French friends because we always end up discussing food. It doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing, the subject always comes up, because in France, cuisine is a part of the national identity.
We were at our Mexican Fiesta Part Deux last weekend (blog post coming soon) and after discussing a very interesting sounding salmon pasta Jess and Vincent had the other night, I told them about the Mushroom Galettes with Bleu cheese I’d made.
Galettes? Béatrice and Vincent (our two resident Frenchies at dinner) sounded skeptical. “But Galettes are sweet!”
Vincent decided they would more likely be called “Croustades” aka “Croustades aux champignons.”
Béatrice countered with “Feuilletés aux champignons” and then provided proof of sweet galettes at my birthday. hahaha!
Not that I didn’t believe my Frenchies (especially with such yummy evidence), but I felt like a little more research was necessary. So I pulled up Wikipedia this afternoon. :-D
Galettes – typically large flat round free-form crusty cakes, or cookies but! they are also a kind of crepe called a Breton galette made with buckwheat.
Croustade – a French culinary term meaning a flaky crust, usually a puff pastry or another type of flaky pastry.
Feuilletés – a pastry or hors d’oeurve using a puff pastry
Because I couldn’t decide which of the two options (because galette is obviously out) described the recipe best, I went with the one I could better pronounce. So the name has now changed to the more accurate “Croustade aux champignons” tehehe!
Here’s how to make them. Let’s start with the pastry dough, because it needs time to chill! It’s flaky, but not a puff!
The recipe calls for flour, salt, butter, sour cream, lemon juice and water and then gets super finicky about freezing the butter separately than the dry ingredients for an hour then combining. What? This sounds like one of those silly pie crust tricks like adding Vodka to the crust that while it might make the crust flakier might not be worth the time/effort. So I scratched that first thing.
Cut the butter into smallish cubes (about 2 cms).
In a bowl, add the flour and salt. Do a quick little stir and then put the butter cubes on top.
Now this is probably the most difficult part of the recipe. Incorporate the butter into the flour/salt with your hands. You kind of mash the butter but mix it with the flour at the same time. One of our pastry chefs describes it as the “show me the money” motion. Mash a bit then let it fall through your hands into the bowl. It just takes a bit of practice but is super easy. What you don’t want to do it incorporate it so much that it becomes a dough because the butter warms up so much that it starts to melt. The finished texture should be similar to sand. Large pieces of butter are ok!
Next, mix the sour cream (or I used a thick plain yogurt) with the water and pour into the middle of the base. Look at those big pieces of butter! ;-)
Mix together with a spoon or your hands. Wrap in plastic and chill! It’s as easy as that! The dough will be pretty sticky because of the amount of liquid that is added.
Now let’s start on the filling! Which means lots of chopping!
First, we need to rehydrate the dried mushrooms. These add tons of flavor! In a bowl, cover the dried mushrooms with hot water and set aside for about 30 minutes.
Next, we chop! A lot!
Cube/roughly chop all mushrooms. I did all French button mushrooms but any sort of mix would be good. Yum! Slice the green onions and mince the garlic. And last, cut up the dried mushrooms.
Now we cook! The green onions and garlic first in a nice amount of butter.
Stir occasionally on medium heat until everything is cooked through. It will reduce quite a bit. I also added some of the liquid from the dried mushrooms to add more flavor.
Set it aside to cool, then crumble the blue cheese on top! I used a milder blue cheese called “bleu de gex” so it would not overwhelm the mushroom flavor. Make sure just about all of the liquid has evaporated.
Roll out the pastry dough on a floured surface using the now empty wine bottle to about 2-3 mm thick. And munch on a bit of cheese.
I made five mini
galettes croustades but you can make one big one (just make sure the bottom is cooked). Pile mounds of the mushroom filling on the dough leaving a 4-5 cm border.
Fold the dough over the filling! We’re going for rustic here so no need to fret too much about how it looks. ;-) The best is to just fold the dough over itself.
Brush with egg wash to give it a great golden brown appearance and bake! 200C, 400F Be sure to check the bottom to make sure they are done!!! If the tops start getting a bit too brown and bottom isn’t done, cover with foil.
Croustades aux Champignons aka Mushoom non-Galettes
For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups (160g) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick or 113g) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (58g) sour cream/natural un-sweetened yogurt
1/4 cup (60 ml) cold water
For the filling (my metric measurements aren’t the best, but this is cooking, so add to your liking!)
1/4 ounce (7 grams or one small packet) dried wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles, porcini or shiitakes
boiling water to cover
2 tablespoons (25g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (not sure in grams, I’d eyeball it at 4 stalks or a big handful) sliced green onions
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 lb fresh wild mushrooms (about 20-24 medium sized shrooms), using a larger quantity of button mushrooms over other types, diced
5 ounces (120g?) Stilton or other good-quality blue cheese, crumbled
For the pastry dough, cube butter and set aside. In a bowl, mix together the salt and flour then cut in the butter using your hands or pastry blender. In a small bowl, mix together the cold water and sour cream or yogurt. Make a small well in the flour/butter mixture, and pour in the liquids. Stir to combine then from into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap and chill.
For the mushroom filling, saute the green onions and garlic in butter. Next add all of the mushrooms and herbs. Saute until reduced and cooked through! Set aside to cool. Then add the crumbled cheese.
Assembly: Roll out the pastry dough to 2-3mm thick on a floured surface. Mound piles of mushroom filling the size of the finished croustade you would like. I used about 1/2-3/4 cup filling each for personal sized croustades. You can also make one large croustade. Cut the dough around the filling leaving about a 4-5 cm border. Fold the dough up and over the filling, leaving a space in the middle for it to show through.
Brush with egg wash (1 beaten egg).
Bake on parchment at 200C or 400F for 30-40 minutes. This will depend on the size, and oven. Be sure to check the bottom to make sure it is done. Cover with foil if the bottom needs a bit more time, but the top is brown.
Today is my Birthday!! I’m weird! I actually like celebrating other people’s birthday’s more than my own. So today instead of something silly, I thought I’d share something more personal to me about my life here in France. I hope you like it! :-)
When you live in a country that is not your own, your life suddenly becomes a whirlwind. I was prepared for the ups and downs due to unfamiliarity and of course being homesick, but it’s been more because of constant activity and new experiences. That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been bad days.. there have. Just nowhere near as many as I thought there would be.
Something I thought of the other day really brought it home to me. Of course this is common sense but it’s something you don’t think of until that moment when you need to. When you’re home in your native country, you’re doing things that you’ve been doing your whole life. You know the cultural norms, how to do all those easy little tasks you learned watching your parents do as you grew up, how to act in everyday encounters, and just so much more. It’s something you’ve learned through years and years of immersion.
When you move, you have to relearn all of those. Every little easy task becomes a bit of a struggle.
Now that’s not to say living as an expat in a different country, with a language you’re not as familiar with as you like is bad. No! It’s just different. And if you’re up for it, a very good different. One that opens your eyes, and helps you to appreciate all that you have in life.
When you first come it’s constant exposure to new things you have to figure out because it’s done just a bit differently than you’re used to. How do people know which apartment is mine if there are no numbers on the doors! (I actually think this is quite ingenious.. better security!) How do I use the very cool looking key I have to get into my apartment?? This took some practice. haha!
Silly silly completely normal things! Tasks that in the US would take me seconds, take minutes. Something easy can suddenly have multiple steps and take a lot longer than you first thought. I thought I was patient before I came here but now I have to be. Just saying the words “French Bureaucracy” can bring chills to anyone that hears it.
The first 15 days I was here I slept really weird hours- going to bed at 3 or 4am and waking up at 12 or even 2 in the afternoon. Part of it was probably jet lag but the other part… maybe it was the exposure to so many new stimuli, like a newborn who falls asleep on a long walk overcome by the colors and sounds. I took a lot of walks those first couple of weeks. :-)
But then that magic that you first felt when you arrived starts to fade, and everything falls into place and starts to feel normal. Those tasks that were so difficult at the beginning are now easier. I’ll walk by the Eiffel Tower on my way to class and not even look at it. Not even a glance. It sounds absolutely ridiculous even writing it here, but it just becomes another monument, just like the Statue of Liberty for New Yorkers. Everyday life takes precedence and you know you are where you belong, at least for that moment.
It’s an incredible experience. One that pushes who you’ve become in life. Who will you be when you come out on the other end?
The best advice I can give is to be open. Be open to new and different ways of doing things. Neither way is the best… it’s just different. :-)
oh and do a bit of research!!! ;-) I won’t offer examples but there’s times that I’ve wanted to call myself Canadian in embarrassment! :-D
There’s frustrating moments but there’s times when you take a look up from avoiding dog poop on the sidewalks and think- gosh darn it, how can life be bad. How? I’m living out a dream of mine in a beautiful city, surrounded by amazing people, and far too many sweets that magically don’t seem to go to my waistline.
Before I left for France I was approached by several very concerned people worried that I would lose who I was in a country known for it’s negativity. And yes it has affected who I am, how could it not? But in a good way. :-) Our experiences make us who we are.
I’m stronger, more sure of myself, and very very happy.
Just like in other countries, you can’t let others determine who you are. You are who you want to be! No matter the situation or country. It’s as simple as that.
France has become like another home to me. I fell in love with it 6 years ago and every day since then. Of course Texas is my heart and where I will always call home but France has always had a hold on me.
I don’t know what will happen in the future. But I can tell you that right now, maintenant, je suis très très contente. :-)
“nous” vs “nu” … (if you know French you’re probably giggling right now ;-) ). There’s “to” and “two” in English, but those are harmless. But “nous” and “nu” – sound exactly the same to me. There’s a slight intonation difference like “work” and “walk”. ;-) haha!! Er but “we” and “naked” are two pretty different words.
Now there’s three words that I always get confused – (jaune, jeune, juin) aka. “yellow”, “young”, and “June.” They all sounds completely different and I can pronounce them all. It’s just remembering which is which. Tomato, Tomato- no no.. this leads to calling someone yellow instead of young. whoops!
Lost in Translation? Yup I’ve been there. hahaha!! Being surrounded by a language that isn’t your first, will do that to you! But it also leads to far too many interesting conversations, days and encounters. oh and lots and lots of frustration!!
For me it’s a lot of word play and constantly asking “What is that in French!” I’ve also taken to looking at a lot of kids books- which are ridiculously cute here! And a great way to pump up your vocabulary with fun pictures and easy sentences.
One thing I’ve asked is the similar phrase in French for- it’s raining cats and dogs! Well here in France, it rains not domesticated animals, but ropes!
iDBUS, a bus service here in Europe, reached out to me about posting this cute infographic!! Take a look- it certainly made me laugh! Now I just need to figure out how to say these in French and then pepper them into everyday conversations at really weird moments. :-D
I’m sure you have a translation story of two- share it on iDBUS’s Facebook page for a chance to win a trip to London!
Sweet ass! um- Don’t take that literally.
Say hello to my new owl!!
Since getting to Paris I’ve been dying to go to a flea market and scavenge!
Then I met Ian. Ian of The Baking Chin at school one day.
This is Ian- Hi Ian!! Making “Pain aux Raisins!”
I can confirm that he does have nice buns- raisin buns!! hahaha!
We soon started talking about bread baking (his specialty) and then dutch ovens and then to where said dutch ovens were bought- because as pastry students these conversations are completely normal and happen on a very regular basis.. want to talk about macaroons all dinner? onwards!!
At the mention of a dutch oven collection based on flea market buys I was super excited and immediately asked – when can we go!!
So we decided to meet at 9 at Porte de Vanves, the location of a medium sized flea market on Saturday.
At 8 I received a message from Ian letting me and Tina know he’d be late and if we could meet at 9:30 instead. Well sure! In my sleep daze I remember thinking, well this is odd (but, yay more sleep!), how did he already know he’d be late.. curious! But maybe that’s because I tend to message 10 minutes before I’m late, to tell the person I’m late…?
When Tina and I arrived we noticed a bag in Ian’s hand that contained…. two loaves of bread still warm from the oven!?! I knew we were meant to be friends! :-D
We went through row after row of antiques- munching on pieces of raisin bread! yumm!
I wish I had a house to decorate!!
I ended up with a new owl and a picture frame that I have big plans for. :-) Which will require a couple more flea market trips- ooo darn!
At the end of our trip Ian might have said,”Wait I need to cut you a piece of bread to take home!” And then proceeded to take a cutting board and a serrated knife from his backpack…
Only pastry students… hahaha
Oh and my cool new owl.. he’s a bit heavy. Maybe a paper weight in his former life? Maybe I’ll bring him to the Champ de Mars with me to hold down some papers- if i bring papers and if there’s some wind in the air. this will take some planning.