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Provins

It was the first rainy day in my new apartment and despite a couple rain drops coming in through the open window above my bed, I didn’t want to get up. Didn’t even want to close the window. But, the thought of being homeless mid-September if I missed my RDV at 11:30 however might have jolted me awake. I had a meeting to see an apartment one boulevard off the Champs de Mars (the garden in front of the Eiffel) toward the middle of the garden. It happened by chance, I was looking at the Roommates in Paris FB group and someone posted about renting out their apartment for 6 months while they were in Beirut starting in September. Bingo! A very intense interview later and we set up a RDV! So I grabbed my umbrella and headed out in the rain.

Rainy Paris

The apartment was so cute! And bigger than I thought (never happens in Paris). The view … A small window but it looked right through the middle of a break in the street right into the park. Amazing! I’ll save pics of the apartment for September.

Then I was off to the train station- Gare de l’est to catch a train to Provins with Anna and Tina. The rain had let up so we were feeling pretty good about the trip.

No sooner did we step off the train and take two pictures, did it start to pour. Soaked to the bone and freezing pour! And the town? Well I’m always up for an adventure, but it didn’t look too exciting. And of course all of my research on the town had left me with my hungry belly!

Provins-1 Provins-2

We headed toward the middle of the city past some buildings that looked a little sad, and several restaurants that were closed and stopped at an express pasta place. Warm pasta (that wasn’t so good) and a little while later, it was still pouring. The store owner started to close up shop so we headed out, bought some stamps, turned a wrong direction, and somehow made our way up a hill where we saw some more tourists. Hmm…

Then the rain cleared up! Another turn toward a huge church and ah ha! This is where we were supposed to go!! A turn at an amazing tower and we kept walking and bumped into the cutest little square.

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Provins as I was now remembering has two parts, the lower village, and upper village. The lower village in the center was rather cute with a Hotel d’Ville decked out in flowers and a couple cute restaurants, but the upper village is the place to be. The town is a UNESCO site and an amazingly preserved site of Medieval France.  You can see and walk (!) on the walls surrounding most of the upper village.

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After getting a coffee and dessert at a cute little café and hitting up way too many shops that’s where we headed to finish our quick trip.

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The town is also known for their Medieval Festival, medieval themed shows, and roses! Rose products were everywhere from tea to chocolate to soap to creams and syrups.

Provins Anna    Provins-14   Provins-Molly   Provins-21

It ended up being an awesome day trip. Give girls great shopping, a cute café, and some beautiful views and we’re set! We’re hoping to go back in a couple of weeks for the Medieval Fair!

Practical Info: Catch a SNCF train from Gare de l’Est in Paris. Trains leave every 30mins to an hour depending on the day. The trip is free with a Navigo pass if you’re traveling on the weekend or an inexpensive ticket from the automated machines. Check out the TV screens to find the number of the train platform for PROVINS. The train usually gets there just 10 minutes before departing so keep an eye on the screens for the platform number to pop up and head that way! Once you get to the town, head to the left across a bridge and follow the signs to the city centre, and then uphill to the upper village. Tourist information is located off the town square amongst lots of little boutiques.

Happy Travels!

18. August 2013 by Molly
Categories: France, paris, Paris Day Trip, Travel | 2 comments

Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies

Last weekend we had the fiesta of a lifetime! Even though I would have been happy drinking 5 margaritas, the enchiladas, dips, and nachos were a-mazing!!

French Nachos Enchiladas

For dessert I attempted to make something Dulce de Leche. Not knowing my area too too well I set out in the morning to amble around and hopefully find a big enough supermarche that would carry “confiture de lait.” I got sidetracked at the cutest kitchen store and picked up some cookie cutters. Score! And get this- I asked the checkout lady, in French, where the nearest supermarket was, and…. She understood me!!! Yessss!!! Oh wait- and even better, I understood the directions! Win!!

Dulce de Leche Cookies-Butter Dulce de Leche Cookies-Adding Water

The supermarket ended up being one of those itty bitty, run in for the essentials type. Darn! No Dulce de Leche. Tina ended up looking in two stores for me while she was out with no luck. So we decided we would just look when we got to Jessica’s town. And I would have never guessed, we walked into a super run down tiny store and low and behold- condensed milk! What!? (Adventures in Paris! The excitement of condensed milk. Hahaha) We could make our own dulce de leche!! Even better!

Turned out Dough Frisage Cutting out Cookies Unfilled Cookies

We got to Jessica’s and I looked up the instructions for how to do it and found an article with 5 methods. Thinking stovetop was best, we decided to do it a bit later after a margarita or two. No problem for four pastry chefs. pshhh

While the enchiladas were a cookin’ we got to it. Twenty minutes later of constant stirring and it was just starting to change color. More stirring and ah ha! Caramel color! Stop stop stop! Then we set it aside to dip the cookies in later.

Remelting Dulce de Leche

Later came after some salsa dancing and the dulce de leche was rock hard. Ok- reheat- no big deal… We put it on the stove and nothing happened. Waited a good 5 minutes and no change. Hmm It ended up taking a large quantity of milk, Kathrin’s superior stirring skills, and 20 more minutes for it to melt.

We dipped those suckers right away and darn were they good! Especially with the dulce de leche ice cream !! The remaining dulce de leche, a little more milk, and holy moly an amazing sauce! There were even some unmelted chunks in it making it even better!

Dipping Dulce De Leche Cookies

Dulce de Leche Cookies Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies

Moral of the story, do the can bain marie method if you’re using condensed milk or just buy dulce de leche. Haha

Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies

Adapted from Martha Stewarts Cookies

There are two methods below for making the dough. Not having a mixer, I’m having to make everything by hand! It’s kinda fun and not as hard as it sounds!

4 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar

1 ½ cups chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

½ cup water

Sanding sugar or sprinkles for decoration

Dulce de Leche

By Hand: Whisk together the flour and confectioners sugar. Add the butter and use your hands to incorporate it making a “give me the money” tip motion running the mixture through your fingers. The mixture should resemble course sand. Then, add the ½ cup water and mix together, not working the dough too much.

Turn the dough out onto a working surface. Using the base of your palm, push the dough across the surface, this further mixes together the dough. Do 1-2 times until everything comes together. Form into two flattened disks and refrigerate.

With a Food Processor: In the bowl, pulse together the flour and confectioners sugar. Add the cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand (about 20 seconds). With the machine running, pour in the water slowly just until the dough comes together (about 20 seconds). Form two flat disks and chill for 1 hour.

For both methods: Roll out chilled dough to 1/8-1/4 inch thickness and cut shapes out. I used a 1 inch cutter. Put on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle half with sanding sugar or sprinkles.

Bake about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Once cool, dip into dulce de leche and leave as is, or place another cookies on top!

Dulce de Leche From Scratch: empty 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk into the top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water. Cover and heat stirring every 10-15 minutes until a dark caramel color, about 5 hours.

11. August 2013 by Molly
Categories: baking tips, cookies, dulce de leche, paris, Paris Day Trip | 1 comment

A Mexican Fiesta Outside of Paris!

I first met Jessica through her Seven Layer Dip. We were at a massive picnic for Jenni’s birthday and I was late. Well I thought I was on time by French standards but with picnics you have to be on time! Or all the food is gone! From afar I heard the words “seven layer dip” and “salsa.” And my jaw dropped. Why hadn’t I gotten there earlier?!

I’d been searching for Mexican food in Paris and here it was the best most legitimate amazingness. A scraped up every last bit of the dip and promptly moved to sit next to Jessica.

And thus the Mexican Fiesta was planned!

Salsas

Last weekend we hopped on the RER and headed out of Paris to Jessica and Vincent’s apartment in Cachan. The best part- we were all on the same train and had no idea. Jenni was seriously one train car in front of me. Haha

After a we are lost planned stop at Picard for ice cream and a couple calls later, omg margaritas!!!!!!!!!!

I want to call these the best margaritas I’ve ever had in my life. I drank three and probably could have had another one or four.

Molly Margarita

Here’s the recipe:

Margarita Mix

3 cups water – warm

3 cups sugar

2 cups lime juice

2 cups lemon juice

Mix the sugar with water to dissolve the sugar. Then add the lime and lemon juice. Chill!

To mix the margarita, I use the following proportions:

2 parts margarita mix

1 part tequila

1 part cointreau

Margaritas Tina and Kathrin

And then there were the Tina’s French Nachos made with Raclette cheese and jarred jalapenos all the way from the States. yup they were delicious. We finished off two trays of those puppies!

Tinas Nachos

French Nachos Jenni and Vincent

A short break for salsa dancing in the living room while the enchiladas cooked with French salsa music by Manu Chao.

Salsa Dancing

And then… whoa. Food coma.

Serving Enchiladas Enchilada Sauce

Enchiladas2

For dessert, the Dulce de Leche Cookies I made and Dulce de Leche ice cream and a little Dulce de Leche sauce on top! I’ll put the recipe in another post. We had a little problem with the dulce de leche becoming rock solid. uh hum oops! But Kathrin managed to melt it after about 20 minutes. :-D

DulcedeLeche Cookies- Final Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies

These were so good! Like little shortbread cookies. And great with the ice cream!

I think I’m going to insist we make a Mexican Fiesta a very regular occurrence. :-)

05. August 2013 by Molly
Categories: cookies, France, paris | 3 comments

Mon Nouvelle Appartement

I feel at peace in my new apartment. Even though I’ll only be here for a month and a half I’m so glad that I was able to make it my own during that time.

AptKeys

It’s been a rush looking for the perfect place (14 visits in 2 weeks) but it was worth the wait. The apartment is just two streets over from the magnificent Madeline. I actually really disliked this church when I first visited Paris 6 years ago. The doors were beautiful but the inside lacked the clean renovations that were going on in other huge churches. The walls are black with age, so dark you can barely see the paintings. Only the main fresco above the altar is carefully restored. When my sister visited she asked if there had been a fire in the church because it looked like soot covered the walls.

The Madeline

I think that’s why I like the church now though. Very few tourists have it on their must see list. Unlike the Notre Dame, there aren’t massive posters and TV screens plastered along the perimeter. It’s a peaceful oasis if only for a little bit from the hustle and bustle of the area.

The apartment itself is up 6 flights of winding, brutal stairs. The type where you would get nervous if there wasn’t a handrail.

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When I first visited, I didn’t know what to expect. A couple of tiles were missing along the way and the wall was a bit scraped up.

AptWalkway

But I’ve learned that you can’t judge an apartment by its stairwell or door for that matter. What’s behind could be quite the gem. :-)

AptSlippers AptSpices AptBasket2 AptBooks

I love the apartment itself but I think my favorite thing is the view. I’ll stand by one of the five windows feeling the breeze and watching what is going on below.

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Oh and I love the full sized oven too. :-D

Moving in was an experience in itself. My amazing friends showed up at 9:20 in the morning took a look at my multiple suitcases and grabbed the biggest ones. Leaving me with a rolling bag and two smaller bags. Walking to the metro was a hoot- we got so many looks. Hahaha Luckily it was a straight shot on Line 8 to Madeline. A block walk and we were there facing a 6 story walk up in what was already 80 degree heat. Who steps in though to help? The construction guys that we met along the hike up! Each one kept taking a bag to where I was left with a small bag, Kathrin had just a backpack and Tina- no bags at all! Haha

When we thanked them they said- it was the Parisian way, no need for thanks. :-)

04. August 2013 by Molly
Categories: France, paris | 3 comments

Un Coup de Chance?

Last time we talked things were a bit hectic. I had a couple of days until the end of the month, had visited upwards of 10 apartments and still hadn’t found the one. Jerome of the mini house down a corridor between two apartment buildings emailed me back and unfortunately I was considering it. Don’t worry. I was convinced otherwise pretty easily. I just had to look at the picture of the place again. haha

Five days before I had to move out I had another rendezvous. Let’s call this number 12 because I’m starting to lose track. :-D This one was in prostitute land (Strasbourg/St.Denis area). It actually wasn’t as bad as the first apartment I visited in the area. We only saw sexy ladies reading conversation starter books by the metro which I could technically avoid. We got to the apartment right on time (Tina was coming along as my translator. :-D). I called the lady and we waited. I texted. I sent her an email. We waited.. for 20 minutes. Then decided to get a bagel at the cute bagel sandwich place down the street. Just as we were checking out a frantic call from the owner- I’m so sorry!! I was running late! Can you come now?!” Twenty minutes later we were at the apartment and I was in love. Give me an all white apartment with wood flooring and exposed beams and I’m done for.

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It looked even better than the picture. Here’s the thing though. I had to decide on the spot because she was leaving to move to Abu Dubai in a matter of hours. And unfortunately I was on the fence. She left for a couple minutes to give me time to think about it. The apartment was incredible-even the old man snoring across the courtyard was cute- but the prostitutes a couple streets away were giving me pause. I didn’t know if it would be safe walking home late at night. We decided to walk around and look at the area a bit more than come back and let her know. The landlady came back in and before we even had a chance to tell her we were still thinking, she said the guy before me took it. I’m still regretting not taking it today. :-/

Four days left and I was at school, majorly stressing, and thought, hmm let’s just see if they have any ideas. So I asked at the front desk and they actually had a person dedicated to helping students find housing. What?! And she was there, on a Saturday and I could go see her! Hopes high, I headed up the stairs and chatted with the lady. She first misunderstood me and thought I was looking for something in September, ha. When I said August, the conversation came to a standstill. August…. That’s in four days… hmmm A little thinking then! “Actually there’s a lady Madame C who has called every day for the past week.” A quick call and I had a rendezvous in 30 minutes at an apartment right down the street from where I currently lived. Bingo! Tina and I started walking over, hopes high! Was my search turning around?

As we got nearer to the address my excitement started to wane. A modern building…. Nooo! Yes this is ridiculous but I really wanted to stay in an old Parisian building. Up the elevator we went and wow, pleasant shock! A cute elderly lady met us, door wide open, huge smile on her face and the tour began. I would have my own room with a super comfy looking bed and desk. There were two Americans staying in the room to the right, she was in the room to the left. Hm. Nice shower/bathroom. Huge living room and kitchen that I would have access too. She would be gone August 1-23 and so would the other two Americans, so I would be alone. Hm.. The tour ended with a look at her cute grandkids including a 27 year old. Hmmm… I could stay as long or short as I wanted. Think about it she said and we headed out.

My options were slim. Very slim. House sit for an old lady, continue my search, and hope that once the end of the month came I had a place. Or microscopic mini house.

The next day I was just about talked into the retirement home and super depressed about it. Ya it was just for one month, might actually be really neat, but it was not at all what I was looking for.

Then I got an email- “Have you decided about the apartment?” oo which apartment was this! The one by the Madeline! Nice! The drawback- it was only available for a month and a half. So I would have to keep looking for an apartment starting mid-September. We set up a visit. I saw the place turned around and said yes in a matter of seconds!

I mean look at this view!!!!

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The next day I saw a post on Facebook. “I’m leaving to live in Beirut for 6 months and need to rent my place starting in September.” Pounce! The exact time frame I was looking for. It was just two boulevards from the Champ de Mars too!! In my price range and looked cute (a little dorm roomy but I could work with it).

I have a RDV on Sunday so fingers crossed that this hunt will soon be over!

02. August 2013 by Molly
Categories: France, paris | 3 comments

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