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Archive for July, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Friday already! I haven’t had chance to do anything at all this week as I’ve been busy busy trying to clear up at work before heading off to Corsica tomorrow!

A week of pure relaxtion, good food and being a true tourist awaits me and I cannot wait! It was nearly all ruined though as I only realised this pm that I had forgotten to hire a car… OOPS! Thankfully I was able to get one cheaper than before, I don’t think I would have dared show my face to Hubby if not.

So, I’ll see you all soon and will look forward to catching up with you upon my return! Be good :)

ps. I don’t know how many of you read the comments once you have posted, but just in case you don’t, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for all their support ref my last post.

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A lovely evening - View from the north - East Lyon region

Sometimes I wish I was more daring. That I would dare to say what I really thought and that I had the courage to stand up and defend myself. I recently wrote an article for Expat Focus and mentioned how I admired the French for standing up for themselves with regards to the Pension Reform. I wish I could do the same, but no, I am mousy me, an English girl that is too polite to rock the boat.

My desire to be more assertive was further increased last Saturday evening when we went to a Birthday dinner celebration at friends.

I’d met their other friends a year ago for the same occasion, so it wasn’t as if I was meeting new people (I am quite shy) so I was looking forward to the evening.

Quickly after arriving however, I realized that I was going to be in for a long, long evening as I remembered my evening of English bashing from the year before. “oh no”, I groaned, “what have I done?”. I longed to go home and to enjoy a nice glass of chilled Rose by the pool, but I thought of my friends who I simply adore, and I wasn’t going to abandon them as they’d moved the party date especially so that we could be there.

As the other guests arrived, they each took it in turn to remark that I am the English girl and that they hoped I spoke French. For goodness sake, they had met me a year ago and whilst I was greeting them couldn’t they tell from what I was saying to them I spoke French? It wasn’t promising that they couldn’t even understand their own bloody language was French and not English as they replied to me!

They hardly spoke to me all evening and any time I did try to speak to them they took the piss out of my accent and launched into private jokes amongst themselves. My friends were dismayed and kept apologizing, they were so embarrassed by their friends but I told them to leave it, it didn’t matter. I didn’t want to ruin their celebrations.

So, I attempted humoring the English insulting, ignorant French friends (thankfully not all French are like this, like not all English are mousy like me!) realizing the evening would be extremely long if I didn’t, after all, sometimes you have to make an effort to fit in as people can be uncomfortable with difference. It wasn’t worth the effort. Whilst trying to make conversation with them, my inner assertive voice was dying to scream out “Do not label me, you, you…French PERSON!” but my exterior mouse kept my assertive voice at bay and was more of an ally to them than to me.

As I served up the salad I’d made (Courgette Summer Salad – see recipe here), everyone looked at it suspiciously, muttering that they didn’t like English food, saying it was gross, would give them tummy ache, would make them retch, would be tasteless… So rude! Seething, I would have had steam coming from my nose and ears, but thankfully they were blocked with pollen allergies, I wanted to shout at them. I had not stood grating courgettes and making salad for an hour (I had made enough for 20 people) for them to instantly turn their noses up, like spoiled children, and declare they weren’t going to eat it without even having a taste first! Had I mistaken the evening for La Maternelle school?

So I betrayed myself and told them it was my Belle-Mere’s recipe. As soon as they were satisfied it was French they all tucked in and the compliments flowed. Instantly I regretted what I had said, this wasn’t her recipe, I didn’t know it and had only been inspired by it. I should not have been a traitor and I should have stood my ground and been assertive.

I was dreading dessert. I already knew that under normal circumstances that I was going to be the laughing stock, as I had made a ridiculous attempt at a Victoria Sponge birthday cake and had spotted that I was the only person who had brought something homemade with them.

Can you read what is written?

I had encountered every disaster in the kitchen; my cake wouldn’t rise, it then stuck to the tin and crumbled when I managed to release it and I’d not been able to buy double cream to go inside. I had covered the cake with choccy icing sugar and M&M’s to try and add some height and to cover the monstrosity but I was not kidding anyone.

As the birthday cake was served up, I had an instant pang of pride and the belittling comments of others had no further effect. This was my vengeance. Dry, crumbly cake with lots of chocolate – I hoped they choked on it.

4 Useful Suggestions to Frenchies who meet me from now on:

1. Do not assume that I don’t speak French, just because you don’t speak any other languages don’t automatically think that everyone else is as ignorant.
2. Do not make jokes about me in French. Because you are convinced I don’t speak French you don’t think I’ll understand you. But I do!
3. Do not take the p**s out of my foreign accent: this stems from points 1 & 2 but deserves it’s own point. By this time you’ve understood perfectly well what I’m saying but you still take the p**s because for you it’s amusing. Stop and think: I get this EVERY day!
4. Do not label: okay, I wasn’t born in France but I live here now. Aside from my foreignness I am a real human being, with hobbies, interests etc just like you. I am not an alien from another planet. You can communicate with me.

My tolerance bowl is full, so I strongly, strongly recommend that any Frenchies read the above and pay attention before they meet me. The next person to be so belittling will experience the full wrath of my inner voice. Even mousy me is determined to let it out!!

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Last weekend, whilst melting in extreme temperatures of 39 degrees, I ate a yummy courgette salad at my Beaux-Parents house. Unfortunately I didn’t think to get the recipe and finding myself with an abundance of courgettes today, I thought I’d try my hand at making my own version of it. Without knowing the original recipe I combined some of the ingredients that I’d remembered tasting along with some that I thought would taste nice; notably basil as I’d bought a huge bouquet of basil leaves for just 75 Cents!

Courgette & Feta Salad
Serves 4

Not very well presented but very tasty!


3 courgettes
2 spring onions
120 grams feta or brebis cheese, crumbled
Bunch of basil leaves
Black olives, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar

What to do:
1. Peel the courgettes as the skin can be quite bitter, not quite what you want in a salad!
2. Then grate the courgettes finely, like you would cheddar.
3. Finely slice the spring onions and add to the courgettes.
4. Finely slice the basil leaves and add to the courgettes.
5. Crumble the feta cheese and add.
6. Remove the stones and then finely slice the black olives adding as well.
7. Drizzle everything with olive oil, add a splash (or two!) of vinegar and then season to taste.

Et voila! A different type of salad which you can enjoy on its own (maybe with parma ham?) or as an accompaniment to a summer Barbeque. Bon appetit!

What you need to do

Jardinage Jeudi
Tonight I’m going to have a tomato and runner bean salad with some tomatoes from my garden! After months of waiting and anticipating, I’m finally getting a regular (if not small) crop. I’m only getting a handful at a time and as you can see they’re coming in all sizes. Who else is getting their tomatoes right now?

Tomatoes at last!

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One of the loving things about speaking a foreign language is the endless amusement that making a faux pas can provide.

I heard a fabulous language Faux Pas the other day and I have been chuckling ever since so I thought I would share it with you all here!

A business colleague of mine whose grasp of the French language is somewhat limited to ordering in French restaurants, wanted to congratulate an important French person on his achievements.

Extremely seriously, the English bloke held out his hand for a hand shake, grasped the French guys hand and said “Bien cuit Monsieur, Bien cuit”.

The solemn atmosphere soon descended into guffaws all around, as the French guy looked at the English bloke as if he was mad, obviously not understanding what Bien Cuit means for the average Brit. For those that were aware of what they’re asking for when they say Bien Cuit, there was no end of stifled giggles!

ps. Just in case you’re not a francophile, asking for your steak “Bien Cuit” in a French restaurant means asking it to be well done. In French however it means well cooked.

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With the intense heat of the last week and my crazy schedule it’s been a bit manic with not much time to blog!

Wedding Cruise

Last Tuesday I attended a wedding party of one of my first French friends I met when I was just 16 on one of the boats on the Saône river in Lyon. Despite living here for many years, a river cruise is something I had never done we were lucky that the day was so perfect for such an activity. The weather was just hot enough to spend the whole evening on deck, cruising along without feeling any chill whilst coiffing back champagne and enjoying delicately prepared nibbles from a well known traiteur (which I don’t know and need to find out!). I didn’t get chance to take too many photos as conversation was flowing and I hadn’t seen a lot of people on the boat for 10 years plus, but if you’re ever in Lyon it is definitely something I would recommend.

Then last Friday I dashed off on a last minute business trip to Paris on what was to be the hottest day of the week and the last day of school for Parisian kids. What a nightmare! The heat in Paris was so intense you literally melted, I thought things were tough in Lyon where it is often hotter than Paris, but mix in the Parisian pollution, tall buildings and that many people everywhere and the heat feels far more intense.

Whilst I was in Paris I was lucky enough to be able to meet up with Karin from An Alien Parisienne in a Starbucks close to Opera Garnier. It was great to meet Karin and it is a shame that she’s in Paris (or that I’m in Lyon) but I’m sure we’ll get other opportunities to meet up in the future. I’m sure Karin won’t mind but I’ve pinched one of the photos she took of us to share here (below).

Karin was excellent in guiding me from the tube to Starbucks and then she kindly accompanied me to my meeting as I didn’t have a clue where I was going (I’d forgotten to take any maps, duh!). It is only thanks to her that I know I have seen the Opera Garnier now, I have often wondered what the building was!

Another thing I have to thank Karin for is introducing me to Picasa for my photos – it’s great and I love it. Picasa is another reason why I have not blogged this week!

At the end after all my meetings, I was a melted, tomato sauce splattered wreck and wanted one thing and one thing only – to be back home. Alas, I was not going home tonight though, I was off to friends for a weekend! As I waited in the crowded Gare de Lyon with everyone who was going South, I started to wish for rain. This is most unlike me, but the heat was just so intense and with all the people standing waiting for their late trains it was extremely claustrophobic and I could barely breathe without touching other people as my lungs expanded. I ventured outside to try and get some fresh air before I fainted and was overjoyed to feel spots of rain on my bare arms. ‘Hurrah’ I though as I stood there embracing the rain. It was a short-lived sensation though, my train had been announced and the platform was the other side of the station – not an easy feat trying to cross Gare de Lyon during the peak traveling period like that! I have now made note never, ever to travel again by train during peak periods such as last day of school.

Saturday the hot weather persisted and I was unable to do much, but come Saturday evening I had a new lease of life and we enjoyed a boat trip with friends around Lac de Bourget near Aix-Les-Bains. Now, this is somewhere I would love to live if I ever left Lyon… I did get one of those free property magazines but I don’t dare open it and look just in case I see somewhere I really like the look of as I think I may just be tempted!

Lac du Bourget

Aix-Les-Bains is only an hour or so drive from Lyon and it is a fantastic thermal spa town sitting on the Lac de Bourget. We weren’t staying in Aix itself but in a nearby village at one end of the lake. I love being around water when it’s very hot and I can say that we definitely appreciated being on water Saturday evening and most of Sunday as temperatures soared past 34 degrees celsius.

Since returning from the lake, the hot weather has persisted in Lyon and yesterday I registered 36 degrees, so it’s now been officially declared that the canicule (heat wave alert) is persisting in Lyon and as I write this the temperature is increasing steadily and yet the sky is slowly being covered by large, grey menacing clouds. I think we’re going to be in for one heck of a storm later! I miss the fresh air from the lake and all I can inhale here are car fumes. I may just sneak a peek at that property magazine this weekend after all…

Where would you like to be during this heat wave?

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Are you my dinner?

Snails for dinner… No way, Yuck! If someone had told me once that I would like or even be able to manage to eat snails for dinner I would never have believed them until I’d actually come face to face with a plate of snails.

And yet, once I had mastered the art of delicately hoisting them out of the shell with the fork and bringing them up level with my mouth all whilst keeping my eyes firmly squeezed tight (you just don’t want to see their little antennae’s when putting it in your mouth) I actually quite like the things!

I think my liking of snails has more to do with the lovely, rich garlic and parsley butter sauce but even so. These are not words you would expect to hear from me as I’m quite fussy when it comes to food.

I’ve now been eating snails for 11 years and love tucking into them at Christmas and on other special occasions. My Belle-Mere buys them by the dozen for me, knowing that I’ll eat a few dozen on my own if left to my own devices. I still can’t quite believe it myself you know, me eat snails? Nah you must be joking I’d have thought.

Have you experienced anything similar where you thought you’d hate a food but actually loved it?

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At last! I have my first tomatoes! I ate my very first one yesterday, it was teeny tiny, but oh boy was it juicy and sweet. I hope the others hurry up, as I think my plants have got mildew again (any suggestions?) so I hope they all grow and ripen before the plants die…

Fire!
Last night, Hubby & I were relaxing in the garden and could smell what we thought was a BBQ. Immensely jealous we went in and tucked into a salad all the while wishing we were enjoying a BBQ too. A little while later, we heard sirens and then a hell of a cuffaful in the street. As I’m Mrs Nosey we went to investigate and were met by two bright red fire engines, firemen and water everywhere. The house opposite ours was on fire and the street was all cordoned off. Spectators were standing around gawping everywhere. I would have loved to get the camera out and take a few pictures to share here but it just didn’t seem right as the poor family were standing in the street full of despair.

Full of curiosity, I checked out the news this morning and learned that the fire had been caused by a chip pan. The poor people it makes me glad that I own an Actifry.

This is the second fire we’ve had here in six months. The last one was the house at the back of ours and I watched flames rise above our courtyard for an hour before they managed to put it out. That fire was caused by an electric radiator.

In both instances the houses were ruined and had to be completely renovated. Smoke detectors are quite rare in France and I don’t think either of homes had them installed. There seem to be a lot of fires here, two in six months is more than I have ever experienced in my life so far (fingers crossed I will not experience any more!). I really think that the government should campaign for people to install smoke detectors – it would be money well spent!

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