week in photographs

Week in Photographs : 3/21/2014

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This week has been pretty calm, all things considered. I've gotten back in the swing of school, patiently waiting until spring break comes along in a month, have been experimenting with different recipes -- some of which have been hits and some of which have been entirely disastrous. Do you know how difficult it is to cook without an oven? I've been going INSANE without one over here, but I feel like I'm finally learning how to use my two pots, one pan, and two burners to their full potential.

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On Tuesday our group of study abroad students visited a chateau, although I'm sad to say the name has escaped me and I never wrote it down anywhere. We got a tour of the underground refuge -- caves built into the limestone with rooms for animals, storing grains, and places for the royalty to sleep -- as opposed to going through the actual chateau which was quite an experience. It was also a bit frustrating being six feet tall and having to be perpetually hunched over because the ceilings were not built with someone of my height in mind.

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We also got to see the kitchen, which had tiles that were burnt black from all of the cooking that had been done there over the centuries, and the wine cellar -- which included this press which we were told had been used up until the 1980s!

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One of my favorite things about spring in France so far is how green everything is! There are also a great number of new-to-me plants and flowers over here, which makes wandering around quite the adventure.

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On Tuesday we also visited a mushroom museum, which was quite... interesting. We got a guided tour through the caves where various types of mushrooms are grown and learned a great deal about the process for each mushroom. There was also a shop where we could buy various forms of mushroom paraphernalia and I decided to be bold and try the mushroom beer. I'm sure there are some people who will love it, but the taste was just not for me.

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Yesterday was probably one of my favorite days this week because of a new tradition with one of my friends in the program -- Kebab Thursdays! Kebabs are super popular here, and extremely inexpensive which makes them perfect for a student budget. However, it's a different kind of kebab than you'll be thinking of (and actually, I got a three cheese panini yesterday instead of a kebab so I apologize for my photograph being misleading). In Europe a kebab is a sandwich made with lamb meat that's shaved and grilled and served with lettuce, onions, and other vegetables inside the bread. You also pick your sauce and depending on the place you go to, that sauce is either served on the side with your fries or is put inside the sandwich.

Week in Photographs: 1/24/14

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Even with two weeks in France under my belt, more homework than I would like and a test on Tuesday, a rapidly growing list of French vocabulary that means I can order food without uttering a word of English, I still feel like pinching myself to make sure that this is really my life. I'll be walking home from school, exploring new alleys in the winding cobblestone streets and everything will feel utterly surreal.

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The architecture and buildings that are over 600 years old less than 20 feet from buildings less than 50 years old, a lack of parking lots (which here are called car parks), and stands selling crêpes on every corner. I've been doing a heck of a lot of exploring, shopping (getting the necessities like a french press and a new handbag), eating, and school work since arriving in Angers. The weather here is incredibly reminiscent of Seattle for me, although the French dress very differently for the rain than the people of Seattle do.

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  This photograph was taken outside of Le Chateau d'Angers, and is "The End of the World." Another very strange thing here, compared to America, is that all of the street signs are affixed to buildings on the streets at a very high point, as opposed to being on a metal pole and easily read. Therefore I'm learning a more visual map of the city, but if you asked me what street anything was on I would have no answer.

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There was one day where a couple girls and I got incredibly lost while wandering around the city, and while we encountered gorgeous architecture (as pictured below), the stress of wandering around for an hour trying to get back to school before our class began was something I hope to never repeat. I'm perfectly happy to get lost after school, but not when there is a very tight deadline.

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  These were some houses we passed while lost, and it's incredibly interesting because across the street from these apartments were complexes built with absolutely no individuality whatsoever. While I do love modern design, there is something to be said for these traditional exteriors, that have so much personality in them.

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At the beginning of this week it was super foggy. This was the view from my room on the eighth floor of our apartment complex, and normally I can see for miles and miles from my window. The fog was beautiful, and added a mysterious and magical element to the thirty minute walk to school, but also made it much colder. And, you know, I was able to see the breath coming out of my mouth, which I think made it seem a bit colder than it actually might have been.

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I cannot thank the universe enough for all of the cooking knowledge I have from my dad, which is much more than I thought I had -- especially compared to some of the people in my group. Although I am very sad to not have an oven, or access to one, it has forced me to be a bit more creative with two pots, one pan, and two stove-top burners in my kitchenette. Pasta and potatoes have been my best friends these past two weeks, although I'm excited to go to the market tomorrow morning and get some produce and meat so I can have a bit more of a balanced diet.

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  I think one of my favorite things I've discovered so far is the fact that I can buy PINK TOILET PAPER. This is a pale pink, although I've seen neon pink and electric blue for sale at different groceries. Just the option of a colored toilet paper is so novel, and I feel like I'm a bit overexcited about this particular difference from France to America. But it does make my bathroom feel a bit more decadent.

The past two weeks on Instagram:

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The Week in Photographs: 1/10/14

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This week has been a bit more hectic, as I've been preparing like a madwoman to make sure I have absolutely everything ready and taken care of before I fly to Paris tomorrow. Thus, I did not document my week as well photographically. (Oops!) Nearly a week ago though, my dad and I went to The Tavern to watch the Arsenal and Tottenham game, and it was such a thrill to see Arsenal pull out another win in the tournament. The side we were sitting at looks empty, but most of the other people were either out of the frame or on the other side of the room, by the bar. These are the kimchi and blue cheese croissants I made for the Bon Voyage party on Sunday, before I cut them in half. Below is the rest of the food (minus the French Onion soup my dad made) that we cooked for the party, and looking at the photographs is making me so hungry! The other two kinds of croissants I made were ham, muenster, and mustard, and bacon and scallion cream cheese. All three of the croissants were SO GOOD, but I think I'd have to say that the kimchi and blue cheese ones were my favorite. But it was a very, very close race between the three.   My dad and I also collaborated on making macarons from scratch, and cream puffs with a caramel glaze from scratch. Having more experience with baking and pastries, I was more comfortable with these than the croissants, but it was a lot of fun to stretch myself. It was also very rewarding for my dad and I to tackle traditional foods we don't usually cook or bake and emerge victorious, although we did not feel victorious at the end of the first night we spent in the kitchen.

I hope all of you are having brilliant weeks!

The Week in Photographs : 1/3/14

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One of the new weekly features I'm starting on here on Spikes and Stardust in the new year is the week in photographs, where I recap the adventures and events of the week prior. One of my main motivations in starting this is to be able to let my friends and family know what I'm up to while I'm studying abroad in France! I've been doing a LOT of blog planning lately, sending a million and a half emails, and breaking in new pens. Some days you just have to do your planning in bed, you know?

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On New Year's Eve my parents, aunt and I picked out a few bottles of wine and got a bottle of champagne and enjoyed glasses while eating dinner, playing board games, and talking while waiting for midnight to come.

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For dinner my dad made fondue, which was DELICIOUS! It had been far too long since we'd had some. We had salami, chorizo, various kinds of cheeses, sliced bread, and an array of vegetables to dip into the cheese.

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Yesterday my friend Nezumi and I went to our favorite restaurant in Austin, Ramen Tatsu-Ya (& look for a post about it on Monday!). It was our last time going until I get back from France, so it was a bittersweet meal. But mostly? It was as delicious as it is every time we go. Which is enough that most of the staff knows who we are...

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Last but not least, my photos this week from Instagram: knitting a pair of mittens for my months abroad and the last bowl of ramen I'll have until June.

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