Saturday, March 21, 2009

21-03-2009 (Week 10) - Vias

Ok, so this weekend I stayed in town....but just for saturday morning. I worked on Saturday morning before heading down to a little town called Vias Plage for a Saturday night/Sunday morning weeknd.

I went down with my firsbee friend Jean-Gael to his parents mobile home near the beach. After getting there, we played a little Petanque and scoped out the beach before finding out we were eating dinner at his parents friends place. So here we go, first EVER real home cooked french meal. And if you ever have a chance to do this, don't hesitate, and say yes!

The dinner started off with some 'apperitifs,' or before dinner drinks. Followed by some 'entrees,' or appetizers. Sounds normal, right? Let me tell you a little more. The apperitifs were drinks, as you might expect, however, what you might not expect is that the drinks were all homemade. I'm talking boiling some plant with sucre at 90 degrees C home made.

by the way home made is 'fait maison' en francais and that was the theme for the night. The entrees consisted of about 10 different plates of stuff that I can't fully remember, but I do remember the fait maison sauces being excellent.

After a very leasurly start to the meal we moved from the hearth area to the kitchen table, were we sat a talked a little longer while the main dish, Fondue, was being prepared. The meat consisted of 'viande' (turkey) and 'boeuf' (cow). It was all very good. However, you had to be careful when preparing the boeuf because you should only set it in the pot for a few seconds, otherwise your meat won't be 'saignon,' or rare. Also, unlike the united states, there wasn't a separate plate for the raw and cooked meats. This is France baby, and you have to have a good immune system.

Once the flame burnt out from under the fondue pot all the meat was temporarily taken away. I was a little shocked considering how much there was left, but again, this was my first real home made French meal. Well, the key word here is temporarily, because it would come back. We were just taking a break in the middle of our meal typically known as a 'Trou Normand.' This trou normand basically consisted of us drinking a VERY strong glass of alcohol (again home made) with a scoop of sherbert in it. The first drink took me back quite a bit, but after the next, and the next, it started to grow on me. The trou normand is suppose to help you digest your food, so that during the second half of the meal, you can eat more. ;)

After the main course ended about 7 different types of cheeses were brought out. Some pasteurized, some unpasteurized. I tried all of them, and some of them were ok, and some of them gave me bad breath for 2 weeks. I'm still glad I tried them though. A delicious cake dessert was brought out afterwards followed by the 'digestif,' or the after dinner drink. Or in my case, drinks, considering they figured out I was willing to try everything and they had so many different home made liquors.

We chatted some more at the end of the meal and eventually we said our goodbyes. What a wonderful experience this was for me. It was one that I will never forget. and oh yeah, I forgot to mention that my friends parents and their friends don't speak english, so you could say I polished up on my French a little bit during the weekend.

Sunday we got up and hit the Mediterranean for a little water skiing followed by some frisbee on the beach (see video). All in all, A+ weekend, and a great cultural experience. I would like to publicly thank J-G's parents for letting me stay at their house, and their friends for their wonderful hospitality.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

14-03-2009 (Week 9) - Dublin

Dublin is the trip where a bunch of our Wichita friends came out to Europe to visit us. Since Toulouse doesn't have a ton going on and this was the weekend before St. Patrick's B-day, we figured it'd be a good place to meet.
Those on the trip included:

(From Wichita) - Barry, Dianne, Dan, Ashley, Tia, Jessica, Nick, Jenna
(From France) - Justin, Brian, Jeff, Ticknor, myself

The four of us got into town on a Thursday night (the Wichitans were arriving the following morning). We didn't want to waste a night in Dublin, so we thought we'd just scope out the bar scene to know what was good, where to go, etc. Well, as it turns out the 'scoping out' lasted until 4 am. We headed to the Temple bar district and went to none other than the Temple Bar for some very fresh Guinness. Needless to say, when Jeff and I got up around 7am to go pick everyone up at the airport, we were a little tired.

After getting eveyrone into our hostel (Jacob's Inn), we headed out to view the city. On a side note, the hostel was the worst I've stayed in during all my trips in Europe. It was under construction, and there was no hot water (except in the basement). and for that, I apologize to everyone who came from Wichita. But it was cheap, and you can't argue with that. AND it had a beer vending machine...booyah!

On Friday we spent the day exploring the city which included stops at Trinity to see the book of Kells, and the Guinness tour which included pouring the perfect pint. After a full day of walking and site seeing, everyone was pretty tired (especially those experiencing jet lag). So the majority of us went to bed. The minority of us (Brian, Ticknor, Justin, and myself) stopped into a traditional irish pub for some traditional irish car bombs and traditional irish music. A well spent night out indeed.

Sunday we had a planned tour across the country of Ireland. We took a train from Dublin across the country to varying places such as the Cliffs of Moher, Burren, and Galway Bay. We also stopped at a castle called Bunratty Castle. The sights were magnificient, and pictures nor video can do it justice.

When we got back Saturday night we all proceeded to go out where I dominated Jenna in the game of 'who could stay up later.' We also ate dinner at a steak n shake wannabe restaurant that was so good, there were people licking the windows outside of where we were eating....

Sunday we got up a visited St. Patrick's cathedral before the French boys had to head back. The others got to stay for actual St. Patrick's day, which I'm very jealous of. But I won't complain too much about that...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

07-03-2009 (Week 8) - Portugal

This trip, so far, has been my favorite trip in Europe on my current stay in France...

We landed in Lisbon, Portugal on Friday night. After Brian and Schlotty searched the internet for what seemed like hours, we finally decided to head out. The first place we hit up was a small diner. Talk about a true Portuguese experience, we were definitely the only foreigners in the place. And we didn't even order from the menu, we just all pointed to another table and got the same thing they were having...along with a super bach, of course.

The bars there are pretty small. Small in the fact that there's just enough room to go in, get your drink, and then head back out into the street to drink it. It makes for a great social atmosphere. We trouced around the downtown area for awhile until we got tired and strolled back to the hostel. In our stroll back, however, and basically everywhere we walked in Lisbon, we were offered either weed, hash, cocaine, or sunglasses. ok, mostly hash, but still the sunglass people were annoying too. And these drug dealers weren't ashamed of their goods either. They just held out their hand, showed you what they had to offer, and started asking you if you wanted it. We were even asked at while we were sitting down for breakfast on Sunday morning...

Saturday we got up and headed to a small town near Lisbon called Sintra. We were told this is a can't miss opportunity. And we were told correctly. There were lots of places to explore, including some type of fortress/labrynth that required flashlights in some places. After trespassing where we shouldn't have (by scaling a cement wall) and playing some faux tennis, we decided to check out cabo de roca. This is the western most point in continental europe. So I can tell you with absolute certainty for several minutes on March 7th I was the western most person in all of continental Europe.

Saturday night after returning to our hostel, we had planned on taking a 20 minute nap, and then heading out to the clubs. We feel asleep around 8:30, and I remember waking up and asking Schlotty if he was gonna get up and go to the club with me (but it turns out that was around 2:30 a.m.), so it turns out we took Schlotty's philosophy of "if you're going to be a bear, be a grizzly" to heart and took 12 hour naps, thus waking up at 9 a.m. the next day.

On Sunday we headed out to see some more of the Lisbon sights. On a train ride out we met some very nice Americans (Alex and Amanda) and spent the day with them eating remarkably good pastries, playing tag on the beach, and seeing some of the sights of Lisbon. After finishing off our seafood meal right off the beach, we started to head back.

The trip back was more of an adventure than anticipated. Schlotty almost got kicked off a train. If it wasn't for his smooth talking, he never would've made it. And Brian almost wasn't let into France because he doesn't have his visa yet...We ended up making it to the plane 5 or ten minutes before boarding. Not too shabby. I guess you could say we were just getting our money's worth in Portugal...

Monday, March 2, 2009

01-03-2009 (Week 7) - Andorra

This weekend was only a one day ski trip. However, it was a one day trip to another country. Who drives to one country just for one night and then makes the drive back the next day??? People who live close to borders, duh.

For those of you who don't know (and I didn't know until I moved to Toulouse), Andorra is a very small country between France and Spain. Here, it's most well known for its tax-free status. People here at work with me travel there to buy cigarettes (like 2 euro cheaper a pack), mountain dew, and liquor. It's like visiting a state with no sales tax, except bigger discounts cuz the tax over here is 20%.

Friday night I went to ultimate practice. Ultimate is turning out to be super awesome. Good group of people where I really get to practice my French. And they are very understanding. Saturday I slept in a little bit and then went to work (boring). After that the real trip began. Jeff, Aaron, Brian, and I made the 2 hour treck out to Andorra. We we're going to meet up with Doherty, Schlotterbeck, and Slattery. We booked a room outside the town they were staying but decided mid route just to crash with them. They had a bunch of extra beds and we'd save money right? WRONG! Even though we cancelled our hotel and they told us they wouldn't charge us, they still did, and I've called and emailed numerous times and basically their excuse is that the employee who told us that was an idiot. So we paid for two places in one night. mais, c'est la vie, n'est-ce pas?

Saturday night was possibly the biggest filled shannanigan night of my entire stay in Europe thus far. I couldn't even begin to describe it. Luckily for my faithful viewers, I got most of it on tape. I will say that profanity was used. I've done my best to keep it to a minimum, but I must warn you none-the-less. I must also warn you that this footage is embarassing not only to me, but to several others as well. However, what kind of blogger would I be if I left out the good stuff?

Sunday we finally hit the slopes. We hit our first lift at about noon. And the resort was HUGE. I've been to Colorado several times to ski, so I have something to compare it to. This was definitely a big resort. Multiple mountains and something like 60 lifts. I skied instead of snowboarding this time and it was definitely the right choice. After my first run down I was back in the swing of things...I skied all day with Slattery and Schlotterbeck. Slattery is a good snowboarded and Schlotty is new skier, but did very well for himself considering some of the runs we took him on.

Unfortunately I was too scared to bring my video camera along. I didn't want it to get crushed or there's no skiing footage except some via Slattery's camera. The skiing was very cool and I'd like to go back one more time before the slopes close...we'll see.

After a full day of skiing, there wasn't even enough time for me to go shopping, so we drove back Sunday night...where Jeff had the biggest craving I've ever seen for McDonalds...