Friday, November 6, 2015

Flashes from our last stretch of France

Bonjour mes amours! It's been a long time, how the heck are you?! We moved from Nancy, France to Ghent, Belgium at the end of August. I'll talk about Ghent (slash Gent, which is the Dutch spelling) in the next post, but it felt incomplete not so share highlights (and a theater performance lowlight) from our last months in France.
To begin, here's one of the many magical sunsets we were blessed with at our Nancy apartment. 

For Joel's 28th birthday in April, we made party hats and made vin chaud (hot wine with apples, cinnamon, cloves, and other spices, along with a splash of whiskey. Too delicious to reserve just for winter!). Hence the purple mouths :) 

For most of Joel's life, he has enjoyed the same "3 P's" birthday meal: pizza, prawns, and pumpkin cheesecake pie (which is actually a pie with a layer of pumpkin and a layer of cheesecake. Amazing.). Usually his master chef mama makes it for him, but this year was my debut! Mama Patti was kind enough to send canned pumpkin and the recipe, and we did a homemade pizza. Joel was a happy birthday boy.

I took a theater class in order to learn French. At the end of the semester was a "Spectacle" aka variety show. I was cast, with my partner Bablu, to perform a monologue from "Cid de Corneille," which is kind of the Hamlet of France. Bablu and I are both incredibly goofy people, but for some reason the teacher insisted we perform this piece, which describes Don Diegue's grief at being an old soldier who has been mistreated by the count. 

To give you a sense of the mood, the first lines are, "O Rage! O Desespoir!" I was nervous for weeks about the performance. You know how people say the nerves leading up are worse than the actual event? In this case, people are wrong. To borrow a line from Jackie Childs, "This is the most public of my many humiliations."

We made friends! I met Teddy (left of Joel) and Kelsey (right of Joel) after starting a writing group in Nancy. In addition to being outstanding writers, Kelsey and Teddy are superb people with wonderful partners. We all enjoyed a decadent evening of lovely food and drinks (yes, those are bloody marys made by yours truly) in Kelsey and Marc's outrageously gorgeous garden. Among us we've got two Americans, two French, one Englishman, and one Kiwi.

Up the street from our place was the Maxéville Strawberry Festival, which consisted of a giant flea market, games and activities, strawberry foods & beers, and an entertainment stage. You can imagine my surprise after seeing a group of French women line-dancing to country music, many of them looking nervous in front of the crow. I actually teared up watching them because they were doing this weird, totally out of context activity that made them happy! That's what life's about eh?

In June I met my cousin Aliza in Paris for five exciting days. I arrived an evening early to....PERFORM STAND-UP! I felt like such a baller, especially because we got to split the donations that came in- 13 euros, what up! I was VERY nervous because I hadn't done it in so long, but I think it went okay. My lovely friend from college, Hannah, and her girlfriend came to lend support. AND I got to eat a bagel sandwich. Great night all around :)

Aliza and I wandered around confused with a map attached to my face. We braved June heat, language barriers, a quirky Air Bnb rental, and a dangerously early flight home with pastries and the power of cousin love. You know we're related because when I asked her what she wanted to do in Paris, she replied without hesitation, "Eat."

One of the most amazing Paris eateries (if not the hands-down best) is L'as Du Falaffel in La Marais (a district aka arrondissement). You stand in line, pay the man like €5,50, and get a falaffel that will make you want to say dirty things to it and yell at anyone who doesn't have a falaffel that they are a dumb idiot. It's. That. Good.

Sacre Coeur = breathtaking. The big walk uphill is made much better with an ice cream cone from down the block.

As a former (and eternal) theatre nerd who got way into the film's soundtrack, I've always wanted to visit. The building is actually quite anti-climactic to swing by; the real action happens when you buy a ticket to their show. But the sight of the windmill still made me giddy!

Another cross of the Paris bucket list: Shakespeare and Company has been around since 1951, and has transcended "Anglophone bookstore" and become a literary institution. They have a wonderful program where writers can come stay there (in tiny beds in the little rooms where visitors peruse books during the day), with the requirement that these "Tumbleweeds" read a book a day, help out around the store, and create a brief autobiography for the archives. 

In addition to a brilliant collection of books, a piano, and visitors sleeping amongst the literature, there are walls filled with notes and wisdom from visitors.

After spending 4th of July celebrating on our own, we were happy to share Bastille Day with all of France! In the morning we went to the ceremony in Nancy, where the father of the kids I babysat for knighted soldiers! Super rad. Then we joined him in a beautiful historic building to hear the mayor speak.

Fabulous fireworks in Nancy! They were set to a perfectly matched soundtrack. I teared up, danced, and felt the love. Viva la France.

Nancy has a fabulous park, Parc Pépinère, that has a little free zoo featuring monkeys, deer, and this dope ass white peacock!

Joel and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary on August 2nd. It was perfect. We completed an "Annual Love Contract," where we talked about what's working and what we appreciate about each other, as well as what could be improved. Then we created a plan our next year of marriage. Then we recommitted to our relationship, contract style. It's one of the best exercises we've done!

  You can get a free copy through Married With Luggage. The rest of the day was spent eating, drinking, and being merry at a waterfront park.

Later in August, Joel's daddy Mario came with his selfie stick to visit us for a week!
It was Mario's first (and possibly last, ha ha) time in Europe, so we lived it up with amazing gluten-free meals every night, and plenty of Mario's famous vacation coffee (coffee + Jim Beam Black + Baileys/Creamer). Me being a dessert freak, we splurged on this gluten-free lemon cake with various flavored chocolates. Mmmm.

We took a trip to beautiful Strasbourg, which we Segway scootered all around! Fun fact: blasphemy is still a crime in the Alsace region, you can get years of jail time. Woof.


Back in Nancy, something meteorologically magical happened and our whole eye-line was covered in orange! I've never seen anything like it. Thus we end where we began, with the view that reminded me on a daily basis what an incredibly rich and fortunate adventure we are on. 

So there you have it my fine friends, our last few months in France. We came, we ate, we saw, we tried to speak, we cursed bureaucracy, we fell in love with the culture, and we grew ourselves and our marriage. 
Au revoir Lady France, until we meet again.