Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Ten Maddening Things About Leaving Paris

Our family likes to eat well and we like to cook and we like to save money. It is kind of a long story but we know a woman in Seattle who is orginally from France and her business is renting houses and apartments in France. This is our fourth time to France in the last ten years and each time she has managed to find us the perfect accommodations.

Our gorgeous apartment had three bedrooms and three bathrooms. One of the bedrooms had twin beds--perfect for Lucas and Kaley. And my Mom had her own room as did we. Though not cheap, it was less expensive than three hotel rooms. In addition, all four of our plane tickets including my Mom's were frequent flyer thanks to my husband's never ending travel. Most importantly, we had a fully stocked kitchen right down to the olive oil.

After Paris, it is hard to come back and be limited by convenience to my local grocery store. We'll have to go to Pike Place market to ease the transition.

1. The Bread! Oh, the French do bread. Everyday for lunch and dinner fresh baguettes and flutes and bread in every imaginable shape are on every street corner. I am always horrified at my local grocery store at all of the stale bread. I have been known to take the loaves of so-called French bread at my QFC and blatantly pound them on the shelves. Yep, I have done that and when it sounds like a hammer, it should be thrown to the sea gulls.

2. The Lettuce! At the little grocery store across the street from our apartment which was not even a market, I bought the most beautiful red lettuce for less than 1 Euro. It was a foot across, crisp, and looked like a giant rose. My Mom thought it was a cabbage. Before I tore it into pieces, I set it in the salad bowl and admired it. And it was flavorful. I can't even look at the wilty wimpy stuff at QFC after that.

3. The Pain au Chocolats! Every morning we'd get fresh croissants, brioche, and pains au chocolats at the nearest boulangerie and bring them back to the apartment.

4. The Moutarde (mustard)! I'm picky about mustard because we make our salad dressing out of mustard, olive oil, shallots, and vinegar. I spend $4 or $5 for a good dijon at QFC. But in Paris, I spent less than 2 Euros for fabulous moutarde. Kaley eats it right out of the jar.

5. The Crottin! I have been known to spend $10 for a cute little goat cheese at Pike Place. The cheaper goat cheese at Costco just doesn't quite make it for me. But in Paris, I bought the most darling twin pack of crottin for less than 3 Euros. Melted in your mouth and with the fresh baguette??!! My Mom wanted to bring it back. "No, Mom---not good in the suitcase--the smell--not good!"

6. The Tomatoes! Ok, so the tomatoes were said to be from Belgium but my Mom who is an expert tomato grower said they were as good as from her garden.

7. The Desserts! Wow! At Christmas time the windows are filled with the most beautiful desserts and cakes and Buches de Noel everywhere. Sometimes we'd buy a variety of little things to sample. For Christmas dinner, we bought a Buche de Noel. Another time, we bought a perfect looking fruit tarte with apricots, cherries, pear and apple. The crust was crisp, tender and flaky---not even a spot of sogginess. The thing is, they taste as wonderful as they look. At my QFC, I'll pick something that looks pretty and costs pretty, but when we get it home, it tastes like cardboard.

8. The Sandwiches! One day, we were shopping and ducked into a chain sandwich place kind of like our subway. But, they used fresh baguettes and the chicken was actual chicken breast and nothing pressed.

9. The Moules et Frites! (Mussels and fries) We are mussel experts being that they grow some of the best mussels on earth right over here on Whidbey Island BUT but...in Paris, when it is snowing and cold and lunch time, there is nothing better than stepping into a brasserie or cafe and ordering a steaming hot bowl of moules with a side of the best fries you've ever eaten.

10. The Boucheries! The greasy goose was finger licking fantastic even if he did cost us our camera. And even if the butcher made fun of Lucas when he asked him to cut off the head and even if my Mom had to clean it. Also, at a boucherie near our apartment, we bought the most beautiful steaks freshly cut exactly to our specifications--- with no plastic wrap or styrofoam containers to taint the flavor.

Notice I said nothing about the wine. Ok, France, cover your ears but even though your wine is incredibly inexpensive, California and Washington do just as well if not better when it comes to red. Sorry, but it is true.

And finally, it was only one rich meal at the end that upset our systems and caused us to crave steaming hot bowls of Asian noodles. Now, I think it wasn't the food but a bug of some sort because Kaley, then Dave, then Lucas all had similar symptoms with Lucas and Dave having fevers.

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