Sunday, September 18, 2011

Crêpes, Présidente and other such Frenchy things

It's Sunday morning, I'm full of pancakes and wishing I didn't have to do homework and go to school tomorrow. It's okay though because I had an awesome weekend.
On Friday, Gabe, Guillaume, Thomas (a French friend) and I went to a kebab restaurant for lunch. Unfortunately, I was forced to eat the school lunch before (the secretary decided that there weren't enough people in the cantine and forced me and my friends to go eat now instead of waiting for our other friends) so I didn't get a kebab but I ate plenty of Gabe's so it's okay. It's good to know where it is now, though, so I can go grab a kebab when I have double lunch (a free block right before or after). The less enjoyable part of the day was right afterwards, when I went to my class, or what I thought was my class, but it turned out I had a free block. It took five minutes for the teacher to explain to me that I didn't need to be here and this was after class had already started so I had to pack up my bag and walk out in front of the whole class. It was pretty embarrassing and I probably looked like a very stupid American but, c'est la vie!  In other news, I have been made honorary shuffler in the foyer. Let me explain this better.... A long time ago (my first day of school) I had a free block and was wandering around, being lost when the only friend I had (at the time) found me. He introduced me to his other friends (who are now my other friends) and they taught me a game called Présidente. It's a local French card game where the point of the game, like almost every other one, is to get rid of your cards. The only problem was there are a lo of other rules and stuff you need to know to play so during the past two weeks at school, I've been learning the game and progressively getting better. Then, the other day, I noticed that all the French kids seem to suck at shuffling so I said "Donné-moi" and did the shuffling thing where you split the deck and lift the corners and let them go and it get's mixed really well. Anyway, the French kids were amazed. Apparently nobody shuffles like that, besides at casinos, so I am now official shuffler of the deck whenever I play Présidente with my friends in a free block of after lunch or whatever.
Friday night was also my cousin's (or rather, my family's cousin's) 4th birthday. He has two sister and a brother and they come over here for dinner fairly regularly. This time we went over to their house which is on a tiny island in the middle of the Loire river. The island is known for it's floods, because every winter the Loire swells massively and all the streets on the island get flooded. When we were driving to the party we passed a board next to church that had different lines on it from where the flood had reached, as well as the height of the water, the date and a picture. I was really sorry I didn't have my camera because there were some hilarious pictures of people rowing through the streets in canoes and rowboats. Anyway, so we got to the house of the cousin's (my host mom's sister's family) and it was amazing! It's a very traditional French house but slightly renovated. The put a second floor in the main building, which I guess was just one big room before, by they kept the walls and windows the same so everything made of big stones surrounded by white mortar: it's really French! Then on the second floor, they have big glass circles in the floor that look down into the first floor and you can't walk over it because it could break, but they're really cool. There was a massive fireplace, so big I could stand in it without ducking my head. There was also this really old-school roulette game, with the part that spins around and you drop the balls in it, but it was obviously from at least 50 years ago. There were also these collections of glass bottles from a long time ago and they were in all sorts of weird shapes: the whole house was like that, filled with little things from a traditional French house. Anyway, since it was Gabriel's birthday, his grandparents (Laurence' parents) were there too. Gabriel's mom had made tons of little delicious appetizers and I actually wrote them down so I could mention them.
Homemade guacamole and baked tortilla chips.
Prunes from her garden wrapped in smoked bacon.
Puff pastries filled with cheese and speck (European ham).
Sweetbread filed with cheese and ham also (but very different).
Baguette slices, oven-toasted topped with piece of blue cheese, goat cheese and all sorts of Camemberts and other village-made cheeses.
Steamed mussels from the river, filled with a parsley-butter sauce.
And of course, the whole time bottles of real French red wine were being passed around. It was awesome! And then for dessert, the grand-parents brought all these little pastries and cakes from a pâtisserie in Angers. I had a 3-chocolate tart, a puff pastry filled with sweet vanilla cream (which is a specialty of the region, I forget what it's called), strawberry and raspberry fruit tarts and a mini tiramisu. There were also little macarones which look like little multi-colored hamburgers but they're made of chocolate and other stuff. We get them a lot in Switzerland too. Then after all those desserts, there was an amazing tarte de pomme from the mom (from her garden, also) as well as waffles with powdered sugar, which I guess is a pretty common French dessert food.
Yesterday, Guillaume and I signed up for tennis! I'm excited to get back to playing tennis because I miss having a sport but now we can go play whenever we want at the indoor courts 5 minutes walk away and starting in a couple weeks we'll be having lessons on Wednesdays after school. The crazy thing about French sports, however, is that they're all done in private clubs. There are no school sports so everything is really expensive but I guess for them that's normal: I'm just used to playing for free after school with half my classmates. After we signed up, we went into Angers for a bit of shopping (I got on of those nicer pullover long-sleeve sweater shirt things that all the French kids wear so I feel more normal now, yay!) and then went balk home for lunch. After that we went to a manor because this weekend is some kind of national historic monuments weekend, so all the castles and monuments are gratuite and open to the public. Anyway, we went to this manor, which actually belongs to the godfather of Gabriel, the now 4 year-old cousin. It was this massive French manor is the countryside, yes just like the movies, that had just been renovated to it's traditional glory so it had this awesome hedge garden (which reminded me of the maze in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), rose gardens and barns, as well as it's own private chapel. We saw a movie about the renovation and the man of the manor (the godfather!) talked about it. Afterwards, we got a private tour from him because he wanted to say hi to his godson. It was pretty cool and I got tons of pictures which I'll post later when I have more time.
Other notes: I moved into my own room earlier this week (before I was in Guillaume and Aurelien's room) and it's nice having my own space and bathroom. But I still use the desk in their room for homework and hang out there with Guillaume so it's not like I'm just shutting myself up in my own room all day. Although it wouldn't be bad, because it's a really cool room. It's in the older section of the house so the wall behind my bed and the walls of my little bathroom are all stone. My room also has a really high ceiling (perfect for the awesome clock I was loaned which has a little flashlight that projects a digital readout of the time onto the ceiling above my bed) and a window with an awesome view over the garden, the street and out onto the Louette rivierre. The window has those traditional slatted wooden shades that every morning and night you pull open and close so in the mornings I get up and throw them open and imagine I'm in a fairy tale or whatever. No, but seriously, it's an awesome room. It will be more awesome, though, when we move a bureau in so I can take my clothes out of my luggage and throw them in there instead of all over the floor!
Also, this morning I finally got up early enough to make pancakes for my family! It was... interesting. First I had to do all the conversion for the cups of milk and flour into grams and liters. Then I had to use crepe pans because they didn't have a griddle that was good for pancakes. Of course, the first one I made was accidentally giant so when I flipped it, it landed only half in the pan and send pancake mix and partially cooked pancake flying all over the stove and the wall. It was fine though, and I ended up finishing off the entire pancake mix because they were so well-received with my family. It was awesome to have pancakes again, such a Maine breakfast comfort food, with Maine maple syrup and everything. I also promised my family that I would make them an American breakfast of eggs and bacon because, as I explained, I'm better at that and it's hard to flip eggs all over the wall. Although, if I may say so myself, those pancakes were damn good!
Well, that all for now folks! Later today I'm hanging out with some friends and then going to another castle (after I finish my mountain of homework!) so hopefully I'll get some pictures up in the next couple days, but no promises!

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