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Bon Appetit et Au Revoir

By Hannah

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Tart with Mirabelle Fruit

Tart with Mirabelle Fruit

We spent this morning going through our bags and finding things that we could either throw out or give away to the Poirots. It seems impossible that I will be able to fit everything into my bag. Abby, however, appeared to have no trouble with hers. Perhaps I just have more souvenirs.

Once more, we took full advantage of the Poirot's abundant hospitality and accepted their invitation to spend another afternoon with them. For lunch, we were served a wonderful French meal, which I will describe in so much detail you will wonder if it is not instead my father who is writing this blog. We began with the pinnacle of French delicacies: foie gras. Unfortunately, I have to say that I have no real fondness for it. Everyone else enjoyed it, though, Nicolas especially. We spread it onto little round toasts, and even though I wasn't particularly partial to it, I have to say that I felt exponentially more French while eating it, as well as a little posh. Our main course was a Provencal salad made with couscous, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, corn, mint, and raisins. I'll have to ask Myriam for the vinaigrette recipe, as we're definitely making it when we get home.

We had the same broad selection of apres-dejeuner cheeses, and this time Abby and I decided to try the strong, unpasteurised Roquefort. If you've never had the pleasure of trying it, allow me to give you a brief description of the process. First, the moldy cheese touches your tongue. It's soft, so you press the cheese to the roof of your mouth and let it spread out. Hmm. You can almost see why people like it. And then the full impact of the flavour hits you, and the smell fills your nostrils, and the putridity is overwhelming. You can feel the slight crunch of the mold, which is almost enough to make you stop trying to eat it altogether, but you know you must persevere if this foul creation is ever to leave your mouth. Finally, the worst is over. But the rotten aftertaste lingers a few moments more, and you must down a glass or two of water to completely rid yourself of the fromage d'enfer.

Dad said he quite liked it, though.

Myriam made two delicious French desserts for us, tarte aux mirabelles and soufflé a la rhubarbe. Mirabelles are small yellow plums, and are a specialty of the Lorraine region of France. Jean Pierre-Coffe, a famous French chef and food critic, once said, "Happiness exists and I've met it. It weighs 14.3 grams and it comes from Lorraine." When I was living in Nancy, I saw jam, juice, alcohol, and desserts all made from mirabelles. I also had the chance to make a rhubarb soufflé alongside Myriam when I was here, and found it just as lovely today as I had a year ago. Abby, however, was positively delighted with it. I might have to get this recipe as well.

Happy French Bowlers

Happy French Bowlers

After lunch, we played cheat (or "tricher" en français) and spoons, except we changed the name to bouchons (corks) and used those instead. These proved trickier to grab, and the corks would fly off the table as everyone lunged at once. Turns out the Poirots are just as competitive as the Konings. Most of them, anyways. Myriam taught us a French saying, "pour le beurre" (for the butter), which means "for nothing." But none of us were very content with playing "pour le beurre", so the frenzied snatching continued.

We wound up the visit with a couple games of bowling, the adults and the kids playing separately. There was a bit of confusion when it came to shoes, as we weren't very adept at converting North American sizes to European ones, but we finally figured it out. At our lane, Nicolas won the first game, and I won the second. Thierry proved to be the best bowler on the adult lane, winning both games with scores over a hundred. Dad came in second each time. C'est dommage.

We said our goodbyes and took a couple family photos, and there were hugs and les bises all around. It was fantastic seeing my French family again, and I loved introducing them to my Canadian family. They are incredible hosts and amazing people. Ce n'est pas un adieu, mais un au revoir!

To finish off our stay in Nancy, we made a final trek to Place Stanislas in order to see the light show we'd missed earlier. It proved to be spectacular, and had an interesting plot as well as breathtaking animation. The best bits where when the Hotel de Ville was built before our eyes, whether by tiny blue men in a videogame-like sequence or with strips of light slowly creeping over the arcs and lines of the building. Yeah, these descriptions don't really do it justice. But believe me, it was beautiful. Be sure to see it next time you're in Nancy.

Our final road trip is tomorrow. Wow.

Posted by KZFamily 12:03 Archived in France Tagged food france au bowling goodbye nancy ludres revoir Comments (3)

French Hospitality

BY MURIEL

rain 26 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Another Great French Meal with the Poirots

Another Great French Meal with the Poirots

Our French friends have been so encouraging with having us visit that they insisted we come for another lunch, casual though it would be. We started the visit with ‘aperitifs’ of drinks, chips and salsa, crab sticks and little toasts with lump fish eggs. When I saw the little rounds piled with small black eggs, I wondered if it was caviar. They said no but I was impressed that I could identify them at least as fish eggs. Most of us had not tried this before; we found it interesting but quite salty and fishy. After an hour of eating and chatting, we moved to the table to have the actual lunch, consisting of salads and more wonderfully seasoned vegetables, duck, turkey, beef, chicken, prawns and salmon cooked again on the plancha (the small table barbeque). Add to that French bread and rhubarb wine and it was another culinary coup by Myriam and Thierry. Another hour and half passed around the table. When asked if we would like some cheese, we said ‘a little’ would be nice. They proceeded to bring out different kinds of cheeses ranging from mild, soft sheep cheese to Munster and sweet Roquefort. Also included were a soft Brie/Camembert cross, three goat cheeses (one plain, another smoked and the third with herbs and chives), and a hard cheese similar to a strong Emmental. We somehow made do with only the eight varieties and slowly worked our way through them from mild to strong. Of course, there was now white wine and more French bread as well. After the cheese course came the dessert: fresh fruit salad and ice cream. By the time we rose from the table, we had been eating and conversing for four hours. Do the French ever know how to entertain! It felt like a real occasion.

A day is not complete if the main meal of the day does not include Fromage!

A day is not complete if the main meal of the day does not include Fromage!

To release some of the energy we consumed, we played rousing games of cards which, surprisingly, got a bit physical. Some people commented on my competitiveness – I honestly didn’t know it was that obvious. We were then invited to try our hand at French Trivial Pursuit. Even though we played with the “kids’ questions,” it was still challenging as it concentrated a lot on European personages and history. Throughout the activities, Ben and I would try some of our French, just to try to keep up with Thierry’s more-than-valiant efforts at English. He said he hadn’t spoken it for years and we were in the same boat, dredging up our high school learning. Most of those brain cells are gone by now. That said, Ben and I spoke more French in these three days with Marine’s family than in our entire Grade 11 course. Additionally, hand gestures and tone convey a lot of meaning.
And soon, a mere four hours later, it was time to eat again. Somehow, the chocolate we ate during the game and the kilos of food we had eaten prior did not dissuade any of us so we feasted on a large pot of spaghetti carbonara made with rich cream and lardons, a French version of bacon. And more wine, of course. The evening concluded with us watching the movie “Time Out” in French with English subtitles. It was a day where, despite no formal sightseeing, we felt as if we had experienced more of French culture and lifestyle than we had during our whole time in Paris.

Posted by KZFamily 01:16 Archived in France Tagged food france ludres Comments (2)

Meeting Hannah's French Family

BY ABBY

sunny 31 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Poirot and KZFamily in Nancy

Poirot and KZFamily in Nancy

We had scheduled our visit with Hannah’s French family as our last destination so that we could finish off with an experience that we knew everyone would love and look forward to. And today that day had finally come. We set off at eleven o’clock, hoping to arrive at their house by eleven thirty with some flowers along with us. On the way to their house Hannah kept pointing out things she noticed like “those flowers weren’t in bloom when I was here”, and, “this is where I bought my new camera.” It was strange to think of this being Hannah’s home for three months, as I had never had much to visualize when I thought about it. We were all excited, and a few of us a little nervous about meeting the family, but when we got there we knew that we had nothing to worry about. It was so nice to see Marine again, as it had been two years since we met her, and Hannah said it was really great to visit the rest of the family as well. The parents, Thierry and Myriam, are both very friendly and outgoing. They both speak a fair bit of English, and it was more than enough to keep a conversation going. Marine and her brother, Nicholas (Nico), both have excellent English and were able to translate anything we needed.

When we came inside we were greeted with two kisses from all four of them before we were ushered into their home. We had a little snack on chips, salsa, guacamole and some drinks while we talked and caught up on many things. It was over 30 degrees outside, and we all agreed that it was too hot to do any sightseeing until it had cooled down later in the day. We ate lunch on their outside patio under a large umbrella, and were treated to a style of barbeque we’d never seen before. In the middle of the table they had set up a portable barbeque with a flat grilling surface, on which we were able to cook meat and vegetables. There was much more than enough for all of us and we didn’t even get to the salmon and prawns waiting for us in the fridge. We were all getting quite hot in the midday sun so we headed inside for our dessert of fruit and ice cream. We spent the majority of the afternoon talking, and the four of us kids went upstairs to play Wizard, a game we had given Marine after she had fallen in love with it in Canada.

Place Stanislas

Place Stanislas

After it had cooled down, at around seven, we went out into Nancy for a walk around town. We went to a little zoo, not much bigger than our petting zoo in Beacon Hill Park, and looked around at the animals. They treated us to yet another ice cream before we walked down into nearby Stanislas Square for dinner.

Our food was very tasty, and we were able to try some food from the area such as Quiche Lorraine and fois gras (and yes we know how this is made so there is no need to give us a lesson on ethics. Although, the majority of us did think it was very tasty). At quarter to eleven there was supposed to be a light show on three of the buildings located in the same square as our restaurant, but given our luck, we should have known something was going to go wrong. We walked into the middle of the giant crowd that had gathered and waited. It started to get later and later and we would look at our watches seeing 11:10, 11:15, and 11:20. Finally at half past there was an announcement made saying that they were unable to show the lights that night. We had noticed earlier that there had been a man with a flashlight on top of one of the buildings, working with one of the projectors, so this wasn’t too much of a surprise. But the majority of the crowd wasn’t as flexible as we were. People had started yelling and getting upset so the eight of us grouped together and tried to make it quickly back to our cars. I heard my dad say, “Let’s get out of here before anything happens” and I grabbed on to his hand as tightly as I could, thinking we were going to get shot or something. We made it back to our cars in one piece, even after my mom had almost been run over and Thierry had been “misplaced” in the crowd. We said our goodbyes and arranged to meet again tomorrow, and then we finally went home to our stuffy little apartment for a good sleep after a great day.

Posted by KZFamily 01:13 Archived in France Tagged food france ludres Comments (1)

Culinary Experiences

BY MURIEL

sunny 28 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Muriel drinking mead

Muriel drinking mead

This morning included a sleep in for all of us, a welcome change to the routine after several busy days. As Ben was needing a rest and Hannah elected to stay home and draw, it was Abby and I who ventured into the city this time. We elected to stay outside Prague for two reasons: we felt we would appreciate the country’s change of pace and it was a lot cheaper to stay a bit outside of Prague. We drove into the city in the afternoon, found our favourite ‘park and ride’ lot and headed for the metro. It’s a snap to get into the heart of the historical district and we can make it there from our home in 40 minutes. Prague has a nice metro option that lets you ride anywhere for 30 minutes for only a dollar (fifty cents for Abby) so it’s hard not to go that route. Today’s visit to the city included meandering around the streets, visiting shops when they called loudly enough to us. When I said I wanted to poke my head into the Church of Our Lady before Týn, Abby rolled her eyes and said ‘Another church?’ I told her I would be quick, and I was, just staying long enough to take in the many beautiful gilt baroque altars and Tycho Brahe’s grave. I, too, am becoming satiated with baroque and just on the eve of going to Vienna, which is poor timing! Maybe I have a few more baroque buildings in me yet.

The first stop (real stop, in Abby’s mind) was the Gastronomy Museum, an eclectic collection of write ups, still life kitchen models, pictures and culinary equipment traversing the history of eating and cooking from our first ancestors up to the present day. There were big gaps in the spectrum but one could still glean interesting tidbits here and there. Abby particularly liked all the information on the prehistoric world (even though she’s considering relinquishing her carnivore heritage once we get back to Victoria). I enjoyed seeing some of the interesting utensils and reading the intriguing quotes about gastronomy: “The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity than the discovery of a new star.” “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.” “A host who cannot carve is equally shameful as an owner of a library who cannot read.” And one just for Ben: The characteristics of good beer, according to Czech brewer František Ondřej Poupě are as follows: “It must quench the thirst and replace the missing moisture in the body as well as be filling, but it must not cause wind or constipation. It must strengthen even the fatigued body, excrete urine in ratio to the delight, also with semolina to prevent stone formations, encourage bowel movements and a warm stomach and not chill as many beers do.” I’d say that’s a tall order! Ben would say let’s have another one to assess it again. At the end of the tour, we’re able to taste a tiny meringue and have a very tiny glass of mead. I didn’t care for either while Abby took a strong liking to both. It just shows the effect a father’s drinking genes can have on a child.

Muriel's Dinner - Svíčková na smetaně

Muriel's Dinner - Svíčková na smetaně

Since we still had some kronos in our pockets, we chose to extend our culinary experiences by having a real sit-down dinner. Going on the recommendation of someone on the internet, we stepped into a smoky Czech restaurant. Abby selected the goat cheese gnocchi while I went for a more traditional Czech dish, slices of beef covered in gravy and topped with cranberry jam and cream. It was served with sliced bread dumplings. Both dishes were delicious and we were quite satisfied with them and a salad. It’s very fun trying the dishes of various countries as they combine foods and flavours in ways you wouldn’t necessarily consider yourself. Abby and I enjoyed our ‘mom and daughter time,’ I very aware that this was something to be cherished and hopefully still scheduled once we get back home. With that, we concluded the evening, reversing our route to get back to our homebodies.

Posted by KZFamily 04:17 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged food prague czech_republic gastronomy_museum Comments (0)

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