Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vive La France

Okay I am going to start with Paris. I got there bright and early Friday morning. I had to wait for my mom to arrive because she was coming from Atlanta. I got down to the important things first a latte and croissant. I barely speak French, in fact I can say a few words and can understand even fewer said back to me. I wanted an almond croissant but could not for the life of me remember how to say it. I thought the guy told me it was ham but it ended up being almond! I was off to a good start. I waited met my mom and off we went to her apartment.

My mom's apartment is ridiculous. 18th century, spacious and in a great area. I am such an idiot for not taking advantage of her real estate. Granted she rents it out pretty much year round so it's not like it sits there vacant. The great thing though is we really had no plans or agenda. We got breakfast, wandered around, got some groceries and just relaxed. I really like going back to cities I have been to before that I can just wander and not feel the pressure to do and see everything. It's a real luxury to just be able to wander and not try to cram everything in. I did spend a huge amount of time saying, why am I not here more, and thinking about how soon could I come back. I was a little food worried....I mean France in general is not exactly known for being a dieters paradise. Cheese, chocolate, wine, and other delicious things abound. It sort of is an intuitive eaters paradise though. There is no low fat anything except maybe milk and fromage frais my new obsession I need to find here. Think greek yogurt which is more like pudding. Anytime I ordered a coffee I got a square of dark chocolate and I did not even request skim milk because the cups were tiny and I did not know how to say it. I ate a lot of fresh whole food. I snacked on these plums I became obsessed with and again need to find here. I ate french bread, butter, had profiteroles one night, ate a box of truffles over the course of my trip, had wine with lunch and with dinner, and did no cardio and you know what I lost 1.5 pounds. I did not journal while I was there and I am not going to defend it. I was just plain ole lazy and did not want to do it. I did however remain very checked in being with my mom who can be a trigger for me, and being somewhere I was a little concerned would be like a food/eating free for all. Having every sort of temptation surround me made me far less interested and preoccupied by it. 

One day when we were having lunch, I watched this woman eat her lunch. She had a giant plate of scrambled eggs with something on top, a small carafe of wine, a creme brulee and then a coffee all while reading her book. I loved it. I loved watching the time she took, the enjoyment, and like most people I observed she ate dessert. I like anyone who eats dessert. I loved this appreciation of food and meals. What I found really interesting is how bothered my mom was by it. My mom is slim, but not without effort. She watches what she eats, exercises, and lives wanting to lose 10 pounds. Dealing with my own issues has made me much less annoyed by hers, but also let me hear so much of her dialogue. Her body image is really poor, her assessment of other women is pretty harsh, and we will never see eye to eye. She judges a woman who eats a whole creme brulee. One night we split profiteroles and the next day she went on and on about how she needed to exercise after that and she never lets herself eat bad food and all this stuff. I just found it really tiresome and annoying. Just eat the damn profiteroles and move on. Exercise if you want but not your mouth your body. In some ways with all the talking she does I think she just likes the attention. The talking calls attention to the fact she does have a good body and while she does work at it, she never has had a weight problem except when and after being pregnant with me. Ironic no? I think it's her way of participating in the hate your body lady conversation because while my mom has never felt pretty and hates aging, she likes her body. I can tell. It was tough to separate my own issues and hers and just hear her dialogue and not personalize it. I think it has far less to do with me then I have always assumed. I think there are moments it's directed at me, but I truly believe my mom does not have a healthy relationship with food. She lives a diet mentality, lucky for her it has not had any real negative affects and it's worked out okay, but it makes it easier for me to see and accept we will never ever see eye to eye. What I am actively trying to move away from and reject she lives by. She lives by good and bad food, and a feeling of superiority denying herself. I do not want that anymore and I certainly do not want it for a lifetime. I feel like because I am overweight and she's not she just assumes she is right, healthier, or whatever then me and that annoys me. It makes me want to leap to defend myself, knowledge, process and so on, but then I remember. I do not have to, and I no longer want to. 

I bit my tongue and just listened. I stayed quiet when before I might have leaped right on in and I learned. I learned more about her, and therefore about myself. I realized just because you are related it does not mean you know everything about one another. I also realized I am over taking trips with my mom, it makes me feel weird like it's all I have and it's not. It's time to grow up, plan my own vacations. To loosen how enmeshed we are. I can not move on and heal from the past I think until I do that. 

Back to Paris. I just took in the beauty, the people, the fashion, the food, the attitude and I loved every second of it. I saw some friends I had not seen in a way. I remembered I grew up in Europe and I missed it. It's a part of my history and I forget that. I had plums I had never had before. Spent the night in a chateau, made friends with some curious corgis, and wandered around an amazing cemetery. We drove from Paris first down to the Loire valley and then to Villars which is in the Southwest of France. 

When we finally found the Chateau we were staying in the Loire valley we dropped our things, had a brief rest and then went out looking for dinner. We had declined to dine at the chateau. We drove around, and went to town after town where every restaurant was closed. It's August and France is on vacation. We maybe should have rsvp'ed for dinner....Finally we stopped at one town and decided we would have to picnic. We went to the grocery store. I love grocery stores and drugstores anywhere. I find them very interesting, where products are placed, what's there that isn't other places, and maybe because I live in NYC where they are all tiny the space. I loved wandering around this one. We bought bread, prosciutto, cheese, fromage frais, a bottle of rose and creme de cassis for kir's, and reine claude plums that we were both obsessed with and I bought maribelle jam that I am obsessed with now. Put a spoonful of that into fromage frais and it's a party. It was one of the better meals I had. Simple, satisfying, and delicious. How can you really go wrong though with prosciutto and cheese? That's a little bit of heaven for me anywhere anytime. I have to say though I was really surprised by the supermarket a lot more processed food then I expected and, tons and tons of sweets. There were 4 aisles alone devoted to sweets which I found sort of awesome and surprising. One thing I was also struck by was the flours. There was a huge section devoted to all sorts of almond flours. I really love almond and need to look into things I could make with this. I mean an almond croissant is great and all but I can not really be having those all the time, but I bet there is something healthy I could make utilizing almonds. 

The next morning we had a quick breakfast and then back on the road. We stopped in Samur for lunch. Took a lovely walk to see a giant chateau that looked more like a castle if you ask me and then kept going to Villars. My mom's friend Kevin who I have known since I was a child moved to France with his partner bought a chateau and started a B&B catering to celiacs. Check out their site, and anyone looking for a fabulous vacation in the country nearby I highly recommend it. The grounds are gorgeous, Bill who is the chef creates delicious food. He had never cooked before they started this, and took a course at the cordon bleu and learned. We went out to dinner with them to a local place in Brantome which is a small town nearby that looks like a movie set. Utterly ridiculously cute and beautiful. We had a delicious dinner and an amazing time. It was really great to see them, speak English for an evening and learn what their lives were like and had been like adjusting to this. Kevin had previously been a lawyer, and now is a hotelier always looking to expand. They both learned French and completely changed their lives. It was really inspiring. Anyone want to give it all up and start a hotel? Only half kidding. 

I reluctantly left and returned to New York. I signed up for French classes and have though a lot since I got back about how life should feel a little more like a vacation does and sometimes what I am jealous of with people is that they are living. It's not the material things, but the experiences somewhere along the way I stopped doing that as much as I would like. Life can be anything you want it to be, I know that to be true but needed to be reminded of that. It can be filled with sheep, corgis and croissants if you want or not. Sunday night I was doing laundry and I ran into a neighbor of mine. She invited me to her wedding in India and you know what I just might go. I have always wanted to attend an Indian wedding, and it would also be lovely to stop by Paris on my way. I have no reason not to, and that is the life I want to be living. 
A Perigord speciality I did not partake in 

almond worship 

I brought a jar back for myself and Marisa. 

Wine. In a sport pack. 

Remains of our chateau picnic. 

Devon one of the corgis. 

Mama is an artiste always at work. 

Le sigh. Oh so pretty. 

Giving up trying to wing it. 

Saint Jean De Cole. Bee-yoo-ti-ful and where we ate a very large mystery meal. 

The chateau had it's own chapel naturally. 

The chateau we stayed in, we were in the tower to the right. Ridonk. 

Memorial left at the cemetery we wandered. 

The gardens at Chateau Villars. I picked our lettuce for dinner one night.

Paris Plage. 

Mama's Parisian digs. No really why am I not living there? 

In the town of Villars. 

Saint Jean de Cole. 

Walking to Ile St. Louis. 

Beautiful beaded memorial left. 

Touristy as can be but one of my favorite places in Paris. Right by the Louvre. 
A peach I had never seen before it's dark purple inside, and plums I had not had before. 

Daily kir, I miss this habit but did have one on Monday. 

Just gorgeous. 


  1. Jealous! I LOVE Paris, and France generally. This is a good reminder that I need to get down there more often :) Sounds like you had an amazing time, and worked through some stuff about your mum, which is great!

    p.s you should have tried La Rillette - its actually really good!

  2. Life should absolutely feel like a vacation all the time! I think we could all use a little more enjoyment in our everyday lives :) Glad you had a good time!

  3. I would totally give it up and go live there in a hot second. Need a business partner. Sign me up. Je parle français, un petite peu.

  4. Gen- Thanks so much!

    cmh- You made me spit my coffee this made me laugh so hard. Lets figure out what our business plan is :)

  5. Hey I'm on board if there's a business plan going round...shame my qualifications are so specific :-(
    Looks like you had an amazing trip, I feel like jealously is trickling out of my pores after reading all that...and those photos.
    I agree with Gen, we should relish life and all it's rich experiences more intently. The French do know how to I miss Europe :-(
    (Ironically the movie Paris, Je t'aime is just running the closing credits on my tv in the background)

  6. Welcome home, lady friend!
    Now for my comments:
    1) Peaches that are purple on the inside?! OMG.
    2) YOU MUST GO TO INDIA FOR THE WEDDING. Seriously. The two months I spent there were life-changing, and Indian weddings are incredible. You will not regret it.
    3) "sometimes what I am jealous of with people is that they are living" -- Amen, sister.
    4) I love love LOVE reading about your relationship with your mother. Sometimes it mirrors my own relationship with my mother and sometimes it doesn't, but it always inspires me to listen more and think before reacting.