Well, this will be my last post for our Immediately-After-Retiring-Adventure Blog. We leave in a few days from France to start our journey home. It’s been an incredible experience, and we have loved every minute of it.
So, to update since my last post… Had two cooking club meetings since the last time I checked in. At the first one I learned three things: including butternut squash in lasagna (the guy who made it is vegetarian) is a surprising addition. This gave it a hearty feel in the mouth without using meat and was delicious. Also, a simple dessert of Clementine orange slices sprinkled with cinnamon and a little brown sugar (only granulated here) is easy and wonderful. In addition, when making chocolate covered strawberries, Chris, our host, used a combination of both dark and milk chocolate. Neither one by itself was “right”, but the combo did the trick. Great cooking – taste and adjust. Unfortunately didn’t take any pictures, as again, was just “living” the experience, not being a tourist.
At the second get together, we had another addition to our group. Andrew, from Australia, was traveling through from London and Spain on his way back to Sydney (with a stop in Africa and Asia). He was “couch surfing” on our host’s couch. This is how a lot of young people travel these days. There is a website where you can find out about available “couches”, for very cheap. It helps the host make a little money, so a win/win for all. Andrew is only 24 and is traveling by himself. A very different world than when I was growing up. We meet so many different people here from all over. We never experience that in the Midwest….too isolated. (Ken was asked at a club we were at last Friday night listening to some music with some friends about what a “washroom” was….the guy who asked him spoke perfect/unaccented English and was from Estonia and had heard Ken talking in “American”. He had a bet going as to the meaning with the woman he was sitting with, who was from Columbia….and here we were sitting in southern France! Talk about diversity!)
So, getting back to the food: a wonderful and simple appetizer: Brie with maple syrup and honey over it, with pecans, and heated…delicious! Geoffrey made a colorful and delicious Asian cole slaw. I was impressed he could find rice vinegar and miso. He seems to have a knack for finding uncommon specialty items here. Geoffrey also is our cheese expert. He selected 5 for us this time. He explains (in the picture I’ve provided), starting on the left, is a goat cheese wrapped in ash with a stick in it which is a Sainte Maure from the Loire Valley (the straw is used to keep it together while being made), the blue is Bleu de Gex, a blue cow’s milk from the Jura (mountains north of Switzerland). The Comte, a cow’s milk cheese is also from the mountains north of Switzerland. It is one of the most popular cheeses in France (the equivalent of our mozzarella/cheddar as everyone in France uses it for cooking, eating, sandwiches, and everything). This one was aged a long time: 26 months. It was my favorite. The heart shaped one is Neufchâtel, also cow, but from Normandie with its classic, recognizable heart shape. And lastly, on the far right, is the sheep’s cheese Ossau-iraty from the Basque country in the Pyrenees near Spain. The French take their cheese very seriously and it is part of every meal right after the main course and before some sort of sweet (even if it is just fruit and 2 little squares of dark chocolate) for dessert.
Chris made a wonderful chocolate mousse with raspberries for dessert. The time flew by, and I was sad that it was our last get together before we head for home.
Both Geoffrey and Chris teach English at the Medical School. I had mistakenly thought they had said ALL classes were taught in English, but I was wrong. Doctors are required to know English, but medical classes themselves are taught in French. Geoffrey had me come to two of his Nurse Midwife classes to tell my story of my twins’ birth. Not often do these students get the “first hand” side of the story, especially one with complications, and in English. Good practice for them. Fun for me to interact with them and see how their classes are conducted. My friend, Geoffrey, did a great job making sure they understood everything I was talking about, and I was impressed by their knowledge of medical terms (many of which are the same in French, as in English). Some words I used that they did not know: prom, baby bump, put me out (when you get anesthesia) and scrape (as in having a D&C). Interesting the language gaps.
We hit a few of our last little museums that we’ve missed, and then BJ calls and asks us over for an evening game of Barbu with Alex. We’re game!
Our last Saturday night we go to L’idee Sauvers, rated the top restaurant in Montpellier. I had to call 2 weeks ahead to get a reservation.
We went with our friends Michael and Odile, our last get together with them. They have really made our stay here memorable. They have become good friends and introduced us to much of life in southern France. I’m sure we will stay in touch and meet again.
The most surprising thing at the meal was a “Amuse Bouche” (means “Mouth Amusement”) to get us started, no matter what we ordered. It was made with Cep mushrooms (when I looked it up, it is called “The King of all Mushrooms”) and cream. Wonderful!
Ken had some delicious mussels in cream and I had lentils with strips of very rare high quality duck. Scallops with butternut squash was my main dish and of course some chocolate decadent thing with a refreshing sorbet for dessert. A crisp, light and dry, local white wine was the perfect accompaniment.
The rest of our time here we have planned to see friends, go to one last Trivia Contest at the Robin Hood, and attend one last get together with our friends the night before we leave Montpellier. We then have to catch our train to Lyon and board our flights home.
Seems like I talk a lot about preparing food, eating food, drinking wine, and being with friends in this Blog. That’s what the French do! Guess I have really adopted their way of living. They certainly know about joie de vivre!
I feel myself pulling back from here and starting to think about all we have to do when we get “home”. We’ll have about 10 days to handle all the things we have to take care of, see friends and family in the area, and get ready to move to SC. I am not looking forward to “reality”!! I sense a pall over both Ken and I as we wind down this incredible experience. It’s been a great way to transition between life chapters and a unique time for us. I feel incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity. I want to thank all of you for following my Blog and being interested in what we were doing. It felt like I was sharing all these experiences with you and that made me very happy. I’ve enjoyed writing it. Your encouraging responses have been so positive and supportive. Thank you for sharing this time with us. Au Revoir to you and to France……for now…..