confessions of an ex-expat

I watch the news in French from my podcasts every morning

I’m not exotic anymore :(

I have yet to find people that think my baking is extra-special

I talk to myself in French

I haven’t done the bise in over a month

I was excited to visit my sister in rural PA because I missed cows.

bring back the cows.

In other news, I made a video to cheer myself up.

blissful july days in Paris

I had a few days to soak in in Paris before inevitably leaving France. The weather was therapeutic, spending my final few days in very good company. I crossed some things off my “to do” list in Paris. One of them was seeing the La Grande Mosquée de Paris, the largest mosque in France. The gardens were tranquil and the architecture amazing. It also had a charming little café with sweets and mint tea, taking me right back to Marrakesh. Afterwards we headed to the Jardin des Plantes, a huge botanical garden which makes for a lovely afternoon stroll, and not to mention, completely free! There was nothing left to do then hang our legs over the Seine, watching the tourists glide by in their boats.

I also ate at some pretty amazing restaurants. After my day strolling around the 5th, I met some friends at Tribeca on Rue Cler. I love going to the markets on Rue Cler during the daytime, and the ambiance still exists at night. This is a perfect spot to eat on a budget – lots of delicious Italian staples with the classical Parisian terrasse for people watching. Plus, it is right around the corner from the Champ de Mars, so after dinner we settled down to wait for the Eiffel Tower to sparkle. Still never gets old.

On the 4th of July, I joined some fellow Americans for Aunt Jemima’s maple syrup and pancakes at Breakfast in America in the Marais. Of course, what followed was the most strange and mildy mortifying events of my life – us homesick expats took mimosas and freeze pops to Place des Vosges, and toasted while singing the national anthem. Needless to say, we were subject to much speculation and even photographs from French witnesses.

I also went to a Lindsey recommended café in the 10th, and had a fun time exploring that neighborhood which I know so little about. Afterwards ambled through the neighborhood, crossing another thing off my Paris list – I finally saw Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris’ most famous cemetery.

Jeanne A is an épicerie that serves as a little bistrot as well. The male only staff with crisp white aprons had me thinking of one thing – the movie Ratatouille. That didn’t help when I saw a little mouse run by my table! Luckily, not even the mice could turn me off to my delicious peppery gazpacho followed by melt-in-your-mouth gratin potatoes and pork. French people make the best potatoes gratin (can you say butter and cream?).

My favorite moment in my stay in Paris was the 14 juillet. While we know it as Bastille day, anyone who has not been to Paris during this time must book a ticket for the 2012 festivities right now. It starts off the night before, when all firehouses host a charity party. We headed out to Canal St. Martin, a beautiful spot to celebrate France! The music was amazing, and we even made it home early enough to catch the parade the next day on the Champs Elysée. Finally, the day ends with magnificent concert and fireworks display on the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower. This years theme was American showtunes :) Fate.

My heart broke as I got into my shuttle in the 13th and made my way to Roissy airport. Why must my stay end? As my French teacher once told me, “don’t worry, France will call you back”. She was right once, let’s only hope she is right again.

Gorgeous Day Trips from Dublin

Last summer, my friend and I went to see Leap Year and fell in love with Ireland. We told ourselves we wanted to move to the country, meet an Irish chef that tells us how “lovely” and “gorgeous” we are, and grow a veggie garden based mainly off potatoes.

Well, my friend moved to Turkey and I moved to France, but I did go on an excellent countryside tour of Avoca, Glendalough, and Wicklow in search of said Irish gentleman. The first stop was through the Wicklow mountains, where they filmed PS. I Love You and Leap Year (as well as Braveheart and Excalibur, but who really cares about those?). There was a rowdy group of British girls that got out of the back of the bus and reinacted almost every scene by heart, which gave the entire bus a good laugh. Mostly, the scenery was breathtaking – the desolate mountains with lush greenery was exactly what I’d seen on the big screen.

Glendalough was a 6th century monastic settlement, which is first evidenced through the old buildings and cemetery full of Celtic crosses. It is amazing how much has survived through years – nothing you would ever see in the states. We then took a long walk through the woods, winding around the lakes and taking in the emerald landscape.

Avoca Village is outside of Dublin in county Wicklow, known for its handweaving mill owned by the store named after the village. Its beautifully woven clothes, ever so delicately dyed and crafted into blankets, sweaters, and hats are the main attraction of the visit. However, the unexpected gem inside the shop is their café. The endless salads, full of cheeses, grains, and were very refreshing and light compared to the normal tourist fare of heavy stews and breads. But then again, I couldn’t resist one of their delicious little cakes after my oh-so-healthy lunch. I was inspired to go to Avoca after reading this post by my favorite French/American/Irish food blogger.

Howth was another one of my favorite visits in Ireland. This is a beach town on the coast, just twenty minutes from Dublin by the DART train. You can hike around the entire penninsula, so be sure to pack a picnic and wear your walking shoes. The cliffs hanging over the water, the rocky beaches: it made for an idyllic day with my cousin, who also happened to be in Dublin at that time. We spent some time talking about our grandfather, who would have loved this coastal town.

Howth being my last day in Ireland, I settled by the sea with some fish and chips, thinking all along of my absolutely fabuleux destin.

What to do in Dublin, Ireland

After the passing of my grandfather last summer, I knew I really wanted to go to Ireland, where his grandparents were from. I decided that from Scotland I would fly into Dublin, and spend a few days there before heading back to the states. I knew I would have good luck when I arrived at the airport in Dublin, and a strapping young Irish man, tall dark and handsome with a sparkle in his eye, stamped my passport.

And luck I had. I spent the few days I had touring Dublin and its surroundings. What a beautiful country! I stayed in an excellent hostel, the Ashfield House, which was right across the bridge from O’Connell street, and a few blocks away from Trinity College.

My dreams came true when we took the library tour at Trinity College. While most people were going crazy over the Book of Kells, an ornate religious book written by Celtic monks, I was secretly snapping photos in the library. Nerd alert!

I was excited to visit Dublin’s oldest church, otherwise known as The Church Bar (that’s right, now it’s a restaurant and bar). It being closed, I made my way up to The Writers Museum, a cute little exhibit about Ireland’s most famous author’s and playwrights. Don’t miss the café afterwards for a yummy lunch – and I snagged a copy of The Dubliners in the gift shop.

Finally, my favorite thing to do in Dublin was visit Kilmainham Goal. This former prison played a huge part in Irish rebellions as well as the War of Independence, where most of the famous revolutionaries were jailed and sometimes even killed. It is a crucial part in understanding the city as well as the country. I highly recommend a visit here!

Overall, I just loved Dublin’s warm and friendly inhabitants. Everyone I met there was so welcoming and fun, the best part about the city for sure.


St. Andrews, My Favorite Place in Scotland

After a wonderful afternoon in Edinburgh, we headed to the place where Kate met William where Craig goes to school. St. Andrews is a beautiful coastal town, just two hours north of Edinburgh by bus. It happens to be the birthplace of golf, as well as home of the beautiful University of St. Andrews, the most prestigious university in Scotland.

We settled in only to be welcomed by delicious treats from Craig’s friend; Millionaires’ Shortbread, coated with caramel and chocolate. With mugs full of tea, I was warmly welcomed into their home.

The next day we woke up, destined to eat one thing: full, English, breakfast. Settling into a booth at a lovely student joint, I had my second ever baked-beaned sausage-filled cardiac arrest on a plate. Tummies full, we followed the traditions of all St. Andrews students by doing the pier walk. Heading back, we checked out the beautiful old cathedral and graveyard. The rocky cliffs, beautiful ocean, and green hills were absolutely breathtaking.

Finally, we walked past the golf courses (Tiger Woods favorite – but who likes Tiger Woods anymore?), and onto the beach. There was a sand castle competition going on, and as we walked by we gazed at the quaint town above, postcard perfect.

I was very sad to leave this preppy little town – as well as say goodbye to Craig, the perfect Scottish gentleman and dear friend of mine.

What is your favorite place in Scotland?