25 January 2011

the oak

chene01a movie chosen randomly a few weeks ago. maybe even last year. you just have too many things on your backlog. but it turned out to be perfect.

chene02because of the importance of the polaroid in the movie.

it can’t be a coincidence. it’s a sign for the project you’re currently working on.

people. polaroids. portraits.

let’s call it an after inspiration as you had the idea before you saw the movie.

22 January 2011

un gros arbe – a big tree

lesand01the best days are when you don’t know where you want to go.

but you want to go somewhere.

and it’s nice to have a friend with a car who is willing to drive.

just hop in the car – grab the touristic map of l’eure – and pick a random destination to explore. there’s no planning – just go.

so today’s moments included a typically rainy normandy day in les andelys, ruins of richard the lionheart’s castle, an umbrella full of holes, a contest to see who could best clean their muddy shoes, and pointing out the sheep, horses, and cows along the seine river.

lesand02you love the spirit of your friends.

because when you guys want to do something. or want to see something. or accomplish something. you all just do it.

and so, tonight, three tickets were bought.

one one way ticket to taipei.

and two round trip tickets to taipei.

and perhaps, you hope, more tickets will be bought in the following weeks.

21 January 2011

carpe diem

bike01it may be an overused phrase, carpe diem.

but really, there’s no other way to describe today.

you woke up. saw the sky. with no clouds.

bike02which can only mean one thing

bike ride in the countryside!

bike03 and it’s a good thing you decided to go in the morning, because the clouds started to appear.

bike04and by the afternoon, normandy was back to its usual cloudy self. (which you love anyway, so it doesn’t matter.)

and right now, you’ve got a soirée. so the only time to write is now. because later won’t be the same. later won’t be today. and sometimes, marking daily moments is important to you.

20 January 2011

dodo

dodowhen the body wants sleep, you don’t give it any.

but when it needs sleep, you don’t have a choice.

so as the french say, it’s time to faire dodo.

more moonlight. soon. promise.

bonne nuit!

19 January 2011

an extraordinary day

extra01 today is an extraordinary day.

extra02because it is an ordinary day.

you found a quote in lyon that you can’t stop thinking about.

"Ce qui intéressait Méliès, c'était l'ordinaire dans l'extraordinaire, et Lumière l'extraordinaire dans l'ordinaire" -Jean-Luc Godard 1966

extra03another ordinary moment. charlotte potatoes in a charlotte pan. a really bad joke, but a joke that makes you giggle inside. and that makes it extraordinary.

and in case you didn’t know, charlotte potatoes are good for either steaming or sautéing. the advantage of shopping at the market is that you learn a lot from human contact.

the first wednesday of 2011

count01wednesday. in france, if you are in an elementary school student, that means you’re free. if you’re a teacher or anybody connected to an elementary school, you’re free. because in france, wednesday is a no school day for les ecoles primaires.

wednesday morning is also the time for apparently the best (and largest) market in the area, le neubourg. everybody keeps telling you about how magnificent it is and how you must go.

but you’re in a lycee. a high school. so you work. you’ve never been. and you don’t think you’ll ever get a chance.

except, in lovely france, it isn’t unusual for students to be en stage (interning) or en grève (on strike) or mysteriously cancelled for some unknown reasons.

count02which is exactly what happened two weeks ago.

your classes that day are cancelled. you’re not sure if you’ll ever get another free wednesday.

you excitedly call up the boulanger and ask, “on peut aller a la marche de le neubourg!? je ne travaille pas ce mercredi! on peut y aller!? on peut!?

can we go to the market at le neubourg? i’m not working this wednesday! can we go!? can we!?

and he’s more than happy to say yes.

count03what makes this market different is the live animals. and sadly, since it’s winter, the boulanger explains that you’ll only see birds today.

to see the rest – cows, pigs, sheep – you’ll have to come again in the spring.

chouqthen, with possibly the cutest french four year old you’ve ever met, you snack on some chouquettes.

they make you as happy as american donut holes. except, other than that the childhood giddiness you feel, they’re nothing alike.

chouquettes are empty cream puffs. rolled in big specks of coarse sugar. then baked.

pillows with a crunch is the best way to describe them.

count04it’s still slightly frozen in normandy.

count05but your favorite donkey is out, as usual.

count06the quintessential normandy winter color combination is: green, brown, and white.

count07it is always the animals who give life to a landscape.

count08then, you arrive chez le boulanger. and the dog who never sits still greets you.

count09and you finish your journée à la campagne (day in the countryside)with yet another galette de rois.

of all the travelling you do, it really is nice to have some simple moments in normandy to balance everything out.

18 January 2011

a secret

secrettoday, you let go of a secret.

and… it wasn’t so bad.

in fact, you’re beginning to realize that among your friends – those who are always dancing. always smiling. always laughing. always outgoing. always strong. always happy. always talking. always joking. always exploring. always full of life.

are also a bit timid. just like you. 

and perhaps that is the key to being less shy. letting go of secrets.

14 January 2011

quand on descend, on arrive. (à la mer)

bret01december 30th. morning. evreux. the kitchen in your apartment. you’re roasting nuts. and then covering them in maple syrup and butter and salt and sugar and cayenne pepper. and then roasting them again with mini pretzels.

a simple holiday trail mix. the perfect present for when you’re going to a place that already has everything: good bread. good wine. and above all, good butter.

la bretagne. or in english, brittany.

bret02december 30th. afternoon. paris. gare de montparnasse. and you’re waiting for your train while listening to the tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick as the the list of departing trains updates. you hope they never go digital because those ticks make you tick.

bret03december 30th. night. la bretagne. st. brieuc. you can feel it. you can smell it. you can touch it. you can hear it. the only thing you can’t do is see it.

what is it? why, your great love in life: the sea.

and so you close your eyes. and imagine. imagine that you can see the water.

then you close your eyes for real. and fall asleep in a comfortable bed.

bret04december 31st. morning. in your bed. in your pajamas. uncombed hair. unbrushed teeth. you reach for your glasses. you put them on.

and all you have to do to see the sea? stand up.

it might be low tide, but you see it. you can see the sea right from your bed.

bret05december 31st. afternoon. in the kitchen. you’ve spent the entire day grocery shopping, and now it’s time to cook. and the rule of the house is, those who cook, drink. cooking and not drinking just does not exist in this breton home.

bret06l’entrée part one. feuilles de brick / phyllo pastry. with pears + goat cheese + butter.

bret09l’entrée part two: foie gras. pan seared with just a bit of salt.

bret08the side. purée / mashed potatoes. with butter. lots and lots of butter.

it is important to note that in brittany, they do not consider unsalted butter as real butter. c’est la margarine! dégueulasse! is what they will tell you with a horrified look if you dare ask for some unsalted butter.

you’re warned. to call unsalted butter “butter” is to insult les bretons. and you don’t want to do that.

bret10le plat principal. two chickens roasted with a crust of salt. it was supposed to be a chapon, a castrated rooster, but let it be a lesson learned that you cannot find a chapon december 31st without previously reserving one. impossible.

bret07le dessert. profiteroles / cream puffs. with pastry cream injected by a syringe. a pineapple as well that didn’t get photographed.

the night is spent talking. dancing. laughing. drinking. playing cards. singing. eating. smoking. celebrating.

bret11january 1st. 2011. morning. your very first photo of 2011 is none other than some salted butter. it couldn’t have been anything else, knowing you. your first breakfast.

bret12which is eaten directly in front of the sea.

bret13this day is also spent cleaning.

bret14and admiring the neighbor’s magnificent house.

bret15then, you walk down. you descend. you arrive.

at the sea.

you friend explains that “en bretagne, quand on descend, on arrive à la mer.

in other words. generally, as long as you heading downhill, you are sure to arrive at a body of water. the body of water that is so important to the breton culture.

bret16les bretons have a very traditional dance. they aren’t taught it. it’s just natural.

but you discover that they also have a second dance. the dance of smashing seashells on the beach.

bret17a stone skipping competition begins.

bret17aand you count. un-deux-trois-quatre-cinq-oooooh!

or if someone is really good, un-deux-trois-quatre-cinq-six-sept-huit-neuf-dix-onze-douze-quatorze-quince-seize-WOOOOOOOOW-SUPER!

bret18nothing is better than a walk with fresh air.

bret19don’t forget.

quand tu descends…

bret21tu arrives.

bret22à la mer.

that is the one phrase that you repeat over and over for this little week-end breton. quand on descend, on arrive.

bret22ajanuary 1st. night. since you’re the guest, it’s up to you to decide what to do at night.

bret25so you request a visit to the port. because while you’ve been driven past it multiple times, what you’d really like to do is walk around it.

bret24and so begins the game of saying “bateau” as many times and as quickly as possible.

“bateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateaubateau!”

bret23the words blur together. just like all the boats waiting for the tide to come in.

bret26when one is close to the sea, don’t forget who gets priority: les bateaux, of course.

bret27and note. a lesson about french and breton culture.

look at the size of le drapeau francais. and the size of le drapeau breton.

the flags. look at the flags. the size. what does it tell you?

bret28serious. your friend is serious.

bret29just kidding. more like silly.

bret30then you say goodnight.

bret30a (2)january 2nd. morning. you’ve raided yet another bookshelf. this time, a french one. all you wanted was jules verne. instead your friend decides to add to your reading list. you end up with tintin and les fleurs du mal as well.

les fleurs du mal. that’s setting the bar high. but it will be read. you’re determined. if your friend thinks you are capable of understanding baudelaire, then you are.

bret30aatime for lunch. chicken. purple potatoes. and an ingenious way of snipping herbs. also note the clever usage of corks.

bret31january 2nd is a sunday.

a sunday. in january. in france.

means only one thing.

bret30aaagalette des rois! king’s cake! for epiphany!

puff pastry! almond cream! baked! hidden trinket for a king and queen!

you learned about this last year.

but this year, you learned of an additional tradition.

someone (normally the youngest) has to hide under the table and decide who receives what slice to avoid any sort of cheating that could lead to someone knowing what slice has a fève.

and you’re also given the right to give a coup de pied to the person underneath the table. fun times.

bret35quand on descend, on arrive.

but this time, it’s not the sea. it’s the wine cave. which is just as important as the sea for this particular breton.

bret36and it’s on the road back to normandy. 

bret37culture difference: note the tiny french billboards. a nice break from the large american ones that dominate and destroy the landscape.

normand so. the end. it’s back to work the next day.