26 July 2012

le voyage à nantes / a journey to nantes

tnantes01 something funny is going on in nantes.

tnantes02 such as a lime green mountain randomly popping up.

[mont royal(e) by block architectes.]

tnantes03 or a giant marshmallow ghost of sorts wedged inside a balcony.

[kiss of the paraghost by danny steve.]

tnantes04 other than that, not much has changed in nantes. especially that pain au chocolat you had over one year ago that tastes exactly the same. you’ve not discovered a better one in all your visits to french bakeries. crispy, flaky, melty – it meets all the things you crave in a good pain au chocolat.

tnantes05 but back to nantes. you happen to arrive right when an art biennial has invaded. two, in fact. one for the city of nantes, and one for the river between nantes and saint nazaire.

nantes: le voyage à nantes

estuary:  ESTUAIRE Nantes <> Saint Nazaire

tnantes06 which is why you find yourself on a boat. your friend works all day, so you’re left on your own to pass the time until she is free.

tnantes07 on this boat tour you learn about this area’s industrial history.

tnantes10    a bit about nature too: flowers, fauna, etc.

IMG_3391 and a lot about contemporary art. installations are scattered along the river banks, but you can’t miss them as the guide points them out and the boat pauses for everyone to have a good look.

[la maison dans la loire by jean-luc courcoult.]

tnantes08 the trip down the river takes three hours. you may or may not have taken a little nap.

tnantes09 then the boat docks at saint nazaire, a port city.

tnantes11 here you’ll repeat what every french person told you about saint nazaire: saint nazaire? there’s nothing there, plus it’s ugly since everything was destroyed in the war. there is a giant shopping center though.

sadly, it’s quite true.

tnantes12  it doesn’t stop you from trying though to find something you like to do.

tnantes13 at the very least, it smells like ocean.

tnantes14  sometimes, that is all you need to enjoy the day. a good walk and a good smell. a simple combination, but one that always works well.

tnantes15 close, so close to the ocean. but not quite. that will be  soon. you hop on a train back to nantes. after all, you have a dinner date.

tnantes16 the dinner date “accidently” turns into a chocolate and pistachio gelato date.

(which, you need to add, is balanced out by the indoor swimming date that happens later but where no camera was present. and where no camera will ever be present!)

tnantes17 when it is time to move on, you say goodbye to rhubarb growing above your head and a vegetable garden in the middle of a roundabout that will soon have zucchini and squash for the public to pick and eat.

you’ll be long gone before any of that is ripe.

23 July 2012

le jardin préféré / favorite garden

ttours33 can you imagine waking up to this every morning?

ttours34  it’s your jardin préféré in all of france. favorite garden. and it happens to be located in tours at the home of the couple whom you’re so happy to see for a second time.

ttours35 this particularly lazy day begins with picking blackcurrants.

ttours36 transforming it into a jelly. while it cools…

ttours37  lunch is quickly prepared.

ttours38 the table is set, but not without more detours through your favorite garden.

ttours39 then it is à table as usual.

pork or beef, you can’t remember… but the salad is lettuce, green onions, cilantro, mint, and cucumbers.

straight from the garden, of course.

ttours40no visit to this reigion is complete without a castle visit.

ttours41 so it is off to château de chambord and its double spiral staircase designed by perhaps da vinci himself.

ttours42 you sneak in some bird watching. can you spot the baby swallows? (or is it a swift? you’re quite the terrible birder when you’re on your own)

ttours43patterns are what pulls your eyes toward the castle walls.

ttours44  lots

ttours45 of

ttours46 them.

ttours47 art, too. by paul rebeyrolle.

ttours48  it is nothing but beau outdoors.

ttours49 you stare a bit out at the castle grounds.

ttours50while you’re lost imagining yourself in french history or in period films where castle inhabitants would stand here and watch the arrival of a hunting party…

ttours51 your friend/host pulls out the boîte magique. it takes you completely by surprise. inside there is a tea sachet, chocolate, and a few cookies. it’s the perfect way to perk up since afternon drowsiness was beginning to creep in.

ttours52 on the drive back, your eyes are glued out the window. you try to resist, but you can’t help but pull out your camera even though you you know photos made from inside a moving car are never the best.

but then your friend asks a question you really can’t say no to: would you like me to pull over?

ttours53 that’s how you find yourself standing right in the middle of a wheat field.

ttours54with some poppies.

ttours56 lots of poppies.

ttours55 your skirt gets caught in one of the photos – but you don’t mind. in fact, polka dotted blue fabric is always welcome in the french countryside.

ttours57wildflowers are picked, then it’s back in the car and back home.

ttours58si tu cherches bien, tu peux les manger” – if you search well, you can eat them.

your friend is talking about the raspberries.

ttours59 so searching is what you do. followed by eating, of course. ripe unwashed raspberries. all from your favorite french garden.

ttours60 you decide to spend some time in the purple section of the garden.

ttours61  what you love most about tours (besides your friends/hosts) is that here you can completely relax. paris is nice, evreux is nice, but for some reason your best sleeps have occurred here in tours. your current theory is that even when you are tired and worn out in paris, it is physically impossible to rest for you since everything requires a metro ticket or avoiding cars that will run you over or being alert or checking your email or sending texts or meeting up with friends (you’ll never say no to that!) or hearing construction noises  – there’s just no escaping the parisian rhythm if you’re in paris.

ttours62 tours is where all the fatigue that has built up is finally able to go away.

ttours63 à table! you’re so happy that humans have to eat three times a day. dinner is a dorade royale wrapped in fig leaves. the english name, thank you wikipedia, is gilt-head bream.

and where do you think the fig leaves came from? it shouldn’t take too much guessing.

ttours64 all served with nuoc mam, a vietnamese fish sauce.

a sauce you’re going to make yourself here in texas soon because what you ate in tours wasn’t enough and you’re still craving it. thankfully your home ranks #14 for vietnamese-american population so there won’t be any issue of recreating this sauce.

ttours65 and let’s not forget the black currant jelly that was started in the morning. a jelly is made with only the fruit juices. that leaves an abandoned pulp. what to do, what to do?

why, easy: turn it into a crumble. dessert is done.

then off to bed where you sleep, sleep, sleep.  

ttours66 the next morning, you’re off to catch a train. but not without two jars of black currant jelly that you pack cautiously into your suitcase.

then it’s a whole slew of bisous! bonnes vacances! merci beaucoup! bon voyage! profite-bien! bon courage! donne-nous les nouvelles!  rentre-bien! à la prochaine! between you and the couple as you leave tours, completely rested and completely happy.