Friday, May 28, 2010

Ready to go back....

Continuing the photos from our most recent trip... 

This was taken in Calvi, the second town we stopped in. Corsica has a mountain range that goes straight through the middle of the island. While we were standing in the sunshine on the coast, the mountain tops still had snow.

While it is a very small island the landscapes were always changing. Lovely!

While we were packing up camp on the last morning (At about 5:45am), the boys told me to run and take some sunrise pictures. Yeh! I would love to wake up to this every morning. (Only not at 5:30am. Maybe at around 8....)

 Family picture on the last day of vacation. We all had a blast.
Corsica was by far one of, if not the, most beautiful places we have visited. I am not sure that any picture could do justice to what we saw, but it was a lot of fun trying! 

Happy Weekend Everyone!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Long Weekend in Corsica

I was a little sad to come back to Nice this Tuesday. Actually, I don't think any of us were very happy to come back. The general chorus was somewhere along the lines of, "Just a couple more days. Just a couple more days, That's all I need." Two days later and my slight sunburn is fading into a nice tan, the apartment is back in order, the laundry is almost done (Thank you Mr. Sunshine for drying them quickly..), and I am still wishing I was on vacation. 

We spent half a day Friday, all day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and came home on Tuesday morning. In the course of those 3 and 1/2 days we managed to cover the entire island although a little bit more time would have really been great. Spread out the travel, sit on the beach a little bit more, not quite so much time spent in the backseat cuddling with my dog. 

John, Jim, Sadie and I did a lot of ooo-ing and aaahhh-ing while riding in the car with all of our camping gear. The roads in Corsica leave something to be desired but you tend to forget that when you are driving on the side of a cliff with a herd of goats on one side of the road and the other side drops off into the crystal clear sea. Or, when you round a corner on said curvy road and there is a cow standing in the middle of it looking at you like, "What? I'm supposed to be here."

I have to say that even though we saw a lot of island, and most of the major villages along the way, our favorite place was probably the beach at Palombaggia. The amazing white sand beach with crystal clear water seems to go on forever. Since we were there in the early season the beach was mostly empty and you could almost imagine having the entire beach to yourself. Can you imagine why we didn't want to leave??

Ok, today and tomorrow I will be posting some pics from the trip. And, if you want to see some extras, you can check them out right here.

 Watching the sunset from one of our campgrounds

The cliffs in Bonifacio

Ok! More to come tomorrow! Happy Thursday all!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Dad!!

Just wanted to take a minute and tell my wonderful Daddy Happy Birthday! Here's hoping you have a great day, can go fishing (and catch a few "keepers"), and Mom makes you a wonderful dinner! And if I were there I would make you this:
Photo credit-Sugar Siren Cakes

Or, one of these:
 Photo Credit: Randy Mayor, myrecipes

We love you! John, Stacey, and the Grandpup

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Glitz, the Glamour, the.... no movie stars?? WHAT?

I would love to say that I saw my favorite movie star this past Sunday or at least my favorite television personality, Matt Lauer. Sad day though- We didn't see anyone famous. Wait, take that back, we DID see a short guy with spiky, white hair and glasses leaving a fancy hotel and waving but John and I haven't been able to figure out who he is. So he doesn't count. Even though we didn't see anyone famous, it was still a really wonderful end to the weekend. And, the most fun part, watching video of American broadcasters in Cannes and being able to say- "Hey! I've been there! I know just where that is!" 

Photo Log
This is where all of the movies show, and that is THE red carpet. 

 All of the countries at the festival had a tent to display their movies and to host actors, directors, etc.

Love this. There were tons of people at the festival, walking around, laying out, and people watching. The yachts were out in force too.
John asked for this picture. hehe. John and the Jean Claude Van Damme watch.

Everyone was gathered in 2 places. This hotel, and the Festival hall. The paparazzi were out in force everywhere and they always had a ladder. There were certain places where they had their ladders attached to fences like it was a bike. 

John and I on the red carpet... We wish. 
Wish you guys a wonderful wonderful weekend! Can't wait to tell you about the trip to Corsica next week!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Two for One Day!

Ok, I realized this morning that I have too many things to write about this week! (Never a bad thing.) Normally, I would just let it carry over to next week BUT we are going on a trip this coming weekend to Corsica so I will have plenty to write about next week as well. So, it's two for one day! 

John and I spent our Saturday at a food and flower market that happens once a year in Nice. We saw the signs for it last year but had no idea what it was so we didn't go. This year, we decided to just go and find out and it was such a great day. This market was a blast and we bought quite a few good things. 

Picture log! 

Beautiful rose bushes for sale

Churros, made fresh to order. 

One of the 3 food tents. 
 Local honey


They even had animals for sale! 

 Our purchases! (John wouldn't let me buy a baby goat...)

Marseille and the Calanques

After we woke up, wait, scratch that, thawed out the next morning we were off to Marseille. The sun was out, still a little cool, but overall we were really looking forward to the day. Unfortunately, Marseille is just not Nice. (pun intended...) The city was dirty, busy, all up and down hill, graffiti everywhere, but we still found a few really beautiful things to enjoy. 
We started out in the port, completely filled with yachts, and walked up the incredibly steep hill to our first stop- Notre Dame de la Garde.

Other than St. Mark's in Venice, this is the most beautiful cathedral that we have visited in Europe. After the walk it took to get there, it better have been beautiful though! It is built on the highest point in Marseille, overlooking the old port.

Since we had Sadie with us, John and I took turns going inside. John went in first and when he came out, I could tell he was impressed. But, instead of going right inside the church, I made a pit stop in the public restroom. (Woohoo! Travel tip- take advantage of public ones when you can!) The outside of the church is almost unimpressive after you see the inside.

After this church, we head back down the hill to the port for lunch. A quick sandwich stop later and we were off to the other cathedral, Cathedral Major, which is the seat of the Archdiocese of Marseille. There have been cathedrals built on this spot since the 5th century although the present one was built in the late 1800s. When you first walk in, you are just amazed at how large it is. While it looks huge from the outside, the inside is almost awing. The mosaics on the ceiling, the 2 or 3 side chapels- this place just goes on and on. 

Ok, last stop on our weekend Mini-Roadtrip! The Calaques du Cassis! It was a wonderful visit, even if it was a little short. By the end of our time in Marseille, we didn't have quite enough time there and plan to go back. In the mean time, here are a few pictures! 

First views of Cassis. The drive there was amazing. We are always impressed with how quickly the landscapes change in France.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Land of Cézanne

How many of you know about this Cézanne fellow?? Not this kid. Even after our trip to Aix this weekend, having seen his birthplace, his mother's home, his favorite restaurant, I got nothing. Evidently, he is a pretty famous guy. While I may not know every much about him; I will say that his choice of towns is fantastic. Aix is a peaceful, green, college town with plenty of soul to go around. John and I really enjoyed our visit to Aix last Thursday. We didn't have a plan of attack like we usually do so a stop at the Office of Tourism was necessary. The kind French man recommended the "Steps of Cézanne" walking tour which leads you through all of the major artist sites as well as the most important places in Aix. 

Over the course of the next few hours, we covered the city pretty well, all the while searching for a public restroom. I am not sure how many of you have traveled in Europe, or maybe it is just a France thing, but there is a definite shortage of public, free, toilets around here. And for this girl, with my love of water and teeny-tiny bladder, it is very often a problem. So, my travel tips for you are #1- either don't drink very much when out in Europe, or #2- start prepping your bladder now, or #3- be prepared to spend a lot of money on pay toilets. But, I digress. Back to Aix. They had a GAP!!!! Ohhh happpyyyy dayyyyy! It was a really joyful moment for me because I love Gap, and also because the public RR we had been searching for was just outside. yehh! 

Other great moments in Aix-
The tree-lined Cours Mirabeau with its fantastic fountains and fun market

Pizza-by-the-slice for lunch
The Quatre Dauphins fountain

La Rotonde fountain, leading the way into town

Fantastic local pastries and even better street musicians

And, our fantastic campground, although we could have lived without the 45 degree temps that night. brrrrrrr

Monday, May 17, 2010

Long Weekend!

Hurray for French Holidays! Last Wednesday was John's Friday! Thursday was Ascension and if a holiday falls on a Thursday in France you just CAN'T go back to work on Friday. So, we took a short camping trip last Thursday and Friday to a town called Aix-en-Provence with a couple of other stops on the way there and back. On Saturday we went to a HUGE food and flower market that was just down the road from our apartment. It was fantastic and we bought quite a few local food products. I'll be blogging about them later in the week. Sunday was spent in Cannes for the film festival! It was a really great weekend with lots going on and tons of pictures. This coming weekend we have our trip to Corsica. Busy busy week ahead!

For all of you in the States, here is a good recipe for all of those add a dish, potluck dinners that you might have coming up on Memorial Day!

Greek Orzo Salad 

5 cups cooked orzo
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
3 or 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 medium red onion, small diced
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts (give or take), cut into eighths
1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh parsley or chervil, chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large lemon, halved
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 or 4 ounces reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled
20 pitted kalamata olives, cut into quarters (didn't have these and it tastes perfectly ok without it. So, if you don't like or don't have olives, leave them out!)
1. To a large mixing bowl, add orzo, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, olives, artichoke hearts, and parsley. Stir to combine.
2. Pour olive oil into orzo mixture. Juice the entire lemon into the same bowl. Add salt and grind pepper to taste. Stir gently to combine. Add feta. Stir again. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Best Blueberry Muffins. Period.

The search is over! Everyone, breathe a sigh of relief. I have finally, FINALLY, found a really really fantastic blueberry muffin recipe! Yeh!

We were -almost- out of milk on Sunday and I knew that we didn't have enough for cereal Monday morning so I had to make some muffins for breakfast. Unfortunately, I had no over-ripe bananas, no apples, or any other type of muffin-making fruit other than blueberry. And, I had yet to find the -perfect- blueberry muffin recipe that I am about to share with you. So, John and I went on a recipe hunt and eventually found the original recipe that we transformed into our own. (Due to some ingredients that we didn't have, and I wanted a crumble topping.)

These are fantastic and definitely have some elements that are a little different. Take some time with them, make the jam, and then eat one about 15 minutes after they come out of the oven. Ohhhh Man. Melt in your Mouth.

Best Blueberry Muffins
2 cups (about 10 ounces) fresh or frozen blueberries
1 1/8 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
¼ cup vegetable oil
 1 cup buttermilk (see note)
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
Note: I don't have buttermilk here in France soooo.. I mixed- 1/2 cup creme fraiche (sour cream), 1/4 cup of heavy cream, and 1/4 cup of reg. milk. And they still turned out great. 
Crumble Topping:
       2 Tbls. Butter
       1/2 Cup Oats
       4 Tbls. Brown Sugar
       1 tsp. Cinnamon
1. FOR THE TOPPING: Add all for ingredients to a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.
2. FOR THE MUFFINS: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line your muffin tins with muffin liners or spray them with nonstick cooking spray. Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes. 
3. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk remaining 11/8 cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour; do not overmix.)
4. Use ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion. Sprinkle crumble topping evenly over muffins.
5. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

 Sadie was dying for a muffin when I was taking the pictures. Ha. I guess she thinks she would like blueberries?

original recipe here at The bitten word