Monday, September 29, 2008

Je m'appelle Molly à Paris!

After an amazing weekend in Paris, this one's going to be mostly about food! Genevieve and I ate our way through Paris from a restaurant in the 15th to the Rue Mouffetard to a quiet authentic bistro in the 2nd.

My Parisienne culinary experience started even before that! While Genevieve and Cooper had class for three hours on Friday morning, I systematically stalked every croissant on the Rue de Passy. I got a croissant at one bakery, a sugar brioche at the next, and sat and read the papers on a bench. I couldn't even wait to take a picture before I tasted the brioche, you see...

Next I sat at a cafe for almost two hours (ooh la la!) and tried another croissant. Out of all of these, my favorite was definitely the brioche. The sugar on top actually looks like sea salt it's so big! So it's crunchy and then chewy, and even better when you get it hot like I did this time!

Next up was a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower - very cliche, but fun nonetheless! Baguette, jambon cru (like prosciutto!) and camembert, with a splash of red wine to wash it down. Cooper and I snuggled.

Friday night we met up with some of Genevieve and Cooper's French friends. They brought along some friends from Quebec who were visiting, and trying to decipher their "French" was like trying to carry on a conversation with a Scot! Or worse. The French kids said they had a harder time understanding Quebecois than our English. But dinner was great, and pretty cheap. I got a "boucher au cacao" - I'm not sure exactly how to translate "boucher". It literally means "butcher", but it's a cut of beef, really tender. And it was in a sauce of its own juices and bitter cocao powder, served with these amazing, crispy roasted potatoes. Between the group of us (8 people frantically trying to understand and communicate with each other), we split 3 bottles of wine, and the tab still only came to 20 euros per person! And the setting was great - the restaurant itself was kind of dark, but the menu was still legible, and the walls were painted vibrant red with grafitti-like writing all over it. In the bathroom, appartently, there's usually a marker so you can write whatever comes to you, but unfortunately, there was no marker on Friday night, so my inner poet couldn't flow. Damn.

Saturday morning brough more culinary triumph! Genevieve and I made a simple breakfast of fried eggs, kiwi, toast, and coffee, but the eggs were fresher, the yolks more orange, and the coffee (a supermarket brand) was "BANGIN'", to quote Genevieve. For lunch (Mom and Dad, I know I already talked your ears off about this lunch, so bear with me...) we picnicked on the Rue Mouffetard and made the best sandwich I think I've ever had. A baguette that was so crusty it almost made the top of our mouths bleed (that's how you know it's good stuff), with "raisin de la maison" cheese (a soft cow milk cheese with mixed raisins, not very strong) and fresh rotisserie chicken thigh, with the skin, of course! To go along side, we got olives nicoises, and some of the potatoes that were roasting at the bottom of the rotisserie, some of which were crusty with little brown bits, all of which had sopped up the chicken juice and fat dripping from six feet above. For dessert, perfect little strawberries that would make Michael and Jason proud any day! 

The chicken and potatoes before we got to them:



Later down the road, Genevieve and I found this abandoned restaurant just BEGGING to be adopted! So we decided that with all of your help, we'll buy it and call the signature sandwich Le Mouffetard after our aforementioned incredible sandwich :-) Matt, you're maitre'd.

Can you handle any more tales of culinary excellence?! Hang in there! There's more! Saturday night, though we didn't think it was possible, upstaged the rest of our tastings. We ate at Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie, a small restaurant in the 2nd, far from Gen's apartment, but we figured it was worth the schlep, since one of Scott's friends is the chef there, and anything that Scott approves of must be good! When we arrived, we were a bit concerned because it was so quiet - not empty, just calm, which is different from any of the other restaurants around or any we'd been to in the previous 48 hours. We should have known then what we figured out later - this place was for serious foodies! Not raucous twenty-somethings! Our old souls fit in just fine though. Here's what we ordered:

Appetizer: Scallops St. Jacques in a brown sauce with julienned vegetables and good french bread to sop everything up with
Entrées: Genevieve got a piece of rockfish with a ratatouille-like vegetable mix under it. Neither of us had tried it before, but were pleasantly surprised. It was mild, perfectly cooked, of course, and altogether delicious. I got the filet mignon du porc with roasted potatoes and apples in a saffron-infused cider sauce. Mmmm.
Dessert: We both agreed that this was possibly the best dessert we'd ever tasted, and certainly the most interesting. It was three figs poached in spiced red wine (cinammon, nutmeg, lemon, and probably some other things we couldn't identify), with an almost crostillant and honey lavender ice cream. I wondered (aloud, I think...) why anyone makes pumpkin pie! This reminded me of the classic Thanksgiving dessert, but it's so much more interesting. Too bad I won't be stateside for T-day this year, but watch out for 2009...

(No pictures from this restaurant. I already felt a bit juvenile to be there, so I didn't want to bust out a camera...)

After all of this, you'd think we'd be sick of eating. But being the troopers we are, we rose the next morning, and after a quick cup of Gen's BANGIN' coffee, we headed off to brunch in Le Marais district with Cooper, where for 15 euros we got café au lait, jus d'orange, perfectly cooked double-boiled buttery scrambled eggs, a green salad, a chicken kebab, potatoes, fruit salad and fromage blanc. Life is good in Paris...

And Genevieve found her street! Rue de la Montagne St. Geneviève!

...and for those of you wondering about my apartment, I'm here! I took time off from settling in to update you on the more important things in my life (i.e. food, eating, my trip to Paris...), but I'll take and post pictures once I've got it into an acceptable order. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Update on the move...

...that still hasn't happened.

Although we were assured that the current tenant of the apartment that Christina and I are scheduled to move into would be all cleared out by Tuesday night, allowing us to move in Wednesday afternoon, this has yet to happen. We waited anxiously this afternoon for a call from our director for six hours (!), only to find out (by calling him ourselves) that the move has been pushed back yet again until tomorrow. I'll believe that when it happens!

In the meanwhile, Fiorella, crazy landlady extraordinaire, has been calling me and my director nonstop to figure out what's going on. She caught on pretty quickly to the move when she saw my roommates clothes in Space-Saver (R) bags. Subtlety is not her forte. Tom refuses to tell her until the very moment we move so as to "time things right", and I, therefore, have been left to play dumb, all the while clandestinely packing my shirts and redistributing my pants to make it look like I haven't emptied 3/4 of my clothes from the armoire. Christina and Tom have it easy as far as I'm concerned! Tom doesn't live here, and when Fiorella starts to rant, Christina can't understand a word she's saying! Ah, the joys of speaking Italian...

Well, I hope this will all be sorted out before I leave for Paris. But then again, if it isn't, I would get to leave and avoid the scene that I'm sure will go down when we move, leaving my suitcases fully packed and ready to be transported by minions to my new domestic paradise...

More on this tomorrow. Or not. 

Monday, September 22, 2008


Finally! Someone else in Rome appreciates church ceilings as much as I do! And they have discovered a way to circumvent the sore neck syndrome that comes with craning your neck back a full 90 degrees to admire them. A mirror! What genius. Here I am looking into the mirror, along with a fellow ceiling admirer. 

As I mentioned earlier, there is a cat sanctuary in the ruins of some temples here in Rome, and they are cared for, vaccinated, cleaned, fed, etc. by a group of old English women. They run a daily tour at 4PM through the ruins to meet the cats, but I seem to always miss it! It will be at the top of my priority list when Genevieve and Cooper are here, however. What could be better?! Anyway, I had a very intense moment with this particular cat, that was staring at me from 20 ft. below - either he was immensely pleased that I was taking his picture, or extremely upset that I was invading his privacy.

Those were my great events of the weekend! I am going tonight to look at an apartment that my director wants Christina and I to move into. After a week-long hold up with the other one, he's found this newer, nicer one, which he says (although he always does) that we can move into tomorrow. More on this later... I hope the kitchen's nice!

Friday, September 19, 2008

My first rainy day in Rome

Everybody says that it hardly ever rains in Rome, especially not in September, which is always the most beautiful month! But today Rome proved "everybody" wrong. It poured all day long, and not just rain, but cold, windy rain that seemed to change the angle at which it fell depending on where you were standing, so that it always blew right into your ears and eyeballs, the most uncomfortable places to be rained on, I think. So, there, "everybody"!

We had planned to go to the ruins in Ostia Antica today, which is supposed to be beautiful and only about a 30 minute ride from Rome. I was looking forward to the train ride to pour over my Gourmet in Paris magazine, so that I could map out mine, Genevieve's and Cooper's restaurant stops this upcoming weekend, but alas, such rain snatched my trainride and thus planning time. Instead, we went to a museum which we had to walk about half a mile to get to. We started out huddled under umbrellas and holding arms to keep warm, but by the time we got to the museum, drenched and teeth chattering, we were walking in a sullen single-file line that would make most kindergarten teachers proud.

The museum is called Centrale Montemartini, and it houses many, many, many, many, many, many, MANY, MANY, MANY marble sculptures. Perhaps I would have better appreciated their individuality had I not been walking soaked to the bone. But the building itself used to be an electrical plant and had a great industrial esthetic, so it was cool to see these ancient statues against metal machinery. Like so:

There was also this GIGANTIC statue that Carolyn took a liking to:

Yesterday (I'm going backwards here, I know...) we went to the Domus Aurea, the house of the Emperor Nero. Now, it's really just a biiiiiiiiig underground cave. But again, I can't help but notice this connection I seem to be having with great Emperors! Standing on the same streets as my buddy Marcus Aurelius, checking out the excavating digs of Nero... who knows what shall come of these three months. I'm not trying to predict anything, I'm just saying that you all better start sucking up now...

Then we went for Brazilian food! Yes, in Rome. But with real Brazilian people, so I trusted their judgement as to the quality of the restaurant. Things started off well with these delectable little buggers, whose name I can neither remember nor pronounce, but they are a sort of fritter filled with cheese:

Following such deliciousness came a strange entree which, although advertised as chicken with fried polenta and "quiaba" (your guess is as good as mine...), consisted of a slice of baguette topped with lentils and chicken. Good, but not was I had hoped for. Before I left for the restaurant, my Brazilian sage and source of knowledge on all things hispanic or ethnic at all, for that matter, Genevieve, advised me to "above all, avoid the fejuada. My friend found a pig's snout in it once...". However, I ordered the black beans. You can guess the rest. I didn't find a pig snout, per se, but there were certainly unidentifiable pig parts brushing up against my beans. I fished around them, though, and was very pleased.

Tonight is looking like a movie night thanks to the crappy weather. Hope tomorrow is a better day for exploring! If not, maybe I'll get my planning time for my restaurant stops in Paris :-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More Church Ceilings...

Hello again. Today I spent most of the afternoon wandering around. For a class project, we had to choose a piazza and sit and observe it for a while, so I chose Piazza Della Rotonda (in front of the Pantheon) and hung out there for a bit today. I was afraid I'd be the only stupid-looking idiot with a camera, but as it turns out, the numbers were in my favor. There were lots of people that looked like this, with headphones, lanyards, and fanny-packs:

So the Piazza itself was ridiculously touristy. I was looking around and saw a beautiful, charming, salmon-colored stucco apartment building, and went to take a picture until I figured out that it was a McDonalds...

It was hot this afternoon, which was surprising because the morning and early afternoon were cool, and I was wishing I had brought a jacket when the sun popped out! So then it got hot and I thought about taking a dip in the fountain in the middle of the piazza, that is, until I saw this sign:

I also found the most amazing stores! One in particular was a stationary store (una cartoleria) with the most incredible leather journals and books, pens, stationary, leather bags, everything I could ever dream of and more!

And of course, there were churchs. I will spare you eight ceiling pictures and only put up this one, the most impressive of the lot. And I didn't get kicked out this time, thank you very much.

Okay, I kind of lied. Here's another picture of a ceiling, but it's in the same church, so it's technically the same ceiling. They painted the ceiling to look like there is a dome at a certain point - a ceiling painted ON a ceiling! How clever is that?! It certainly fooled me.

In other news, it seems like Christina and I will be moving within a couple of days! I can't wait to get my hands on a kitchen of my own here. Everywhere I go there seem to be amazing specialty food stores and for me, at the moment, it's like shoving sweets into a Catholic's face during lent and telling them they can't eat them because Jesus says no. In my case, it's like shoving gourmet food in my face while I'm in limbo and telling me I can't cook with them because Fiorella says no. I took a picture of this window which, from  afar, looked like a candy shop! But it's meat! Even better...

AND I found this restaurant that my beloved advisor Stacy Pies told me about: no written menu, only the chef's suggestions based on their fresh ingredients that day. Dad, when you get here, we are definitely going to hit this place up. Ristorante Lagana!

Overall, a lovely afternoon in Rome, discovering charm amongst the tourist traps, and then taking pictures of all that charm so as to render it all the more touristy...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dopo una pausa...

Hello, it has been a while! I guess I am not very good at keeping this thing up. Note to self: try harder! Or else father and brother will harass you.

It has started to cool down in Rome! Which makes me happy, so that I don't come home every afternoon drenched with sweat and covered in streaky black soot from the city. It has even helped at night, so that the mosquitoes are more scarce and don't leave quarter-sized bites up and down my legs, etc.

Since we spoke last, I've seen some pretty interesting things! My favorite exploration being a trip to the Crypta Balbi, a museum near the Teatro Argentina, where the Roman Forum used to stand (beware the ides of March!). The museum is basically an excavation site that isn't more than ten year old, and shows the "layers" of Rome - from the original buildings in the Aurelian times up until the present museum.

They excavated down to what is about one and a half stories underground, so you can see the original walls of the Crypta Balbi (the big white stones), then the walls that were built on top of those during the medieval era (the crude brick), and it goes all the way up to the walls of the present day museum, which is made of brick and wooden beams.

Here I am standing on the streets of Rome during the Aurelian Marcus Aurelius and I are eternally linked...destined for greatness...

Aside from comparing myself to great emporers, I have continued visiting all the churches I can find, thanks to my sissy's advice. We got kicked out of one because I was wearing shorts (oops), Christina was wearing a tank top (double oops), and Joe was drinking a soda (triple oops), and it was mass time (oops^4)... 

But here are some great ceilings! The second (gold) one is the one we got kicked out of, but I snapped a picture just in time! Satan, here I come...


I also had my first encounter with a stray Roman cat, which jumped into my lap! I almost took her home, but I feel like the old English ladies who take care of them and run a stray cat tour (yes, that's right) wouldn't appreciate it.

And after, as many of you know, a rocky start in Rome, I went to Carpentras for the weekend to see the Trucs! It was worth every second of my thirty hour (roundtrip) train ride! And of course, Fabrice cried. The hardest thing was keeping my languages straight, though, as I greeted Sandrine with a "Buongiorno!" and spoke French to my Italian professor on Monday morning!


The girls have gotten so big! Camille is nearly 12, now, and Andréane is 7. They have both grown up a lot but neither one has changed very much personality-wise: Camille still always wants to be the boss, and Andréane is still insane and monkey-like at every turn. 

After a morning at the market in Ile-sur-Sogue with them on Sunday, I found the house of my dreams in the town center. Donations can be made payable to Molly B. Reese. Thank you for your support :-)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ciao, ciao lettore!

Ciao tutti! This is going to be a blog about my semester in Rome. I'll try to keep up with it as a way of keeping everyone up to date with photos, etc. We'll see how long I last!

I arrived on Sunday and had a bit of a rocky start. I had been on a plane for about 10 (practically sleepless) hours total and arrived to a stifling hot Rome, where I was promptly led out of the nice, urban, downtown center area to a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city called Colli Albani. We only walked half ablock from the dingy metro station to the super-modern, pink cement buidling that housed my "host family", which turns out to a be a lady who is 60-ish and rents out the bedrooms in her apartment to students.  I have a balcony though! Care to see the view? 

Notice the bus in the right-hand corner. It stops directly outside my window about every fifteen minutes and idles then screeches away.

Anyway, enough of the whining. On Monday, Joe and Carolyn (the other two Lexia students) and I went to the Colloseum, if only to be tourists extraordinaire on our first full day in the city.

Here we are being tourists in a tunnel:

My favorite things that I've seen this week are the churches! More specifically, the ceilings in the churches. So far, I've seen only two churches: San Giovanni, which is near my school, and then my favorite (so far), Santa Maria di Trastevere. Here are their ceilings!

Santa Maria di Trastevere:

San Giovanni:

Okay, enough for now! Basta! My land lady gets sneaky and unplugs the internet sometimes because she thinks it's too expensive. So I neeeever know how long I'll have internet access for. It's just another element of surprise here in Roma.

Tanti bacci a tutti!