Tag Archives For: France

04 Dec, 2018

Mastering the Art of French Eating

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Mastering the Art of French Eating Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris by Ann Mah
on September 26, 2013
Pages: 288
Genres: Cooking, Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Pamela Dorman Books
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: France

The memoir of a young diplomat’s wife who must reinvent her dream of living in Paris—one dish at a time

"Excellent ingredients, carefully prepared and very elegantly served. A really tasty book."—Peter Mayle, author of The Marseille Caper and A Year in Provence

When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband is given a three-year assignment in Paris, Ann is overjoyed. A lifelong foodie and Francophile, she immediately begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a year-long post—alone. Suddenly, Ann’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Lights is turned upside down.

So, not unlike another diplomatic wife, Julia Child, Ann must find a life for herself in a new city. Journeying through Paris and the surrounding regions of France, Ann combats her loneliness by seeking out the perfect pain au chocolat and learning the way the andouillette sausage is really made. She explores the history and taste of everything from boeuf Bourguignon to soupe au pistou to the crispiest of buckwheat crepes. And somewhere between Paris and the south of France, she uncovers a few of life’s truths.

Like Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French and Julie Powell’s New York Times bestseller Julie and Julia, Mastering the Art of French Eating is interwoven with the lively characters Ann meets and the traditional recipes she samples. Both funny and intelligent, this is a story about love—of food, family, and France.


I had this book on my iPad for a long time.  I had started reading it and then wandered off as I so often do.  However, I realized I had this while on my recent riverboat cruise in France, so I decided it was the perfect time to dust it off and finish it up.

I was actually on the outskirts of Lyon when I picked the book back up just in time for the chapter on Lyon. Lyon is known as gastronomic hot spot in France.  Their claim to fame are small restaurants that were started by women catering to working class people.  They are called “bouchons”.  They still exist and are considered some of the best places to eat.  I appreciate this book for explaining that they still feature tripe heavily in their meals.  Vegetarian-friendly is not a concept most of these have grasped.  A few days later I was standing in old town Lyon turning in a circle looking at all the bouchons.

Whispering to the husband – “We aren’t eating anywhere that says bouchon.”

Him – “Why?”

Me, muttering like just saying the word would manifest it in front of me – “Tripe”

Him – “What?””

Me – “It is sort of like restaurants who claim they are Family Restaurants in the U.S.”

He understood my theory that any restaurant that claims that title is using recipes from some old lady who cooked meat and potatoes without any spices and believed that the way to cook vegetables is to boil them until they give up.  Also, the soups are totally made with meat broth and if you order vegetable soup anyway odds are 50/50 that there will be unexpected chunks of meat in it.  Yes, I am a vegetarian foodie snob.

I was inspired by her chapter on beef bourguignon.  Once we got home I made a yummy mushroom version from Smitten Kitchen

I would recommend this book for anyone who likes reading about local food traditions in combination with a memoir.  She decides to write this book to distract her from the fact that she’s been left in France alone for a year.  They just moved there.  She knows no one.  You see her personal growth over the year as she reaches out of her comfort zone to make friends. 

So what did we eat in France?  Stay tuned for that post in a bit.

24 Oct, 2016

Paris in Love

/ posted in: Reading Paris in Love Paris in Love by Eloisa James
on April 3rd 2012
Pages: 272
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Random House
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: France

“In 2009, New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James took a leap that many people dream about: she sold her house, took a sabbatical from her job as a Shakespeare professor, and moved her family to Paris.  With no classes to teach, no committee meetings to attend, no lawn to mow or cars to park, Eloisa revels in the ordinary pleasures of life—discovering corner museums that tourists overlook, chronicling Frenchwomen’s sartorial triumphs, walking from one end of Paris to another. She copes with her Italian husband’s notions of quality time; her two hilarious children, ages eleven and fifteen, as they navigate schools—not to mention puberty—in a foreign language; and her mother-in-law Marina’s raised eyebrow in the kitchen (even as Marina overfeeds Milo, the family dog). “

I picked up this ebook on a day it was free and then it sat on my iPad until I read a post on Felicia’s blog with recommendations for romance books.  Eloisa James was recommended.  When I went looking for her books I realized that I already owned one.

This is her memoir about her family’s year in Paris.  It was developed from her Facebook posts so it contains mainly short snippets of information about her days interspersed with longer essays.

She is an American who is married to an Italian man.  They live in New Jersey and have 2 kids.  They move to Paris and enroll the kids in an Italian language school because they are fluent.  Her son is taking classes like architectural drawing that he isn’t interested in so he doesn’t do the work.  Her daughter is now a child who is well acquainted with principals’ offices on two continents.  Eloisa walks around the city sampling the food and getting mad that her husband is losing weight as fast as she is gaining it.

“I asked if Alessandro would pick up some of the spectacular chocolate mousse made by a patisserie on the nearby rue Richer.  His response:  “I thought you were on a diet.”  These seven words rank among the more imprudent things he has said to me in the long years of our marriage.”

The Saga of Milo

Background – They had a Chihuahua named Milo.  He used to fly back and forth from the U.S. to Italy with them when they visited her husband’s family.  But Milo got fat.  He got stranded in Italy because he was too heavy to fly back to the U.S. in the cabin.  So Milo has been staying with Italian Grandma until he loses weight.  Yeah, it’s not happening.  Occasionally she reports in on Milo’s vet visits with Grandma.

“Apparently the vet has suggested vegetables, so for dinner Milo is having lightly steamed broccoli tossed in just a touch of butter, and some diet dog food steeped in homemade chicken broth.”

I have these clients.

“Milo has been back to the vet for a follow-up visit. To Marina’s dismay, her Florentine vet labeled Milo obese, even after she protested that ‘he never eats.’ Apparently the vet’s gaze rest thoughtfully on Milo’s seal-like physique, and then he said, ‘He may be telling you that, but we can all see he’s fibbing.'”

I have never been that brave.

“Marina said today the first thing she plans to do back in Florence is find a new vet.  That nasty vet who told her Milo is obese, she said, is too young and doesn’t understand Milo’s emotional problems.”

I read a lot of the Milo sections to my coworkers.  They thought they were hysterical.  Yes, this is our life.

08 Nov, 2014

Saturday Snapshot – Playground in Nice

/ posted in: Photostravel

The Promenade du Paillon is a new greenspace in the heart of Nice’s downtown. The Paillon is a stream that runs through town and was historically the cause of a lot of flooding. It was covered over in stages from 1868 to 1972. In 2011 the central bus terminal was demolished. It was supposedly very ugly and this park was put in.

It is a very narrow space, fenced in between two busy streets, but it is peaceful inside. One section is a marine animal themed playground.

I love tortoises. I would have totally sat on this tortoise for the picture but I was getting glared at by French people for being a horrible tourist for touching it.


There is also a large whale that you can go inside. Towards the back of the whale there are some hanging cylinders that I can only imagine have to represent whale poop. I was perplexed and even more amazed to find that I don’t have a picture of them.

Linking up with West Metro Mommy, Sunday Traveler, and

Dreaming of France Meme Eiffel

02 Nov, 2014

Villefranche – sur – Mer

/ posted in: travel

Dreaming of France Meme Eiffel

Our first trip out of Nice was to Villefranche-sur-Mer. This was the trip that made me insist that the husband read the guidebook entry for any place we were going from then on. We missed a lot here because he kept insisting that there wasn’t anything there.

It is 6 km east of Nice and is a port that a lot of ships use. We were lucky to hit it on a day with no cruise ships. Every other time we went past there were at least two cruise ships in the harbor.

It looks like there is sand on the beach but it is actually rocks. Most of the Riviera beaches don’t have sand.

We climbed up a hill and found this nice square to sit in.

At several places around Nice there are installations of art that has been done featuring the place you are visiting.

The husband never mastered the name of this place. He insisted on calling it La Mer. I told him he couldn’t do that. He said that he could say that he had a great meal in La Mer. I told him that that meant that he had a great meal “in the sea” which was entirely untrue and that he was not the boss of the town and was not allowed to change its name. He tried and tried but never could say it.

We took the train there which only took a few minutes but because of strikes when we tried to go home we had to wait 1.5 hours at the station to get a train. There is supposed to be one every half hour. After this we used the buses a lot more. They were more reliable.


22 Oct, 2014

Travel with a Sociopath, or What Rick Steves Left Out of the Guidebook

/ posted in: travel

I used Rick Steves’ guidebook to prepare for our trip to Nice.

The most useful part of the book for me was the inclusion of the bus numbers that went to different sites and having the bus stops on a map. I don’t know where I would have gotten that information without this book. I was all over the bus system’s website and couldn’t find it easily.

We decided to try to take the bus from Nice to Monaco because Rick made it seem easy. Just jump on the 100 bus and for 1,5 euro you go to Monaco. He even suggested that you make sure you get a seat on the right side of the bus to get the best views.

Armed with this cheerful knowledge we strolled to the bus stop. Our first clue that this might be a bit different than Rick had led us to believe was the vast numbers of people milling around the stop.

We wandered towards the front of the line to make sure we were lining up for the right thing. That’s how long the line was. From the back we could have been lining up for anything. We were promptly yelled at by a man who accused us of line jumping.

Assured that this was a line for the bus, we got in the back. Two buses pulled up. One opened the doors right in front of us. Our part of the line got on whilst enduring the hateful glares of the people who were actually ahead of us in line but found themselves without a place on either bus – including Monsieur I Hate Line Jumpers himself.

There was no getting a seat on the right. It was standing room only and they were packing that bus like a sardine can.

I got a spot standing in a spot for wheelchairs just behind a group of four seats that were facing each other.  For the rest of story, do refer to this professionally drawn graphic.


Seat A – Elderly British lady
Seat B – 40ish British lady
Seat C – a guy
Seat D – Elderly British lady

They were sitting in yellow seats which means that old people and disabled people are given priority.

So this French lady gets on the bus. She has an umbrella. (From this point on we will be referring to this as sa parapluie because that is my favorite French word. I was thrilled that it was raining because I got to use the word a lot.)

She starts yelling at the British people in French. Her point was that they were sitting in seats reserved for old people and she wanted the seat. Now she was noticeably younger than the older British ladies so they just looked at her. She started jabbing sa parapluie into the ribs of the guy in seat C.

The lady in seat D jumps up and offers her seat. Non! The angry French woman wants seat C. She keeps hitting the guy until he stands up. It is immediately obvious that he is disabled. He had severe balance issues. The angry French woman recoils. She starts yelling about how she didn’t know he was sick. This wasn’t an act of contrition. She was spitting out the words with scorn and hate.

The lady in seat B gives the crazy French lady her seat. The woman took it but sat with her knees out in the aisle (which was jammed with people) and glared at the world probably because she had to sit near a person she deemed inferior. She kept her back firmly to him.

After about 20 minutes the British people want off the bus. The French lady sprang into action. She let C and D go while making sure C didn’t touch her. She started then brandishing sa parapluie like a weapon. She was like a ninja with that thing. No one was going to get into those empty seats. She actually had the lady from seat A trapped up against the window for a bit until she snapped at the wild French woman. “You could wait until people get out!”

The French ninja sat in C and kept beating sa parapluie on A. She grudgingly allowed other old ladies to sit in B and D. Guess who she was saving A for? Her 20-something non-disabled daughter!

Crazy old bat! I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve ridden the bus in South America.

The bus did get us there though for cheap and with a story that we probably would have missed on the train. We planned on taking the train back but the 100 bus stopped in front of us as we were on our way to the train station so we got on. This time it wasn’t crowded and we got a good seat and the ride went much more like we read about it in the guidebook.

06 Jul, 2014

Dreaming of France with Duolingo

/ posted in: travel

Dreaming of France Meme Eiffel

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you’re in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us.

We are going to Nice in October.  I’m trying to remember some French.  I had two years of French in high school and I got all As.  What can I tell you in French?  I can insult you because one day my English teacher had us memorize a naughty sentence and go tell it to our French teacher.  That’s what I remember.

I’m working with Duolingo to regain some skills.  I’m using the app on my iPad but there are other formats.  It works like a game to help you learn a language.  If you make too many mistakes you have to take that lesson over.

Right now I’m able to make some sentences.  I don’t think they are particularly useful sentences.  I know I had tone when I had to repeat sentences about how I was eating meat and beef is good meat.  Not useful for vegetarians going to France.  LOL.

I hope I see lots of red apples.  Une pomme rouge has been a popular phrase in this game if I don’t get to use it I will be very sad.  Actually, I will probably get so excited that I’ll totally forget the words.

I figure that right now I sound like a dimwitted two year old.  When the husband was peeling sweet potatoes I announced, “L’homme est cuisine!”  (The man is cooking.)  I was proud.  He was mildly concerned.

Duolingo isn’t just for French.  You can pick all kinds of languages to learn. So try it if you want to see how much you forgot about whatever your high school language was.




22 May, 2014

The Greater Journey: Americans In Paris

/ posted in: Reading

The Greater Journey: Americans in ParisThe Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nonfiction, audio

During the 1800s many Americans moved to France to learn. Some studied art. Some studied medicine. Some were diplomats trying to make sense of the increasingly unstable country they found themselves in. What they would learn during their time in France would impact their lives and teach them useful skills that they took back to the young United States.

I was a bit confused when I started this book. I was listening to the audio and it starts with a whole cast of characters that it is jumping and forth between. It throws dates around willy nilly. I wasn’t sure that it was going to settle down and start making sense as a consistent narrative but it did after the first few chapters.

It starts out discussing the lives of American artists who went to study in France. In the early to mid 1800s there were no museums in France and no way for artists to see the masterworks of Western art without traveling to Europe. I had never thought of that. The book focuses on Samuel Morse, a talented painter with a side interest in inventing.

His master work was Gallery of the Louvre. He imagined his ideal gallery with all his favorite paintings in one place. His idea was that he would take it back to America and show other artists the works that they hadn’t seen. He also painted his friends into the picture. That is James Fenimore Cooper and his family on the upper left. Cooper came every day to the Louvre to watch him paint.

Gallery of the Louvre

I didn’t know that Samuel Morse was a painter. Eventually he gave up his successful career and focused on his invention – the telegraph.

Medical students came to Paris too. There weren’t any equivalent medical schools in the United States. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first American woman to earn a medical degree, came but had to study midwifery because no school would admit her. Several of the students who studied in Paris at this time went home to found medical schools in the U.S. based on the French models.

Sometimes the most important things students learned wasn’t in their area of study. Charles Sumner enrolled in the Sorbonne and noticed that black students were treated no differently than white students. He decided that racism was learned and not innate. He because such a vocal abolitionist Senator that eventually he was savagely beaten on the floor of the Senate.

Elihu Washburne was the U.S. Ambassador to France during the siege of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War. He wrote a diary that gives insight into conditions in Paris. He was the only foreign diplomat not to flee the city. Because of this he aided in the evacuation of British civilians in addition to American citizens. This section discussed French politics of the late 1800s when it appeared that the French people had lost their collective minds in my opinion.

The book ends with Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a sculptor from the United States who studied in France and used French craftsmen to make his large Civil War monuments like this monument to General Sherman.


There are many more people profiled giving an overview of the history of France in the 1800s as seen through the eyes of Americans.