Saturday, April 03, 2010

Susie's update from Paris and my update from Providence

First up, Providence.

As many of you know by now, we had a bit of rain here in RI earlier last week. (Even the French newspapers carried stories about the terrible the flooding in Rhode Island.)

It is true that living in the city of Providence has forced us to keep our eyes on the road -- literally -- since we spend most of our driving time dodging the enormous potholes, caused primarily by the incompetence of the government and the indifference of the companies creating the holes in the first place. And we have virtually no drain system to speak of, at least in the city. Over the last few decades, the folks that run things have seen fit to raise the levels of all the streets without raising street curbing or, and this is the important point, without modifying the storm drains so, in effect, they ended up covering up some drains or choking most of them.

But during this past storm we were one of the lucky ones. While we had some flooding in the city, the hardest hit folks -- and some I work with - were those who lived south of here, in Cranston and Warwick, to name just two locations that have truly suffered from the monsoons that struck here last week. Four colleagues spent several days and nights doing little else but pumping water out of their basements.

The one bright side, I suppose, is that without basements that water would have struck at the very living centers of most homes. Not a pleasant thought to be sure.

As a result of the horrible flooding – some of which still persists in the state, Johnson & Wales closed up shop yesterday, Friday – most definitely a Good Friday.

I took advantage of the time off and the incredibly splendid weather to drive north to Cambridge, MA, and spent several hours strolling the stone gardens of Mt. Auburn Cemetery. (I’ll be posting more about my visit, along with a photo slideshow at my blog on US cemeteries. Oh, that's the Mary Baker Eddy monument facing Halcyon Pond. If that name sounds familiar she founded the Christian Science movement.)

But monsoon season is over at last and so is winter. Probably one of the mildest winters in recent memory, certainly for us at any rate. And the weather has been absolutely gorgeous the past several days, as if God is trying to make amends for his bad behavior this last week.

Now, here's the latest news from Susie in Paris -- she'll be forwarding reports to me every now and then along with a few photos, all of which I'll try to post as quickly as possible.

Merci beaucoup!

Ah, Paris - what a place!  It's been an interesting week and half so far.  It took me a few days to recover from traveling and adjust to a different time zone and daily schedule.  I still miss the regularity of my days at Gracie's. But right now I am enjoying having more time to myself as I think about my future.

Last Saturday I attended a croissant class at the Champs Elysees location of Lenotre, the famed French culinary school. Named after the great chef, Gaston Lenotre, the school’s professional culinary campus is just outside of Paris. Their smaller, satellite school on the Champs Elysees houses a cafe, retail shop and kitchens for a variety of day courses.  It is really aimed at the amateur crowd, but for me it's good to have exposure to different recipes and techniques.  One can always pick up a few pearls of wisdom here and there.

In addition to myself there were 3 French, a Russian-Canadian and an Italian, all female (
photo above).  The class was in French and, while I understood the gist of what was said, I did miss some of the jokes and various nuances of the language (I'm still working on my listening skills).  Since making croissant dough is, in fact a two-day process, we performed only a few of the required steps but I came away with a new recipe to try on my own.  Voila!

This past Monday I began my two weeks of French language class at L'Alliance Francaise.  My schedule is five days a week, four hours each day, although Easter Monday is a holiday, so no class. 

My previous experiences at the school have been enjoyable and very beneficial to my personal growth. I've gradually advanced in class level since I first started studying French in 2006.  I'm gaining bit by bit in my ability to understand the spoken word, which, for me, is the hardest part.  Our class, as usual, is made up of a diverse group of students from a half dozen different countries, who are pursuing various studies, living and working in Paris, or on vacation and brushing up on their French.  Our teacher Marylise is very nice and very precise and constantly points out our various errors in pronunciation, writing or when we use the wrong verb tense.  That's how we learn, after all.

Otherwise, I've been walking a lot, visiting some of my favorite places – Mora for baking equipment, Librairie Gourmande to check out cookbooks, Detou for baking and cooking supplies, and of course the major department stores of BHV, le Bon Marche for household items. Even with the lousy weather I also make a point of strolling through two of my favorite green spaces: the Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin des Plantes.

I’m also baking a bit. In fact, on Thursday I made shortbread cookies and
moelleux chocolat (moist chocolate mini cakes) and passed them around class. I'm also enjoying some tasty meals out, as well as fixing light meals at the apartment.  (More about my dining next time.) In spite of the current rainy, chilly weather, it is great to be back in Paris. 

More to come!

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