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La vacance

croissant with butter

I hate to tell you this. But not everyone in France gets five weeks for les vacances. While it’s true that most people in France get a five weeks of vacation, I am not quite there yet. Nor am I at the point where I get 7 weeks of vacation, as a few of my friends do. (But that’s what I continue to aspire to*.) Take, for example, this summer my vacation time is less than twenty-four hours.

In French, les vacances is/are almost always plural. Perhaps it’s because everyone just does it en masse. So I’m not sure if I have to right to call my twenty-four hours vacation, in the plural. But who has time to quibble over grammar (French or English) when I am this close to collapsing.

passed out

Fortunately a neighbor who works with Les Étangs de Corot took pity on me sweltering in my office during the heatwave, staring at words on a computer screen for hours at a time while fusing to the plastic of my office chair, gulping ice water, and invited me to come to the hotel and spa for the night, knowing that even the hottest American – the one who is remaining in Paris (not necessarily the one with the hottest backside) – needs a break.

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Lebanon

meat pastries

The Middle East is a pretty fascinating place, and on this visit – as well as others – I am constantly surprised by what I experience there. Although we often see snippets of it, our images of the region are usually negative; people are fighting or yelling or demonstrating. Glimpses of people going about everyday life aren’t especially easy to come by outside of these countries. Because situations change seemingly daily, it’s not always possible to go to certain places when you want to travel to them. But fortunately, the time was just right for me to go to Lebanon.

Lebanese woman with fruitlamb
green almondsLebanon beach

The first thing you notice in Lebanon is that the people are quite friendly and as I started writing this post about my trip, two young boys are playing around me at the airport while my flight home is delayed (for nine hours!), gingerly saddling up beside me, touching my computer screen with curiosity. In western countries, we are afraid of people and we’re told not to talk to strangers. And if someone came over to you in the airport and touched your computer screen, you might have a coronary. Or deck them.

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Champagne, Reims, and Veuve Clicquot

Champagne cave

I was perched on the fence, whether to say yes to staying home to work, and no to Champagne. And, well, I guess I don’t need to tell you that I simply could not fight the battle of the bubbly. And so I headed out for a quick day and night in Reims, where Champagne is made.

Demi-sec Champagne
Veuve Clicquot riddling rack

Fortunately the city of Reims is just a quick 45 minutes from Paris and I was invited to the region to eat, drink, and, well…I won’t tell you what else I did. But it involved a long, hot, much-appreciated bath, and a rest on the adjacent canapé.

Nothing like a couch in your bathroom

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Win a Cuisinart ICE-100 Ice Cream Machine!

When I found out that Cuisinart had released a brand-new model of their ice cream machine, I asked if they would let me give two away on my site. And I was happy when they agreed!

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Arriving in New York on the Queen Mary 2

QM2 deckchairs
portsidePimm's cup fruit

It’s been a couple of days since our ship landed (as opposed to my ship coming in) and arriving in New York City by ocean liner is a rather extraordinary experience. Even more astounding is that I actually was able to wake up at 4am to catch the underside of the Verrazano Bridge as we glided below it, then slowing crept up on the softly glowing statue of liberty and all of Manhattan as it was waking up.

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Inside the Kitchen of the Queen Mary 2

croissants

The phrase “runs a tight ship” isn’t applicable anywhere more than in the kitchens of an ocean liner. When you’ve got over two thousand guests to feed, plus a staff of around a thousand or so, a “tight ship” is essential. But also having the right temperament to deal with various needs that might arise is important, especially when you’re dealing with a multicultural staff, special events, nearly a dozen kitchens, and – well, you name it, it’s likely the kitchen staff on the Queen Mary 2 has seen it.

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Aboard the Queen Mary 2

scone, jam, butter

I woke up this morning to the most spectacular sunrise I’ve ever seen. I would have loved to have shared it with you, but it was something like 4 in the morning and I could only stare at it through the curtains. My camera was likely somewhere, but I wasn’t all that keen on dealing with anything electronic at that hour. I just wanted to look at it.

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Crossing the Atlantic

Atlantic ocean

Whenever people ask me “How often do you get back to the states?” they always seem to be taken aback when I say “Never.” It’s not that I’m turning my back on my home country, it’s just that the idea of sitting in a dismal gray airport (with abysmal food choices), waiting in lengthy lines, going through the frenzy of stripping down for security, getting my privates x-rayed ( – yikes!), then sitting in a cramped seat unable to move for thirteen hours, isn’t my idea of fun.

QM2

So when the folks at the Queen Mary 2 offered me a trip to compensate for canceling a culinary journey I was to make last year due to the irksome volcano, I jumped at the chance. (Although considering it’s a multi-story boat – I should probably use a different word than “jump.”) Instead of arriving somewhere all crumpled and jet-lagged, I’m looking forward to sleeping horizontally, in an actual bed, and arriving in America as a normal person. Whatever that is.

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