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Posts tagged ‘mastering the art of french cooking’

Trains, Boats, Swimming Pools, Great CUISINE & SNOW

After moving over 500 pounds of luggage (ourselves) from the South of France, through Northern Italy down to Rome to catch a big boat  (during a freezing MISTRAL) to cross the BIG BLUE OCEAN, we arrived 15 days later in Breezy Balmy Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Our friends greeted us with 2 cars to carry the massive amount of luggage.

Our new beginning couldn’t have been more warm, especially with the fresh southern french cuisine of shrimp, mussels, scallops in a tomato vegetable sauce.  Wow.  Although they were the loveliest of hosts, their house kept rocking for days, and then I realized it was me sea legs, not acquainted with land legs.  Their dog Lucky, a golden retriever, we almost stole from them.

Then another good friend and former colleague took us in the last few days and welcomed us with candles lit, decorations galore, a fresh pot of coffee and tasty key lime pie when we arrived.

Key lime pie.

Key lime pie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

KEY LIME PIE from FLORIDA is always the best.  She put up with my (nameless) puppy and already started training him!!

Then, HER  friend had us over to his “trailer” and cooked an ENTIRE meal from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.

Cover of "Mastering the Art of French Coo...

Cover via Amazon

We couldn’t believe it  !!!   Incredible.   Everything.   His trailer was really a stylishly designed (by him) condo on the Inter-coastal waterway

English: A view of the Fort Lauderdale Skyline...

English: A view of the Fort Lauderdale Skyline at night from the 17th St Causeway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

on Sunny Isles with a view of sparkling high-rises in the distance over the expanse of water.    He’s so fun – and very very funny.

My brother’s friend, a Chef, cooked Thanksgiving dinner in Miami where the spread was top notched from appetizers to golden TASTY turkey with trimmings at his house on the bay.   Yum to delectable fixings Donald!!!  On the long table were superbly designed table decorations entirely created from nature…..grape leaves, driftwood, berries, sandalwood.  Creativity at it’s finest.  Fun to see my neice and nephew and laugh the Thanksgiving night away, with our tummies very full and jiggling with our cracking up.

My friends from USAirways gave us a fabulous party at their “Architectural Digest home”  in Ft. Lauderdale before we took the final trip home to Saint Louis.  Such a great time with old friends, talking, reminiscing, imbibing in wonderful food (more French dishes, yeah)  and taking a lot of  pictures.  That’s where it went awry.  Rushing as usual to get a great shot, I tripped off the step and flipped into their fabulously lighted and huge pool, head first.   Ofcourse the iPhone went to the bottom.  I came up for air, people rushed, someone said, ‘YOUR PHONE!!!”  I dived back down to the depths of the pool, twice, retrieving it on the 2nd dive and came up, like a bullet, arm extended upwards with phone in hand shouting, “RICE!!!!!!!! ”  Derek said “You looked like Shelly Winters in the POSEIDON Adventure diving for that phone.”   LOL  –  Well, it was worth it to use that drop dead gorgeous  shower  with the palm fronds in it, have my clothes dried, …….as someone outside the door said, “Well, I hardly know you and I’m drying your underwear”  – chuckle…..and got me warm and cozy in their jogging clothes.  Wow, now that’s a host with the most.

We are now tucked into our new apartment in a walking “Bedford Falls like area”  of Saint Louis, a train line passing right by our balcony, as lights twinkle and the SNOW falls steadily.  Our sons moved us while we were “boating back in” and everything was put in place, including beer in the frig, chocolate almonds, delightful CANDLE even, the bed made up & cozy!!!  What a FAMILY!!!!!  (Ofcourse the alternative was moving in with THEM!! ha ha)

The phone is out of rice, plugged in, and 4 days and  30 minutes later – it is actually alive.


THIS – was SUCH a Welcome home from our friends/ family  in Miami and Fort Lauderdale  and our family in Saint Louis after 2 years far far away……

This journey was one for the books……

PS – Pictures to come to this blog after the phone is fully charged !

Vacationing in the Other South of France – Day 1 – Afternoon

Day One – VACATION TO MENTON –  – Afternoon – Apres Midi –



Menton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




After passing Frejus, and becoming very animated about that Roman town on the water, we talked about the fun things we did there just in October when Sharon visited. It was a pretty magical time, with the lights over the boats and the still bay, the roman coliseum and the amazing culinary delights.


By almost 9am our train is passing the large golf course just this side of Cannes.    Just north of here is where we really wanted to take a side trip to the small town of  Plascassier,.   Pitchoune was the name of Julia Child’s  small dwelling next to the grand Mas where her friend and co-writer of MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING also lived.

Cover of Penguin reissue with foreword by Juli...

Cover of Penguin reissue with foreword by Julia Child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Arriving in Nice around 10 we got off to change trains for MENTON.  For an instant I headed towards the outside – forgetting that we were not spending the night in Nice until tomorrow night.  Lack of sleep was catching up.    When we arrived in Menton, it was not a straight to the  hotel  – like it should have been, with unpacking and a teeny rest. NO, it was a 4 hour extravaganza of ooooh’s and ahhhhhh’s as the town was so pretty and we couldn’t take our eyes off all of the lemons that created a BIG BEN, STATUE OF LIBERTY, TRAINS, etc.  Even the pharmacies were  beautiful. I had to stop and buy some “LEMON COLOGNE” in one, as this was what we were here for – the LEMON FESTIVAL. We went to the Tourist Information and bought tickets for that nights Lumination Festival.  We even stopped and ate some lunch.   But, the truth was , by this time, we were lost. Our hotel was way over on the side closest to the Italian border. I did not research this very well.  We needed to get off at MENTON-GARLAVAN, not MENTON- Ville.   So the walk from the ville towards the town, to the bus stops (several) to get to the correct hotel, took it’s toll.    David was unaffected.  (Apparantly.)


Thus, by the time we saw our coveted IBIS HOTEL, it was not what we had anticipated.


It was totally automated.  This was confusing to me because 1) I was dead tired 2) I had never, in ALL my years of crazy travels, encountered such a place.  When we could not get in to the hotel, because of numbers we needed to punch, and didn’t have, we piggybacked someone.  Then, I braved the cold and rain and did what  some other people who were standing outside were doing and that was  trying to get a room by way of AUTOMATION.  Leaving David inside to protect the bags I went out and put my card in the machine but it wouldn’t take it or any other card.  Clearly exhausted I tried to cancel the entire transaction, but it just sat there staring me in the face with the words ANNULER.  (CANCEL), but not letting me cancel.  I pulled my card out.  2 other couples came and I went back into the enclosed “Lobby” – (lobby without a HOTEL CLERK-) and waited with David and the bags.  We really needed to have a rest by this time.




The next thing I know is that the 2 couples are talking loud and motioning for me to come outside.  They were speaking very fast French and my facial expressions on a slow French day are easily interpreted as “I AM LISTENING TO YOUR EVERY WORD BUT DON’T REALLY GET YOU” – so with these fast French words flying in my face, undoubtedly my eyes  glazed over by now.  When they started in on me, They were saying things that went like this:




Nous avons payé pour votre chambre! Vous avez une chambre! Regardez! elle est ici. Il est _____ chambre 401____. Vous avez eu une carte là-dedans, mais vous l’ai sorti et maintenant nous avons payé pour votre chambre. Et maintenant, vous avez besoin de payer US. Nous sommes dans la chambre 350.




(We just paid for your room!  You have a room!  Look! here it is .  It is room _____401____.   You had a card in there, but you took it out and now we have paid for your room.   And now,  you need to pay US.   We are in room  350.   )




David is back behind the glass guarding the bags and I am FREAKING out!!! I  really need him to get out here and talk to these people.


They were speaking so fast.    I got the gist of the conversation, but wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do.  Stop and give them cash right there?  I had not that much cash with me.


Neither did David.  So, what to do?  David comes out and talks to them – about this being a huge “Malentendu” – misunderstanding – and they agree, but  just  want to get their money back for OUR  room!


It was a faulty machine in the first place for it to charge the next person coming up to check in – when it would not even cancel my transaction.  I had stood there for more then 5 minutes waiting for it to “cancel”.  Now, it charges strangers for our room .  oooooh la la – what a mess.




Long story short, we ended up going to a bank – to withdraw money in which to pay these nice french people.   David and this other French gentlemen discussed the big game on Saturday all the way down to the bank.

I suggest that in the future if you do book a hotel on line – read the fine print, and I do mean FINE, and all the way to the bottom because even though it didn ‘t say this hotel was “automated” it did say the hotel clerk was only available from 9-11A and 4P-6P.
Had I seen that – read that – it would have made this stay a teeny easier to reconcile plus I might have opted for another hotel where I could speak to someone.  Being exhausted doesn’t help either.




The evening went not much better.  Our LEMON FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS was cancelled due to rain.

La fête du citron á Menton

La fête du citron á Menton (Photo credit: Fredrik Enestad)

But the turning point, was all in the beauty of the French people.  We decided to hit the creperie/bar that we had visited  on our arrival to Menton where we had an espresso and “noisette” and read the local news.    The owner asked us to come back after the festival for his crepes – his specialty.  So, when the festival was cancelled, we did walk back there in the rain.  It was quiet, and there were no crepes in the case like before, so we almost turned around to leave.   But the owner saw David and gave him the biggest smile and waved us back in – So, we did!  We didn’t get our crepes  but we did get a beer and a Pastis and talked to the locals for almost an hour.  Very fun. Then we needed them to call us a taxi but one of the locals there was a taxi driver, and said he would take us.   He was French/Italian.  He was the most fun cab driver back to the AUTOMATED HELL HOTEL – as he SANG all the way back – so much so that the windows fogged up and no one could see out least of all him.  Consequently,  he went around and around the little turn – when we knew that he had passed our hotel about 3 times. It wasn’t to charge us more money.  It was because he was so into his serenading us he didn’t want to stop.  At one point in the song __ZUKERO ( I still have to find this song) there is a chorus of AMEN AMEN – and it’s really beautiful.  We sang with him each time he came to the chorus.  It was such hilarious fun. He also started speaking SPANISH to David and they were discussing the D.R. and the TRUJILLO days…….oooooh la la (again)……. By the time he finally did stop in front of the hotel, the cost of the taxi ride was a third less than the original taxi had been earlier.  He hugged us both goodbye when we left him and invited us for a free drink at his little bar in Monaco,  (SANGRIL) the next time we came there.  What a beautiful person, so happy in his work , not taking advantage of us, and serenading us to the max in the taxi.    It was an unexpected magical time when the afternoon had not gone so well.   You win some. You lose some.  This was a winner.






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