Saturday, April 9, 2011

A beautiful Saturday afternoon

I had such a lovely experience while eating grapes this morning.  The sun was streaming into my apartment like buttercream colored fingers onto the white walls.  As I bit into the first black grape, I was overcome with delight because it was so refreshing and sweet and crisp, and I noticed little seeds in the other half.  I don't remember the last time I ate a grape with seeds in it because it seems like all we have in the US are the small little seedless grapes.  But I just sat for about 20 minutes enjoying each grape one at a time, some grapes had only one seed, while others had 3 or 4.  Each was set apart in its individuality.  And it was just really an unexpected joy that each grape was so different because in the US all the grapes are pretty much the same.  GMOs aren't allowed in France, and that was very apparent to me this morning.

My neighbors invited me over for coffee this afternoon.  They have SUCH a lovely apartment--it doesn't feel like an apartment at all.  It's huge, and there are lots and lots of windows with balconies full of plants, so it's very bright inside.  There were lots of instruments around decorating the house, and it really reminded me of home.  We sat outside on one of the balconies and had coffee with some of the macarons that I had brought over (that I had made in class).  And it was so bright and pretty, and at one point, we all had to stop talking because the cherry blossom petals (on a tree about 50-60 feet tall) started blowing around in the breeze--there was hardly a space on the horizon that didn't have petals in it.  It was so pretty.  Anyway, they are such a nice family.  Husband and wife with 3 kids, two girls 13 and 15 and a 19 year old son.  The 15 year old girl plays cello, and she is very friendly.  I think we may try to learn some duets for piano and cello.  Annick, the wife, is a piano teacher for little children, and it was really great because I got to learn some basic music vocabulary in French, and taught her the same in English.  After coffee, I got to play on the grand piano!  Not a baby grand like ours at home in Texas, but a huge, old, beautiful piano.  I don't remember the last time I played on a piano of this size.  After finishing my Grieg sonata, I was almost shaking because it was such a rush!  It is exhilarating to play such a powerful piece on such a magnificent instrument.  They told me I can return and play whenever I like.  And before leaving, she photocopied some music for me to take and is letting me borrow a book of Debussy preludes, and a CD to help me choose a piece because they thought it was such a shame that I've never played Debussy (and I have to agree)!  I'm so happy to have such friendly neighbors, and another opportunity to practice my French.

Last weekend I went to Biarritz, which is a town in the southwest of France, very close to the Spanish border, on the coast of the Atlantic.  It was so beautiful.  We took the night train and arrived at 6:30am, before the little hostel was open, so we sat on the beach with our luggage and watched the sun rise while eating the little petits fours (cookies) that I had made in class that week.

Watching the sun rise on the beach

Little box of petits fours--a lovely breakfast

This is one of the coconut pyramids that Marina made in class

It's just SO picturesque!

This is one of the coolest houses I have ever seen--it's just built right on a cliff that drops off into the ocean.  And it's HUGE!  It's a private residence, and I've decided that I will buy it one day when I'm a super successful pastry chef :)

Anyway, it's been a great week.  Next week will be very rigorous in school.  On Friday, a French television station will be filming our class for a documentary they are making about macarons.  As a result, we are getting special private lessons from a relatively famous pastry chef and macaron expert, Olivier Ménard.  I can't wait!

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