Yes, I am in France. No, I am not (quite) dead

I know I promised to post my adventures here, culinary and otherwise, but I have a valid reason for not having done so. I spent the first week here sick as a dog. J'etais malade. Some kind of nasty sinus infection and cold that kept me from having much fun at all.

Fortunately it started after a few days in Paris, so at least I got that in. Paris is fantastic. I was lucky enough to meet up with some friends there who were staying at a student residence in the Latin Quarter, the roof of which had a garden terrace that looked over the entire city, from the Sacre Coeur to the Montparnasse Tower. We sat there drinking wine while the sun set and the lights of the Eiffel Tower glimmered on the skyline. We told bad jokes (How do you titillate an oscelot......you oscillate its tit alot")
The night was beautiful. I'm really going to miss being able to buy a good bottle of wine for about 5 dollars.

I spent a good while sitting in the Jardin du Luxembourg, listening to Mozart on the IPod, watching people of all kinds. Little kids playing chess with Arab men, Japanese tourists with cameras taking pictures of eachother in front of the fountain. Joggers everywhere. Leaving the jardin we saw a guy wipe out on his motorcycle. He wasn't hurt thankfully. But motorcycle wipeouts in big cities are always a little unsettling.

But the lack of sleep got me. By the time I arrived in Montpellier, on the southern coast of France, I knew something was up. After a day or so I began getting the chills. The snot came next, and my god was there plenty of it. I think I have issued (or tissued) my body weight in mucus over the past week. I managed to make it to the beach, and went to a music festival, but when you live in Sarasota you tend to be a bit jaded for beaches, and the music festival would have been more fun if I hadn't been sneezing constantly. Mostly I laid in bed and tried to read French magazines.

A couple days ago the sickness broke. I'm still a bit sniffly, but I finally got to drink wine last night, and yesterday I went to Avignon for the afternoon. Avignon is geographically pleasing and historically interesting. In case you don't already know, I was a History major in college, and in fact I concentrated primarily on French history. As you can imagine, I was thrilled by things that most people might not give a damn about.
In the 14th century the Catholic Church got a little crazy for a while. Various competing factions in the church hierarchy became more and more vicious, and eventually there was a great schism. The head of the Church was moved to Avignon, to the Palace des Papes. For many years there were two popes, and at one point there were three. One in Rome, one in Avignon, and one in Las Vegas. OK, I don't really know where the third one was, but the important thing to know is that the Chuch was in crisis.

The Palace des papes became a center of corruption, venality, and intrigue, which may be why it is more of a fortress than a palace. It is situated on top of a rocky hill called le Rocher des domes, which stands 100 ft. high over the Rhone river, and standing in the garden above the palace and its nextdoor neighbor, Avignon's Notre Dame cathedral, one can see the towers of an old monastery and vineyards to the north, and the city to the south. A small garden pond at the top is full of ducks and geese to feed, and a path winding down the rock and through the medieval towers and walls leaves you back on the banks of the river.

I may write more later about Montpellier. I can't say I'm in love with the town, but I have enjoyed finding little cafes, restaurants, and shops. So much great food, so little time. In two days I'll be eating tapas in San Sebastian, Spain. I'll try to post more at that point. Then its back up to Paris, hopefully with a trip to Lyons somewhere in there.

A bientot mes singes.


Kitchen Monkey Goes to France

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So - Kitchen Monkey is going to become a travel blog for the next month or so. Yes, there will be plenty of food-related stuff, but rather than starting a new blog for this adventure, I decided to muddy the thematic waters a bit.

My apologies for not posting much in the past weeks. I've been incredibly busy with travel plans and tying up loose ends. In just over a week from now I'll be arriving in Paris, meeting up with a couple other people who will be entering the same class (2008) as me at American University Washington College of Law. After a couple days, I'll take the TGV down to Montpellier for two weeks of language classes, sun, hiking in the Cevennes, and kayaking in the Mediterranean. After that, I'll be meeting two friends in San Sebastian, Spain, where I'll eat plenty of tapas. Finally, I'll be spending the last week in Paris, eating as much excellent food and drinking as much good cheap wine as possible. I'll be in NYC for a day or so when I return, and hopefully will be able to go back to Minca Ramen Factory. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

I'm quite lucky to able to take this trip, despite the fact that I will be nearly broke by the time I return. Hopefully you'll delight in sharing whatever adventures I may have. I hope to post at least every few days while I'm there, and if anyone cares to recommend good restaurants in Paris or Montpellier, please do!

Au revoir, mes singes