What I Ate in France

The food in France had me at “hello,” and I need to do some serious gushing.

Here are almost all the meals and the photos (some crappy and some not) and the gushing. At the bottom, I put a list of everywhere I remembered eating in case you are going to Normandy or Paris for a week and want a little help from a friend. (I get by with a little help from my friends.)

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Part One, Breakfast:

Okay, so breakfast is different in France. It was during this meal that I discovered that the good people of France hold two things most dear: bread and cheese. So much delicious, crusty bread. So many croissant flakes. So much hard cheese and soft cheese and stinky cheese. And really, really tangy yogurts.

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A word on eggs, s’il vois plaît. Omelettes? Amazing. I had a tremendous omelette bursting with mushrooms and cheese late one morning. I was so hungry that I didn’t wait for it to cool, and I left behind a lot of good mouth tissue at the restaurant. Fried eggs? Hard pass, unless you’re into what I call a mullet egg–raw in the front and burnt in the back.

Oh my gosh. I just remembered that the omelette place had about a million framed photos of the British royal family on their walls… without explanation. They were also a little rude, but I found myself forgiving them because, well, baby George!

Not pictured: The meals I had at the Bed & Breakfast in Bayeux because I was talking to the owner while she was in her pajamas and I was trying to figure out exactly what kind of weird and wonderful homemade jam I was eating.

Part Two, Lunch:

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Poor lunch is always such a throwaway meal, isn’t it? I used to say lunch was my favorite meal because I thought it felt left out. There are deeper issues there, I’m sure.

Lunch was not a throwaway on this trip, my friends. I tried to grab quick food while checking on my step count and mapping out the next destination. I’m going to brag hardcore right now. My step count was off the charts AND my “quick food” was pretty spectacular AND I never got completely, entirely, irrevocably lost.

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I drank the entire jug of water in the picture above and then asked for more. (We’re talking over 30k steps, okay.)

Not pictured: About a billion more crepes because I wanted to do things right.

Part Three, Dinner:

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I’d like to start on a downer if I could, and then I’ll jump right into the gold. The above photo is foie gras at a fancy restaurant with fancy reviews and fancy prices, and I had every intention of finishing every dish I was given. However, I can barely think about foie gras right now without feeling ill. I think it was the fat content; it made me think of eating lard. I’m going to stop now, thanks.

Dinner was a spectacle. I loved the drama. I did not love that pretty much all restaurants were closed until 7 or 8pm. I know 7pm doesn’t sound late, but when you’re a morning person who had a crepe at noon, it’s near torture. The food made up for this, of course.

To you, this next photo just a very close-up shot of adorable baby fancy butter with a reflection of my new blouse. To me, it is a picture of the best butter I’ve ever had. The butter that made me forget that foie gras faux pas business completely.

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Food, wondrous food!

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L'Rapiere Fish

Okay, I’ve suspected for a couple of years that I have some sort of fish allergy, but I guess I thought I could eat my way out of it? Because oysters! And pollack! And brill with truffles and champagne sauce! This strategy ended with a terrible headache (whatever) and weird, patchy rashes on my limbs (worth it).

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Oh my gosh, this was the pizza of my dreams. It was a tiny restaurant on an adorable street that I happened to walk down–basically, everything you want out of your Parisian experience. There’s nothing like a pizza (that you have to cut yourself) made by a chef from Naples and a boatload of warm red wine to make you feel like you might actually be a mafia boss or living out Moonstruck.

I hesitate to share my final dinner meal in Paris because while I think it’s absolutely hilarious and very much me, that also means it’s kind of uncool. But if I’m uncool, I’m uncool while eating delicious food.

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Part Four, Dessert:

You thought we were over? Well, you’re almost right, except for these little pieces of heaven.

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Fin!

Bayeux:

  • La Rapiere – Tremendous, expensive, delicious
  • Lion d’Or – Don’t be fooled by the menu outside. It is a lunch menu. Otherwise, see above.
  • Au Georges VII – The omelette! Get your royal fix here.
  • Au Louis d’Or – I’ve never had so much goat cheese in my life.

Mont St. Michel:

  • Unsure of the name, but certain of the experience. The one disappointing meal of the trip. I was given a microwaved crepe after being turned away from a different creperie because making me a crepe (the only thing they had on their menu) would “take too long.”

Paris:

 

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Day 8 & 9: We Are Not Fancy People

Read from Day One here.

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How do I accurately convey how I feel about Edinburgh?

Do I tell you that I spent every night in Edinburgh and many nights after reading about the Ph.D. in Writing program at Edinburgh University?

Do I explain that I when I was there I read an email where one of my students asked me a question and somehow I got that question to relate to five paragraphs of bragging on how great this city was? (I didn’t send the email. I realized at some point that it was the work of mania.)

Do I say that Edinburgh felt like a hometown? Like, the kind of city we all want to live in where people are kind and funny and there’s history and culture and families?

Do I tell you that somehow for this introvert, everyone in Edinburgh felt like a potential friend?

Yeah, I loved Edinburgh.

I loved the cobbled streets and little cafés and fearless humor and charming accents and antiquated buildings and the sea and hills and the actual castle that is in the middle of the freaking city.

London was rushing. Rush to see the sights. Rush to catch the train. Cram cram cram. Edinburgh was slower. It was moseying along and taking the trail without looking at our phones. It was not knowing exactly how the day was going to go. Relax relax relax. It was lovely.

 

I’m stopping myself now, but if you also love Edinburgh, please send me an email (hillymillerblog@gmail.com). Let us gush and squeal together.

Day Eight

Both Sides Now: Breakfast at Mimi’s Café

Clotted cream and jam light as air
And sun streaks through the window there
And delicious coffee everywhere.

I’ve looked at breakfast that way.

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1: How far is the castle?

2: Six blocks…

1: We can do that.

2: … Uphill.

1: I’m really full.

2: Me too.

*Eye contact is avoided. She opens her phone. She pulls up Uber.*

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I didn’t even say, “Have fun storming the castle!” #MissedOpportunity

We shopped on Princes Street and ate the most delicious Indian food and slept for two hours and ate pizza. Life is good.

Day Nine:

I could make my morning hike its own post. Heck, I’m going to just do that, okay? You have my word. By the end of the day tomorrow, there will be a post about hiking Arthur’s Seat. Prepare yourselves.

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Breakfast: They made a sausage patty out of barley. I think that tells you everything you need know.

We are not barley people.

Also, I know we’re Americans and therefore trained to think JUMBO-SIZED is normal, but this is some sort of sick joke, right?

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Shopping!! You mean the kind of shopping you did yesterday with plastic keychains and teapots that you hesitated to buy because who knows if they have lead or mercury in them?

No no no.

This is NICE shopping: handmade afghans and glass jewelry and breakable ornaments.

What’s that? A Scottish wool sweater? TAKE MY MONEY AND GO.

Afternoon tea at the Dome.

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1: This is so fancy.

2: Soooo fancy.

*Attempts to eat tea sandwich. Attempt goes poorly.*

*Drops spoon.*

WE ARE NOT FANCY PEOPLE.

Room service for dinner with my new favorite soda. We are not difficult people either. EDINBURGH, DON’T GO!

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Read about Day Ten here.

DAY SIX & SEVEN: On the Road Again

Read from Day One here.

Oh, you thought I’d fizzle out and never return to these posts?! You were almost right.

A Man with Yellow Teeth (a poem in-progress)

A Man with Yellow Teeth
Never stopped talking a beat.
He sat in front of us
On the bus,
And made us realize
That even England could become nightmarish.

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Warwick Castle was everything you’d expect from a castle owned by the same people who run Madame Tussauds: gimmicky and touristy and wonderful.

The Greville family owned the castle for generations and threw massive parties with medieval set pieces. Imagine going to a 1975 rager at a medieval castle where liquor is served in a forty-gallon, cast-iron pot. If anyone knows of a good book about this family, just like a prayer, take me there.

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Stratford-Upon-Avon,

or as our tour guide would probably call it, Heaven.

Our tour guide was an acting school graduate who retold this sketch beat-for-beat. He also gave the “to be or not to be” line ten times, putting the emphasis on a different word each time. You know when a comedian (or a sibling) does something funny and then they do it enough and it becomes super annoying and they press on until it becomes funny again? That was this guy.

Also, once you’re in the room where Shakespeare was born, you’re kind of like, well, this is a bit gross, isn’t it?

Cotswolds.

For the first six times I listened to Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill,” I thought he was saying, “We watching the sunset over the Cotswolds.” Of course! Ed gets it. The magic of the Cotswolds! The wool churches! The hills!

It’s “the sunset over the Castle on the Hill.” That’s the name of the song. (You all knew this, huh?)

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Where the Inklings would meet NBD.

Like so many places we’ve visited, I could spend weeks (months?) in Oxford. I get this pang when we visit because Oxford University used to be my DREAM college. I spent ages 10-17 convinced that I was going to go there. So, what did I do fall of senior year?

That’s right. I didn’t even apply.

And I remember this when we we’re walking those cobblestone streets and seeing Hogwarts buildings, and it isn’t regret exactly that blooms in my chest. Instead, it is this immense sense of responsibility–a responsibility to go after life with all that I have in me. There’s so much we can’t control.

Seriously, there is so much we can’t control.

But we can turn in the application. We can always try. We have a responsibility to try.

Another pub. Another dark beer. Another wonderful day.

Early morning. I’ll get delicious hot cross buns before we leave! It’s only a mile away!

*Walks there*

*Realizes upon arrival that businesses aren’t open at 6:30 am on a Saturday*

*Takes selfie to document idiocy*

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All-day train to Edinburgh.

“Is this our stop?”
“Maybe this one.”
“This one?”
“The next one.”
“This one? Oh, this one. Hurry!”

Mom and I have the most lovely hotel experience of all time, which is to be expected in the most perfect city of all time. More on that later, but look at these photos for now:

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Mom and I walk up the Old Town street past bagpipers and magicians and street performers.

“Oh, the Museum of Childhood. We’ve got to go in there, right?”

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“Let us never speak of this again…”

We see the sight of my future wedding (half kidding), St. Giles Cathedral, and we sit and marvel and admire.

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Dinner: The World’s End Pub.

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A couple of beers in, without food…

Waiter: What would you like?
*I look at Mom. She looks at me. I look at the waiter whose face is right by my face.*
Me: I’m sorry.
Waiter: That’s all right. We can just stare at each other, if you’d like.
Me: Oh. HAHAHHAHAHA. I think we’re lightweights.
Waiter: What?
Me: When you can’t hold your liquor.
Waiter: You’re Americans. Are you Chiefs fans?
*I look at Mom. She looks at me. I look at the waiter whose face is right by my face.*
Waiter: American football.
Me/Mom: Ohhhhhhhh.

I’m going to like this place. I definitely like the haggis.

Read about Day Eight here.

Day Two in London

(Looking for day one?)

DAY TWO, or breakfast breakfast breakfast.

I love breakfast, and it seems that London–in its heart–really gets that (and really gets me).

Breakfast at the Raison D’etre.

“What can I get for you, sweetie?” Sweetie? Me? This guy’s ridiculous.

“For you, sweetheart.” Thank you, darling.

He calls Mom Cleopatra. Am I in love with him? It’s hard to say. We have at least a decade between us, but what’s a decade when he can make hot chocolate like this:

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“The Very Naughty,” indeed.

Things are all very French and sophisticated until my eggs fall on the floor. I cover them with my shoe before the waiter can see. Good thinking, Hil.

Double-decker bus. Mom and I are on the top level even though it’s freezing and raining. “I’ll mark down the places we want to go back to.” “Great idea.” “Do you have a pen?” No, do you?” “No…”

Thames River boat ride surrounded by a school group of French children. It turns out teens are teens are teens, no matter where they come from.

Tower of London. Okay, but really, can someone explain Henry VIII’s armor to me? CHILDREN SEE THIS.

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Speaking of crown jewels. Hello!

(Also, photo cred here because I was waaaaay to embarrassed to take a photo of that.)

I didn’t realize I was on this trip to see diamonds, but yeah, it was the actual crown jewels that showed me I’m only in it for the stones. This is sounding very weird if you think I’m still talking about the armor. Get your head out of the Tudors’ gutter! I’m talking about the diamond rings and the sceptres and Queen Victoria’s little crown (that I think I really could wear every day).

They don’t allow you to take pictures of the Crown Jewels; it’s kind of nice to be told no photos or phones. I liked not having to worry about getting the perfect photo.

Dinner/lunch: fish and chips. Feeling right British, we are, we are.

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Buckingham Palace coming in hot with breathtaking light. I’m not sure the house is much to look at without it. (Sarcasm.)

Day Three.

Day One in London

For Spring break, my mom and I went to the UK for eleven days. This is our story. Dun Dun.

DAY ONE.

The tickets were on sale. Cheap, they were. The kind of cheap that allowed me, a true cheap skate (who is not above walking the Costco samples for lunch), to buy them instantly. The only catch? The flight to London flew out of Chicago. Chicago is three hours away. Four and a half by train.

I always say that a breezy, five-hour train ride is the proper way to begin any international vacation. If you’re leaving before dawn and the train station smells like liquor and weed? Well, that’s even better.

We really did things right.

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My mom and I went on the trip together. We were so excited. Sitting in the Amtrak station going over the week’s schedule, we felt like no one alive had ever done something so cool, so… unique. Then we said hi to the people next to us, an aunt (around the same age as Mom) and a niece (around the same age as I am).

Okay, so there were other female duos out there. That’s great! Room for everybody! Oh, you’re going to London too? That’s good. Good for you. Good for us, right? You’re going to Stonehenge? Well, everyone goes to Stonehenge, right? Right? Suddenly, Mom and I realized we were like Lorelei Gilmore hiking the PCT à la Cheryl Strayed. We also realized it didn’t matter one bit.

We were so keyed up for the trip, we thought we’d go from Union Station to O’Hare via the L. Six bags + four hands + public transit = NO PROBLEM. We made it, but some of our knee skin didn’t.

Food from Indianapolis to London: two (three?) Pop-Tarts, Cliff Bar, one cheese/nut pack, Auntie Annie’s cinnamon pretzel, two airplane meals, so much coffee, another couple of Pop-Tarts in there somewhere.

In London, we arrived at this very strange hotel, the Avni Kensington, that would become our home. Not exactly a home in the sense of welcome place, but more like a home is a person—that person being the great aunt you know you’re supposed to like, but you kind of hope you never have to smell again.

We couldn’t check in since it was six in the morning, so we got ourselves on the Underground and went to Westminster bridge and walked around for a bit. It turns out, not much is open at six in the morning. We found a breakfast spot that as far as we could tell was run by exactly one person.

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Purchases so far: Breakfast. Touristy London sweatshirt (because I thought it was a good idea to not wear my coat?).

Double-decker bus. Brief fight with the ticket man over printing our tickets. Mom’s phone died, and I only had the confirmation number. I was explaining this to the man, and he walked away from me. Walked away! You don’t know how almost mean we can look like we’re getting until you’re super rude to our faces, sir. It’s the kind of half-committed, near-death stare that makes people rethink their decisions, okay?

London Eye. Waiting in line for hours means getting to watch two nine-year-olds touch (feel up?) and almost knock over a wax figure of Angelina Jolie. It’s only a week later that I question why a wax figure of Angelina Jolie was at the London Eye at all.

The view is gorgeous, even in a little rain.

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“Is it fatigue?” you wonder. Or are you really the kind of person who gives a stink eye to the little boy hogging the computer that tells you about the buildings? What does this say about you?

Every wild trip starts out with a 6pm bedtime.

Day Two

five stages of flying

For being a child born during George H. W. Bush’s presidency, I began the plane-taking journey rather late in life. I flew for the first time when I was fourteen and didn’t go again until I was over twenty. This caused some personal misconceptions that I have slowly unraveled over time, revealing the truth about flying, the ugly, disgusting, beautiful truth. Using the Kübler-Ross model, I give you the five stages of flying:

1. Denial

I’m not really flying, no. Those aren’t actually homes. That’s the Peter Pan set from Disney World.  Trust me, I’ve been there.

This lasts until that woozy feeling you get when the plane dips a little, making it seem like you’re on a roller coaster for about 0.4 seconds. Then you realize you are on a plane that’s up in the air, and you didn’t really listen to the flight attendants’ instructions, did you?

2. Anger

So anger didn’t really come until I was twenty.  (This is a surprise when we consider that I was stuck in an airport for three days during my first plane trip. However, when you’re fourteen and going on your first plane trip, you’re never really stuck anywhere.)

At twenty, I had a glamorous view of life in the air.  Last time I flew, I had matching capris and tennies. This time though. This time I would fly in style. I’d probably be asked to model the plane, I’d be so beautiful. (I don’t think I understood that planes are different than designer clothes.) I dressed up, complete with heeled shoes that were difficult to get on and off in security (and therefore made everyone hate me).

I boarded the plane, and no one else dressed up. No one would ever be dressed up. In fact, the lady walking through the airport in heels is a beacon of inexperience blinking at anyone who looks at her feet.

Why aren’t people dressed up?  Why isn’t flying this glamorous thing?  Anger.  So much anger.

3. Bargaining

Okay, okay. So the dressing up thing didn’t work out.

How about I just meet someone really great on the plane, huh? Like, obviously he’ll be my soulmate and we’ll live happily ever after, and I’ll never mention the dressing up thing again.

Be careful with this stage. This is how you end up making a birthday card out of a barf bag for a semi-cute, semi-smart, full-on-socially-awkward young man that you will (hopefully) never meet again in your life. True story.

(I should mention that some people really do fall in love on planes. Jill says so, and I believe her wholeheartedly. Yet, I have to let this stage go. I just have to, or I will know too much about the correct way to fold a barf bag.)

4. Depression

This happens when you’ve full-on given up on flying.

For the longest time I had the incredible ability to wait just long enough for everyone in my row to be seated for takeoff before I fell asleep for the ENTIRE flight.  It was a thing to behold.

I wore sweatpants and mismatched socks (if any socks), and I didn’t shower beforehand. Sometimes I’d bring massive amounts of smelly food to eat (because the whole cabin was going to smell terrible soon enough), and I didn’t even bother trying to say “hello” to the people next to me.

It was kind of a sad stage, really.

5. Acceptance

This is the healthy stage of flying (I think). This is where I’m finally at.

In this stage, you make chit-chat with the individuals around you, but you aren’t offended when they don’t want to talk (and you don’t go overboard and make them a barf bag card when they do).

In this stage you do a lot of reading on planes. You do a lot of laughing and crying on planes. I read Hoosier John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars on a plane. Yikes. Talk about giggling hysterically and then sobbing hysterically as I was literally 🙂 wedged between two strangers. But that’s okay because that’s flying.

That putrid smell wafting through? That’s flying, too. So are the delays. So are the missing bags. So are the incredibly intimate moments of falling in love with a book while strangers surround you. That’s flying. Heck, that’s life. And in three hours, you’ll be home, and that’s magical.

big sur adventure

Last weekend was an adventure. Okay, okay, every weekend is an adventure, but last weekend was a really BIG, SURreal adventure.  See what I did there?

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to go to a super sweet writer’s conference in Big Sur.  The experience was magical and whimsical and cold and full of laughs and packed with complete freakouts.

Let me break it down for you.

Friday

Jill drives us from Malibu to Big Sur.  We pass a zebra farm (with an ocean view).  Why not?

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We get ready in the bathroom of the lodge’s lobby because our room isn’t ready yet. Great.

At the first workshop, my work is torn to shreds.  Overall response: “Cute idea, but terrible execution.”

I sulk.

I attempt to start a fire.  Please see Jill’s post for The Rest of The Story.  (Paul Harvey, I love you!)

I rewrite my first ten pages starting from scratch.

Saturday

Printing issues.  “Just tell him to bring my laptop to the airport. I’m going home.”  I never thought I was this dramatic.

I remember that the world is a magical place full of redwood trees.

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I go back to workshop, and my new pages are well-received.  Overall response: “Always write like this.” Will do.

So much coffee.  Not enough water.

I am on top of the world, and so is the entirety of FAC (First Authors Club).  We sing ROAR with more passion than anyone ever singing a Katy Perry song should.

We eat giant burgers really fast.  “My stomach. I don’t know what’s happening in there.”

Sunday

Bathroom issues.

“Jill, I want to be honest with you. I went to the bathroom. Some things happened. I opened a window.”

20 mins later in the lobby.

Me: “I wouldn’t use the left stall if I were you. Terrible things have occurred.”

Jill: “Was it you again?”

I find out the secret to perfect eyebrows. I will not share this information. wahahaha

FAC shares big (sur) hugs.  So many Big Sur puns out there…

We kick off the drive back with 30 minutes of laughing, screaming, and singing loudly.  It’s a total manic blackout.  I’m just happy we survived.

Overall Experience

I’m so thankful to have Jill and Katie, two brilliant, amazing writers and friends.  I’m so thankful that I write and that what I write has a place in the world.  I’m so thankful I went to Big Sur.

Oh, and I’m so thankful for you… and zebra farms.

indiana in 90 seconds

Back home again, in Indiana, blah blah blah blah blah…

Wabash! How I long for my Indiana hoooooooome.

I was in Hoosierland for less than 29 hours this weekend, and the trip was nothing short of an adventure.

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Oh, you don’t think I can climb this tree?
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Yammo going to fall.
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I’m not sure who I take after. Mysteries…

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My friend, Crusty Bee, in between the airplane’s window panes. Miss ya, CB.