Adventures in Marseille

Over the past few days, I have been exploring different parts of Marseille with Charlotte and her family. It’s the second biggest city in France and the largest in-terms of physical size.

On Tuesday, along with her brothers, we ventured to Notre Dame de la Garde, the Patron Saint of Marseille that looks out for all the sailors who come into the port. She sits atop a basilica on a hilltop that gives you a view of all of Marseille. A beautiful view. You see the ocean, the city, and the mountains. Not many places where you can get all three.

Notre Dame de la Gare: 

What’s up there? 

The view: 

A look up:We then took a walk along the beach which was full of families on vacation for the holidays. In true French fashion, we waited at a cafe for 15 minutes without any service and decided to leave without ordering anything.

The beach: 

Today, Charlotte and I walked around the old part of Marseille called Le Panier. There is an old baroque structure in the center of this neighborhood, La Vielle Charité, that was constructed in the 17th century to house the homeless and poor. Unlike other castles and cathedrals that I have been to in France, this place is quite simple but clearly built with the intentions of housing lots and lots of people. Its simplicity is actually quite nice and we spent a long time wandering the stark hallways and stairwells.

Old streets of Marseille: 

La Vieille Charité:

A very small door. Hmmmm? 

We took a walk along Le Vieux Port, which is beautiful now, but I can only imagine is even more magnificent in the summer when people are coming and going in boats much more frequently. During lunch time, everyone eats out on the boardwalk, getting some sun while they eat. At the end of the pier, there is a small fish market where you know you are getting some super fresh fish!

Le Vieux Port: 

And last night we celebrated the last night of Chanukah!

Off to Marseille(s)

At the crack of dawn this morning, David and I headed off to the train station to make our way to Marseille to Charlotte’s family’s house for the holidays! After only 4 hours of sleep and quick coffee before getting on the train, I was WIDE awake 😉 On the super fast TGV trains, it only takes 3.5 hours to cover 500 miles! How crazy is that? If only the trains in the US went so fast, I’d take them everywhere!

Charlotte and her other brother Aurelien picked us up at the train station and we were off to the famous Arnoux compound about which I heard so much. It is so lovely here, even though I get lost every time I walk down the stairs! Charlotte and I are sharing a room in her grandma’s side of the house while the rest of the family is scattered about through different sections of the mansion (as Charlotte likes to call it).

Upon arrival at the house, I quickly proceeded to make a shopping list for all the ingredients I’m going to need to make cake and cookies over the next few days. We then went out to the supermarket to purchase said items (full details on the shopping experience to come) and then returned home to decorate the Christmas tree, which was quite the fun task!

Starting…

Midway…

With a bow on top! 

We are about to have Pot au Feu (brisket-type meal) for dinner! I’m also excited to show everyone how to light the menorah tonight as this is a new experience for many of the Arnoux family members.

After being sick for the first 24 hours that I was here in France, I’m ready to start eating like a normal human being again! All I have eaten over the past few days has been some vegetables and few croissants. I’m looking forward to the Christmas meal on Saturday!


Chanukah Sugar Cookies

The festival of lights is upon us! Friday night marked the first night of Chanukah. I love Chanukah for many reasons. Obviously for the gifts, but mostly because of the yummy yummy food you get to eat. Latkes, apple sauce, and sour cream if one of my favorite combinations ever. So far, it is only the third night and I have eaten god knows how many latkes. They’re just so delicious all fried up in oil. I think for the remaining 5 nights, I’m going to have to eat a more balanced diet if I ever plan on fitting back into my jeans.

So for the first night this past Friday, Charlotte and I ventured uptown to have a celebration with my entire family – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc… It was all very fun. It was the first time I had spent Chanukah in New York with my extended family in a long time.  It was also Charlottes’ first Chanukah celebration, so we explained to her all about lighting the candles, and even she got some presents! We had a yummy dinner, although the latkas did get a slightly bit scorched, and by slightly I mean then were mostly black.

Anyway, the rest of the meal was great and I decided to make some sugar cookies for dessert. I got a set of Chanukah cookie cutters from my secret santa the other day. So there were dreidels, Jewish stars, menorahs, and even little Judah Maccabee cut outs that really just looked like ginger bread to me. They were super easy to make. I did the dough the night before and just rolled them out Friday morning and popped them into the oven. I debated for a very long time whether I wanted to make icing or not, but after much contemplation and realizations that I was far to lazy, I decided to leave them plain. I think icing would have been nice, but they were perfectly fine by themselves. This will definitely be my go to sugar cookie recipe from now on when ever I need to make some.

CHANUKAH SUGAR COOKIES

(Adapted from The Splendid Table)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

1) Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together.

2) Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute or so, until smooth. Beat in the sugar and continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and pale.

3) Add the egg and yolk and beat for another minute or two; beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and steadily add the flour mixture, mixing only until it has been incorporated — because this dough is best when worked least, you might want to stop the mixer before all the flour is thoroughly blended into the dough and finish the job with a rubber spatula. When mixed, the dough will be soft, creamy and malleable.

4)  Turn the dough out onto a counter and divide it in half. If you want to make roll-out cookies, shape each half into a disk and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least two hours.

5)  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

6) Working with one packet of dough at a time, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper to a thickness of 1/4 inch, lifting the plastic or paper and turning the dough over often so that it rolls evenly. Lift off the top sheet of plastic or paper and cut out the cookies  Pull away the excess dough, saving the scraps for rerolling, and carefully lift the cookies onto the baking sheets with a spatula, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the cookies.

7) Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the sheet at the midpoint. The cookies should feel firm, but they should not color much, if at all. Remove pans from oven. Let them rest for 1 minute before carefully lifting them onto a rack to cool to room temperature.

8 )  Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

Chanukah Cake!!!

So I recently took the level 1 cake decorating class at AC Moore. I’d been dying to take this class for ages, but it always seemed to land on a day when I couldn’t do it, or my dad simply said I had too much homework. But now that I’m in college, homework has taken a backburner 😉 Anyway, this class worked out and after 4 weeks this was my culminating cake. The last class landed in the middle of Chanukah, so I decided to make a themed cake. The cake was just the basic chocolate cake off the back of the Hershey’s can, which I must say is just delicious, and buttercream that I made but didn’t work very well. It was so thick, but thankfully I brought along a can of store bought fluffy white in case of an emergency like that. So although not all the icing was homemade, it still turned out beautifully. Even my step-sister, who is allergic to gluten, had to try some and she said it was delicious. I’m hopefully going to go back soon and take the level 2 class, but until then, I’ll just have to keep honing my basic skills that I have learned so far.

MY CAKE!!!

Some of the yummy latka’s I made for my Chanukah feast!

First night