Loire Valley and a race!

I can’t believe it’s already halfway through October! We’ve already finished off two classes and are deep in the thick of it with the others. This semester has more projects and less classes than last year, which is great and also means that there are always more things that could be done… It made me really happy to look at egg white foam under the microscope!

Outside of school things, my sister and her husband came to visit me! In classic fashion, I have lots of pictures of the excellent buildings we saw and zero of the three of us. Luckily my brother-in-law is much better about photos than the rest of the family and took some essential vacation selfies. We went to the Loire valley, known for castles and wine–what more do you need? It was such a great weekend! We rented bikes (including a fun stint where I got to stand in as translator for another American family and got offered a job in the small-town bike shop- tempting!), spent a day riding through idyllic French wine country to one of the most amazing castles I’ve ever seen, and then finished the day with wine and the sun setting on a different castle.

The next day we decided that all of these 16th-century buildings were a bit too modern, so we went to the medieval city of Loches and climbed a 5-story keep built in the 11th century. Of course, all of the wooden floors have disappeared, and let me tell you, 5 stories feels like a lot when you’re looking straight down!

In other very exciting news, I ran a race yesterday! It was the 20 km de Paris (about a half marathon), and it was incredible. It started and finished at the Eiffel Tower and was a gorgeous day, so it was amazing to run along the Seine and see all the sights along the way. I wouldn’t say I was exactly adequately trained for the distance, but I finished and am even pretty happy with my time– 1:48! I’m walking like a champ today and not too sore, but I’m pretty excited for some time off from those early-morning runs.

Hopefully things will quiet down a bit over here for the next few weeks– finishing up modules was pretty intense! We have a bit of reprieve now and then everything is due at once on November 15 for some reason. We’ve been lucky with the weather for the last few days and it’s been glorious to go back to one of my favorite activities: eating pastries in Parisian parks!

New favorites

This week felt like the real back to school–we went from having some things to do to being buried in endless papers to read and presentations to write. But I’m actually excited about all of it (you guys, I could read about egg white foams for a really long time. I mean, I did. This week.), so it’s overwhelming but still good.

I did manage to sneak away for a few fun things this week, including making a new friend! Look at this champion! His name is Helios and he’s the mascot for a board game cafe I visited this week, where we were conveniently sitting next to a group that ordered a meat platter. But he was there to hang out with us, I’m sure of it. (Also at this board game night, I met a girl from Portland! Talk about small world.)

Maybe the best thing I got to do this week was a visit to the museum of fairground art, which had a bunch of old fairway games and an incredible collection of carousels. I rode on the bike carousel, a hilarious creation from 1897 with a bunch of bikes in place of the horses so that you’re powering the ride. We got going so fast! I’d never seen anything like it. They also had the people working on restoration open up their workshop, and it was amazing to hear them talk about the different pieces they’ve worked on and how they go about bringing these horses (and cows, and all sorts of other creatures) back to their former glory. So cool!

And we closed out the week with the most French activity I know–sitting on the banks of the Seine, drinking wine and eating kugelhopf and watching the sun set behind the Eiffel Tower. Sometimes it really is magical here 🙂

Equipe de France and hiking to a castle!

I’m doing my utmost to take advantage of our (relatively) slow start to the year and doing lots of fun things before more classes start and I can’t go gallivanting every night of the week. This week started with pub trivia run by an English guy in a Scottish bar in France with a team of Americans during which we had to identify flags of South America. (We weren’t very good at the flags, but honestly, do you know what the flag of the South Sandwich Islands looks like?)

Tuesday I headed out to the Stade de France to see Les Bleus play! I’ve heard rumors that men do, in fact, play soccer sometimes, and apparently it’s all true. France took on Andorra and won 3-0 (with more than 80% of possession, crazy), and it was awesome to be part of the crowd even though I couldn’t make out any of the words to the cheers. I was into the jumping though!

And because I have friends who are much fancier than I am, I got to attend a theater premier! A friend here just established a new theater and they just opened their first show, which was also the world premier of the play–so many firsts, and what a cool thing to see. The play was SO good, and it was so fun to see a friend making big things happen!

I finished off the week with a big hike today about an hour south of the city at Les Chevreuses, and I even convinced a bunch of other students in my program to come! They trusted me to navigate, though, and we may have done a little more than we intended… But we did find the castle (the most important part of French hikes) and it was a great day.

Just to remind you that my life isn’t all adventures and croissants, we enjoyed a lovely strike day Friday that completely shut down public transportation for the whole city, and I’m currently trying to access four different articles in Poultry Science, which is weird for me. Although to be honest I do eat a lot of croissants 🙂

Paris week one

I’m back in Paris! It’s been a great first week, full of old and new friends, great pastry (duh), and a running start back into the school year.

The week was a mix of class (molecular gastronomy with the legendary Hervé This), introductory activities (convincing the first years to sing, dance, and generally be ridiculous in a public park), and finishing activities (thesis presentations and graduation for the cohort above me). It made me really excited for everything to come this semester, and also made me remember that this class-all-day-every-day thing gets really busy…

I did manage to get out for some fun this weekend, and because it’s me I decided to run to Versailles with my running group on Saturday (11 miles) and go for a 14-mile hike (well, nature walk) on Sunday. Both were very excellent ideas, although I’m definitely heading for an early bedtime tonight. As a bonus, the hike passed through a pick-your-own farm near the end, where I got to pick apples, green beans, and lettuce straight from the fields! It was a great start to a great year!

Catching up

Hi friends! So, it’s been a while. The end of the semester got crazy and then summer happened, and long story short it’s been eventful and pretty amazing. We had two weeks of spring break and a few of us went to Greece, Bulgaria, and northern Italy, which was lots of fun and stunningly beautiful. I got to do some traveling at the beginning of the summer break too, including a trip to Slovenia and meeting my family in Lyon for the Women’s World Cup (cannot even describe how excited I was for that). I spent most of the summer in Portland, doing an internship in product development at the Food Innovation Center at Oregon State University, which was both a great job and an incredible chance to be back home remembering why I keep saying I want to move back there. I just made it back to Paris (like, today) for the start of the third semester of school (tomorrow), and I’m very excited for more France adventures!

And now, my favorite pictures from the last few months! First up, spring break:

Summer travels to Slovenia, Nice, Lyon, and Portland:

A whole new macroenvironment

This week marked a big first for me: it’s the first time I’ve seriously used words like vertical integration and macroenvironment in a presentation. We did case studies of a Brazilian ethanol and sugar manufacturer for my business class, which is a far cry from the chemistry and baking I’m used to. I found the state of the world’s ethanol markets surprisingly interesting, but I prefer dealing with tangible things rather than examining the state of the competitive environment.

Side note: we had to discuss the difference between PESTE and STEEP analysis this week (there is none, they’re anagrams of the same letters) because all of this is sort of made up.

Another highlight of the week was discovering a new running path! (Yes, my life really is this exciting.) It’s by a lovely canal and has swans and herons to watch along with an abundant supply of very cute dogs, so it’s basically perfect. I thought I had made it to its end point, but apparently it goes all the way to Mayo, so I’ve got plenty of distance to go before I run out of path (that’s about 150 miles. I guess I’d better get going on that training).

Per usual, pastry classes were excellent. Highlights included Danishes, roll cakes (always my favorite), and chocolate lollipop swirls. So cool!

PS I think I found last week’s Baby Guinness all grown up…

Settling into Dublin

The problem with writing these updates is that I periodically have big news (I live in a different country now!) but mostly I spend a lot of time doing a whole lot of normal things (going to school, baking, running–okay, my normal is still weird). But I love it like that! And I promise more pictures of castles soon, maybe when the sun comes back.

In my very normal news, my roommates and I had people over for dinner last weekend, which is one of my very favorite things to do. I know you won’t enjoy reading this from across the ocean (Boston people, you know who you are), but I come home from our pastry classes with breads, scones, cakes, eclairs, you name it and I need to find hungry people to feed. Luckily I’ve found some very accommodating taste-testers over here as well! This dinner was basically a ploy to get friends to eat all of our class projects, but no one seemed to mind 🙂

The bakery classroom has one of those angled mirrors above the demo station so everyone can watch the teacher work. So cool!

My roommates and I have also started an Irish breakfast habit–on Sundays, they go to church and I do my long run and we meet up for coffee, eggs, and as many kinds of pork as they can fit on a plate. It’s so good! I still can’t get behind the black pudding, but other than that it’s pretty much the best recovery meal I’ve come up with. Everything is delicious after 12 miles, but somehow this is particularly delicious.

School is doing that annoying thing it does where they actually make you work and do assignments and stuff, which really limits the amount of gallivanting around the country that we get to do. So inconvenient! Luckily we’ve managed to get our act together and plan a few trips coming up, so I promise I won’t always be so boring.

School in Dublin

First week of classes in Dublin done! It seems like it will be very different from Paris–much less time in classes and more work at home, like I’m used to. It’s also very different subjects. The big project this semester is prototype development, and then we have more business-focused classes–regulatory affairs, new food business creation, marketing and consumer behavior, and innovation management. Should be interesting!

I’m also taking a couple of extra culinary classes to get some formal training on that side of things, and the first ones were so fun! The other students were super confused about who I was (which is fair, when you have to take a class and someone else is literally just taking it for kicks) but also very nice when I had no idea how culinary classes were supposed to go. We made meringues and breads and apple crumbles, and I think it will be a funny mix of things I’ve made a lot of times already and very new things that I’m excited about. So far, they’re some of each and I’m having a blast.

Between school, extra classes, baking at home, and marathon training, it was a busy week and it’s shaping up to be a busy semester. But I’m having way too much fun to mind, and I’m excited for the time we get to spend here!

New year, new city

It may be because we don’t have classes or any real responsibilities, but so far I am LOVING Dublin. Between good beer, imposing stone buildings around every corner, and locals who call all sorts of things “grand,” it feels like a good place to be. Plus people are super friendly! Maybe I just got used to the, ahem, reserved nature of Parisians, but I went to a local running group and was pleasantly surprised to find everyone super chatty and welcoming.

Because I’m me and I can’t help myself, I decided to start training for the Limerick Marathon in May. I forgot how much work marathon training is–in addition to the actual running, there’s the planning and stretching and showers and feeding myself (I’m even more hungry all the time than usual). It’s a lot, but I’m also loving the motivation to get out there and explore the city on foot.

Classes start tomorrow! This semester is more business and regulatory focused, and we have a big development project. But because we’re technically in the school of culinary arts, I’m also taking an extra class–on cake baking! I’m stoked.

Merry Christmas!

I’m in America! Currently sitting in the San Francisco airport, slightly delirious from the first leg of the journey home (11 hour flight, oof) and SO READY to be back in Portland. I’m super excited that I get to be home for the holidays, partly for the whole seeing family bit and partly because I’ll have a real kitchen! I have big plans. Also, one of the best parts of school is this two week Christmas holiday—incredible.

The last few weeks have involved making several thousand cookies in a baking lab and writing a 20-page paper about everything we learned. It was a lot, to be sure, but I also had more fun than expected because I genuinely could talk about gluten proteins and dough hydration for a very long time. It’s interesting for me to see this process from a research angle because the work is pretty similar to what I’ve been doing for the past few years, but the approach is totally different. Rather than designing trials to get to the best product in the shortest amount of time, our focus now is more on making sure that we’re generating data that can answer the questions we want to ask. We also got to feed our cookies to a whole bunch of people for sensory testing, which was very fun. It’s not too hard to recruit people when you’re basically just giving out cookies.

Paris does its best to live up to its “City of Light” nickname in the Christmas season, and from what I saw they did a pretty good job of it. I loved getting to my destinations early this month so that I could walk around different neighborhoods and see all of the lights hung across streets, decorated shops, and elaborate window displays. Plus, knowing that I was coming home gave me an excellent excuse to explore chocolate shops and Christmas markets—my friends joked that half of my suitcase is food (not quite, but I’m not exactly coming home empty-handed).

My semester finishes up mid-January and then we’re off to Dublin! That last week and a half will be a doozy (we have a whole new class for a week plus two final projects), but the finish line is so close! I’ll miss Paris for sure—the baguettes and croissants more than all of the quality time on public transportation—but I can’t wait for Dublin.

Merry Christmas! Have a great holiday season!