Mountain Sustenance, French Style

I feel terrible that it has been so long between posts. I spent about a week in London recovering from India and the last five days attempting to ski in Chamonix, France and taking a break from cyberspace. I was hoping to become an adequate skier this week, but sadly my risk adverse nature has made my progress slow — I can ski, but when I try to move past the bunny slopes I have slight panic attacks and completely forget what I am doing. I really like skiing, I just don’t like being scared. I definitely plan to keep trying — even the green runs are fun — and hopefully, eventually, I’ll graduate to blue and reds (maybe tomorrow?).

Chamonix is stunning. It is an alpine village in the Mont Blanc region, close to the Italian and Swiss borders and it situated between a number of mountains, meaning that in a week you can ski a different mountain each day.

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Today I took a cable car up to the highest accessible peak and could see all around over the mountains and different countries. It was unbelievable. I will include some photos below.

There are nine of us here together and we’ve been trying to take it easy on the budget with respect to food because it is very expensive. Yesterday, however, was a major splurge day and one worth writing home (or blogging) about.

I started off the day, as I did the two days prior, at Elevation, a coffee shop/bar that is over one hundred years old. The coffee is good and I had probably the best savory breakfast (if you know me well, you know I usually prefer sweet things, such as the brioche au chocolat that I had this morning) of my life — bacon and eggs on a fresh baguette. Sounds simple, but you can’t really beat this:

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As if that wasn’t enough saturated fat for the day, dinner was the real splurge, and as French as can be. We started with escargot, then polished off a 1.15 kilogram ribeye (yes, it was split between two, but I still think I basically ate half a cow). Finally, I cleansed my palate with an apple tart all to myself. I can’t believe I can walk today.

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Ok, as promised, here are some photos of the mountains. I’m too incompetent of a skier to bring my camera with me on the slopes, so unfortunately I don’t have any great shots of the ski runs. These views are possibly the most incredible I have ever seen.

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Paris’s Best Buffet and Worst Waiters

I am going to keep this short and simple. You can say a lot about French cuisine in general, but I will just stick to four primary observations: butter, butter, cream, pastry.

On Sunday morning, thanks to a tip, Akane and I had a reservation at La Bellevilloise, a trendy restaurant in Paris with a brunch buffet and live jazz. It wasn’t cheap at 29 euro, but it was definitely a fun start to the day (that basically put me out of service for the rest of the day). I partook in undoubtedly the most excessive eating I’ve done on this trip, and in some ways I am still recovering from it. There were savory dishes like sausages, cold cuts, cheese, salads, etc., but as many of you know that’s not really my style for brunch. Instead, I went with French toast, brioche, crepes, donuts, chocolate croissants, hot chocolate, plus some scrambled eggs for protein. Yes, all of that. And I went back three times.

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On a separate note, Parisians were much nicer than I remembered. A special shout out to the four Gendarmerie Nationale officers (French military police) who all pulled out their iPhones to try to call Akane (with no success) when I was having a panic attack at the train station this morning when we were coming to London. Akane went through customs with my ticket and didn’t realize she couldn’t come back to get me. I had no phone and no idea what happened to her. Never mind that the officers probably approached me because I was panicking and my behavior looked erratic and initially they thought I was a security threat. Also the Eurostar employee who somehow, through an unbeknownst chain of custody, got my ticket and then managed to find me, deserves a special thanks. I am not sure how I missed the THREE announcements made over the loud speaker at Akane’s request directing me, LACEY LAKEN, where to go to get my ticket, but when you’ve been in non-English speaking countries for two and a half months, you tend not to pay attention to such things.

On the other hand, while people were generally nice, French waiters are terrible and mean. In particular, avoid these two:

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Also, tarts are pretty good. So are Kir Royals (an apertivo of champagne and creme de cassis), especially when sipped with a view of the the Louvre sparkling in the night. Even bad waiters can’t ruin that.

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Sorry, that wasn’t so short after all. I will post before then, but just to foreshadow, I’m going to have a major eating experience at one of London’s great restaurants — Dinner by Heston — on Friday. Expect to drool as you vicariously share a meal that is a throwback to English cuisine from centuries past. If you want to do some advance reading, you can get more information here.