Friday, October 26, 2012

Last weekend was 2/3 French

I didn't write about last weekend because of connection problems so consider this one chronologically before the previous one about teaching English. 

I love living so close to the French border. It's 20km/ 12.5 miles away. A round trip ticket to France costs 2.90€ or $3.77 and it's a forty minute ride, with trains leaving every 30 minutes. 

I ended up going to Hendaye/Hendaya/Hendaia (same town, French, Spanish and Basque spellings respectively) twice last weekend. Friday we had a talk about witchcraft in a Basque gastronomic society and afterwards my Basque class went to our professor's house in Hendaia to make gateau basque, which is a French-Basque cake usually filled with either cherry jam or pastry cream. Ours tasted really good. We spent all day there and met all of her family. She is incredibly nice to us. I can't imagine this happening with a big class so the five of us really enjoyed it. 

Yesterday was her birthday but it's a holiday so we didn't have class. So instead, on Tuesday we celebrated her birthday by bringing her flowers and pastries and more pastries. She was pleasantly surprised  but told us it was too much. She is the only female in her family, so I very much doubt all those leftover pastries went to waste. 

Saturday I went over to my host mom's sister's house. I think it's technically their mom's house but Tia Merche does all the cooking. She's also a really good cook. So, so tasty all the time. They're pleasantly surprised that I like all the Spanish and Basque food they cook. I don't really like onions so that's the one thing they really know I don't like. My host dad doesn't like them either. For me, raw is unpalatable but cooked is marginally acceptable. The only things I haven't liked that they served were the onion and pepper salad that accompanied a fish dish (which was when I told them I didn't like onions very much) and some green beans that my host mom, who never cooks with hot pepper, made for me that were inedibly spicy. Other than that, I eat the same as the rest of the family. Pepa might ask me if I like the dish they're having at lunch since I don't have time to come home for that, and she'll save me a portion to have with dinner. For example, they had pumpkin purée as part of their midday meal. Sounded good to me so she saved me some to have before dinner last night. I think it makes Pepa and her sisters happy that I don't require too much extra work. Pepa tells me stories of the students who lived with them before. One boy didn't like any Spanish food so she had to buy him hamburgers and pizzas for every meal. I can't imagine he lost weight while here. And besides, premade pizzas have ham instead of pepperoni and sausage on them. Pizza here tastes very different from in the US. They're not made with Americans in mind, they're made for Spaniards. Hamburgers taste more or less the same. Bread and meat is a little different but not so much that its too noticeable. 

But I digress. Sunday was the Apple Festival in Hendaye. It was pouring rain but we had paid 16€ for an  authentic Basque lunch. Abby and I were the first to get there, but we had gotten very very lost because the map our program had given us wasn't very good. Never have I been more glad of having some French than the times I get lost in France. We made it finally and we saw Manolo, the wonderful Basque man who took us apple picking. We had been told that he was one of the organizers. So I went up to him and said in French that we were the American students and he was delighted we'd come.  He pointed us to the ticket table where one of the ladies spoke English and she helped us get our bearings. For 5€ we could buy a souvenir cup that you could wear as necklace that served as your unlimited cider tasting cup, and a cute little neck scarf that she taught us the Basque way to tie. They had probably 20 types of cider to try. I was surprised at how different they were. Some were sweeter, some were more acidic. Some were light, others very dark. Manolo's lovely wife and his amusing workers were also there. They were all happy to see us again. The feeling was mutual.

The aforementioned lunch was quite good. First course was bacalao with tomato sauce and peppers.  Best tomato bacalao and peppers ever. Then was steak and French fries. The steak was the sort of grass fed variety and was cooked the French way, which is a little different from the US way. It's much rarer. Dessert was a magnificent apple tart with a strong Basque cheese and membrillo. There was cafe after as well. Oh and there was unlimited cider (and other beverages but let's be honest, it's all about the cider) during the meal as well. 

We were originally supposed to be 18 but due to the rain and other factors, only 7 of us were there when it was time to eat. Two more showed up soon after but that was still much less than they anticipated. There was a huge block on Nicole, Manolo's wife's seating chart that was marked "Americaines" but we didn't need that space so she moved us to a smaller table and we got seated with this one French lady who spoke no other languages. Most people here speak at least some of the other one (French or Spanish) that isn't their native tongue. I speak some French, enough to tell her we were Americans and that I only spoke a little French. No one else who was there spoke French. We still managed to communicate with her, more or less. 

It was a fun weekend overall.

Here's to always having great weekends :)

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