30 Days of Happiness: The Best Omelette You’ll Ever Taste

I came home from a workout earlier in the week and decided that eating everything in the fridge was a good idea. Behold, my mammoth tortilla omelette, inspired by the delicious Spanish tortillas I ate in Italy.

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You’ll note that there’s no tortilla bread in the photo. A traditional Spanish tortilla is not, in fact, the magical flat bread you use to hold your burritos together. Rather, it is a cake of fried potatoes piled high and held together with egg in a firm cornbread-like shape.

I started by frying two thinly sliced potatoes and some onion in a swimming pool’s worth of oil. After they were fully cooked and evenly spaced in the pan, I poured in two beaten eggs, added a handful of spring lettuce (this negates any unhealthiness in the rest of the dish), and piled on the emmental cheese for a bit of French flavor. I prefer my eggs runny, so I only cooked it on one side and ate it open-faced, allowing the top to remain deliciously wiggly.

And voila: a francophile’s take on the classic Spanish picnic food. This omelette was its own full meal, thanks to the potatoes. The crispy potato skins and slightly burnt onion bits added some texture to an otherwise basic breakfast. Seriously, I noshed down the whole thing in about five minutes and was painfully full but oh so very satisfied. Try it out and tell me what you add to make this dish your own. Buen provecho! 

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Miming My Way Through Italy

Most of last week’s short trip to Italy is just a blur, quite honestly. Days softened into evenings and late nights as I traipsed through the streets with four of my fellow English assistants. Only stopping to tumble into a café or gelato shop when we were hungry, the hours melted into one unending day.

Each afternoon, we continued our unceasing stroll through the town called Salerno, about an hour from Naples. Confetti inexplicably filled the cracks of the cobblestones, like the beads that hang from New Orleanian phone lines year-round. Every night, we read books out loud to each other, one girl swiping through the pages of an e-reader while the others sipped from their wineglasses and snuggled together thoughtfully. We snacked on cookies and fruit in the afternoon, never minding the calorie content and whole-heartedly enjoying ourselves as we chatted and solved all of modern society’s problems. 

So there was obviously a lot of this.

So there was obviously a lot of this…almost every meal.

Southern Italians on the streets hollered, gesticulated, and stomped their feet to comment idly on the weather. I spent most of my time wondering why everyone was so angry with each other before I got used to the fact that we were just in Italy.

A fair amount of this.

A fair amount of this.

We trekked to the dark grey beach nearby, where the wind played notes on our beer bottles and whipped sand into every possible nook and cranny. It wasn’t exactly beautiful weather, but it was a heck of a lot better than what we’re used to in Normandy. We kicked off our boots and socks, and my tootsies saw sunlight for the first time since last September. 

Descending upon the port while our seagull drones complete recon.

The busses klaxon before going around each blind mountain corner, and there’s always a lady who makes the sign of the cross and kisses her crucifix necklace as all the other passengers lean into the turn. We spent quite a bit of time praying for our lives and our lunches on those wild bus rides.

When you see pack horses, you know you're in the country.

You know you’ve reached the countryside once you see pack horses.

A hike through the Sentiero Degli Dei  (literally the Path of the Gods) along the Amalfi coast provided some seriously gorgeous views. Italians have been farming and fishing against the steep, rocky mountainsides for thousands of years, and it shows from the moment you step outside. Modern graffiti painted on top of Medieval ruins stacked on top of Roman ruins-it’s everywhere. 

Becky and Stace are terrible people.

Becky and Stace are terrible people.

French civilization holds just as many claims to being “old” as Italy’s does (just look up the cave paintings of Chauvet and Lascaux), but this countryside seems so much more steeped in history than Normandy’s. These pictures absolutely do not do it justice, but I tried. 

We saw some nice views, or whatever.

We saw some nice views, or whatever.

There’s nothing like heading out of your comfort zone for a few days to get some fresh air, hear a new language, and eat obscene amounts of tomato sauce on carbs. Italy comes nowhere near France on my list, but you’ve gotta admit that it’s got style.

The #1 Way to Ensure Eternal Damnation

So, I may not have told you everything that happened during my trip to Paris last week. I left out a crucial part of my time in Sacré Coeur, and now I realize this story just can’t not be told.

Basically, I’m going to hell.

I lied to a nun, and I’m pretty sure that grants me a fastpass through the line to eternal flame.

Sister Jeanne Marie was so kind and welcoming when I first arrived at the basilica. She took down my name and showed me to my room, and as she glided along the hallway she asked my reasons for coming to the night of adoration. I told her that it seemed like a beautiful opportunity for meditation, and as I started to say more she stopped me.

“But, you’re catholic, yes? You believe in la présence réelle?”

I panicked.

She was asking me if I believed in transubstantiation, the catholic doctrine whereby the bread and wine of the Eucharist literally transform into the body and blood of Christ. Well, no. I’m not, and I don’t.

Images of being escorted out by armed monks filled my mind. Sleeping on a bench under a Parisian bridge was not what I had expected for the night, especially since I’d already paid 4 euros for the pre-mass breakfast. So, with imaginary sirens of Vatican police cars whirring in my ears, I did what I had to do.

I lied to Sister Jeanne Marie.

“Well, I was raised protestant, but I’m thinking of converting.”

A giant walkie talkie appeared out of nowhere, and the next thing I know this nun is calling a priest on what I can only assume was a Code Blue: Imminent Conversion case. Grasping my hand in both of hers, she urged me to spend the evening in prayer, and then scurried off to organize the troops for my initiation.

The next morning, Sister Jeanne Marie met me downstairs for a long discussion about my “conversion”. She was so sweet and excited I could hardly stand it. I tried to do what I could to soften my earlier statement and to say that I was “questioning”, but it was useless. I felt terrible (even protestant-raised agnostics generally try not to lie to nuns), but at this point it was impossible to stop.

It was going to take every bit of my 10th grade AP European History knowledge to get me through this one. Dates and names started flying out of my mouth as we discussed the schism, bible translations, and the traditions of the catholic church. She asked me if I had begun to pray the rosary, if I had been to confession, if I prayed with the saints. Trying to translate what mediocre knowledge I have into French and making it sound like I had actually been personally researching the topic was terrifying. I was winging the interview of my life, and it was very nearly disastrous.

I was super pumped when she asked me what I thought of the Virgin Mary, but apparently saying “I love her! What a fascinating icon of women’s strength and the inner goddess within a patriarchal society!” was not the proper response. Naming Joan of Arc, who is basically the definition of aggressive feminism, as an on-the-spot potential confirmation saint, didn’t seem to win me any points, either, but I was in survival mode and literally naming any saints I could think of by then. I vaguely recall quoting Latin excerpts from choral pieces at one point. The B.S. got that real.

Rising from her seat with a smile from one edge of her habit to the other, Sister Jeanne Marie gave me the phone number for her direct line and urged me to call her the next time I was in Paris. We walked together through the church, and she gleefully told me that the next step would be for me to discuss all of these things again with a priest. She escorted me right up to the confessional booth, where I paused just long enough to see her turn the corner before I hightailed it out of there so fast I bet not even Jesus saw me moving.

So there’s my story, the new #1 most awkward conversation of my life. Hopefully, publishing this post and doing good deeds for the rest of my life will keep me from eternal damnation, but if anyone else has a good idea of what I should do, I’m certainly taking suggestions. Clearly, I need all the help I can get.

Seeing Paris from inside Starbucks

Now that I live in France full time, going to Paris is less of a tourist’s adventure and more of a necessary pilgrimage for my own wellbeing. I spent the past two days checking in at my favorite spots and consuming as much Starbucks as possible.

My first Chai latte since January-a glorious experience.

My first Chai latte since January-a glorious experience.

 

A second Starbucks near the Moulin Rouge. I couldn't help myself.

A second Starbucks near the Moulin Rouge. I couldn’t help myself.

There's no better fare for people-watching (or dog-watching!) than from the cafés in Paris.

There’s no better fare for people-watching (or dog-watching!) than from the cafés in Paris.

Once the sun went down and I’d logged enough hours alternating between coffee and wine, I made my way to Sacré Coeur, Paris’ famous pure-white basilica. By eight o’clock, the street vendors and tourists had given way to hushed quiet. A guard met me at a side door, where I checked in with a nun with a kind face. Sister Jeanne Marie led me to my space for the night, a simple, clean bed and wardrobe in a separate cubicle from about fifteen other identical cubbies. Passing me a temporary card identifying me as a religious pilgrim from inside her crisply starched robe, she left me on my own to settle in.

An old, springtime photo of Sacré Coeur.

An old, springtime photo of Sacré Coeur.

Sacré Coeur has been a church of perpetual adoration since the 1800s. All day and night, 365 days a year, someone is always praying in the church. Since a few dozen nuns can’t be expected to take on that sort of task themselves, the church allows civilians to spend a night in its safe, clean facilities in exchange for an hour or two of prayer. Though I am not catholic, and have had more than my share of doubts regarding organized religion in general, it seemed like too unique of an experience to miss.
I certainly was not disappointed; stepping into the empty sanctuary at 3 in the morning, lit only by the candles left at each chapel, was a moment I will not soon forget.

The next morning, after an early mass and breakfast, I found Sister Jeanne Marie in a small study room, and we had a nice long chat before I grabbed my backpack and continued on. I walked to the Centre Pompidou, one of my favorite places to sit outside when the weather is nice and the street musicians are playing.

The best place in town to people-watch.

One of the livelier places to watch les bourgeois-bohemes of Paris

Several hours later, after staring at modern art until I had given myself a headache, I found myself across from Notre Dame, reading in the attic space of Paris’ most famous Anglophone bookshop, Shakespeare and Company. Taking the time to sink into a wonderfully cushy leather armchair and read for a couple hours helped me to detangle all of my thoughts from Montmartre and relax before hopping on the metro for a final time.

I walked down this street weeks ago for a bit of light strolling!

I walked down this street weeks ago for a bit of light strolling!

A quick 36 hours in Paris is always an exhausting venture, but one that provides the opportunity to break away from the world. Living in a small town means that you are never alone, constantly in danger of being spotted by students or acquaintances. Whenever I find myself all alone in a big city, I take it as a sign to step apart from the crowds around me and meditate on solitude for a while.

I’ve yet to be disappointed.

30 Days of Happiness: A Happy Gift for You!

Last night, I decided that simply telling you “thank you” for reading Kaycee En Route was nice, but not nice enough. You’re all wonderful people and I’m very grateful, so to thank you all for your support of my baby blog, I’ve decided to give you a present. Yes, a tangible object delivered to your door. How exciting!

Here’s how the present goes:

I wanted to make this contest as fair as possible for all of you to win, so I’ve entered each and every one of your email addresses (by hand, because I love you and I didn’t know how else to do it) into a random generator. Each address basically counts as one “entry” into my giveaway. Next, because I believe in the power of ambition, I’m going to give you the opportunity to comment below and earn yourself a second entry into the hat.

I’ll draw a name tonight, email the winner to find out his or her mailing address, and then send the prize!

I’m off to the train station to meander around Paris for a few days, so I’ll be sure to pick you up something très chic!

Bonnes vacances et à bientôt!

30 Days of Happiness: BIG Announcement!

A very exciting, very happy thing has come to my attention:

Kaycee En Route has 101 subscribers.

Never did I imagine that this little travel blog, created to assure my parents that I hadn’t been kidnapped while studying abroad, would be read by anyone other than my family. I’m pretty pumped about the fact that over a hundred people have elected to receive an email every time I post. Thank you so much for taking the time to read about my daily life as an expat and validate this crazy thing I put into the cosmos.

Writing for you all has turned my head into a constant brainstorming center for interesting posts, but it’s also become a fabulous way to organize and reflect on my personal thoughts. For the past two years, this blog has talked me down from a few mental breakdowns, encouraged my creativity, and been a happy reminder of all the friends, family, and complete strangers who support me. Even though we may not interact as much as I’d like, thank you again for being there, staring at your computer, and reading.

Merci mille fois et grosses bises à tout le monde !

 

 

 

 

30 Days of Happiness: Week 1!

Thanks so much for your input on the 30 Days of Happiness plan I proposed last week! Several of you seemed keen on reading about this gratitude challenge, so I’ve been taking daily notes and reflecting on the most meaningful parts of each happy moment all week long.

Without further ado, here’s a quick list of some of the things that made me smile in the past week:

Sunday, February 23: first time visiting the public pool with Virginie and Cristy. For a few euros, we had the distinct pleasure of trying out the lane pool, the kiddie slide, and even a delicious sauna and steam room for a couple hours. More importantly, we got to count how many males were wearing smaller bikini bottoms than me.

Monday, February 24: Cristy and I went on a walk along the river, and for the first time since forever, I was able to shrug off my jacket and enjoy the beautiful weather sans manteau! Spring is fighting hard to reach Normandy.

Wednesday, February 26: In an improvisation exercise with my secondes, I reached a personal goal of making the students think their English teacher might actually be insane. Teaching is great; classrooms make the perfect captive audience for this theatre-loving lady.

Friday, February 28: Last school day before the two-week winter break! One of the English teachers and I have become such brain twins that we are able to conduct an entire class, complete with songs, jokes, and choreography, without any preparation at all. Basically, we just goof off and the students respond with blank stares.

Monday, March 3: I ate the most delicious pain au chocolat aux amandes (chocolate croissant with roasted almonds) while walking in town this afternoon. There’s nothing like running errands with powdered sugar down your shirt.

 

Thanks again for your comments on this idea. Taking a few moments every night to scribble down the day’s highlights has made me immediately aware of my own tendency to dwell on the negative and my need to think positive! Feel free to take the 30 Day challenge with me, and tell me about your own happy moments in the comments!