Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Gastronomy and Nimes

So I think I left off talking about our visit to the vineyards last week and I never got to the fun and exciting stuff we did on Friday. Last Friday we had our gastronomy class at a local cooking school!!! We made a 3 course gourmet French meal! I was put in the dessert group, so I got to help make our delicious custardy, ice creamy dish.

The cooking school

The appetizer and main course kitchen

The dessert kitchen

The chef

The amazing dessert team!

Piping some chocolate for decoration for our dessert.

Our Appetizer: Crostini with foie gras and vegetables

Our Main Course: Duck confit with potatoes and herbs in a phyllo dough sachet

Our dessert: I don't know the translation of this, but it's like custardy ice cream topped with almond crisp and chocolate with apricots and strawberry sauce on the side.

The dessert team enjoying our meals

After our fun morning and afternoon of cooking we headed to another vineyard. The owner actually came to our gastronomy lesson and talked about some of his wine and served it with our meal. Then we drove down the road to see where it was made.

The grape crusher at the winery

The vats where maceration occurs

The vats where fermentation takes place

Bottling the wine

So that was our fun and exciting day last Friday. Then this past weekend was our free weekend. So everybody in the program planned their own small trip. Five of us girls decided to take a road trip to Nimes. Nimes is a cute little city north east of Toulouse. We decided to go there because it has a lot of roman history and there's an arena similar to the colosseum in Rome. We also wanted to go there so we could drive along the coast on the way home and stop for a swim in the Mediterranean. 

Our first stop was to the arena. We had a guided tour and learned about all of the gladiators and events they used to hold at the arena. Then our second stop was to La Maison Carree. Unfortunately, as we were walking over to the building I slipped on a stair and my camera went flying and completely broke. So I wasn't able to take any more pictures of my weekend, but thanks to the awesome people I went with I have some pictures to share with you. So after La Maison Carree we had dinner at an Indian restaurant and then visited the arena again to see what it looked like at night. Then on Sunday we visited the park in Nimes and hiked to the top of the park to La Tour Magne. La Tour Magne is a tower that overlooks the entire city. It was pretty cool! After that we went for a drive along the coast and stopped at Marseillan Plage for a swim, then headed back to Toulouse. 

The arena

Inside the arena

The whole arena

Posing with the matador

La Maison Carree. We got to watch a 3D movie about the history of Nimes in this building. 

The arena at night

Playing in the lights

The park

La Tour Magne. We climbed to the top of this tower to get a full view of the city.


Marseillan Plage. The beach we stopped at on our way back to Toulouse. 

Our little Volkswagen that we took on our road trip

Our weekend trip was a lot of fun, and Nimes was the perfect size city to visit when you only have 2 days.

So that was our fun, short weekend. Then this past Monday and Tuesday we had more enology and french lessons. And last night a few of us went out for a gourmet French dinner. We had foie gras, another type of duck, a pastry stuffed with duck, bread, and salad for our appetizer. For my main dish I got the lamb, which was excellent! And for dessert we had creme brulee! It was all so gooood!!!

(Oh and I got a new camera this past monday!! I'm still trying to figure out how to use it so sorry the pictures are a little fuzzy, but hopefully I'll figure it out soon)

So that's about it so far. It's been another busy but fun week! We have all of our exams this Friday and then on Saturday we can relax before we leave for our internships on Sunday. So I don't know if I'll be able to post another blog before I leave school, but I'll definitely be posting one once I start working next week. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Host Family and Viticulture

As promised, here's the details of the host family I'll be spending the month of July with. I will be staying in the Midi-Pyrenees region in the district of Tarn and I'll be working on the family's vineyard. They haven't told me what my duties are yet, but hopefully I will find out soon! They have a son who is 11 years old and a daughter who is 6 years old, and I am really looking forward to meeting all of them.

This week has flown by! We had our first viticulture lesson this past Monday where they taught us the basics of wine tasting, and in the afternoon we had our usual French lesson. On Tuesday we had our second viticulture lesson and then they told us about our host families! Everybody was so excited to finally find out where they would be placed for the month of July. Then on Wednesday we had our french lesson in the morning, and that afternoon we got to visit the school's experimental farm. This was actually pretty cool to see. My favorite part was seeing the cow get milked. It was amazing because the machine was programmed to know the cows and to know how much pressure to use when milking that particular cow. The machine also used a sensor to locate the utter on its own, which I thought was pretty amazing.

Cow's at Purpan's experimental farm.

The cow being milked.

Today was also an exciting day! We got to visit two vineyards and wineries. The first winery we visited was Abbaye de Fontfroide. It used to be an abbey, but it wasn't converted into a winery after it was abandoned by the monks. The second winery we visited was Chateau l'Hospitalet, which was a more modern facility. 

Abbaye de Fontfroide.

The Gardens at Abbaye de Fontfroide.

Wine vats at the abbey.
The vineyard at the abbey.

Some boilermakers in the vineyard!

Chateau l'Hospitalet

The cellar at Chateau l'Hospitalet

A grafted grape vine.

Wine vats at Chateau l'Hospitalet

It's been another fun week here in France, and after visiting these wineries I'm really looking forward to working on a vineyard next month! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Week 2

So this is probably going to be a long one because we did so much last week, but I'll keep the writing short because I know most people like to see the pictures. But anyway, we started out on Monday with some animal production classes and our usual French lesson. Then on Tuesday we had one of my favorite field trips so far! We went to visit a ewe farm and the Roquefort caves!!! At the farm they taught us how the ewe's are bred, raised, and milked. Then they showed us around the farm and let us see where they perform these tasks. Then at the end of our visit they let us try some of the Roquefort that was produced from their ewe's milk, as well as some local bread, some local wine, and another local cheese. It was all so amazing!
Our professor and the owner of the farm teaching us about the lifecycle of the ewe.

The owner of the farm bringing the ewe's to the field to graze.

Where the ewe's live during the winter.

Where the ewe's get milked.

The local bread that they let us try.

Roquefort cheese

The other local cheese that unfortunately I can't remember the name of. 

After we visited the farm they brought us to see the Roquefort caves. The roquefort caves are where they bring the cheese to develop the mold. The caves have about 95% humidity and 10C temperatures so that is the perfect temperature for the Penicillium roqueforti spores to develop. This was probably my favorite part of the day. It is such a unique way of making cheese. After we toured the caves they let us try 3 different Roquefort cheeses and I loved them all!
The cheese wrapped in foil to prevent further mold development. 

The cheese lined up to grow mold. 

Me and Allison with the final product.

On Wednesday, we had a day full of animal welfare lectures. We also had a lecture on labels for chickens where we learned about the Label Rouge chicken that they have here in France. Then on Thursday, our day was filled with French lessons. We spent the morning in the classroom and for the afternoon they gave us a scavenger hunt to do around Toulouse. So we had to ask people in French questions about the city and things to do in the city. Then on Friday, we had a short lecture in the morning on animal sustainability and then we had our first exam. After that we got on the bus to head to Barcelona for the weekend!

Barcelona was amazing! I learned about the architect Antoni Gaudi in 6th grade and I've been wanting to see his work ever since. So I was extremely excited to see all of the buildings he designed. On Saturday morning a few of us got up early to visit Parc Guell. This park was initially supposed to be a gated community with about 60 houses in it, but Gaudi only built 2 houses and never finished the project, so now it is a public park. After we visited the park, we went to Sagrada Familia which is the Basilica Gaudi started to build. It was amazing! He put so much detail into the whole building. After the Basilica we walked down the main touristy street in Barcelona where we saw Casa Battlo and La Pedrera which are two more buildings that Gaudi built. Then for dinner that night we went out for Tapas!

Lizard statue at Parc Guell.

Antoni Gaudi's house at Parc Guell.

Benches in Parc Guell.

The view from the top of Parc Guell.

The inside of Sagrada Familia.

The outside of Sagrada Familia.

Casa Batllo

La Pedrera.

Us at "Tapa Tapa" the Tapas restaurant.

Our first course of our tapas meal.

Mini chorizo sausages

Crema Catalana.

On Sunday, we woke up early again to go swimming in the Mediterranean. The water was pretty cold, but we still went swimming and it was a lot of fun! After we were done at the beach we went out to lunch. We went to a restaurant called Catalunya, and we all had Paella for the first time! It was amazing!
The Mediterranean Sea

My first Paella!

Natalie and I with our Paella's!

So that was my second week of my life in France. It was so busy, but a lot of fun! I also found out about my host family today so I'll try to get a blog out soon to let you know all about that! Au revoir pour l'instant!