Thursday, March 31, 2011

St Etienne

March 31, 2011: After a breakfast of croissants, French coffee, fresh fruit compote and assorted meats and cheeses, we hit the road for St. Etienne. 5 1/2 hours later, after driving through hills of the Alsace wine region, we arrived late afternoon in St. Etienne to visit our friends Jean-Yves and Marie-Christine. These are folks we met when I was teaching French and doing student exchanges. I was last here in 2003 and we had lost touch. The drive, while rainy provided glimpses of spring - flowering cherry trees, budding bushes, and fields prepared for planting interspersed with wooded hills showing their castles, medieval churches and monasteries. Taking the fast route involved driving the autoroute which in France is quite civilized. Most drive the speed limit, roads are in good repair, and the speed limit when not otherwise posted is 130 km (about 80 mph). The French drive on the right unless passing, so navigating is pretty easy. The only surprise is that many trucks (and there are MANY TRUCKS) drive only 80 km making passing a continual need.

Once in St Etienne, we checked out Jean-Yves new house right in the middle of the city (160,000 people, high unemployment, working class city that was where the industrial revolution began and then it got left behind when coal mines closed and manufacturing changed.) We took a walk down to the center of town nd back while waiting for Marie-Christine to get home from work. Jean-Yves retired just 3 months ago and is reveling in his new-found freedom to walk the city.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner of cabillaud (type of cod) en papillote (wrapped in parchment or tinfoil) baked with julienne of vegetables and carrots. We also had the most delicious potatoes which I want to try to make soon. Of course this was preceded by an aperitif called Kir (cassis and white wine) using a cassis made by Marie-Christine from black currants grown in her backyard, then an endive salad. Afterwards there was a cheese plate and blueberry tart. All washed down with a burgundy and a bordeaux. Yumm!

Then to bed for the weary retirees - but not before Dave lost in pool to Jean-Yves (4 games to 2).

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