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  • Writer's pictureAine Dougherty

Week Five in France: Lamb shoulder and mastiha ice cream (Vacances de Toussaint, Part I)

It's vacation time!

A perfect Parisian brasserie, complete with cute waiters in black leather kilts.

21/10/2019: Does travel ever become less stressful? After waking up at the crack of dawn, finding out my train from Mulhouse to Paris was cancelled, waiting two hours for another and sprinting down the platform to catch a TGV from Strasbourg, I finally arrived in the Ville des Lumières for another day of orientation with the other Fulbright English Teaching Assistants. But first, I met up with my aunt and family friend, who happened to be in Paris for a night before jetting off to Romania for a work conference the next day. Despite me having a terrible stomachache and almost passing out on the métro, we had a lovely, rejuvenating day together, shopping for gifts at the iconic Fauchon and dining at a classic brasserie by the Église de la Madéleine. My lamb shoulder was succulent and tender, accompanied by a cloud of creamy butternut squash purée. Of course, I snuck a few bites of my aunt's truffle gnocchi – how could I not?

22/10/2019: Although I may have thought that another day of orientation after just one month into our grants would be tedious, getting to reconnect, brag and gripe with the other ETAs was a godsend. I was reassured to know that I wasn't the only one feeling a bit nervous about how exactly I would be working with and teaching the students in my high school. Plus, creating a lesson plan to present, getting feedback and listening to other assistants' examples was invaluable before the observation period ends and the work really begins when we return from the Toussaint break in two weeks. After the 9-5 meeting, I had a few hours before my train, so I stopped by a café and ordered a crêpe au beurre sucre while people watching on the Rue du Passy, the tip of the Eiffel Tower just visible from my perch. It was down the hatch in just a few minutes, but considering that a butter-sugar crêpe was my most memorable bite from my first trip to Paris ten years ago, this felt like a special occurrence. (An honorable mention for today's best bouchée goes out to the cherry clafoutis in my catered lunch at the Commission! Yes, sometimes I eat fruit.)

23/10/2019: I could barely keep my eyes open after pulling an all-nighter to make a 6 a.m. flight, but worry not – my taste buds were still working fine. Finally, I arrived in Paros, a small Greek island in the Cyclades, for the first leg of my trip. Everything, from the tiny airport to the narrow, white stone streets lined with colorful flowers to the gorgeous sunset, felt like home. Two summers ago, I spent three weeks on the island studying photography at the Aegean Fine Arts Center, so I decided to come back to see some of my friends and to make some prints in the photo studio. I immediately met up with my friend, J., who's spending a whole semester at the Center, for a glass of wine overlooking the sea. After an hour or two, we nearly sprinted across town to Zorba's, our favorite souvlaki spot in Paros – nay, in the world – for dinner and a bottle of Mythos beer. The first bite of my pita, filled with garlicky tzatziki, gyro pork, French fries and tomatoes, was nearly orgasmic and more than a little nostalgic. When I was living on the island, I came here almost every single afternoon for a cheap, filling, delicious lunch. I'm telling you, it's dangerous. We continued on to meet up with some of the other students currently studying at the Center for a glass of wine and some mezze. Eventually, I fell into bed for the first time in 40 hours and slept like a baby.

24/10/2019: I woke up (a bit reluctantly) to a sunny, windy morning and headed downstairs for the stellar free breakfast at my adorable hotel, the Argonauta, with J. Fresh-squeezed orange juice, toast with butter and jam, rice pudding, French toast, fried eggs with sautéed mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and Greek gruyere… it was never-ending and the perfect fuel for my first full day in Greece. But the culinary adventure didn't stop there. After an afternoon exploring with my camera and sitting on the beach, J. and I went to our favorite ice cream shop. "Can I try the mastic flavor?" I asked the scooper. He raised his eyebrows. "Are you sure?" Interesting sales tactic, I thought, but I assured him that I knew what mastiha was – I've drank enough of the stuff in liquor form that I was sure I could handle it in an ice cream cone. I was right. The refreshing, vegetal taste made for a unique pre-dinner scoop. Later that night, J. and I returned to the restaurant where we'd had our first friend date two summers ago, an authentic Italian spot called Cuore Rosso. The only thing better than my margherita pizza with salty artichoke hearts was the free limoncello for dessert. All in all, it was a day full of delicious reminiscence that ended in a dance party and raucous rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Parts II and III of my vacation, coming soon!

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