Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

A fortnight before Christmas

It’s funny when I tell people here that I’m from Canada. They automatically assume two things.

ONE: You must know how to speak French! Why, yes I do. Or more precisely I tell them, “I can speak French, but I’m not fluent.” Then they all think I’m from Quebec, because how else would I know how to speak French and why else would I come to France? Then again, some folks here think all Canadians must be able to speak both English and French because our country is bilingual. I tell them that I am from the English speaking part of Canada and that a lot of people actually don’t speak French. In fact, Toronto is predominantly English and it is only because of our education system that some people are able to speak a little bit of French. Sorry for shattering your dreams, mes chers amis de France.

TWO: You must not be afraid of the cold! Well, there’s something I always believed – you could get used to something, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune to it. The coldness of winter is an example. It was a good 15⁰C in Bordeaux last week (yes, above zero) but the temperature rapidly dropped to approximately 0⁰C since Thursday. Is it cold? Yes it is, though not nearly as cold as the -15⁰C in Toronto during the same time of the year…but it’s still COLD. I’m not gonna run outside with shorts and a T-shirt, but I do admit that the cold is a refreshing cold, not a piercing cold that penetrates your skin and burns your bones.

Then people ask how we live in such harsh winter conditions in Canada. I say, “I dunno, you just kind of get used to it.” Which is true. We still complain about the cold in Canada, but it’s a natural cycle of seasons that we’re unable to change, so all we can do is prepare for it. I’d been living comfortably in Toronto for 15 years and am still alive and happy, so thanks for worrying about my well-being, but we’re fine.

I promised more night photos, and the theme this week is…Christmas is coming! Actually, the only time I CAN go out to take pictures nowadays is during the night, since it is already dark by the time I get off work. So expect night scenes for the next couple of posts.

Place Gambetta prepares for Christmas with colourful lights. This place is connected to the Grand Théâtre and St. Catherine’s, and is also filled with people and full of life.

A tree near Place Gambetta decorated with blinking lights that seem to mimic the effects of falling snow. We see a lot of snow-themed decorations in this city because we don’t get a lot of the real thing, if any at all. The blinking effect was pretty cool but the picture doesn’t capture it very well…

Place to go for movies. There’s also a Quick on the left, a fast food chain in France and some other countries. I tried it once and it really lives up to its name…it was QUICK, alright. Food was decent too, although like many other food items I’ve tried in France, salt content lacks. Then again, maybe I was just too used to a high sodium intake at home…

Cours de l’Interdance, the exact same place as the one shown in this entry, except this time, all the lights are on. Everything looks so shiny, even the road itself looks polished.

This is the Christmas market of Bordeaux which runs until the end of December. I took a stroll down the rows and rows of vendors and I absolutely must go there again to explore and perhaps buy some Christmas-y things! The atmosphere was phenomenal! The jolly sound of music, the colourful accessories on sale, the smell of freshly made food…mmm.

Another imitation of snow. I’m starting to miss the real fluffy snow.

The Regent Hotel of Bordeaux also dressed up in a white Christmas costume. Right down the middle is St. Catherine’s, and there were still a lot of people wandering in and out at approximately 8 o’clock at night.

Allée de Tourny at night. I’ve always liked that triangular building, even during the day, and it looks even prettier during the night. The building has an elegant ambiance about it that just seems so entrancing.

Grand Théâtre to the right and Cours de l’Interdance again straight ahead. There are lots of bikers on the streets, even though it was quite cold (yes even for me) when I went out to take these pictures.

One last look at Cours de l’Interdance before the tram arrived.

Saw a random shop selling Christmas-related items while I was waiting for the tram, and snapped a quick photo of it.

Totally unrelated to any of the previous photos, here is the cheesecake that my coworker and I made for my Christian fellowship gathering last Saturday. I’ve made this cake twice before and succeeded both times, so the goal was to make it for the lab lunch this week and the Christmas party the week after. The picture above depicts the first attempt, where my friends at fellowship served as my tasting lab rats.

There were minor bumps and obstacles, such as setting the temperature of the first batch to 250⁰C (which was the max) while it was supposed to be 300F – equivalent to 150⁰C. Clearly, I did not read the label on the oven and automatically assumed that it was in Fahrenheits. Luckily I realized it only about 15 minutes into the baking, although the top layer did burn very slightly. I coated the top with a thin layer of chocolate as a camouflage, and it actually turned out okay, surprisingly.

Second problem was that the pan holding the second batch, shown above, was a little too big for the oven – the oven was VERY small. So…it was baked with the door half open. We turned up the temperature to 175⁰C and baked it for a bit longer than stated.

The other problem I encountered was the purchase of ingredients. Apparently “cream cheese” doesn’t exist in France, and the closest substitute I found was “fromage à tartiner”, which translates to “spread cheese”. It was quite similar, actually, and worked out rather well. Next, crackers don’t come in crumbs in France, so I bought crackers and literally crushed them with my hands. The process was quite fun, in fact, and I think I will do that from now on whenever I need to make a crust with cracker crumbs.

Despite the temperature mix-up and the pan dilemma, I thought the cheesecake turned out very well, smooth and creamy the way it tasted when I made it before. Everyone at fellowship liked it, or so they said. If they didn’t like it, it didn’t show, so I declare this a successful operation. I also declare that this cheesecake recipe is completely FOOLPROOF and that it shall be used again for the two aforementioned upcoming events.

Oh, and again no wine and cheese this week. Technically you already had the cheese in the cheesecake.

5 responses to “A fortnight before Christmas

  1. Geoffrey December 14, 2010 at 23:00

    Haha, yes! Sounds like real engineering for cheesecake making~ Take a little here, give a little there.

    Also, come on, we’re Canadian. You should be running outside in 0 degree weather! Naked!

    They say that you can only survive naked at 0 C with no wind for only 30 minutes. I would like to take that challenge.


  2. Joshua December 16, 2010 at 11:53

    When it comes to the cold thing: I’m originally from Ohio, and everyone (girlfriend included) think I should be “tougher” when we get cold spells here in Taiwan… it’s around 8-10 C here and I hate it!

    I tell them that getting away from the cold is WHY I moved away.


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