Monday, October 19, 2009

Encounters of the unexpected kind

So we went to Paris for the Salon du Chocolat Professionel.  Left the house at 5:30am to arrive in Paris just in time for the buchon (traffic jam) at 9am.

The Salon... disappointing.  As far as information and new things to discover I was definitely underwhelmed, and felt like maybe I should have gone to check out the other major chocolate salon in Europe instead, Eurochocolate in Perugia, Italy.  The world masters of chocolate was happening though and it was neat to watch the competitors doing their thing.  By watching the competitors in their regulation kitchen-spaces, it was easy to see that the American and the Japanese felt right at home as they worked quickly and efficiently while others seemed a little more fuddled.

Shigeo Hirai of Japan won the overall title this year.  The American came in 2nd.

I was amazed at the warmth of the room.  A cool ambient temperature makes for easier tempering of the chocolate, however I did notice many competitors frequently making use of a spray-coolant provided to them as a standard issue tool for the competition, while others 'flashed' the chocolate they were moulding or shaping on acetate in their freezers.  It seems some clever little bees did their moulding earlier in the morning when the room was cooler, and left the finishing of their pastries for when the room was warmer (smart.)

Along with the Salon being a bit of a letdown, I wasn't feeling in top form, and then later in the day realized I was getting a cold-sore, which is everyone's favourite feeling.  Fortunately the pharmacy saved the day when they explained I could go for the traditional creme or ointment, or try these neato new medicated patches.  Check it out.
So there are 15 of these babies in each pack, and really... they work.  They do a pretty darn good job of taking care of all the things you worry about when you have a cold-sore (pain, gross-factor, visibility, possibility of infection & so on), and to top it off, they're almost invisible and seem to speed the healing process along.  Here's me wearing one as we walked around Paris Saturday morning (day 2 of cold-sore.)

You should know I would normally KILL anyone trying to take a picture of me with a cold-sore.  Thanks to these patches, the photographer survived!

Aside from my lip maybe looking a little swollen, you can't tell, can you?  And here's a closeup of my lips today, day 4 of coldsore.  You can't really tell but the sore has already ulcerated and without these little guys would be all burny and gross-crusty-ulcery.  Yech.  But honestly, I hardly feel a thing when I've got this lovely on.  Not the patch, nor the pain that usually accompanies a cold-sore.  Ready?

Yes, I know, I could use some lipgloss.  And you can see the patch maybe a little here, but at this point it's been on for a few hours, and I had a cup of tea.  They normally stick for about 8 hours depending on what you're doing (I generally try to drink through a straw when I have a cold-sore, and that seems to help here with retaining the adhesiveness of the patch too.)  But, for anyone who suffers from cold-sores now and then as I do, these things are a GODSEND.  A godsend made by Johnson & Johnson.  The last plus is that they take a long time to expire.  Since I get a cold-sore once every 1.5 or 2 years, and the expiry on the package is 2012, before leaving Paris I picked up another package, so I'll be ready next time!

After we left the Salon we walked around for a little while and then went to check-in at our hotel.  Very verrry nice for the scandalously good 65 euro/night price (I am the queen of finding amazing hotels at amazing prices in good locations.)  Essentially we had a furnished apartment, large by Parisian standards, fully equipped, and very clean.  (If you're making travel plans in France, check out Citea Aparthotels.  Seriously.)  Having been up so early, we napped a bit and went to locate dinner upon waking.  After a long drive and a lot of walking we were pretty bushed so it was dinner in and a movie on the canal + provided free in the apartment.  So I suppose the first day in Paris was a bit of a washout.  The next day we went to check out an exhibition of masterworks re-done using spongebob squarepants, which was pretty neat, and we both agreed that sadly it was far more satisfying than the Salon had been the day before.

We walked a little more in the moody weather (rain, sun, grey, rain, sun, rain, grey,) and then decided we were tired and bored of Paris, so we got in the car and headed for home, making a significant detour on the way to check out Reims (the home of something else I like: Champagne.)

It was a few hours out of our way but we've been curious to see what's there for awhile, and we discovered that Reims is a pretty little city, a little touristy-cute, but not too much so, and perfect for a weekend getaway.

Amusement for us: the set of wood-huts in the central walk of the city, which turned out to be a promotion of Canada.  It was a parade of all the things you've ever heard about Canada from someone who isn't Canadian: Maple syrup, native carvings, teepees, lumberjack coats (red&black), and pancakes.

 (People here are very curious about pancakes...which is weird to me since it's not really rocket-science to make one.) Even funnier still was that at the end of the row of wooden huts, off to the side there was another stand where a man was selling Liègois-waffles.  So in the end we each got a little dose of our own cultures right there in France.  Apart from the delicious quiches we had for dinner, French culture was difficult to locate in Reims that day, save this one other thing:  Stopped in a McDonalds to use the restroom.  That bastion of globalism samey-sameness, where french-fries taste the same the world over is good for washroom use since you don't normally need to pay to use the McDo's washrooms.  Here, like other McDonalds, there was no madame pipi collecting a toll for the w/c and so I entered directly, and was served up this unusual flavour:

Lol, what!?  

I've seen pictures of pedal toilets before... IN INDIA!  I really didn't expect one in the McDonalds in Reims, France.  Boyfriend informed me after I came out of the washroom and showed him this photo on the LCD screen of my camera, that in France this type of toilet is common.  Though I'm sure he's peed a lot more places than I have there, I'll say that I've peed a lot of places in France, including other McD's washrooms and have never seen one of these there, so it was an odd surprise for me.  Being the champion I am though, I negotiated the deed with no troubles, and we were on our way home.
And that's the end of that story.  We hit up La Batte (a huge outdoor Sunday market here in Liège) for some vin-chaud and saw some gorgeous fall colours yesterday, but my camera battery had nothing left when I went to make my first shot of the day, so another time perhaps.

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