American Foods Revisited

Four years ago I wrote a blog post about the American foods I missed while in France. I’m back in France now, and I thought it would be fun to re-visit that post and see if the foods I miss now are the same as they were then! Especially since one of the most quintessentially American holidays (the 4th of July) is right around the corner, and as every American knows: holidays are an excuse to eat as much food as possible!
Click here to read the original post with my comments.

Ice cream will always be one of my favorite foods. Especially from the Hop in Asheville!

White Duck Taco Shop in Asheville has the best tacos.

  1. Macaroni and Cheese. I will always miss mac and cheese. I made some from scratch in Finland, but it wasn’t the same– Gouda and Gruyere might be fancier, but it’s not the same as good ol’ cheddar cheese.
  2. American-style breakfast. — Okay, so Finland was great about American-style breakfast, since I made my own scrambled eggs and bacon on a regular basis. I do miss biscuits and waffles though.
  3. PB&J. NOPE. I wish I had peanut butter for carrots or apples, but I don’t miss peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
  4. COOKIES! Brownies, cake-with-legit-frosting. I don’t really miss this, either. Butter cream cakes, maybe, but I did a fair amount of baking in Finland, and there were plenty of brownie-like cakes.
  5. Phish Food flavor of Ben & Jerry’s. This is still my favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry’s, but I just want ice cream in general. These days I really miss The Hop in Asheville – they have the best ice cream!
  6. Mexican food. I will always want Mexican food. Just like mac and cheese, it’s one of the greatest things about living in the USA, even if it isn’t technically American.
  7. PASTA with non-meat-sauce or pasta with not-ketchup-and-Gruyere. I have not had to eat bad pasta, so I’m good on the pasta front.
  8. Barbeque. Like the kind with pulled pork sandwiches. Oh yes, I still miss this.
  9. Pop-tarts. No, and I am embarrassed that this was even on the list. Pop-tarts are sad food. I saw some in Finland and considered buying them just for the novelty of it, but… nope.
  10. Hershey’s Chocolate. NO. I had lots of delicious chocolate in Finland, and there’s plenty of chocolate around so that I don’t feel like I’m lacking everyday chocolate. My everyday chocolate is of higher quality.
Basically, I only miss 5 of the American foods I missed in 2010.

A mac & cheese and bacon pizza is as ridiculously American as it gets.

So what do I miss besides mac&cheese, American-style breakfast, ice cream, Mexican food, and barbecue?
  1. Americanized Chinese takeout. Oh yes. So unhealthy, so good.
  2. Pizza with fluffy crust. I don’t mean Chicago-style deep dish pizza, but normal, fluffy crust pizza. The kind with air bubbles in the crust. The thin crust is great and delicious, but lacking in variety and the crust bubbles are my favorite.
  3. My favorite teas. Technically not a food, but I’m still going to count it. I am almost out of my stash of tea bags from the USA! Nothing is quite like my favorite Constant Comment.
  4. Mashed potatoes with gravy. 
  5. Cinnamon rolls & donuts. Cinnamon rolls without cardamom and with real icing, instead of sugar are heavenly. The Finns have korvapuusti (like a cinnamon roll, made with pulla dough and sprinkled with sugar crystals) and munkki (fried pulla dough– can be in a donut shape or filled with jam, covered in sugar) which are delicious, but not quite the same as sticky cinnamon rolls and donuts.

Scott Ableman on FlickrThe foods I miss seem to be late-night foods: greasy, horrible-for-you piles of fries and cheese and bacon. Breakfast at all hours of the day, in any combination. Everything sweet, greasy, and (typically) unhealthy… mmm.

Soon enough, I’ll be back in the USA, enjoying all of these horrible and delicious foods. Though in the meantime, there is plenty of delicious French food to eat! (And American-style pancakes on the weekends!)

The Trip isn’t Over Yet

All of my friends from Finland have returned home. Most of the other people I know who were studying abroad in other countries have already made their way home, or are finishing up post-study abroad travels. The summer study abroad groups are out in the world, with the clock already ticking on their returns.

And my trip isn’t over yet. 

The Finland part of my trip has been over for a few weeks now (though I’m still working on the long list of blog posts about Finland), and I’ve only recently finished up the rest of my school work for classes there. But I’m not home yet, though my return is drawing closer.

I’m in the midst of what I jokingly call the longest layover ever. It’s not really a layover, since I had to go out of my way to get here, but it’s my pause between Finland and the United States. The real way of describing it sounds a bit pretentious: I’m spending the summer in France.

I’m incredibly lucky in this respect. I lived in France for seven months in 2010, and now I get to spend another two months in the South of France. It’s something like a vacation, though I’m really just living with family, working on various things (…mostly blog posts), with some traveling and exploring on the side.

It feels normal to be living in France. I’m staying with my dad, who moved here two years ago with his wife and my three stepsisters. I’m older than all three of them; they’re all taller than me. My dad and I talk in English; my stepmother and stepsisters speak in French. We all change between French and English and often end up speaking the bastard child of both languages: ‘franglais‘.

Life in France is a treat. There’s always bread and dessert with dinner (and sometimes, lunch). Saturdays and Sundays are American pancake days, even if we don’t eat the pancakes with syrup. Chocolate hour is between 4-6 pm daily. There’s always tea on hand, though these days my dad and I have been making sun tea. Iced and sweet, a truly American treat.

Days are hot and sunny here. Sometimes it’s so hot that the hills and mountains on the horizon gets blurry, obscured by smoggy heat. After months of living in Finland and feeling as though winter weather could happen at any moment, the Mediterranean summer is unyielding. I don’t think I’m quite used to it yet. I long for air conditioning and sometimes I miss my drafty Finnish room.

Aix on Provence is lovely, and getting to explore more of France makes me happy. I’m truly “Aly en France”, as I have been on the internet since 2009, again. And I have new stories and pictures to share, though I’m not quite there yet… I should finish telling some stories from Finland before I start rambling about the places I’m visiting in France.

Since I don’t have much else to do, expect those to start appearing more frequently. I hope to catch up on most of those before I head back to the US in July!

Finding A New Dream


For most of my life, my Ultimate Dream was to live in France and to speak French. I don’t know what brought that idea to my mind– perhaps my love for Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame as a child– but nonetheless, I had been dreaming of those things. I announced to my mother at age seven that I wanted to go to France for the New Millenium; I’m not sure what kind of seven year old is so determined, but I knew what I wanted. After that I spent ten years working towards that goal. When I finally accomplished what I set out to do, I found myself at a loss. Accomplishing my dream is an awesome experience, but afterwards, I realized I had no dream quite like it to work for.

I’m one of those people that loves to have some Big Plan for my life. Having a specific Big Goal to work for drives me to be active and do things I love. It serves as motivation for me. Working towards a specific goal gives me a plan, and while I never quite anticipate what would happen if I don’t accomplish what I set out to do, I find that the journey to that place is fulfilling in and of itself.

For the last few years, following France, I haven’t had a specific Ultimate Dream. I’ve had a vague direction, the career path that I am working towards, the Ridiculously Complicated job title that is so perfect for who I am. There is no guarantee of accomplishing that, and working towards such a vague and far-off goal has left me without motivation or much direction.

It’s like I am looking out across a landscape that has this far-off mountain, but I can barely see it above the horizon; it’s obscured by forest and thunderstorms that seem dark and frightening from where I stand. While I have the courage to go forward towards it, and know that I can probably make it to the mountain, all the way up to the top even, I have a long way to go until then. It isn’t a straight line; I don’t have a map to guide me on my way.

That’s not to say it is impossible, but I need a Big Goal that is closer. A way-point along my path to the mountain.

I finally found it. A Big Goal to work towards that isn’t quite the distant, giant mountain. Something large enough that I will have to work to accomplish it, but not big enough that I feel as though it is insurmountable.

I have a new dream, and at long last, I am walking along the path to a way point and the mountain in the distance isn’t looking so far away or scary from here. The breeze is nice through the trees and I am protected from the thunderstorms.

 A bientot!


Three Years Ago…



Pictures from my last day with my French friends when my mom and brother visited.

Hello, all!

Three years ago I landed on American soil after seven months of living in France. 

Three years have passed since my friends came to pick me up at the airport and I didn’t quite believe it was real. Since we screamed and cried and hugged in an airport lobby because it had been so long and so much had changed.

Seven months changes a lot. 

Three years changes more.

Three years ago, I had already accomplished the dream that I had been working towards for 10 years of my life. I didn’t have a new dream; I was happy to be home but my language and my heart was still captured in French. (It still is, but to a lesser extent.)

Three years have passed since I was last in Europe. Slightly more than that since I said goodbye to “my Frenchies” and embarked on a short vacation to Italy with my mother and brother. More than three years since I wandered through Southern France with near-strangers that are kind of family and now-distant friends. Since filming silly videos with my friends and dancing through La Villa Aurélienne. Since hanging out in MacDo and Quick and getting sunburnt on the beach of La mer Méditerranée

Picture from a picnic my class threw me before I left France.

I find myself looking through those pictures and blog posts and thinking of all those experiences and I fall in love with those experiences all over again. Or I feel the sting of loneliness as I read about those rough days when I felt like I was falling apart. I re-watch the video I made to celebrate five months in France again and tear up as I remember those friends and I think about all the stories and pictures that I never shared here. (There are so many)

I think about who I was then. How I felt out of touch with the United States and my friends on either side of the ocean at different points; those moments of clarity on long train rides alone and when goofing off with people whose names I probably never pronounced exactly right. 

And then there’s now. 

I’m rediscovering myself and my strength and challenging myself all over again. I’ve found a new dream to pursue at long last and I am pursuing it the best I know how.

Life is strange and time passes too quickly. I’m not sure where I will be seven months from now, much less three years from now. I wonder if I will still maintain the friendships I have had for years, or if I will re-establish the closeness I once had with my seven month friends. 

That being said, it’s time to share again. 

A bientot!

Aly en… Anywhere

Hello, all!

It’s getting to be that timea gain, where my wanderlust sets in and I find myself dreaming of new places to explore and beginning to plan what’s next.

It should come as no surprise to those of you that know me (either by reading this blog or personally know me) that I am an international studies major. At my school, this means that I have to have an “international experience”, which means studying abroad for at least 6 credit hours.

I don’t have any issues with the fact that I have to study abroad– in fact, I think it’s great that my program requires majors to study abroad, because I think the experience of going abroad is probably one of the most useful and necessary experiences to have as a student. Particularly in my major, it makes sense that they require it (or a similar experience).

My major worry is not how or why, but where. Having already fulfilled my dream of going to France, it seems a bit silly to try to recreate the experience or continue to lust after a country and experience that I have already had. That is not to say that it would be the same now, as a university student rather than a high schooler, but for various reasons, I probably won’t be going back to France to attend classes.

So where to, if not France?

This is the dilemma I am faced with this year, as I seek out where I should go next. There are so many places in the world to see, and even though I am focusing my search on Europe (after all, France is just a short trip away from most places in Western Europe), I find myself questioning this blog most of all. If I am not “en France”, as I have shaped my online identity since 2009, am I still “Aly en France”? I mean, I’m not in France now– but I maintain this blog, my tumblr, etc., under that username/title. It works; my near-constant longing for France and nostalgia for the places I have been is a bit ridiculous, even as time passes. My heart still remains “en France”, so far as I (and this blog) are concerned.

But wherever I go in the future– should my blog still be “Aly en France”? France is not the end of my travels; it was the beginning of a lifetime of wanderlust and dreams. It is still an important part of how I perceive the world and my identity as a person. But should my blog always reflect an experience I have already had?

What do you do with a virtual space that holds so many memories and identity you have taken on when it is no longer relevant to your current life?

Do you abandon it, as I have (at least on this site) until a time when you figure it out again? Or is it not necessary for the name to reflect reality?

What if I was just “Aly en Europe” or “Aly en America” or any other combination of place? Does my current reality need to be reflected in my online presence? 

These are some of the questions I am struggling with while I do research about where would be the best place for me to go next. The challenges of international travel await, yet I am preoccupied with an issue of virtual identity, rather than the challenges of reality.

I’d love to hear what you (as a reader of this blog, however infrequent) think!

A bientôt,

June Vacation: Tours, Bordeaux, Pays Basque


Okay, so the LAST time I updated this blog, it was the end of May, and I was rambling about five months. I haven’t updated then because I have been INSANELY busy.

Since I last updated, I settled into living with Charlotte’s family in Fayence, which is a MUCH smaller town than Fréjus… so, basically, she lives in the country. I finished with school on the 28th, and then I took a train to Bordeaux on the 31st. I got back Tuesday night from Bordeaux, during a rather big storm in the Var.

**EDIT: it is now SEPTEMBER and this is long overdue. I am out of town this weekend and lack internet access, so I finally finished up this post with LOADS of pictures, so please enjoy. Sorry for the delay!**

Anyway, I have lots of things to talk about, and lots of pictures to share.


All the Frenchies! IN ONE PHOTO! (On my last day of school.)

Okay, so, my last week of school was boring and only 2 days long. I didn’t truly say goodbye to most of my teachers, because some of them had nothing to say to me or anything to do with my stay here, and others (namely, the english teacher!) are certain that we’ll see each other again before I leave! Saying goodbye to teachers I’ve only had for a few months was decidedly awkward, especially taking into account the unexpected bisous. I came out of school the second-to-last-day thanks to probably my most awkward experience ever… (no, really, despite my repertoire of awkward and or embarrassing experiences, that one was very awkward.)


Second to last day of school, after awkward goodbye, hanging out with Charlotte and Jean-Paul 🙂28205_114617815247616_100000981955268_83770_6447311_n 28205_114617758580955_100000981955268_83758_6759748_n

Typical. We can’t actually take a picture without JP poking somebody.

Monday afternoon (Charlotte skipped SES in the morning to hang out with me), Charlotte’s dad, Xavier drove us to school. With frantic texts to the others that were already at school to convince them to come outside (they didn’t get the texts) to come see me, we dropped Charlotte off at school and I said goodbye. Shortly after, I was at the train station in Saint Raphael again, the one that always brings back bad memories, and waited for the train.

I’m still not that great with the trains—I looked at the wrong ticket and ended up walking all the way to the end of the platform, before double-checking and realizing that my seat was actually back by the entrance. Thus began the two-week-long vacation.

(Okay, I now realize how much time that will take to write up ALL THE GORY DETAILS, so I’m going to do this in MORE CONCISE and list-y form.)


Arrived late Monday. Didn’t do anything of interest for a few days, just caught up with Any and Jeveta from the LAST time I was in Bordeaux. My camera was broken, so took it to “The Photo Clinic” to be repaired, where I was informed that it would be good to go the next Monday.

Left Thursday afternoon shortly after eating a delicious “composed salad” (recipe: corn, mungo bean sprouts, tuna-from-a-can, tomatoes, add in a bit of lettuce and there you go. Serve with Balsamic Vinagarette and fresh herbs. Dessert of FRESH STRAWBERRIES, nutella crepes, and homemade whipped cream. Yummm.) to go to Tours.


he train was late, of course (Train to go to Paris, have to get off AFTER passing Tours as it’s not exactly on the way… and then take a commuter train BACK to Tours. Complicated), because every train I’ve ever taken in France has been late, it seems.

F1010014 F1010012

Met my hosts in Tours, Dad’s friend Xavier’s parents. Francoise picked me up at the Gare and we walked back to their house. It was hot, and the small rolling suitcase Any lent me wasn’t very great for crossing a park.

Friday, wandered around Tours while Xavier’s parents worked. Took pictures with disposable camera, bought antique postcards, had a (second) run-in with a creeper. Fled and then spent time writing and reading. That evening, went to Amboise and wandered a bit. Saw naked statue of Leonardo Da Vinci. Took more photos.

F1010001 The cathedrale


Medieval houses


The Grand Theatre/Opera (uhh.)

F1010003 The Pont Napoleon (I think, I never actually figured it out on the map.)F1010004 The Loire River (I ate lunch right here.)

F1010008 Old street




The statue of Leonardo Da Vinci sans clothes.

Saturday, went to Chenonceaux and LOADS of other Chateaux of the Loire. Very pretty. Followed tour guides speaking in English. Lots of schoolkids arrived. Fled through bigger garden, and talked to Francoise about how great of a place to run the grounds would be—final decision being that it would be unlikey for the women of Chenonceaux to run cross country. Failed at the maze, took pictures in middle, ate lunch, continued driving around and seeing the outside of other chateaux. Wished it would rain because it was hot and I was sore from walking around Tours.


Chenonceau! Of course, it was being restored. F1010025 P1010079 P1010092P1010093 P1010094P1010104 P1010097


The Chateau de LochesP1010102

This is actually Emmanuel Lansyer’s house turned free museum of his collection and works. It was pretty cool, the garden was pretty, and YAY AIR CONDITIONING!

P1010103 …Same town? Chateau? Actually, I have NO IDEA what this is. I should have taken notes.

Sunday, it rained. Saw more chateaux. Toured Ussé, the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty. Took pictures with the Briend’s rather old camera.


The town of Langeais F1000003 F1000006

Chateau de Langeais

F1000007 F1000012F1000018F1000013 P1010001 P1010004


P1010011 P1010020P1010023P1010019

Inside Ussé, there was an exposition of old clothing. I took pictures of it all 🙂


This desk was inset with gold and ivory, and had 49 secret drawers. :O

P1010046 P1010048P1010064P1010061P1010056P1010075

And then, further on, there was a set-up of rooms themed around Sleeping Beauty.




Chinon, which was also being restored. Not much to see there.


Street in Chinon

Monday, returned to Bordeaux and picked up camera. Apparently he had it fixed on Wednesday. Fail. Saw an interesting cow at Bordeaux Lac. Turned in my disposable camera after taking two silly photos with Any in the parking lot.

F1000027 F1000026IMG_4098IMG_4101

Any and her friend Monsieur le Vache.

Visited the Chateau de Cazeneuve, the chateau that I didn’t get to visit last time because it was closed. Saw a bat, but then the other tourists scared him away. Learned how to make Tiramisu, and then made a Cherry cake. Took a “Balneo” class at a spa, where I ran around in the water for an hour (Thursday). Friday, left for Pays Basque after Jeveta finished exams.

IMG_4103IMG_4138 IMG_4106 IMG_4126


Left around 2 Friday, dropped off Jeveta’s friend that is Basque at her house. She gave us chocolate and nougat, yum. Stopped in Biarritz and took pictures. Stopped elsewhere in Biarritz, took more pictures. Waved at the ocean and yelled HELLO to the USA (on the other side) and then screamed when the waves came. Mused that it wouldn’t be a good idea to fall on the rocks. It started raining. Got lost on the way to St Pée sur Nivelle, where Any knew a hostel owner.


Screaming about the waves, and then fleeing calmly. (Photos from Jeveta.)




The hotel/hostel, dunno what it was because the bathrooms were communal?

Next day, found “little pigs” and gateau basque (which is REALLY good, and I have the recipe so :D) saw the Musée de Chocolat, Edmund Rostand’s house, and the Chateau d’Abbadia.

IMG_4580 IMG_4589

Musée de Chocolat – Chocolate art and various chocolate-making utensils. At the end of the tour, we got to taste some delicious hot chocolate, but honestly, it wasn’t that great as the chocolate-making demonstrations are only during the week and we went on a Saturday.


Edmund Rostand’s house- Typical Basque style. The woodwork on Basque houses is typically red or green, the colors of the flag, red being more traditional.


Since Edmund Rostand was a playwright and actor, his house features an exposition of costumes from one of his works.

IMG_4313 IMG_4368 IMG_4412 IMG_4417 IMG_4419

The gardens were really great, however, we couldn’t see the full view from the front thanks to the tents. In front was the French garden, and the backyard was the English garden.

IMG_4426 IMG_4434

This cat didn’t have a tail, but he was sweet—and then he followed Jeveta and I everywhere until we went back to the car.

IMG_4439 IMG_4444 IMG_4448 IMG_4464 IMG_4479 IMG_4480 IMG_4495

Typical Basque-style house.

IMG_4496 IMG_4497 IMG_4559 IMG_4563

Chateau d’Abbadia—it was really just a castle-but-not-really where a scientist lived. Or something like that. The library was AWESOME, but photos weren’t allowed inside (not to say that I didn’t sneak a few, until the employees became suspicious).

Sunday, saw St Jean de Luz, where we saw an orchestra and a quartet play. Then we went to St Sebastian in Spain.Saw lots of soccer supporters, partying before a game. Ate ice cream that wasn’t good, and then a drunk guy talked to us. Returned to France. stopped by Bayonne. Got a bit lost, but sang old songs very loudly with Jeveta in the car, as Any doesn’t have a radio. And then slept.


Port at St Jean de Luz

IMG_4689IMG_4685IMG_4696IMG_4691 IMG_4712 IMG_4714 IMG_4718 IMG_4720 IMG_4725 IMG_4780IMG_4731 IMG_4737 IMG_4740 IMG_4744 IMG_4753 IMG_4754 IMG_4771

*Note: I may be confusing what day we did what here, but at the moment, I’m not recalling very well as I ONCE AGAIN, wrote nothing down. If I’m mistaken, then I guess it really doesn’t matter.


When we got back, we went to over to Any’s friends (the Gauntiers) house (they live across the street) and ate gambas al ajillo, and then the gateaux that we brought with us from the Pays Basque.

Next day, went to Planete Bordeaux. Tasted wine the proper way (it still wasn’t good, and when asked what it smells/tastes like, my only answer is “Uhhhhm, wine???”). That night, ate lots of ice cream with Jeveta and Any and then toured Bordeaux. Found more cows. Took pictures and ran around vaguely idiotically with Jeveta.

And then, went back to St Raphael by train but the train was cancelled in Toulon, where I was stranded until Charlotte and her dad braved the flooding roads (yayyyy, huge storms! and floods! D: ) to come get me. Went back to Fayence, slept for a very long time.

Any gave me two little recipe books—one of cookies & cakes, and another of I-don’t-exactly-know, so now I have recipes for French food, which I will be converting into American measurements (and English) soon. I’d be happy to share with you, once I figure it out! And for my friends, except some French cooking!

Since then, I’ve been here in Fayence at the Belliard’s. Charlotte and I have been busy, going to Frejus for multiple parties and seeing various people nearly every day of the week. It’s been INCREDIBLY hot and since the floods, the beaches in Frejus have been closed (they’re still closed until July 15th).

My mom is coming to France soon with my brother, and I’ll be back home in 10 days!

See you then, and I will try to update you guys on all my adventures in France and in Italy then.


Trips to McDonald’s/Quick: 16



Hello again!

I’ve put this off for a few days now, but it’s about time that I sit down and actually write this blog, so here it goes.

I’ve been here for five months now, and in that time, quite a bit has changed. The most obvious is, of course, language-wise, but I’ve also gained many amazing friends and experiences.

Some things haven’t quite been what I expected them to be, but some, such as the relationships I’ve built, have been so much more important to me than I expected. I’ve spent these last two months (ever since the last vacation) in my own personal version of heaven, so busy with my French friends that I didn’t have time to miss home. And now, I’ve moved in with my friend Charlotte—I finally get to experience a “host family” with somebody my age, which is quite fun.

I could get all sappy here, but the video I posted on the 21st shows it pretty well—all that video was taken in a span of four days, and it’s kind of a present for the Frenchies, with whom I’ve passed so many good days lately.

OH! In other news, I only have 2 days of school left. And then I’m off to Bordeaux again, and the final few weeks in June, I’ll spend with Charlotte (B.) and my other friends. I’m so not ready for this to end, it’s just TOO GOOD.


Trips to McDonalds/Quick: 12
(*hides in shame*)