Autumn in Aix

Hello from Aix!

It has been awhile since I posted an update, which is good because I have a lot of information to share! So, here is what I have been up to in the last few weeks…

The week after midterms was IAU’s Fall Break. This was such a fun and exciting time for me, especially considering how mellow and calm my daily routine has become. It all started when my host parents came home with Pepa, an 8-week old Shih Tzu puppy! Are you a fan of Shih Tzus? To be honest, I wasn’t either (haha) but after meeting Pepa and experiencing her joyful and goofy personality, I have been converted! She’s adorable!

Pepa, a Shih Tzu puppy

The fun continued on Saturday when my boyfriend Zach (shoutout dude!!) flew out of the country for the first time to spend the week with me! IT. WAS. AWESOME. I got to show him the apartment I live in, he met my host parents, he met Pepa (?), I showed him the university, the bakery I go to, the stores I like to shop at, and the beauty of the surrounding area. Then, we rented a car and drove to Lyon, France for one night, then to Switzerland for three nights, then to Italy for three days, and finally, we spent a night in Monaco! We laughed so much, drove over 1800km, ate like champs, played cards in every country, and explored with so much joy and contentment for the moment. Saying goodbye to him was hard, but it marked the exact halfway point before I return home!

Zach and I eating French croissantsMe at the Leaning Tower of Pisa

(If you are planning to study abroad in the future, I strongly suggest that you find out if and when your program offers a break and make preparations in advance to take full advantage of your “free” week. Most students that I talked to had grand plans of traveling all over the place, especially because it is so inexpensive in Europe compared to in the United States. Make a list of the top 3 or 4 cities that you want to see and just do it! Or wing it like Zach and I did… Either way, I truly believe that some of the best memories from studying abroad will occur in this week. Just be careful not to be overly ambitious when you are making plans because traveling is EXHAUSTING.)

The weekend following Fall Break, my host family went out of town for the long weekend (November 11th is Armistice Day in Europe, and the entire country of France takes the day off…) and is and left me in charge of the house and of Pepa for three days! I was excited for the peace and quiet for a few days, and spent my time working on homework, talking to my family back in the states, taking Pepa on walks, and COOKING! I had a blast buying fresh fruits and vegetables from the market and coming back to the apartment to cook lunches and dinners for myself. I made a silky butternut squash soup to pair with a Sancerre (white wine) from the Loire Valley, and let me tell you, it was delicious! If you are at all interested, here is the recipe I wrote for the soup! (Serving: 2 hearty bowls)

Homemade butternut squash soup

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 med-large butternut squash
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil (again)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • ¼ cup bacon, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (again)
  • 1 oz. goat cheese
  • Heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Begin by heating your oven to 400°F. Peel the butternut squash, slice in half to remove the seeds, and then cube. Toss in olive oil and roast for 30 minutes, or until fork tender. Remove from oven and allow time to cool.
  2. In a stock pot on the stove set over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is up to temperature, add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 2-3      minutes. Transfer the roasted squash to the pot and cook for 3 minutes, adding the salt, pepper, nutmeg and maple syrup.
  3. Transfer the items in the stock pot to a blender along with the chicken stock. Blend for 2-3 minutes, stirring to make sure that the soup is smooth throughout. Then, transfer the soup back to the stock pot, taste, and make adjustments as necessary. (You may need to add more stock, depending on what consistency you want the soup to be!) Turn the heat to medium-low and allow the soup to cook for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the garnishes! Add the bacon pieces and minced garlic to a frying pan and cook over medium-high heat until the bacon is browned and crispy. Drain on a paper towel to remove excess grease.
  5. Finally, prepare the dish. Drizzle a ring of cream around the center of the hot soup and top with the bacon pieces, goat cheese and a sprinkle of Herbs de Provence!
  6. ENJOY!:)

Anyways, I hope you are doing well… Thank you for taking the time to read all of this, it is fun to share my time here with you!

Town Square in Aix-en-Provence

Until next time,

-Cassidy