21 Again!

This past weekend I went back to one of my favorite places…East Lansing, Michigan for Michigan State University’s graduation. I went to watch my litter sister graduate and of course act like I was in college again. The first day I was there I went to Burgerama which might just be my heaven. It is day drinking beer only out of pitchers, burgers, and awesome music. What more could you ask for?

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The next night things got real young when my sister, brother-in-law, and I went to my little sister’s house party. We tried to fit and…

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We also made sure to visit out most fav late night eats places, below is Conrads! Though the menu has changed my love for them has not.

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NSFW Cookies

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I made cookies and cupcakes for the bachelorette party and some had to be inappropriate which means so were boobs, butts, and penises. I had to get creative with the heart cookie cutter for the boobs and butts because I couldn’t find one anywhere. I cut a can and shaped it into a heart; which actually worked out pretty well. I borrowed the penis cookie cutters from one of my friends—that would have been a little bit more difficult to make out of a can. I also made golf themed cupcakes because the bride-t0-be is marrying a pro golfer and is also a big golf fan! I used a special tip for the frosting, got edible pearls from the grocery store, and made the flags with toothpicks and paper. I carried the cupcakes, unfrosted, on the plane along with the fully done cookies. I checked my bag with the frosting and it was easy to put together once I was in Nashville.

If you don’t have inappropriate desserts and dance on the kitchen counter then it really isn’t a bachelorette party now is it?

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Take Me to A Bouchon Any Day

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What is a bouchon you ask? A bouchon is a type of restaurant that is most commonly found in Lyon France and serves classic Lyonnaise food. This is not your light lunch type of meal it is a meal normally focused around meats. They say the classic ones have red-checkered table clothes and a bistro feel to them. Lets take it a step further and discuss Lyon.

Lyon is the gastronomic capital in France with Michelin star rated restaurants all over the city; one of the many reasons we wanted to go. Though there were star restaurants all of the the city Kara and I could not wait to have a classic Lyonnaise meal. We almost didn’t get this experience because we didn’t make a reservation in advance so like a said in the previous post MAKE A RESERVATION—even the day of is good enough but you need one to be seated.

We had our bouchon experience at Le Café des Federations. You are given a menu for you to see what you will be served for your appetizers and cheese course and then you get a choice for you entree.

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The meal started with oeufs en meurette which is egg poached in a wine sauce. This starter set the bar very high for the rest of the meal. Next came a lyonnaise salad which consist of frissee lettuce topped with an egg and warm bacon to wilt the greens and coated with a mayonnaise like dressing, a lentil salad, and a few different kinds of salami like meats and cornichons.

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Next we had the cheese course. There were about six different of options; soft, hard, and spreadable cheese. This might be the only time in my life I left cheese on my plate. I was appalled at myself but I knew I had two more courses to go and I had already learned my lesson on trying to ask for a to go box.

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Next we had the mains. I had a quenelle which is a mixture of creamed fish and it was poached with a crawfish sauce. It was heavenly! So light and almost soufflé like. My French teacher told me I must be French if I like this dish. Kara had a pork cheeks stew, which reminded me of beef bougonione. They were both amazing. Rich in flavor, which the way the French know best, and hearty and elegant in all ways food possibly can be.

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Here we are super excited about the mains then we realized there was still dessert!

We got an ice cream with a berry glaze on top and then pink praline tart. The tart had a caramel like deep red texture and tasted like sugar that had pork cracklins in it.

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When I think about experiences eating or not in my life this will always be one of my favorite.

Lyon a Mon Coeur

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Want to know how to conquer Lyon, France in 48 hours? I’ve got you covered.

If you are like me and my sister you will arrive around 2 pm into the Lyon train station from Charles de Gaulle. From there you can either take the easy route and hop in a cab or take the bus which cost €1.25 per person. We opted for the bus. Of course with this way you might lose a little time but it makes for a good story. For example standing at the wrong bus stop for about 20 mins, then getting to the right bus stop, then getting on the right bus but the wrong direction and trying to ask in French if you are going the right way all while jet lagged…like I said lost time but good story. We hopped off the bus at the Opera house because our Airbnb we rented was in that area. Once checked in the first thing you need to do is get food. We walked to try to get in at a bouchon (will share my bouchon experience in the next post) but they were closing because it was the in-between lunch and dinner time so instead settled for the cafe outside our apartment. We got a cheese platter and beef tartare and enjoyed our first of many glasses of wine. We ate as much as we could and then decided we could not stay awake a minute longer. We had a good amount of cheese left and being the good Americans we are wanted to take it home. Kara went inside and asked for a box; nothing. Then in my broken French I asked our server “take food with me.” I never learned box in French. Apparently you need to learn that because once again nothing happened. We really were going to start napping at the table so we did the only thing we could, took our napkins out and put the bread and cheese in it and left. Serious times call for serious measures.

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Next nap for a few hours then wake up refreshed and explore the city at night. Walk to Place des Terreaux and enjoy a cappuccino. We next tried to go again to a bouchon and were laughed at by the same guy who laughed at us earlier when he said they were closed when we told him we didn’t have a reservation. If there is one thing I learned form this trip is MAKE A RESERVATION. Even if the restaurant can accommodate you they won’t unless you have a reservation. I’ll say it again because it is that important; MAKE A RESERVATION. We went across the street to La Creperie du Major and had crepes. It was a cute little place with interesting fairy paintings on the wall but was super cozy and had fabulous crepes, savory and sweet. Next enjoy the rest of your Saturday night at Les Berthoms then get a goodnight’s rest.

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Day two; wake up. Call and make a reservation for lunch and then head to Marché Saint-Antoine right on La Saone. Anything and everything you could imagine food wise was available to be purchased. Such fresh produce, meats, seafood. I felt like I had died and gone to farmer’s market heaven.

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Next head to your bouchon lunch. Do not miss this. It was amazing and what Lyon is known for(Details in next post). Help digest your food and start the hike up Fouvière Hill. Here you get a great view of the city as well as La Basilique Notre Dame and the see the Roman ruins. Walked back down and head to Vieux Lyon and look at one of the oldest cloaks in Europe on Cathédrale Saint-Jean.

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IMG_3282 Keep exploring Vieux “Old” Lyon and the cobble streets. At this point we headed back to the apartment and took a quick power nap. Head back out to the city for beers at  The Smoking Dog in the old part of town and then finish with wine at Le Baroc Bar right off the river. A perfect way to say good bye to the city you have now fallen in love with. This is a perfect Sunday which is a little more difficult to plan since most places are closed.

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Tastin and Cookin

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When I was doing research for Hoi An going to a cooking class was something a lot of people and sites suggested. I decided on Morning Glory Advance Masterclass. The class started at 8:30 am and you get to go through the local market then to the school where you cook three different dishes for $39; sold. This was one of the things I was most excited about. I was the cheer leader for the cooking class and to say Phil was skeptical was definitely an understatement. It could have something to do with the fact that I dragged him/or group on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, which I still say is amazing and a must do, but Phil would say differently. I scheduled the class for Friday morning. I didn’t realize that would be a problem, but it was. When the alarm went off at 7:30 am the day after our Thanksgiving cruise/party evening it was the worst sound ever. I pressed snooze and wished that nine minutes would feel like three more hours. When the alarm went off again I yelled to Becky that we need to get up and both of us mumbled about how we couldn’t. Me the cheerleader then turned off the alarm and went back to be. Fail. I was so disappointed when I woke up later. I immediately emailed the school and asked if we could come in the next day and lucky enough for us they had room!!! Thank goodness because it was amazing. Even Phil will vouch for this outing. We had a cooking school student lead us around the market; showing us the different vegetables, tools they use, meats, fish, etc.

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Then they took us to the school and took us around to the different stations such as fried treats, rice meals, daily workers food, sweet treats, and the one that caught most people’s eye weird and wonderful. At the weird and wonderful station I tried silk worm salad, baby clams, spicy snails, duck egg embryo, spicy frog legs, jelly fish salad, and steamed pig brain. It was intense, the worm was chalky and grainy, the duck embryo tasted basically like a hard boiled egg but with more of a dense texture and the pig brain I actually can’t really remember so it must have been good? We made the rounds. I even tried making cao lau noodle which is a local staple from Hoi An. The recipe is only known by a few and almost impossible to get. The noodles are distinguishable by their thickness. Another item from Hoi An is the white rose dumpling, which are dumplings with a rose like shape (see picture below) and filled with either shrimp or pork. I also helped in making rice noodles patties and I was pretty good at it. That could be a potential carrier move.

Cau lao noodles

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Next we moved on to the hands on section. Becky and I were teammates and shared a work station. First we made cabbage leaf parcels with shrimp mousse in broth, bang xeo (Vietnamese pancake), and finally barbecue chicken and mango salad. We used an Vietnamese knife to cut the papya and as a parting gift we got one to take home with us! You can see it below; it is an interesting shape and unique tool. It made slicing mango very easy.

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In the end we had a private tour of the market, a full meal, hour of trying food, and a knife to take home all for $39. You can’t beat that. Also it worked out well that we didn’t go the day we were hungover; I would not suggest trying pig brain or walking through a raw meat market hungover, but who am I to stop you. Follow me @Pilots_Daughter.

Thanksgiving Vietnam Style

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Thanksgiving was all of Becky’s doings; she had an idea and ran with it. Let’s just say our money goes a long way in Hoi An so our Thanksgiving dinner was pretty luxurious. We went on a private sunset dinner cruise. Yep is was awesome. Becky and I wanted to wear traditional Vietnamese outfits for Thanksgiving but then decided on matching pants and nón lá also known as leaf hats (my hat didn’t make it home from the bar that night but we went back and they had it so it is now safe and sound on my wall in Denver)We started with fresh spring rolls, then had crab and asparagus soup, barbecue fish fillets in banana leaf, Vietnamese eggplant, and finished with a fruit platter. They gave us little boxes with candles in them to make a wish on and put in the water. They also gave us access to the speakers—they probably regretted that one. We ended the night at Infinity Bar with our new friend Vihn. He was our server so we took him out and taught him how to play beer pong.

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Living the Dream in Hoi An

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I was smitten with Hội An. It was exactly what I expected Vietnam to be; a small village that allowed visitors to get a peak in the day-to-day lives of the people. Besides the city and countryside being amazing we also had the hook up with our accommodation. We rented the An Hai Villa off of Airbnb and it was amazing. It was about three miles outside of the Ancient Town but that was actually nice. The villa sleeps nine guests and it was just the four of us so it was spacious. Each morning we had fresh bread, eggs, fruit, and Vietnamese coffee waiting for us. I could go back just for the breakfast. So relaxing and comfortable. The villa also had a fridge with beer and wine that we could drink and mopeds all of which we would pay for later; making it easier on us.

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Our first day we hopped on our mopeds and headed to town. First stop was to get dresses made. Hội An is known for custom made clothes that are good quality and cheap. You go to the stores and look at mannequins and you can pick whatever you want or design whatever you want. You could walk up and say, “I want this top with that pattern but with this back from this other dress.” It was awesome. I had a romper made. We got our dresses, romper, and Phil got a suit made at Micky Tailor. You can check out Phil and I on their trip advisor. We then went and drove around for a bit looking at the rice paddies and exploring. We finished the afternoon with beers and spring rolls at the beach.

Don’t miss Hội An if you go to Vietnam.

We also took a cooking Class and had a sunset cruise for Thanksgiving dinner, but I’ll save that for future posts.

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France est Charlie

I landed in Paris on January 10th. This was the day after the hostage situation. My sister and I landed and headed straight to Lyon via train. We were so excited to visit the gastronomic capital of France. We knew we would probably notice some extra security at popular tourist sites because of the recent events but didn’t think there would be anything else to notice; we were wrong. France was immediately united and it was clear in every city you went. Everywhere you looked there were “Je suis Charlie” or “Nous sommes Charlie” signs. We also got to experience the march in Lyon. It was remarkable to see. Below are a few pictures of the how the country came together after such a tragedy.

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-Paris-

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Where the Watermelon Grow

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Ideally we would have had more time to explore; more time to see it all but we didn’t. We had to settle with only one day in Hạ Long Bay. Most people do at least a three day cruise but like I said we didn’t have time. We thought about even skipping Hạ Long Bay but I am so glad we didn’t. Seeing/cruising around for a few hours was more than enough; it was stunning. We left at 8:30 in the morning and returned at 8 pm. We purchased our tour through Halong Bay One Day Tours for $39. image Hạ Long Bay was magical. When you leave the shore and head out all you see is all these different peaks and points shooting out of the water; hundreds of them. Hạ Long Bay translates to descending dragon. It is legend that Vietnam needed help protecting their land and sent to the gods for dragons. A mother dragon and her children came to earth and the mother shot out fire and emeralds to defend against the enemies. The emeralds were scattered along the water battlefield and created a protective wall i.e. the 1,600 limestone islands we see today. You can either believe the legend or that the limestone was naturally eroded by the wet tropical climate forming the pillars and karst—no judgement on what you believe. We enjoyed beers on the boat and kayaked around for a little at the one place we stopped. My advice? Don’t miss Hạ Long Bay.

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Above- Where we stopped to kayak.

Below- The cave we went inside.

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First Stop in Vietnam, Hanoi!

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When we walked out of the Hanoi airport I was amazed, not because of the view but because I was actually here. I ran into a little issue in the Hong Kong airport with my Vietnam visa. I thought I was so prepared; I had the two copies of my passport photo, two copies of the entrance forms, my printed visa form, and $45 US dollars. I had it neatly in a folder and was ready to go. We go up to the Vietnam kiosk and hand over our visa letters with our passports. We stood there talking about getting bloody Mary’s while we waited if we could find a place that had them since we were early and then the lady put a paper back on the counter and said this person cannot go till tomorrow. I looked down positive it couldn’t be mine and of course it was. I was so confused. She started pointing at the date. It said November 26th and it in fact was the 24th. Shit. I must have been looking at the second flight we were going to take on the 26yh. The agent started talking about going to the embassy and changing my flight and how I can get there in two days. My face glazed over as I started seeing Hanoi disappear, Halong Bay disappear, and wasted money. Becky said don’t panic but that is exactly what I started to do. I stepped out of line and sat maybe three feet from the agent on the groud and dumped all my stuff out. You know that person you see in the airport looking distraught who you feel bad for because clearly something is goign really wrong? That was me. I went back to the visa website and saw I could buy a four hour visa so I did that first but that wasn’t ideal because I would miss my flight. I then emailed the people who sent my first wrong visa. Luckily they responded. I could get the dates changed in an hour for an additiaonl $85. Done! I agreed and made the payment. We had 1 hour and 15 minutes till check in closed at 2:30 pm. I got the visa emailed to me at 2:15 and was able to check in. If we needed a drink before we really needed a Bloody Mary after that.

-The infamous power lines of Hanoi.-

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Back to the real subject of this post Hanoi. I was happy there. I loved it. I was amazed by the culture and people. It was so different than other places I had been and I wanted to see more and know more about Vietnam with each thing I learned. One of my favorite parts was that they use the sidewalks as restaurant and bar space and the seats and tables are plastic. You know those small stools you would use for toddlers to be able to reach the bathroom sink? Those are the seats they would put out for you to sit and have a beer or tea and sunflower seeds. Hundreds of people would be sitting there. And if you think they are at full occupancy they would just pull out another stool. Same with the restaurants. You want a table? They would pull out a plastic table off of the stack and then put the stools down for you to sit on. If there was a place for them to put a sign on the wall or sit that could be a restaurant. People would even have pop up places, that is what I’m calling them, where they just had a portable burner and would just sit down and people would come to be served. That was the kitchen. It was seriously so cool to see.

Another thing we quickly noticed was that there were barely any street lights. In the downtown Hanoi where we did all our street crossing there were none. Cars are very expensive and most of the families cannot afford them so they all ride scooters. This means hundreds of scooters carrying thousands of people, sometimes four at a time, through the streets. This made for the scariest time crossing the street. Imagine screaming, lots of waiting, and being petrified. On our way out one night we met two guys from our hostel who were actually from Denver as well, small world, and they taught us the trick to cross the street. You look at them and walk consistently right into traffic. Sounds like a trick but it works. They just go around you. If you “frog hop” they might hit you.

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The French influence was very apparent in the food from the pho to the bahn mi which makes sense because they were French Indochina from 1902 to 1954. Our first night we went to Porte d’Annam for dinner and had amazing spring roll apps and pho. I learned that the pho is different based on whether you get it from northern or southern Vietnam. The pho we had in Hanoi was beef and pork. The second night we had street food. I can’t tell you exaclty what we had becuase no matter what I pointed to and asked for they served me what they wanted and however much they wanted. They gave us a bowl of sauce, plate of fresh greens like cilantro and sprouts, and then a plate of fried spring rolls and dumplings; I think.

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We also went out in Hanoi which was really fun. We went to Hair of the Dog, Base, and Light House.  The first two are easy to get to from probably whatever hostel you are staying at by walking (we stayed at Vietnam Backpackers Hostel- The Original). They are only open till 12:30 though so the Lighthouse is a club that is open late into the morning hours. This is the diviest club I have ever been to. Dirt floors and just not much to it at all besides walls, but it was awesome! This club attracted the typical backpackers; English, Australian, and Irish. I spent a good portion of the night talking to an Irish guy about marriage to gain citizenship. It is that type of place. Like I said before I loved it.

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-Pictures from our walking tour-

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After our walking tour our guide took us to get Vietnamese coffee on a roof top cafe. This was an egg cream coffee so the it had whipped egg whites in it.

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We had a 7 pm flight from Hanoi to Hoi An. I had the best bahn mi sandwich that cost $1 and we finally got our Bloody Marys.