First Banquet

Bonjour from Banquet Team 1 – Grace, Julia, Azlyne, and Sarah! We were in charge of preparing the first banquet of the semester, and we are going to take you through our journey!

Banquet Team 1 (from left): Sarah, Grace, Azlyne, and Julia

After some deliberation, we decided to make Boeuf Bourguignon as our plat principal (main dish). Julia, who is from Montreal, suggested one of her family’s traditional recipes for Boeuf Bourguignon that she really enjoys. After confirming our plat principal with Dr. Caldwell, we chose the food for our other courses, and settled on the following menu:

Aperitif: Kir Royal

An aperitif is a drink served before the entrée. A Kir Royal is champagne mixed with Crème de Cassis, which is a sweet blackcurrant liqueur.

Entrée: Asperges á la Périgordine

Our appetizer was asparagus in the style of the Périgord region. Most Périgord dishes contain either foie gras or truffles. In our case, the asparagus was paired with foie gras and mini bocconcini.

Plat Principal: Boeuf Bourguignon à la Québécoise / Nouilles aux oeufs

This was the recipe from Julia’s family.  Boeuf bourguignon is a dish originating in the Bourgogne region of France.  For over two and a half hours, the beef is slowly cooked in a red wine from Bourgogne. Towards the end of the cooking process, mushrooms and small onions are added in the pot. The boeuf bourguignon was served on egg noodles, with a side of cooked carrots.

Salade: Salade verte à la sauce Julia

A green salad with a traditional french salad dressing, consisting of red wine vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, salt and pepper.  

Assiette de Fromages: Bleu de Gex / St. Félicien / Comté / Palets de Sud-Ouest

We selected a blue cheese from the border of Switzerland, a cow cheese, a hard cheese aged 18 months, and a goat cheese, respectively.

Dessert: Gateau au coeur fondant de chocolat

Rather than baking a dessert, we adopted the French tradition of buying a high-quality dessert from a bakery, or the Marché des Capuçins in our case. We chose a soft chocolate cake.

Vin: Château de Citran 

We paired our banquet with a red wine from the Haut-Medoc region of Bordeaux.

Our menu, handwritten by Grace, on display at the banquet.

On Friday afternoon, we made a trip to buy the majority of our ingredients at the Auchan grocery store – a process that took a few hours. We also had to buy some pots and pans in order to make a meal of this magnitude. After shopping, we dropped everything off at Dr. Caldwell’s apartment and went over final logistics.

On Sunday, the day of the banquet, we started the preparation process at 11:30 AM. Azlyne and Sarah went to the market at this time to buy fresh ingredients for the meal. They bought a giant loaf of organic bread that was so big the worker had trouble slicing it, pâté which they discovered was really foie gras, provencal green olives that had one black one mixed in, four cheese varieties that took forever to choose, and a chocolate cake that was simply amazing. They were even successful in ordering everything in French!

While Azlyne and Sarah bought the final ingredients, Grace and Julia started preparing the meal. Meat was sliced into cubes and started in the pot, salad dressing was made, mushrooms and onions were prepared for cooking, and asparagus was boiled (in the microwave!).

Julia starting the process of Boeuf Bourguignon with the first step: cutting the meat

Boeuf bourguignon can be a tricky meal to make, especially when it comes time to blend in all the ingredients, such as the wine and the bouillon (broth). This is because the timing is key while pouring each ingredient, in order to avoid clumps in the sauce. Julia was worried that the sauce was going to be too clumpy, so she decided to make a transatlantic call to her mom via skype. Luckily, her mom picked up the phone! She spent some time advising Julia mid-banquet on how to proceed in order to make the perfect Boeuf Bourguignon. On s’adapte!

We fashioned the room in Dr. Caldwell’s apartment for the banquet by rearranging his desk into an extra table, and then set the places at both tables beautifully for our guests.

The smaller table and entrée 

Our guests arrived at 3:30 PM, and we started them off with an aperitif (the Kir Royal), peanuts, and olives, while we finished final preparations to serve the entrée.

Our valued guests (Sebastien, Molly, Fiona) with their aperitifs

The first course, Asperges à la Périgourdine, was served around 4:30 PM. Since we had two vegetarians in the group, we gave them extra asparagus, carrots, and mozzarella balls in place of the foie gras.

We proceeded to eat the Boeuf Bourguignon, followed by the salad and cheeses, completing final preparations between each course. We ended our meal with the chocolate cake (not without fighting over who would get the biggest piece). As the evening drew to a close, there was a special guest appearance from Mina Carolina, Grace’s childhood pop star alter-ego.

Beef Bourguignon on egg noodles, our plat principal

The banquet itself lasted six hours, from 3:30 PM to 9:30 PM. It was a wonderful way for us to spend our Sunday, an event filled with eating, drinking, and socializing. As we finished up our final courses, we were able to admire the beautiful nightfall over the Pont de Pierre.

A beautiful view of the Garrone river from the window Dr. Caldwell’s apartment.

Our team really enjoyed the entire process of the banquet. We are all looking forward to our next banquet – when we get to arrive as guests!

Banquet Team 1 signing off! Stay tuned for our adventures in Paris. Au revoir et à bientôt!

Grace, Azylne, Sarah, and Julia


A Glimpse into Our Lives at French University

Bonjour from the classrooms of Bordeaux! This is blog 3 team: Macalah, Sarah, and Sebastián

Blog Team 3: Macalah, Sarah and Sebastián

While we have spent an amazing first month exploring Bordeaux and the surrounding Aquitaine region, we can’t forget the main reason why we’re here: to STUDY abroad. This week’s blog will compare the French and American education systems, along with the interactions we’ve had with other French students.

Before the semester began, we were placed into three different universities based on our majors: Sciences-Po, Bordeaux Montaigne, and the Université de Bordeaux. Macalah attends Sciences-Po, whereas Sarah goes to Bordeaux Montaigne, and Sebastián attends the Université de Bordeaux. Unlike at St. Lawrence, where we could walk to our classrooms (or anywhere else) in about 5 minutes, we have to take the Tramway (Le Tram) every day to go to class in France. You may think an 8 am is bad at SLU, but try adding a 10 minute walk and a 20 minute tram to that before the sun is even up!

Sunrise on the way to the Tram stop, 7.45 am

Each university has a different specialty and therefore has a different feel to their campuses. Regardless of our academic interests, we’ve all found classes that relate to our majors. Bordeaux Montaigne is on the smaller side and focuses on humanities. Science Po, as its name implies, specializes in government and political science courses while the Université de Bordeaux is very large- over 50,000 students- and offers courses in a variety of subjects.

La Cour d’Honneur, in the Université of Bordeaux à Victoire

Students have the option to take classes in either French or English, or even a few of both! Classes taught completely in French can be challenging, especially when it comes to taking notes and following class discussions, but we’re starting to understand more and more every class. Although transitioning into a whole new language can be difficult, we’re all improving and taking it one day at a time!

Unlike courses at St. Lawrence, French classes are often much larger and are held in lecture halls. These courses are called Cours Magistral (CM). At Bordeaux Montaigne, many courses have a CM component- which typically meet for two hours every other week- and a smaller class component, the Travaux Dirigés (TD), which meets for two hours each week. The TD’s consist of class discussion, group work, and reviewing homework, whereas the CM lecture teaches the overall themes and concepts for the courses.

TD component of a Contemporary Art class at Bordeaux-Montaigne (La Baigneuse Valpinçon, by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres)

These large lecture classes can make it difficult to meet other French students or follow what is going on in class. One thing many of us have noticed is the relationship between the students and the professor; it is not uncommon for French students to talk loudly during class or for the teacher to be frustrated with their students for not paying attention. One perk of French universities, however, is that they cost less, or nothing at all, and all of the suggested reading material is available online or in the library, eliminating the need to purchase books.

This staircase leads students to knowledge, to the library of Université de Bordeaux, in Place de la Victoire

While it can be hard to make French friends, it is not impossible! Fiona and Sarah met two French girls in their English-French translation class who were thrilled to find some Americans to speak English with, they ended up going to McDonalds for lunch where they spent four hours talking about everything from TV shows to how they choose their majors.

Fiona and Sarah eating lunch with their two new French friends!

We also take classes at the Département d’Études de Français Langue Étrangère (DEFLE). We were placed in 5 different groups based on our proficiency of the Langue of Molière. Roughly, half of us take classes at DEFLE on Mondays and Wednesdays, whereas the other half have French class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each French lesson is 2,5 hours long (from 5.45 pm to 8.15 pm) and is aimed at enhancing different language skills.

In addition to our classes at the universities and DEFLE, we also take a directors course titled, “The Food and Wine of Southwestern France and Bordeaux” with Professor Cadwell once a week. In this course we discuss classic French recipes and the history and importance of wine, which are reinforced in our biweekly excursions in the Aquitaine region. Dr. Caldwell isn’t just our professor but also our tour guide, advisor, translator and event planner and basically our dad abroad.

View right outside the library of Sciences Po Bordeaux

Although we have noticed a drop in our overall homework load, we’re not complaining! It gives us more time to enjoy and explore our campuses and the beautiful sites of Bordeaux!

À la prochaine! As usual, on s’adapte!

Macalah, Sarah, Sebastián

Orientation Week in Bordeaux

Bonjour from France! This is Blog Team 1: Zach, Molly, Lessi, and Julia.

Place de la Bourse, on the bank of the Garonne river

Over the last few weeks, we have been exploring our new home for the spring semester!  Without hesitation, we have immersed ourselves in the culture of Bordeaux. We have taken part in many different activities all over the city including wine tastings, museum visits, tours, and a scavenger hunt. We got off to a rough start due to the storm back home that ravaged the North East. Many students were late and we lost three suitcases and one Grace (three of the four have since been returned to us).

A painting in the Musée des Beaux Arts depicting the foggy Bordeaux mornings we’ve come to love, and the docks where Dr. Caldwell lives

One of our first activities was a visit to La Cité du Vin (the City of Wine) where we enjoyed a meal and a wine tasting together. They offered several traditional french dishes that members of our group tried. Charlton Kelley tried a steak tartare, while Azlyne Zheng had foie gras, and Julia Mulhern enjoyed rillettes. After the meal, we got our first experience of wine culture through an interactive museum visit and wine tasting.

Students enjoying wine and contemplating the view of the river from the belvedere at the top of the Cité du Vin

Macalah and Lessi pose for a selfie reflected in the mirror-clad walls of the belvedere 

The Cité du Vin’s unique architecture, intending to evoke the swirling of wine in a glass

Later in the week, we competed in a scavenger hunt centered around the various landmarks and “portes” (doors/gates) in Bordeaux. The hunt ended with snacks at Dr. Caldwell’s apartment, overlooking the Pont de Pierre at sunset.

Lessi, Fiona, and Tanner’s selfie with the iconic Blue Lion, which represents the future of Bordeaux and the right bank of the river

We’ve had our ups and downs and a fair share of miscommunications. For example, Cate thought that when you get hit by a tram, you have to pay the TBM (Transport Bordeaux Métropole) 40 rhinoceros. What she failed to understand was that getting hit by a tram FEELS like getting hit by 40 rhinoceros.

Tram lines along the Pont de Pierre, Bordeaux’s oldest bridge, at sunset

Moreover, after visiting two beautiful chateaux in the Médoc region (a large producer of red wine), our bus faced some technical difficulties. Due to said technical difficulties, we could not travel faster than 12 mph the entire trip home. As we reached the outskirts of Bordeaux, Dr. Caldwell requested we be dropped at the nearest tram station, only for the bus to magically begin working again seconds later.

Lessi, Grace, Molly, and Fiona at the château

Classic oak barrels in the cellar

Lastly, while it was disorienting at first, we have finally learned some key aspects of Bordelaise life… never be on time, family comes before work, and a baguette a day keeps the doctor away. Despite any hiccups, we have truly embraced our motto, “on s’adapte” (we adapt), taken from the film Le sens de la fête.

The Cathédrale Saint-André in the early evening light  

Till next week, when blog team 2 will show you our trip to Toulouse and Carcassonne!

Zach, Molly, Lessi, and Julia.