Mom & Dad in the Old Country

Ma maman and mon papa came for a highly anticipated visit to Southern France this spring.  To date, my domestic and abroad worlds haven’t mixed nearly as much as I would have hoped when I committed to my life abroad.  For me, it really was a gift to have my parents get a glimpse into my life here in Europe, and for them to feel the comfort and relief of knowing I’m in a really spectacular place that I adore.

Our journey began with a quick and dirty tour of Paris, followed by four days in my father’s family’s homeland of Croatia, catching up with our Croatian and Italian family members over long dinners, homemade lunches, and a hell of a lot of hugs. I can’t believe how lucky we are to still have family in the old country! These amazing people treated us like visiting royalty and nearly broke my heart with all their kindness, hospitality, and ‘love made edible’ in the form of handmade gnocchi followed by crusty apple strudel.

After our heartfelt Croatian visit, we returned to Provence to my familiar stomping grounds. In true tour-guide style, I thoroughly wore out my along-for-the-ride parents showing them all that Provence has to offer with a super jam-packed schedule—quintessential hilltops towns, weekly markets, wineries, perfect seasonal produce, aperitifs in the sunshine, and my favorite small-town eateries and preferred bakeries.

I truly love it here in Europe, and I think my parents totally get it now, even though I know they would still love to have me living in the Chicago suburbs, just down the street, but not before a real French bakery opens up in the heartland. Impossible.

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Zadar, Croatia

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Zadar, Croatia

Enjoying their first Croatian beer in Croatia!

Enjoying their first Croatian beer in Croatia!

A delicious rendition of Baccalà!!

A delicious rendition of Baccalà!!

Opatija

Opatija, Croatia

Dad's Birthday in Opatija

Dad’s Birthday in Opatija

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Family Graves in Vranja, Croatia.

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Back in France...

Back in France…

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Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence. It's one of my absolute favorite places in Provence.

Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence. It’s one of my absolute favorite places in Provence.

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Kayaking on the Sorgue

Summer temperatures arrived in full force last week with averages in the mid-30˚’s. One of the best ways to beat the heat is the spend a couple of hours kayaking down the Sorgue River. Head towards Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and look for the Kayak Vert sign on your right after passing under the aqueduct. If you’re really organized, pack a picnic lunch to enjoy along the river near a good swimming spot, or after kayaking, laze away the afternoon eating a fancy lunch and drinking rosé at one of many adorable restaurants in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.

I wish I were still on the river right now…

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Tortellini Freschi

To all you Italian craftswomen and men out there who spend hours a day meticulously stuffing and folding tortellini; grazie mille. Your work does not go unappreciated. Really. Look at these things! Sensual lines. Warm amber color. Flawlessly stuffed with subtly sweet pumpkin and creamy ricotta. Delicately packed and dusted with flour for transport home. Why can’t all food be this fussed-over and celebrated?

I regret not asking the name of the charming, middle-aged woman who made these stunning fresh tortellini, or at least taking note of the name of the small pasta shop, so you could support her efforts next time you find yourself in Bologna. (I do remember that it was on Via Sant’Isaia somewhere between Via Pietralata and Via di Marchi).

After a three minute bath in boiling water, a bit of fresh butter melted atop, I sat down with a fellow Italian student /Scottish friend over a good bottle of Sangiovese and honored them as best I could with all my “Ooh’s and Aah’s” of culinary gratitude. Yum. Grazie mille.

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