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Friday, June 10, 2011

Ooh La La!

Today I went to get my free birthday treat from Panera Bread. Despite the entire case of delectable goodies, it didn't take me long to decide what I wanted. Yes, the cookies were cute, and the bear claws looked heavenly, but there is one pastry that holds a very special place in my hear and remains my favorite after many, many years.

The chocolate croissant.

My love for chocolate croissants started on a trip to France almost 20 years ago. I went with my friend and I didn't actually speak any French (Hablo Espanol.), but I wanted to see the world, so I saved babysitting money for years to take a 17-day tour of Europe. It was one of the most amazing trips of my entire life.

Because it was sponsored by the French class, the trip started with 3 days in England, then had over a week in France, and then about a week divided between Austria, Lichtenstein, Switzerland and Germany. It was a nice introduction to Europe.

We had an interloper for a third roommate, so by the time I arrived in France, I was pretty much over hanging out with my classmates. So, when there weren't organized activities, I'd just wonder around the little French towns and take in the sights. This meant that I was by myself for lunch everyday, and I didn't speak French.

I figued out that "l'eau" meant water at dinner the first night, so that solved one issue. I'd drink "cafe," or coffee, in the mornings and "l'eau" with lunch. At dinner, it was always vin. I love vin, and in France every town has their local vintage.

So, I knew enough words for beverages. That's good.

Lucky for me, some words in Spanish are very similar to French. For example, "pan," which is Spanish for bread, is very close to "pain," the French word. This is how I figured out that "pain au chocolat" meant chocolate croissant and christened it my new lunch food. (Yes, I had a a chocolate croissant and bottle of water everyday for lunch. Don't judge.)

If you ever go to France, make sure you have a real, authentic pain au chocolat. They are amazing. The ones here in the United States are pretty good too. But there's no way to describe the feeling of sitting on the steps of an old French church in an old French town eating a chocolate croissant.

So, even when I have the Panera bread version of pain au chocolat, it still takes me back to that trip in France. The bright lights of Paris, the exhilliration of looking down from the Eiffel Tower, le chateau, the tales of Marie Antionette, and many, many more memories. Some day I'd like to get back, drink a lot of wine, maybe even take some cooking classes. I'd like to visit the South of France, because I've never been there. I could spend a lifetime in Paris and never see all the sights. And there's so much more champagne to be drunk.

It's amazing how a two-dollar pastry can evoke such memories. I'm glad I took the time to share a few of them with you.

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