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Artichokes, Oysters, Paris, Strikes, Buses, Citizenship

A platter of Adrian Leeds' artichokes for artichoke day

ARTICHOKE DAY

Artichoke Day is not a national holiday. It’s MY holiday. It’s a long story that will one day make itself into a memoir of mine, but much like Passover’s story of the liberation of the Jews from their slavery in Egypt at the hands of the Pharaohs, Artichoke Day is the story of a personal liberation from a failed marriage. What was one of the worst days of my life at the time, I turned into one of the best days of my life: first the liberation and second, the annual dinners consisting of close friends and delicious artichokes dripping with a vinaigrette in which they have been marinating for many hours (my mother’s recipe). Every year I have written about the dinner in great detail, with the recipe for the artichokes published so that everyone can enjoy them as much as we do.

I won’t bore you with the story—if you Google “Adrian Leeds artichokes” you may come up with many years of renditions, so instead, let’s cut to the chase. Here’s the recipe:

ADRIAN LEEDS’ ITALIAN ARTICHOKES

Prepare the artichokes: cut off the stem, chop off the top of the artichoke and trim the points of each leaf with scissors. Wash and place them in a big pot or roaster with a small amount of water in the bottom. Cover.

Steam: Steam them on medium heat for at least one hour, more or less depending on the thickness of the leaves.

Meanwhile prepare the dressing: 1/3 vinegar and spices, 2/3 olive oil—mix a variety of vinegars (I like Balsamic, red wine, white, apple cider) with salt, pepper, lots of oregano and tons of chopped garlic (never enough!). Be heavy handed with the spices. Then, add olive oil. Shake or stir well.

Note: the dressing is to your taste…so be creative!

Final step before serving: When the artichokes are steamed to perfection, drain off the water and pour the dressing over them while they’re hot, ensuring that the dressing is filling the leaves. Cover them to keep warm and then marinate them with the dressing as often as you can for as long as you can. I use a turkey baster to do the job. Eight hours is best. (The aroma will fill your home delightfully.)

Voila! They’re ready to serve and eat at room temperature.

OYSTERS ON THE HALF SHELL

Thursday might have been Artichoke Day, but Sundays in February and March are Oyster Days. This is because Geraldine, (who I wrote about in Thursday’s French Property Insider), and her husband, Jeffrey, have made it a tradition while they are in Paris for their annual two months a year, to host an oyster lunch for the three of us. I never say no to oysters, although our tastes in the briny, slimy creatures are a bit different. I like the “fatty” oysters and Jeffrey prefers the briny ones. Never mind. I won’t say no to downing them with a schpritz of lemon, a glass of white wine and crusty baguette.

I learned to eat raw oysters at the age of two in New Orleans, but on oysters that are sweet and plump—the kind that come from the Gulf of Mexico and don’t seem to have any relationship with French oysters.

Adrian Leeds holding a large oyster

The biggest oyster Adrian ever ate was right here in Paris!

An oyster is a “bivalve”—phylum mollusca, class bivalvia…and even that may be TMI. Others in this category include clams, cockles, mussels, scallops, and numerous other families that live in saltwater, as well as a number of families that live in freshwater. There are basically five species we know: European flat, Eastern, Kumamoto, Pacific, and Olympia. But in reality, there are more than 200 throughout the world, that are not harvested, grown or sold.

The flavor of the oyster changes depending on the water in which it’s grown and at what the time of year. Pacifics tend to taste mild, slightly sweet with fruit and vegetable notes, as well as a good amount of brine and, often, a bit of metal. “Melon” is a word that gets thrown around a lot when tasting Pacific oysters from the West Coast.

Atlantic or Eastern Oysters make up an average of 78% of all wild oysters harvested on the planet, with a whopping 66% of them hailing from the U.S. The Atlantic oyster is native to the entire Atlantic coast of North America and into the Gulf of Mexico…these are the ones I grew up with, generally described as sweeter than the Pacifics, particularly as you go further south where the waters are warmer.

Atlantic oysters

Gulf of Mexico oysters, Adrian’s favorites

Kumamotos have a lot in common with Pacific oysters, but they take a lot longer to grow—three years as opposed to just two—and are significantly smaller. I’m not sure I’ve ever had these, but am told that what they lack in size, they make up for in flavor: “very sweet, often melony, with more nuanced floral notes.” According to one article I read, these “mild little flavor bombs” are highly prized by chefs.

Olympia oysters, have a sad tale to tell—this is the only oyster indigenous to the West Coast of North America that were destroyed in the early 20th century due to pollution and overharvesting.

European Flat oysters are what we eat on Sundays. Native to the western European coast, these are often referred to as “Belons,” but technically that’s not true unless they are grown near the Belon River in Brittany.

European flat oysters

European Flat oysters from a Paris market

CHOOSE PARIS REGION

Chairwoman Alexandra Dublanche describes “Choose Paris Region” as a “one-stop-shop for international companies and talent in the Paris Region. They work hand in hand with all the local players in the region to provide international companies with the services they need to expand and thrive.

Cover for the Settle in Paris Region brochure

If you’re thinking of moving to Paris, I think you’re going to find their new publication (in PDF form) very useful and a fun read!

MORE GENERAL STRIKES

Following the mobilizations of January 19 and 31, eight workers’ unions and five youth organizations are calling on the French people to protest again against the pension reform during two new days of general and national strikes: Tuesday, February 7, 2023, and Saturday, February 11, 2023.

Visit this website for more information.

Note: I traveled on the TGV last Tuesday from Nice to Paris during one of the big strike days. My train was one of the few still running. It was amazingly empty (surprising!) and when I arrived at Gare de Lyon in Paris, five taxis were waiting with no one in line. I was home within 15 minutes from our arrival at the station. Shocking! It was a first, and likely a last! And inexplicable, to boot.

100 BUS FROM NICE TO MENTON BECOMES TWO: 607 + 608

Until just a few weeks ago, there was one bus, the number 100, that went from the Old Port in Nice all the way to Menton. It was a dream. That sadly ended and now there’s a new bus plan to get you there, but with a transfer in Monaco.

The 100 bus is now divided into two lines: the 607 and the 608. Line 607 runs the usual route between Nice and Monaco to the Saint-Roman MC stop, via Place d’Armes. Here is the map and timetable:

Special Note: in Nice, the Port Lympia stop, the first stop/terminus, has been moved. It is now called Square Normandie and is located in the Nice Riquier district, near the Carrefour TNL.

Line 608 leaves Menton in the direction of Monaco-Place d’Armes, then takes a detour route via the Moyenne Corniche to return in the direction of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin at the 4 chemins roundabout. Here is the plan and the schedule:

The line runs Monday to Friday from 5:55 a.m. to 9 p.m., with a bus every 15 to 30 minutes, and on weekends from 6:20 a.m. to 9:09 p.m., with a bus every 20 to 45 minutes.

Those who need to travel in the evening, or even at night, are invited to take the number 601 line (formerly called the Noctambus). With a shuttle every 1 hour 30 minutes, it connects Menton Bastion to the Parc Phoenix every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening and every evening in July and August, from 9:30 p.m. (departures from Nice, from 11:15 p.m. from Menton), as well as the eve of public holidays. It serves Villefranche-sur-Mer, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Èze-sur-Mer, Cap d’Ail, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and Monaco, but descending between two stops is possible. Here is the map and the schedule:

For line 100 divided, now 608 and 607, count 2.50€ for the “Ticket Azur.” It can be purchased directly from the driver in cash (credit card accepted soon) or online and in commercial and mobile agencies, and will allow you to travel freely between Nice and Menton by switching from one line to another.

If you stay between Nice and Monaco without entering the Principality, then the Lignes d’Azur tickets can be used. Similarly, if you stay between Monaco and Menton, without entering the Principality, Zestbus season tickets are accepted.

Please note that Lignes d’Azur and Zestbus urban passes are not accepted on line 601. So, you should expect to pay 2.50€ during the day if you buy your ticket from the driver.

I find this all very confusing and for the life of me, I can’t understand why they are doing this!

FRENCH CITIZENSHIP IN THE WORKS

Believe it or not, after 28+ years in France, I am finally organizing my dossier to apply for French citizenship…but with the help of Daniel Tostado, our trusted immigration attorney.

All these years, I didn’t really need it, but the third renewal of my Carte de Résident is coming up in 2024 and it just seemed stupid not to go ahead and get citizenship. The Local ran an article a few years ago titled “Ten reasons why you should consider becoming French.” Perhaps they figured out why I should do this better than me:

1. To become a European citizen gives you the right to live and work in all member states of the European Union.

2. To avoid queues at the airport by sailing through the ‘European passports’ line.

3. To be finished with paperwork…well sort of. But, you will never be able to say goodbye to the country’s famous bureaucracy. And getting citizenship may perhaps be the biggest bureaucratic hurdle of your life. (No joke. See below.)

The citizen’s handbook, “Le Livret du Citoyen,” which gives an overview of France’s history, culture and society, is useful in preparing for your interview. Click here to download the PDF (in French) of Le Livret de Citoyen.

4. To have the right to vote.

5. To have cheaper education. This won’t benefit me, since I don’t plan to go back to school any time soon, but it’s definitely a plus for younger people.

6. To feel closer to your neighbors. Hmm…guess they have a point, although even with a French passport, I’ll never really be “French.” That would have required a French upbringing in French educational institutions!

7. To complain like a local. I’ve been here long enough to do that without a passport!

8. To run for office. LOL! I’d love to kick Anne Hidalgo out of her Paris Ivory Tower, but I can’t see that happening!

9. To secure nationality for your children. Too late. Erica is too old and has lived and worked in the U.S. for too long to get French citizenship now.

10. Because, why not? That’s why I said yes. I couldn’t think of an answer to “why not?”

The project is nothing to sneeze at. There is a long list of documents to amass, including those that have to be ordered up from the U.S. vital records offices, who aren’t so quick to respond. Docs in English must be officially translated into French. Then, there is the French test I must take…an oral and a written exam. I have it scheduled for late March. Even though my level of French is pathetic for the number of years living in France, I am confident I will pass (at least I hope so!).

Stay tuned, as this may take months to prepare the dossier and then it could be two years before I see the results!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds with a plate of her artichokesAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

P.S. Thank you for all your kind words about last Thursday’s French Property Insider! It really did my heart good that so many of you enjoyed my fairy tale from 26 years ago. Not all of you are subscribed to the weekly publication devoted to French property, so if you want to read it, click here. And if you want to get French Property Insider, click here to subscribe.

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6 Comments

  1. Kit Dombrowski on February 6, 2023 at 9:47 am

    Wishing you bon courage with French Citizenship! We applied after 7 years. During Covid it was a mess trying to get documents from the US. After submitting the completed dossiers, the interview with our local gendarmerie, studying the Livret and completing the interview for French fluency at the Prefecture, we were told it would be a year before we would know if we were accepted. One year is up on February 28 so fingers crossed. But I’m with you…why not! It will be so exciting to have 2 passports.

    • Adrian Leeds Group on April 4, 2023 at 6:58 am

      Good luck! The approval process can take awhile.

  2. Annita Menogan on February 6, 2023 at 9:55 am

    Wishing you the best of luck on the French citizenship journey! Makes perfect sense.
    Just to confirm on the artichokes, marinating is done at room temp and not in the fridge? I keep trying to make artichokes with little luck so am going to try yours again! And btw, we enjoyed your webinar a couple Saturday’s ago on moving to France. Thanks for all the great info

    All the best.

    • Adrian Leeds Group on February 21, 2023 at 1:02 pm

      Thank you! If you read the recipe the artichokes are not marinated. They are dressed after they have been steamed. Enjoy!

  3. Sheila-Merle Johnson on February 6, 2023 at 7:08 pm

    Brava on applying for citizenship! I have a couple of tips on cooking the artichokes. I cut multiple tips off at a time with a knife at an angle towards the top. Then I cook in a casserole dish with a lid and a small amount of water in the bottom in the microwave on high for 8-9 minutes. I love the idea of squirting the dressing in between the leaves with a turkey baster and marinating for several hours. Great info. Since artichokes are among my favorite vegetables I can really imagine celebrating a divorce with them.

    • Adrian Leeds Group on February 21, 2023 at 12:55 pm

      Thank you! Adrian loves the ritual of making her mother’s artichokes.

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