Life in the time of coronavirus is a bit challenging, especially for those of us who love to travel. (Never mind the travel writers; my daily page views are about 10% of what they were only two weeks ago.) And while most of our attention is – naturally – on the news, a few of us might still want to experience travel from the comfort of our own homes as we self-isolate or quarantine.
A and I are two such people. We are already sad that our next trip together to Japan and Taiwan had to cancel, and we aren’t sure when we will next be able to travel. So as we quarantine, we have resolved to plan a weekly travel-themed date night, and to share them with you. I hope these will inspire you to do something similar, and to share your experiences here in the comments.
Each of our date nights will have several components. Of course, food will be principal among those, but we will also add activities, both educational and cultural as well as fun. Feel free to adapt them to your own interests.
France-Themed Date Night
Eat: Cassoulet and Pâte à Choux
This round, I made dinner and A made dessert. Cassoulet is a French peasant stew. (I had the best one ever in Carcassonne last year!) Mine was made with potatoes (peeled and diced), tomatoes (diced in can), canned white beans, celery (chopped), mushrooms (chopped), onion (diced), chicken (pre-cooked and diced, no skin or bones), and beef stewing meat. Obviously you can adjust what you put in, but the basics are root veggies and meat. I wanted to use sausage instead of chicken, but grocery stores being what they are right now, I was lucky to find what I did. Then you cook everything together for a few hours, season (I used garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram, and crushed red pepper) to taste, thicken with a corn starch slurry, and serve with melted cheese on top. We used Parmesan because it’s what we had.
Dinner accomplished, it was on to A’s pâte à choux, or cream puffs. It’s a simple dough baked and then filled with pastry cream. She made both vanilla and lemon versions, and oh what a treat!
We also had a bottle of white wine, because France.
Play: Mille Bornes
My mom has this French card game in the cabinet. The goal is to go 1000 miles (mille bornes). Each person – or team – plays mileage cards, but also has to fix issues (like flat tires and speed limits) given by the other players. It’s amusing, easy, and French, so a win!
I don’t know where to find this today, but it’s a ton of fun!
Learn: The History of France
Ok, this was supposed to be a documentary of Louis XIV during dinner, but it didn’t feel like loading, so we found this awesome video of the entire history of France in 23 minutes. The narrator’s accent is hard at first, but the video is amusing, and filled with fun facts and interesting tidbits. Oh so many assassinations!
Experience: The Musée d’Orsay
Did you know Google Arts and Culture offers free museum tours of some of the finest in the world? Well, they do, and the famous Paris Musée d’Orsay is one of them. It offers an online exhibit of the history of the building from rail station to museum, as well as street-view wandering of the museum itself, complete with explanations of some of the more famous paintings. Be on the lookout for the Monet with all the French flags – it’s my favorite!
A screen shot from the Museé d’Orsay’s online exhibit about the conversion from station to museum. Thanks Google!
Watch: Blue is the Warmest Color
Netflix offers a nice selection of foreign films, and this one from 2013 was our choice. It’s good, although it moves a bit slowly and isn’t suitable for children, and at just under three hours, it will certainly fill up the rest of your night. But hey, you’re quarantined, so where do you have to be?
Next week, we are doing an Italy-themed night, and will share that one as well. In the meantime, please comment if you try any of these activities or others!
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