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Bonjour tout le monde!

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By: Miss California 2012 : March 04, 2013

I have been in France for the past two days, and it has been so magical! Sure, it has been COLD (definitely VERY COLD), but that just means I get to wear cute pea coats and hats! I am here in Lyon, which is the second largest city in France. It is also famous for its vast array of French cuisine. So, there is lots of amazing food here; even better than what you find in Paris! Lyon is a four-hour drive south from Paris. So we're too far away from seeing the Eiffel Tower. However, I have already done some amazing sight-seeing! Other than the brasseries with delicious food, shopping is big, and there is amazing architecture to see as well!

Yesterday, Judy, George, and I walked the streets of Lyon and discovered the Saint Jean Cathedral, and the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere, which looks like a Disney castle at the top of the hill- GORGEOUS! The Saint Jean Cathedral is beautiful as well and the inside is covered in colorful stained glass! The Basilique at the top of the hill was built in 1870, which is a lot younger than I thought it would be considering the fact that Lyon goes all the way back to the Roman Era. The marble carvings and never-ending staircases that lead to who-knows-where were so intriguing. They kept the whole cathedral inside so quite you could hear a pin drop! After exploring the Basilique, we walked back to the metro station to go back down the hill. On our way out, we ran into a local accordion player, which made my day even more! While in France, you HAVE to listen to an accordion player playing on the streets! We have eaten at both restaurants at the Sofitel, which have never let me down! Phenomenal food! Last night, we found a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant and it was so adorable! It was authentic as you can get when it comes to French cuisine and decor. Inside looked like a home, where each table setting was different and there were random decorations scattered on each table. The ceiling was very low and the walls were covered in random paintings that had no relation to each other. Camille, a Parisian American Pistachio representative, described the restaurant as "shabby-chic".

My video blog is here:

After all the sightseeing, it was time to get to work....

We had a booth set up at the SIRHA Food Summit. SIRHA happens every two years, and it's the biggest food show in the world! The APG booth was beautiful and professional. We had pistachios galore! The boxes of snack packs stacked to no end, and we passed out every last one! APG also printed out thousands of autograph cards for me to sign, and I signed over 2,000 of them! The show lasted for five days, and we were there every day educating everyone about American Pistachios and their health/beauty benefits. The best part about it was meeting people from all over the world! I met people from Norway, Canada, India, Taiwan, China, Georgia, Great Britain, France (of course), etc. Everyone that came by our booth were so interested in the fact that America now grows Pistachios! We met with pastry chefs, bakers, restaurant owners, and chocolatiers from all over the world! They were all very excited about APG!

We had some delicious samples of our product out and people went "NUTS!" We had some Pistachio Brioche out and it was delicious! The main hit at our booth were the Pistachio Macaroons! My mouth is watering while I write about this. The macaroons were made by a top baker in Lyon named Sebastian. He used APG's Pistachio Paste and it is to die for! SO GOOOD! Those macaroons were a HUGE hit at our booth. I think I had 15 of them. Deeelish! Judy Hirigoyen, George Smith, Camille Malavoy, and I were a good team!

In addition to the trade show, there were a couple of cooking competitions going on: the Coupe de Monde and the Bocouse d'Or. These competitions were phenomenal. If you watch Iron Chef on Food Network, you would have been blown away! There were about 24 countries competing for the grand prize. The Coupe de Monde consisted of 4 competitions: chocolate, ice sculpting, confection, and sugar. There was a table of 20 judges and each of them were from a different country. They each wore their white uniforms and tall white chef hats. The scene was like out of Ratatouille! APG was a sponsor for Team USA and we were there to cheer them on! They even used American Pistachios in every dish they made. APG was very excited about that! The only sad thing about the competitions was that we could not try any of their dishes, but they sure looked delicious!

Check my France Photos here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.211891832288905.66021.10757242...

After five 10-hour days of standing, smiling, taking pictures, and handing out pistachios we were exhausted, but it was all worth it! The experience was unforgettable! This was my first time travelling anywhere international, so making Lyon my first stop was phenomenal. I feel so honored to represent American Pistachio Growers and the product they work so hard to produce. I am so lucky to be able to go to France and be APG's Ambassador!

My travels have certainly not ended! My next stops are China and New York! Stay tuned for more of my Pistachio adventures! I am going to up to Fresno next week for some media training. I'm almost ready for China!

'Til next time,
Leah Cecil
Miss California 2012