About

"The reluctant Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

May 12-18 2008

Monday: Another beautiful day today. It’s suppose to be a holiday, but because our school administrator/owner gave us Friday off so we could have a 3-day week-end, he decided we should go to class Monday. Lucky us, aft all, we should get our money’s worth.

On the metro going to school, it was still as it could be. Everyone was probably sleeping off their hangover from the night before. Got to school and a lot of the students were absent. Hmmm, me-thinks many of them partied too hearty the night before. We sort of got this click going, where we’re one of the chatty Kathy groups consisting of me of course, my Australian friend Jane who talks as much as I do, and a few other students. We’ve all been hanging out together, and after class we make it a point to go out and have lunch together before we go our separate ways. So, it’s fun to compare notes and dish the 411 on our teachers. Not all teachers are created equally. Apparently, one is really lazy, whereas mine, it turns out, is one of the most enthusiastic and dedicated of the lot. Lucky me.

It’s so funny to hear some of the young kids speak English. We were all gathered around during a break, and one kid from Mexico said, “he likes to POP it.” We’re all curious, what does he mean by that? and he started explaining this strange phrase, but we weren’t getting it. Finally, he’s friend, a native English speaker, but from Australia, said he meant he likes “pop music.” Lesson learned, if we’re not understanding him and not very patient with him, how the h*ll are the French understanding us with our colloquial English. In fact, some things just do not translate. For example, in Quebecquois French, to say 2-sons translates to 2-testicles in Parisian French. So, I’m very careful about asking how someone son’s are! Or, to kiss “baiser” said the wrong way could be slang to mean f**k. Who knew?

We were all exhausted from the 3-day week-end and couldn’t wait till 1 pm rolled around. When it finally did, a bunch of us got together and headed for a Vietnamese restaurant for lunch. I find it interesting that the French give you just enough food. They never give you more than they think you need, and a “doggy bag” is unheard of. I was hoping that if the restaurants are portioning out my food; than I should weight less, excuse the pun, fat chance. I haven’t lost an ounce. Jack’s been losing weight, hate him.

We were so beat that we just went home, took a nap, did our homework and ate a light dinner.

Tuesday: Hot and humid day, in fact very humid! so we wore shorts to school. It seems that during the warm months, Parisians are little more lax about what they wear. They’ll still be fashionable, but will also wear clothing that will keep them cool. But there’s still a few people who just can’t stand being casual and will look odd, for example a man wearing a t-shirt with a scarf tied just so. Oh well. I’m feeling very comfortable just wearing shorts, slippers and a t-shirt. My Americanism is coming back, and I’m just feeling like scr*ew you if you don’t like how I look.

As we were walking to school, I noticed a man sitting at one of the cafes, finished his croissant and threw the wrapper on the street. I thought how odd, why wouldn’t he just leave it on the table and have the waiter pick it up. Than I remembered that they clean the streets daily. It begs the question: are they cleaning the streets daily just because it’s their system? Or, do they have to clean since it appears people like to throw trash onto the streets? Life is full of questions.

It was a good day at school today. I got most things. Yippee! Couldn’t go to lunch with our friends today since we were getting our phone, television and internet connection fixed. They said it would take 5-10 days and it took exactly 10-days. Plus we are going to meet Carole and Cliff in the Marais for some steak tartar.

Got an email from Carole saying let’s do dinner at 6:00 pm. I thought she made a mistake, did she mean 9 pm rather than 6 pm. But I got another email it was definitely 6 pm. We got to the restaurant called “le Cheval petite fer” and it was just a warm beautiful night. Cliff is turning 80 years old today. Bonne Anniversaire to him! Alex, Carole’s daughter joined us. She got here a few days ago after her finals and met a Parisian man on the plane that we’re all dying to meet. Carole and I are planning a dinner at her home on Friday. So, I’m doing a typical Filipino meal of adobo, and some other stuff and we’re trying to organize it as well. There will be 9 of us. Should be fun. I didn’t think I was learning anything in French school, but Carole said my vocabulary has increased dramatically, hmm, I guess I must be retaining something.

The place was delightful. Our first waiter was a stereotypical Parisian waiter (looks wise), but was so nice and friendly, unfortunately, his shift was over and he turned us over to a young lad. We all had steak tartare with the exception of Alex and Jack. It was really good. I wouldn’t want to make a habit of eating raw meat, but for some reason it just felt right.

We had an early evening since the Raisbeck’s were off for the country the next day and their train was leaving early. Got home, did our homework and went to bed.

Wednesday: Another warm and humid day. Did our regular routine and went to school. For some reason school today was just so hard for me. I couldn’t pronounce anything. It felt like I had a mouthful of marbles, and I forgot all my conjugations. Methinks it’s the wine from the night before. Well, I have to blame it something. I have to stay off the wine so my mind will work better, but I just can’t seem to stay off the stuff. I think I’m hooked. 1 pm finally rolled around so a bunch of us decided to go to the Korean restaurant around the corner. You’re probably wondering why we keep going to so many ethnic restaurants when we’re in Paris. Well after awhile, believe it or not, French food gets tedious. For one thing it’s basically protein and potatoes. I don’t think they like “legumes” French for vegetables. And, I’ve only seen greens as a salad. It also tends to taste very rich after awhile. And, since Paris is a multi-cultural city, it’s fascinating to try different foods. It was interesting, ‘cause the Korean restaurant was next door to a Kosher restaurant. I’m thinking “pas” (no) pork and shellfish. I have to say that this restaurant was the best meal I’ve had in Paris. Granted it’s hard to compare Korean and French food, but think of it like a dog show, how do you compare a chi-hua-hua with a great dane for best in show. Not that I’m planning to eat them, but it’s the same concept.

It was really too, too warm. Some of the students headed off to Pere LaChaise, the famous cemetery. Jack and I went home just in time, cause half an hour later there was lightning, thunder and raining like crazy. I grew up in California (sorta), it doesn’t rain in California except for the 3-months in winter, who knew? So, we took a nap and got up for dinner 8:30 pm. We had some soup and a baguette, but I added some chorizo sausages to my soup. I cut it up and poured hot vegetable soup over it. Then did our homework and went to bed. It was still raining like crazy.

Thursday: I did not sleep the night before. I was sicker than a dog. I kept on wondering what the hell made me so sick. Then I realized that the Chorizo I bought had to be cooked, I ate it raw the night before. So, much for not reading labels on the packages, I thought it was pre-cooked. But then again it was in French, and I’m not that proficient yet. Needless to say, I was not going to school today. I stayed in bed til noon. After I got up I still felt queasy. Imagine telling people you cook as a hobby, went to cooking school, and then you poisoned yourself. Not good!

Jack got home before 2 pm and I told him we had to go to Chinatown (Belleville) cause I had to buy the ingredients for tomorrow nights dinner. Went out and took the subway, still feeling yucky, but we got to the store called “Paris Store”, but an Asian market. Got all I needed and wanted to rush to get home so I could rest before my dinner party with Carole tomorrow night.

Stayed home and heard that the California Supreme court banned discrimination against gay marriages. Yippeee, despite my being ill, it light up my day. Jack proposed, and I said yes, do you think it will work after 31-years?

Low key day!

Friday: Felt a little better, so I went to school. It was a fun day, since we played “Picture” and had to describe verbs or nouns drawn on the board and we had to guess what it was in French. My classmates told me that it was a good thing that I was out yesterday, since all they did was conjugate verbs, B.O.R.I.N.G ! although I know it’s important to know. After class, we hauled ass, ‘cause I still had to get chickens for dinner. Imagine this, it cost me $38 for 3-chickens. And, get this, there were still feathers here and there that Carole and I later had to pluck. Well at least we know that it was free range and hand packaged.

Got home and loaded my portable shopping cart, I’m so glad I bought one, with all the food stuff that I needed to cook dinner tonight. Couldn’t get everything in my cart, so Jack had to carry some in a bag. We had to schlep the food to Carole’s in the “Bastille” which is clear across town from us. I was concerned I’d be trampled by the passengers ‘cause the line that goes to Bastille can be very, very busy. Left at 3 pm and fortunately no incident. And, as luck would have it, as soon as we got to Carole’s there was a huge rain storm.

Although I’m not used to working in other people’s kitchen, Carole’s kitchen was great. It’s very large by Parisian standards. As many of you know, when I cook, I cook for an army. We made 8-courses. Carole was a great help and enjoyed learning new Asian recipes. We made: lettuce wraps, Fresh spring rolls, Noodles etc., etc.

We told our guests to come at 8:00 pm for wine and pupus. Our friend Jane came early to help, but most of the work was already done. Luc, Alex’s (Carole’s daughter) boy toy came shortly thereafter, he’s 24-years old, I have underwear older than him. So, about 8:15, got a call from our other friends that they’d be 20-minutes late. At 9:30 pm they hadn’t arrived yet, so we made the decision to go ahead and have our first course. Shortly after, our other guests arrived and all worked out well. The food seemed to be a hit despite some of them being very spicy. The fried bananas with ice cream for dessert was a bigger hit and people asked for seconds, who knew? We had tons of leftovers, couldn’t really take any home ‘cause I just don’t have the refrigerator room. Told Carole to freeze it, since they are leaving for Italy. Great, problem solved.

Dinner ended just before 1 a.m. We were concerned that we wouldn’t get a metro home, but it turns out on week-ends the metro closes at 2 a.m., but our friends offered us a ride home. Since Montmarte has very small winding roads, and lots of them are pedestrian roads we told our friends just to drop us off by the “Moulin Rouge” and we walked up to our place.

Got home at 2 am, there was a party happening right above us, and across the street. As we entered the apartment there was a sign that said to join the party and sorry for the noise. I cannot for the life of me understand how someone can have a party in a 300 square foot home? We didn’t go, but I was curious if it was like a bunch of people in an elevator. Then the party across the street was happening, so it was like loud booming music in stereo. The party above us ended at 3:30 am, while the one across the street ended around 5 am. Needless to say I did not get much sleep.

Saturday: We slept in until noon. It was a rough night trying to sleep with all the partying around our neighborhood. Then it began thunder storming. We had tons of rain. So, we got a very late start at about 2 pm we left and went to the La Defense. It is a large complex of sky scrapers plazas and parks. Imagine it being Embarcadero center and multiply it by 10-times. It was a pretty cool day, but it is spectacular. It just seemed very atypical Paris to find an area that’s so modern with skyscrapers and lots of space. It’s probably my least favorite area of Paris. I mean I can go anywhere in North American, Australia, New Zealand etc., and see tall skyscrapers. Technically though, it is not in the city of Paris, but in the suburbs. We walked around the plaza and enjoyed the immense open spaces it provided. Next week-end there’s going to be some free various concerts (e.g., dance, music, plays etc.). French are big on art and many times you can see them for free. We were supposed to meet some friends to go to the Rodin museum since it’s free tonight. But, not to be snobby, we’ve “been there done that”, so we decided not to go. Thank God. It started raining like crazy, and most all of the exhibitions are outdoors.

Typical, I had to find a bathroom, so we decided to go into the mall. This mall is like any other mall that you’d find in the US the difference it looks like a mall during the week before Christmas. It was packed. It was like playing bumper cars with people. They made it so difficult to find the bathroom, but I finally found it. I started to feel really claustrophobic with all the people in the building. To me it seems different to have a lot of people outdoors as to having them all confined in a closed up building. So we left shortly thereafter and bought a baguette and had a nice walk around our neighborhood, albeit tons of tourist on the streets.

Sunday: It’s supposed to rain. Still deciding what we want to do! What the hey, why don’t we go visit the American University. So, at about 2 pm we took the metro to the University. It’s extremely cold today, in fact we both had to wear jackets. The weather in Paris sucks. Imagine, one week being hotter than h*ll and the next week being colder than h*ell. I guess we’re spoiled being from California since the weather is so mild.

Got to the University. I was expecting a campus with lawns a plaza etc. It was nothing like I expected. It was just a building, small one at that. Unfortunately, It was closed so we were unable to go in. So, we decided since we were close to the America Cathedral why don’t we walk that way, and maybe one of our friends would be working there today, and we could stop in to say hello.

Before we got to the crossing, I decided to pay my homage to where Princess Di was killed. I took some pictures and we headed onto the Cathedral.

Passing the Chinese Embassy it was still blocked. We passed a couple of policeman and they didn’t say a word to us. As we got closer to the Cathedral, one policeman was being a total jerk. He asked us why we crossed the barricades, which we didn’t, we went around it. Jack told him, in French, that the other policeman didn’t stop us so we didn’t believe we were doing anything wrong. He just wanted to be a jerk a*s. Got to the cathedral, and our friends weren’t there so we decided to walk around the Champs Elysee for awhile then we decided to go to the American Church to see what concert was being performed. There were a couple of musicians, so we decided to stick around and listen to them. They had a baritone saxophonist playing. He played his saxophone as if it were an electric synthesizer. Needless to say, he hit some pretty screechy notes. A few people left, but we stayed on. The flutist was good, but then the saxophonist came back, and a couple of people left, then Jack and I decided to leave, cause the sounds were just so screechy it was giving us a headache. I know he’s very talented, but not our kind of music.

So, we decided to head back to our neighborhood and had dinner around the corner from us, of all things a Hungarian restaurant. It was really good, palacintas, paprikash etc., albeit my paprikash was a bit salty. We’ll definitely go back, the owner/maitre’d was so nice to us.

Came home and I’m trying to do my homework after dinner, even though I had half a bottle of wine. Oh well. It should be interesting tomorrow.

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