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)!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

October 6 - 12, 2008

Monday: Very quiet day. Our good friend Joe from Serene Lakes is coming to visit us for a few days. I stayed in and Jack went to the airport to pick him up. He returned to our apartment around 2 pm. After resting for a while, we took a small walk around the neighborhood. Then Joe took a little rest before dinner. Our friends Jose and Pablo came over about 8:30 pm and we decided to go to our favorite restaurant in the 18eme, a Moroccan restaurant, which was closed for a month in a half in August. Had a great time reintroducing ourselves to their great dishes, albeit very heavy. The food was excellent!


Tuesday: Joe wanted to go somewhere he had not been to yet, so we decided to go to La Defense. It was cloudy and just plain ugly. But I wanted to kill 2-birds with one stone. Joe could see the area and I could look for three CD’s for Carole Raisbeck that she asked me to buy, since the artist is an unknown in the U.S; Anne Ducros, a French jazz singer. Now you would think that because she’s a “famous” French singer that her album would be stocked to the hilt, wrong!!! I had to go to various record stores to find 2 of the 3 albums, oh well!

Joe had plans this evening, so we met up with J to go to a neighborhood restaurant. It’s one of these places where only locals go to. You can’t find it unless you know what you’re looking for. It only has about 8-tables. It’s a very eclectic interesting restaurant where the owner/maitre’d is a real character, very gruff and looks mean and ominous, but was actually just a big old teddy bear. We had a great cheap good French meal, I wish I could remember the name, oh well.


Wednesday: Today was the last day for the Paris Auto Show, which is the largest auto show in the world. I love autos. Jack and Joe didn’t share my enthusiasm, so I decided to go on my own. Jack and Joe went to the Butte Chamont in the 19eme to take a walk

I headed to the Port de Versailles, Parc des Expositions. The auto show was incredible. It was at the Convention Center. This center is huge. The auto show was in several of the buildings. Can’t describe the autos they had, but you can see some of them on my flickr site.

After a couple of hours headed home, ‘cause we’re all planning to go to J’s house for dinner tonight. J and Tracy are planning a fabulous soiree, excuse their expression, “White trash dinner.” So, we left around 7 pm for J’s. Jack and Joe went to the store to get some ice cream and wine, and I went over to help J organize the table.

J, Tracy, and Lia a woman from SF who’s traveling for the past several months until December were already there busy making our “white trash dinner.” A little later, Antoniou and his American girlfriend Effie arrived, and our friend Mehran. Party complete, we started dinner. OK, I bet you’re all wondering what a white trash menu is, it is chili-dogs, with shredded American cheese, and fries. And, for dessert we had peach cobbler with ice cream. It was wonderful. I hadn’t had processed food like that in ages, it just felt so American. Had a wonderful evening. Left in time to catch the last Metro.

Thursday: Later this afternoon we leave for Madrid. Jack got us great tickets on Ryan Air. Believe it or not it cost ZERO €. But we have to pay taxes, so for a round trip ticket for one person it was €20 round trip, who knew? The catch is the air terminal is in Beavais which is about an hour and half drive from Paris. So, we have to take a bus there (€13, which is more than the cost to fly to Madrid), small price to pay for FREE, well actually we did pay taxes.

The ride to Beavais was uneventful, it was rainy and cloudy, how unusual for Paris. Ryan Air is definitely a low cost, no fringe airplane. It’s like Southwest except you pay for everything (e.g., peanuts, soda etc), who knew? And, no assigned seats, its cattle call trying to get on the plane. The flight to Madrid is only 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Got to Madrid relatively quickly and Joe’s friend Pablo met us. What a genuinely nice man. We decided to go to our apartment first and then to dinner. Joe would be staying at Pablo’s apartment. One of the first things I noticed on our ride to downtown Madrid was the Metro. Talk about clean and efficient, wow, it was incredible. And, get this, it’s air-conditioned, who knew? It was great since Madrid is quite warm compared to Paris.

The apartment we rented is literally in the center of Paris 2 blocks from the Gran Via, one of the main thoroughfares in Madrid. Now here’s the interesting part, if you’ve ever been to Madrid then you’ll know what I’m talking about. There are a zillion prostitutes there hanging out at different streets whether they be main streets or the side streets. They’ve each marked their territories. They seem to be part of the Madrid scene. Well I didn’t know this, so as Pablo was taking us to our apartment, it was like each corner there were these prostitutes, most “real” women and some Trannies. It was an eye-opener to say the least. I was freaking out, ‘cause I always associate areas where there’s a lot of street walkers laden with crime, drugs and the underworld, and I’m thinking I’m going to get accosted, mugged or what not, and as most of you know, I’m melodramatic. Got to our apartment, and it was just too lovely. I think we were the first tenants. I was just praying that our neighbors weren’t renting by the hour, ‘cause I was afraid it’d be too noisy, if you know what I mean. The bedroom was interesting, it was in a loft area, and you can’t stand straight up, or you’ll bang your head. If it had been maybe 10-inches higher I could have stood straight. This is very common in Paris, but I didn’t’ know it was also common in Madrid.

After throwing our suitcases into our apartment, Pablo took us to Chueca (Gay Area about 3-blocks from us) for a late dinner, it’s midnight by the way. Interestingly, I noticed there were not prostitutes in Chueca, me-wonders why?

The restaurant was a hole in the wall, but was still crowded with people. I did notice one thing, they smoke in Madrid. They haven’t outlawed smoking yet, so just a warning for future visitors, look for a no-smoking restaurant if you’re sensitive to smoke.

It was about 1:30 am before we finished and departed. We went back to our apartment, and the hookers didn’t accost us, wonder why? But there’s a vacant building sorta across the street from us that’s being renovated, and my worst nightmare came true, it was full a drug addicts. Oh well, can’t change our apartment now. Our building is secured, and you have to enter 2-locked doors to get to our apartment. I am paranoid, so I pushed a chair against our apartment door. Later the next day, I found out that the doors swing out, so the chair would have been useless, oh well?

Slept pretty well considering my paranoia.


Friday: My biggest fear was walking down the ladder from the loft bedroom to go to the bathroom. I go on average 3-times a night. I woke up and noticed that I had bruises and bumps on my head?!? I thought how strange, then Jack reminded me that in the middle of the night I had banged my head on the ceiling a couple of times to go to the bathroom, oh well, at least I didn’t fall down the ladder and to get knocked out cold.

Joe came over for breakfast to pick us up at 10:30. He too had problems sleeping, but the problems were due to noise rather than paranoia, oh well. It was a warm beautiful day, so unlike Paris. I did notice one thing interesting as we walked along the Gran Via, there are women wearing spiked heels, but very, very few. I think Spanish women are more sensible about shoes, or maybe only hookers wear stilettos, who knows? We decided since it was close to lunch we would go to a Jamón and tapas (ham) on the Gran Via. It was nothing special. We did have the proverbial hams and the traditional torta made of potato and eggs; like an omelet.

Afterwards we walked to the Royal Palace. It was actually quite close to our apartment, who knew? The Palace was closed for the following day’s ceremony. I’m not sure what ceremony it was but it’s a national holiday and King Juan Carlos is going to preside over some ceremony or other. I wasn’t invited so I really didn’t care. We then walked around the gardens. It was such a warm day it didn’t matter where we went I was just enjoying the sun.

We wound up at the Plaza Mayor. Very touristy, but lovely to walk around none-the-less. Afterwards we decided to grab a snack, so we stopped at an outdoor café around the Plaza del Sol. Ordered, what else, fried calamari and gambas frescas (prawns). We sat and people watched. So the street that we are on is one of those really wide pedestrian walks. It reminded me of Powell Street in SF from Market Street up to Bush, only no cars on that road. The difference is that the streets are lined with, what else, hookers. Some of them have definitely seen better days. It’s odd for me to see so many hookers every where out in the open. “Toto we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore…”

We decided we all needed to rest a little bit before dinner, so we separated and took naps at our respective apartments and would meet up later around 9 pm for dinner.

We met at 9 and decided to walk down towards the Plaza Mayor again, since I saw an interesting restaurant called “Museo de Jamón” with a name like that how could we not go, I mean it did spell tourist. We got a table and ordered 6-tapas dishes. The larger tapas dishes are called raciones. There about 4-times the size of a regular tapas plate. Since we were in the Museo de Jamón, we’d order a variety of ham, right. Everything came out but the ham. We had so much food, we couldn’t finish it, so it in a way it was fortuitous that we didn’t get the jamón sample plate. We had fun. I know it’s a touristy restaurant, but I really wanted to go back. It was about midnight when we finished and decided to call it a night, plus I was getting a sore throat!


Saturday: “SICK IN MADRID” The sore throat turned into a really bad, bad cold. I was sicker than a dog. There was no way I was going out. I decided to stick around the apartment and maybe occasionally look out the window to see how business is for the hookers. Yes, we have a tiny walk out balcony. Jack went and got me some cough syrup. I told Jack not to stick around and to go out and enjoy himself. So, he went to the Reina Sophia museum and some other places around town.

I didn’t even have energy to check to see how the hookers and drug dealers were doing. I literally was in bed most of the day. I still find it interesting though how this neighborhood functions. There are young upwardly mobile couples, immigrant families mostly from Central America, children (elementary school around the corner), gay couples with their cutesy dogs, and tourists. Across the street is a 3-star hotel and around corner on either end are two 4-star hotels. And, then the hookers, go figure? And, they all seem to get along and basically not cross each other’s paths. Very odd indeed, but it seems to work in Madrid. And, get this, there’s a Police station around the corner from us, amazing!

Jack got home later in the afternoon. He got me some sandwiches from the corner “Pan” store. Either they were bland, or I just didn’t taste anything.


Sunday: I’m feeling much better. Joe came over for breakfast at 11 am. Afterwards, I braved it and decided to take an easy walk around Madrid. Since we area literally located in the central part of Madrid it was easy just to walk around. The Plaza Espana and then to the Prado. The Prado was free today, so we went to the museum. Joe wasn’t feeling well so he didn’t stay long.

The way the Prado is laid out is very interesting. Their map is totally useless. It’s really hard to figure out where is what. The paintings though were lovely. A lot of it was from Spanish painters like Goya, go figure? And some others that I’m not familiar with. A lot of very religious paintings as well. Jack and I were there for 2-hours, and decided it was time to leave.

We weren’t that far from the Madrid Parque de Retiro, so we went in. It was actually quite lovely. We found a man-made lake with people boating, so we found an outdoor café and just people watched, and also watched the entertainers. Afterwards, we went home to take a nap before dinner.

Joe had plans, so we ventured out on our own. Jack and I decided to head south of Plaza Mayor. We found an interesting restaurant called “Restaurant Riazor” and it appeared that it was all local people. So, we went in. It was a frenetic busy place. Jack and I decided to order a dish like paella but with a lot more soup. It was actually quite good, since I still had a cold, and the soup just made it better, who knew?

One odd thing that I found about the restaurant was there were all these women with sequined dresses or blouses with very, very heavily made-up in all different sizes and ages. I’m thinking, with so many prostitutes in Paris, was this like a hooker convention, or maybe just a “sluts are us” get-together location. Whatever, it was very, very odd. So, we decided to leave.

There is a café that we saw the other night called San Gines. So, we decided to head over there for a late night snack, imagine that after a pretty full dinner? We found a table outside. It was quite lovely. Their specialty of the house is Churros and Chocolate. It’s a typical dish people in Madrid have when the bars close around 4 am. It was wonderful. You’re supposed to dip the churro in the chocolate, yum-yum. However, the chocolate was so good that Jack drank it like coffee, even though the consistency was like syrup.

After our sugar rush and chocolate fix, we headed back to our apartment. The hookers weren’t at their usual corner, so methinks business is good tonight.

All-in-all a nice way to end of a lovely evening!

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