"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)!
Monday, February 8, 2010
We're back January 26 - February 1, 2009
Rue au Mairie (oldest Chinese settlement in Paris)
Monday: We’re baaaaacccccckkkkk! We started on Monday; our good friend Joe drove us to the airport. We’re flying Aer Lingus [no jokes out there you dirty old mens—(lol]) it really is a name of an Airlines, in fact it’s Ireland’s national airline. Anyway, barely anyone in line to check in, and who should we see, the same woman who checked us in when we left for Paris last year, talk about a small world. And, as luck would have it, she remembered us, go figure? Thank God we were kind to her. Plane is supposed to be half full. She went out of her way to make sure we got the best seat in the house. She got us seats in the middle of the plane where there is no row behind us. Middle seats (all 4) where we could stretch out. Lesson learned, if you fly a lot, go to the same ticket agent and be nice! It pays off.
Tuesday: The flight was quite nice. As you can see from the picture Jack was stretched out like limo, excuse the pun. We got to Ireland in 9 ½ hours around 8:30 am, had to go through security again, even though we never left the secured area, go figure? I guess they don’t trust our American TSA, but aren’t they the best and the brightest. We had a 3-hour layover, normally having done this route before, we would eat breakfast to kill time, but they had just fed us on the plane and we were full. As I walked around I remember something, alcohol and Irish, they’re synonyms. I think Ireland is the only place in the world where you can see people drinking beer or stout at 8 a.m., who knew?
Got on our plane to Paris, and that flight was empty too. It only took us 1 hour and 20-minutes. Got into CDG and I always love going through those walk-ways with all the tubes, it feels so “Jetsons”. Got to the baggage claim praying that our luggage made it OK, I mean I had precious cargo, e.g., Costco sized peanut butter, which as you may recall cost $11 for a 6-oz jar in Paris. This is no exaggeration, checked in 3-luggages, the first 2 luggages came first and the third was the LAST luggage to make it off the plane, lucky us. Talk about bad timing, oh well.
Got through customs OK, thank God, how do you explain all that peanut butter and mouthwash. That would be too much for me to try to explain in French that I had a peanut butter fetish and needed to rinse after eating?!?!
Léandre, our good French friend met us at the airport to drive us into Paris. It was a quarter to 3 and he had to be back at work at 5:30 pm for a big work presentation. Imagine this, it took us 2-hours to get to our apartment. The traffic was horrendous. What struck me odd was there was a woman stopped in the middle of the freeway, head popped back, and eyes closed. I thought she was dead. But Léandre told me she was just upset and had to stop to get her bearings, maybe she was doing yoga, who knows? But it was WEIRD!!! You gotta love the French, they deal with stress a lot different than Americans. Americans would just go “road rage” on everyone!
Léandre used his GPS to get us to “J’s” apartment, which will be our apartment for the next few months. The GPS got us lost, imagine that? We had to wing it, and there’s so many one-way streets that we just told Léandre to let us off a block away, because I was really concerned he’d be late for his meeting. Got into the apartment and it was cold. I was so dead tired, I turned the heat on in the bedroom, shut the door and went to sleep.
Wednesday: Got up at 2 am and stayed up, oh well. Got onto face book and chatted with friends, may as well make it fruitful. Couldn’t get back to sleep so I decided to put stuff away. I was going to clean the windows, but it I couldn’t find the ladder, yeah right? The sun, sorta came out around 9 am so we decided to go into the “cave” (basement) and get the rest of our stuff that we stored last October.
At about 1 pm I finally started getting hungry and I told Jack we need to go out and buy some food. It’s actually quite convenient. There are 2-grocery stores a block away, imagine that. We went to G20, pronounced jahvahnt and got some staples. Brought them home and decided to re-familiarize ourselves with the neighborhood. Its Chinese New Year’s so the buildings along the street have red lanterns marking the event. As we walked around, we went to the first and oldest Chinese settlement in Paris on Rue au Mairie, and to my amazement I found an Asian Market, who knew? So I bought some Asian staples, and they had a sale on Senagalese peanuts, so I bought some. Went back to the apartment and unloaded the food than went back out to look for a boulangerie close by.
Made lunch and then we proceeded to go back out, because I forgot to buy eggs, and I love eggs, gotta get my cholesterol up.
Our friend Léandre called saying that he wouldn’t get out of his scuba class until 9:30 pm and we can have dinner then. I told him it was just too late for us and with adjusting to time et.al. I’d rather we have dinner tomorrow night, so we made a date.
Our friend Tracy called, and she just arrived from the States as well a week ago, and is slowly getting adjusted to the time. She got a new job, so we’re really excited for her, since she’s been wanting to work for the past 5-years, but only recently got her Carte-de-Sejour Privée, which allows her to work.
Stayed home and had a light supper and went to bed by 10 pm.
Thursday: I don’t know why, but I slept really well, in fact I didn’t get out of bed til noon, go figure? I guess my body said, enough already, sleep. Had breakfast, or should I say lunch and then we decided to take a walk to the Place de Vosges to find the restaurant called Chez Janou, where we will eat tonight. It’s such a lovely area that we decided to sit in the square and enjoy what little sun was out. We found the restaurant and it was right around the corner from the Places de Vosges. Chez Janou is a well known hip restaurant to go to. Down the street we also found the hoards of protesters and strikers a block up towards the Bastille. So, we decided why not check it out…., WRONG! It was packed and so crowded we felt like sardines. The strike was a “general” strike protesting “EVERYTHING” the economic depression…, we all know how that feels in the US, c’est vrai? France would not be France without their many strikes and protests. I’m going to start my own protest group, and it’s going to be a strike against government employees who treat us like sh*t! That should pack a house!
After we left, we headed back towards our neighborhood and Jack found a “Picard” a fancy frozen food market, and of course being the foody that I am bought some food. Their food is so nicely packaged, it’s too pretty to eat.
Came back to the apartment to rest up before dinner, and I decided to find out why the peanuts I bought yesterday were called Senegalese peanuts. I took a bite and realized, they’re raw, oh well. I still haven’t figured out what made them Senegalese, but Jack told that was its origins. So, I roasted the peanuts and ate them hot, yum, yum.
At about 8:00 pm Léandre showed up. We had a quick cocktail and then walked over to the restaurant. The restaurant was really alive. Noisy, and packed full of people. Chez Janou is a really tiny restaurant, and we were told it would be about 25-minutes before we can get seated. We ordered a bottle of wine and sat at the bar chitchatting. I had heard they stuck the tourist up front, and they are not good seats. Fortunately, we were with Léandre and we spoke a little bit of French so they knew we weren’t tourist. Almost an hour later at about 10:30 pm we got seated. Table was quite lovely, next to the window in the main dining room. For the entrée Jack had the fromage crostini, Léandre the carpaccio thon (Tuna), and I had the moules (mussels) grille. The carpacio was laden with honey, too sweet for my taste, but the moules I had were great. Jack’s fromage crostini was just that…
Then we had the “plat” (main course). Jack had the whole fish, I had the margret du canard (duck), and Léandre vegetables Provencal with rice. The fish was really good, my duck was rubbery and the potatoes soggy, and the vegetables Provencal with rice, was just that…
And, of course at a quarter past midnight, it was decided we should have dessert. The restaurant is known for their huge bowls of mousse chocolat. Well they didn’t disappoint, it was really good.
Chez Janou is a place where you want to go once. Overall the food was good, nothing to scream about. However, it’s a typical French bistro with lots of wanna be hip people, locals and tourists. But we probably won’t go back, it’s just too noisy and crowded. There are so many other places in France where you can be abused!
Got home at about 1:15 am and slept…
Friday: Went to bed late last night, but woke up really, really early, go figure? I guess I’m not adjusted to the time yet, oh well. Had breakfast and was set to go out, but by around 1:30 pm I got really tired again, so I went back to bed. Can you believe I took a 6-hour nap, go figure? It was about 6:45 pm when I woke and realized that I had to get my ass in gear to meet our friends at 8 for cocktails and then dinner. What a wasted day, oh well.
One advantage of living in the Marais, you’re in the heart of everything, and you’re also in walking distance of most major spots of Paris. We walked to Jose and Pablo’s in the Les Halles and it only took us about 15-minutes, how cool is that. We got to Jose and Pablos had some wine and then headed off to one of their favorite Bistros, L’Epicerie. It was the first place we went last year where I actually had a Roquefort sauce than I liked. The wait staff and owners know Pablo and Jose fairly well, and they always are so warm and inviting, how un-French.
We were all laughing ‘cause they gave me the English menu, and the translation was so funny. Pablo had offered to translate the menu for the owners, but I guess they didn’t take him up on it. It said breath of duck, rather than breast of duck and even funnier, shops of porc, instead of pork chops, oh well, and they think we butcher their language, it was funny to read.
The food was good, I had the confit de canard, Jack had the lamb chops, Jose the salmon, and Pablo the veal liver, which was by the way, cooked perfectly, it was quite lovely.
After dinner we decided we were going to meet again on Thursday to our favorite Hungarian restaurant in our old neighborhood of the Montmarte. Walked home, and went to bed.
Saturday: Jack and I had commented about how quiet our new neighborhood is. I had gotten up about 6 am, and Jack stayed in bed. I went back to bed around 9 am and at 10 am we heard what sounded like rifles or guns, and machine guns going off and loud banging as well. Needless to say we were freaking out. What is this, world war III, since we’re on the ground floor we opened the windows and saw it was a parade celebrating the Chinese New Years, Whew! What a relief, we’re not being invaded. Talk about a new alarm clock. Well that got us out of bed.
Very sunny today, so we decided we were going to go for a walk, after Tess, our cleaning lady comes so we can let her know we’re here. It was about 1:30 and she hadn’t arrived yet, so we decided just to go out. We walked and discovered we’re in walking distance of the “Republic”. Then we started heading back towards the Marais, and what should we run into the, the Chinese New Year’s parade, how lucky are we?. This would never happen in the states, but the Chinese stores along the street had all these firecrackers in front of their stores to ward off the evil spirits and bring in the New Year. I actually got the equivalent of the casing shots from the firecrackers. Thank God I was dressed like a polar bear, ‘cause it could have done some damage. It was smoky due to all the firecrackers, but very colorful and festive. Had a great time. Had to go to the restroom, you’ll recall from my missives last year, it’s hard to find rest rooms, so I went back home. Tess was there, she is so sweet. She cleaned up for us, not that we had a lot to clean up, but I want to adopt her and bring her back to the states.
Went back out and walked towards the Seine, then went to “Hotel de Ville.” In the summer they bring in sand and make it like a beach, so it seems appropriate that for winter they put ice on the plaza and made it an ice rink. How nice. We sat and watched for a bit, but it started getting really cold, so we decided to go home, make dinner and call it a day.
Sunday: Got up really early, oh well, at least I can chat with people on face book with the time difference et.al. Got a call from our friend Léandre, and he said he was going to a fashion trade show, would I be interested. The focus would be on shoes. Well my middle name is “Imelda” and I told him I wouldn’t miss it for the world. There’s was only one catch, I had to pretend to be a dealer, clothes dealer. Oh well, I can fake something once I get there. We’re going to meet our mutual friends Vanya a French film director and his wife Laurence who is definitely a fashionista.
Got to the Port de Versailles which houses the Paris Expo center. Got to the exhibition, and we had to come up with a plan quick or we couldn’t get in. So Léandre thought I should be a pretend fashion designer and our cabin name is Serene Queen so we used that as my company name as well as my name. Quite a stretch eh? But they bought it, go figure. I got my own catalogue and entry badge, I was official.
We all went in and it was sorta disappointing, they didn’t have that many shoes. They had a lot of purses, which I’m not into, and umbrellas, probably cause it rains so much here, oh well. Had a good time anyway, since I could be make believe “fashion designer” for the day, that’s a stretch, but I was convincible, so what does that tell you?
Afterwards, Vanya and Laurence invited us to their apartment for tea and croissants, how French. We had a nice conversation about Obama. France is obsessed with the Obama-mania, rightfully so. Apparently, they told us on the day of the inauguration the bars and cafes all made up cocktails, called, what else Obama. You gotta love the French…
All-in-all this was a great first week. La vie est belle!