"The evolving 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

April 28 to May 4, 2008

Monday: Hung over from the tons of champagne and aperitifs we drank the night before. Got up and it’s cloudy, it’s suppose to rain most of the week. How apropos since, excuse the pun, but I’m feeling a bit under the weather… so, we’re definitely getting a late start. Lesson learned, “too much of a good thing, is too much…”

Our metro pass (Navigo) expires today, but we don’t feel like renewing it just for 3-days (not cost effective) since the new month begins Thursday, so we decided to stay close to the hood. Thank God I’m finally out of bed (1:30 pm), a technician is coming over at 2:00 pm to fix our phone, TV and internet connection. They’re all on the same connection. The guy came and said that the hardware, modem is not working. And, it will take 4-10 days to exchange it. You’d think that all it would take would be to switch out the boxes, but NOOOO! Some paperwork etc., has got to be done before the exchange can take place. Again, French bureaucracy at its best. He did ask us for a hairdryer, I thought how unusual, why does he want to blow dry his hair now? Turns out he had a high tech possible solution, blow drying the modem to see if it would reboot, tried it, but no luck. Oh well, at least someone in the hood has an unprotected wifi connection that we’ve been tapping into. I hope he doesn’t find out, ‘cause it’s our only connection to the outside world.

It’s about 3:45 pm, we need to get our a*ses in gear and go to the supermarket, but it’s raining. So, we decided to wait a little bit, ‘cause if you wait long enough the weather seems to change dramatically, sorta like Seattle and/or Portland. The sun finally came out and we made a mad dash for the supermarket, as we got about 2-blocks from it, wouldn’t you know it, it started pouring. Like I said, we have great timing.

Got what we needed and headed back to the apartment. No use doing our walks since it’s raining pretty heavy. Imagine, just yesterday it was sunny and warm at 73 degrees and today, it’s 55 and raining. Made some comfort food for dinner, rice and vegetable curry, and called it a day.

Tuesday: got up and it’s cold, 48 degrees, windy, and guess what, it’s raining. According to some locals this has been one of the worst Aprils in Paris history (cold and wet); like I said our timing is perfect. The door rang, and it was the postman, he had my package of summer clothes that I asked my good friend Joe to mail to me. Jack went out to follow him to his van to pick up the package, and the mailman proceeded to give Jack a package with Chinese characters all over it ?!?! Jack asked, what is this? And explained to him it didn’t belong to me. He assumed since I was Asian that that box belonged to me. Stereotypes exist everywhere. Who knows, it might have better stuff in it. Well I guess I won’t be needing my summer clothes in the near future.

The rain let up a little, and we basically said, screw it and let’s go out. We went exploring the 9eme arrondisment where our French school is located. They have a lot of little cute side streets as in most of Paris. It was my turn to get an authentic French souvenir, stepped into wet dog poop, I suppose it was inevitable. We went to the Trinitié and Saint Georges area. There’s suppose to be a high concentration of synagogues, we found Kosher Deli’s, Butcher shops, everything but a synagogue. Go figure. We did, however, find a hardware store. Last night was a challenge; I realized we didn’t have a can opener in our apartment. So I opened a can of coconut milk with a knife, at least I remembered something from my Boy Scout days. Anyway, I found a hardware store in the 9eme and it only cost me $12, whereas in the US I could have gotten it for about $2-3, oh well.

Headed back towards the Montmarte, and it started raining, so we decided to stop at a café in our hood. A recent development has occurred in Paris; the cafes are now protected by rain, cold and, yes, even snow with a canopy surrounding the outdoor café area. Sort of like a shower curtain, and some are equipped with electric heaters on the ceiling, or the familiar propane heaters we see in the US. Stopped and had a drink to protect us from the rain. I decided why don’t we just go out to eat tonight. It was 5:30 pm, sacrilegious to even think about dinner much less eating dinner by 6 – 6:30 pm. But I said screw it, I was hungry, since I had only had breakfast and the apartment was being shown to a realtor for sale. So, at 6:00 pm we checked out a few restaurants and found a touristy one by the Montmarte, since I was embarrassed to be seen at a local restaurant that early. $60 later, we had pizza, dessert and wine. I thought I had ordered a half liter, but since my French or maybe it was my Italian, either way neither is good, I think I ordered a liter of wine. At these prices, I was not going to waste it, so it goes without saying that that put me out. Got home and I passed out. Me thinks I’m becoming a wino?

Wednesday: got up and discovered, what a surprise, no change in weather. Still gloomy and cloudy. One saving grace is that it’s not raining yet. I hope I didn’t jinx it by saying that. What a lovely surprise, our landlady left us 2-passes to see a movie that her husband is in. It’s in French, but I figured we’d get the gist out of it. The movie is called, “Le Grand Alibi”. Which is the French version of the very same movie by Hitchcock. Miou-miou is starring in it, and I know she’s a pretty popular film star here as well as in the US. I’m thinking, maybe she could put us in a movie theatre if we become homeless. Turns out that our landlady’s husband is Mathieu Demy, a famous French actor in his own right, and his father, Jacques Demy started the whole new wave cinema in Paris back in the 60’s. Who knew?

Having dinner with Carol and Cliff tonight, they’re back from the US. We’re first going to visit a bakery and get a tour of how they make Parisian bread and then head off to her house for Beef Bourguignon, I think its Cliff’s birthday, but she didn’t tell me, so we’re going out to look for a gift before we head out to the bakery.

Not only has the shopping faerie possessed Jack, but also the cleaning lady. He’s been cleaning this apartment to death. Today, he decided he would scrub the floors with a wet brush ala Cinderella, go figure? Wish he did it at home more often.

Headed towards town to get a birthday card for Cliff and some brandy. It was pleasant enough, the sun was somewhat out. Got back to the apartment to get ready for our outing at the boulangerie and Carole’s for dinner, then it started thundering, shortly afterwards it started hailing. Well let’s see, since we’ve been here, it’s rained, sleeted, snowed, and today hailed. Oh, let’s not forget the 2 days of sun we’ve had in a month ?!?!? Our landlady later told us that this type of weather is typical for March not May, go figure?

After the hail storm, we had a half an hour window to get to Poilane, which is a world famous bakery specializing in dark heavy, rustic, artisan bread. People were coming in and out of that bakery like it was turn stile. Unfortunately, when we got there they didn’t have the tour they normally have of their basement where they bake their bread. Like I said, we have perfect timing. Picked up a loaf of bread decided since they didn’t have a tour, let’s stop at a café have some refreshments before headed to Carole’s and Cliff’s. On the way to her place, I noticed it started getting fancier, and then it dawned on all of us we were in the St. Germaine de prés, the toniest place in town.

Carole had a wonderful dinner, and the dessert was typically French. It was a Chevre (goat cheese), but not the same as we get in the US, more akin to Mascarpone cheese, with a tinge of light tartness, and topped with preserved cherries. Quite lovely.

I was good, I only had 2-glasses of wine instead of my proverbial bottle. Left at 10:30 pm and crashed.

Thursday: May 1st is a public holiday around Europe. Got up and Josephine our landlady came by to pick up the rent. She might lower the sale price of our apartment for a quick sale she told us. She brought a little “porte bonheur fleur” a little leaf with a little flower. Apparently it’s traditional to buy one and give them to friends on this day to mark the holiday. It’s like our Labor Day in the US. Difference is that many workers in France are unionized and they love to rally.

Any one interested in a 300 square foot apartment for under half a million dollars? As I mentioned that’s what our apartment is going for. There’s also a studio apartment across the street from us that’s for sale for $350,000 and it’s about 200 square feet. And, I thought our home in SF was small.

We decided to go to the République square to see the French union parades and marches. Interestingly, when we got there it was everyone but the French. The majority of the ones rallying for workers causes were mostly Turkish with a few Africans thrown in. I thought it was great that there were a number of food stalls offering great Turkish type sandwiches; unfortunately, I had eaten just before we left so I wasn’t hungry. We decided since it was just too frenetic and crazy we would head towards the mayor’s office to see if any festivities were happening there. Got there, none. So we decided to walk to the Bastille, at this point I had to go to the bathroom. We look high and low, all the public toilets were out-of-order, I had no choice, so we stop at this cute café, sit have some coffee, pastries and go to the bathroom. After we ordered, $25 later for a hot chocolate, coffee and 2-eclairs, I headed towards the back where I thought there was a bathroom, and was IMMEDIATELY chastised for going there. Apparently, there was a sign above the door, that said, no public restrooms, I thought it meant no public restrooms unless you’re a patron, like in the US, WRONG!. For those prices they should at least have a bathroom. Lesson learned, before you stop in a café for the sole purposes of going to the bathroom, and maybe a pastry or two, check out to see if they have a bathroom first.

Got to the Bastille, still no “working” bathrooms in sight. I was ready to pass out, so we just decided to pretend we were looking for someone in a café and used their bathroom. Oh what a relief it was.

Since today is a public holiday, nothing was open so we decided to go back to our neighborhood, go to Sacre Coeur and watch the tourist. Got there, it was like a one day White sale at Macy’s gone bad. It was mobbed. Who knew we had so many religious people. We decided to sit at a bench and watch the people anyway. If you’re ever in this neck of the woods, there’s usually some African guys speaking very bad Swahili asking to tie a string around your arm. Basically, they like to pretend they’re doing these intricate knots around your wrist, similar to a kabala string, when all it is a braided string, and then afterwards you pay them a few Euros for the privilege of tying you up, sounds kinky. They’re pretty aggressive, so I just gave them the evil eye, and they wouldn’t come near me.

Jack has become truly European. It was cool today, originally he tried to knot his scarf, but didn’t’ quite get it, so I knotted the scarf ala Europa style. That scarf stayed put all day. He was even mistaken for being Italian rather than American today, all because of that little knotted scarf, who knew?

Friday: Got up, it’s relatively sunny. What a surprise. We decided to go to Belleville to buy some Asian provisions for Carole’s upcoming Asian Soire. Just intended to get non-perishables. We unexpectedly found out that today was the outdoor market day. It started from the Metro station and went for about 7 or 8 long blocks. It was jammed packed with people. I actually started feeling claustrophobic because everyone was pushing and shoving and yelling. The prices were great, and I saw some bananas that looked good, and asked Jack if he wanted to buy some, but he couldn’t deal with the frenetic activities as well. It’s hard to describe the crowd situation. The only description is to imagine that you’re walking down a narrow hallway and you’ve got wall-to-wall people in front, back and the sides of you moving at a snails pace going in both directions. Everyone is getting to you know you biblically, if you know what I mean. Too much intimacy for me. Well that’s the picture.

So, we left and headed towards the Asian market, called “Paris Store”, what a unique name. Went home, took a quick nap, and went to our favorite grocery store to buy other provisions (e.g., toilet paper). Got home, and Jack wanted to check out the bus routes, he left, and I went downtown to look for some wine glasses in the Marais. I decided to wait and purchase them later.

We both got back about the same time, we’ll have a quiet night of simple dinner of stir fried vegetables and rice. The baguettes can get tedious after a while. How sacrilegious for me to say that, a Sacre bleu!

Saturday; I think Spring/summer is finally here. What an absolutely beautiful day. So we decided to walk down the canal along the 19 eme. Made a picnic and headed towards the canal and got off at the Stalingrad station. The 19eme as well as most of the seedier parts of Paris are getting very gentrified. The 19eme use to be very dangerous, but with Real Estate being expensive, people are moving further out, gentrifying them, and the poor people are forced to move out of the city, sound familiar? Although the 19eme is technically still in Paris, a lot of people think it’s in the sticks.

Walking along the canal was like walking along the Chicago river, albeit dirty. I actually saw an African women standing next to a public trash can all dressed up with her finest African costume, headdress and all, and instead of using the trash can, she jus threw her trash in the canal. Go figure. I mean Paris makes a point to have trash cans every block it seems, and she’s throwing it in the Canal. I wanted to tell her off, but I wouldn’t know where to begin. New restaurants and café’s are lining the canal. We went to an area where they have Children’s parks and museums and an area called “City of Music.” Couldn’t be lovelier. We decided to have our picnic lunch there, and afterwards headed towards the new area where our landlady is moving to. The park is called, “Butte Chaumont” and it looks alot lot like Stow lake in Golden Gate Park. But the weather is prettier, and no fog to contend to. Sat on a bench overlooking a lake and just had a fabulous time. There were 3 wedding couples having their pictures taken. One was a muslim couple, her wedding gown couldn’t be prettier. I wanted to take a picture, but figured I might get stoned for doing so. I’ll just describe it a little. It was a light colored brown sequined gown. Difference is that her head was completely covered in the same fabric in the customary muslim style as were her arms and part of her hands. Beautifully folded drapes, definitely time and effort was put in to making that dress. Although, it was quite warm out, she wore it with style. I still can’t get over the women walking around the park with stiletto heels. I mean, fashion can hurt. I feel like screaming out, wait til your 50, you’re going to be dearly pay for it. I mean look at me. I use to wear those pointed shoes, men are wearing today, we used to call “cockroach killers”, and today I can barely walk, and I’m just turning 40 (lol), go figure?

As we sat at the bench, a cute little Eurasian toddler kept on coming up to me, staring up at me, I’m thinking, hey kid, I’m not your father. If I were, it was definitely an act of immaculate conception.

Afterwards, we headed to our “hood” and had a cocktail at one of the local cafes on Rue Des Abbess. It was mobbed with tourist, so we went home afterwards. Still debating whether we should go out for dinner, since it is Saturday and it will be mobbed.

Decided to stay home, make supper, and go to bed.

Sunday: Absolutely beautiful day. Got a message from Mehran that he’s trying to organize a picnic in the park. This was around 10:00 am, but our phone isn’t working so we’ve been playing email tag. Finally, got tired of it and Jack went out and bought a phone card, “telecarte”, since you cannot use coins for a pay phone here, what a concept, but you have to use a “calling card.” Finally made contact and we all agreed to meet at Tuliéres gardens by the Louvre. Orginally, we were to meet at 3:00 pm then it got pushed out to 4:00 pm

Jack and I are still on American time, so pretty punctual. Got to the Tuiléres gate and of course we were the first ones there. We sat on a bench directly in the sun, and it was hot enough that you can roast a pig on, humid, even though it was only 73 degrees. 4:30 p.m. Michelle shows up, at up 4:45, Tracy (new friend) shows up and at 5:15 pm Mehran and Christophe show up. I just love French time. We walked down to a secluded area where there were trim bushes on all four sides. It was pretty private. For a picnic, who can ask for anything more, we had cheeses, champagnes, wines, assortments of dips and of course tons of baquettes. It was quite lovely.

Tracy, our new American ex-pat friend invited us to her apartment in the 11eme for aperitifs and coffee. She is a hoot, very bubbly and free spirited. She has lived in France for the past couple of years, just because. She just renovated her apartment, very lovely. Her building actually had an elevator, Thank God since she lives on the 10th floor. I found out later that she and her boyfriend rent the apartment, what puzzled me was all the money they put into the renovation? If your renovate your rented apartment in France, you’re doing it out of pocket. The landlord will not offset your expenses. And, because their rent control in France is one of the strongest in the world, most people who’ve had there apartment for a zillion years, will never get rid of it. Another important fact, if you decide to leave your apartment, and say give notice in October to vacate, and you’re an evil person and want to stiff your landlord, you can stop paying from October to April, because French law ensures that you will have a roof over your head between those months (winter), despite non-payment.

Tracy’s bathroom shocked me. It was a short narrow bathroom. As you enter they have an itsy bitsy sink on the left side and the middle has a 1 foot deep sunken area 2 feet by 2 feet, and it is actually the shower area, then the commode. Similar to what you would see in a very, very small motor home. So, if you take a shower, the whole bathroom gets wet. And, I was complaining about our tiny bathroom that has a full size tube. Who knew!

On the other hand, our friend Michelle owns a mansion on the 8eme overlooking the Seine. It’s over 2,000 square feet. The building was originally designed and owned by Lalique (famous glass designer) who at one time was also a resident, hence, they have beautiful windows throughout the apartment. Her husband bought the apartment before they were married 20-years earlier. French law inheritance is very different. If he dies, the property is split in the middle between their daughter and Michelle. If there are no children, then it would go to his sibling, and she’s “s.o.l”. Strange, but it’s basically to keep the property within the original family. I guess they don’t believe in “community property.”

I’m getting use to long drawn out meals French style, and am loving it. We have a tendency to rush meals in the states, but in France you savor every minute with good conversation and good food. Well it’s about 11:00 pm and we all decided to call it a day, since we do have school tomorrow at 9:00 am, early by Serene Lakes or even Parisian standards,

No comments :

Post a Comment