"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

August 4 - 10, 2008

Monday: Beautiful day. Almost a SF day (lol). Got a message from our Parisian friends Léandre and Carine that they’re going on their long August vacation, tomorrow. Did I mention everybody and their mother goes on vacation in August. In fact, a lot of places are closed for 4-6 weeks starting in August. In our neighborhood alone, our favorite restaurant is closed, our Fromagerie, and a couple of boulangeries are all closed and will reopen in September. It must be nice just to take off for the whole month, and not worry about business. I guess if there’s an expectation that places are going to be closed, people don’t get pissed off that their favorite e.g., boulangerie is closed. Oh well. I can’t imagine that happening in the US. We pretty much have that attitude if they don’t want our business we’ll just go somewhere else.

Paris is filled with tourist right now, and I can understand getting away. Léandre and Carine suggested we get together for dinner tonight since they’re leaving. They’re inviting their friends Aly and Sybile along as well. We met them at their country house, a really nice couple. Aly’s parents are originally from Lebanon, but he was born in Africa. So cosmopolitan.

I offered to cook, so Jack and I headed off to Belleville to buy some food for tonight. Got there around 5 pm and we just chitchatted, and then I started cooking. We had a typically Filipino dinner, how unfrench. I made lumpias, crudités with peanut sauce for appetizers, and then we had beef curry with all sorts of side dishes. Afterwards, we had the proverbial fried bananas with ice cream.

Aly and Sybile are going to the States for their belated honeymoon. They showed me their itinerary and I said there’s no way they can go to e.g., the Grand Canyon for 1 day and then to Brice the next. I don’t think they quite get the concept that everything is “BIG” in states. And, Sybile’s never been to the US. One of the side trips is a drive down Pacific Coast highway from SF to L.A. that should be interesting. We gave them a bunch of tips and will hopefully get together upon their return to compare notes. I’m sure they’ll have a wonderful time, since the US is so CHEAP for Europeans with €.

Tuesday: It is very hot and humid today, so we got a late start. We’re having our usual champagne picnic at the Palais Royale, so I decided I wanted to make something cold. Nori Maki sushi sounds good. So, Jack and I hightailed to the 2eme where there’s a Japanese grocery store. Got there, and I was shocked at the prices. They were even more expensive than some of the US products at the US grocery store. Imagine paying $7 for a small bag of rice crackers (snack size). I walked out there spending $30 with only 4 items. Oh well.

Jack wanted to take a walk, and I had stuff that needed to be refrigerated, so I went home while Jack had the task of window shopping for a housewarming gift for our friends in Belgium that we’re visiting this week-end.

Got home, and it was just too hot, so I took a nap. And, then Jack came home shortly thereafter, empty-handed, oh well.

Got to the park, with the exception of 4-people we pretty much knew the crowd. A young couple just arrived from NYC a few hours earlier and they live in our neighborhood, so we’re going to try and get together with them sometime this week before we go to Belgium.

Afterwards we went to an Indian restaurant with Pablo and Jose called “Le Jardin de L’Indie”. It was extremely warm tonight, so why not have spicy, it will help us cool down. The restaurants along the street called “Tiquetonne” were quite packed. The L’Indie was somewhat crowded but we got seated inside towards the back. It was hot. The food was really good. The appetizers of samosas, pakoras with the various chutneys were excellent. Our lamb and chicken dishes for our plat was excellent. We’ll definitely go back.

Got home at about 12:30, I was exhausted and walking up our hill is no fun. Oh well, the price we pay for having fun.

Wednesday: Warm day. It was 91 degrees and the humidity just as high. We stayed in and waited til it cooled down a little bit. Later that afternoon we went to a fabulous glass and pottery store in the Place de Tertre to look for a housewarming gift for our Belgium friends. After what seemed like hours, we finally found one that we both like. A beautiful sculpted bowl that must’ve weighed a ton. Later we went down to our favorite boulangerie to get some pastries and sit at our local park to cool down. I mentioned that there is at least one movie shooting a week. Well this week, they transformed a street around the corner from us and on the same block as the boulangerie as a 1960’s French street. It was really interesting how they put building facades and brought in all these old cars to give that authentic feel.

A friend who is a caterer went on vacation. He asked if I could cater a dinner for a client of his, I told him sure, for him I’d do anything. The client called, and we came up with a great Southeast Asian menu. But the logistics sounded incredible. She was returning to Paris on August 16 mid-evening, and we’re leaving for Dijon the following morning. But we figured I could prep all the food Saturday evening, and have one of her servants prep and serve the food the following Sunday. I wasn’t too happy about that ‘cause I like being there to assemble, and do my last minute taste test and prep to see if the food is OK. I didn’t know who the client was so I decided to a little research. I’m not mentioning names, but let’s just say she’s on the Forbes list of mentionables.

So I spent Wednesday evening writing a grocery list and a “to-do” list for one of her assistance to purchase the food.

Thursday: Last night it rained buckets and we even had a thunder storm. We went from hotter than a pig in heat to being frigid as a polar bear in hibernation, go figure?

It continued to rain all day. I decided I didn’t want to go out, since we are to meet friends for dinner tonight, and it hasn’t stopped raining. We’re having dinner with a couple from NYC. We met them last Tuesday at our picnic. Jackie is a publisher and use to work for Jackie O., yes that would be Kennedy-Onassis, her namesake. And, her boyfriend Matthew Von Unwerth who is a writer, and wrote the book “Freud’s Requiem” if you’re interested in reading his book, got great reviews, and, no I’m not getting a commission. And, our friend Tara who is returning to California on the 15th. We agreed we’d all meet at the Metro Abbesses at 8 p.m.

The rain let up a little bit, thank God. We met Jackie and Mathew at the station, and they hadn’t seen the street where they transformed it into a l960’s Parisian street scene. Since it was around the corner, Jack took them there. Tara showed up shortly thereafter and we all decided to go have a drink on Rue des Abbesses. Got to a café, and we sat outside. Ordered, but the waiter said it was going to rain, and sure enough it started raining. So, he was kind enough to forewarn us before getting our drinks since the inside was crowded and there was no place open. We all headed to another café. After a few drinks, actually quite a few, we all decided on a French bistro in the neighborhood which we pass by all the time, but we’ve never gone, so we were feeling adventurous. Well, I have to say the bistro was excellent. This is one of the few French bistros that I have truly enjoyed.

The name of the restaurant is Bistro Lepicurien on Rue Lepic, in the heart of the Montmarte. We had great traditional entrees of chevre on toast, gambas encroute, escargot, and turine de poulet. Then for the plat we had rump steak, confit de canard, porc, and skewered fish. And, the dessert, indescribably delicious! It was all excellent, will definitely go back.

It was close to midnight when we finished, and Jackie and Matthew headed home since they were still feeling a bit jetlagged. We took Tara for a walk on the Place de Tertre at a spot where you can see the Eiffel tower. At midnight, it lit up and we watched it for a while and then decided to leave. We said our goodbye’s and Jack walked Tara to the metro and I headed home.

Wonderful food, good friends, good wine, great city, what more can one ask for? OK, maybe one, better weather!

Friday: The sun keeps coming in and out, since we are preparing to leave for Mol, Belgium the next day, we pretty much had a quiet day doing chores and packing.

Saturday: Got up early, 8:20 am (lol), well anyway early for us. We packed the night before so we basically showered and ran out of the house. Got to Gare du Nord in plenty of time, and the train took off right on time, imagine that. It was a THALYS train and one of those high speed trains. We have to take 3 trains to get to Mol. First Brussels, than Antwerp, then finally Mol. Mol is close to the Netherlands border.

The train ride didn’t seem like it was going fast until you look along the sides of the railroad tracks. It’s very dizzying. You actually had to look at the horizon to avoid getting dizzy. Got into Brussels and I was shocked that it only took 1 hour and 20 minutes to get from Paris to Brussels on the high speed train. You literally could go there for the day, roam around, have dinner, and return to Paris in plenty of time for the last metro. Who knew?

The train ride to Antwerp was uneventful, but crowded. I had never seen this before, but they actually allowed people to stand in the aisles if there are no seats. The only thing that kept running through my mind was an escape route if we had an accident. Friends told us that Antwerp has one of the most beautiful train stations. It was just a flash in pan, ‘cause when we arrived we only had 3-minutes to get from one platform to another. We never hauled ass so fast in our lives. Imagine me not taking the escalator, but running up the stairs because it was faster. We later found out that trains in Belgium are never on time, they’re typically late. Good for us, but I was on the verge of a heart attack.

Got to Mol and our friend John and his son Daan picked us up. They were shocked we were on that train, ‘cause they know the train system, they thought for sure we’d be on a later train, then we told him our hauling ass story.

We arrived at his lovely home. Homes in Belgium are quite large, very American, only difference is that the homes are made from brick whereas in California they’re stucco. He had a beautiful back yard, we sat and drank til about 6 p.m. Then went to their neighbor’s home for more drinks in their back yard. Eventually we went out and had dinner around the corner at a “Bistro” called Leto at about 8 pm. We’re told Belgians eat dinner early, typically between 5 pm and 6 pm except for the week-ends, then they’ll eat at 8 pm, who knew?

It’s a relatively new restaurant owned by a gay couple, (they have gay couples in Mol?) and it is the most popular restaurant there. It’s beautifully and tastefully decorated, go figure? The food was great, I had the traditional “moules” (mussels) bowl in a great sauce, and John’s wife Leen had a huge salad, John had a meat dish, and Jack had a fish a gratin. And, of course “Belgian fries” they’re the best, interestingly they don’t eat them with catsup, but with mayonnaise, who knew? Also I think Belgians don’t typically do an entrée, plat and dessert like in Paris, and I can see why, the portions are HUGE!!!

Had a lovely evening, picked up the kids at their friends home, and we reminisced about their visit to SF 11-years ago. Imagine this, I was 39 years old when we met, and I’m still 39-years old 11-years later. Ah miracles never cease to amaze me or is that I can’t add?

Sunday: It started off a little overcast but cleared as the afternoon rolled around. We took a tour of the outlaying areas of Mol and stopped at a tower to get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding areas. As we stopped I noticed a slew of Volkswagens, apparently a club was having a little celebration at the tower. It was sorta surreal to see all those Volkswagens.

Afterwards, John took us to the Abbey called Postel. We wandered around and of course since Belgium has the best beers in the world we stopped and had some beers. I don’t drink beer, but decided to have a sissy beer that’s called Kriek, which is a cherry flavored beer. I loved it because it didn’t even taste like beer, but tasted like cherry juice with foam, who knew?

Returned home, and we decided to bike into the town of Mol. Biking is the normal mode of transportation for most people in Belgium, especially the towns. Thank God Mol is flat. It was a beautiful bike trip along the canal. It was about 4 pm and we decided to stop at a farm and have ice cream. I think I mentioned that Belgians like “BIG” portions. Well they gave us 2-huge scopes of ice cream in each cone. I’m surprised I ate it.

Go figure, eating all that ice cream and after biking some more we decided to go have dinner. Imagine this, it was about 8 pm on Sunday, and all the restaurants were crowded, but we found one downtown, where their friend’s son worked. We had typical meat and potato dishes. Again, more beer for Jack and John, and I had wine. It was getting dark, but we decided to hurry and get home. I don’t think Jack and John biked in a straight line since they had a few!

Surprise, surprise, we made it home. Had a lovely day and evening. Great memories.

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