"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)!

Monday, February 8, 2010

February 16 -22, 2009

Monday:  Nothing exciting to report today.  Jack insisted that I stay home and do my taxes, since my taxes have to be completed before we can file our joint state tax together.  I had such a headache after the day ended, but happy to announce I did my taxes!

Tuesday:  We decided the night before that we would get up super early, 7:30 am to get ready and go to the “Assurance Maladie” which is basically the Health Insurance Office, no later than 9 am.  Jack got an earlier request to send in his photo to finalize his “”carte vitale” which is the insurance card.  It sorta looks like a drivers license where you can use it at any medical office or pharmacy.  And, for me, they need more proof that I am his concubine.  Concubine in French means more than a friend, which means basically I have to prove that I not only live with him, but I also do his laundry (from Jack- yah, like in my dreams).  We share the same French social security number, that’s how it works here.

Got to the office at 9:00 am and surprisingly it was quite empty.  We got called immediately to one of the counselors, and on the other side of her was one of the women who helped us last year.  Since the French loved to be acknowledged and basically having their butts kissed, I said, “Bonjour, rappelez-vous nous? Ça va bien, Mademoiselle? She acknowledged with a big smile and asked if we were OK, said oui.   The counselor helping us noticed that we were chit-chatting, I don’t know if it helped our case, but we were with her less than 2-minutes.  She just wanted our documents and my birth certificate, which is odd, how does a birth certificate prove you’re “concubined?”  Oh well, you gotta love the French, they love their dossiers.

Since we thought we’d be there much longer, we had all this time to kill.  So, we decided why not go to the 13eme, the largest Paris Chinatown.  We headed over there and walked around and explored the neighborhood.  It’s not as interesting as one might expect.  It doesn’t really feel like you’re in Paris.  It almost feels as if you could be in a Chinatown anywhere in the world.  The only difference is they speak French with a Chinese accent.  Most of the Chinese restaurateurs in the 13eme are Vietnamese of Chinese ancestry.  So, it is not uncommon to see Vietnamese and Chinese menus posted in the restaurant windows, which by the way is required by French law.   FYI, all restaurants must post their menu with prices visible to the public.  Interesting, n’est pa?

Commercial building in heart of Place de Italie.

It’s about 11:30 am at this point, and one gets hungry when one doesn’t eat breakfast.  We’re looking for a place to eat, and I didn’t want Pho, since we just had some last night.  We’re wandering around, and interestingly enough, most restaurants open their doors around noon.  Oh well.  So we wandered some more and I remembered this one restaurant was always so crowded, which to me is a good sign.  What else is it, but a noodle shop. Go figure? So we went ahead and went in and Jack had Cambodian soup and I had rice with duck, which wasn’t bad.  By the time we left at about 12:30, the restaurant was packed and lines of people were waiting behind us.  FYI…, typically you have to ask for the bill, “L’addition s'il vous plaît!” however, in Chinese restaurants you will get the bill even if you didn’t ask for it.  They want to turn tables quickly. 

Took the metro back to our neighborhood, walked around a bit, and Jack wanted to relax a bit before he has his first French tutoring class with Yveline, Léandre’s sister, who happens to be a teacher and school administrator.

She arrived at about 7 pm, and I disappeared upstairs.  Jack and I refuse to do things together where we are being taught.  He learns and interacts differently than I do.  It’s like a husband teaching a wife to drive, yikes!  It’s the same principal. 

They finished about 8:30 pm.  We wanted to take her out to dinner, but she already had plans, oh well.  She’d be back Sunday and we plan to go out to dinner then…

So we had leftovers and went to bed early, since Jack was exhausted from all the mental exercising, go figure?

Wednesday:  Got started late, what a surprise.  So we didn’t get out of the house until about 2 pm.  I wanted to go to the Drogérie, which is a yarn store in Les Halles.  Went in and they really didn’t have that much of a selection, so we went down to Montorgueil to our favorite vegetable store.  On our way to the Vegetable market, where should I stumble upon by accident?  At D.Hillerin.  It only happens to be one of the most famous kitchen store in the world.  Needless to say, I got on my hands and knees to pay homage.  C’est genial.  Excuse the expression, but it was orgasmic!  You have to be a foodie to understand my excitement, go figure?

After having my cigarette from that experience, yes it was good for me, we headed off to the vegetable market.  Vegetables and fruits are always displayed so beautifully in markets.  But you have to be careful not to go overboard.  Unlike the US, most vegetables are “organic”, which means you must use them within 1-2 days at the most, and 3-days is pushing it.  In the US vegetables and fruits are so chemically treated that their shelf life is good for almost a week.  A hard lesson learned from last year, when I opened the fridge and found all the vegetables I bought rotten, oh well.

After we dropped off the fruit and vegetables, we went back out ‘cause I wanted to go to BHV Department store to check out their yarn.  Again, nothing interesting, so we went into the “Hommes” (mens) section.  I’ve been eyeing this scarf which is 2-toned light brown and dark brown.  When in France, do as the French do and get into scarves.  I’m much better at not being an impulse buyer, so I decided I wanted to walk around some more and check to see what else is out there.  At almost €15, it pays to compare.  No luck, Jack was hungry so I suggested we go to our favorite Falafel place on Rue de Rosier called L’As.  Got there at 3:30 and I’m thinking it’s going to be empty, WRONG!  It was packed, who knew?  So we had falafel with fries.  And, as a tribute to our friend John in Belgium, I ate my fries with mayonnaise, go figure?

Afterwards, we decided to walk around a little bit more, but it started getting chilly, so went home.  We didn’t have dinner tonight, but we had dessert instead, since we’re so much more calorie conscious then last year, yeah right?

Thursday:  Woke up and it’s a gorgeous day.  Sunny and warm.  It feels like April in Paris, or Spring time, who knew?  Paris is not known for its weather! Quelle surprise! I’m totally understanding the French mentality, when there’s just a little bit of sun out or it’s warm, they all go out in droves to take walks or sit in the parks, and we were no different. Hence, all the open cafés.   I felt like singing, which you definitely don’t want me to do. As most of you know, I’m not an outdoorsy kind of guy.  I can’t go out and explore flowers and tree trunk roots and have an enlightening experience or an epiphany. My idea of an enlightening experience is going to Nordstrom’s year-end sale, or to the Galéries Lafayette during “soldes” days, imagine that.  However, in France I actually enjoy sitting at parks and having a picnic.  I think it has a lot to do that apartments are so small here, and plus the weather plays a big factor.

Today, I decided I was going to be in control where we would take our walks.  So, we headed towards the Bastille, but first I wanted to stop at Place des Vosges, just to sit and enjoy the sun for a little bit.  As we got to the Place des Vosges, there were tons of people enjoying the sun.  And, some were even picknicking, how charming.  As we continued our walk, we saw a really fantastic antique store focusing on old instruments.  We immediately thought of our musician friends Don and Liz and had to take a picture of it.  Really fascinating interesting stuff. 

Afterwards we went to the 11eme and walked across the Pont Sully.  The furthest bridge after the Ile St. Louis.  And, what should we discover a wonderful little park that juts out into the Seine.  So, we sat there for awhile enjoying the sun.  Afterwards we walked on the Seine close to the water.  It was amazing, for winter there were quite a number of tourists in Paris.  So, I guess Paris is also a popular winter destination.

As we were walking along the Seine, I saw a gentleman feeding all the pigeons.  He had pigeons eating from his mouth, hair, and if he had any other orifice exposed, thank God he didn’t, I’m sure the pigeons would be eating from there as well.  He was a very interesting character that makes Paris what it is…, in some ways eccentric, n’est pas?

As we got closer to the Notre Dame, I told Jack I deserve a snack for all the walking we did.  We found a little café across the street from the Prefecture that had a glass enclosed area where it felt like you were outside, but were actually inside.  Surprisingly it advertised they serve American coffee?  How weird.  But we went in anyway.  Jack had a beer and a pear tart, and I had the lemon tart with coffee for €22, imagine that.  We took advantage of just people watching and then headed out towards our neighborhood.  Walked back to the BHV and I broke down and bought the scarf that I’ve been eyeing (from Jack- quelle surprise!).  Came home and had a quiet evening.

Friday:   The goddesses giveth sun and taketh away sun.  So, today it’s pretty cloudy.  Got a call from our friend Sue Nally and she was in the “hood” so we told her to come over and I would do a little lunch for us.  She was inviting us to see an exhibit about a French poet at the Hôtel de Ville.  Sue came over and we had a wonderful lunch, and I had a change of heart and decided I did not want to go to a exhibit.  So, I stayed home to catch up on my napping, and Jack and Sue went out to the Hôtel de Ville.

In actuality, Jack and Sue never made it.  There was some confusion.  Sue was supposed to meet other friends at 1:30, but she thought it would be at 2 pm.  Her friends were already at the front of the line and Sue and Jack didn’t want to cut in, ‘cause that would’ve been an ugly scene.  So, they went for a walk and later joined a discussion group at the St Germain des Pres.

In Paris they have several groups for foreigners who want to practice their French, not that they have enough chances to do that, go figure?  So Jack and Sue went to one of the discussion groups.

I caught up with my sleep, and he came home around dinner time.  He also wanted to go to bed early since he, Xavier and Sue were planning to get up super early to try and get to the Grand Palais for the public exhibition of Yves St. Laurent’s collection.  Apparently, Yves and his life partner of 50-years collected a huge amount of art in their life time.  And, knowing he has taste, it would have been impressive. Since I don’t do mornings, I begged out.

Saturday:   Another semi-cloudy day.  Got a late start, quelle surprise.  Called our friend Tracy and we made arrangements to go have drinks later that afternoon.  In the meantime, I wanted to go to the 9eme to a cute little yarn store I went into last year, but was embarrassed and walked out.  If you recall, in France you must acknowledge people by saying bonjour, ‘cause you’re entering their store which it is like entering their house.  I didn’t say bonjour, and she took offense and was kinda snippy.  Thankfully, it was a different woman and didn’t remember me.  She was extremely helpful.

As we were walking towards the 9eme, we noticed that the street called, “Rue Bonne Nouvelle” had a flea along the streets.  Flea markets are very common in Paris.  Some were junk, but some were also incredible buys.  But since I’m downsizing, I’m not buying anything….

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