"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 9 - 15, 2009

Monday:  It’s cold and rainy.  My cold seems to be getting worse, oh well.  My American ex-pat friends are coming over for apéros around 6 pm.  Apéros are like a cocktail party with different tidbits or as we say in Hawaii pupus to eat, or like serving tapas with lots of wine before dinner.  Of course, I went overboard and made a lot of food.    As most of you know, that would not be unusual for me.  I was definitely not feeling well, but my cold was breaking, which is good news.  So I pretty much stayed in bed and slept all day while Jack went out to do a few errands like get a dessert for tonight. 

At about 4 pm I finally got out of bed and starting making some of the pupus. I was going to make a light dinner afterwards, but I made so much food, I decided we’re Americans; we don’t need to have a late dinner.  Plus Tracy fades out by 10:30 pm, how un-French, but then again we’re ‘Mericans.  Our friends arrived around 6 pm and with the exception of Aldo, we’re all ex-pats, with Michele having lived here the longest at close to 20-years.  It was sort of funny, because Aldo doesn’t really speak English and Tracy his concubine (live-in girlfriend) has been trying to encourage him to speak English, just like when we speak French.  So, tonight was reverse role play. He actually did pretty well.  I told him I would speak French, albeit badly, and he can respond in English.

Our little girl Tracy is all grown up now.  She’s a new working girl, and the legitimate kind too, had to leave relatively early by French standards at 9:30.  Aldo, of course left with her, since he was opening up his antique store as well.

Mehran and Michelle stayed on a bit longer, and we caught up some more.  We made a date that on the 21st we would all try and do dinner with the old gang.

Tuesday:  I’ve been cooped up for 2-days, and woke up and it’s raining.  So what does one do when it’s raining, typically I say go to the mall.  But the new Randy decided to get educated and told Jack let’s go to a museum.  We went to the Histoire Musee de Paris (Carnavalet) in the Marais.  It’s actually only a few blocks from here.  Looks can be deceiving, because from the outside it looks quite small, but once you get in it’s quite extensive and large.  Unlike in the summer where they don’t air-condition anything, there was no problem with the heating system, in fact it was darn right tropical.  I should have checked my 50-pound winter jacket in, but oh well, save a few Euros here and you can spend it on wine later.

Lots of paintings and sculptures from Paris’ different era.  My favorite was probably the decadent years.  It’s just so me…
Then walked around some more until I came across one of the fanciest baby cribs I’ve ever seen, adorned in silk and gold. It was shaped like a little ship. Imagine having a baby sh*t, spitting, puking and all the other good stuff babies do in that crib, well at least they’re doing it in style.

Wednesday:  Not a bad day, it’s alternating between the sun coming out and also being overcast.  I’m having a few friends over for dinner Friday and since I’m doing Asian this go around, I need to either go to the 13eme arrondissement (Chinatown) or Belleville.  Jack said Belleville is in walking distance of our apartment.  I’m thinking, OK I could use the exercise.  Well let me tell you, Jack’s definition of close is not my definition of close.  His definition of close is being able to hike there; my definition is 2 or 3 blocks.  It was a tad further than I expected but manageable.

When we got there close to 2 pm. (we get started late in Paris), we got really hungry.  For some reason Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) sounded really good.  Could it be because it’s freezing?  So we decided just to walk around to find an interesting Pho place.  We came across Dong Huong, at first I took a double take because it looked like “Dong Hung” with a name like that who wouldn’t want to go in, n’est pas?  It had 3-separate rooms, each with tables so tightly squeezed together a girdle couldn’t get any tighter.  It was packed, but the crowd was starting to dissipate.  We got seated next to the window, but I was smacked up against a women’s back while Jack was backed up against this really huge guy’s back, talk about talking behind someone’s back.  Fortunately, they soon left and we had the area pretty much to ourselves.  So, the trick is eat lunch later, no problem for us since we typically don’t eat lunch until 2 pm anyway.  The Pho was really good and prices reasonable, we’d definitely go back.

Afterwards, went to the Asian grocery store called, what else, “The Paris store” how original, well it least it wasn’t called “Dong Ho”.  Brought the groceries back home, and then pretty much had a quiet evening at home.

Thursday:  Sunny day, albeit very cold.  We decided we’d take a walk along the Seine and try to find where Tracy’s new office and give her a scare.  As we walked along the Seine it actually started snowing a little here and there, but did not stick.  Couldn’t find her office, I had to buy some socks so we went into CA a local department store then  Jack asked where I’d like to go, I told him Galeries Lafayette.  He said it was in walking distance; remember Jack’s definition of walking distance? Well it was more than a hike, but at least along the way we got to see some very interesting areas.  Paris has these “passages” they’re like little covered alley ways in between buildings with cute shops and restaurants.  You could actually make it a career to write a book and list all the passages they have in Paris.  We came across Passage Vivienne; it was really neat, because it was all lit up.  Not very interesting stores, just those fashion boutiques we hear so much about, where you need to take out a second mortgage to buy anything, (lol)!

Finally got to Galéries Lafayette and it was typically crowded.  We decided to have a late Lunch around 4 pm at the top floor caféteria.  I have to say that for a caféteria it has really good food.  I had a cold salad of pasta, salmon, Shrimp and mussels, imagine that?  Jack had the lox salad.

As we sat at our table, I noticed an elderly gentlemen with his dog sit next to us.  He had a heap of food on his tray you just could not imagine.  I assumed there was someone with him.  Turns out he was by himself.  He wasn’t obese or anything, but he started with this soup, then a vegetable salad, followed by chicken, then a green salad, and then cheese and then dessert, and of course lots of wine?  Wow! Imagine eating all that? I was impressed!

Afterwards, we decided to walk home, and Jack said it wasn’t too far.  Well this time he went too far, literally.  It was easily a marathon distance from Galéries Lafayette to our apartment.  By the time we got to Rue Saint Dénis I could barely walk.  What made it interesting, as you may recall from last year’s missives, this is the street where they have 70-year street walkers.  I found them so fascinating, it begs the question, do they get customers? Talk about a senior citizen moment?

Further down, I also noticed something really interesting.  They had all these men; I’m assuming recent immigrants, with their dollies.  I wish I had taken a picture of it, but I barely had the strength to lift my feet.  It looked like a perfectly neat row of dolly’s queuing up to start a job.  Apparently, this area is a wholesale area, so when lots of merchandise need to be schlep from place to place, they have instant man with dolly, who knew?

Finally got home and I crashed!

Friday:  Cold wet day, but I had to do some more errands for tonight’s dinner party.  So first stop our neighborhood Chinese grocer for fresh vegetables.  I found some Bok Choy for tonight.  Then went to G20 grocery store to guy some staples.  While there I was trying to look for bay leaves, or what they call here laurel.  As I may have mentioned, you cannot do one stop shopping here in Paris.  You have to go to several different stores for this and that…  However, in the suburbs you have Carrefour or Auchan which are like huge Super Wal-Mart’s, but much nicer.

After G20 I asked Jack to check at another grocery store, while I went home to unpack the groceries.  He actually went to 2-other Grocery stores, and, oh well, no bay leafs.  I decided to check online, because I remember there was a spice market nearby.  It was called Epicerie Bruno (Bruno’s spices) on Rue Tiquetone.  Yep, it’s a real street name, pretty shocking eh?  I got all excited and told Jack let’s take a walk there.  So we did, got into the store and do you think the spice store carried bay leaves, you’d be correct if you said no, go figure?.  But he was kind enough to let us know where we could find some.  He told us to go down to the Montorgueil and at the produce store we’d find some laurel.  Got there, and I typically use dried bay leafs, but they only had fresh which is fine, got them and cradled them home.  Who knew it could be so difficult to find bay leafs?  Oh well.

Took a quick nap and around 6 pm started cooking dinner.  Mathias our German friend, Xavier and Sue, Léandre, and a new friend Sarinda from Madagascar would be coming for dinner.  We’re hoping that the single Sarinda would hook up with one of the newly separated from their partners Mathias or Léandre.  Just call me cupid Randy. Dinner conversation was interesting, it switched from English, German and French, with French being the dominate language.  I dare average Americans to try and keep up with this conversation.  Xavier also speaks Dutch, so I was tempted to get a Dutch speaker just to add some spice!

Sarinda and Léandre brought beautiful flowers.  Our apartment feels like a florist, got flowers last week and two bunches today.  Nonetheless, I love flowers, I just have to sneeze every so once awhile, oh well, the price we pay for a little bit of beauty.

Xavier, Sue, Léandre and Sarinda left at about 1:30 am and Mathias left around 3 am.  All-in-all was a nice evening.

Saturday: Woke up late, what a surprise?  It’s a sunny day today, so we decided to give Tess, our housekeeper some privacy so she can do her “thing.”  We left at about 1:30 pm and decided to walk around the Montorgueil.  I saw some fabulous looking pizza on the street, so decided to have some.  It looked better than it actually tasted.  Today is Valentine’s Day.  You’d never know it with the lack of any Valentine’s commercialism that we have in the U.S.  I’m assuming it’s not as big a Holiday as you would think it would be in the city of “romance”, oh well. The only sign that I saw of Valentine’s, I came across these flowers at the Florist.  Even the chocolatier did not have any hearts or any of that “stuff” we see in the states…

After tromping around the Montorgueil, we headed back to our apartment for a bathroom break.  Tess was still busy cleaning so after our rest stop we took off again.  This time to BHV just to do some window shopping.  France is technically in recession. You would never know that by the amount of shoppers in the store.  It was pretty mobbed, so we left and took a walk around the other parts of the Marais.

Since tonight is Valentine’s Jack said let’s go out to dinner, and I said no.  Imagine that? But I was concerned that since it was a Saturday the restaurants would be packed, so we decided to have a quiet evening and home and go out next week for Valentines.

I was also told that for the next 2-weeks it’s a school Holiday.  It’s like our ski week in the US.  So many families head out of Paris to quieter grounds.  So I’m going to assume it’s going to be a little quieter in Paris next week.  We’ll see.

Sunday:  Got a late start, how shocking?  Got a call from Léandre, it’s such a beautiful sunny day why don’t we get together with he and his sister Evelyne.  So we made plans to meet in the front of the Japanese cultural center near the Eiffel tower at 3 pm.  We’re becoming so French, we were all late running about 15-minutes behind, not too bad.  We walked down passed the Eiffel tower and then onto the Musee de Quai Branly. It truly is a rare beautiful day, sooooo sunny, who knew?   It’s an interesting museum, because it is eco-friendly.  The outside of part of the building is all grass and natural weeds etc.  This is primarily to absorb some of the pollution.  The inside of the building housed different indigenous art from around the world, primarily of the Oceanic and Asian countries.  Very interesting.  Funny, we had visited most of these countries, so I was actually able to give Léandre a few lessons.  Jack went off with Evelyn, and Evelyn being the consummate teacher, gave Jack a lesson in all the art, plus she had already been to that museum.

After the museum, we decided to walk along the Seine, then I had suggested since we’re so close to the American Church, we may as well go see which artist is performing there.  As you may recall from last year’s missives, the American Church has different artists from around the world perform every Sunday at around 5 pm, and it’s basically free, you can give a donation if you like.  We went and saw John Muratore, a pretty well known guitarist, he was great.

Afterwards, we were all feeling hungry and decided why not have an early dinner.  It’s around 7 pm, so by French standards it is VERY early.  Léandre knew of a restaurant at the Champs Elysée called Flam’s, which is short for flammenkueche an Alsace pizza typically topped with cream, onions, and cheese and other toppings like ham.  And, surprisingly, it’s all you can eat, who knew?  Got to the restaurant, and it wasn’t too crowded.  We started ordering pizza, after pizza, after pizza.  The pizzas are very deceiving because it’s really thin crusted.  It almost looks like matzos topped with all sorts of goodies.  Although thin, they’re quite filling, because of the rich sauces.  We had a great time.  So, around 10 pm we had finished, and I thought Evelyne was asking if I wanted to go home, and I said yes, but she was asking if I want to go have degustation (after dinner drink) somewhere else), oh well.  Typically, I never turn down a free drink, but after a few glasses of wine, my French gets worst, not better.  And, Evelyn speaks no English.

We decided to walk down Champs Elysée towards our respective metro stops, and said our good-byes.  Jack and I took the metro to Hotel de Ville, then we walked back to the apartment since it was such a nice evening.

All-in-all, it’s been a great day and a great week.  Ah, la vie est belle!  I should be so lucky!


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