"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

July 14-20,2008

Monday: Bastille Day. Got up really late. The night before, the Montmarte area was busy with parties. The Rue des Abbesses had a band set up and turned the plaza into a little disco. The music resonated up to our apartment, and at the Place de Tertre there were live bands playing, and throughout the neighborhood firecrackers were going off. The Bastille Day is a huge holiday. The partying went through the night and early morning. I think it stopped around 6 am. Oh well.

Got a call from Brad saying that his metro station is closed. Told him not to worry, we can get to a different one and walk. We’re watching TV right now and seeing all the parades and planes. Jeff and Brad rented an apartment in the heart of all the festivities, so we decide we’ll get together earlier than previously planned, at 4 pm.

4 pm went to Brad and Jeff’s apartment. They have an apartment by the Eiffel tower. It’s on the top floor the 7eme etage or what American’s know as the 8th floor. The windows were practically floor to ceiling with a picturesque view of the Eiffel. Perfect for later this evening to watch the fireworks.

We had a wonderful visit. It felt comforting to see people from home, in particular Serene Lakes. We gabbed and gabbed and realized it was already close to dinner time. So, we decided let’s head over to the Eiffel tower park, Champ de Mars to find Jöel who had camped out there at 3 am in the morning. There were quite a number of people. Police barricaded the area and we all had to go through security, which made sense. Got half way through the park, saw the huge band arena and we basically all looked at each other and said let’s go. On Bastille Day apparently famous musicians come to perform and many times you don’t know who’s showing up until you’re actually there.

We headed to the Rue Cler, which a couple of days ago we could not get into any restaurant because it was too crowded. There was a free table and Jack and Brad grabbed the table while Jeff and I are still looking at menus across the street. We decided since they got a table we’ll eat there. Don’t even remember the name of the café but the menu was definitely geared towards Americans. Imagine seeing hamburgers 4 different ways. I almost broke down and got one, but I decided on the salmon salad, while the 3 boys got risotto and a pasta dish. Nothing to write your mother about, but it was nourishing none the less.

We decided to head back to the apartment to watch the fireworks. The guys had dessert ready for us and wine, now that’s what I call slumming (lol). We waited and then bam, bam, thank you mam, the fireworks started. Talk about a private show. We had the best view, and it went on for about an hour.

Past midnight we looked down the streets and it looked like little ants all heading towards the Metro. I thought, wow we’re in trouble. So we went to the bathroom a couple of times just in case we’d have to walk home.

We got to the Metro station, and I have to hand it to the French, well organized. They had police all around managing and controlling the crowds. They had Metro police controlling people so people could get on the Metro’s without having a mob scene. Got home safe and sound around 1:30 am. I have to say, kudos to them. We got to our Metro station and a disco was set up, but the music was traditional French country music, who knew? We didn’t stay, we headed home.

Tuesday: Got up super late and decided we should chance getting our “Carte de Sejour” since it’s already been 2-weeks. So, we head to the Prefecture, keep in mind Jack and I up to this point did everything in tandem. His was ready and mine was not, go figure? So I guess I’m an illegal alien. If I get deported to a 3rd world country like the US, what am I going to do?!? (lol). They were very kind this time around and told us mine might be ready in 2-weeks.

So we went to the Gard de Nord train station to pick up our tickets for Belgium. Oh yeah, we’re going to visit friends in Northern Belgium August 9. Hopefully, I’ll have my “carte de sejour” or I really will have overstayed my visit in France and be deported. They’ve already deported 15,000 people year to date, I hope it won’t be 15,001. Got to the train station and they had a Choir singing Gregorian music, how surreal. Got to the ticket windows and the lines were unbelievable. So, Jack decided to use their automated system. Big mistake. Our tickets were special tickets which will allow us to travel throughout Belgium on the same ticket. So, after we got the automated tickets, we approached one of the workers, and he told us they weren’t the tickets we wanted. So, we got in line, unfortunately, it was frustrating waiting, so we left and Jack will try to figure it out later.

Went to Belleville to buy some Asian groceries, then home, cooked dinner and had a quiet evening.

Wednesday: Got up and decided to watch the news a little bit. Can our US economy sink any lower? The dollar hit an all time low against the Euro. Imagine, a Euro cost $1.60, unbelievable. Bush can’t get out of office soon enough for me. I am Independent, but historically, if you look at our economy, whenever a Democrat was in office, except Carter, the economy has always done well. I’ve already lost a third of my life savings, very scary!!!!

We are going to meet Brad, Jeff and our friend Mary Jo at the Metro Abbesses station, have lunch and than tour the Montmarte area a little bit. The boys have never had Tagine, so I had recommended we go to our favorite down the street. We got to the restaurant, there was a sign posted that they’re closed till mid-September, they’re on holiday. I just love the Europeans, imagine closing your business for 5-6 weeks and think nothing of it. Try doing that in the states and there’d be so much brouhaha.

So, we walk up the street to another Tagine place, and they’re closed too. I figure it was not meant to be, so we went up to the Place de Tertre and Mary Jo recommended a café she went to recently, got there, and it too was closed!!!! However, she spotted a cute little courtyard bistro away from the touristy area of Montmarte. It was quite lovely, it was like having our own little garden dining room. We had typical French food, meat and potatoes, (lol). Well in a way, French are a meat and potato eating society, they just cook it differently. Brad and Jeff are vegaquarians, so they had pasta. And, I had the cheese plate for dessert.

Lunch was fun, we just gabbed, and gabbed away. Afterwards, we walked towards some of the more scenic areas of Montmarte, and Jack walked Mary Jo to the Metro since she had something important to do, SHOPPING, she’s returning to the States Monday and needs to buy souvenirs.

Brad/Jeff/Jack and our Metro stop Rue des Abbesses and the 3-boys with our good friend Marcy Jo having lunch in Montmarte.

The boys and I headed back to the apartment because they had to go to the bathroom. Dizzy Randy couldn’t remember what he did with the apartment key. So, we had to wait for Jack, but we waited at the produce store where Amelie was filmed.

The boys came in and we continued our little chat. I’m not sure if they’re still in shock about Paris apartments. Their apartment is small as well. Ours is a bit larger, but I explained to them, that our apartment is a normal sized apartment in Paris, and our kitchen is actually considered large. Who knew?

The guys went home, and we decided to stay in for a quiet evening.

Thursday: Cool today, but not bad. We decided to go to the La Defense to look for a small birthday gift for Jeff, we’re getting together later tonight for dinner. Got to the mall, and Jack was in one of his shopping moods, so he bought some clothes because he lost weight and some of his clothes are fitting pretty loosely. Since we were unable to get tagine, I decided to look for a vegetarian tagine cookbook. Vegetarian cookbooks in France are very limited, then I remembered Jeff saying that he was craving pomme fritte or fried potatoes, and I found a great French cookbook on potatoes, or in French “pomme de terre.”

Had our proverbial afternoon pastries then headed home, took a nap (what a surprise) before it was time to head out to Jeff and Brad’s apartment.

Got there about 7 p.m. As I mentioned they have a beautiful view of the Eiffel tower. The apartment was set up interestingly. It was a studio, but they had a loft for their bed. The stairs leading into the loft is steep and narrow. All I kept on thinking was that if I lived there I’d need a bike helmet in case I fell out of bed, and as much as I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night half asleep, I would surely fall off the loft and through the window to a quick sudden death. Oh well.

Had some wine and then headed off to the restaurant called “Fish La Boisionnerie” in the 6eme. It’s own by American and French partners. As the name suggests they specialize in fish. It’s a tiny restaurant, packed liked sardines, excuse the pun. Fortunately, Brad made reservations ahead of time so we got a nice table in the back against the wall, so it was a bit cozier. It was very surreal, ‘cause you can hear English being spoken every where around you. It almost felt as though we weren’t in Paris at all, but the telltale giveaway was the cramp-ness of the restaurant, and the steep stairway leading to the bathrooms, and of course the prices.

They had a limited menu, which I always think it’s a good idea, that way they do a few things well as opposed to doing a lot of things mediocre. We started with our entrées. Brad had the gazpacho with crisp calamari, and Jack had the mackerel and Jeff and I had the mozzarella salad. All our entrees were excellent. They served a warm foccacia, and our waitress kept refilling it without being asked, how un-French. For our plat the three had dorade fish, and I had the tuna. The latter was pan seared quickly what they called “bleue” which means very rare in French. It was excellent. Bien sur, we had tons of wine. We couldn’t pass up dessert, I’m sure they didn’t bake it, but they got it for a local patisserie, it was all excellent, we had chocolates and citron tarts. Great place, will definitely go back!

All in all it was a fabulous dinner. Jeff if you’re reading this, HAPPY 39TH BIRTHDAY is that in dog years or cat years? Brad and Jeff were very French, they took us out to dinner. In French culture if it’s your birthday you treat, in America it’s the other way around, who knew? THANKS BRAD AND JEFF!

Although they’ve been together 34-years, newly weds Brad and Jeff celebrating Jeff’s birthday at “Fish la Boisionnerie”

We went back to their apartment, since Brad and Jeff are leaving Saturday to go to Belgium, we got a nice little care package of various cheeses. On our way home on the metro, Jack kept asking me if I fa*ted, I kept telling him no, but he didn’t believe me, it was the cheeses. Boy did they smell.

Got home about our regular time 1 am.

Friday: Weather is kind of gloomy today. We’re to meet José and Pablo tonight for drinks and dinner. They used to live in Spain so they changed their names from Joe to José and from Paul to Pablo. Then when they moved to France, José frenchified it to Josée, pronounced Joezeh. It’s probably too much information, but I always find stuff like that interesting. So I’m thinking of legally changing my name to the French pronunciation of Rundee, you have to roll the “r” at the back of the throat.

Jack got a baguette and we decided to have the cheese. Boy did they smell, but like the saying goes about cheese, the smellier they are the better tasting they are, and I have to admit they were c’est délicieux.

Got a message from our friend Vincent that J’s friend got pick pocketed on the number 1 metro. This particular line goes from La Defense to the Bois de Vincennes, passing by most of the places of interest to tourists, and is notorious for pick pocketers since it’s widely used by tourists. What was interesting is J’s friend had his wallet in his front pocket. Hmmm, these pick pocketers must’ve been really good! Although not foolproof I do a few things to prevent being pickpocketed. First, I always carry a messenger bag. On the inside is a zippered compartment. I have my wallet with a few credit cards and cash. I have a chain on that wallet that is pinned to my messenger bag. So, it’s zipped and chained. And, I always hold it in front of me when I’m on a crowded train. I also have a small change wallet that I keep in my front pocket that I can easily get to, but I don’t usually have a lot of money in it and definitely no credit cards. Thus far, knock on wood, I haven’t been pick pocketed. I was pick-pocketed many years ago and made a vow I would be more cautious. A bit neurotic wouldn’t you say?

Got to Pablo and Jose’s home. It’s smack dab in the middle of Paris, close to Les Halles. They live on the French 5th floor or in American that would be the 6th. The apartment is so tiny, but hey had a terrace that made up for the small size. The kitchen was unbelievably tiny, I had to take a picture of it so people in the US have an idea what a typical French kitchen is, it’s about this size of a small closet. Normally it’s not in a closet but is more exposed. Jose is also a painter and has beautiful work that I took pictures of.

After a few proverbial aperitifs, we headed to one of their favorite restaurants down the street called L’Epicerie. This is definitely a very French bistro. You will find very few or any tourists here at all. Everyone in the restaurant knew the 2-guys. Apparently, they go there twice a week for dinner and they’ve been doing it for 8-years.
The food was good, Pablo and I got the confit de canard, and Jose and Jack got fish. Had a great time. Afterwards, we decided to cap off the night with a drink on the Seine. So, we found a lovely boat docked on the Seine that’s used as a bar. It was nice, albeit a little rocky. How do you prevent seasickness; you drink, that way you can’t tell if you’re drunk or seasick. Learned that from many years of cruising. Who knew?

Left about 12:30 am and as we were heading towards the metro there were groups of young people pickinicking on a pedestrian bridge. It was very festive, but a bit to crowded and claustrophobic for me.

Got home at a reasonable time at about 1:30 am.

Saturday: Lazy day. Haven’t been sleeping very well, so we decided to stay in and do chores, take naps. Had a quiet day and dinner.

Sunday: Got up late. I think I mentioned there’s a lot of filming that takes place in Montmarte because the streets are typically French. It seems in the past 3-weeks we’ve had a shooting a week in front of our street, right below our bedroom window. Some French, some English and some American film makers.

We decided to take a walk through the 17eme, a place we’re not familiar with and it’s right next door. So, we went and got off at the Parc Monceau metro station. It borders the 17eme and the 8eme arrondissement. It’s a really beautiful area. I’m so fickle, it’s my new best place to live. Sat around the park to enjoy the sun albeit it was a bit ‘nippy.’ Then we walked around the neighborhood. There were 4-entrances, and each entrance had a unique gigantic ornate gate. How lovely. We decided to walk home to get some exercise and then get ready to meet our friend Mary Jo for dinner in the 13eme.

The movie that may never have gotten filmed: We left our apartment about 6 pm, and took our normal route to the metro station. Jack and I typically don’t walk side by side, because he walks really fast, and I don’t. As we were descending the stairs towards the metro I noticed a number of people below and tables and booths, I figured it was probably another film shoot. So, I slowed down, but Jack continued on. They asked him to wait for 2-minutes, and he told them NO he was in a hurry. I tried to yell to Jack to tell him it was a film shoot, but he just kept going. One guy grabbed his arm, Jack pushed it away. I figured there was no stopping him so I hurried to catch up with him. A woman told me to wait 2-seconds in English, I said, first you say 2-minutes now you’re saying 2-seconds, I’m in hurry and rushed to Jack. As he got through the filming area, Jack finally realized they were filming. Talk about front center stage. All eyes were on us. So, now we’re the as*hole Americans who almost stopped filming. Oh well.

Got to Mary Jo’s and she lives on the 33rd floor of a high rise in the 13eme. She lives in Paris part-time and was leaving for the US Monday. So we decided to take her out for a farewell dinner. She had a great view of the south part of Paris. The 13eme is the old Chinatown. So, naturally we decided to have dinner at a Chinese restaurant. As we walked towards the heart of Chinatown, I noticed a corner restaurant with a lot of people. Always a good sign. It was a Chinese buffet, called “Buffet à Volonté” who knew? We went in and it was odd, you had to pay first before you can start the buffet. I guess one too many people left before paying. Quite a varied selection of food. For a buffet it wasn’t bad at all.

Stuffed like a goose getting ready to be made into Foie gras, we decided to take a long walk back to Mary Jo’s apartment. Took her home, and I took a few night pictures from her place, bid her farewell and got home early, midnight.

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