"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 21 -27, 2008

Monday: Cold day, albeit not uncomfortable. Low key day. Had to go to the groceries, running out food fast, shocking since we rarely eat at home.

Interestingly, we saw an accident on the road. A woman rear-ended a guy. The guy got out and yelled a few things, I’m sure they weren’t endearments, and then went to the side road waiting her to pull in along side, I’m assuming, like they do in the States, to exchange information. Well when the light turned green, the woman just kept going merrily on her way, but a number of pedestrian’s tried to stop her, to no avail, at least they got her car’s license.

Unpacked our groceries, and I’m busy trying to go through items sent from my insurance broker so I can get insurance in the US. What a hassle.

Had a quiet remainder of the day and evening.

Tuesday: Very nice warm day. Who knew? Me thinks Indian summer, or is that French summer is finally coming. Jack went off to the Sein to check out the Paris plage. It’s a great idea. There are a lot of less fortunate kids in Paris who can’t go to the beach or have summer homes to escape to. So, the government does something really nice for them. They have sand shipped in and placed in an area along the Seine where they can pretend they are on vacation and on the beach, with beach toys etc. How cool is that.

I on the other hand went shopping and did some other errands, since Mehran was having an “Encore” at the Palais Royale for a champagne picnic and pupus I had to go buy some stuff to make pupus. First I walked around the neighborhood since it was so nice and pleasant, than I went to Belleville, the new Chinatown, walked around there a little bit, then went to the Asian market. I got the stuff I needed and headed home. It was just still too warm to stay in and wait for Jack so I went out and walked the different parts of the neighborhood that I hadn’t seen before. It was great discovering new little areas. Than I decided to come home and take a nap before we headed to the Palais Royale.

Mehran has his nephew visiting from California and Tracy had just returned from a month in the States. So, it was great getting together and catching up. As usual in our crowds, the crowd grew to over 20-people. It was quite warm even when we broke up the party around 10 p.m. Funny story, Tracy had to go to the bathroom, I was helping her look for a bush or something. So we went behind this building that had a barrier, with a big gigantic box in the middle, it was a huge electrical transformer of some type with thick wires everywhere. It was the best we could find. So, I guarded the street while she went and we were so concerned that she might start an electric fire (lol), but luckily everything was OK. Tons of fun at the park.

Caught up with Nina as well, the photographer who we hadn’t seen in a while. She has lived in Paris for over 13 years and told us last week she got pickpocketed for the very first time. How strange. The scam is kids will pretend to help you through the turn stiles right behind you pushing you, and since this has never happened to her before, she assumed they truly were trying to unjam the turn stile. She was wearing a backpack with the zipper opening against her back. They managed to get into her backpack get her wallet with all her credit cards and her “carte de sejour.” Wow, what pros. Now whenever I get on the Metro I am like paranoid to death. Should I put my wallet in my undies, I mean I can tell when someone goes down there? Oh well.

Encore of our group get together at the Parc
Got home and it was still nice, warm and pleasant. Our upstairs neighbor is moving across to the apartment directly above us. He dropped by to say the piano movers are moving his piano across the hall around 7:30 am and just wanted to let us know he’s apologizing in advance for the noise. How nice was that. Am told that generally French people wouldn’t do that, than I realized he’s German, who knew?

Wednesday: Another warm day. What is going on here! We decided to take a walk since it was so beautiful out. It must’ve been at least 90 degrees out. So went to the Costarama like a Home Depot a couple of blocks from us. Got in, what a disappointment, I was expecting really unique fancy European “stuff”, but it’s basically what you can get at Home Depot, albeit some of the stuff is even cheaper looking and more costly. Who knew?

So, we decided to explore more the Lamarck area in the 18eme. They have some really beautiful streets, with very picturesque homes. After we walked a bit, it was just too hot, so we took the bus to Montmarte up to Place de Tertre thinking it would be great to get a drink there and watch all the crazy tourist. We got there, and there were thousands of crazy tourists, so we decided to head down to our favorite patisserie and get our afternoon proverbial pastries and sit at our local park and enjoy the view, or is that enjoying the pasties.

Home, ready for a quiet evening, since the next couple of days will be busy.

Thursday: Got up this morning, and it’s absolutely beautiful. We had some Internet connection problems, but it resolved itself before it was time for me to get coffee. So, inquiring minds want to know what are the costliest cities in the world. I checked CNN money and in March 2007 Paris ranked 2nd after Oslo, and as of June 2007, Moscow ranked #1, followed by London and Paris ranked 13 and only 2-US cities made it to the top 50, New York and L.A. San Francisco did not even make it in the top 50 (ranked 54) who knew? I guess this proves we are becoming a 3rd world country with cheap labor and cheap goods.

Hung out with J today, he had never been to the Butte Chaumont, so we took him there. It was such a beautiful day. It was fun just walking around the park, and J was on a roll, he should be a Comedian, he’s quite the funny guy. I laughed so much, I got gas, go figure.

J told us an interesting story that yesterday, he and Vincent saw Karl Lagerfeld on Rue St. Honoré. He said it was so surreal. I’ve seen celebrities, e.g., Lenny Kravitz (has a home in Montmarte), and Gerard Depardieu, but they were just hanging out like normal people. J told us that Karl had an entourage: a photographer, 2-boy toys, or were they body guards, and get this 2-wait people (a man and a woman) walking behind him and one holding a tray with one glass of wine directly behind him, so if he gets thirsty, all he has to do is turn or ask the wench to maybe dribble it down his mouth. I later found out from the French that he is either hated or loved. Does the word megalomaniac ring a bell? Vincent took a picture and I was going to post it, but he was so nervous that the picture came out really blurry. Oh well, you’ll just have to believe us.

After walking around the park and gossiping, we had a drink at a local café then we went our separate ways to freshen up before dinner. Jack and I decided to take the bus, what a mistake. It was packed. And, an incident happened that really disturbed me. The bus driver was the bitchiest woman I have ever seen. She pulled up to a bus stop, and clearly we all saw an elderly black gentlemen, trying to approach the bus, as he got close to the door, she shut the door and started taking off, and the man started hitting the bus with one of his 2 canes. Oh yeah, he was an invalid to boot. She finally gave in and let him on the bus, but scolded him for hitting the bus. Personally I would have taken one of those canes and hit her across the head. Could racism, or handicap abuse be the case here?

Got home to freshen up. Jack and I are taking J and Vincent out since they’re returning to the States, although J is coming back to Paris in September. So, we get to J’s house and Obama is all over European TV as he was giving his speech live in Germany. He’s a bit hit in Europe. What an eloquent wonderful speaker. He knows how to captivate an audience. The Europeans certainly love him. My new hero!!!

Afterwards, we went to Vincent’s for cocktails before dinner. Vincent rented a cute apartment close to J. He had one of those loft studios, where the bedroom was in the loft. This was different since you could stand in the loft. His French friend Felipe was there, and he had just arrived from Monaco where he’s originally from. So he had grand stories to tell us about how the rich and famous live in the South of France. FYI…, France has 5 of the 10 most expensive Real Estate in the world, and most are in the south who knew? Guess I won’t be going there.

Felipe had to leave so the 4 of us went to a restaurant around the corner called Le Reconfort. It was a really lovely restaurant. Wonderful décor, and the service was excellent. Like I always say, “Taste is in the mouth of the beholder.” I read the reviews after we ate there, and unanimously the French hated the food, whereas Americans loved it, go figure? Here’s my humble assessment. Some dishes were hits and some were misses. The gazpacho was anemic (was white) and very tasteless. My scallop carpaccio was atop some avocados, but unfortunately, the avocados were a bit too ripe which left a sour aftertaste, and the lemon or citrus encapsulating the dish just made it worse. The sardines were good. Now for the plat, the kidney with mash potatoes, their evening special was pretty boring. The kidney was served whole, it was a tad too rubbery, should have been cooked longer, or sliced and cooked as cutlets. As for the fish satay, the fish was cooked perfect, but the satay I think was too overwhelming. And, lastly the scallops over leeks was a hit. The restaurant provided good food for a very reasonable “European” standard. But if you’re looking for haut cuisine, this is not the place to go. Here’s the problem. When I got the bill it said in English “Tip not included.” J told us by French law service must be included. Are we playing semantics, service vs. tip, which is really the same in one. Methinks this is a ploy to intimidate foreign customers, especially Americans. Well we decided to leave just around €4. Also, oddly enough, they let customers at a corner table smoke. It’s illegal to smoke in restaurants in France. I was having a few problems with some of these issues, so I guess we won’t go back. Oh well. None-the-less, we had a great evening with J and Vincent. I have got to stop eating so much. This is what I look like today, immortalized forever, not a pretty picture!

Got home at about 1 am, stifling hot in our apartment, so I used the expensive fan I bought last month.

Friday: It really cooled down today. It’s even supposed to storm or maybe thunder storm. Who knew weather could be this dramatic? I’m a California boy, we don’t do extremes. Had a really quiet day. J invited us for dinner tonight so we can meet his 2-friends from St. Louis who are spending part of the summer in Amsterdam. A mother and Step-daughter, Judy and Michelle.

Got to J’s and the 5-guys were there, Vincent, J, Philippe, Jack and of course moi. J had to pick up the girls at the Gare du Nord around 8:30. J had a traditional American dinner of hamburgers, well, sorta typical. Had fabulous au gratin potatoes and appetizers of smoked duck and various pâtés.

We had a great time chitchatting. The girls are only going to be in Paris tonight and leaving tomorrow night at 6 pm. So we finished up about 11 pm and J was going to take the girls out on town for a quick tour of the “City of lights” and tomorrow he’s going to give them the fastest car tour of Paris (lol).

Got home early at 12:30 am, then it stormed pretty heavily all night.

Saturday: Did some errands, and later this evening we’re going to Jose and Pablo’s home for cocktails than out to dinner. On the good news front, I finally got US health coverage. I have to pay double what I would have paid for the Individual plan. Go figure? PLEASE future President Obama, fix our healthcare system!

Got to Jose’s and Pablo’s, and Irene was there. A Scottish woman we met at the 4th of July celebration earlier this month. Very interesting woman. She has lived in Paris for 32 years. She still has a Scottish accent, so I’m curious since she speaks fluent French if she also speaks it with a Scottish accent. I’ll have to ask a native speaker. We had great appetizers and drinks on J/P’s deck. I was careful not to eat too much, ‘cause last time I wasn’t even hungry.

We had reservations at 9:30 pm at Coup d’etat restaurant down the street. We walked there, and it was a really warm beautiful night. We sat inside and we basically had the right side of the restaurant to ourselves. The appetizers were OK. Two of us got the avocado with crab and tomato, albeit the crab was canned and Jack shared “chowed” vegetables with Pablo. Irene and I had the pan fried fish, Jack and Jose the lamb couscous tagine, which they liked, and Pablo had a hamburger. The fish was cooked really nice and simple. Crispy skin and tender meat. Irene didn’t eat the skin, I was tempted to grab it, but thought nah, I don’t want to seem “plouc” translated to uneducated trash or hick. It was warm so we had ice cream for dessert. We were about ready to leave, and we’re waiting for our bill. We were surprised that Jose and Pablo have already taken care of it. They’re so sweet, we invited them for dinner in the country next week, our neck of the woods, the Montmartre! (lol)

We all went on our separate ways, and looks like our timing was pretty good, ‘cause it started raining as we got out of Metro station to get home. All-in-all it was a lovely evening.

Sunday: Mehran is having a going away dinner for J, Vincent and his nephew. So, he asked since Christophe won’t be home til later tonight (he’s in the country with his family) if can help out; I will go a little earlier. Today is a really warm HUMID day. Too hot to take a walk. So we’ll just wait until it cools down a little bit. Surprisingly our bedroom is quite cool.

Got to Mehran’s and we did more chichatting than prepping, since he had done much of the work himself. The gang showed up around 8 pm. We had delicious patés, gazapcho, chicken salad, cheese and desserts, and of course, tons of wine. I decided to be good tonight since I have been drinking so much lately and stuck to mostly flavored water. It was a great going away party for J, Vincent and Amir who are leaving tomorrow to go back to the states, albeit J will return in September and Vincent probably sometime close to the end-of-the-year.

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