"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 28 - August 3, 3008

Monday: Woke up and it’s hotter than a pig in heat. The humidity is just unbearable. We had to do some errands, so we went to Chinatown first, since produce and a lot of stuff you can get at the larger supermarkets are much cheaper in Chinatown. I bought some chicken thighs and drumsticks and a lot of vegetables.

Got home, and I was curious as to why the chicken I buy in Chinatown is always so bony, not much meat, and so cheap. Well the mystery has been solved. Tried cooking it tonight and it took forever and it was still pretty tough. Methinks I’ve been getting rooster, who knew? Typically used for slow cooking to tenderize the meat, e.g. coq a vin. Oh well.

Jack went back to our regular store to get some orange juice, because they didn’t have his brand in Chinatown. Decided to stay in since it was just too hot to move around.

Quiet day, quiet evening, albeit it rained pretty heavily much of the day.

Tuesday: Still extremely humid, but just a tad cooler. So, we decided today we’d brave the Prefecture and see if my Carte De Sejour is ready. We went to the office in the 11eme (Bastille) where they told me I should wait a few weeks and pick it up. I’m thinking I know something is going to go wrong, it seems to always happen. We get to the office and they look, and look, and look, and could not find my carte de sejour. At least this time the woman was nice and called the main Prefecture in the La Cité, and turns out they had it and for us to go there. I’m just praying she didn’t misunderstand. So, Jack and I hightail it to the Ilê de la Cité, got to the Prefecture, and the woman behind the counter checked and their online system says it’s at the 11eme office. I’m thinking am I going to be bounced back and forth like a tennis ball. Then she decides to look, and look, and look, and VOILA she finds it. I can now proudly say, I AM LEGAL. I guess I can now cancel my fake marriage to get a green card called “marriage blanc” (to Mohammed from Senega (lol).

With glee, we decided to walk around the Seine, so I took some pictures of the Paris Plage, which is the man-made beach for less fortunate kids so they have a place to play during the August exodus for most of Paris to the beach resorts. However, there were more adults than children, oh well. Then we walked to the Hôtel de Ville, and the made a huge sandbox so the kids have a place to play. I tell you the Parisians know how to take care of their kids. (see pictures above)

Then went to BHG, pronounced “bay, ahsch, vay” which is a large department store in the La Marais. Went there to see if we can buy some gifts for John and Leen’s kids, who we are visiting on the August 9th in Belgium. Prices were horrible, and we didn’t understand any of the sizes. So, I just decided to knit some scarves to be on the safe side. Imagine knitting in August heat, oh well.

Jack went out and got some pastries ‘cause our friend Tracy is going to drop by around 4 pm and then off to the park for what is turning out to be our weekly picnic at the Palais Royale. Tracy didn’t show up at 4 pm so Jack and I decide to eat our pastry, she came around 5:30 pm. I made some pu-pus for the picnic and we all headed out there.

The picnic wasn’t as crowded as it normally is, but none-the-less it was a good turnout. We ran into Marie who we hadn’t seen in a very long time. She spent 2-months on the Island of Lesbos in Greece, yes, there really is a place called Lesbos, and apropos since she calls herself a Stiletto dyke. She looked great, all tanned and relaxed.

Got home reasonably early, 11 pm.

Wednesday: Beautiful sunny day, albeit again extremely humid! We made arrangements to go to the Annie Leibowitz photo exhibit in the La Marais. So we pretty much stayed in til about a quarter to 4. We were going to meet Mehran at the St. Paul metro station, then eventually meet our French friend Anne at the museum later, since she works until 6 p.m. Afterwards we would go to Michelle’s in the George V area for cocktails.

Got to the metro and Mehran has to return home. He inadvertently took Christophe’s phone and he needed to return it. So, Jack and I sauntered over to the exhibit. I was expecting a mob, there was a line, but it actually wasn’t bad. In Paris, many of the museums have a “gratuit” jour “free” day, many tourist don’t realize that. Typically, the first Sunday of the month is free or specific days, you need to check. So tonight after 5 p.m. it’s free. Got in and did I mention French don’t believe in airconditioning. The building was airconditioned, but it was at the highest possible temperature levels, so people who entered continued to fan themselves since it was so warm. I am very familiar with Anne Leibovitz’s work, so many of the photos I recognized. What’s more interesting about her photos is that they tell a story, especially with her late life partner Susan Sontag. I actually quite enjoyed it. So, we finished about 6:30 and saw Anne arrive. We told her we’d wait, but she said she takes a long time, so we would go ahead and meet her at Michelle’s later. Mehran had decided not to go to the museum but meet us later at Michelle’s as well.

So, Jack and I had a few minutes to roam around. It was so warm, we decided to get in line for some gelato. Man, ice cream never tasted so good. Headed towards Michelle’s apartment. I think I mentioned she lives by the “George V”. It is probably one of the most swankiest places to live. You’re surrounded by all the designer houses like Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, and Dolce Gabbano just to name drop a few. As we got off the metro, we passed a woman with an accessory in her bag, a Chihuahua. Then we passed this outdoor café with a bunch of woman who obviously all went to the same plastic surgeon, ‘cause they all had that snooty, pulled back hair look, trying to look 20 when they’re actually in their 50’s and 60’s. Then we passed by Louis Vuitton’s design house and 2 very elegant middle eastern woman came walking out with colorful headscarfs carrying gigantic bags, so they must a dropped a few thousands. Finally we get to Michelle’s house, she lives off the Seine.

Michelle’s building was once owned by Lalique. The front entrance to her apartment has this gigantic ornate glass carved door that must’ve weighed a ton. Got into Michelle’s apartment, and I couldn’t believe how large it was. It was HUGE. In Paris, you rarely see anything this large. Her apartment had all the original marble in the bathroom and kitchen, and the fireplace mantels that were all designed by Lalique. They recently had a Lalique exhibition and her apartment was featured in it, well anyway, the photos. On the very top floor some princess lives up there and she has her own little “pied-a-tére” a little glass room on top of the roof that affords her a view of all Paris, how decadent.

Anne showed up a little later, and Michelle and her beautiful daughter Jennifer served us all sorts of drinks and pu-pus. Then Mehran came. We had a wonderful time just sitting around and gabbing. Had a cheese I never had before, it’s called “Chèvre cendré”, it’s a goat cheese coated in ash, that’s right ash. The ash is edible, go figure. So, it’s my new favorite cheese. I am so fickle.

Left early and got home around midnight. Nice evening!

Thursday: It was hotter than a pig in heat, as I like to say. And, very humid to boot. We had to go downtown to exchange my “Carte Bleue”. In France, or for that matter in Europe, most people use a card with a chip in it. It’s used like a debit card, and everywhere you go you use it including restaurants. They spelt my name wrong on the card, Rany instead of Randy. Even though they never check your identity I figure I was just too old to change my name. We got to the bank downtown, did I mention that the French don’t believe in airconditioning. Well it was so hot in that bank it felt like a sauna. I stood in line just dripping in sweat. I’m sorry, but if we did that in the states, not having any airconditioning during a heatwave, I think OSHA would be all over us. Oh well. Got my new card and I was so drenched in sweat that I told Jack let’s go to the Galerie Lafayette, I’m sure that’s airconditoned because they want to attract tourist. I was right, we went window shopping for an hour or 2 just because they had aircondtioning.

Tonight we’re meeting our friend Nina who lives in the 11eme. She’s a photographer and does a lot of projects for many of the museums around Paris. We are also going to meet Christophe and Mehran and try this Ethiopian restaurant. None of us had been there before, but we were feeling adventurous. I was sure that the food was going to be mild.

As we left our apartment to head to the restaurant it started raining. The rain actually felt good ‘cause it cooled down the temperature a bit. Got to the restaurant, and shortly thereafter Nina and the boys showed up. Now for the food, I was very, very surprised. The food was really, really good. And, some of the dishes were very spicy, just the way we like it. What was odd though was that the vegetables were not spicy, but the meats and chickens were, it’s usually reversed, go figure? None-the-less we had a great evening and we all said we’d definitely go back, even Christophe who really only likes French food, how French? N’est pa?

Friday: Cooler today. I wanted to go to the Bon Marché, but Jack didn’t, so we decided to do what each of us wanted to do. He went to do some errands, e.g., pick up our train tickets for Belgium, and I wanted to go food shopping. I love Bon Marché. The grocery store is fantastic. I could spend hours in there. Unfortunately, everything is quite expensive, so I only bought items that you can’t normally buy in a regular grocery store, e.g. wasabe. I also decided to check out the department store since it is still “soldes” month. Even with the month long sales, it was unbelievably expensive. Imagine paying $500 for a pair of tennis shoes, methinks not. Oh well.

I decided to head home, drop by our local bakery first and chitchat with our favorite baker and then head on home. Of course, I got pastries for our afternoon tea time. Jack came home shortly thereafter, and he ran into Mathias our upstairs neighbor. They actually chitchatted for quite a long while, in French, about what’s happening in the ‘hood’.

I was craving home cooking, so we stayed in, cooked dinner and had a quiet evening.

Saturday: Did I mention that the weather here is schizophrenic. Well today is cloudy, wet and cold. We went from a heat wave to an ice freeze all within 48-hours, go figure. Not a good day to go out, but had to go to the grocery though to get some wine and champagne ‘cause our friends Jose and Pablo are coming over for cocktails tomorrow night and then we go to our favorite Hungarian restaurant in the ‘hood.’ Still a lot of tourist in the ‘hood’ all wearing shorts and t-shirts, I guess they got caught off guard as well.

Got home from the grocery store and decided to do laundry and just stay in since it is a yucky day. Jack took another walk before dinner, just to keep his svelt new body thin. I on the other hand had a cocktail and made dinner. I wonder where his fat is going to?

Sunday: Another ugly day. Cloudy, cold and drizzly. I stayed in and knitted some gifts for Jon and Leen’s kids who we’re going to visit in Belgium this week-end.

Pablo and Jose came over after they roamed around and went shopping in the Montmarte. I served Kir Royale. Bellieve it or not, here it can come premixed. It looks like a dark purple champagne bottle. The Kir is already added. Who knew? How cool is that.

Afterwards we went to one of our favorite restaurants in the ‘hood’ Budapest. The guys had never had Hungarian food, so it was fun to introduce them to some of the traditional dishes, FYI…, Jack’s grandmother is Hungarian. Jose had the warm borscht soup, Pablo and Jack had the Palacintas, and I had the foie gras, how French. The entrees were fabulous, and the he main courses (chicken paprikash, beef and cabbage) were c’est delicieux. . All-in-all the food was very good, albeit heavy, well that’s Eastern European cuisine for ya.

Jose and Pablo came back to the apartment to pick up all the goodies they bought, and we sat and chatted some more. Then they left.

We had a really wonderful evening despite the drizzly cold day.

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