"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

June 30-July 6, 2008

Monday: Low key day, wanted to stay close to the apartment, ‘cause I just found out that my younger brother had a heart attack and is due for bypass surgery today.

I got a package from my sister, so decided to walk to our local Post Office. This time around, it was packed and the line was out the door. Remember I said earlier there is NO CONSISTENCY in following policies and procedures in Paris. Well I got to an agent, and was told that he would not accept my California Drivers license as ID nor any other ID unless it was a passport. I tried to explain to him that the woman sitting next to him accepted my California ID last week, he ignored me, and she did too for that matter.

So, I rushed home with Jack, got my passport and headed back to the Post Office. Still long lines. Waited again. As I got close to the agent windows, a young guy got the same jerk I had earlier. The jerk left the customer at the window what seemed like almost 15-minutes, I’m guessing he went to take a smoke break or something. The customer finally said something to one of the workers, and she decided to finish his transaction, UNBELIEVABLE!!!! There were only 2 windows open during peak time. Unbeknownst to us in line, they decided to close the 2-windows in the Post Office at exactly noon. Jack was outside, but stood by a window where I could see and hear him. And he told me that they had also closed the outside door as well?!?!. It’s not the postal workers that would go “postal” it’s the French customers that should go postal. Talk about postal rage. The French postal workers have it too damn easy, I want their jobs! They never gave us any indication as why they were closing down the post office (e.g., something serious like a terrorist attack maybe?). A woman behind us got really pissed off and said a few things in French (very un-French) and then they decided to open a window for only getting packages, and something else, which I wasn’t sure of. I find it sad and humorous that more French people don’t speak up, they really do not like controversy. They’re bitching to death in line, but as soon as they get to the agent, they’re like dripping in sugar? I truly believe if some of the French would start arguing and demanding better service, they’d get it. Enough with the niceties already!

There was an accident in Southern France where a military honcho accidentally had real bullets rather than blanks in their guns for a demonstration of rescue techniques. A dozen or so people were hurt, but fortunately, I don’t think killed. UNBELIEVABLE! I believe he was relieved of his post, but not fired, so, I guess you really do have to kill somebody to get fired?

Got the package and it was some pictures and souvenirs for Souda, our Baker. We went to her store, and she was so surprised to see some stuff from my sister. She didn’t remember my sister’s name, I reminded her it was Mina and she was shocked because her sister’s name is Mina and she lives in Morrocco.

Went to lunch at an outdoor café and had pizza and salad. I was feeling depressed so I got an ice cream sundae as well.

I called my sister in the US, no news yet on my brother, so I’ll stick around home and wait.

Tuesday: Got a message that my brother came out of surgery OK, so that took a load off my back. We decided since it was an extremely warm day, 88 degrees and humidity to match we’d have a little picnic off the Pont Neuf. Had a nice little picnic and afterwards decided to visit Mehran and Michelle at the American Cathedral. Chatted with them for a while and they invited us back this evening to see a concert at the church. The concert was from the Uppingham School Symphony orchestra. It’s a boarding school for rich kids who are interested in music. Went home to freshen up and went back to the church, thank God it’s airconditioned. The concert began at 8 p.m. The orchestra is what it is, a high school band, and they had a lot of rough edges, especially the string section, but I’m sure many will go on to become great musicians, with practice. So, we didn’t stay for the whole concert and headed off to the Seine to have some wine before dinner.

It was about 9:30 pm and it was still quite warm and humid. We found a lovely bench by the Seine and had a few glasses before we decided to head off for dinner. Michelle lives across the street and her ankle was really bothering her so about 10 pm she decided to go home and she recommended we go to Rue Cler across the Seine for dinner. Got to the Rue Cler shortly thereafter, and everyone and their mother was out for dinner. It appears since Paris doesn’t get that many nice days, as soon as it’s nice, everyone wants to be at outdoor cafes either drinking or eating. When we got there, the café’s were lined with people trying to get in, so we decided to take the Metro to the 15eme arrondissement which we figured would be less crowded. Got there, and bless Mehran’s heart, he got lost. So, we’re wandering all over Paris, picture this, looking for a restaurant. Who knew? It was about a quarter to 11 pm when we finally decided on a Persian restaurant called restaurant Chimnée. Mehran is of Persian ancestry. They had an air conditioner and we literally hugged it. Had some interesting food, liked the rice and saffron. It was after midnight when we finally finished and headed home.

Got home, and decided to sit at our local park to cool down a bit before we got home. Our apartment sits really high up, and thankfully we get a nice breeze. But it was a struggle to fall asleep since it was quite warm and humid. Glad I bought a fan last week.

Wednesday: It’s overcast. Shortly after we got up it started raining pretty heavy and really didn’t let up. We were planning on going shopping for a birthday gift a friend, but gave up on the idea, since it was just too wet. Imagine, yesterday was hotter than, you know what, and today it’s quite cool and wetter than you know what! Who knew? Stayed in.

Thursday: The sun came out and it was beautiful. We’re meeting Sue, our friend from French school, in the 2eme arrondissement for lunch and just go catch up. Decided we were going to beat the lunch crowd and meet at 1 pm. We met her at the Metro and decided to walk to an Indian Restaurant that serves a buffet. All you can eat for €11.50, pretty good I though. So we went in and had the buffet. It’s definitely nothing like you see in the States. The selections were very limited, the naan was extremely rubbery. The only thing that was redeeming was their chicken dish. Lesson learned, look at the buffet before you decide to get that or order something else.

Lunch was fun nonetheless trying to catch up. She’s getting married mid-month and has been extremely busy. In France, you typically get married twice, once in a civil wedding, then in a church of your choice. This is because of the strict laws regarding separate of church in state, which is very common in the EU countries. Who knew? FYI, it is only in the US that a religious ceremony is as good as a civil wedding. That’s why we’re having all those issues with Gay marriages in the States. Religion and human rights are 2-separate issues. Oh well.

After lunch we walked around a little bit and Sue showed us some material and stores around the corner where Gaultier frequently buys from for his designs and fashion shows, who knew?

We dropped by our friend “J” to check to see what’s needed before our big 4th of July celebration tomorrow. He has a visitor from Florida visiting, one of his neighbors, Vincent, very nice man. He showed me what he was serving for the 4th celebration. He had so much food, I could tell he was going to have a lot of leftovers. We had to go buy some birthday gifts, so J joined us for a little bit. We went to BHV then over to FNAC which is a huge electronics and bookstore. The latter was PACKED. I never saw so many people all in one room in all my life. The cashier lines looked like lines for the Disney rides. Who knew?

Got our books and then headed home since Josephine our landlady wants to show our apartment to a perspective renter for November when we leave. He was a young man, very nice, almost tempted to tell him to buy ear plugs, but then realized he’ll be here in the winter and it’s typically quiet. Josephine has decided not to do short terms, she wants consistent income. Don’t blame her. She’s going to turn over the reigns to a rental agency, apparently, the agency guarantees non payment of a tenant. WOW! Who knew? So I guess we won’t be able to rent this place any more. Oh well.

Had a quiet night.

Friday: 4th of July. Yippee. Had to do a few errands before heading over to J’s to help out. Got there around 5 pm and it looked like everything was pretty well in control. I made a few appetizers and doctored up a few dishes, but other than that everything was made. He had bought all restaurant quality pre-pared foods that all you had to do was put together. For example, pre-cooked cubed potatoes for potato salad. Who knew? Had fun gossiping about all the people who would eventually show up. Tess, J’s maid came in to help. She was a big help. Every time we made a mess she was right behind us cleaning. Now I want one of those.

At 7:30 pm, time the party was to start, people started arriving. Now I know the one’s arriving at EXACTLY 7:30 had to be Americans ‘cause French people are always late. I wished I made a bet on it, ‘cause sure enough the first group were all Americans. As people started trickling in, more and more kept coming in. Many, if not all of the ex-pats in this group have multiple homes around the world and many only live in Paris 4-months out of the year, and those are the summer months! Hmmm, methinks winters must be pretty horrible here.

There was a nice mix of French, American and a few Austrians, Brits, and Greeks to mix the party.

We did not stay late (left midnight), since we learned the hard way that the metro closes before one.

Saturday: We were invited to a friend’s birthday in the country, a little town called Oulins. So we left about 2 pm and headed towards the Olympiades metro station, ‘cause another friend would meet us and drive us down to the country. Being on the freeways, it felt like we were in the US.

Got to see the town and the outlaying countryside, quite lovely. The estate was beautiful. Big grounds, and our host’s parents took an old huge stable and converted into a country home. They were able to preserve a lot of the details of the stables (e.g., feeding trough) and incorporate it in the house. I forgot to take pictures of the inside.

Got there about 4 pm and of course every one was busy preparing for the evenings soiree. It was fun helping them out. People started arriving around 6 pm. And they kept coming. Their housekeeper is from Chile and made some fabulous dishes. Food just kept coming and coming and coming. I couldn’t believe the amount of food that was served. They could literally have fed an army. About 50 people attended.

They had prepared the main part of the house into a disco area, and we danced well into the early morning. I think we all finally went to bed at about 4 a.m. Great fun.

Sunday: All of us got up really late, 11 am. I assumed we were going to leave after breakfast and go back to Paris. Got up and had coffee and different pastries. Our friend Léandre took a group of us for a walk around the little town and lake shortly after breakfast. Got back about 2 hours later and thought we’d start heading back to Paris. But as we got closer to their estate I noticed a huge long table set up for lunch in their garden under this huge tree. How French, just like in the movies.

Our host told us that this is typically French. We all sat, and I couldn’t believe the food. The first course was different types of sausages too many to describe and also tiny little shrimps that were alive an hour earlier. Next came various patés, then came the various grilled meats with potatoes. After this exhausting marathon, came the salad course, then cheese course. And, then came the desserts, of different tarts. I thought this was it then came the fresh fruit baskets. Unbelievable, you had to be there to experience all the food. What pisses me off, they can eat tons and looks so thin, hate them.

Lunch ended close to 6 pm. I am assuming once again, we’re leaving to go back home, but a few of us decided to drive to the horse stables and ride some horses. Carine is an equestrian and rides beautifully. The weather up to this point was great, but later at the stables it got cold and started raining. So, we headed home thinking that we’re going home, but we had to eat another meal of course, dinner before we leave. I felt like I was grazing all day. I have got to go on a diet. We ate dinner at about 9 pm and then left for Paris around 11 pm.

We were the only Americans there, everyone was so kind and hospitable. We were so lucky to have experienced a truly French week-end.

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