"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 9-14 2008

Monday: Today Mina returns home. So we all got up relatively early to get to the airport on time. On our way to the airport, we walked by Mina’s favorite patisserie and the woman she befriended gave her a big hug goodbye, and then ran back into the store, how strange? As we took a few more steps down the hill, she’s yelling for Mina to wait, she gave Mina a nice Brioche loaf to eat on her way home. How sweet, excuse the pun.

Uneventful getting to the airport, except that the train was an express, so that was nice that we didn’t have to stop at every stop. And, as we were on the train there was an accordion player who must have been all of 15-years old. As he finished playing he went around asking for change. Mina got on safely, and we returned home. We seem to always manage to get on the train with the musicians. At first it’s was kind of nice, but after awhile it gets annoying, ‘cause you feel somewhat obligated to pay. Catholic guilt works in mysterious ways. On our way home, we get a wanna be cabaret singer. She wasn’t very good, but she dressed real nice, so I guess she must be doing pretty well.

Good thing we took Mina to the airport today, turns out the RER is having a strike tomorrow, and the line to the airport would be affected. If it was closed down, the only last minute alternative would be a cab, and that would’ve cost $100 each way. Lucky we got her off today!

Wouldn’t you know it, the day Mina leaves we have a heat wave. It’s currently 81 degrees and sunny. Imagine that. Oh well. Took a little nap than off to the grocery store; we went wearing shorts and sandals, what a nice feeling. We went to our supermarket, and I saw the beyatch so I decided to go to another line, a trainee. At least she wouldn’t know how to be mean. Jack went back to the Boulangerie to get a baguette for dinner. Mina’s baker friend asked Jack, I thought you left? He explained no, that Mina was his sister-in-law. I don’t think she quite grasps what that meant, she seemed very puzzled since she knew I was her brother. Keep them guessing is my moto.

Tuesday: we decided to have a picnic at the Jardin des Plantes. It took forever to get there. And, as we got off at our stop, there was a huge demonstration from one of the many union groups. Thus far, from my limited experience it appears demonstrations and strikes are big here. It’s a way of life. In the US, as free as we may think we are, protests are usually very hampered or curtailed by the police. The police seem to protect the marchers here.

It’s a really warm and humid day. We decided to look for a shaded picnic area. We saw a garden, and Jack read that it was €1 to get in. Not bad, so we headed towards the entrance. As we got to the entrance I gave the attendant €2, she looked at me like I was crazy, she said it was €7 each total €14. I was too embarrassed that I got it all wrong, so I went ahead and paid for it. It wasn’t the garden after all, it was a zoo! Who knew? I personally don’t like zoos, but I said for €14 we’re going to visit this zoo and we’re going to love it! So, we found what we thought was a nice picnic spot. In front of us were giant tortoises and behind us french hairy donkeys, who I think were having “gas” problems. As we were sitting there a group of 5-year olds were watching the tortoises. Well it turned out not only is Paris the city of love, but it’s also the city where animals like to hump! A male tortoise, I’m assuming, was humping another tortoise, and I’m thinking the weight must’ve been enormous.

There were a lot of chaperoned kids today. It seems that French kids get to go on alot of excursions, whether it is the park or the museums. I always see groups of them on the metro. I don’t recall going to many excursions as a child or a teenager, unless of course it was with the band or CYO (Catholic Youth Organization). I figured it’s probably ‘cause the US is suit happy, so one mishap could cost a school a fortune. Too bad. One good thing about the French they truly believe in educating their children at a very young age on the finer things in life. There was one elderly woman pushing a stroller, and the kid wasn’t even 1-years old, and she was lifting him and explaining all the different animals to him as if he were an adult, amazing!

After we felt we got our €14 worth, we decided to leave the zoo. All-in-all, we had a nice day at the zoo. We walked around the gardens in the “free-zone” some more, but it really wasn’t very interesting, so we decided to head home.

Made dinner and called it a day.

Wednesday: Nice warm day. We’re planning on going to the Muslim Museum, but decided since it’s such a nice day why don’t we just wander around.

I’m really surprised this apartment didn’t come with any wine glasses since the national drink of France is wine, so Jack decided we should get some wine glasses for our apartment, since we only have one, and last time we had company, we had to serve wine out of tumblers, how tacky. We headed back to the “Target” of France, Auchan, at the La Defense. We decided to wander around first to the other end which we hadn’t been to yet. It seems La Defense goes on forever. After wandering around, we decided to have a quick bite, so we headed to a Chinese fast food, sort of like “Panda Express.” The amount of food they gave us was really tiny. What amounted to a cup each of chow mein noodles, and ONE egg roll for Jack and 2 small pieces of ribs for me for a total of €16 ($25) and it was salty and just not good. Oh well, we learn.

Went to the department store, got what we needed and as I was leaving the cashier stand, she asked me my zip code, I freaked out ‘cause I honestly couldn’t remember, even though I’m very knowledgeable in French numbers and is the only thing that I remembered from French school. She just typed in 99999, shouldn’t been 66666 since I was feeling devilish.

Headed back home, made dinner and had an early evening.

Thursday: Got up at 10 am and it’s raining like crazy. The temperature hasn’t risen over 60 degrees, so it’s also quite cold. The rain just gets worse, if I didn’t know any better I would swear we were in the middle of a monsoon in Southeast Asia. Jack’s coming down with a cold, in his words; he’s feeling “peckish”. So we decided to stay in, and prepare our paperwork for yet again, another interview with the Prefecture scheduled for June 19 to get our “Carte de Sejour” (green card). We’re going to our French friend’s house for dinner tomorrow night, and they have a printer, yippee. French love copies of everything, and also photos of yourself for every conceivable document you can think of. As a friend once told me, they love “dossiers” and, I can attest to that!

Since we stayed home, I watched a lot of TV. So, what was I fortunate enough to watch, a documentary on obesity in France. Who knew? I felt like they were talking to me. It appears that France is undergoing a “fat” change in diet. They no longer have the infamous 2-3 hour lunches. Everyone’s in a rush, and hence, they have fast food, or in their words “rapide.” And, we’re not just talking about Mickey D’s we’re talking about ice cream, crepes, pastries, etc., on the go. It’s not uncommon to see people wolfing down their food as they’re walking along the streets. So you have to think twice before you assume those fat people on the metro are either Germans or Americans, they just might be French.

I got so depressed after watching the show; I decided to have some pastries. Oh well.

Friday: Jack is going to stay home and rest from his cold so he can go to the dinner party tonight. I have a bunch of errands to do. My brother mailed my pills, but the mailman claims they didn’t fit in our box. Oh well, I had to go to the Post Office down the street. I was dreading it, ‘cause every time I walked by, the lines were out the door. Post Offices here are different, they also act as banks. So, as I’m heading towards the Post Office I encounter a bunch of Red Cross volunteers (Croix Rouge), in my worst French, which isn’t hard to do, I told him I didn’t speak French. I didn’t feel bad, because at home Jack is a Red Cross volunteer and we give them money every year.

As I got into the Post office at about noon, I was shocked. There were only 5-people in front of me. But lines in France move slowly. As I’m waiting, not even 3-minutes passed, and the line began stretching out the door. I’m assuming the metro just got in. As I got to the counter, I didn’t bother asking the Post person if she spoke French, I did it all in French and she understood. Although, she was staring at my California license for what seems a long time. She didn’t smile in the beginning, but as she gave me my package, I said thank you so much, and have a good day in French, and she smiled back and said the same to me. I’m so proud of myself.

On my way home, I paid homage to our pastry store. I spoke to the cashier, Souda, and she told me, in French, that she has a brother who lives in San Francisco, and when she has time she’s going to visit him, and call my sister in Las Vegas. I got a few pastries and a baguette and headed home.

We had lunch, but I still had 2 more errands to run. I had to get hair clippers at BHV a department store in the Marais, as well as a cheesecake I ordered at the “Thanksgiving in Paris” store. That’s literally what it’s called. Although not real warm, it’s extremely humid. As I got tot the department store, I was sweating like a pig in heat. French just do not believe in air-conditioning unless it’s at least 80 or 90 degrees. As I got to the counter, I politely told the store clerk that I spoke very little French, and asked if she spoke English, she said she didn’t speak English, but understood it. I saw a couple of models of what I wanted, she kept going to the expensive stuff, I finally said, tres cher “expensive” Je voudrais mois cher, and I want something less expensive. It was an easy decision; I got the cheapest thing there, which was €31. And, this was all done in French. . I guess those French classes I took are kicking in.

As I finished, I headed further down La Marais to the American grocery store. As I walked in, my order was ready. Our French friends love cheesecake and I wanted to make it for them, but my oven is “iffy” at best. Also, I paid €23 ($35) for the cheesecake; I figured if I made the cheesecake myself, it would cost me double.

Headed home, oh yeah, did I mention that the metro system is not air-conditioned? It was so hot and humid in the trains, I was sweating like a “cheap wet paper towel” gone bad. I was also concerned for the cheesecake; I was just praying it wasn’t melting. It didn’t, me and the cheesecake got home OK.

Got to our friend’s house for dinner about 8 pm. There were a total of 9 of us. They have really nice friends. All of them spoke English, but Jack was able to carry on a conversation here and there in French, and I of course used my Franglish. So, whenever I remembered a word or phrase in French, I inserted it in my conversation.

Our friend’s Léandre and Carine made a wonderful BBQ dinner. I thought our friends were going to prepare the BBQ outdoors on their balcony. They are one of the few lucky one’s who have a wrap around balcony. But they told us that it’s illegal in Paris to have a BBQ on your balcony, but you can have one inside your house, who knew? So, they had an electric grill in the middle of the table and we helped ourselves to a variety of different meats.

One of their guests who I was sitting next to is a French film director. I told him I love French movies, so he invited Jack and me to a shoot.

We got home at a reasonable time- 2 am!

Saturday: Jack’s cold broke today, so he’s coughing and sneezing a lot, we decide to stay home and rest. I rested and he putzed around. As I mentioned, we have a lot of musicians in our neighborhood.

Thank God they don’t practice all at the same time. This afternoon, our neighbor in front of us was practicing his cello. He definitely sounds like he’s classically trained. I opened our window and laid on the bed and just listened to him for awhile. Jack was in the living room listening to our neighbor downstairs as she’s practicing for a show tomorrow night. She’s a cabaret singer in the true French meaning.

I did my normal routine, went out and got a baguette and of course some pastries. Stayed home, since Jack was not well and the weather was pretty bad. Did notice, that this week-end has been particularly quiet. We’re trying to figure out why, ‘cause normally our streets are filled with tourist walking by till 4 am in the morning.

Made Jack some ginger soup to help with his cold and we had a quiet night at home.

Sunday: Another overcast day. Jack said he needed to get some fresh air so we decided to take a walk in the “hood” after lunch. We walked on our street towards the Sacre Coeur. Viola, the mystery has been solved as to why it’s been so quiet on our street this week-end. One of the stairways leading from our street to the main street of Rue des Abbessess has been under construction since we moved here. Apparently, they finished the stairs and are now usable. So, the tourist who typically walks down from the Place de Tertre towards the Rue des Abbessess would see that the stairs were under construction; hence, would walk down our street in their drunken stupor screaming at the top of their lungs. Now there’s no need to walk down our street, they can just walk all the way down the myriad of stairs leading to the main street. Viola, mystery solved!

We headed down towards the Rue des Abbessess metro station, since there was a wine festival happening. We got there and they had a few booths of small wineries from various parts of France selling their wares. Since Jack wasn’t feeling well, and I’m trying to cut down on my wine consumption, we decided not to part-take. So we headed down our street for a little walk. Wouldn’t you know it, the day we decide not to carry our umbrellas it started raining. Since Jack has been ill we decided to go back home so he doesn’t catch pneumonia from the rain. Of course, on our way home, we stopped by our Patisserie had to get a baguette and a few pastries.

Another quiet night at home.

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