"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

May 26 to June 1, 2008

Monday: Got up and it’s still raining. It’s suppose to rain the whole week. Well, that’s gonna put a ‘damper’ on things, excuse the pun.

Monday was uneventful. After school we decided to do something different, since the rain let up a little bit. A bunch of us bought some sandwiches and went to the local park to have lunch. Unfortunately, the area where the nearby park was located is being renovated. We had to compete with all the noise and dust. We figured we’re here, may as well stay here and eat our lunch. We moved 3-times. Once to avoid bird poop, 2nd time to avoid getting killed by a soccer ball, and finally we found benches, unfortunately right next to a building that was being sandblasted. We got tired of being literally loud foreigners and shortly thereafter, we left. Like I always say, we have the best timing.

Afterwards, went home. Got home, Jack wasn’t feeling well. Jack slept all afternoon and it was raining like crazy. If I didn’t know any better, I would have sworn we were having a monsoon, but then again we’re in the different part of the world. So, I let him sleep in and the devil took over my body and sent me to the Patisserie, hmmm got a baguette, chocolate and lemon tart. Made dinner, Jack is being good, he only had half his tart, and I of course had mine and half of his. I mean it did take a million cows to make that tart, and imagine all those hard working people who had to pick all those chocolate pods, I didn’t want to de-value their efforts, so I ate them all. Oh well.

Tuesday: Another rainy day. I swear I’m going to start growing moss on my body. School was uneventful, but afterwards our friend Jane organized an adventure outing to a Senegalese restaurant close by. We were a large group, 7 of us. I had Senegalese food in San Francisco and didn’t particularly like it. But not wanting to be a killjoy, we went.

What a pleasant surprise. The owner/waiter greeted us. For the ‘formule’ lunch we get an entrée, plat, dessert and wine for less than €10. That alone was worth it. We all pretty much got the same thing except for Jack. We started with a corn salad with avocado, heart of palms in vinaigrette. Main course, we all got chicken curry, while Jack got the fish curry. And, of course, we got the French boisson of red and rosé wine. They had this little bottle of what we thought was chili oil. Up until now nothing that we’ve tasted, whether a dish or condiment has been very spicy. Jack had the first bite and said it was HOT. We didn’t believe him. Two of us tried it and after one bite I swear I saw God. The curries were great, flavored with nicely hot, and sweet onions. Then we all had chocolate cake for dessert. I went by the kitchen to go to the restroom, and while waiting for the bathroom I decided I’m drunk enough to try my French. I started babbling away with the owner. He was laughing like crazy. For all I know I may have propositioned him. Oh well. It was a great afternoon.

Got home about 4 pm, and what a surprise it’s raining again. We were suppose to go to the grocery store, but wet groceries didn’t sound appealing. So, we’ll probably go to the groceries tomorrow afternoon after we pick up my sister from the airport. She’ll probably want to sleep.

Wednesday: got up super early, 6:45 am to get to the airport by 8:30 am. We had to go the RER (suburban train). The trip was interesting ‘cause it was like taking Bart into the suburbs, which we were literally doing. Unfortunately, a lot of graffiti lined the way. I was surprised how much graffiti there is in Paris, but the suburbs! Who knew? I find it interesting that in the Montmarte, much of the graffiti is not by the French, but the young Italian and German tourist, you can tell because it’s definitely not French. However, in the suburbs it was definitely French. Interesting to note that every time we walk around the neighborhood, we see neighbors with little buckets of paint, painting over the graffiti. The next day, they’re filled with graffiti again. Unbelievable, an unending battle.

Got to the airport and my sister Mina arrived on time. On our way home, we had to pay homage to my church, the Patisserie around the corner, got some baguettes and of course some wonderful pastries. We got home relatively early about 10:30 am, after a quick snack my sister was game to go to the grocery store with us. She was shocked at the prices. We don’t even think about it anymore.

Took my sister for a tour of the neighborhood, and then went to a café to people watch. My sister though she ordered ice tea, but she ordered Pastis by accident. Pastis is this very strong licorice drink served with water. I hate it, but Jack loves it. Jack’s French is so good that he actually told the waiter that we made an error and he exchanged it without charging us. We’ll definitely be back.

When we returned home, I realized I didn’t buy soap, the bar kind. I told Jack and my sister, no problem we have liquid French soap in the shower. Jack later told me it was shampoo. So I guess I’ve been using shampoo for soap. At least I know I’ll be tangle free. Oh well.

Stayed home for dinner.

Thursday: My last day of school. It was great ‘because we told our instructor Monika we had to stop at 12:30. One of the classmates Aaron bought 2-bottles of champagne. Typically at an American school you can’t drink alcohol, but this is France. So we broke out the champagne and had a wonderful drinking session till it was time to go to the local French restaurant around the corner.

We were all pretty giddy, so we walked along the sidewalk with our plastic champagne flutes. Monika later told us that it’s suppose to be illegal carrying liquor ala “drinking while walking”. Who knew? Interesting point of fact, France has the largest number of truck accidents in Europe. Apparently, a lot of the truckers have quite a bit of wine with their meals along the French highways. A friend told us that they’re starting to put Breathalyzers in these restaurants, so truckers can see if they’re legally intoxicated to drive or not. They’re also doing it in bars and restaurants now, ‘because the restaurants don’t want to be responsible for any accidents their patrons might be in.

We all got to the restaurants. It was pretty much what’s ever made you eat it. But they did give you 2 choices. 2-choices of salad, 2 choices of plat, and 2 choices of dessert. They ran out of the lamb for my main course so I ordered a steak tartare. Wrong choice I later found out.

Had a great time. Some of my classmates are going to continue French classes, but I decided to take a break in June so my mind can recover.

Jack and my sister spend the day touring Paris, and got back around the same time I returned home at about 4:30. We were suppose to meet other classmates in the Bastille for a sorta farewell dinner, since many of our classmates were heading off Friday for all parts of Europe. I wasn’t feeling well after lunch, thought it was just too much champagne and wine so Jack and I decided to stay home.

Friday: I now know why I shouldn’t have had that tartare. I wasn’t feeling well, couldn’t exactly put my finger on it. So, I decided after a breakfast of pastries and coffee I would just take some Pepto-Bismol. Jack got back from class at about 2:00 pm so we headed off to the do some more touring with my sister, to the Opera house, Galerie Lafayette and some other places. As we got there, I got sicker. No need to go into details; let’s just say I had Parizoomee revenge. Thank God we were in department store that had restrooms, albeit they were extremely hard to find. I told Jack and Mina to continue without me, I headed home and crashed.

We were suppose to take our friend Jane to dinner tonight, since she’s returning to Australia tomorrow. I was still sick, so Jack went to the Pharmacy and got me some local Imodium. I took some hoping that I’d get better before we met Jane for dinner. Didn’t work right away, so I told Jack and Mina to go without me.

Jack and Mina had a wonderful time with dinner. Apparently, the restaurant was really tiny. A family style Italian restaurant. Since I wasn’t there, I can’t really describe it to you.

Lesson learned, you can’t always eat tartare just any where. You have to get it in places that you’re familiar with.

We had quite a drama in the hood Friday night. Our neighbors across the street had a party, very loud, but typical for the week-end. At about 4:00 am I heard a booming loud crash, then a shrieking scream. All our neighbors, including myself started looking out at the window, but we couldn’t trace where the screams were coming from. She kept screaming, “mon frere” meaning my brother. So I don’t know if her brother was hurt, killed or what, or if it was just an expression. This is the strange part, how many cops do you think can calm a hysterical French woman? A few minutes later 2 unidentified men came to the apartment across the street where the party was held, wearing civilian clothes, they simply stuck Red Cross badges on their arms. About a half an hour later 3-cops showed, up, then another half hour later another 3-cops showed, I kept on wondering, isn’t this an overkill? Then the cops decided to have a cigarette break out front. They were joking and laughing, so I figured it couldn’t be all that serious. They took her in.

Finally at about 6 am the commotion stopped and I finally got “some” sleep.

Saturday: Nice day, albeit humid and a tad overcast. I heard some rumbling and screaming outside once again. So, I looked out the window and it turned out it was a movie set. They were filming a moving on our street. Apparently, Monmarte is one of the most desirable areas to film a movie. Well it least it wasn’t some crazed woman.

We decided after breakfast why don’t we go to the canal, they’re doing a summer special of canal trips for €1 each. So, we went to the Children’s museum by the canal. Ran to the boat, since we only had 10-minutes to spare. We got to the boat, and it was the wrong one. Wouldn’t you know it.l So we literally ran again to the other side of the canal, and just missed the boat by 5-feet, it took off, so we had an hour to wait for the next one. Oh well, this gave us an opportunity to visit the children’s museum. So, we walked around and saw all the wonderful activities they had for the kids.

By 3 it was time to head back to the pier to catch the boat tour. We got on, it was filled with all locals. I thought for sure we’d go through some interesting areas, NAH, it was the ugliest canal tour we have ever taken in our life. It went through the suburbs of areas filled with graffiti, albeit some of the graffiti art was really good. It was sort of a history of the area and how it’s trying to come back to life. Well as far as I was concerned, it was pretty dead and had a long way to go. We were going to get off at the last stop and catch the metro back, but for some reason we decided to stay on for the return. We’re gluttons for punishment.

Rather than stopping at where we got on, we stopped at the last stop near the Metro Station, Stalingrad. That was the prettiest ride of the canal, but it only lasted for about 15-minutes. Oh well, what do you expect for €1.

We didn’t have time to go to the grocery store, so we decided to go out to eat. Since I was still having stomach issues, I wanted to have something familiar, e.g., rice. So, we had Vietnamese food in our neighborhood. It was actually quite good.

For a Saturday night it was relatively quiet, so that was nice. Finally, got some sleep.

Sunday: After breakfast, or should I say brunch of coffee and pastries we decided to go to “Bercy”. A district in Paris that was having dance and music performances from 2 pm to 8 pm. We got there, and it truly is a really nice area. The park is beautiful. We got there early so none of the performances had started yet. So we walked around and saw the sports stadium. It was quite large. Some guy was hawking some soccer tickets, yeah, like I know the difference between soccer and rugby.

We were getting hungry so decided to head back towards a restaurant that I thought would be nice and simple, considering I was still recovering from stomach problems. But we decided to take a hike through the park. We stopped at one of the dance performances, an African Dance Company. There’s something odd when half of the dance troupe is white French, and most of them didn’t have any rhythm and were quite stiff. Oh well, it was entertaining none the less, especially the drumming.

Got to the restaurant about quarter to 3 for lunch. We decided to sit outside since it was quite warm. As soon as we walked in, our waiter immediately started speaking English, how weird is that. We didn’t have any signs on us that we were American. A couple and their kid sat next to us. He had the thickest southern drawl I had ever heard, his wife was French and their son bilingual. It was funny to listen to him speak French with such a thick southern drawl. I understood him?!?!

My sister got a hamburger and fries, I told her she should try different things, but she wanted something familiar. Jack had the salad Nicoise. I had originally ordered the duck, but they were out, so I ordered a plate of sausages, cheese, and a salad, when it came out I was shocked, ‘because it could’ve fed an army. It was a beautiful display.

After lunch, Jack and Mina ordered dessert. Jack ordered the carpaccio of pineapple with a sorbet, and Mina the crepes.

As the couple and child were about to leave, he asked us where we were from, I told him we were living Paris right now, so was he. I asked him where he was originally from, and he said, “George country.” I didn’t get it until he explained that he was from a town about 20-minutes away from Crawford. Being a die hard liberal, I was going to say something politically incorrect, but decided it’s just not worth it. But later I got the impression he was making fun of George W. so now he’s my new best friend.

We decided to walk around the park some more. They didn’t have any more performances that we were aware of, how odd. We decided to go to Chinatown to get some stables, so we got back on the metro. As we were heading towards “Belleville”, the new Chinatown, I started getting really bad stomach cramps, and it isn’t even that time of the month. Oh well. Probably from all the cheese I ate. So, I told Jack and Mina to go shopping and I’d meet them back home. Came home and took some alka-seltzer and slept.

Jack and Mina came back just in time, ‘because it started raining like crazy. I told them I wasn’t going to eat, so they said they’d go to the bakery around the corner and get some bread and snacks for dinner. They came back and brought this long pastry, looks like a baguette with nuts, sugar and cinnamon. I took a little taste, and I just found my new pastry.

This was a slow week. Not much drama.

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