"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

September 1-7, 2008

Monday: the night before was horrendous. We live in a pretty artistic area with a lot of young upcoming artist wannabes. Not to generalize, they tend to be very emotional. Well last night this young couple decided to have a HUGE fight directly under our bedroom window at 3 am. She’s crying and whining and screeching, and he’s yelling and yelling. You would have thought someone was killing a cat very slowly. Whoever, said French people are quiet, I challenge them, there seem to be a lot of noisy one’s in our neighborhood. After bantering back and forth one of our neighbors finally called the police. The police came, and it certainly quieted down. Needless to say, we didn’t get to bed till at least 4 am. Never a dull moment in our neighborhood.

Got out of bed around 11 am to a pretty cloudy miserable day, so what else is new. The first of September is the first day of “La Rentrée” which means all the Parisians who took off for the month are back and getting their kids ready for school. It’s a big deal. Stores are crowded with parents trying to get their kids their school gear, and the worker bees are trying to catch up with all their email, phone messages etc. I mean they do pile up if you haven’t been to work in over a month.

Jack asked Pablo to help him make a doctor’s appointment with their doctor to see about getting new blood pressure medication. His earliest appointment is on the 12th. I guess the first 2-weeks of September are busy, since all the doctors are just coming back into town. Who knew? Jack could go standby tomorrow, but he’ll wait and see. He seems to be doing better, and since today is a crummy day, and I got very little sleep, I decided to stay in. Jack went out for a little walk and got a baguette for dinner. He did mention that since today is the first day of Ramadan, Souda, our Bakery person, was looking really pale and about ready to pass out. Who knew? I think during Ramadan they can’t take anything, not even water until sunset. I wonder if wine counts? I think I mentioned that our timing is always so perfect; we’ll be in Istanbul Turkey for EID, which is the last day of Ramadan. Let’s see if we can find a place to eat, that’ll be a challenge, oh well.

Tuesday Stephen called, he just arrived from Dijon. So we told him to join us for dinner, we’re going out with Jose and Pablo since they’re off to the UK for a couple of days, and we’d thought we’d get together before they leave.

We met Stephen at his hotel and had a drink before heading off to Jose and Pablo’s. Stephen said he found a place that looked like a strong possibility to purchase, but they would wait till maybe November. We are all speculating the properties in France will drop. A little background, when the UK pound was really high, many British came to France and bought up all the properties they could for investment purposes as well as a vacation or retirement home, to the chagrin of many French. This “jacked” the prices of many once affordable housing, especially in the countryside. The UK is going through their own recession with home values dropping, so many of them are trying to off load their properties. We’re guessing within the next 6-months to a year a lot of those cute chalets and chateaus will be much reduced. Plus our dollar is getting stronger, believe it or not. Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we’re getting close to return to the US the dollar gets stronger. Today a Euro is $1.43, last month it was $1.60, go figure?

Went over to Jose and Pablo’s and decided we’re going to a neighborhood French bistro called Jules. It’s a family own and run restaurant. It started raining really heavy, but that didn’t deter us we prodded on. There were only 3-other tables that were filled. The owners, like most of the restaurants in the neighborhood knew Pablo and Jose. I think I mentioned since they don’t have a kitchen, they go out to dinner EVERY night.

It was great fun, great service, it felt like we were in someone’s home. Stephen was very generous, he paid for the wines. As we were tallying up the rest of the bill, Jose kept saying they made a mistake, they added a bar tab, ‘cause it has a “la bar” on the bill. We were all laughing ‘cause ‘la bar’ is “sea bass” which Stephen had ordered. Oh well, methinks someone either had too much to drink or needs a French refresher course.

Wednesday: Gloomy very cold day. I decided to stay in and do chores, Jack went out and went for a walk and delivered mail to our landlady who lives down the block.

Thursday: A cool, but dry day, so we decided to take advantage of it. We went to the Jewish Museum in the La Marais. Don’t confuse it with the Shoah Holocaust museum, they’re two different museums. Got in, security was really tight. You had to first walk into a sealed door way, one-at-a-time. Afterwards you paid a couple of Euros. The museum was really interesting, it had photo exhibits of life in Paris of Jewish immigrants as well as original artwork. Although I was tempted, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside, and there were security guards to make sure you won’t break the rules, oh well. All-in-all, it was quite lovely.

Afterwards we got hungry, so we went to Rue de Rosier, the Jewish quarters. Everyone claims they have the best falafels in Paris, and Parisians will have a debate and argue which is their favorite falafel place. Oh well, so we tried a different stall and walked to a nearby park to eat our falafel which was pretty good. As we sat in the park I kept thinking about all the parks we’ve seen in Paris, and they do such an excellent job of maintaining them. They must spend a fortune, but I look at it as an extension of your home since the apartments are so small. Also, the parks all have Wi-Fi, who knew?

Afterwards we went to BHV Department store to window shop and then we went to Galéries Lafayette in the Montparnasse area. We decided to buy some long t-shirts since the weather is definitely turning colder.

Then we headed off. Jack remembered that our landlady was having an art exhibit (she’s an artist) and it was tonight from 6 pm to 9 pm. I was too tired and I didn’t really feel like going cause everyone’s going to be critiquing the art work in French, oh I forgot we live in Paris, oh well. So Jack went and I stayed home. Jack returned and told me it super packed ‘cause several artists were having their work exhibited simultaneously, so he didn’t stay too long and came home about 9 pm.

Friday: It rained really hard last night, and was windy. Got up this morning and it’s still raining. We’re taking Xavier and Sue out to dinner tonight in celebration of their recent wedding. We decided to take them to “Bofinger” which is a sister restaurant of la Coupole, very French. Check out www.bofingerparis.com if you’re interested. Since it was raining terribly hard, I decided I would just wait for dinner time to go out. However, Jack had to go to Tracy’s house to get some paperwork printed (we don’t have a printer), we’re going to go ahead and process our paperwork to try and get into the French healthcare system. Who knows, depending on the outcome of the elections, we may just move here permanently!

Right around dinner time, we took the Metro to the Bastille area. The restaurant is right around the corner from the Bastille center. As we got closer to the restaurant, I saw the corner building below covered in plywood and tons of graffiti, and I’m thinking, wow, the restaurant has certainly gone down hill. I later discovered that the restaurant was next door. Very large, very old-world French restaurant. We got seated in an upstairs room, very lovely. Not at all pretentious and “stuffy.” Originally I had wanted to sit in the main dining room because they have this huge stained glass dome, but was glad we didn’t. It was loud and you had to share tables, whereas our table upstairs was private and more intimate.

As I was sitting on the chair, I kept feeling someone pinching my booty. I thought how odd, was it that woman behind me pinching me to be funny. It didn’t stop so I turned around and I was about to say something rude and I knew they’d understand since they were British, but as I turned I saw the bottom of my seat was coming undone and the upholstery tacks were pointed upwards, hence, pricking my booty. Who knew? So I called the waiter to have him exchange my chair and I pointed why. Methinks if I had kept sitting on that chair, I would have fallen through after all the food I ate. That would have been an ugly scene.

We had some really nice wines from the Alsace region. I wrote it down in case I need to buy some in the States. For our first course, I had the escargot, Xavier and Sue had the Foie Gras, and Jack sardines. Then for our plat I had what they’re famous for Choucroute, however, I had the traditional one with the leg of a pig (jarret). It was so HUGE at first it thought it was a Volkswagen, than I realized they just brought me a mini pig. Xavier had the boeuf tartare, Sue had the Margret de canard, and Jack Choucroute de mer (seafood). Everyone’s food was OK, but mine was extremely salty. Typically when you take a whole pigs leg and want to soften it up you brine it. Well methinks they forgot to rinse the brine cause it was so salty. Xavier suggested that I eat the meat with the Chou (sauerkraut) since it was sweet and it’d cut down on the saltiness, how right he was, who knew? I couldn’t finish it, so I gave some of it to Xavier.

Next we had dessert. TOO DIE FOR!!! Jack had a sundae with mulberries, I had the profiteroles which they are known for and Xavier had sorbet and Sue had the chocolate gateau. When he gave me my profiterole he came by with a little coffee pot filled with chocolate. He poured that chocolate, plus some more all over my profiterole, how disgusting, yea right! I was in 7th heaven. Unfortunately, it was way too, too rich for me so I gave one for Xavier and Sue to split.

We never finished our second bottle of wine, I was starting to get tipsy, and I know that’s hard to believe, oh well. So we decided to leave, it was about 11:30 pm. Xavier suggested we go have a nightcap. So jack wanted to show them the area around the Bastille which is the new young and trendy area. Rue de Roquette. Man was it packed with all the young kids looking for places to party, partners to meet for the night or maybe even for life. I couldn’t deal with all the crowds so I suggested we head back towards the metro and sit at a local café. Got to the café and the service was frenetic as were all the people in the area. Xavier ordered a Perrier, and the waiter made a mistake and brought him a beer, and asked wouldn’t he like that instead of a Perrier? Sounds like the states to me. FYI, if you want to stop at a café to people watch, it will cost. They charge extra for sitting in a nice people watching area, especially in up and coming areas. Who knew?

We stayed a bit to people watch. I was amazed at the number of girls wearing stiletto heels. Don’t you think that’s a little too suggestive (lol). I was getting tired and the noise and all the people was more stimulus than I wanted after a lovely cozy dinner. So we called it a night and planned another rendezvous later in the month.

Saturday: Nice day, albeit fighting between being sunny and cloudy. We had to go to the grocery today. We have absolutely no food. It’s amazing, as much as we go out to eat; we seem to always be running out of food. Than I was reminded that our refrigerator is so tiny that it just seems we’re eating a lot when we’re not.

So, off se go to the grocery store. I’m dreading it ‘because it’s a week-end, and everyone seems to shop on Saturday. We got to the grocery store and it wasn’t bad at all. I’m so glad I bought that shopping cart when we first arrived, because just rolling it was a task.

Got up to our apartment and our neighbors downstairs, they’re French, we’re being particularly friendly, me wonders why? Our landlady told us that they’re not friendly at all so I’m curious. Apparently, it’s been so windy that our plant fell onto of their roof below and he was explaining that it wasn’t a problem for him. We think he said he was going to keep it via “finder’s keepers” rule. Oh well.

Had a quiet remainder of the day, since we did get a very late start. Seems we’re getting up later and later every day, go figure?

Sunday: I got up at noon, go figure? It’s cloudy and it’s supposed to rain. I was suggesting we’d go to the Fontainbleau area just to roam around, and Jack said we should wait for a week-day since it will probably be packed. Since rain was threatening us all afternoon, we figured we’d just go out.

Jack selected the Quartier de Mouzaïa. It’s in the 19eme arrondisment and not too far from the Butte Chamont, our favorite little park. I was very surprised ‘because it didn’t even seem like we were in Paris. It was a working-class housing estate built between the end of the 19th century. They have all these little side streets that go in kind of a wheel, and there are row houses. All the row houses are unique, so they’re not tract homes. Quite lovely. We explored as many of the alley side streets we could. Then we headed towards the park. Got some afternoon pastries sat in the park and people watched.

We’ve decided to go out to dinner tonight, but couldn’t decide where. So we went to the 9eme where we were at last week. However, most of the restaurants were closed, oh well. So, we headed back to our neighborhood and will try a restaurant we haven’t been to yet.

Found a restaurant in the 17eme called Mount Liban, a Lebanese restaurant really close to the area where we live, so we figured why not? When we got to the area, we decided to check out the other middle-eastern restaurants since they were all having Ramadan specials, albeit quite expensive. After walking around, we decided to go back to the Mount Liban. The food was great! My one little appetizer had tabouli, humus, and poor man’s caviar. It was a meal in itself. Our main course came and Jack had the chicken and I had the kabobs served with really flavorful tomato bulgar wheat!. Really great food. Will definitely go back.

Afterwards, we took a slow walk home to work off some of the food.

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