"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 14-21, 2008

Monday: Nice day. I call it a SF day, sunny but a little brisk. Jack had his Doctor’s appointment with a nose, ear, and throat specialist. He has a polyp in his nose that needs to be removed. Like everything in France, everything is specialized from going to a cheese store to going to a bakery. No difference with doctors. From my experience, in the States you have to ask to see a specialist because they can be costly for the insurance companies, and many times the insurance companies make the decision whether or not you can see a specialist to have a procedure done. Here in France, doctor’s make the decision, go figure?

I stayed home in the morning, but got a call from Mehran that he needs help to find some cinnamon and/or cardamom ice cream. We planned on going to a couple of different Asian neighborhoods to look for them. A little background, he’s doing a catering job and the dinner’s theme will be “Explorations of the world.” Originally it was just suppose to be an Indonesian dinner, but the organizer wanted to change the theme to make it more worldly, how inclusive!

I told him I’d meet him in front of the Asian Market across the street from the “La Chapelle” metro station. I see this neighborhood all the time on my way to Belleville (Chinatown), but I’ve never actually explored it. It’s right next to the Gare du Nord station. It’s also known as “Little India.” It’s a funky little neighborhood with a lot of ethnic stores that have wonderful fruits and spices and incredibly colorful fabric for saris.

Wouldn’t you know it, the Asian store was closed, oh well. So we decided to go and ask around the different restaurants and stores where we can buy cinnamon or cardamom ice cream. After a few tries, we found a store that sold unique Indian ice cream. Their ice cream is called “galuf”. They didn’t have specifically cinnamon or cardamom ice cream, but they did have coconut, pistachio, and pistachio/almond all flavored with cardamom. I recommended since pistachio and coconut is so common here, why doesn’t he try the pistachio/almond with cardamom. Mehran had to return quickly since the ice cream would melt, so we parted, but I decided to explore the neighborhood a bit more. Interestingly, the area closest to the Metro station was mostly Hindus, as you went further away it became increasingly Indian muslims. Inquiring minds want to know, how could I tell? ‘cause they all looked like they were going to pass out from fasting for Ramadan, just kidding. You could tell because the woman were no longer wearing saris but were wearing Chadors, just a little clue!

After walking around the hood, I decided to head home. Jack got home just before I did and he told me that our upcoming travel schedules conflicted with the doctor’s surgery schedules, so we have to wait until we return to the States to have the minor surgery. Oh well.

Stayed home for a quiet dinner.

Tuesday: Cool day. Josephine, our landlady called wanting to meet us for coffee to go over a few things, and I had some specific questions as well. So we met for coffee and decided since it was sunny we’d sit outside. Boy, was it chilly. Jack and I have actually grown accustomed, sounds like a song, to our apartment and we asked Josephine if it would be available next year. Josephine just bought a huge apartment by the Butte Chaumont in the 19eme and will need steady income to pay her mortgage, so she plans on doing long term rental as opposed to short-term foreign rentals, oh well. But her sister owns an apartment in the 5eme (Latin Quarter), so we plan on seeing that in a couple of weeks as a possible summer rental, and our friend “J” said we could rent his apartment for the winter, so we have a couple of choices for the coming 2009 year. After we chit-chatted with Josephine for a while we parted.

Jack and I headed to go to the grocery store to get some food and then headed home. When we got home his doctor called. Very bizarre, doctors usually never call in the States, it’s usually the nurses or the receptionist, but as I mentioned Doctor’s office here don’t have a lot of staff (overhead). He was able to get Jack an appointment to see a Specialist on September 23rd and then is booked for surgery October 2nd, just before we go to Spain. Talk about going out of your way to accommodate you. France might not be known for their customer service; however, when it comes to the medical profession, it seems to be reversed, who knew?

We were going to go out to “Little India” for dinner, but I had bought some lettuce, and it doesn’t keep, so we stayed in had a nice big salad, and confit de canard por moi.

Wednesday: Today is a very cold, cold day. It was in the 50’s. Got a late start, but in preparation for our trip to Turkey I wanted to get a travelogue at WH Smith bookstore, one of the few English bookstores in Paris. So we headed off to the store very close to the Concorde. They have a huge selection of magazines, but the prices were unreal. If you pay $5 for a magazine in the US, e.g., People, here it will cost €7-10 about $11-15. So, I decided to read them there rather than buying them. They have a huge selection of travelogues of France, but the “overseas” travel was upstairs. My timing is always so good, as I got to the foreign travelogue section a woman was tasked with reorganizing the whole travel section and the books would not be available until the next day. Oh well!

So, after spending a little more time there, we decided to head over to Madeline Cathedral, I had never been there, but we pass that metro stop all the time to get to and from our apartment. On our way, I was feeling a little hungry so we stopped at a snack stand and got some crêpes. If you can believe this, this was my first time to have a crêpe since we’ve been here. I’m not a big fan of crêpes. Now I know why I don’t like crêpes. They tend to be very rubbery, oh well. Got to the cathedral and Jack reminded me that our friends Léandre and Carine were married there. Wow, the church is quite impressive, as you can see from the pictures at top. Who wouldn’t want to get married there. Afterwards went home, we were going to go out to Little Indian for dinner, but my stomach was bothering me so we stayed in for a simple “bland” dinner.

Thursday: Got up late, and I’m not feeling well. Methinks I’m coming down with something, my stomach is a mess, or it’s psychosomatic since the market is crashing!!! If it continues, I may have to go back to work, that nasty four-letter word. So I stayed in bed til close to 3 pm. Our friend Michelle’s hairdresser lives down the street from us, so she is planning to drop by after her appointment for a visit. At about 4:30 pm Michelle came and then we got another call from our friend Sue who was in the fabric area of Paris, which believe it or not is also in the Montmarte. She came over. I had a Blueberry tart and we sat, ate, drank and visited for a while.

I was still having stomach problems, but we have a dinner engagement with our new friends Aly and his wife Sybile. They had just return from a month long vacation to the U.S. They traveled all over the Southwest and parts of California. Their travel itinerary was unbelievable. It’s like they were in their car the whole time.

Michelle and Sue left about 6:30 pm, and I told Jack to go to dinner without me since I was still feeling awful. He convinced me to go and if I was still not feeling well than we can leave dinner early. So, I took a really hot shower, and it seemed to work, ‘cause I felt much better. We headed towards the 17eme the area where they live.

We got there and immediately got lost. One street divides Paris from Sarkoville or Sarkozyville, the nickname locals gave to that area around Neuilly since that’s where Sarkozy and Carla Bruni live. I have to admit it was a lovely area. Lots of large parks surrounded by really incredibly large apartments. It definitely did not look like “cheapsville.” Jack’s map of Paris, that he carries all the time, does not extend to the area we were at, so we headed back towards Paris (2-blocks). When we crossed the street that divides Paris and the suburbs, we got lucky and ran into our friend’s street.

This area is truly a lovely area. Very upscale, more suburban feel with wider streets, but also lots of traffic. It’s not as compact as some downtown areas of Paris. We arrived first and our friends Léandre and Carine followed shortly thereafter.

Sybile is a really good cook. She made a first course of papaya salad, followed by a Tagine dish she made up of chicken, prunes, apricots etc. Lovely dinner. We saw some of their slides of their vacation, but didn’t have time for all of them since it was a school night, so we left just before midnight so everyone could get some sleep before they go to work the next day.

Friday: Gorgeous SF day. Sunny but a little brisk. Still having issues with my stomach, so I stayed in. The two Jacks got together and went walking and window shopping in Le Marais. I was glad to have stayed home to recuperate, since we have a lunch engagement the next day with our friends Xavier and Sue.

Jack got back about 8:45 pm. He was late ‘cause the two Jacks decided to organize our upcoming trip to Strasbourg and Baden-Baden in October.

Had dinner and stayed in.

Saturday: Another glorious day. I’m starting to think my favorite month in Paris is September, who knew? It also happens to be my birthday month, could that have anything to with it?

Xavier and Sue live in Sèvres which is quite a distance from Montmarte, since it literally is across town from us. So we left what we thought was a reasonable time, but we forgot it took a lot longer than we remembered, so we were a bit late. I guess we’re becoming more Parisians than we realize, since they’re typically always late! We got off the last metro stop, and as we crossed the bridge we left Paris and are now entering the suburbs of Sèvres. Beautiful day walking across the bridge and to their apartment, ah la vie est bonne!

They had set up a table out on their courtyard. What a beautiful day. They made a lovely lunch of various stuffed mushrooms, vegetables/chicken, cheeses and of course dessert. I was actually feeling much better. Methinks it had to do with all the champagne I drank. Go figure?

Had a great time. We left at about 5:30 to get home. They invited us to go to the Irish club to see a video on Ireland, but I don’t want to push my luck and want to make sure I’m real healthy before we leave for Turkey in a few days ‘cause I don’t want to be sick.

As I mentioned Jack had to go to emergency a couple of weeks ago. We just got the bill and it came to €188 without insurance or “carte vitale” (healthcare card) for all the “emergency” stuff that included an MRI and several lab tests. Unfortunately, we got our carte vitale number after the emergency, and they won’t do it retroactively, understandable. But had we had that carte before the emergency Jack would only have to pay €42, if we had the complimentaire, it would have cost him nothing. IMAGINE THAT!!! In addition, he had additional lab test done after his follow-up doctor’s appointment, and they averaged about €6. UNBELIEVABLE. When Jack had his accident in Serene Lakes and had to go to Truckee for emergency (2 xrays and 2 pills, nothing else), the bill was well over $2,000, and he has insurance. GO FIGURE!!!! That alone is making me rethink, rethink, and rethink where we’ll be in a few years, well at least til we’re 65-years old and eligible for Medicare!

Sunday: What another beautiful Sunday. Today or should I say, this whole week-end is Journée le Patriotism, which basically means all the various public offices and embassys throughout Paris are open to the public for FREE. Imagine that. Jack is scheduled to meet up with Mehran to help him fix up his computer at 2 pm, and J and I planned on going to the Opera house as well as the Assemble Nationale.

Jack decided he had an hour or 2 to go with us first to the Opera house. The lines were extremely long, but they went really fast. We waited for no longer than 30-minutes. Boy were we blown away, as you can see from the pictures below (more on my FLICKR site). The place is absolutely laden with gold and chandeliers. Even Liberace would have taken notice and been jealous, ‘cause it was over the top, in a good way.

Jack had to leave, and J and I decided to head over the Assemblée Nationale, sort of like our house of representatives. There was a line as well, but it went pretty fast. What surprised me even more was that there were “porta potties” and they had their own cleaning ladies, who would come and clean them every so once in awhile. Who knew?

As we got in, we again were blown away with the beauty and the history of it all. Imagine coming to work and seeing all this history every day, wow! There was a string quartet playing inside and outdoor brass section playing outside. The Parisian’s definitely know how to do it up.

Tonight we met up with Jack and Mehran who joined us for a drink, but had to meet a friend later that evening. We had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown, and then Jack drove us home

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