"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)!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

September 29 to October 5, 2008

Istanbul and Paris Missives September 29 to October 5

Monday: The weather report in Istanbul said it would be sunny, but when we got up it was cloudy and raining off and on, oh well! I figure since we’re leaving it doesn’t really matter. Then it dawned on me that they delayed flights last Friday because of all the strong winds. I’d better keep my mouth shut, ‘cause karma has a way of slapping you across the face.

We met our new friends Bart and Agnes for breakfast. As I mentioned we’ve become close friends. We chitchatted a little bit then we headed back to our room to pack. If you’re going to Istanbul, here are a few little tricks. You can get to and from the airports via tram; however, the trams tend to be extremely crowded, so I would not recommend it if you have large pieces of luggage. Interestingly, they have these little tokens that look like little buttons. You charge them up like batteries depending on how many rides you want and then you just go through like the Metro passes in Paris or the Muni/Bart tickets. They also sell tokens like little coins. The entrances to the trams are in secured areas with lots of guards, so don’t even think of jumping the turnstiles. Who knew? All around Istanbul they have signs for the airport for €4, but they’re like a bus service and they can stop at several places before you actually get to the airport. We opted to take the hotel shuttle, a little more pricey, but quick and private and that costs around €20 for 2-people.

As we checked out, I was listening to a young American couple leaving one of the 2-rooms on the ground floor behind the reception desk. In fact, we would have been neighbors had we stayed on the ground floor. I was redeemed, that couple, apparently, they too did not like the “dungeon” as I call it, so they’re moving to another room, probably ours. So, if you’re going to the Sarnic hotel, ask to be put in any room EXCEPT the 2-lower rooms. The hotel is funky, but it’s in a great location.

Another interesting tid-bit, the guides say you can leave $ or € as tips or to pay at stores. I did tip our driver some left-over dollars I had and he wasn’t too pleased, oh well. The guide books were written before the dollar tanked, so in today’s market, they don’t like dollars, it’s not worth much to them, they prefer Euros, who knew?

We got to the airport without any incident, and Jack had packed his 2-Ramadan gifts of Cherry Jam. Just a little footnote, you go through tons of security. They check you and sometimes check you once or twice over. Up to then no problems. Then we get to Zurich and as we’re passing through security they told us we had to get rid of the Ramadan jam. We had them coming on the plane since Istanbul. Go figure? The security guard said we can check our luggage so we can save our jam from the trash bin, but we opted not so we don’t have to wait for our luggage in Paris.

We tried to get on an earlier flight, but couldn’t, so we went on our original flight. Wouldn’t you know it, it was one of those commuter planes with very little over head bins and most, if not all of us had to check in our luggage. Unbelievable, after giving up our jam we had to give up luggage, Oh well.

Got to Paris around 9 pm, stayed home and crashed. Traveling always takes a toll on me.

Tuesday: Cloudy and wet, what a surprise. Decided we were just too pooped from all the traveling and sightseeing in Istanbul, so had a quiet day. Jack went to our boulangerie and gave Souda, our baker, a nice little Ramadan gift—worry beads or prayer beads, but minus the jam, oh well. She loved it, ‘cause they look like turquoise. Little did she know, they were fake. Later that afternoon we left a message for Cherie Cox, who most of you know (Brenda Suter’s sister and Ralph’s sister-n-law). She’s staying out in the Villette not too far from us. We called and the phone just kept ringing, ringing, and ringing. Imagine a Holiday Inn not having voice mail, go figure? So Jack had to call back and leave a message. Funny thing about leaving the message, the receptionist kept telling Jack to slow down in French, turns out she was American and her French wasn’t that great, Who knew?

At about 10 pm Cherie called. She’s on this brutal tour where they have to wake up early each morning and every hour seems to be planned. It’s like a zillion European countries in 15-days, go figure? They all got sick on this trip, I would too if I had their grueling schedule, “It’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium…”

We planned to meet for quick drinks tomorrow before they go on their scheduled outing to the Moulin Rouge.

Wednesday: Another cloudy and wet day, oh well. We decided to make the most of a break in the rain, so we literally ran out of the house to get groceries. Got a call from Cherie about 3 pm so we headed over to her hotel. It’s pretty close to here, so it only took us about half an hour, if that.

Cherie’s traveling mate Lois has a bad cold. So, when we arrived we did not want to touch anything or anybody, ‘cause we can’t afford to get sick since we’ll be traveling quite a bit this month. No offense Lois.

Cherie, Jack and I headed to the bar in the hotel since Cherie had to be back to meet her group at 5:30 pm to go to the Moulin rouge. I guess 6l rowdy, “mature” Americans would need to be chaperoned, especially Cherie, since you all know she gets wild once she starts drinking and she just might join the can-can dancers topless. (lol).

We had fun catching up on all the Serene Lakes “dirt.” It’s amazing how much can happen in 7-months, who knew? Before we left Cherie gave us a care package of our basic food group—alcohol, namely Vodka, and chocolate-trail mix with lots of sticky stuff in it, but mostly chocolate. That should sustain us for a least a few days. We said our good byes and left. We have to get up very early for Jack’s nose job, actually it’s to remove a cyst, but nose job sounds more “nouvelle face-lift.”

Thursday: We got up at an ungodly time, 5:45 am, imagine that? Jack is feeling anxious and nervous, understandably. We got to the hospital called “Saint Joseph” how fortuitous, it’s my patron saints name—you have to be Catholic to understand it. Jack was immediately called in to a private room. This hospital is really nice and very, very clean—even the public areas, not like the “other” hospital where I took Jack to Emergency.

Jack had to take another shower with some funny liquid, maybe it was Clorox or something, who knows? He came out wearing 2-robes, I told him he had one robe on backwards. I’ve been to a few hospitals in my time, so he redid it. After only a few minutes they did all these test and gave him a pill and wheeled him out to the operating room.

They told me that the operation would take about 2-hours, so rather than hanging out at the hospital, I went home and did some emails. Returned to the hospital 2-hours later, exactly. Went to his room, but no Jack, how weird. So in my broken French I asked if he was OK and where is he? They told me he was in recovery and would be there for a little while longer. So, I sat in the room to wait.

Sitting in an empty room, your mind wanders and ponders weird questions. Like why are the floors in the hospital all tiled? And, why are there always these loud click, click, clicking sounds? Turns out, true to Paris’ fashion sense, the women doctors and technicians all wear high heels, and some even wear stilettos; hence, all that clicking. Only the nurses and of course the men had more sense. They wore crocks or tennis shoes. I have never seen this before in the US, and as I mentioned, I’ve spend a lot of time in US hospitals, because of my chronic “hypocrhondriasis” or is that hypochondriac, oh well? So, I expect all my female doctor friends to start wearing stilettos!

Jack was finally wheeled in. His nose was all bandaged up, I wonder why? He was just coming out of the anesthesia. The doctors lied to him. He was supposed to get a local, but they gave him a general. Our friend Jose, who is a doctor, said they don’t usually give locals in France, who knew? Jack was pretty coherent for someone coming out of the operating room, but he looked awful, not a good hair day at all, but I snapped a picture of him anyway. He got in at about 12:30 and they said he’d be released by around 4 p.m. so we have to wait. Nurses came in a couple of times to check Jack’s vitals etc., and all looked good.

I think I mentioned that France does not believe in air conditioning except in hospitals. Well they made up for it today. It was freezing in that room. I had my jacket and scarf on and if I had gloves I would have worn those as well. I didn’t understand the gadgets on the wall and was afraid to touch anything, until Jack turned some dial with a minus and plus sign. Imagine, air conditioning in the winter, go figure?

At about 4:30, no doctor or nurses have come by to check Jack out? So I just opened the door and stared down a nurse, and Jack told her he wanted to leave. They processed the paperwork and we finally left, what a long, long day. As we were leaving I was going to call a cab, but Jack said he was OK to take the metro, go figure? The ride was uneventful, except the passengers all thought he got banged up in a fight or something. But French are very polite, they won’t directly stare, they just sort of glance. Got home and put Jack to bed, since we have to return to the hospital tomorrow to get the bandages changed.

Friday: It is freezing cold today, brrrr. Left early to get to the doctor’s by 11:30 am. Amazingly, we got there at 11:25 and Jack got called in at 11:32, imagine that? I just assumed like most Doctor’s office we’d have to wait, at minimum, a half an hour. They’re so efficient. Jacked looked much better, so we headed towards the BHV department store, since I had to get new batteries for my watches and yarn to finish some gifts. The watch repair man spoke no English, and he was trying to explain to me that one of watches didn’t work at all with new batteries. Surprisingly, I understood him. He told me it would cost more money to repair it then what the watch is worth, oh well.

We went up to get yarn, then I went to pay. The cashier asked me if I wanted a bag for the yarn, and I said yes. Expecting her to actually put the yarn in the bag for me with the receipt, she just nodded towards the plastic bag, so I grabbed one and packed it myself. I guess we’re definitely back in France, they have such wonderful world renowned customer service, yeah right!

We decided to grab a quick bite. As we were eating Jack’s nose was bleeding slightly, so we decided to head home so he could relax.

We had a quiet restful evening at home.

Saturday: I guess winter is really here, it’s cold out there. Jack had to return to the hospital after 3 pm to get his bandages changed. Since he was feeling much better he went on his own and I stayed home to do some laundry and clean up a little since our good friend Joe from Serene Lakes is arriving Monday.

Jack got back before 6 pm so we decided why not go to Little India and have dinner. We went to a restaurant called DSNY. It was packed when we got there, always a good sign. Fortunately, we just waited for a few minutes and got seated in a really tight, tight area. Now I know what sardines feel like. Our waiter had a little attitude. We asked for some water, and he came back with a carafe of water, but no glasses. How were we supposed to drink it, through osmosis or something? So I asked for some glasses. No glasses, I asked again, and he said, oui, oui, oui (like, yeah, yeah, yeah) with attitude. But we got our glasses. Jack ordered for his entrée Dosas, they’re like an Indian burrito, and I had the grilled prawns. I have to say they were DELICIOUS!!! Unfortunately, I sat so close to the man next to me, we kept banging our elbows every time we lifted our fork, oh well. Jack ordered a fish vindaloo and I ordered the lamb biryani for our plat. Jack got chicken instead, but they got my order right. It was so FRENETIC in that restaurant, we didn’t dare try to correct the order, oh well. They were both delicious, but most of all, I was shocked cause the food was actually spicy and hot, and most French people do not like to eat, as they say epicé (spicy) foods, who knew?

I couldn’t wait to get out, the food was spot on but the atmosphere was atrocious! We’ll probably go back, go figure? (lol)!

Tonight is the “La Nuit Blanche” The White night, which is suppose to be an evening of art with music and shows etc., at the train stations. So, we headed to the Gare du Nord, got there and they were showing a video presentation with some really out there music, too weird for us, so we headed to the Gard d’lest. At the Gard d’lest, they too had this video presentation, but of children humming and chanting weird stuff. It was like watching, “Children of the Corn.” Again too weird for us, so we just headed home since it was getting late. I saw some dance shows from the La Nuit Blanche on TV that we missed, thank God we did. It was very amateurish Indian dancing, and they all looked bored, for once we had god timing.

Sunday: J, Tracy, Jack and I decided we were going to do a little road trip and explore. So we headed towards J’s house as our meeting place. We later picked up Tracy and headed to a Guinguette (dance hall on the water), not too far from Paris.

If your’e interested, check this website out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinguette

We got to the suburb and I must say it’s quite lovely. We had difficulties finding the Guinguette, but after asking pedestrians and gas station attendants, we finally found it. Went into the main restaurant, and it’s the stereotypical large dance hall with all the red/white checkered table clothes with an accordion player making the rounds. Every one there except us were French. We were going to eat there, then we saw the food. It looked like cafeteria food so we decided to go elsewhere. As we drove to town, we found a flea market, or as they say in French, vide grenier. Lots of junk, but also some fun stuff. After window shopping a little we decided to get lunch.

We all decided since Paris is so close we’d go back there for lunch. We went to a great salad place in the Marais called Le Pick-Clops. I liked the food, but Jack found it a bit salty. We had great conversation about what else, politics. Methinks you don’t have to guess too hard to know how most French, or for that matter most Europeans and Americans ex-pats lean or are cheering for in this election.

Then we called it a day, and J was kind enough to drive us all home.

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