"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, July 1, 2010

My first summer week back in Paris (June 21 -June 30)

 Rue Montorgueil

We arrived yesterday from SF and still jet-lagged but definitely wanted to catch up with our good friends Jose and Pablo before they leave for the states the following day to attend Pablo's daughter's wedding. It's like playing tag team. So, we had dinner with them on Monday night. It was a very cold dreary and day, and it was June 21,go figure?.  Well I guess we didn't move to Paris for the weather. We went to our regular neighborhood resto Epicierie on Rue Montorgueil. It's nothing special, but they serve good quick food and all the service people know Pablo and Jose since they go there at minimum twice a week and treat us very special. I think I may have mentioned that they don't have a kitchen so they eat out every night. Restos can't always be on the mark and  tonight they missed their mark, oh well, we had fun none-the-less.

Tonight is Fete de Musique, Paris celebrates the solstice by having concerts through the city, so it's like a sprinkling of all sorts of musicians around the city. There were a number of bands lining the streets, but personally I think in previous years there were more bands, methinks probably because it was a Monday night.

 Traditional French folkloric music

The following day, summer came to Paris with a bang. We literally went from cold winter like weather one day to hot humid weather another day. It was bizarre. It was almost like turning a switch on. But I prefer hot to cold weather any day. That's probably the tropical fruit in me.

We're catching up with the city and wandering around as we usually do, and I see pre-sale signs all over Paris in preparation for the upcoming July sales. If you don't already know there are 2-sale months regulated in France: January and July. If you're a savvy shopper you can get some really good deals; unfortunately, everyone and their mother knows this so if you don't go to the stores early, all the items are sold out. I've even been told that people who have a relationship with the stores, or those who can bribe them, will ask the store clerks to put some items away for them to claim later. So, what happens if you miss the first initial rush of the sales? just like food, you get the left-overs or worse the crumbs. Here's a good website to check out the sales in France http://www.day-tripper.net/events-shopping-sales.html

Interesting footnote, I've been told by some of my French friends that the reason so many French people wear black is that's the only color available after the rush on the sales. They claim since colored clothing is so rare they go first and fast, who knew?

About a year ago, we were in Cahors visiting our friend's parents. It was extremely warm, and I got a brilliant idea, before we leave and return to Paris, why not buy an air-conditioner and test it out in our bedroom in Cahors since it's been so hot. Great idea, nest-ce pas? So we went to a store called BUT. Yep, called BUT, but pronounced "boout" So, we went in and it was like love at first sight. I saw an air-conditioner, plus it was 50% off (it was July).  We loaded up the car and I'm really excited about putting it through the test in this hot weather. So I read the instructions and it says you need to let it sit upright for 48 before use. Wouldn't you know it? OK, someone is telling me something. We were returning to Paris the next day, oh well.

I bring up the air-conditioner story because alot of my French friends think it's crazy. Some have even told me, "...but you are not Parisian...", in other words saying I'm a whoos. OK, I will own up to that gladly. And, they said that the reason French don't use air-conditioning is that it's basically evil and expensive and doesn't help toughen you up, and I told them hot weather makes you dead! There's an old wives tale here that if there's a draft, it will make you sick. So, one of the reason some elderly, unfortunately passed away during a heatwave a couple of years ago, they didn't open their windows and stewed to death. In fact, I have been in peoples homes and have begged them to open the windows, go figure? Just the other night we were riding a bus and it must've been 100 degress in there, easily. An elderly gentlemen starting closing the windows and asking all the other passengers to follow suit, believe it or not, they did. I wanted to call him out and say are you crazy, but I was getting off at the next stop and figured, if they don't want to say anything than tough, let them "toughen up".

I like walking around the city and checking out how all the people cool down. Paris is known for their parks. They have some of the most beautiful parks in the world. And, now that we live here, we totally understand that when the weather is warm and sunny, we all haul ass to the park and rivers like a January sale at Macy's, cause you don't know how long this warm weather is going to las

                 The sign says access to water jets prohibited  Park André Citroën

We had a picnic across from Parc André Citroën  with fabulous view of Tour Eiffel  

     Doesn't that look so refreshing

Our past week has been interesting. We've been back to Paris for slightly more than a week. And, we covered quite alot.  As I mentioned in the past, dealing with bureaucracy in France is like getting a root canal, or worse getting a whole body lift. We completed our forms for our carte de Sejour (e.g., French green card) back in May. Our renewal month is June 20 of every year. We got notification that we need to appear in person August 14, great here we go again. They are suppose to be good for a year.  It seems whenever you are scheduled for a meeting whether it be the prefecture or anything bureaucratic it's always 3-months out. It's funny, the cartes are only valid for a year, but because of the long bureaucratic process you're lucky if you get them a few months before they expire. You would think logically that the clock starts ticking when you get your new carte, fat chance, it's starts on your anniversary day. In fact, a friend just got his renewed and it will already expire in 3-months, oy vey.

But since our carte expires on June 20 we need to get a récépissé a receipt showing that we have a meeting. So, off we go to the Prefecture (police) in the 17eme. Not surprisingly there is a long, long line, and I'm thinking thank God I didn't have any coffee this morning. Surprisingly, we got through the line in an hour and within an hour and 20-minutes we got to see an agent. She was the same agent we got the last 3-years, but of course being French she wouldn't dare say she remembered us, I mean how can you forget the sight of us? It was a pretty small tight office, so we asked how long are they there for, their primary office is in the 18eme was being remodeled. She told us they're only there temporarily for 2-years ?!?!  Oh well. We got our récépissé and celebrated by going out to lunch. I think if I should ever get a carte de sejour and have it in my hand, and it's actually good for 1-whole year, I think I'd pass out.

Our good friend's Joel and Cynthia are here, so we had dinner at La Regalade (see my reviews), and since they're big foodie's that following Friday we were going to the "Hidden Kitchen" (see my review). I guess we're getting back into our swing of things, by eating our way through Paris, imagine that?

That Saturday we were invited to our Italian friend Gianna's for lunch. She lives out in Colombes and I have never been to her place in the summer, so it was nice to see all her flowers in bloom. She asked that I make a Le cheesecake, so I did, but they don't have graham cracker crumbs. I had read in a blog you can substitute Mc Vite's biscuits. So, I tried it.... wrong. It was like sand, just awful. I recommend using zwieback crackers, which they sell here.  Cream cheese is still an oddity here, but you can get American cream cheese at Bon Marché for $7 for a little less than 8 oz, but then again how often do you make cheesecake here? with all the fabulous pastries et.al.

Gianna and having apéros in her garden

Some of Gianna's labor of love

Sunday is our market day. I bought a new camera and just took random shots of our market. We're becoming a real fixture here. All the main shops we frequent knows us as Les Americains, and it's a comforting feeling coming back knowing that you weren't forgotten...

Random market shots. FYI, Chevalline is horse meat.

Monday, we had the fabulous Ms. W. from www.thepariskitchen.com , since it was so warm I wanted to make some nice cold dishes. Going shopping in Paris on Monday is quite difficult. Many stores close and the only stores that open are your standard grocery stores like Carrefour and Monoprix. So, I had to adjust my recipes based on what they had in the department stores.
The food came out OK and we had a lovely time.

I love this photo, It's my strawberry Kaong salad

Tuesday we went to L'As du Fallafel in the Marais  my favorite place for fallafel. And, then we went window shopping at BHV department store to figure out if there was anything I wanted to be there in July, but I bought much of the stuff I needed from US, so doesn't look like I do need anything, maybe a mu-mu for all the weight I've gained.

Walking across the street from BHV department store, I came across this photo of De Gaulle on the Hôtel de Ville.

All-in-all it feels good to be back. Life is good!

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