Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's a fille to do? or You've got to be kidding me!

I've been out roaming around Paris neighborhoods for hours on end. And sometimes, I think it might be nice to use one of these:

From 2009-04-17

However, we had these same $150,000 toilets in Seattle until they had to be scrapped because they were havens for drug deals and other such nefarious activities. I never dared use them in Seattle; needless to say, I haven't dared use them here.

Today, we were in the 17th arrondissement - near the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees - which you would think would be fairly tourist-friendly. On a lovely little side street - rue Poncelet - we decided to have a cafe in a cafe. (Forgive the lack of proper accents, but so far, I'm not French enough to bother to put them in.)

Imagine my surpise (surprise!) when I opened the door to the toilet to find this:

From 2009-04-29

The last time I came face-to-face to one of these was in rural Yugoslavia when Yugoslavia was still Yugoslavia!

Of Souffles and Thimbles

Last night we had an awesome dinner at Le Soufflé here in Paris. It's not that common to find a souffle at an American restaurant. Usually when you do it's a dessert souffle. However, at Le Souffle it is 3 courses of souffles. Check out their video which itself is delicious! I love the last line of the video which roughly translated is: "We are always waiting with our smile."

Here's what I ordered:
  • Starter: Soufflé forestie - Forest mushroom souffle
  • Main: Soufflé sanglier - Wild boar souffle
  • Dessert: Soufflé pommes et Calvados - Apple and Calvados souffle
It was truly an experience. Kathie and Stephen each had different starters, mains and desserts so we each got to try nine different souffles - really amazing.

Now for the thimble story...

I was sitting in the office when I received this email message from Kathie: "Washing thimble doesn't seem to be working!" at which point I burst into very loud fits of laughter that, I'm sure, only reinforced my image as a "crazy American" to anyone on the 9th floor of the Tour Winterthur - or perhaps all across La Défense. But doesn't it really look like a thimble? Certainly it's nothing compared to the super-sized top load washer we have at home that has a separate dryer while the "thimble" has a self-contained so-called dryer that basically does not dry yet runs up the electricity meter like there's no tomorrow...

From 2009-04-28

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Pauvre Petite

As you can see in the picture, Monaco seems to be wearing her mud vest with pride (?). Is that a look of pride??? Be prepared, Eric, for the wrath of Julie (the groomer)!

A Glimpse of Paris

This is one of my favorite Paris sites - le tres petit Smart car. We do have them now in North America, but they're cuter here.

Yesterday on my way to explore the 'lively" Left Bank (Rive Gauche), I crossed paths with this protest. We have them in North America, but they're more polite here. (This one was anyway...)

This is a display for cosmetics. We also have these, but not like this!

We have downspouts, but not like this!

This is one thing that is NOT cuter here - my thimble-sized washer/dryer combination. To quote my dear landlady, Julia: "Laundry dries very effectively hung up to dry in the bathroom." The reason for this is that the dryer part of this very tiny machine ne marche pas. Therefore, readers of this blog who are on the list of visitors: Please remember to bring your own towel(s) and enough clothes to last you your entire stay, or else plan on schlepping down the street to the Laverie. I'll let you know what happens when I try to wash a sheet and hang it to dry. :(

Tent City dans La Ville-Lumière

From 2009-04-24

These "campers" have chosen a spot just around the corner from the apartment. Their "two-second" tents, which unfurl rapidly and do not require poles, were a gift from the charity, Médecins du Monde, during their "tent city" campaign. Three hundred homeless people were given tents to sleep in on the streets of Paris. This campaign prompted outrage and sympathy, and thus forced the government to allocate €7m for housing for the homeless.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What a difference a day makes!

On Wednesday evening Kathie and I walked down the rue Montorgueil which is about a 5 minute walk from our apartment and is populated with restaurants and shops of all nature. This morning (Sunday), my friend Stephen Bacon and I walked down the same road only to find it transformed into the most amazing outdoor market. It's really difficult to find any store open on Sunday and to literally run into this was quite a find. We brought back six or seven bags of groceries and had the most amazing meals this afternoon and evening. Tomorrow night we are having a wild mushroom risotto.

And Stephen wonders why we don't want him to leave???

Sunday at the Museum

We're back from our outing to the museum. Jackson is now sleeping, moaning about son dos, ses pieds, and ses souliers. He hasn't gotten his museum legs (feet) yet.

Musee de L'Orangerie was closed from 2000-2006 for work (?). It's located close to the apartment at the end of the Tuileries Gardens. It was selected and designed by Monet to present his enormous Les Nymphéas (Lily Pads) murals, which are housed in two huge rooms. The museum used to be the location where Napoleon stored his freshest and best supply of oranges for royalty and dignitaries, thus the name.

The lighting in the mural rooms was odd - it made us look gray like the day. However, it certainly enhanced the subtle colors of the paintings.

Downstairs is an impressive collection of works by Renoir, Cezanne, Sisley, Matisse, Modigliani, and Picasso. This one, Claude Renoir en Clown, in particular, made me wonder what was going through this child's mind when he was posing for his father. Did he get a cut of the sale price to make up for the humiliation? Bad Daddy, Pierre-Auguste!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Jackson's Faux Pas

Every morning (including the day he had to catch the train to Koln), Jackson goes out to buy some pastries for our petit dejeuner. (He may not know it, but the reason that this is his task is so he starts his day with that hellish climb up the stairs.) Since the boulangeries are everywhere, he's been trying a different one every day. I guess I forgot to communicate to him that he had found the most exquisite almond pain au chocolat at Gosselin's - just around the corner on rue St. Honore. So, today he returned with a disappointing find at a different bakery (turn right at the end of our street). If I'm going to eat 408 calories in one pastry, let it be exquisite.

Jackson's vice of choice is the croissant. By law in France, to be called croissant au beurre, it HAS to be made from real beurre, not some other unidentifiable fat (margarine). Jackson had a discussion at his work about this topic. There was some back and forth about margarine vs. butter, when some enlightened individual ended all conversation with this: "If you have to worry about butter or margarine, you shouldn’t be eating the croissant at all!" End of story!

The smallest elevator

One other highlight of my Parler Parlor experience was the smallest elevator (I hesitate to say "in the world" or "in Paris" because the woman I shared it with said it was "normale". Yikes!).

It felt like being in the box that a big screen TV would come in. Fortunately, the school was on the third floor. Needless to say, next week I will take the stairs.

Parler Parlor

I finally had the chance to speak to someone in French (besides the sellers of food and the person on the phone who took my credit card information to pay for our assurance habitation for the apartment. [Everyone who rents is required to have their own insurance.])

A quick 10 minute walk from the apartment brought me face to face with 3 francophones and 2 other anglophones. Parler Parlor is located in a language school on the boulevard Sebastopol. There are conversation groups three times a week, where you join a group of 6-8. You spend 45 minutes conversing in English followed by 45 minutes in French. To be brief - I was glad when it was over. However, I plan to go back for more torture next week.

By the way, Jackson was conveniently late getting home from work, so he couldn't join me in the fun!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Day 5 pictures...

Less pictures today since today was a work day. After work Kathie took me over to the Palais Royal to see the garden. It at the opposite end of the street from the "Bourse" which I posted a picture of yesterday. Basically, it's less than 5 minutes away from the apartment. A great spot to eat lunch, read the paper or simply to get some sun on a nice day!

Don't let your wives see the pictures of the beautiful shoes for sale...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Day 4 pictures...

The lines were too long for the Kandinsky exhibit over at the Centre Pompidou plus it was a beautiful, warm and sunny day so we walked over to the flower market on the Ile de la Cité. After the flower market, we toured the inside of Notre Dame Cathedral, had lunch and walked back to the apartment via the Seine. After a late dinner we took a stroll and took some more pictures at and around the Louvre.

Tomorrow morning I metro in to our office in La Defense - I'm looking forward to seeing everyone!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why is everyone kissing?

The first night we were out roaming around, I noticed that everyone was kissing. And I asked, "Why is everyone kissing?" Jackson is more into taking pictures of inanimate objects, else I would have had my hands on the camera and would have been snapping away at all those people kissing. Then I would have been able to add them to this blog post.

Jackson keeps maligning me about the fact that I haven't been blogging. It's the same feeling I get when he blames me every time he goes out of town, we have an IT meltdown at home: "Jackson, the Internet is broken!" And he replies: "Why is it that every time I go out of town, YOU have an IT problem????" (I enjoy IT problems so much that I conspire to have them when my IT guy is absent, which is frequent.)

So, by this digression, you may see why I don't blog. Anyway, back to the topic of kissing. Last night, I spotted some kissing (not nearly the number as the day before), but I did have a blog topic, so I said: "Quick, take a picture!" As we walked past, I noticed that the couple was still entangled in their kiss, and also noticed that they were male. I couldn't tell immediately because they were both dressed very "classé" (as opposed to déclassé) and almost identical. I'm working on getting Jackson into tight, straight-leg jeans, a fashionably tied black scarf, carrying a square black leather mansack. I have three months, so wish me luck! And, by the way, why is everyone kissing?

Day 3 pictures...

Despite the rain (and jet lag) we managed to get out today!

Petite déjeuner - Breakfast

I'm trying to get into everyday life here in Paris. So today I got up, walked down the 66 steps and strolled around the quartier (neighborhood) looking for a boulanger (bakery) and a place to get some fresh fruit. I didn't have to go far as you can see! Words cannot describe how awesome the croissants were, the brioche au chocolat was out of this world and the strawberries - from Spain - were pretty good, too.

Parisian apartment living typically means small kitchens and small refrigerators. This forces you into buying fresh food. It's pretty typical to purchase what you will eat for dinner on the way home from work, for example.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Monsieur et Madame Croque teach us a lesson

From 2009-04-16

Last night I ate a croque monsieur for dinner - it's pictured on the left above. I'm very familiar with croque monsieurs because they are quite popular in Quebec so it wasn't a totally foreign food to me. I loved the way the did mine last night because I've normally had it as a grilled sandwich rather than open face which I quite enjoyed. It's very similar to a Monte Cristo or a grilled-cheese sandwich.

The menu also listed a croque madame which neither of us had ever heard of so I asked the waiter about it. Here's the conversation transcript:

Jackson: Quelle est la différence de la croque monsieur et la croque madame? - What's the difference between the croque monsieur and the croque madame?
Waiter: The croque madame has an egg on top of it.
Kathie: Why is it called a croque madame?
Waiter: Well, the madame has the egg, yes?

As soon as I figured out what he meant I had a serious laugh. Yes, it is the madame who has the egg!

One of the hardest things to figure out is menu items at a restaurant. Menus are a big challenge. If you didn't know what a croque monsieur was you'd never know what it was by literally translating the menu item into "Crunch Mister" or "Crunch Mrs". Half the fun is ordering something that you think is one thing but you end up getting something different or perhaps prepared in a way you'd never had before. It's all part of the adventure!

Day 2 pictures...

Lots of day and night pictures around the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathédrale.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

We've arrived - Nous sommes ici!

We finally arrived in Paris and got to our apartment around noon. After meeting with our landlady we took a well deserved nap and then went out for an evening stroll and a quick bite. Kathie's already in bed but I thought I'd get a post published before I turned in. Feel free to click on the pictures above to see the whole album.

I'll leave it to Kathie to blog about our plane having to divert to Winnipeg due to overflowing toilets. Yuch. Oh, and her lay flat bed in business class from Toronto to Paris whereas I was relegated to the pretzel-shaped seats in row 58. And my "meat" product dinner on a tray versus her gourmet meals on china. I'm not bitter about any of that. No, really, I'm not.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My latest French word: déclassé

déclassé = dey-class-eh

The word my wife has been using quite a lot while I am packing my suitcase for our departure to Paris at 6AM tomorrow. Here it is in context:
You can't take that! It's déclassé.
Seems a lot of my fancy Pacific NorthWest attire is déclassé.

Maybe I am déclassé?

dé·clas·sé adj.
1. Lowered in class, rank, or social position.
2. Lacking high station or birth; of inferior social status.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Les Bicyclettes de Paris

I was so excited to hear that Paris has transformed itself (j'espere) into a bicycle-friendly city. Since its debut in July 2007, Velib has offered more than 20,000 "free" bikes at more than 1,450 sidewalk stations. The first half hour is free with a 1 € charge for an hour.

We do have a 4th floor walk-up, but with Angelina's (the best hot chocolate on the planet) a mere stroll from our apartment, I plan on burning off some of those calories on a bicyclette de Paris.

French bureaucracy - part 1

This may not actually be bureaucracy but I've decided to put anything that requires extra effort into a bureaucracy post. Maybe this will be part 1 of 1 but, then again, maybe not...(emphasis is theirs):
The tenant must take out a tenant's risks insurance policy, which is MANDATORY, in France, to be covered in the event of damage caused as a result of a fire, an explosion or water damage.
It's only going to cost us about €100 for the three months we'll be in Paris but our landlord wants to see our attestation - a signed letter stating we have assurance habitation before we get the keys. Our thanks to Monsieur Paul Boussard over at AGF Insurance for helping us out with this - nous remercions Paul Boussard de son aide!

P.S. Actually, the bureaucracy of getting Euros, in cash, from Travelex here in Bellevue was far greater than getting our assurance habitation!

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