Sunday, August 20, 2006

And just so you know... Updated!

I now have the problem fixed. For some strange reason, Firefox decided to start plugging in the wrong username, though I changed nothing. I finally figured it out, and am back to my non-thinking computerizing, just the way I like it.

By the way, mes potes have started a podcast in which they babble about expat life, leak misinformation about international breweries, giggle at each other's accents, drool over hot "boyfriends", and go on and on and on about Neopets and muffins. AND, they talk about me. What more could you ask for?

(Private to Katia: price of the links is one recipe for said raspberry white chocolate muffins. I miss them already!)


Stupid Blogger!!!

Blogger is being dumb. I can't log in. I am sending this message as an email blog, hoping it works, to let you know that I am still here, packing and shipping and selling stuff and celebrating and being sad about leaving.

My awesome friends threw a going-away bash for us last night, and I am dying to tell you all about it, but for now, you'll just have to check out the pictures that she and she took, and wait for stories to come. There was much eating, oohing and ahhing and general crazy Parisian debauchery involved (and a garter belt or two.)

Only in Paris!

So for now, hold the phone (or the modem, as the case may be) and soon I'll have more updates, photos, and stories as we transition from the land of fromage to the land of cheez, from un bon vin blanc to bee-yah, from Paris to Madison.

À tout à l'heure!

P.S. I can't OK your comments either, so it's not that they're bad or that I don't want to, I just can't. Ça m'énerve!!!

P.P.S. What happens if you get rice in your ear?


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Monet: Orangerie and Giverny

On my birthday, Dr. B and I had planned to go to Monet's garden and home at Giverny. We woke up, Dr. B made me a delicious breakfast, and prepared to go. It was cold and rainy, however, so we decided to save our trip for Tuesday, and find something else to do in Paris.

We decided instead to head to the Orangerie, do a little shopping in the Carrousel du Louvre, and stop at Angelinafor some really awesome hot chocolate (thick as motor oil, so good you really should have to confess it, Catholic or not!) It was raining hard when we got to the Jardin de Tuileries, so we went into the Carrousel first, hoping the rain would soon stop. It slowed to a drizzle eventually, and we made our way across the sand toward the Orangerie. The line was long, and the wind was cold, so we were happy when we were finally ushered in, and could see the large-scale Monet paintings, about 5 feet high and 30 feet long (guessing--don't quote me on this) in their new setting. The diffused natural light from the skylights really created a beautiful effect, and the paintings seemed to shimmer and change depending on your angle. We went through the lower level, and enjoyed seeing paintings by Picasso, Modigliani, Renoir, Cézanne, Rousseau, Matisse, Laurencin and many others--in fact, I'd have to say I preferred this to visiting the Pompidou Center (the meat dress, it still haunts me!) We felt we had earned our hot chocolate, and split a pistachio dessert as well, and headed home happy to another home-cooked meal by Dr. B (my one day a year with guaranteed no cooking!!!)

Monday, we worked out some moving details with a company that will ship our stuff, got Dr. B some new clothes (french jeans fit him so much better) and foofoo water (Dior Homme--Mmmmmm!), walked through the Jardin de Luxembourg, and had a picnic on Pont Neuf after sunset. Watching the Procession of the Ascension on the River Seine was breathtaking--a statue of the Virgin Mary led the first of five to seven boats full of worshippers with candle lumiaries in their hands as they said the Hail Mary and sang hymns. The statue was glowing, lit from below by many lights, and made of either crystal, glass, ice or super shiny chrome--we don't know which, but we sure wish we had a camera. It was amazing!

France is not a Catholic state, but somehow they still manage to take all the Catholic holidays off. So since Dr. B "a fait le pont" (took a 4-day weekend), on Tuesday, the official celebration of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary to Heaven, we took a train from St. Lazare station to Vernon in Normandy, hopped a bus to Giverny, and spent the afternoon walking through Impressionist painter Claude Monet's home and beautiful gardens. This is where he lived from 1883 until his death in 1926. He devoted most of his time and money to his gardens, both caring for them and painting them, and the restored views are absolutely spectacular.I took a humongous amount of pictures, and I don't have the energy to label them all, but I've posted them on my flickr site. Most would be labeled either "Me", "Jeff", "Me and Jeff", "Gorgeous!" or "Beautiful!!!" or "Breathtaking!!!!!!!"--a few times is fine, but over a hundred gets pretty boring, so I am leaving them all with the name the camera gave to them. Feel free to take a look when you have time--each site was more beautiful than the next, so I admit I got a bit snap-happy! (Yes, Grandma Sylvia's granddaughter is living up to the family tradition...)


Monday, August 14, 2006

La Dame Blanche

As you probably know, I love to eat. I also love to try new things, and learn about new foods. The other night, Dr. B and I went out for dinner, and as a part of our "Menu 16 euros", we had a choice of five different desserts. Most I recognized, but one was new to me, so I had to ask.

    "Excusez-moi, monsieur. C'est quoi, une Dame Blanche?"
    (Excuse me, sir, what is this, a white lady?)

    "C'est de la glace parfum vanille, avec la sauce chocolate chaude, et du chantilly."

    (Me, to Dr. B) "Oh. A Hot Fudge Sundae. With whipped cream."

    (and to the waiter) "D'accord. Je prendrai une crème brûlée." (OK, I'll take a crème brûlée.)

You'd think with a name that fancy for something so simple, a banana split would have some other sort of fancy name, like "La Vedette du Pont Glace" or "L'Isle Sainte Banane" or something, but Non, they call it, "Le Banana Split."

Kind of disappointing, actually.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Really Old Food at Fearless John's

Since just a few days remain, I've been taking time away from packing boxes to go do a few of the things I've missed in our time here. Yesterday, I "finished off" the Musée d'Orsay, visiting the last rooms I never had the energy to see before. Today, I went back in time 800 years by visiting the Tour Jean Sans Peur, or the Tower of John Without Fear, located near métro Etienne Marcel, in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris.

I took the line 7 to get there, preferring to walk outside rather than transferring several times to get to the nearest metro stop. The streets around Les Halles buzzed with activity, despite the lack of Parisians in town in the month of August (they're on vacation.) Cheap and tacky clothing stores, fast food joints, and pickpockets vied for the best action from the local tourists, and I walked quickly and purposefully past the sex shops (yuck), the local ruffians trying to hail me with "young girl! young girl!" and the orange-t-shirted CARE workers pushily soliciting donations to feed the poor. This is not my favorite quartier.

Since I had read in my Vie Pratique, a supermarket recipe magazine, about a new exhibition on medieval food, cooking, and kitchen practices, I had been wanting to go to this museum. I checked out the website, and found that the remaining tower was preserved and refurbished to teach about life in the middle ages in Paris. Jean Sans Peur was a cousin to the king Charles VI, and murdered another cousin of his (Louis d'Orléans), hoping to be in line for the throne, since old Charlie-boy was kind of nutty. (Bouts of psychosis and possible schizophrenia, according to modern scholars, let to the name "Charles the well-beloved" being changed to "Charles the Mad".) He was involved in lots of crazy medieval politics, and was eventually murdered himself by another cousin, the next King of France, and frankly kind of an ugly dude.

I admit to being a bit of a medieval buff, but the political stuff is not what interests me as much as the daily life. Learning about what people ate, where it came from and how much it cost, what they served with what, the utensils used, the spices, the recipes, the diet--this is what I find interesting, and the exhibit in the basement of the tower was fascinating to me. They had even set up a tiny mock medieval kitchen, though it was very sparsely furnished and didn't quite live up to my ideas of what it would be. Nonetheless, I found myself hungrily reading every word, popping my head into every nook and cranny, and even taking a look down the hole of the indoor latrine (an indoor 'outhouse') in the tower. It was only when the worker came to tell me they were closing that I finally shook the spell the tower had upon me. It is amazing to see that a place like this still exists, right inside this modern and vibrant city. The tower was restored and refurbished in 1999, when it was opened to the public. If you go, however, bring a translator--it's all in French.

If you're interested in Medieval cooking as well, try looking at this site (also in French) that discusses food, meals, eating, cooking and politics in the Middle Ages. (I borrowed the images from them--I hope the copyright has run out after 800 years or so!)

Bon Appétit!


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ratatouille (cha cha cha)

They made a movie about my life...

...well, sorta. I love cheese, and I live in Paris, and I'm poor. Pretty close, huh?

I can't wait to see this, though it doesn't come out until we'll be long back stateside.

I'm nostalgic for Paris already, and I haven't even left yet. Sigh.

Note: When I first watched this, I saw the bell-shaped cheese, and thought, "that must be a chèvre,". Since I couldn't quite "get" all the cheese names from Monsieur Faux-Français, I went to the French version of this trailer. I understood every word perfectly in French. I guess I pass the test.

And it is a chèvre (goat's milk cheese). The round one is a brebis (sheep's milk cheese). I honestly don't know what it is that Ratatouille is eating, but if it's a Mimolette extra-vielle, I totally understand.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Hotel Recommendation

Because so many have asked, and I actually have experience with this one, I'm listing a hotel that I would suggest if you are coming to Paris but on a budget. A friend stayed there in February, and said it was perfect. The hotel is called the Hotel des Arts on the Rue Coypel in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, just off the Place d'Italie.

You can read about it here, and can reserve your room online.

Prices run from 49 euros/night (single) to 75 for a triple room. The rooms are charmingly decorated, with a full and very modern bathroom, a direct phone line, cable television and a fridge in the room. There is an elevator, and the staff speaks English (except the one older man that was there at 2 AM one night, but I was with her, so it was fine.) It's a Mom-n-Pop kind of place, so not cookie-cutter boring. She said that it was exactly what she needed.

The location is a block or so off the Place d'Italie, where the 5, 6 and 7 lines of the Metro have a station. Many buses also come through this area. There are lots of bakeries around to grab some breakfast, cafes, grocery stores, and even a big Centre Commerciale (mall) a short walk away. You can stroll up to the Latin Quarter in about 15 minutes, and walk up the Rue Mouffetard, picking up things to eat at the markets, butcher shops, and wine "caves". A short metro ride will take you just about anywhere in Paris, and the line 27 bus goes directly to the Louvre. Take the line 6 metro to go to the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe, the line 7 to go to Notre Dame or the Louvre (if you don't take the bus), line 6 to Montparnasse, line 5 up to near Sacre Coeur and Montmartre, or make connections to head elsewhere.

It's not a touristy area, so things are generally cheaper and there are less people trying to follow you around and sell you flashing crappy plastic Eiffel Towers for 5 euros. There are lots of local amenities (grocery stores, hardware, dry cleaning, laundromats, etc.) that are for people who live here, rather than lots of tourist shops. There are street markets nearby every day of the week, and lots of parks for sitting with a bottle of wine, loaf or bread and some cheese for an easy and inexpensive dinner. It's an area where you can practice your French, if you want, because not everyone speaks English here, but if they do they will want to practice their English with you, so let them. They don't get many opportunities in this part of Paris.

Enjoy your trip!


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Movers? **Updated

HELP! To all former expats: I need help finding someone who can ship some stuff back for us.

We would rather ship our click-clack, 2 dressers, 2 tables and assorted boxes/baggage back, rather than sell it for peanuts. These are things that we can use back in Madison, and since the company that Dr. B is doing research with is helping us with moving costs, we want to look into taking these things with us. The bed, for example, set us back about 800 euros (worth it, because it is so comfortable) but we know we would only be able to sell it for about 200 euros.

We contacted the recommended Mayflower company, but they only ship larger moves.

Do you have a suggestion that you've used and had good results with? These aren't things we need overnight, but within a month or two would be good.

If you have any suggestions, please comment! Thanks. :)

UPDATED*** We got an estimate (Cap Transit; they were very professional), got it approved (yay!), and we're good to go. AND we get to take our furniture back with us, which is much nicer than selling it for 1/10 of what we paid for it. So, if we should be bombarded with friends visiting us in Madison, we'll have enough actual beds to sleep 6 extra people, plus one very short person or child on the love seat. Wow! Holiday Inn's got nothing on us... and they don't have the added service of doggie-kiss wake up calls.


L'expatriée devient L'ex-Parisienne

It took a long time to feel at home in Paris. Everything was so different--from the traffic signs to the public transportation to the brands at the supermarket. The first days were very hard for both of us, and we wondered if we'd ever feel like we belonged.

Now, as I walk through the streets lined with tiny cafés and brasseries, as I admire the little pots of geraniums on miniscule terrasses, and as I wind my way through the narrow cobblestone streets that were originally designed 800 years ago for horse-drawn carts and foot traffic, I feel at home. Things don't surprise me anymore. People ask me for directions, and I can answer them. The lady at the bakery knows what I'll order, automatically reaching for a baguette des prés or dropping my pain aux céréales in the machine to slice. Even the lady at the street market who has the best butter in all of Paris leaves out some beurre salé when cleaning things up, expecting me to show up at the last minute, like I always do, as they are packing up for the day. I belong here, now. Paris is my home.

Last night, we returned from a wonderful outing with friends to see Les Pirates des Caraïbes: Le Coffre Maudit, for a drink on the terrasse of Paris Plages: Rive Gauche, and to walk through the park at Bercy. We enjoyed jokes and laughter and dinner together, with a mixture of English and French being spoken, even within the same sentence.

After we arrived home, I spoke to my mother-in-law and father-in-law on the telephone, while Dr. B prepared the laptop to watch a few episodes of borrowed TV. Jeannie and I spoke of books, and family members, and trips to Toronto. Then she said something that hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Or should I say pavés?

"Just days now until you come home!"

"Well, a few weeks yet..."

"EIGHTEEN days. Eighteen, now. Only eighteen days."

Dix-huit jours.

This morning, I look out the window at the sun shining on the leaves of our trees, the grass on the median of our avenue growing thick and lush from the recent rains, and the tiny cars, fewer because of all of the Parisians who've left for vacation, circling the Place d'Italie, and I wonder.

How will I ever leave this wonderful place? This city that I now love, that I am a part of. That is a part of me.

Comment est-ce qu'on dit "Au Revoir" à Paris?


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mahna Mahna

I'm kind of in a Mahna mahna mood--just thought I'd share.

One of my favorites. Jim Henson was a genius!

Yes, this has absolutely nothing to do with France. I know. But it makes me happy! I feeeeeellll happeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Coup de Boule: Zidane, Il l'a frappé!

Coup de Boule

I predict this will be the French equivelent of "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer"--ie: a song that may be mildly entertaining the first time you hear it, but will drive you absolutely nuts when you hear it for the 89 zillionth time. This was supposedly made as a joke the day after the loss to Italy, and sent out via email. It was played by a radio station soon after, and calls came flooding in. It's now at the top of the charts in France, and you hear it on the beach, in the bars, and pouring out of little cars. (Sorry, I couldn't resist the rhyme.)

Nonetheless, it shows that some people are laughing about the "incident" that got so many tongues wagging around the world.

"Zidane, il va marquer!" (Zidane's going to score!) gets transformed into, "Zidane, Il l'a frappé! Zidane, Il l'a tappé!" (Zidane hit him! Zidane smacked him! Zidane whammed him! etc.) "La Coupe, On l'a ratée!" (The World Cup, we missed it.) Coup de Boule is a slangy way of saying head butt (which is slangy in its own right--there isn't really a proper way to describe something so improper to do.)




If you are the praying kind, please keep my friend Vivi and her family in your prayers. Less than two years after losing her mother to Scleroderma, she just found out that her father has terminal cancer. She's on her way back to the US to be with him.

If you're not the praying kind, some good thoughts and vibes sent her way would be appreciated as well. She's going to need all the positive energy and strength she can get.

Thank you.