Friday, March 31, 2006

On the back of the bus

On the back of the bus
Originally uploaded by Frenchpage.
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Friday, March 24, 2006

Spring flowers pushing their way up

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Avenue Foch, 16eme, friday afternoon

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

One day in March, 2005

The end of The Long Dark Winter, a few days into Spring…Beginnings…

Not warm, per se, not sunny, but warm enough to wear open-toed high heeled sandals without the danger of feet turning blue and cracking and falling off. Plus a red Chinese silk brocade blouse. No white wedding here this morning…

I arose when it was still dark. Drank some green tea, did a half an hour of yoga. We had to be there quite early, there was no other time slot available.

A rush of makeup and hair tied up with a lacquer pin, and him running around stuffing last minute items in the suitcase. What would the weather in Venice be like at this time of year? One collapsible black trenchcoat, for us to share..

His friend from school days calls fifteen minutes before we depart the apartment. "Tu peux me prêter une cravate? J'ai pas de cravate moi". He puts down the phone in exasperation, couldn't he have thought of that a little EARLIER, and continues stuffing the suitcase like a Thanksgiving bird.

I can still hear that David Bowie song that kept running through my head, for one reason or another:
Never gonna fall for
Modern Love
Walks beside me
Walks on by
Gets me to the Church on time
Church on time

I'd imagined walking but in the end time did not permit. Plus we are dragging a big suitcase, and there is some teetering on the aforementioned heels. We call a taxi.

"Ça me fait plaisir de vous amener à la Mairie pour le mariage.."

A small group outside. As had happened on several occasions before, when we dropped off the marriage dossier, and came back to grin at the posted bans, a sigh of frustration, that we didn't live just two streets east, in the 18th, where the Mairie is nineteenth century, and instead we are forced to be join lives in the circa 1970 concrete utilitarian block that is the Mairie du 17eme. Yes, sigh…

Some photos, taken by a sign: Paris 2012: L'amour des Jeux. A couple of cigarettes even though I don't usually smoke in the morning. A shuffle into what reminds me of my elementary school's assembly hall. A lady wearing a tricolore sash, smiling.

A ceremony in French, a Cartier ring, chosen at Galeries Lafayettes weeks before, had been sitting in its wrapped package on the dresser since.

Not "I do", which as a teenage girl I had always thought it would be, but "Oui".

A kiss.

"Les américains qui se marient à Paris" says the lady in the tricolore as she sees our birthplaces on the livret de famille. I can practically hear his teeth biting his tongue. Je suis pas américain. Je suis canadien. Je suis français. Je suis californien.

It is done. A walk to Place Clichy for a taxi to the airport. My feet hurt. Some waves from the taxi. I look at the ring, on a finger that has always been devoid of jewelry.

Up in the air and back down again. A long boat ride from Marco Polo airport, making one stop at the island of Murano before finally dropping us in front of the fog-shrouded Campanile. I have since changed shoes, back into the beloved chucks. A map purchased on the Piazza San Marco, followed by crossing canals for an hour, squeezing into crowded medieval passageways, over small arched footbridges, past scores of display windows draped with Venetian masks, stopping to lecher les vitrines in front of the gelato shops, backtracking, searching for our yellow hotel. And then…

And then…a pasta meal, some attempts at uttered Italian, a bottle of bubbly Prosecco Spumante purchased at a little wine shop, two plastic glasses offered to us by the shopkeeper, for our gondola ride. Our gondolier doesn't sing. Sipping said Prosecco through the dark, candlelit, silent back canals of Venice, no sound, except the gentle rippling of water lapping at the gondola. We feel inclined to whisper.

And then…

And then it is late, and we merely sit on the banks of the Canal Grande, legs hanging off the side, and look at the lights of Venice under the moon. Finish off the Prosecco, swigging from the bottle since we left the glasses on the gondola. We just sit, watch, and pass the bottle back and forth.

A year of someone who really does understand…

This post is for him….

Bridge over water

Bridge over water
Originally uploaded by Frenchpage.
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Bois de Boulogne in the rain, wednesday 15h45

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Going for Breakfast in America

I love Paris. Of course I do. I love everything about this great city. The cafes, the coffee, the wine, the bistros, the outdoor tables. The way you can sit for hours over a meal and no one comes around to ask how everything is.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I get a hankering for home. Bottomless cups of coffee (what the french call "jus de chausettes"or "sock juice"). Milk in a metal jug with a flip lid. Stacks of blueberry pancakes. And one of the few places in Paris where you can find veggie burgers. The French have fallen in recent years for brunch, but it's more of a fancy shindig with croissants, charcuterie, a cheese place, etc. For me, it's nice to know there is a place to go on a Sunday morning to sit at the counter with the International Herald Tribune and order up scrambled eggs and hash browns in English. I'm not saying all the time. But it's just reassuring to know it's there.

Best to get there before 11 on weekends, it gets pretty packed in that little space after that....

Le Coffee Parisien isn't bad at all either, one might even argue that the food is better than Breakfast in America, but that isn't really the point now is it. It just doesn't quite have the same atmosphere, the same people. Perhaps only another expatriate, someone who has been away from their homeland for a long stretch of time, will understand that hankering every once in a while to order in your native tongue and to eat what is familiar and comforting, no matter how much you really do love your new home...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Water runneth over

Water runneth over
Originally uploaded by Frenchpage.

The Seine is quite high at the moment, actually spilling over at some parts

Containers of Paris I: Addendum

About once every month or two, however, they actually come to you. You just leave the bags in the entryway before 8am. Which is nice of them...

Friday, March 17, 2006

That old striking spirit

The spirit of '68 is in full swing here in Paris. Getting from the Latin Quarter to Montmartre on line 7 during rush hour yesterday evening was a stop and go experience. I may have had better luck getting out and walking, joining the students in their protests. Kids in their early 20s with "CPE" painted on their faces and a line slashed through it would stomp onto the subway car, yell their slogans to the amusement of the riders, and run out at the next stop. Eddie took a taxi home last night from his office near Gobelins. Upon hearing his taxi driver's accent, he soon learned that the guy was Russian, a former member of the Red Army for five years who, upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union, then became a member of the French Foreign Legion in Africa for seven years. It was only his second day of being a cab driver in Paris. It would be bad enough on a normal day. "Which way should I go?" he kept asking Eddie. You picked a hell of a week to start being a cab driver, Eddie told him.

Coming from the land of two weeks vacation a year, I continue to be really impressed with employment benefits in France. For those of you who don't know already, the French receive FIVE weeks of vacation a year. Yes I said FIVE weeks of vacation a year. Count 'em One Two Three Four FIVE weeks of vacation a year. In addition they receive other benefits such as subsidizing of transportation to work, meal tickets good in most restaurants, very decent social healthcare AND a thirty five hour work week. Once you sign an employment contract in France, it's next to impossible to get fired. I mean, you have to do something REALLY REALLY bad, like, literally do NOTHING but blog from your desk all day for a year. I do admire the system, and the French are reluctant to let go of these benefits that they have worked so hard for. I read a poll this morning that says only 27 percent of French people support the new First Contract law that the students are protesting against. The drawback of this model of employment is that it is incredibly costly to the State, and unemployment has been at a two digit figure for over a decade. Sooooo....something does have to give. I can understand the students not wanting to accept a contract that offers less than what the country is used to and has fought for, but at the same time the system cannot continue to stagnate as it has, with over three million young people unable to get a first work experience.

I feel sorry for the kids who want to get back in and finish their degrees, it seems they have been shut out for a few weeks now. I also need to get into the Sorbonne to get a copy of my French linguistic evaluation from last year. Having called several times and wondering why they never answered their damn phone, I finally showed up on Tuesday, not realizing the address of the office was actually INSIDE the Sorbonne itself, and felt silly when Monsieur Le Cute Policeman looked at me like I was a space alien and said, but, no, of course you cannot access the rue Victor Cousin, Madame, the whole street is blocked off...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Containers of Paris 1

Containers of Paris 1
Originally uploaded by Frenchpage.
Space in Parisian apartments is limited compared with the wide open living spaces of the California west. Yet shopping temptations abound aplenty. That means new lessons in space management. Which in turn means, when a new item comes in, an old item must move out to make room for it. (I'm sure many of you would agree, this ain't as easy as it sounds). That's why it's so handy to have this cute little mini-Salvation Army depot just up the street. You just lift the lever and pop your garbage bag full of jeans from circa 1998 that you can no longer pretend you will someday fit into again (sniff sniff). Open 24 hours a day for those nights when you can't sleep and have an uncontrollable urge to spring clean. Yeah right. Like that happens....

Friday, March 10, 2006


It can get pretty dark on a third floor Parisian apartment. In the depths of winter, I have to keep the light on in the living room, even during the day. The bedroom, which faces la cour, the courtyard, gets no light whatsoever. Which is why Eddie very smartly insisted that, instead of painting the bedroom a funky deep shade which I suggested, we should paint the walls a white shade that has the slightest hint of yellow, point de jaune is what is written on the paint tub. How very very right he was. It makes a big difference on a January afternoon, where a darker shade would have turned the room into a rock cave.

During the winter, the sun is too low to shine in the living room, as it is blocked by the buildings across the street. But during the spring and summer months, there is a spot on our couch where, at a certain time in the late afternoon, if you are sitting in that particular spot, the sun will be at such a level that it will shine right on you. Today, the sun has been peeking out between little patches of rain showers, but just now, at 17h46, for the first time in months the sun shone brilliantly through the window, so much it blinded me and I couldn't see the computer screen in front of me. It lasted just a few minutes but I think that means Winter is drawing to a close.

Which gets me thinking about spring plans, and even a bit of summer. Most importantly, what should I wear this year once the doudoune comes off. I wonder if those long flowing skirts will be in fashion again this year.

Plans for spring:
1. Dust off the roller blades, and think about finally learning to brake this year.
2. Or, just break down and buy some classic roller skates, I was good at roller skating when I was a kid, I bet it sticks with you.
3. Oh, maybe I'll just get a bicycle instead.
4.Start laying off the pain au chocolats, in preparation for beach trips.
5. Start going back to the pool twice a week, in preparation for said beach trips.
6.Get some plants for the jardiniere, including some cooking herbs: basil, dill, rosemary, coriander.

It's nice to daydream about warmer brighter days, even if I must not be too hasty in my shedding of the doudoune. As the old saying goes:

En avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil
En mai, fais ce qu'il te plaît

(Rough translation: "In april, don't uncover a single thread. In may, do whatever you like")

(doudoune: down jacket)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Blood, sweat and Swedish do-it-yourself furniture

One thing you learn very quickly when you move to Paris: when someone you know, be it a work colleague, a friend or even just an acquaintance, has a car and is going to Ikea, you change your plans, drop everything and offer up your firstborn child to be certain to get a spot in the backseat, knowing full well it could be months before another opportunity presents itself...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

What I'm going for...

The color scheme I am loosely following at the moment...:

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Ma ville, mon quartier, mon LOOK

In last week's issue of French Elle, there was an article about different fashion styles in the different arrondissements in Paris.

Elles sont chics, les Parisiennes. Certes...Mais on ne s'habille pas pareil à Saint-Germain-des-Prés, dans le Marais, à Belleville ou avenue Montaigne..
According to the article:

the Parisienne who lives in the 1st and 8th arrondissements is about: "des marques, des marques, des marques!" She travels back and forth between the Avenue Montaigne and the rue Saint-Honoré.

3rd and 4th arrondissements, from the Marais to Republique: "La vie est bobo". An artistic allure, but with such a sense for the beautiful that she doesn't lack any taste. "Belle et naturelle" is her mantra.

6th and 7th: Classic chic

9th and 10th: "Chic, mode et rock 'n roll". She dates musicians and architects and lives in designer studios. Wears converse and velour blazers (I might add, an uber-trendy Parisian look I have seen all over the place for the past few years, in both men and women).

11th, 19th, 20th and parts of the twelfth: Ethnic cheap chic.
The queen of eastern Paris, whether a stylist, journalist, assistant director, globe trotter or massage therapist, does not have much means but is always trendy. She was one of the first to wear indian embroidered ballerina slippers. If she could, she would spend her time in India or Argentina. Her icon is Isabel Marant. Her look is a mix of styles and she could be seen pairing a skirt from Mouton à Cinq Pattes, a jacket purchased while traveling, and a top from Zara's collection from two years ago. She does her shopping on bicycle and with her family. Her favorite places to have a drink are Le Pause-Café and Favela Chic, where her drink of choice is a pastis in summer or a caipirinha the rest of the year.

Finally, we come to my neighborhood:

18th arrondissement and northern part of the 17th (us): "Drunk on vintage and second-hand"
In love with thrift and second-hand, and vintage, she knows the marché Saint-Pierre by heart. Demanding and eccentric, she combs relentlessly through the piles at Guérissol and has mastered the art of finding a pair of pants for eight euros. And if she is still wearing military jackets, it's only because she had the idea before everyone else. She seeks out ethical brands of clothing. She is moved by the poetic universe of Miyazaki. She gets around on the metro and dreams of a house at the foot of Sacré-Coeur. But perhaps one day she will live in the suburbs. Without complex. She goes out dancing in the evening at Le Pulp or Le Triptyque and her drink of choice is the mojito.

I found this description to be funnily accurate. It's true that I would love to live at the foot of Sacré-Coeur (well, who wouldn't), I try to be concientous in my shopping, and more often than not I will order a mojito when I am out. Eddie makes fun of me because I have a tendency of bragging about how cheap I found such-and-such an item of clothing, and while it's not my favorite place to shop, I have hit Guérissol in a pinch, especially since it's practically next door. But the one thing that definitely rings true is I do love my vintage and secondhand. In fact, it's one thing I miss about California (along with veggie burritos). It's true that I have found some very nice vintage shops in Paris, as well as the flea markets, and if I still can't find anything, there's always hopping the Eurostar to London for the weekend to comb through the wonderful markets there. But I do find myself sometimes missing the secondhand shops and thrift shops in the US. When I lived off of Melrose and La Brea, I would stop in at Jet Rag
and Yellowstone practically everyday on my way home, in search of cute original items for pas tres cher. That sort of thing just doesn't quite exist in Paris. I have at times caught myself wondering how well a California style vintage clothing shop slash bookstore slash coffeehouse would do in Paris....

(And don't even get me started on missing Ross and Old Navy, that's another post all together...)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

To the castle!

To the castle!
Originally uploaded by Frenchpage.
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14h30, Chateau de Pierrefonds, Picardie 60350. 1.5 hours from Paris...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"I saw you, walking in the snow..."

I love clear umbrellas. They are so much fun. I can walk down the street in the rain and still admire the Haussmannian buildings of Paris. I can look up and watch the snow pummel down without getting any caught on my eyelashes. And of course, it greatly helps in the Battle of the Umbrellas in the street, when someone is coming towards you with an umbrella and you can't see them and you end up bumping into them...

Un express, s'il vous plait...

Un express, s'il vous plait...
Originally uploaded by Frenchpage.
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4pm, La Fourche, 75017, snow just beginning to fall. I don't usually drink coffee this late in the day. I predict sleeplessness will ensue...