Monday, April 24, 2006

No more rhume

I think I decouvre-d too many fils in what seemed to be warm weather last week, because I woke up Sunday morning with the sniffles.

Which resulted in a lie-in all afternoon and listening to the thunder and rain pour outside the window, instead of our planned picnic.

I just don't get it. Will I ever get used to this climate?

UPDATE 28 APRIL: Oh wow, I don't know what that little virus was, but it sure was vicious. Even Eddie had to take three days off of work this week to lay in bed groaning, and he normally has an immune system of steel. Regular blogging will continue once I start to feel like a coherent human being again and can actually lift fingers to type without needing a nap afterwards

Friday, April 21, 2006

In April, don't uncover a single thread

It was warm in Paris yesterday evening. At least, I think it was warm. It could be deceiving. I just can't decide if I can take my scarf off or if I should leave it on. As soon as I walk out the apartment in a trenchcoat and cardigan underneath, I immediately notice that my hands and face are the same temperature as the air outside and that I don't immediately feel the need to shove my hands in my pockets. Moreover, it's impossible to tell what season it is by looking how much everyone on the street is bundled up. I pass a young guy in nothing but a t-shirt. Then I pass a shabby-chic girl in a handknit scarf and turtleneck sweater. I'm not sure what to think.

"I think that for the first time in months, I actually feel too warm, I shouldn't have worn a sweater today" I say to my friend C from Australia as we make our way through Montmartre to metro line 2 for kirs at Cafe Cannibale.

"Really? I'm kind of cold, I was thinking I should have worn a sweater," is her reply.

It's probably still cold, even if I'm sweating a bit.

In the end, we decide that it isn't too cold to enjoy our kirs on the terrasse of Cannibale, but we stay bundled up in our coats. April in Paris confuses me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Eau no

Just came back from a lovely evening involving cocktails at an outdoor cafe with fellow expatriate girlfriends and leisurely conversation in French, followed by a stroll across the Pont des Arts. Arrived home after a long metro ride, took down the dog for her nightly walk, came back, put on flannel striped PJs and fuzzy slippers, went to brush my teeth, water's been cut. It's 11pm.

Tried shower, kitchen faucet and flushing toilet, all out.

In a tizzy, ran out the door, hopped in the elevator to check to see if there was a note downstairs, explaining the situation, thinking there would be no danger of bumping into any neighbors at 11pm. As soon as the elevator door shut though, I heard the beeping of the doorcode outside.

There I was, trapped.

I had no choice. I bravely walked out of the elevator, took a deep breath, proudly greeted my downstairs neighbor who was just returning from her job as a hotel receptionist, and explained they had cut the water in the building and I was just very quickly coming downstairs to see if I could find an explanation for it.

All the while looking her right in the eye, seeing her struggle to keep her gaze from falling to my flannel striped PJs and fuzzy slippers.

It's just not done here.

I feel shame.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Another statue of liberty

Another statue of liberty
Originally uploaded by Frenchpage.
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I never realized there was a second one of these in Paris, (the first being the one on the Allee des Cygnes) but apparently it's been in the Jardin de Luxembourg since 1906

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Los Angeles Fashion?

In conjunction with the Los Angeles exhibits going on at the Centre Pompidou at the moment, Galeries Lafayette is having some sort of Los Angeles theme in their shops, complete with pink cadillacs, juke boxes, motorcycles etc.

Personally, I don't quite see what Naomi Campbell sitting on a hamburger in a gold bikini with a laptop and a dog has to do with fashion in Los Angeles, but what do I know.

And they even have shows with "Chippenboys". Ooh la la...

Moi, dimanche de Pâques

Originally uploaded by Frenchpage.
A leisurely stroll along the Boulevard St Germain after a lovely Easter brunch of pain perdu...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Revisiting a quaint tradition from days of yore

I'm in the midst of searching for some extra hours of employment, and some of the jobs I am applying for do not leave email addresses, instead requesting applicants to send in a handwritten cover letter and a paper copy of the resume.

Except for jotting down blog ideas in my moleskine notebook, I realized it's been a long time since I've handwritten anything. I enter phone numbers directly into my cell phone, shopping lists on my palm pilot, scheduled appointments directly into iCal on my computer which I then load onto my ipod. And I've emailed resumes as Word attachments for most of my adult life.

So this handwriting of cover letters seemed like a trip down memory lane. Apparently some French companies still use in-house graphologists. I really have no idea what sort of things they can tell about my handwriting and frankly, it makes me a little nervous. Handwriting was never ever my strong point in the second grade, I was consistently given low marks for crossing a "t" which should have been an "i". Will they think I am a person of low moral standing because they can't tell whether that's an "n" or an "m"?

First off, I had to go to the newstand downstairs which doubles as a papeterie and ask Madame what she would recommend in the way of paper for a lettre de candidature. She handed me a pad of lovely cream colored unlined paper. I had to make sure it included one of those line guides, as there was just no way in this life time I would EVER be able to write in a straight line otherwise.

Next up I grabbed my best Waterman fountain pen, positioned the line guide underneath the first sheet of clean crisp paper, and tried to remember my letter writing techniques. First, tilt the paper slightly as this is cursive. Next, should I put my address directly at the top, or leave a few lines margin from the edge? Do I leave a line between the date and "Dear so and so" salutation line? Wait, it's all coming back, I do remember I am supposed to start the first line of the letter under the "r" of "Dear" in order to make a proper two finger indentation. (I suppose it's two fingers if you are seven). Now for the closing: do I indent "Sincerely" or leave it right justified or left justified, and if so, do I sign my name right underneath or do I justify that as well?

Out came the dusty copy of A Writer's Reference, 1994 edition. I knew there was a reason I tossed it into the box of books to be shipped across the ocean, that one day, even if the situation and circumstances were unbeknownst to me at the time, I would be glad to have it.

Four shaky pages and two balled up sheets in the trash can later, I now need to find some envelopes.

My wrist is sore.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Cuisine de grenouille

I've lived in Paris for four years, and I've never seen a French person eat frog's legs.

As a matter of fact, I've never even seen it on a menu, except for just one time, and that was at a chinese restaurant in a supermarket shopping plaza. In french, they are actually called "cuisses de grenouille", or "frog thighs". Sexy. Frog's legs seem to be one of the many stereotypes about the French that aren't quite accurate, such as the so-called ubiquitous beret. (It may have been the case during the era of Robert Doisneau photographs, but no self-respecting Frenchman would wear one now. I've seen them on italian woman wandering up and down the Champs-Elysees, but that's about it.)

I've never tried cuisses de grenouille myself, so I have no idea if they really "taste like chicken".

That said, the French eat some things that might strike some as odd. I like some of these things, but not all. The French are quite big on raw oysters, they are traditionally consumed at the late-night Christmas eve supper after midnight mass. There's nothing like the sight of a waiter coming towards you with a big metal platter of crushed ice, on top of which lie half a dozen open shells, along side some lemon wedges and a bowl of chopped shallots in vinegar. Likewise, mussels and other seafood are eaten often, especially in the seafaring regions of Brittany.

Escargots are also not a myth, you can find them with a bit of searching but they aren't consumed regularly, in fact I've mainly only seen them in restaurants that have their menu written in five different languages. It's another one of those culinary oddities, which tourists expect the French to eat often, and therefore they seek them out in order to have the real French experience on their visit. Escargots aren't bad either, but they seem to be more of an excuse to consume large quantities of butter and garlic than anything else. The snail becomes an afterthought. Actually, now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever seen a French person eat escargots either. Only tourists.

Having installed myself in a vegetarian household when I moved in with Eddie, I've had a good time trying out many different French cheeses. We consume a lot of cheese on a weekly basis, since there isn't much else for vegetarians to eat in this country. There are over 400 different kinds of cheese that are produced in France. Some are stinkier than others. I can definitely hold my own when it comes to stinky cheese, with just one exception: camembert. I've only recently admitted to myself that I don't like camembert. More than just not like it, I will spit it out with a grimace, and have done so on a few occasions. I adore brie, ripe blue roquefort is divine, the bluer the better, but camembert, I don't know, it is just too pungent, and the flavor lingers on the palate just a little bit too long for my liking. Even after a few sips of Cotes du Rhone.

One thing I've noticed that real French people do actually eat and tourists tend to shy away from is steak tartare. That, in my humble, better-to-overcook-steak-than-undercook-steak opinion, is a dish that takes some getting used to. The first time I saw someone eat this dish was several years ago when I was an au pair for a posh French family in the sixteenth. They took me out to dinner to celebrate my birthday, and I was amazed when the mother, an extraordinarily chic and beautiful woman who had recently been been approached by French Elle for an article on what she ate in order to stay thin (yes, even French magazines have articles on how to stay thin), had a dish of raw red steak topped with onion and a raw egg set down in front of her. I can imagine that as far as fat content goes it makes sense as a low calorie and low fat dish, but still... to me, it just did not seem like the sort of dish an elegant French woman would eat. It was quite a difference from the gym-going velour sweatsuit-wearing Californians I had been surrounded by growing up, who consume nothing but salad and boneless skinless tasteless chicken breast.

Since then, I have sat across a dinner table on many occasions with French people who have had this dish set down in front of them. I haven't tried it yet. I'm sure it's delicious, but I'm just not in a terrible hurry to try it.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Ever get the feeling you are being watched?

Originally uploaded by Frenchpage.
While sketching in the Louvre's Greek and Roman antiquities section during the Wednesday night Nocturnes, I looked up from my drawing pad and pencil and nearly jumped out of my skin to see this 1,900 year old intense marble stare towering over me.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

L'eglise de la Trinite, 4pm wednesday

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I've past this church a hundred times in a taxi, but never been inside. Till today. A scene from Truffaut's Les Quatre Cent Coups was filmed here. Everytime I think I have seen everything in Paris, I stumble across something else...

Monday, April 03, 2006


From my inbox:

Warden Message
Alert - April 4 Demonstrations

Student groups and labor unions are calling for a day of nationwide
demonstrations and strikes on April 4 to protest the CPE (or First Employment

A major demonstration is planned for Paris on April 4. According to public
sources, the demonstration will begin at 2:00 PM at Place de la République and
proceed towards Place d'Italie via Blvd. Temple, Bastille, Quai de la Rapee and
Pont d'Austerlitz. Arrival at Place d'Italie is anticipated around 6:00 PM.

Estimated number of participants: 100,000.

Disruptions to normal traffic patterns should be anticipated and demonstration
areas avoided. Demonstrations may also result in disruptions to public
transportation in affected areas.
U.S. Embassy personnel have been advised to avoid all demonstrations and large
Travelers should be alert to news media reports for the most up-to-date
information, avoid areas where unrest has occurred, move quickly away from any
concentrations of demonstrators or police they may encounter, and exercise
particular caution during evening and nighttime hours. Travelers may also
monitor the Embassy web site at for updates
regarding the ongoing demonstrations.
Travelers in France who need assistance can contact the U.S. Embassy at
01-4312-2222, or by email at: . The Consular Section of
the U.S. Embassy in Paris is located at 2 Rue St. Florentin, 75001 Paris (Place
de La Concorde, Metro Stop Concorde), tel. 011-33-1-43-12-22-22 or (in France)
01-43-12-22-22; fax 011-33-1-42-61-61-40. Further information can be obtained
at the U.S. Embassy's web site at .

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad
should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet
web site at , where the current Worldwide Cautions,
Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Up-to-date information
on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the
U.S., or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at
1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern
Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The cornerstone of our efforts to keep the American traveling public aware of
problems threatening their safety and security is our Consular Information
If you would like to receive important information issued by the U.S. Department
of State and the Embassy in Paris, please register your stay in France using
this online registration service . By
indicating your e-mail address at the time of registration, you will receive all
Embassy bulletins and warden messages automatically.

United States Embassy
Office of American Services
2, rue Saint-Florentin
75382 Paris Cedex 08
Telephone: 01 43 12 22 22

Sunday, April 02, 2006

This new media

Blogging is really a weird new form of communication. Especially when you come face to face at a blog meetup at a bar with several of the bloggers you read on a weekly basis. I'm still just getting used to it. It's kind of strange to be able to say to someone, oh hi, I just met you thirty seconds ago and even though you haven't volunteered this information to me personally, I know where you are from, how long you have been here, that you like to knit, and how was your housewarming party last saturday night? Oh and I recognized you right when you walked in, you look just like your photo.

Very strange indeed.

I'm still testing the waters on blogging, I'm still not quite sure what I am writing about, so that's why for the moment I'm still somewhat anonymous (except for those who were directed here from my myspace page), and I haven't actively been advertising my blog by leaving comments on other blogs, or joining a ring, etc. I would like to do that eventually but first I have to figure out exactly what I'm blogging about.

I was quite pleased though, to hear a couple of people, when I mentioned my blog name, tell me they enjoyed some of the posts I'd put up. I really don't know who, if anyone, reads this thing. Actually, I kind of prefer it that way, because maybe if I thought a lot of people were reading I would be more inclined to hold back.

I don't think I want to hold back.

Cela dit, it was very nice to meet other expat bloggers, and blog readers alike, and especially, to be able to put not just faces, but also voices, to words....