Saturday, October 31, 2009

Weather check: it was fun while it lasted

I just want to pause and admire this photo; the warmth and beauty in which it was taken.

Because the forecast for the next week is rainy and cold. Merde.

French word of the day: puissant

Def: powerful

I like the way this word sounds, and I like its meaning.

Blink and it's over

The only bummer about having visitors (aside from the extra sheets and towels to wash) is the crushing silence that follows when they’re gone.

Papa and Lo flew back to the states today, leaving me a few pounds chubbier but sated with enough love to last until my visit home in December.

Their first visit to Paris was all I was hoping it would be for them. While I was at work during the days, they explored the streets, shops and landmarks, duly smitten with the architecture, people and way of life.

At night, our eating extravaganza continued: chevre chaud salads, steak tartare, grilled daurade, frites, flan and a fantastic dinner at Café Modern. These photos don’t do the pumpkin soup, autumn veggie tarte or cabillaud justice.

One night I came home to an early birthday celebration—an unexpected and sweet surprise, complete with wine, flowers and a delicious mocha cake. (Eating extravaganza, I tell you!)

On Friday, I took the day off and we trained out to Versailles. Despite the crowds and raw air, it was enchanting. The palace and grounds are as stunning and opulent as you’ve heard, as grand and dumbfounding as you’d expect.

But I never expected the relatively egalitarian estate of Marie-Antoinette, where she kept gardens and farm animals.

It’s like a strange little Disney town nowadays, complete with chickens, ponies, sheep, cows…

…pigs, like this enormous French oinker about to get head-butted by a goat…

and the cutest bunnies, all standing guard outside their huts.

This London plane tree was a beauty.

But I love cypress trees.

And I love my Papa Bear.

Tears Like Diamonds

Passion Pit is my new Cut Copy. Totally obsessed. I mean with lyrics like that? Tears Like Diamonds? Come on.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Unabated absurdity

I still haven’t received the business cards I ordered in July. July!

My U.S. check that I deposited on September 24 still has not appeared in my French HSBC account. Of course it cleared from my U.S. account three weeks ago. My bank rep’s response? "I am taking care of your request. Our international department is investigating on your matter. Please be advised that I will get back to you as soon as possible." Really reassuring.

Still no word or test results from my vet.

And still no official acknowledgment from anyone in Payroll or Human Resources about the gross oversight regarding my salary.

It’s not me, right? This is totally absurd.

The pedaling continues

I’ve been biking to work on the Velibs again. I forgot how much I love it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


My colleagues are really wonderful. I can be the sole American in a meeting of 14 people, and they'll switch to English to ensure I understand. So I feel badly saying anything bad about their English skills. They're quite stellar. But every once in awhile, someone says something that just makes me giggle. Like today—a very high-up said:

"It can sparkle some other ideas."

Tee hee.

So far, so good

The weather? Beautiful. Blue skies, sunny days and vibrant foliage.

The perfect conditions in which to stroll along the Seine, through the Luxembourg Gardens, Saint-Germain, Ile-Saint-Louis, et al.

Papa and Lois arrived Sunday afternoon and it’s been a wonderful leisurely week ever since.

I took Monday off to stroll the city with them. Then, back to work (which hasn’t been all bad this week).

But at the end of each day, it’s so nice to have someone to go home to. And it’s so nice to have dinner companions. Mon dieu—we are not joking around.

Café Panique, La Grill and Itineraires so far. Each meal has been three courses of heaven.

I’ve refrained from taking too many photos but these shots from Café Panique ought to give you a flavor of the decadence that’s put before us each night.

The forecast for the rest of the week calls for more of the same: perfect weather, wonderful company and relentless eating. Perfect.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fresh from the marché

Have you ever seen hydrangeas so enormous?

French word of the day: pilons

Def: drumsticks

This we learned after dad ordered une salade poulet that came was delivered with chunky drumsticks. It was the one word in the description that we didn’t know until we looked up after dinner.

Another French word: Sablé

Def: sand

But when it comes to divine French cooking, it’s a crispy, crumbly cookie. Either of the savory variety, like in the goat cheese, cherry tomato and argula tart Lo and I both had as an appetizer at Café Panique, or a sweet sablé, like the chocolate mousse deliciousness that dad had for dessert.

Tonight, new vocab through food, I’m sure!

Fall fashion trends

Saturday afternoon, I did what all French women do: I went shopping. And I got into it! (Without actually buying anything.) Beyond the already exhausted distressed jeans, boyfriend jackets and over-the-knee boots, here are a few fashion trends I noticed:

• Grey and navy: Together, everywhere.

• Leopard print: Ditto. Shoes, scarves, sweaters, handbags…

• Cropped sweaters: One of the less heralded 80s trends (which reminds me, I tried on a sweater with shoulder pads. Shoulder pads.).

• Flats: Boots, ballerinas and oxfords. (Au revoir haute talons?? Jamais!)

• Chunky knits with layers of semi-transparent tees: Knit vests and sweaters that look like your mom made you; sexy transparent tees that the French excel at.

• Black leather: Leggings, shorts and jackets. Wear with leopard print at your own risk.

Weather check: beautiful bonus

Beautiful. The weather is just beautiful. Yesterday, to show Dad and Lo around the Ile-Saint Louis and Left Bank, I donned my sunscreen and sunglasses and enjoyed not having my shoulders hunched against the wind.

This morning, I hopped on a Velib to bicycle to work for the first time in weeks.

The forecast for the whole week is the same sunny and 60ish prescription.

Quel chance for papa!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My street, rainy night

It wasn’t all bad, though

Absurdities aside, there were many pleasant surprises and moments and some good fun this past week.

I took my last cooking course, which took me to a Parisian suburb for the first time, for the article I’m writing. Now I just have to write the article.

The sugar detox made a huge difference. Friends, I had one-third of a chocolate bar, mon strawberry Coeur, and five pineapple rings in 12 days. This is unheard of. And I can feel it. My energy is more consistent and, yes, my stomach is flatter (not firmer though. Sigh.)

However, I received a two-pound box of Neuhaus chocolates as a thank you for devoting my summer to the pitch. A very sweet gesture. I had them in the apartment for 48 hours before I broke into them. And let’s just say the detox is over.

I’m sleeping again. After those weeks of stress, interrupted sleep and insomnia, I can’t even tell you how good it feels to sleep for seven hours.

I’ve been studying a lot of French. I’m trying to consciously carve time out of a couple days a week to study and do homework. I really want to get better at the language.

I went bowling with Jo. Totally random. Sort of lame. But still, fun. Met a few people and did something different.

I discovered a new bar with Jo and Michael. Hallelujah! Chez Jeanette. Not only is it super cute and filled with French hipsters, but it’s a seven-minute walk (past all the hookers on rue Saint Denis) from my treehouse.

I ended the long workweek by staying out until 3:30, dancing. After Chez Jeanette, a crew journeyed over to Social Club. A funny little place with 17-year-olds as well as us “adults.”

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Just plain absurd

My company has accidentally been overpaying me since I arrived (I took a pretty significant pay cut to come here) and now that it’s come to light, I am expected to pay back many, many thousands of dollars.

My two-in-one oven/microwave is on the brink and my landlord told me to have fun with my first appliance purchase in France.

HSBC screwed up one of my deposits—though the check from my U.S. account has cleared, the money just isn’t showing up in my French account—and I literally can’t get in touch with my bank representative.

My doctor left a voicemail to make an appointment to go over some test results, and when I called to do so (admittedly, a week later), I was told she was on vacation.

I'm still waiting for the results of Milo's blood work. In the meantime, he has carved a nice little bald spot on his haunch.

When asked about the status of the business cards I ordered in July, the woman at work told me (for about the eighth week in a row), “Next week.”

As absurd as all of this stuff is, what makes it even funnier/crazier is the way that these things transpire. For all the talking that happens here, nobody in France likes to communicate. I call and email human resources and my bank representative and they just don’t respond (I seriously cannot even get my bank rep on the telephone). The French seriously have a way of ducking responsibility, confrontation and unpleasantness like nobody’s business. It’s an art. People drop major news on you like they’re relaying what they ate for lunch. Shrug of the shoulders: Eh. Pas grave. Things can be totally f’ed at the office, but everyone still takes their hour for lunch.

I could go on. There are so many other smaller, more personal absurdities that I encounter every week. Since I’m alone so much, they just swim around my head and then I start asking myself, “Am I crazy?!” and then when I realize that I’m talking to myself and think, actually, maybe I am. I don't know. I love France, I really do. But it can just be so absurd.


If the trailer can make you cry, imagine the what the movie is going to do to you?

I've heard and read the hype and especially loved the sound of the writer/director Lee Daniels. It's so exciting that movies like this are still getting made - can't wait to see it.

Weather check: standing in the window, watching the rain

A rainy Saturday. I do have some errands to do and a friend to visit. But nothing's really pressing. I will brave the rain in a bit and then look forward to retreating to my treehouse for some rest.

The good news is, the rain will have stopped by tomorrow—in time for Papa's arrival. He and Lo will get the classic Parisian weather treatment for the next week: foggy, grey skies and temperatures hanging in the 50s.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The meaty side of Paris

I think it’s important for everyone—carnivores and herbivores alike—to know where their food comes from. Beyond all the garbage that Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser have uncovered in their work, there is the simple principle of being connected to and conscious of what we’re putting in our mouths. And making the right choices based on that.

One thing I love about France is (obviously) the food. Not only the irresistible bread and pastries, sublime fruit, and rich and creamy yogurt and cheese—this stuff, I might go so far as to say has been life-changing. But beyond that, I love that they still (by and large) eat by the season, the insane variety of everything, and that you get to see is what you’re eating. Liver, brains, tongues; ducks, rabbits, wild boars; it’s all here, and it’s all for the eating.

You want to eat pig’s feet? Oh no, the ears? Here you go!

Your favorite steak frites? It arrived at the restaurant as a carcass in a truck.

Poulet roti? Duck? Rabbit? That’s right, at one time they had (ugly) feet, (cute) bills and soft fur that needed to be removed in order to look more appetizing on your plate. (Can you imagine what his hands smell like??)

It doesn’t change the taste, but sometimes it should change your mind.

French phrase of the day: je l'ai dans mon sang

Def: “The tranquil majesty of the architectural lines, the wonderful blurred winter lights, the long lines of lamps garlanding the avenues & the quays — je l’ai dans mon sang!” (‘I have it in my blood!’)
—Edith Wharton

Thank you, Tanz and Mr. B, for sharing this link.

Chicken versus eggs

I’ve eaten at shockingly few restaurants in the five weeks since I’ve been back from New York. With Dad and Lo’s visit on the horizon, I’m plotting some good eating but I started warming up this past week. I feel especially compelled to comment on one of the restaurants as I just saw Alexander Lobrano gave it a nod as one of the best poulet rôtis in Paris. I don’t think Michael or I would agree.

L’Atelier de Maître Albert: 1 rue Maître Albert, 5eme
Went with: Michael on a Thursday night. After we failed to get into Les Papilles and Le Pre Verre because we failed to make reservations. Duh.
Had: The rotisserie chicken. It’s what the place is known for. We also split an appetizer of (don’t read this, mom) crispy rabbit. I was curious after Alex told me she liked the texture of rabbit meat. But ours was inside spring rolls so I tasted greasy crunchiness more than anything meaty or gamey. As for the chicken, well, it was good enough. But stingy portions. The rotisserie at my marché is better.
Impressions: We were cracking up in the restaurant, pretending we were on the set of American Psycho. It feels very New York, circa 1990. Not a bad thing, just saying. Our server was nice but mediocre. In a nutshell: won’t be going back.

On the other hand… Coco & Co: 11 rue Bernard Palissy, 6eme
Went with: Jo on a Sunday for brunch
Had: Eggs Florentine—can you imagine? I really don’t jones for American food here the way I used to when I was a student (if I could count the number of tuna fish sandwiches I ate at The Real McCoy…). But when I saw the Eggs Florentine coming out of the kitchen as Jo and I patiently waited for a table, I knew I had to have them. And they were delicious. The spinach was hearty, the eggs perfectly poached and the muffin, drenched in butter. It was served with some greens that were dressed beautifully, and a few potatoes. Bread and coffee… ohh, it hit the spot.
Impression: I definitely put the eggs before the chicken in this case. Loved the darling, crooked, cramped space, and the staff, despite our waiter being sort of dense. It’s a lovely spot for brunch. Or eggs for dinner if you’re into that sort of thing.

Blogging: good for mental health

I often feel that keeping this blog is way too self-indulgent. What started as a simple way to keep in touch with friends and family back home has turned into something people I’ve never met take the time to read (merci, tous!). Sometimes I feel like I use it as therapy replacement—instead of getting my demons out in the privacy of a trusted professional’s quarters, I purge my woes and share too much, whether you like it or not (if you only knew how much I hold back). And while I can feel really self-conscious sharing such personal thoughts and details here, it’s also become a bit of a weird addition. Like dried pineapple.

But the cool thing is, I just realized that it has the power to cheer me up. I can cheer myself up! I did a super-quick scroll-through of the past few months and was reminded of how much beauty I’ve seen, how much fun I’ve had, how much I’m learning (even if I don’t retain it), how many amazing things I’ve eaten, and just how extraordinary this all is and how lucky I am.

It’s good to be reminded of these things as I deal with broken French ovens, non-responsive human resource employees, incompetent bank processes, or when I’m shivering in my treehouse because it’s cold and dark out at 7 a.m and I have to do my French homework before my 8:30 lesson and 9 hours of work. When I start doubting myself for coming here and wanting to go back home, it’s good to remember when I cried watching a couple dance at the Paris Plage, when I creamed my jeans over the sweetness of cantaloupe, when I pinched myself in the Louis Vuitton flagship, not quite believing that this is my life.

Life isn’t always fun and easy. You don’t always feel blessed or lucky. Bad moods can last for weeks. But at the end of the day, I guess we have to be grateful for our lives being exactly the way they are. And hopeful they’re that way for a reason.

Monday, October 19, 2009

French phrase of the day: Lâche-moi les baskets!

Def: Give me a break!

A change of pace

So, agency life is going to change again. We’re moving to LV. Part of the agreement of winning the relaunch is that we’d work in-house, at least part-time. This is exciting on many levels. My commute will now be a 10 minute walk and I won’t have to battle the crowds on the Champs-Elysées—though I will miss the Christmas lights which will be turned on soon. Similarly, I won’t miss the near-death experiences riding the Velibs in the morning (just kidding, mom). But that also means no more riding through Place Vendome or Place de la Concorde—two gorgeous highlights of my commute.

This also means I have to step up my wardrobe. Dang. Everyone there is going to be decked out in designer duds. I’m already in a wardrobe slump, not loving my fall options and feeling too poor to shop. My strategy for now is to buy some killer boots, one fabulous sweater and a great top. That’ll do me… unless the LV employees are really all that. Or unless we get the coveted discount…

I have loved this office from day one (what’s not to love?). But change is good. I’m ready.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sara, Gypsy, Rhiannon

You can’t beat a Saturday night Fleetwood Mac concert in Paris. I mean, how often does the opportunity come up?

Mel and I arrived at Le Zenith after the legendary band had gone on (damn 5 line!) and promptly found floor space to start dancing and acting like the mature ladies that we are.

Stevie took a little while to warm up. J’ai eu peur at first—she couldn’t hold her notes and was flubbing words. When she destroyed Rhiannon, I was worried the show was going to be a bust.

But over the course of the night (and costume changes, which were all variations on the same bedazzled, flow-y, gypsy-ish dresses) she warmed up and finally sang brilliantly.

But the show definitely belonged to Lindsay, who rocked all night. He was wailing on his guitar and singing his heart out, which especially impressed Mel.

The whole band, in fact, really rocked. You could tell they were ecstatic to be playing, and having a ball, and we all threw the love right back at them up on stage.