Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chrissie Hynde: The real deal

I think I like seeing concerts in Paris better than New York. I’ve seen three shows since I’ve been here, and they’ve all been great. Elvis Perkins at La Maroquinerie, Airborne Toxic Event at Point Ephemere and, last night, The Pretenders at Elysée Montmartre.

That said, I forgot that the French don’t really do air conditioning. The venue was super steamy, which, once you got used to the sweat driplets running down your back, only added to the fun.

It was a big crowd and good energy, and they played most of the best hits from the 80s—my favorites of the night: "Don’t Get Me Wrong" and "Talk of the Town". Chrissie has the voice of an angel, but the mouth of a truck driver. She was shouting the c-word, dropping the f-bomb and dabbling in French (“Il fait chaud—merde!”), which made everyone scream for her more. She was long and lean, all legs and arms, sidestepping and sashaying across the stage with those patented dance moves, going to town on guitar and, for "Middle of the Road", harmonica. She was awesome.

Super girl crush going on.

There was more fun to the night, coming soon...

Weather check: hot in the city

I don't think Paris gets as hot as NYC, but it can get pretty steamy. The past couple of days have been hot. Not as hot as everyone is pretending, but nice and summery-hot. The kind of weather that makes you want to picnic in the park, watch movies outdoors, drink on cafe terraces, and sit under a tree with chocolate ice cream.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Past present

Incredibly, I was here in Paris one year ago for holiday with no idea that I would end up living here.

I had decided to return to Paris for a week’s vacation after the 800th request to do an apartment swap on homeexchange.com. I finally figured, pourquoi pas? I’d never been to Paris in the summer. I had no weddings or reunions or other travel obligations. Why not visit my favorite city in the world for a second time in one year?

Needless to say, it was an amazing trip. The city is definitely different in the summer, just as it’s different when you’re alone. I loved that it was light out until 10 o’clock. I was excited to discover new neighborhoods like Bercy and Canal Saint-Martin. I ate at Le Verre Volé and Le Comptoir du Relais. I got sucked into the sales and hooked on the Velibs. And then there were all those chocolatiers. It was a memorable trip indeed.

It’s funny now to come across some of the places that I visited last summer and see them with more of a local’s eye. It could be a café, a boutique or just a street corner, but suddenly, I’m remembering last summer and that delicious feeling that comes from traveling alone. It was hot. It was indulgent. I was free.

It just goes to show that a lot can happen in a year. You never know where life will take you. Although, with this whole experience and the benefits of hindsight, I will say that even if you don’t know, you sort of do. More and more, I’m thinking that we steer our own fate. We know on some level what we want and what makes us happy. Sometimes it’s attainable, sometimes it’s just unfeasible, but it’s always eye-opening, always nerve-wracking, always an adventure.


I don’t know what dreams are all about. I have friends who have really strong opinions about and deep beliefs in them. Some think they’re premonitory, others think they just serve to purge the day’s thoughts. Perhaps they are connected to past lives or maybe they open doors to alternate universes. And then there are deja vus and reoccurring dreams. It’s crazy business, this dreaming! Fascinating and mysterious, indeed.

For my part, I don’t know what dreams mean. But last night, I had a vivid dream about my skat. Seriously. I had a dream in which I was obsessing about my skinny-fat belly, pointing it out to someone, feeling self-conscious about it… poking at that skat.

So. If anyone wants to analyze that, please feel free.

French word of the day: une dizaine

Def: ten.

If you know elementary French, you know "dix" is actually the number for ten. But in France, when you quantify things in groups of say, 12, it's une douzaine—just like our dozen. But you can also quantify things in a group of 10: une dizaine.

Similar but different, the French do not use "two weeks" as a quantifier. If you take a two-week holiday, it's 15 days: quinze jours.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

If you ask me…

Grown men should not wear Velcro sneakers. They just shouldn’t.

One of the best things I’ve eaten lately

I must confess: as much as I love and gush about the food here, sometimes I feel like I’m in a rut. There are only so many Cojean sandwiches, chevre chaud salads and pain au raisin a girl can eat.

I know it’s mostly my fault; I gravitate towards the same things. But it’s also an adjustment to a reliance on the same ingredients (tomatoes! tuna! chicken!) and the inability to delve deep into exotic ingredients for fear of eating cow tongue or pigs feet by accident. (Note to self: langue de vache = cow tongue; pigs feet = pieds de cochon).

So it was after lunch today, I was craving something more than the poulet sandwich I had grabbed, but didn’t want (another) yogurt or pastry. So I stopped by a little chocolatier/boulangerie and got a fruit salad.


It had your basic apple, watermelon, kiwi and orange. But, the juice was infused with vanilla. It was so velvety and sweet—it gave the humble fruit the most unexpected and delicious layer. It was the best way to get a hit of vitamins and also satisfy my craving for something new.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

French word of the day: le genou

Def: knee

I think I might need a respite from the Velibs. Not because of our increasingly tumultuous relationship. But my knee is getting achier and achier. It must be from the pedaling.

Les soldes, les soldes!

I was getting a little sad last night, walking home on rue Saint-Honoré, noticing that all the vitrines featured the heavy fabrics and somber colors of fall collections. (Has summer even started??) But as I walked east—away from the unattainable Chloé and Lanvin and towards the more-my-speed Maje and The Kooples—any tinge of despair was replaced by excitement. I saw the magic “Soldes” signs in all the windows.

Yes, it’s a beautiful time of the year. Sales are regulated in France, so instead of individual stores having big sales whenever, everything, everywhere goes on sale at the same time. That means, starting today, everything I’ve been coveting for the past three months will be progressively more affordable. Ballerinas, boyfriend jeans, flippy skirts, even Louboutins, will start at 30-50% off and get slashed progressively more over the next few weeks. Les soldes. J’ai hate.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dialing up the dinner action

I’ve been chagrined on more than one occasion when someone is visiting from out of town, and I don’t have a fantastic dinner reservation lined up. I can honestly chalk it up to being new and not knowing the scene, and also working so much that researching restaurants and calling for reservations always gets bumped on my to-do list. And it’s especially easy put this off because I have to write out the whole imagined conversation in French before I can attempt the actual stuttering conversation on the phone.

But no matter. I love food. I love a good restaurant scene. And I’m going to start documenting the restaurants where I’ve been and restaurants where I want to go to. Starting with this past week since it was a good eating week.

Willi’s Wine Bar: 13 rue des Petits-Champs, 1eme

Went with: Tanz on a Monday night
Had: Sweet caramelized apple and onion tart with greens, pine nuts and raisins; wonderfully fresh grilled cod with peas and mashed potatoes. And a bite of Tanya’s cherry tomato and brebis tart, which was out of this world.
Impressions: Cute spot; lots of Anglophones; huge wine list (duh); weak service; a titch pricey; outstanding food. Go for a beautiful, relaxed meal.

Le Bouledogue: 20 rue Rambuteau, 4eme

Went with: Tanz on a Sunday night
Had: Rosé, tomato and mozzarella salad, grilled sea bass—a huge portion—with some ridiculously delicious medley of tomatoes, onions and fennel. Neither of us could get enough of it. Or the uber thick frites, which Tanya anointed the best fries of ’09.
Impressions: Non-descript interior except bulldogs galore (could benefit from lower lighting); sweet servers; solid food. Good option for the neighborhood.

Chéri Bibi, 15 rue Andre-del-Sarte, 18eme
Went with: Michael on a Friday night
Had: Tomatoes and mozzarella—the largest hunk of mozzarella I’ve ever been served, in fact; a raw salmon steak with sesame seeds, pineapple and a side of fries.
Impressions: A locals’ spot; cool crowd; gorgeous waitresses; arty but simple vibe; a little chaotic; solid food. Fun people watching and cool vibe would bring me back before the food.

Chez Paul: 13 rue de Charonne, 11eme
Went with: Jeff and Anna on a Wednesday night
Had: Leeks in vinaigrette; roasted salmon and fries; a ginornous slice of tart tatin; lots of wine.
Impressions: Great neighborhood bistro: good mix of people; staff has character; space has charm; the food is good, not great. A fun place to linger over dinner, but not a culinary dream.

Paris, we have reception

Yay! For the first time in eight years, I have cable. And for the first time in my apartment, I have tv reception. My sweet landlord came up on Sunday to finally figure out the problem (Bob and Goob, it needed to be hooked up to an ethernet cable) and set me up.

Now I can build my French vocabulary by watching the local news and Desperate Housewives dubbed in French.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Moment

I'm going to be posting for The Moment regularly now, so somehow I need to keep up on Paris' style and fashion circles. Zut alors!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Didier and Beatriz

One of the nice things about being new to a city is that you get out and actually do things. In New York, I became so lame about taking advantage of the museums. Here, I’ve already visited four museums and a number of galleries and fondations, and I’ve fallen hard for two artists.

Didier Paquignon is a young French painter who the girls and I stumbled upon at L’Orangerie when they were here in May. He was so good, I went back to see his exhibition a second time. There’s something about his work that really moves me. He uses really rich colors and strong lines and, whether he’s painting an urban landscape, a portrait or even a dog, there’s an intensity, rawness and beauty that’s really powerful.

And I’m relieved I pushed myself to go to the Fondation Cartier this week to catch the Beatriz Milhazes exhibition, which unfortunately ends tomorrow. If it were here longer, I’d go back to that one, too.

She’s a Brazilian artist who’s probably a little better known than Paquignon. She also uses really bright colors, though a more eclectic palette, to do these big, poppy paintings and collages that are maybe reminiscent of Matisse. She was also commissioned by the fondation to create something for the large windows.

They make me really happy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

French justice

Wow. Even the French have their infamous criminal-victims. Since I haven’t had a tv since my stay at the lovely hotel, I hadn’t been following these trials, but I’m sure they were riveting to the rest of the city.

Fete agence

Big agency party on the roof last night. It was spectacular.

Gorgeous cheese spreads. Wine. Fresh fruit. And, hmmm, hot dogs. It was cloudy all day but then the sun broke through around 8 o’clock as people started filling up one terrace and then the other. I talked to vips, my team, and at least one cute colleague. I talked in English and in French. I met new people and I danced.

Because the backdrop isn’t stunning enough, the Eiffel Tower did its five-minute strobe light spectacular every hour, and there were fireworks over Place de la Concorde (June 18 = when Charles de Gaulle rallied the French to resist the Nazis).

When I left at midnight people were incredulous—the party was just getting started! But I had to get up early to do some freelance. And I have two long days of work ahead of me. Besides, I still feel like the new girl and don’t want to wind up in any blackmail-worthy photos.

This morning, to sop up everyone’s alcohol-filled bellies, Lionel brought in bags of croissants, pain au chocolat and pain au raisin (which is quickly becoming one of my favorites… when you get a warm pain au raisin, as this morning’s was, there’s nothing much better). Everyone is rolling in late and giggling about the night.

It’s just like the-day-after parties back home. Except different.

Fashion follies

Compared with the women of France, the average American woman is still in kindergarten.

—Edith Wharton

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Paris essentials

New York magazine, tall black boots, and a gym membership were my staples when I left New York. Here are some of my current must-haves:

• Plan de Paris
• Converse
• Bike helmet (better safe than sorry)
• La Roche-Posay sunblock (ditto)
• Canvas shopping bag for after-work visits to markets
• Cardigans – every day, the weather decides to do something else
• Jam, honey and Nutella for tartines
• Panama hat
• Reading material for café visits
• Caller ID to screen crazy Swedes
• Patience

Chez Paul et mes cousins

I think I’m hungover. But I don’t know if it’s from the food or the wine.

My cousins Jeff and Anna are in town for a few nights and wanted an authentic Parisian meal. We were going to go to Chartier, but a couple colleagues steered me away, acknowledging that the interior is exquisite and the experience, fun, but better food could be had elsewhere. So we went to Chez Paul in the 11th.

Two bottles, three courses and four hours later, I was wishing Jeff and Anna came to town more often. It was so nice to have dinner companions who enjoy lingering over the dinner table as much as eating what’s placed on it. It definitely didn’t feel like four hours—a testament to great company as well as laissez-faire Parisian service.

The restaurant was fun—classic, indeed. Boisterous waitresses, mismatched plates, a mix of locals and tourists, and a menu studded with rabbit, lamb and all kinds of offal. Like many of my meals here, the dishes were solid but not to die for.

I played it safe. I started with leeks in vinaigrette, followed by roasted salmon, finished off with an enormous slice of tarte tatin. I had every intention of sharing my dessert and leaving a good portion of it on the plate. But once I got started, I couldn’t stop. Besides, I needed something to soak up the wine.

This morning, I woke up with puffy eyes, a sated belly and dreams of more apple tatin.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Baker’s dozen

I’m getting ready to go underground. I fear I’m about to get walloped by work. But if the initial brief for our new business pitch is any indication, at least the process will be a pleasant one. It was 12 men and me. And it was in English.

French phrase of the day: J’en ai marre!

Def: I’ve had enough!

This is how I feel about the Velibs. It’s quickly becoming a love-hate relationship. Especially after last night when, feeling lucky that I snagged the last bike at a station, I quickly had a sinking sensation. Literally. The bike seat was broken and started slowly shimmying down, down, down as I pedaled down the Champs-Elysée. Curses.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

French phrase of the day: on verra

Def: We’ll see

More changes at work. Trevor is leaving. And Adorable Isa is leaving. Not only does that strike two of my best comrades and conversationalists here at the office, but they’re both writers. I stand to get dumped on this summer. But, we’ll see.

New flavors: Moroccan pastilla

After venturing to the museum of natural history in the rain yesterday, Chris, Dana, the kids and I went for lunch nearby at the La Mosquée, somewhere I’d been wanting to go since last summer.

This landmark mosque has steam baths, a souk, and tea salon, but we were there strictly for the restaurant. It did not disappoint.

They had all kinds of couscous and tagines, which I love. But I’ve recently had couscous at Chez Omar and a tagine at 404. I wanted to try something new. In addition to a starter of a grated carrot and eggplant salad, I ordered another starter that I had never heard of: Moroccan pastilla.

The description was intriguing, and the actual dish was to-die-for. It’s a pie of shredded chicken, egg, almonds, onions and spices, all tucked inside phyllo dough that is dusted with sugar and cinnamon. It’s savory and sweet and crunchy and insanely delicious. Especially when washed down with the sweetest mint tea imaginable. It made me happy all day.

Important note: traditional Moroccan pastilla is made with pigeon. I don’t think I’d be so keen on this one.

To try it at home...


• 1 each chicken, whole, deboned, cut into pieces
• Salt
• Pepper
• 12 each parsley, fresh, sprigs
• Ginger
• 6 each eggs
• 2 cup almonds, blanched, browned on the stove
• 1 pound phyllo pastry dough
• 1 cup sugar
• Cinnamon
• 1 each egg, beaten


In a large pot, put chicken cut into quarters with salt, pepper and ginger along with enough water to cover. Cook until chicken is soft and falling from the bones. Remove from liquid, skin and debone the chicken, and cut meat into small pieces and set aside.

In same large pot, add the six eggs one by one, beating as you go. When all are beaten in and almost set, remove mixture and let cool, dividing into two parts and discarding any liquid. Chop the browned almonds and divide into two.

In a 9x12 inch baking dish, begin the assembly by placing four sheets of the phyllo dough, brushing oil over each sheet before placing the next on top. Next, place in 1/2 the egg mixture and sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top. Place two more phyllo sheets (with oil between), and place 1/2 the chicken. Sprinkle this with sugar and cinnamon too.

Next place 2 more phyllo sheets (with oil between), and place 1/2 the almond mixture in, sprinkling with sugar and cinnamon on top. Cover this with 2 more phyllo sheets, and start this assembly process again. Two sheets phyllo, almonds, two sheets phyllo, chicken, two sheets phyllo, eggs, two sheets phyllo.

Brush the top of the last sheets of phyllo with beaten egg. Bake at 350 degrees until golden, 25-35 minutes.

From Fast Recipes

Monday, June 15, 2009

Crazy but true

The first time I went up to the beautiful terraced roof at work, I thought I was going to brush noses with the Eiffel Tower.

Or reach out and touch L’Arc de Triomph.

But, wait—I turned around and could see straight down the Champs-Elysée. Past the Grand Palais, Place de la Concorde, and the Louvre. You can even see Notre Dame off in the distance.

And Sacre Coeur.

And, bien sur, the LV flagship.

I still can’t believe I work here.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Nous mangeons

One of the things I love about having visitors is sharing the food here with them.

Today was bookended with visits to Stohrer. In the morning we had pastries—Dana, Annika and Aidan, pain au chocolate, Chris a sweet bread and for me, a pain au raisin. At the end of the day, we returned to pick up an incredible rich but light chocolate mousse cake for Chris’s 40th birthday dinner (happy birthday, gooba!). Stohrer, one of the oldest and best patisseries in the city, didn’t disappoint and will get its own blog entry soon.

We also had sandwiches from Eric Kayser. My god, the bread! We sampled a chicken sandwich on a country wheat baguette, tuna on ciabatta and mozzarella and tomato on olive ciabatta. Simple but outstanding.

True to form, Dana made a beautiful dinner—fresh fish and veggies from rue Montorgueil’s (very overpriced) markets. Tomorrow the eating adventures will continue in earnest.

What is home?

Mel’s a good conversationalist. She asks many questions, and they’re insightful, sincere questions. When we were in the South of France last week, she asked me if Paris felt like home to me; if when I got on the train to go back to Paris, it would feel like I was going home.

I hadn’t yet given it any thought. My parents divorced when I was eight. I left home when I was 18. The idea of home has changed a lot in my life. I think home to me will always be Connecticut. And I have my apartment in New York, which is where my life is. But I think it’s important to feel at home wherever you are. Right now, Paris is indeed feeling like home.

When I biked home from work last night, it was the first time in at least a week that I had done so, and it felt good. It made me happy to be pedaling along my little route. It made me realize that I have a routine here and it’s a routine that I like. Then again, what’s not to like? Biking past Lanvin, Louboutin, Costes, Colettte, et al. on the rue Saint-Honoré in Paris’ long twilight hours. Can you imagine a better commute?

And then arriving in my neighborhood, with the buoyant energy of the cafes and shops and people. It’s dreamy. I love that it’s the end of the day and I have a few hours to myself. I can wander the quartier Montorgueil and witness the fabulous hipsters in their scarves and Wayfarers. Or I can climb my six flights of stairs, and hang out with Milo in my Parisian treehouse.

I guess I know that no home is forever. But for now, Paris is my home. It’s comforting, exciting, and both familiar and new. And, to use a horrible, horrible cliché, it’s where my heart is.

Friday, June 12, 2009

French words of the day: une nièce et un neveu

Def: niece and nephew

My most adorable ones are coming to town for the weekend.

More curses

I feel like I’ve been stabbed in back.

I’m always gushing about the Velibs. How much I love them. That they’re so convenient, fun and brilliant. But fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice… (insert blubbering Bush here).

True to my vow, I tried to sign up for an annual subscription online. I tried three times, in fact. And each time, I got that annoying “our site is temporarily unavailable” message—which was even more annoying because it came at the end of the sign-up process.

So I had to pony up for the seven-day subscription at a Velib kiosk again. No problem. At least I got a receipt and a bike this time (on the second try, I might add). There was even an attendant there, tinkering with the bikes, so I took the opportunity to let him have it: “Quel est la probleme? Chaque fois, j’essaie, il n’y a du papier!” I guess I made my point, even in my broken French, because he insisted that all I have to do is blow on the sleeve where the card comes out and it will dislodge. That the machines never run out of paper—impossible! He said a bunch of other stuff too but I couldn’t understand so I just shrugged and walked away.

I found a bike, hopped on, and felt the smile spread across my face as it always does when I first get on a Velib. So fun! Brilliant! Convenient!

I biked to work, through the Place Vendome and Place de la Concorde—two of my favorite moments each day. I navigated the traffic on Avenue Gabriel and the Champs-Elysée. And then I pulled up to my normal drop-off kiosk, conveniently located right outside Laduree, and it was full. Merde.

So I carried on around the block. The next kiosk was full too. Ugh. My love started fading. I crossed back over the Champs-Elysée to the kiosk right outside our office that always has room because it’s on a hill. Full. And so was the next one. And the next one after that. And the next one after that. The love was fading fast.

I started noticing all the other Velib riders cruising the streets. We were like angry bees, swarming empty honey pots, maniacally circling, thinking things would change and when it did, it would be us who got to swoop in for the goods.

Finally, well past 10 o’clock, after a good 30 minutes of searching, I found a spot. By then, I felt like the Velibs had really turned on me. All my love, praise and admiration, and all I got were achy knees and helmet head.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The good life

It was a trip that could have gone horribly awry. At least according to initial indications. But it was me and Mel! It was the South of France! Of course it was going to be fabulous!

And it truly was. It was just my initial brain freezes that had me worried.

For example, when I booked my train ticket from Paris to Nice, I didn’t realize that the TGV stopped in Cannes, where we were spending the first three nights. I suppose I could have hopped off in Cannes once this dawned on me… had I not arranged a rental car at the Nice train station. Bypassing Cannes on the train only to backtrack in the car ate three hours of my life that I’ll never get back.

And when I got behind the wheel of the miniature Peugeot, I realized I left my glasses on the train. Oh.

And then on Friday, our first full day of vacation, well… we slept until 2 o’clock. 2 o’clock! I have never, ever done that in my life. Thank goodness we both responded with five minutes of full-body laughter and then got one with our brilliant vacation. Which included…

Amazing food (of course).

Beach time and museum visits.

Spectacular walks, charming villages, and breathtaking vistas.

A kick-ass suite at the Villa Garbo, complete with our very own top-shelf bar.

We survived crazy winds and even crazier drinks.

We walked and walked every day, up hills and down crooked streets.

And yes, we even danced on tables.

It was a trip that was everything it was supposed to be—including qt with my quality girl. Thanks, Mel!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Curse you, Velib!

I do love my exhilarating rides on the Velibs. But the system has more than its fair share of quirks and frustrations.

I feel like the bikes are generally in better shape this year than they were last summer (not as many flat tires, warped rims, busted baskets and broken chains).

And I’ve been lucky that the kiosks have always accepted my American Express card. Many foreigners’ credit cards don’t have the necessary pin-and-chip technology so the kiosks refuse their credit cards. Since most of us don’t know the first thing about credit card technologies (and why would we?), it just seems like the kiosks are being persnickety. Tres frustrant.

But what’s been killing me lately is that the kiosks are often out of paper. It’s like when you go to the ATM and there’s no paper for a receipt except it’s actually like when you go to the ATM and there is no cash because you need your Velib receipt for the code that lets you unlock a bike. So if you don’t get a receipt, you don’t get a code even though you just paid for one, and you have to go to another kiosk and pay again.

This has happened to me a handful of times in the past couple of months, and it’s always annoying. But this morning, it happened at two kiosks, back-to-back. I, like a New Yorker, banged on the second kiosk, willing the little slip of paper to come out and inspiring some curious and cautious glances from passersby. But the banging didn’t work so I took the metro to work.

And then the perfect a-ha moment came this afternoon when Trevor mentioned a nugget from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: When a situation goes awry, always look at where you messed up. Though it’s always easier to pin a snafu on someone else —for me, admittedly, it’s almost a knee-jerk reaction—if you take the responsibility, it’s easier to fix the problem. Better for your heart, too.

Tonight, I vow to sign up—finally!—for that annual subscription to the Velib.

French phrase of the day: Etre comblée

Def: To be completely sated and maxed out.

Or, as Josephine, my tutor, explained after I recounted the escapades from my trip, it’s like “la cerise sur le gateau.”

Out of left field

I arrived back in Paris last night around 11 (more on the fun, fun, fun trip later) and had my French lesson at 8:30 this morning. I knew I was setting myself up for a long day. But within the first 30 minutes of work I had three surprises.

The first was seeing an old boss from the New York office. I knew he was coming to town, but thought it was later in the month. This was a nice surprise—he’s a great person on the personal front and a strong leader on the professional. I’ll be seeing a lot of him over the next month or two, which is cool.

The reasons why he is here bring up surprises two and three.

Right before I left last week, I found out we have a pretty significant new business pitch coming up. I found out this morning that it’s in three weeks. Merde. Not a lot of time. Surprise number two.

And the third surprise? My boss is leaving. The guy who brought me over to Paris, as fate would have it, is moving to New York. Holy merde.

This totally took me off guard. I don’t think this is going to impact my position here. The little we talked, it seems as though I’ll be able to easily renew my contract before it’s set to expire in September. But, wow. Not even an hour into the workday and already my summer is taking a new direction.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cote d'Azur

Off to meet Mel in Cannes tomorrow... will be back with new adventures next week.

Love to all of you!

French word of the day: un démi

Def: A challenge.

My first flirtation with a date

I was going to call it my first date, but meeting a Swedish trust fund baby for a drink at midnight isn’t exactly that, is it?

So, no, I wasn’t thinking of it as a date. I met this guy out one night with Michael a couple weeks ago and we all chatted and exchanged numbers in a friendly way. With my Paris motto of being open and saying yes to (almost) everything, I agreed to meet him for a drink.

We arranged to meet at 11:30 as we were both out with other friends earlier in the night. He suggested we meet outside a pub right near my apartment, which was convenient to me. But he was late. And the pub is on Rue Saint-Denis. As I was just standing around, and it was on Rue Saint-Denis, I felt like a hooker. I didn’t look like a hooker (I don’t think), but that didn’t stop lecherous men from getting in my face. I was just about to text him and cancel when he called and told me to go to another bar and he’d be right there. Annoying. But I went with it. (Be open! Say yes!)

He got to the bar, ordered a drink and we were hanging out and chatting. He was a little manic, a little flirtatious, and then he leaned over and started making out with me. He wasn't a good kisser. But I went with it, still being open! Saying yes! Then he asked if we should go home (together) or go meet his friends at a bar. I laughed in his face and agreed to go for another drink.

So we left the bar, ostensibly to meet his friends (my bullshit sensor on high alert), and on the way were drawn into another bar by the music. We went in and I think—guessing from the bartender’s facial expressions—he was trying to mooch or sweet talk a free drink. She didn’t fall for it, and he ended up ordering one drink—vodka with mint liquor. It tasted like mouthwash. Because, yes, he ordered just one drink, didn’t ask me what I wanted, but he let me take sips of his. And he kept periodically leaning over and mauling me. But what can I say? It was one of those things where I was so aware of the absurdity of him and the situation, but I didn't care. (Be open! Say yes!) He also kept asking me, “Don't you want to go home with an arrogant bastard?? Don’t you want to be able to tell your friends you went home with a hot Parisian??' Seriously.

Finally, he wanted to go to one more bar, and we were walking further and further away from my apartment, and I was getting more and more wary, and his kissing was getting progressively fiercer and dumber. But I went along to one more bar, where I refused to do a shot with him. So he started getting all offended, and that was my cue that it was time to go. It was 1:15 and had my French lesson at 8:30, and I was done. So I told him I was going home, and he started insisting that I walk him to this club so I can get him in for free! He said I had to go to the club with him and then I could leave! Yeah, right. Finally I just left him at the bar and hustled home.

I got home, soooo happy, and my phone rang and he wanted to come over. Of course I said no thanks and goodbye.

But it keeps going.

I woke up to the ringing phone at 3:45 and ignored it. But it kept ringing. I looked and there were *12* missed calls. Not knowing how to turn my phone off (seriously), I dislodged the battery and fell back into bed.

Then, this morning, he called at 8:30. And asked if he should come over.

I am still laughing as I type this.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The kindness of strangers

I love that I got these really sweet emails from strangers. Auspicious, no?

Thoughts can create miracles.

You cannot see your reflection in running water, only in still water. Zen Buddhism

C'est la vie

My big question: why am I here?

When I first arrived, I (of all people) was certain I was living some Cinderella story in which magic and princes were going to make appearances. That my dreams were going to come true. I guess that’s what you call the honeymoon phase.

I wouldn’t say these feelings have been replaced with disbelief or despondence. But they’ve certainly been tempered by reality.

A few weeks ago, I was tormented by my age and singledom, my lack of writing progress and motivation, the deafening doubts in my head. I couldn’t help but feel negative. Adrift. I was still questioning why I’m here, but instead of a starry-eyed magic way, it was a WTF sort of way.

Now I am somewhere in between. I am feeling that I left New York and all my dear and crazy friends, cozy apartment, party invites, easy way of life, so I could take a break and re-evaluate. There was never time to truly pause and reflect in New York. Here, it seems that is all I do. It can certainly be a bit much. It’s never fun to wake up in the middle of the night, questioning yourself and your decisions, asking why you made certain choices and wondering about the repercussions. It’s easy to beat yourself up in the middle of the night.

I keep asking myself if coming to Paris is worth it. If the challenges and constant uncertainty are really going to reveal a clearer path or strengthen me to some Buddha-like place.

Of course coming was worth it. Even if I’m only here for six months and am not able to master French. Even if I don’t land another freelance writing assignment for years. Even if I don’t sell my book. Even if I’m still single in a year, or two years, or, yes, even if by the time I do fall in love, it’s too late to have kids, this experience is worth it.

I have to believe I’m here for a reason. Right now, I’m believing that reason is to hit pause, and then maybe reset. I was given this opportunity to reflect and maybe change the direction of my life in my most favorite city in the world. Ever since I studied here in 1993, I’ve been obsessed with Paris. Now I am here. That means something. It’s not always comfortable and easy, but it is still magic. And it’s for a reason.

Velib: still a thrill

God, I love zipping around the city on the Velibs.

As much as I love walking, able to get up close to the store windows, fruit stands and fashionable people, nothing beats the adrenaline rush of pedaling through these beautiful streets.

It’s like being in a musical piece. There is a rhythm that you have to match. There is an energy that carries you. You are one part in an orchestration of trucks, buses, cars, scooters and pedestrians. It’s not always harmonious, but when it’s right, it’s thrilling. You can feel it in your beating heart and pumping legs. I try not to grin because I know I look like a big dork. But sometimes I am a big dork.

Merci, mes amies

You know when you have a good mail day? You get a letter from your favorite pen pal, an unexpected check, your favorite magazine and the book you ordered online, all together on the same day? I had a good email day yesterday.

One of the nice things about being here is the deeper bonds and more vulnerable emotions you exchange with your friends. I receive some of the sweetest, most supportive messages imaginable. I love it. But of course it’s bittersweet. When I hear “your voices,” I want nothing more than to settle down across a table with you and gab and laugh and drink and eat.

I know I’m so lucky to have you all in my life. Even from afar, I carry your voices with me every day.

(But, god, I miss you!)

Weather check: yum

You know that really fresh-air smell you get at the start of a season? The wind will knock it through your window once in awhile, making you stop and inhale and also notice that the light is a little different? It feels so lovely and you can’t help but feel that all is right in the world.

French phrase of the day: C'est ça

Def: That's it.

This is another phrase I keep hearing over and over at the office. Another phrase I like because it can apply to so many things.

As tough as the language is, I think it will get exponentially easier when I have the basics down exactly for this reason—there are many quick and easy phrases and exchanges that work in a multitude of places, for so many occasions. Man, I can't wait to have a handle on this language.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hello, June

What surprises do you have for me this month? What irresistible corners of the city do I have to discover? What new foods and restaurants will be on my plate? What challenges are you going to throw my way? As the saying goes, I'm as ready as I'll ever be.