Le café des chats, le café matcha, le canal St Martin et mes aventures Pokémon Go

I haven’t been blogging in a while, but it’s not because I haven’t been keeping busy.

I announced that we’d be visiting the cat café and that’s what we did. We had brunch there a few weeks ago. It was different from what I expected. Mostly because it smelled of littler box. I don’t why I didn’t expect that, but it really took me by surprise. I think I might have thought it’s a place with tiles that’s hosed down every day. Or maybe I just didn’t expect old upholstered wooden furniture.

After disinfecting our hands, we were sat at a table and the cats started to fight, with hissing and screaming and everything. I had forgotten about that part of cat ownership as well. There was a post in the middle of the room covered in rope and one of the cats climbed up it. That’s when the waitress came back to reseat us, telling us there had been an accident. The cat that had climbed the post during the fight had pooped on the cross beam. They got out a ladder and cleaned it up. I guess my memory sanitised having cats and I’m fine with that.

We also tried out another different café: the matcha café. I liked it. I think Gergö liked it as well and we might have to go back there to buy more of the black fermented garlic we got in the store that goes with the café.

That same weekend we also went to the flea market in the south of Paris, marché de Montreuil. It has a reputation of being cheaper and less touristy. Well, I loved it.

I have also been playing a lot of Pokemon Go. I joined a messenger group for the 18th district, so I can find out if people are getting together in my neighbourhood to do a raid. You need five or more people to defeat a raid boss, so people organise in groups to coordinate.

It’s a good way to see more of my district.

ZAD stands for Zone à défendre and are squats / occupations of areas by people who want to block developments.

One of the newer things introduced by Pokémon Go are community days. Once a month for three hours one particular Pokémon will pop up very often and there will be a shiny version of it as well. Shiny just means it has a different colour than usual. For the April community day I went to the shopping mall at la Défense. They have sponsored Pokéstops and there are always lots of people and Pokémons there. I knew what to expect, I had been there before for a Pokemon event but whoa, it was busy.

Another new thing in Pokemon Go are what they call research quests. Completing 8 quests would give you a chance to capture Mew, a legendary Pokemon that you can’t get any other way in the game. The problem being that one of the quests was to evolve a magicarp. It’s a useless orange fish that needs 400 candy to evolve into a fierce blue dragon called gyarados. Catching one magicarp gets you 3 candy.

Fish Pokémon are more common close to water and so we also took a lot of walks around the canal St. Martin. There were a couple of very nice warm weekends and people were out and about playing Petanque and putting up slacklines and drinking wine and eating cheese.

We got a beer from the German bar and sat down on a bench and 5 minutes later two Americans walked up to the bench and sat down with their backs to us. They were on a date and started discussing their lives in Paris, ex-partners and open relationships. I want to say “Why do they assume nobody understands them when they are talking English” but a) seems fair, b) they probably didn’t care that much and assumed we were just German tourists. In a situation like this I always feel torn – on the one hand I find the awkwardness difficult, on the other hand I loooove to eavesdrop on conversations.


J’ai essayé le yoga à Paris

I missed boxing class two times in a row and decided I really need to try find a yoga class that suits me better than the Ashtanga class I gave up on in autumn. So I googled yoga studios in the vicinity and found one that looked okay. I chose the intermediate class, not because I thought beginners would be too easy, but because beginners class was at 6pm and I have to work until then. I figured I could just do the easy version of those poses that are too difficult.

I showed up about 10 minutes early, because the website said you should, to get changed etc. The studio had two large shop windows and they were dark. That’s weird, beginners yoga should be on right now, I thought and got up real close to the window to see inside. That’s when I realised the beginners were in the middle of shavasana and I was staring at them through the enormous windows. It was also then that I realised that there are exactly 0 minutes between one class ending and the next one beginning.

When it finally opened my first impression was: this smells of feet. The second one was: the changing room is in fact a just a small space behind a curtain and we are going to practise yoga in a shop window. I took the mat furthest from the window, which was the one that everybody who wanted to use the loo had to climb over to get back to the room.

The class was way, WAY too hard for me. And the teacher was not the encouraging kind, but the making fun of some of his regulars kind when they weren’t concentrating. I should have just walked out when he instructed us to jump into a standing position from kneeling on the mat.

By this time I had already decided to not come back after my trial course. My decision was confirmed when there was omming in the beginning AND shanti-shanti AND then there was chanting. What I had missed when I was checking out the website is that the intermediate class is a vinyasa inspired class and apparently there is chanting involved.

The only upside to the class was the very long shavasana at the end. I didn’t understand a word of what I suspect was supposed to be a guided meditation. Strong accent when speaking French while trying to sound soothing in an mostly empty room makes for terrible acoustics. Instead I spent most of the time thinking about the mushroom paprikas that Gergö had promised me would be waiting for me at home.

I had been using one of the mats provided. The studio website said you should clean the mat after using it. But the studio website also said come 10 minutes early and yes, there’s a changing room. Based on the sweaty feet smell I figured nobody cleaned their mat after use.

But when the lights came back on, everyone jumped up and grabbed a spray bottle and a rag from a shelf and starting spraying and rubbing down their mats. I did the same and then grabbed my coat and walked home on shaky legs. I’ve had courbature / Muskelkater / aching muscles since Friday morning.

So, my first attempt of taking up yoga again wasn’t a great success, but there are a few more studios in the area. I’ll just try them all until I find one I like that doesn’t smell of feet.

 

 

 


Il pleut beaucoup

The last two weekends were depressingly rainy. Despite our best intentions we didn’t took any of the Saturday walks we planned.

Instead we went on a short bus ride up to Sacre Cœur. There’s an electric bus that goes up all the way to the church, making a long, winding ascent on narrow roads.

It was raining so strongly, we didn’t see anything of the view from up on Montmartre. The bus windows were completely fogged up and it poured down, so we stayed on the bus and took it right back home. You’ll have to look at the photos I took of Sacre Cœur and the view in Octobre 2015, when the weather was much nicer.

To be honest, we mostly took the bus to catch pokemon while making a few kilometers. But even if you don’t play Pokemon Go, it’s a good bus line. It leaves right across from the merry-go-round that still plays Christmas songs at the Mairie du 18ème – (all arrondissements have their own city hall). It’s 5 minutes from our place and you can stop by a bakery to buy croissants for your bus ride. It stops right in front of Sacre Cœur and then goes on to Pigalle, which is a metro stop and also an area that has all the dodgy bars and strip clubs. If you get out at Sacre Cœur you can take the funicular down and check out the fabric shops that cluster around the east side of the foot of Montmartre.

We did something fun on Friday night, though (your mileage may vary): two of my colleagues and a friend from Gergö’s work and Gergö and I all raided Pokemon together. It was freezing and windy, and I finally caught a legendary pokemon that had been missing from my Pokedex. Gergö also caught one. It’s his strongest pokemon and he uses it in all raids now. He is already a level 25 player, despite only having played for 2 weeks.

What you see when you spend Friday night raiding legendary Pokemon

This Monday I missed boxing class because I hadn’t been feeling well. So I finally located the marché des biffins (vaguely translates to ragpicker’s market) that I usually miss by going directly boxing after work. It’s a small side street before the underpass where I always see the street vendors on Monday mornings. It was dark but it looked like it was well visited, so I had a look.

 

The street starts with the same kind of vendors like in the underpass: people who sell shoes, clothes, electronics from a big cloth they have spread on the floor. Some illuminate their wares with their cell phone flashlights. I also saw someone looking over a pair of winter boots with using his phone as a flashlight. People were starting to pack up, but it was still pretty busy. At one moment I noticed that I was the only woman on the street, but there were plenty of people on the street, there was nothing threatening going on and no one seemed to pay any attention beyond advertising their wares.

As the street goes on, the vendors get more professional looking and more substantial in their set up – tables and furniture, tarp roofs to protect the wares. One one side people were selling right from their rather run down looking warehouses. Still further on the street goes past marché Malik and then Dauphine and Malassis. On that level most vendors have real stalls and most of them sell sportswear, tennis shoes and printed t-shirts.

I love the pigeon wearing swag

Today a friend from work told me that a colleague was assaulted on Monday night on his way to the metro line 4, which is pretty much where I walk every day. I don’t know any details other than he got a fist in his face. But I think it’s the first time I heard of anything happening despite people at work saying how dangerous and dodgy St Ouen is. I refuse to be scared, though. Ok, I might put my phone away and not whip it out all the time to take pictures of swag wearing pigeon graffiti, but I refuse to be scared.

I was going to hit post on this entry but then I realised that I hadn’t included a single food photo. Well, I didn’t want to post the one of the tartare I had a the (best, according to tripadvisor) burger place because the day after I got sick and missed boxing class.

But I wanted to tell you about the fancy brunch at Chez Claus, a small breakfast place. I was invited for my birthday! I had delicious scones, followed by a tartine with mushrooms, avocado and a poached egg. I think that constitutes a 7 on the Verena food preference scale. They also make a big mug of coffee to my taste: usually they add 2 double espresso, but for me it was 1 single espresso. The rest is milk.

It looked as good as it tasted

My friends also gave me present: An escape game set in an airplane. I think the hardest part won’t be escaping but trying to find a date when it’s open and free and everyone has time and coordinating that on facebook messenger.


Decembre à Paris

I might have mentioned it before: I am not a big fan of Christmas. I don’t like the season much and the darkness gets to me. And the enforced cheer of the holiday season and the crowds make it worse. And don’t even get me started on Christmas markets! Far too crowded, expensive and who ever thought it was a great idea to drink outside in the most miserable season of the year?

Yesterday, when we were in the city center I saw a Christmas market on the place of the fontaines des innocents, right next to the Les Halles shopping mall. And it came to me as a huge surprise that I thought: that doesn’t look too crowded. Might be nice. Gergö went with it and for the first time in ages I voluntarily visited a Christmas market AND enjoyed it.

The market was really much less busy than the surrounding shopping streets. I think the fence and security personnel discouraged people, even though the just waved everyone through. Turns out Christmas is okay if it involves large amounts of cheese but very few people. Hot cidre and fresh churros might also have played a role.

December was busy at work as well – my department moved from the ground floor to the 3rd floor of the building next door. I thought it would be a huge deal, but we managed to pack everything up on Friday afternoon. On Saturday the movers came to take everything upstairs and on Monday morning we unpacked our workstations and went back to work.

Moving Goku and Vegeta upstairs is turning out to be quite a bit of work. We will have to scrape off every single square of colour without damaging the corners too much, put them back on the little plastic sheet they came on and transfer them upstairs. Mario has already been moved, but he came off the wall in one piece, I think.

The work Christmas party was a little different compared to Austria: Mostly because it was at lunchtime and there was no booze. There was, however, an ugly sweater competition and a voluntary random gift exchange. I only participated in the eating part of the party, evidently.

I think it was the first time I had Coquilles Saint Jacques. There was also a lot of cheese, to the expressed delight of my coworkers, and charcuterie and bread, of course. And yes, I find Macarons overrated, but that didn’t stop me from trying most of the colours.

I also had some time to discover more of my new neighbourhood – walking to work or playing Pokemon Go in the area.

I like my new neighbourhood. There’s a market all along the Boulevard Ornano on Sundays. Today someone was promoting their children’s clothes with a microphone and an amp. In the other direction there’s a boulangerie that has a long queue every single time I walk past it. All the shops were open today, including the bakery and the queue was even longer today. I had a croissant incident recently and will have to bring breakfast to the office soon, so I think that’s when I’ll try out if the wait is worth it.


Au revoir Bercy, bonjour Clignancourt

The move went as well as could be expected.

As per usual I underestimated the amount of stuff we had. But that soon became evident when I couldn’t fit all my clothes into my large suitcase even after I opened the zip that expands it by about 20 cm.

We discussed when the taxi van would come to pick us up (13:40) and then, on the Saturday of the big move, I suddenly misremembered the time as 13:20 and insisted to be downstairs with all our luggage at 1pm. I’m still surprised gergö agreed to it without arguing. We only cleared up the mistake once we had 9 pieces of luggage downstairs.

On the plus side that left us enough time to get lunch from the food truck that is in the park on Saturdays. I’d seen it once before but wasn’t hungry at the time. Of course I had to try the home made pickled veggies. The veggie burger was delicious as well.

It would be a lie to say I was getting nervous by the time it was 13:30, because I had already been very nervous for the entire day. Every time a taxi drove past I indignantly said “That’s not a van!”. When the car arrived it was a very big van. The driver helped with luggage tetris and we easily fit all the suitcases and boxes into the trunk and only had to take two medium sized bags to the sitting area – which was no biggie, as it had room for 6 people facing each other.

The plan was to unpack the two big suitcases and the small ones and return to Bercy with them. Maybe bring another bag or two. I was proud that I fit all my clothes into the wardrobe until I realised that a whole lot of them are still in various bags of dirty laundry and some additional boxes when I ran out of space.

After the first run.

When we arrived back in Bercy for the second tour it was evident that there was a concert – there were large groups of people everywhere. I sometimes try to guess the artist or music style based on the crowd. It was fairly easy for Metallica – I’d never seen so many middle aged men wearing metal shirts in one place. It was more difficult for Celine Dion – lots of women but not exclusively, all age groups. It was impossible for Phil Collins – what are elderly British couples doing here?

The crowd for the concert on Saturday was almost exclusively black. It was a different crowd than for Drake, though. There were vendors selling beignets (fried food, can be sweet like donuts, but I’ve also seen it salty) and drinks. There were women dressed in evening gowns who I suspect left their coats in the car, wearing extremely high heels. I saw someone wrapped in a flag, but I didn’t recognise it. It was only halfway to our apartment that I saw that it was a concert by Youssou N’dour. I know the name because of a song in the nineties he did with Neneh Cherry. Turns out he is not just a musician but also a Senegalese politician and he draws quite the crowd.

We returned to the apartment and did some more packing. Gergö really wanted to take at least his large suitcase back to the new apartment by metro. He was concerned that we wouldn’t fit everything into the van on the next day. I only took a small suitcase and our fresh food. I thought at 9 pm the concert would be in full swing and there’d be no more crowd outside the metro stop, and said something to that effect. Gergö finally stopped the tolerant boyfriend act he’d been keeping up all day and snapped at me “You are overthinking this, Verena!”.

Well, I wasn’t. The place was just as busy as before. I don’t think there was anybody trying to sell or buy tickets anymore, but there were people chatting and eating and arriving and leaving and just standing around. I bumped into about 20 of them with my suitcase and promptly lost Gergö on the way.

He wanted to use the elevator, but while it looked like it worked, it never moved. In order to get from our old apartment to the new one you need to change metros at châtelet. It’s the stop that most lines call “Châtelet/Les Halles”, except for the few metro lines that stop at both châtelet and les halles, like the 4. The change over from 4 to 14 isn’t so bad, as they are right beside each other and you don’t have to walk along endless underground tunnels for hours.

That was one of the reasons Gergö originally wanted to do the move by public transport – only two metros with an easy change over. So it was very gratifying when most of the elevators and escalators weren’t working – my decision to spend about 70 € on taxi vans was the right one. I’m sure even Gergö agreed as he was dragging the large suitcase upstairs at châtelet station. So yeah, I hate moving apartments, but I do get a kick out of being right twice in one day. Almost worth the move. Almost.

The second day the taxi van was smaller and the driver didn’t help much with the luggage. During the ride he listened to Radio Africa 1 and sang along and we even heard a song by Youssou N’dour. We successfully transported the rest of our belongings to our new place in Clignancourt. I was wrong when I said we’d be moving to Montmartre. We are in the ugly little sibling quartier of Clignancourt.

I’m glad I took photos before we moved our things, so I can show the apartment without having to tidy up the incredible mess.

The new place is slowly taking shape. The bed turned out to be far too soft, but before we buy a new mattress Gergö wants to try sleeping on the floor with just the mattress. For that we need to make enough room in the apartment to put the bed frame somewhere. For that I needed to go to the laundromat once more for the giant bag of bed linen and towels that needed washing.

You can tell that Clignancourt is less fancy than Bercy because there are more laundromats and they are busier. There are about 10 laundromats on my way to work. The closest is literally around the corner. I filled a 14 kilo machine easily and then hoped one of the 8 giant tumble driers would free up in time. We are looking at a manageable amount of laundry for the first time in months.

For the first week of his new commute Gergö sent me daily texts how long it took to get to work. It’s about 45 minutes and he didn’t yet have to commute in the warm embrace of a complete stranger while people try to shove their way onto an overly full train, so I think it’s a win. I’m not sure he agrees. I really enjoy walking to work – 2 kilometers which take 22 minutes. I hatch a Pokemon egg every other day. It’s definitely an improvement over métro 13.

 


old sign advertising electricity, showers and phones in hotel Frochot

Encore un déménagement

We found a new apartment and will hopefully sign a new lease on Thursday. It’s closer to my work this time (2 km or 20 minutes by bus) and Gergö will have to take the metro to work instead of walking. It’s small, no surprise there, 39m2. It has a separate small bedroom with some closet space. The sitting room and kitchen are separated by a bar. The kitchen seems pretty fancy and has 2 gas hubs and two regular ones.

We’ll no longer have a fold out couch. The couch is definitely too small to sleep on, though I’ll probably still fall asleep on it and later regret it. We’ll keep the single inflatable mattress, for visitors, but it won’t be the same as our current couch.

our sofa with an ugly pattern of green, mustard and brownish orange

The loudest sofa in the world

The apartment is technically in Montmartre, I think – but in reality it’s a 20 minute walk to the back of the hill. So it’s not the romantic area of Amélie, don’t get your hopes up. It’s located between M4 Simplon and M12 Jules Joffrin. And it’s a little cheaper than our current apartment. The downside of the apartment is that we will rent it only until August 2018. The landlady’s son will return from his studies abroad and she’ll need the place back then. So I’m hoping he is one of the many, many exchange students who fall in love and stay in their host country ;-)

There’s a small supermarket in our building and a post office across the street. A little further down the road is a tea salon / patissier with nice street art.

 a collage of a rat wearing armour made from small lego pieces and spikes on its back street art of a bird with patterned feathers

During this move I’m working full time, as is Gergö, so we won’t be moving by public transport like last time. I just ordered a taxi van online for Saturday. We’ve only been in the apartment since mid-February. So, like last time, I’m hoping against all evidence that we don’t have that much stuff, really.

Gergö had a beer subscription for the last months. Every month there’s a box of 6 different fancy beers in the mail. So we should have at least 6 boxes we can fill with our stuff. Plus the two big suitcases and two small ones.

Like the two apartments before, we found the new one via science accueil. The process is to email them your requirements (how many rooms, which arrondissements) and then you get a list of apartments. They say it takes up to two weeks to get a response, so Gergö prepared me for the wait. I still got nervous about the fact that we didn’t receive any feedback and hadn’t even started looking at other ways to find apartments yet. And what if we didn’t find anything with science accueil, what would we do then? “It’s only been ten days! We discussed this, Verena, we don’t freak out before the 2 weeks are over!”, Gergö said, as if he never met me before.

While I was busy coming up with worst case scenarios of homelessness in Paris, Gergö also looked at another agency, renting out furnished apartments. My personal highlight was a 14sqm apartment in Montmartre on the 7th floor without elevator for 800 €.

Before we decided on the apartment we also looked at one other place – an apartment hotel across the street from Gergö’s workplace. I expected a soulless depressing place, but it was actually not so bad. It didn’t have any storage space though and not a single book shelf. Gergö didn’t like the tiny little kitchen – only two burners.

I was tempted, because it had a laundry with really big washers and driers and access to a gym room. Also the linen and towels are changed every two weeks and the room is cleaned as well. Weirdly, for Paris, we didn’t have to decide right away. The apartment hotel is very new and they could only build it because they agreed to accept researchers as permanent residents for a special reduced price. And they don’t have the right to say no to them. It’s good to know there’s an expensive but doable option for us in Paris, as long as Gergö is a researcher.

Because our week isn’t going to be stressful enough as it is, our washing machine broke. It had been acting weirdly for the last couple of months, occasionally forgetting the program or restarting itself. Now it’s completely broken and has started to smell bad. I was ready to face two weeks without laundry, I have a lot of clothes. But I also have an inexplicable affection for large washing machines. So on Thursday I trekked to a launderette. It was everything I hoped for: 13 kilo machines and even two for 15 kilos! I only had enough laundry for a regular sized machine, though.

I sadly didn’t have any more battery left to take a picture of the enormous driers. I could probably fit in there as a whole. I didn’t have time for another visit to the launderette but I’m already wondering if it’s not really time to wash all of our blankets and pillows.

Shortly before the place closed, somebody came in and opened the drawers of all the washing machines poured water into them and scrubbed half heartedly with a toothbrush. I was a bit disappointed that I had to leave before he got to the driers. I would so have loved to see if he opens up all the driers every day and gets out all the drier lint. I realise it’s weird, but at 3.50 a pop, launderettes and giant washing machines are a fairly harmless fascination/obsession.

Just to cut down a little on the amount of stuff to move, I went to a bookshop on Sunday – a second hand bookshop called San Francisco Book Company. They also buy English books or take them on credit and I figured I could get rid of the English mystery novels I bought in a moment of weakness coupled with my new disposable income. I got 17 € in credit which I will not spend before we didn’t move all our crap across town. I love the idea of having book credit in a cramped little bookshop with piles of books on the floor.

Today we visited our cellar for the second time since we moved here. We retrieved the two boxes of inferior French cooking pots we put there to make room for Gergö’s superior Austrian ones. We also spent 5 minutes trying to figure out how to deflate the inflatable mattress, pushing and pulling on the valve to no avail. I even googled the mattress name and found that another person asked the same question on amazon. The response was to put in the deflate nozzle. Ours didn’t come with a deflate nozzle, but I hope I can work the expression into a conversation soon! In the end I used a pen to open the valve, we won’t have to explain to a taxi driver why were transporting an inflated mattress.

Wish us luck!