Londres

Because clearly having two sets of visitors and a move isn’t enough for one month, we had also booked a trip to London in November.

I was even more badly prepared than usual, because of the move and everything still in boxes and bags and the rest being pretty chaotic. I spend hectic 20 minutes going through all kinds of things to find my oyster card and the adapters, for example. The night before we left I had a look around what markets Time out London recommended and that was about it.

We left at 10 am. From the new apartment it’s really just 5 metro stops to gare du nord, so no stress. There were lots of people because an earlier Eurostar had been canceled and there were nervous pensioners in the queue. I can’t stand people who cut the queue at all and in France it’s not as uncommon as I’d like it to be. When there was a couple who cut in line in front of us I started complaining to Gergö about it, but didn’t say anything to them because they weren’t English, so I couldn’t say “You bring shame upon your country!”

Other than me getting unnecessarily upset by retired French people, the trip was okay and we arrived in St Pancras sans problèmes. We couldn’t take the underground though, because my oyster card was depleted, so we needed to recharge it. The machine wouldn’t accept any of our cards, though, so we had to find an ATM. The ATM seemed to work just fine, right up until the moment when it said, sorry, I can’t give you money right now. Only the third of three finally gave us pounds in cash and for a hefty fee. Then we only had to queue for an oyster card machine that accepted bills. Easy!

Because we liked the area so much the last time, we booked a hotel on brick lane again.  (I just re-read my blog post from then – I did the exact same thing like last year and went to the fancy chocolate shop for hot chocolate and took photos). We went there directly to deposit our luggage and went in search of the near by cat café to pass time until check-in. It was already full, though, so we ended up in a hipster pub drinking our first lunch beer within an hour or so of our arrival.

Most of the brick lane markets open only on Saturday and Sunday, so in the afternoon we decided to go to Battersea power station. I had read that there’s a “craft” market there, whatever that means and an old power station seemed like a good venue.

We took a bus and walked 3/4 of a circle around the power station in the cold, because the market was actually in an area that can only be accessed from Chelsea bridge and we didn’t know that. The market itself was disappointing and small and we were cold. I’m sure in nicer temperatures the area is quite lovely, (think museum quarter but smaller and less central) but as a lot of it is still under construction or very new it has a bit of a soulless vibe.

We returned back into town by river taxi. You can use your Oyster card for the boat and it’s scarily efficient going from Battersea back to London bridge, stopping for 30 seconds at every stop despite the access bridge being lowered and raised manually. I had promised a friend to take a photo of Big Ben, but I had forgotten that it’s under scaffolding right now (I can hear Gergö going “Big Ben is not the tower, it’s the bell!” but even Wikipedia thinks it can refer to both.)

We went to Old Street to meet with Gergö’s brother and ended up in yet another hipster pub. It was even called Craft Beer. When we entered Gergö thought for a second it’s a gay bar, because there were hardly any women inside.

A. showed us another pub, that was another 8 on the hipster scale with a vegan jackfruit burger on their menu. The burger was no longer available but the halloumi kimchi burger was good as well.

Saturday we looked at the various markets on and around brick lane (food! t-shirts! jewellery! more food! yet more food! streetart! So much awesome streetart! vintage clothing). We started the day off with the best pork roll I ever had. It had a fried goose egg! It was from a stall called swine dining. You know the kind – with a beardy dude really passionate about his product who tells you all about the breed of pig they are using that only exists in one place in Britain. I immediately grabbed what I thought was a plastic egg, put there for decoration. Well, it was a real goose egg, which I carefully put back on the pile. Re-reading my other blog post about our last London trip, a lot of the street art has changed. At least I didn’t notice many identical photos.

Later that day we ended up in Spitalfields market. There happened to be a craft beer and independent label thing at Spitalfields market. To Gergö’s amusement I insisted on bringing my little wheelie suitcase to London and not a backpack like Gergö. He stopped making fun of this fact when we started purchasing cans and bottles of beer from the many many stalls. Fruit infused pale ales are all the rage, chocolate/coffee stouts and porters are still popular. We also bought a spiced Christmas ale.

I thought we’d buy a drink or two and maybe a bottle if we liked it a lot. But the stalls handed out little cups to try, so it was our duty, really to try to support as many craft breweries as possible.

On Sunday we walked to Broadway market by recommendation of Gergö’s brother. The walk there led us past another flea market and Columbia road flower market, which is also very nice.

A man sitting at a table with four chess boards and a sign CHESS 4 FUN

Chess 4 Fun!

And Hackney city farm, so we visited the animals.

Broadway market is closed on Sunday, except for a very small Christmas market in a courtyard. There were people doing yoga outside in 5 degree weather. It was so disturbing to me, I couldn’t even appreciate the stall selling eggs that called itself “laid” and the obvious joke that went with it.  I was freezing by then and really needed to warm up somewhere inside. So we had a lovely meal at a place that ticked all the Verena breakfast boxes and consoled me a little bit about the fact that I couldn’t have a breakfast burrito at hola guacamole because the stall wasn’t open yet, when we walked past in the morning.

poached egg: check
Avocado: check
cuppa: check
fried mushrooms: check and win.

On our way back I felt human enough to take pictures again and fantasize with Gergö about him opening a hipster sourdough bakery in a former brewery.

We went through the food hall one last time to pick up dinner for our journey home. I was pretty convinced that I’d want to try Ethiopian food, but Gergö was sceptical about transportability of the food. It was a little messy, but it was so worth it. The Lithuanian stall is still here.

 

 


A graffito of a girl crossing her arms in front of her body like in a defense move

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Shortly after the rentrée (as everyone calls the return to work after the summer holidays, but also the start of the school year) Gergö and I went to the parc de la villette. I’d heard from my Pokemon Go playing colleagues that there are always lots of raids going on.

It was a beautiful summer day. I’d been to the park once before but forgotten about it. In the sunshine the big globe of the science museum’s imax cinema is really impressive. They also have a u-boat on display and an enormous toboggan. There were only kids in the line for the toboggan, so we didn’t try it out. We might have to come back at a later time, when the kids have gone to sleep. There’s also a big event hall and under the canopy there are people doing breakdance, practising acro yoga and other impressive feats. I always wonder how they agree on the music to play in a place like this. There was also an elderly lady pushing a pram with cold drinks around. We also walked past the concert hall, la philharmonie and looked at the canal st martin.

On another Saturday I went for a walk with my friend, took photos of street art and had a Pokebowl. I was only a little disappointed that it has nothing to do with Pokemon Go. It’s a Hawaiian dish with fresh vegetables and raw fish over rice and it was delicious.

The Menu of the Poke bar with photos of their bowls

Poke Bar that has nothing to do with Pokemon Go.

The first September weekend Gergö’s dad came for a visit and we did a few touristy things – the tour Montparnasse. It’s one of the few skyscrapers in central Paris. They say after they saw how ugly it was Paris decided to build no other high rise buildings in the city, but it actually has more to do with the statics of the city.

We also went to visit the Louvre – a first for Gergö, I think. We spent a few hours in there. It amazed me, again, how few people check out the Egyptian collection. Even in the room of the Venus of Milo it is comparatively calm compared to the mayhem that is Mona Lisa. Very fittingly we overheard a group of American tourists say: “We saw the Mona Lisa, Ah think we’re done here.”

Once a month (except for the summer) we have lunch together at work and this time we went all the way from the sad ugly part of St Ouen to the artsy part at Paris’ biggest the flea market.

 


Alea iacta est

After our little trip to Austria we had Gergö’s brother visit for a few days.

He was really motivated to do some sightseeing, so we went on a walk of the petite ceinture. It’s a lot like the promenade plantée – a raised disused railway line that used to connect various Parisian train stations. And it’s called ceinture, because it goes around Paris like a little belt.

Even though the little belt went around most of Paris at one time, only parts of it are now open to the public. We went to a section in the 15th district which led directly to Parc Georges Brassens. Apparently there’s a book market there – we could see the empty stalls.

We also went to Centre Pompidou again. I hadn’t been in a year, and A. wanted to see the David Hockney exhibition. I usually visit the 5th floor, with the permanent exhibition of modern art and then I am too tired to look at much else. This time we looked at Hockney of whom I had only a vague idea and then Walker Evans who I’d have sworn is an actor who plays super heros.

This time I also took some time to look  at the contemporary art as well and I liked a lot of things. Last time Gergö and I loved the big pile of shredded money and a room that was extremely quiet. It was insulated with wool all around. Very strange feeling.

This time there was a former record shop that the owner, Ben, had turned into a museum of everything. I was impressed enough to try to google the art work with only this information. I found it on the Centre Pompidou website. There’s a picture of the whole thing, go look at it!

I also saw the meat dress for the first time. The one Lady Gaga got into trouble with PETA for wearing. I didn’t recognise it at all at first, because it’s all dried and odd looking.

But we didn’t only look at art, we also used almost every meal to have fancy food and drinks in nice locations. And most of it wasn’t too crowded because Paris really is empty in August, except for a few tourist hot spots.

In between all the food and apéro I managed to play quite a bit of Pokemon Go – There are raids now, where several people have to fight an arena boss together in order to defeat them and to get a chance to catch them. During the last couple of weeks legendary pokemon were released this way. These are birds that don’t occur in the wild, so your only chance of getting one is a raid. You need  about 8 people or more to defeat them. So if you are not in a group of players, you show up to centrally located raids and hope other people will show up too.

That’s what I did for a raid in my neighbourhood and because it’s the summer there were enough people in the middle of the day to defeat the boss. Then a few people decided to go on another raid, across the river and I tagged along. It happened to be in the rue René Goscinny. I’d been there once before, where I took the photo of “Ils sont fous, ces Romains!”. Turns out there are more of those signs along the street and a tile on the ground with one of the more famous quotes attributed to Julius Caesar.

The last free day I spent playing Pokemon with a friend who was passing through the city. We wandered around town looking for rare Pokemon and raids.

In other news, the elevator still isn’t repaired. I though the notice inside said August 1st-31st in order to be on the safe side. But it really takes this long, apparently. Every time I leave and every time I come back, I hopefully push the elevator button. Since Friday it glows green when pushed, but nothing further happens. By the end of August I might get used to the 7 flights of stairs (I won’t).

 


Les Toits Parisiens

Shortly after my last post I went for a walk to Gare Austerlitz with Gergö. We finally bought a train card that gives us 25% reduction on the weekends. Now we only need to make the time to actually get out of Paris. I would love to see more of France, but Paris isn’t bad this time of the year either.

There’s an exhibition at the train station. Along one wall there are giant paintings of super heroes as in the style of Flemish paintings. In this article you can see Superman, Batman and Robin and the Joker.

I love how serious they all look and how it totally works – the expression in Flemish paintings and images of superheroes is not very different. It really is just the ruffle collar.

Another discovery of this summer: Ground Control. Gergö went there for lunch with his colleagues and then we went back one evening because he thought I’d like it. And he was right. It’s a roof terrace on former grounds of the Gare de Lyon. Instead of loading bays there are bars and on one side of the terrace are former buses that are fancy street food kitchens now.

They put raised flower beds in one corner, because that’s what you do these days, when you open a hip new spot on a Paris roof top. Needless to say, I totally love it. Also, the first time I was there the name gave me the best ear worm. I have been listening to Amanda Palmer’s covers of David Bowie and in Space Oddity Neil Gaiman does the countdown. It always makes me smile to hear his voice in this song.

When we explored the space a little I saw that all the flower beds had little signs in them with French puns. Some of the puns I understood! I was so proud I took photos of all of them.

If anyone wants to explain the one for chive and the one for mint to me, go ahead!

We went again last Friday night for a drink with Gergö’s colleague and we just about found a place to sit. The moment we decided to get up and leave someone was on our side to claim the table. We went to the supermarket to get some pick-nick things and when we passed by the entrance 15 minutes later there was a queue to even get in.

We were headed to the park anyway, to have a very French pick-nick. The only thing missing were berets, really. We had baguette and cheese and ham and hung out in the park. There were people juggling and dogs running around and young people smoking weed.  Nobody was playing petanque, which is odd for a warm French summer evening, but apparently it is not played on grass and the park is rather grassy, so it was okay and nobody tried to take away our freshly won Frenchness points.

 


En cherchant la Joconde

My mum came to visit us here in France again. January might be cold, but it is a good time to do sightseeing. The queues are noticably shorter this time of the year.

We walked a lot, like the last time she was here. This time we explored the Jewish quarter of Paris. The area is great, lots of interesting shops and signs and restaurants.

I’ve been in France for a year and a half and I still hadn’t visited the Louvre. I wasn’t that interested in seeing Mona Lisa in person and the queues were always daunting. Plus none of my visitors expressed an interest. My mum finally asked me to get tickets ahead, because the only thing that’s worse than queueing is queueing while it’s 5 degrees and rainy.

I had to give the Louvre my birth date and address and pay 2 € extra for the privilege of printing out the ticket myself. I even complained about it on twitter, because with every click i got a generic error message. And I mean that literally:

The Louvre sent me a private message to explain it’s necessary that I enter my birthdate because it’s necessary and that they will take care of the error. They haven’t.

Enough of my rant, the offline Louvre is great. In both size and content. We also didn’t have to queue at all, because it’s January. I grabbed a map and went right to the French painters, where I expected the Mona Lisa to be. It took me two floors of paintings to realise my mistake and find the Italian painters on the map.

At least we saw a few gems on this little unscheduled detour.

Once we were in the right wing of the Louvre there were arrows pointing the way and people to follow. Mona Lisa is in a large room with lots of other paintings that go mostly ignored. There are 2 types of barriers separating the throng of tourists from the painting and two very bored guards on either side. People take selfies with the image all the time and there are queues for good selfie places.

I already knew that the painting is fairly small and didn’t expect to be impressed. And it felt like it was a matter of duty, seeing Mona Lisa in the Louvre :-)

Afterwards we had coffee and tackled the rest of the museum. I had no idea the Venus of Milo was also in the Louvre and the room she was in was almost empty.

We had tickets to go to Reims for the next day. So we got up early and went to Paris to board the TGV to Reims. It’s only a 45 minute ride with no stops because the train goes over 300 km/h. My mum was really excited about the velocity, but didn’t want to act too touristy. I totally encouraged her to get up and take a picture of the sign that displayed the speed. I take pictures of anything and everything, I very much understand the impulse :-)

Reims is a pretty town, not too big to walk. A lot of it was destroyed in WWI, so many houses in the center have art deco façades.

It also has a giant cathedral in which most of the French kings were crowned. Some of the stained glass windows were designed by Marc Chagall in the 70s. We missed the opening times of the palace de Tau, which houses the coronation museum, so we wandered on to the basilica.

Reims is also the place were Alfred Jodl signed the unconditional surrender of Germany on May 7, 1945. When my mum mentioned that I had to laugh. I only know the name because of the Hitler reacts to meme and he is one of the people who stay in the room. I tried to explain the meme to my mum but retelling YouTube memes doesn’t really work.

I was confused. All French towns appear to have a rue 8 mai, why not 7 mai? It turns out, the surrender was signed on the 7th in Reims and then signed again in Germany in the presence of the Soviets on May 8. In Russia the end of the war is considered to be May 9, because it was already after midnight Moscow time.

We visited the museum dedicated to this event. It’s in the former headquarters of Eisenhower next to a school. It was a small museum but I found it really interesting. I don’t need the uniforms but I liked the contemporary newspapers and the original war rooms with all the maps.


La maison à l’enseigne du mouton

Most museums are free on every first Sunday of the month. So on Sunday a friend suggested to go to the Picasso museum. We forgot to take into account that two of the biggest museums of Paris were closed because of the flood (the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay) and that tourist season is in full swing.

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The queue was pretty long and not everyone who was going to join us had arrived. So in the end we jumped ship and went for a walk in the Marais instead.

ma raie

ma raie means my parting or my sting ray, according to the dictionary. Also a good band name, I think.

We were joined by a fellow Austrian who has been studying in Paris for a while and she took us to the oldest half timbered buildings of Paris. One of them has a plaque saying it’s the “Maison à l’enseigne du mouton”

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I think enseigne means teaching, so this would make it the house where sheep were taught in the 14th century. I’m fairly sure I either have the vocabulary wrong or I’m missing an important bit of information. I really want to believe this building was a sheep school, so I’m not going to look it up.

While we were admiring the ancient crooked little building and imagining a room full of lambs learning to spell mèèè there were a couple of people holding sheets of paper, looking at something fixed to the cellar window grate.

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After they left I took a picture. I think it’s a treasure hunt by the same people/person who invented the treasure hunt at the Louvre and it actually sounds pretty awesome. Note to future visitors: I’d totally be up to doing a treasure hunt!

Even without a map and clues we found a lot of pretty corners, like this beautiful courtyard.

jardin

(Sorry for cutting you off, Gergö).

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I also had to stop several times on our little walk to take pictures of things that are only funny for German speakers with a childish sense of humour:

Pamela Popo

It’s just a restaurant name, nothing to do with butts.

And that’s just another sharing economy website / app. I swear!

lulu dans ma rue

It’s also a really apt name for the scent of the streets of Paris, but I dont think that’s what they had in mind.

After the Marais we wandered down to the Seine, to gawk at the flood and take pictures. It really is quite impressive.

flooded Seine

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We were all ready for a cup of coffee at this point, so we headed for the Institut du monde Arabe. It’s a very interesting building with a museum, library, offices and, most importantly a rooftop terrace with café.

The façade is made up of these windows who open and close based on the light

The façade is made up of these photosensitive windows

At the moment, there's a exhibition about gardens in the IMA. It looks really intersting from above.

At the moment, there’s a exhibition about gardens in the IMA. It looks really intersting from above.

At the rooftop café I had the most expensive coffee to date. It was almost as expensive as a small beer in a city center brasserie.


Une excursion à Fountainebleau

Wednesday was Armistice Day, which is a holiday here in France. I read about British people wearing poppies and thanking veterans before but never stopped to wonder why Austria doesn’t commemorate the end of World War I. I guess we are sore losers.

Gergö had the day off from work and his friend from work suggested an outing to the château Fountainebleau. It’s a huge castle with old parts dating from the middle ages and newer bits added on by various French kings.