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.


Vienne, tu me manques

We left for Vienna on December 24. We hadn’t been in Vienna for quite a while – we changed trains there in the summer but didn’t stay over night. We spent a single night there on the way to a wedding in June. But I think the last holiday in Vienna was a long weekend in March, when the triplets celebrated their second birthday.

So, as usual, we spent the week in a hectic blur of food and people. We met with my family on the 26th, Gergö’s family on the 29th and friends on all the other days. We were staying in the 7th district, very centrally and close to Mariahilfer Straße, which is a big shopping street. There were trams and the most useful of all busses, the 13A really close by. So I had the opportunity to play a lot of Pokemon Go during my week in Vienna. I could turn a lot of Pokestops on the tram and bus and hatch eggs and even put the occasional Pokemon in an arena.

I also went shopping – we found ourselves with a couple of hours to spend right on the biggest shopping street of Vienna. I bought a ridiculously huge dark red down coat. It even has fleece lined pockets! Several people commented on the size of it and how I look like Bibendum (the official name of the Michelin man, as I recently learned on twitter). I would have preferred it in black, obviously, but it was the red one that was 60% off, so I will be snug and smug in my ridiculous enormous coat.

Despite my declared dislike for Christmas markets, I managed to visit two in my week in Vienna.

Because we met with so many people we went to a lot of cafés and restaurants. And people in Vienna still smoke inside. We had brunch at a place that is non-smoking for breakfast, but it reeked of smoke from the night before. And even weirder: there are little stickers to show if a place is smoking or non-smoking or both and the non-smoking stickers are red and the “smoking is allowed” stickers are green.

When we visited some friends in the 14th district they told us that they have a Chinese restaurant around the corner that they’d love to try, but you are allowed to smoke inside. And as we walked past the restaurant we all glanced inside and there really were people smoking away at the restaurant tables. Very unreal.

I noticed two other things I apparently really got used to in France: When you enter a restaurant or bar or brasserie or café in Paris, in most cases you wait to be seated. Sometimes you are told: sit wherever you like but mostly you are seated. I went to a café with a friend and there were people waiting for a table that was about to become free and my friend suggested to look around for a table for two. I wanted to say something like “surely we’ll be seated right after them” when I realised: nobody cares where/if we find a place, it’s everybody for themselves in here.

Then I, the person to stop at red lights in Paris, found myself impatiently crossing at red in Vienna – with the exact same excuse as everyone here: There was no traffic! There’s really no point in waiting around at a red traffic light if there are no cars! And I promptly crossed the road in plain view of the police while looking in their direction. I didn’t get a ticket, though. Probably because it was in the middle of the night and there really was no other traffic. And today I almost got run over by a motorcycle because I was so busy avoiding Puddles (and checking Pokemon Go on my phone) I didn’t see that the light had turned red again.

I also noticed things that changed in Vienna: There are far fewer firecrackers before New Year’s Eve. When I lived across a playground in the 2000s, it felt like the teenagers from the school around the corner tried to blow themselves up every day of December. And it was still bad a few years ago, when we looked after Gergö’s former dog. Now it’s much quieter and I only heard firecrackers on the 30th and 31st. All that’s left to learn for Austrians is that the firework starts at midnight.

In a weird counter example to my experience in Viennese cafés, I saw a queue in front of café Sperl on Gumpendorfer Straße. People were actually standing outside in the cold waiting to have coffee in there. It seemed ludicrous to me. I remember Sperl as the place with the most worn down leather chairs and grumpiest waitresses and it was really smoky, too, though that may have changed since I last went there (in 2008 maybe?). I bet the café is mentioned in a guide book as the real Viennese experience and that makes people willing to queue for overpriced coffee.

Luckily we got to see a lot of my nieces, the triplets, as well. They love to sing right now and will burst into strange songs at any occasion. When we had a playdate with friends who have a daughter of the same age, two of them grabbed hold of railings in the hallway, dangled from them and sang “Hoch sollst du leben / an der Decke kleben / runterfallen, Popschi knallen / so ist das Leben” (“you shall be celebrated / stick to the ceiling / fall down, hurt your bum / that’s life” – I just checked, there’s a category called birthday songs on Wikipedia, but the original version of this song is missing, just like the children’s version).

Anyway, everytime they sang “runterfallen” they let themselves drop to the floor. Songs seem to be a way to get them to do stuff – as long as it’s not being quiet. There’s a song about a bear sleeping where they will immediately lie down and pretend to be a sleeping bear. They even include the snoring noises sometimes. The trouble is it goes on: the bear wakes up and then hops, hops, hops, or stamps, stamps, stamps, or dances, dances, dances all day long.

The apartment complex where my sister lives has communal spaces. We took the kids’ new train set and went to the “theatre”. It’s just a big room that could be used as a stage. Not half as fancy as the cinema room or the communal kitchen. The theatre just had the problem that the lights went out every 5 minutes. Whenever that happened H. would scream, get up and run towards the sensor, while I. spontaneously started to sing Bruder Jakob / Frère Jacques. She even sang it in French, well, an approximation of it.

We also went to the climbing room. The girls would have preferred the slide room, but they are still a bit too small to climb the ladders alone and we wouldn’t fit in the slides in case they got scared and needed support. The climbing room is mostly interesting for the big mat that covers most of its floor. While two of the kids ran around playing catch and doing summersaults, A. rearranged our coats and played with my handbag. I gave it to her thinking there’s nothing in there that could break. She promptly took out the USB cable and stuck the micro-USB end into the regular one. “That works?”, my sister asked. “Only with force.”

I showed her how to plug it into my external battery instead – I figured it might save her hours of time if she learns early on how to plug in a USB cable the right way up.

When it was time to brush their teeth before bed, they weren’t impressed my by rendition of “Zähneputzen, zähneputzen, das wird deinen Zähnen nutzen” though. I didn’t think anybody else knew this song. We had to sing it in kindergarten while the other kids brushed their teeth until it was our turn at the sink. Now I googled it and apparently it’s a thing to motivate kids to brush their teeth. Well, it didn’t work.

Later in the week we met with Gergö’s family, including his two nephews. His brother was impressed how much more experience we have with little kids now (“please sit down on the chair to drink”, “use both hands to hold the glass!”, “Ok, I’ll walk up and down the stairs with you, but you have to hold my hand!”). It was also the one and only occasion for me to impress someone with Pokemon Go. The 5-year-old was interested in the game, and duly impressed by my Pikachu wearing a Santa hat and my strongest Pokemon, a Tyranitar with over 3000 CP. He even caught a Sentrett while we waited for the train and only needed 5 or 6 Pokeballs to do it. Most grown ups’ reaction is “Somebody is still playing this?”

We also met his other brother’s fiancée. But Gergö didn’t get a chance to talk much or ask about the dress code for the upcoming wedding because his crown came loose. So we spent the evening at the dentist on weekend duty.

the smile of a real princess.

It wasn’t really how I wanted to spend the evening, but it could have been much worse. Across from us in the waiting room was a girl with her parents whose horse had kicked her in the face. Her dad carried bits of her front teeth in a tupperware container.

While I was waiting for Gergö to finish two young men showed up – one had a toothache, the other came to help with translation. When they struggled with the information form I offered my cell phone as a dictionary. They had brought their own, but readily introduced themselves – (Hello, I’m XYZ from Syria!) And while the translator’s German was pretty good, they were happy to have some help with words like Herzschrittmacher/pacemaker, Spritze/injection and the like.

The doctor glued Gergös crown back into place and most of the visit was spent waiting for the cement to dry. And it was also fairly low on bureaucracy for Gergö: He filled out two forms with the data on his European health insurance card and didn’t have to pay anything. He reckons there will be a bill from his French insurance at some point.


Quoi de neuf, automne?

As I mentioned before, autumn makes me sleepy. In order to fight the urge to sleep, I have started going to Paris. I want to try out different cafés to work at. And when I’ve worked enough I can go hunt Pokémon and refill my Pokéball storage. Palaiseau doesn’t have enough stops to bide me over for longer than a few days.

CascaraI started some time in September, when I went to a café that serves Cascara, a drink that is made from the coffee cherry, that is the fruit that surrounds the coffee bean. It tastes like weak coffee but fruitier and was served cold. I was a little proud for once to be a tiny bit ahead of the hipster drink curve. It will be disappointing to find out that it’s not a hip drink after all, just ridiculously expensive watered down coffee.

I’ve also met up with two different people I know from the internet® (that is the Techniktagebuch), to hunt Pokémon together. They were visiting Paris and had some time on their hands. And I’ve since discovered that the best spot in Paris is underneath Eiffel Tower. So I also tried to find cafés close by that are not just for tourists. I’ve even figured out the best route to take from my train (RER B). It’s an overground metro that passes by enough Pokéstops to refill your bag.

I have to admit, it all sounds terribly nerdy and like a waste of time, but on the other hand, I walked hundreds of kilometers since I began in early July. My app says it’s 489 km, to be exact. The down side of all this walking is that every kilometer walked without tracking feels like a terrible waste of precious hatching opportunity and my feet started to hurt again. I already have a prescription for new insoles. But I need to visit a Podologist to get them made and they don’t have opening hours. I have to call and make an appointment. So depending on how badly my feet hurt, I might never get those insoles made.

Another down side of playing so much Pokémon is that I usually have the app open. It’s much more stable now than it was in the beginning, but I’m still loathe to close it and reopen it, because it takes a long time to load. So I don’t take as many photos with my phone as I used to.

That’s a pity, because the opportunities are still there. There are always dozens of people taking photos on Place Trocadero, but I think this photo shoot was the best I whitnessed so far:

dog in a tutu

My bird identifying skills are non-existent (other than great tits and black birds), so I was super excited but clueless, when I saw this one as I crossed the bridge from the Eiffel Tower to Place Trocadero. A bit of googling and I think it’s a starling. I’m surprised that there are animals other than rats and pidgeons around the Eiffel Tower, but there you go.

bird

There are lots of crows on the Champs de Mars, the little park underneath and to the South of the Eiffel Tower. I saw two tearing open a rubbish bag in order to get to the banana peel that was in there. Sometimes they are not acting all smart and problem solving and just hang out in trees.

crows perched in a tree

“Paris est trop petit pour ceux qui s’aiment d’un aussi grand amour.” – Random poetry I’d probably not like in German, but think very romantic in French. I think it’s also from Champs de Mars.

20161019_1454581

Quite unromantic, on the other hand: François Hollande. France is warming up for the presidential elections next year. I’m not even sure who made these stickers, but I love the facial expression. From reading the facebook about page I think it’s socialists who want a more socialist president but I might be wrong.

merci pour ce moment mais maintenant tu dégages

“Thanks for now, but it’s time to piss off”

 


Au revoir, Vienne!

I returned from Styria to Vienna on Monday 2 August. I think most people forgot I was still here, or assumed I had returned to France by now, so I had a rather quiet ten days, compared to my previous visits.

I met a couple of friends in the evenings, which left the days to do some work, complain about the heat, visit the triplets and hunt Pokémon. My current house sitting flat has a great balcony but sadly no internet connection.

pias balcony

 

A bracelet made from a zipper.

A bracelet made from a zipper.

Because I was running low on my cell phone’s data plan, I’ve been drinking too much matcha latte at places with free wifi and conveniently placed electrical outlets.

 

Wednesday afternoon I visited my dad’s partner at the store where she sells among other things the awesome jewellery and upcycled clothes she creates.

Afterwards, I was at Café Schilling. They have outdoor seating with built in heaters for winter. The heaters are not in use right now, of course, and unplugged. I could use the free electrical outlets for my computer, which is rare for outside seating.

At one point I got to chatting with my seat neighbour and she asked if I am at university, which I find immensely flattering :-) I explained that I was working on a website and she asked for my card, because she might be interested in one herself. I had to admit that I don’t have one. Instead I scribbled my email address on the back of an old subway ticket.

When I told the story to my sister she ordered me to go print cards at the copy shop at the train station right away, which I dutifully did. Now I have 30 cards with my name, email address and phone number. Black on white background. At least they make it very clear that I am not a designer.

rat graffiti stencil

Later that week, I saw this stencil and my mind immediately went to Pokémon Go again.  What if people start tagging the city with the places where the rare ones spawn.

One morning I went to Stadtpark. It was in the news recently for being Vienna’s Pokémon hotspot and I wanted to see for myself. It’s pretty bizarre and a little unreal. Lots of people sitting on benches in reach of three Pokéstops. You can recognise the players easily: most of them have a cable from their phone to their pocket, where the external battery provides extra power. The game is a real battery drainer.

 

When you walk into the park new Pokémon spawn everywhere. All around the park are small groups of people shuffling zombie-like, staring at their phones. Intermingling with them are tourists, looking at maps and taking pictures of the golden Strauß statue.

Last Monday I met with a friend for dinner in the city center close to Maria am Gestade. I walked there, crossing through some of the most touristy areas of Vienna. Everywhere there are tourists looking at maps and looking at buildings, taking photos and selfies. I’m rarely in the city center and when I am, I barely register the beautiful surroundings anymore.
It’s during these summer nights that I really enjoy the city center. It’s so vibrant, so many people speaking so many different languages out and about, walking, talking, eating ice cream.

rhyming dod poop baggies have to be one of the most Viennese things I encountered lately

rhyming dog poop baggies have to be one of the most Viennese things I encountered lately

On Tuesday I visited a friend and talked him into a walk around a newly opened park, despite already having a cold. It’s all about walking at the moment – that’s how you hatch Pokémon eggs. I noticed the baggies they provide for dog poop are newly designed and now rhyme.

I also spent some time at Hotel Schani. They rent out coworking desks, but also let you use their wifi for free if you sit in their café area. I quite liked the atmosphere, probably because it was quiet (apart from Lounge versions of 80s and 90s pop songs). I also like how they rent out electro scooters and long boards. And finally, they don’t bring these teeny tiny little glasses of water along with your coffee, but have a bassena instead. I’d rather get the water myself than be brought 1/8th of a liter. Yesterday, while showering, I could smell the chlorine in the French water and realised that I didn’t drink nearly enough of the delicious Austrian tap water.

Bassena

A bassena, for those of you who are not Viennese, used to be the public tap on every floor of a tenement where people fetched water from. It’s also synonymous for gossip because that’s where you chatted with your neighbours.

I’m back home in France now, reunited with powerful wireless internet and smelly cheese. As a good bye present to myself I went to the airport two hours early and had a big fat ice coffee at Demel.

Ice coffee in Austria actually contains ice cream. In the back you can see the teeny tiny glass of water I complained about above.

Ice coffee in Austria actually contains ice cream. In the back you can see the teeny tiny glass of water I complained about above.

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marché aux puces

We already had our first visitor, which was a great excuse for trips to Paris. On Sunday we went to the marché aux puces (fleamarket) de Saint Ouen, a giant fleamarket consisting of 12 sub-markets.  Before the market starts with the usual stalls of printed tshirts, there are street vendors selling corn on the cob roasted over coals. The coals are placed inside a large can which in turn sits in a shopping trolley. Several people also offered suspiciously new iPhones to me.

After the market, where I only bought one single book and nothing else, we had a drink at la recyclerie, a very hip place along abandoned (?) train tracks, that keeps chickens, goldfish, earthworms and goats, has a repair area and alltogether very eco friendly.

a sign advertising against food waste, which apparently is called gaspillage

a sign advertising against food waste, which apparently is called gaspillage

view from the outside seating area

view from the outside seating area