Bonne Année, bonne santé

Gergö and I tried out the Fondue/Raclette Restaurant around the corner on New Year’s day. We figured it would be empty because of the date, but we got one of the last tables. Entering the restaurant we were hit by a wave of cheese. It was a smell even stronger than our fridge on its worst days (or best, depending on your point of view). The place is also really warm, because all the tables have built in grills to keep the cheese warm. (Keeping the cheese warm needs to become an expression for something.)

After we got home I noticed that my scarf and coat smelled of cheese. I told this to our friends at brunch today, and they immediately assumed Gergö spent that night cuddling with my coat, using it like a doudou. They know him well. He didn’t, obviously, because my hair smelled of cheese as well.

On the weekend I wanted to go visit the marché aux puces, the flea market of St. Ouen. We’d been there before and I wrote about it twice (with my dad and with our very first visitor in France). We only live about a 15 minute walk away from the market now. Actually it’s markets – there are several and they all have different names.

At work all of our meeting rooms are called after St Ouen flea markets. The one we used most frequently used to be Biron. Now that we are on the third floor we have new ones. We had to choose new names for them and settled for Malassis, which sounds like “sitting badly” to me and l’Usine (the factory).

I didn’t find what I was looking for – I’m still/again crocheting carpets from cut up t-shirts (like this one). But I don’t want to spend too much money on tshirts I’m only going to cut up.

Once a week I walk past a very dodgy market at the underpass of the Boulevard peripherique. It’s mostly just piles of clothes on large sheets on the floor. I think it probably has exactly what I’m looking for, but I’m too timid to go in there and negotiate. Plus it’s in the morning and I don’t want to show up at work with my dodgy, potentially smelly flea market bounty and explain yet another weird thing I do to my colleagues.

Anyway: if you are thinking of throwing away old t-shirts or other clothes in stretchy cotton jersey material, keep them for me instead! I don’t mind if there are stains or holes, I cut them up anyway.

On my birthday, a Sunday, we tried out Brunch at the Recyclerie, an alternative café. I really liked the food, but the room is very big and high and gets very loud. I like all the alternative/eco things the place does. You can become member of an association that collects kitchen waste. If you join, you can take a bucket from their little hut and return it filled with things like coffee grains and vegetable peel and they use it to make humus (topsoil, not the chick pea paste) for the Jardin Ruisseau, a shared urban garden project.

Sunday was also the day I finally started to use my new mobile. For a while I didn’t dare use it for fear of scratching its beautiful screen or dropping it. But I actually sat down and moved most of my accounts to the new phone. And in the process turned Gergö into a Pokemon Go player!

We started a new account on the old phone and now he also plays. We live on top of a Pokestop now and a lot of things changed inside the game. He already has level 19 after a week and I keep telling him how we veteran players (Level 37 soon!) had to walk barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways to fight for a place in the arena. He also does the things he complained to me about when I first started playing: stopping randomly in the middle of the street to catch something, going really slowly because there are too many Pokemon to catch, etc.

My birthday present arrived Sunday evening: an invitation for an exclusive raid. The weird part: My colleague F suggested we go raiding in the city center. According to internet rumours, the sponsored gyms around Les Halles give a better chance of receiving an invitation for an exclusive raid. And he really wants one. I went along with him and another colleague and invited another friend. And my friend and I got an invitation and my colleagues didn’t.

The bad part: it’s on Tuesday at 12:30. My lunch break doesn’t start until 1pm and the gym is a few minutes walk from place de la concorde. And you’d have to be there on time, or they start without you. So I asked Gergö to do the raid in my place. I’m sorry to miss it, but I don’t want to miss an hour and a half of work for a virtual monster I might not even catch. I have no idea how I got to level 36 with that kind of attitude.

malentendu, malexprimé

I collect the funny things I say or misunderstand by accident. Some of my favourites:

When you start a new CDI (a work contract of undetermined length) in France, you have to see a doctor. I found it odd when I received the invite, but I was assured that it’s standard in France. I was also warned that the doc who is assigned my company likes to hear himself talk, so I shouldn’t let myself get drawn into a conversation or I’d sit there for hours listen to him talk about his family.

I started off already confused, because the regular door to his office didn’t work and he led me through the changing room, waving at the clothes hook saying something about taking my coat off. For a moment I wondered if he wanted me to undress but decided that it’s unlikely that he’d need to see me naked to see if I can be a programmer. It all went downhill from there. He asked me about the balance right away. I thought he wanted me to stand on one foot, which was more likely than undressing, but still a strange start to an exam. When I said that I didn’t understand he pushed me in the direction of the scales (la balance) and glanced at my file asking if I’m Spanish.

He asked me to read out my weight, which leads to my next problem with French: I have a hard time with high numbers and I struggled to get the right one out. Once that was out of the way it was a pretty standard exam, I thought. He commented that I don’t seem to have any serious health issues and I agreed: Oui, je suis sainte.

That actually means “I’m holy”, healthy would have been saine.

A little later a colleague said “ma marraine” (my godmother) and I only caught marraine and for a very short time actually wondered if he said “ma reine” – my queen. I asked him to repeat what he said and he used tante (aunt) when I didn’t get it the second time either. That gave me an idea what to look up in the dictionary and so I found out about the word without having to ask questions about his monarch.

Another lovely moment resulted in a colleague saying soutien-gorge. He had paper clips (called trombone in French, by the way) that looked like what could have been glasses or also a bra. Just a few days earlier I had mentioned I had a sore throat and used the expression mal à la gorge. For a few minutes I was convinced I had talked about having aching boobs to my work colleagues and was mortified. Turns out gorge means throat, I had remembered it correctly. Soutien-gorge is just one of those weird words.

I also collect French words for thingy and my list is still expanding: I already knew truc, and I learned machin pretty early on in France. At work I also found out about schmilblick and trucmuche. Recently bidule got on my list. Trucmuche lead me down the wikihole – apparently it’s also used as a placeholder for a typical French person, the French John Doe / Jane Doe. And yes, there’s an extensive wikipedia article on that topic. My favourite quote: ” Drölf (fictional integer between 11 and 14)”. Toto is also used, apparently and it took me a while to understand it’s not a Wizard of Oz reference.

In news that don’t make me look like a moron, but possibly like a glutton, I enjoy my Parisian lunch rituals. Tuesday is pizza day. Whenever my colleagues got to McDo (often on Fridays, is my impression), I go to the bakery across the street and get a baguette and a tartelette. Tarte citron meringue is my 13th favourite thing in France (1 – 12 are all different types of cheese, obviously).

When someone suggests Japanese, then I know at least one of my colleagues will get the cheesy menu, which I think is the most French thing you can get at a Japanese restaurant: It contains maki filled with cream cheese. The crêpe place down the road offers a selection of 4 different cheeses, by the way. I think the only place without a cheese option was the Moroccan restaurant we went to for a monthly team lunch last week. They did servce the most delicious couscous accompanied by bread, so it was French enough. Couscous in France is the whole meal with veggies and meat. What we call couscous in Austria is just referred to as semoule / semolina / Grieß in French. And it’s definitely better here. I think that’s because it’s made in a couscousière. That’s a two storey pot – the vegetables / meat stew in the bottom part and the steam from that cooks the semolina in the second part. Delicious!

Le parc floral

We have been having a very nice and mild spring. In fact, this March was the warmest on record since 1900, equaled only by 1957. We have have made use of the nice weather (and the fact that we no longer have to sit on a train for half an hour to get anywhere) to explore a bit more of Paris. For the last few weeks we visited a different food market every weekend. They are all great, with excellent selections of cheeses.


Mimolette cheese. The holes in the crust are made by tiny cheese mites living in it.

Another thing to explore are the two big parks on either end of Paris that look like two green ears on the map. The one that’s closer to us is the bois de Vincennes, and we decided to go there first. We have only visited it before to go to the zoo, but there is a lot more to see. Since Sunday’s weather forecast predicted 26 degrees and sunshine, we decided to check out the parc floral located inside the bois the Vincennes. I had read about it before; it’s a public park that also doubles as a botanical garden. There is also a big stage where concerts are sometimes held in the summer.

We packed sandwiches and beers for a picnic. The city of Paris has a detailed web sites about the rules and amenities for picnics in public parks; you are only supposed to walk or sit on lawns between April 15 and October 15 to leave the grass time to regenerate, but there are exactly 38 picnic benches available in the parc floral. When we got there it turned out that we had been the only ones to study the rules and/or to care about them. Some of the lawns were halfheartedly cordoned off, but the Parisans are a rebellious people and not that easily discouraged.

We walked around, munched on our sandwiches and beers, hunted Pokémon and were impressed by the large variety of tulips on display.

At the park’s entry we had noticed signs announcing something called “Resto Expérience”, of which we had never heard before. While we were wondering if it was the sort of food festival that seems to exist in every European city except Paris, two people came up to us to confirm that indeed it is one, and they gave us a leaflet with some information and, because we expressed interest, free tickets. It turned out afterwards that the organizers had combined an almost complete absence of marketing with the ridiculous idea of charging 13 to 17 Euro in admission to a remote location just to be allowed to spend money on food. Accordingly, there were not too many visitors at the expérience when we got there. We had some good food anyway, and we will be back next year, hoping the organizers learn from the mistakes they made on this first attempt.

After eating and drinking we were ready to head home for coffee and dessert. On the way back we passed a Quidditch match and found that yes, it really is as silly as it sounds.


Les environs

Gergö already showed you a few photos of the apartment. Even before we got the key we explored the neighbourhood a little and I took lots of photos, as usual.

I didn’t want to jynx the whole thing even after they said yes, because there were was so much information and documentation to supply. I was worried something would go wrong. We had to show: last year’s tax return for both of us, proof we paid our rent for the current apartment, Gergö’s work contract, the last three pay slips, a form we had to fill out and sign, copies of our ids. It’s apparently a completely normal process. Landlords can demand all of these documents.

On the other hand they have to supply the information of the apartments energy class, a document of what needs to replaced by the proprietor and what by the renters and they can’t ask for more than 2 months rent as caution / security. The contract is for one year and extends automatically for another year. We have one month’s notice, they have three.

We also had visitors again this last week. There was a lot of food! Our guests love cheese as much as we do, so we bought a lot of it, tasted it and learned a bit about cheese in the process. Mimolette, for example, is a hard cheese, dark yellow and looks like little insects ate holes into the rind because mites are used to age it and they eat little holes into the rind.

Of course we also went to our neighbourhood alpine chateau. Yes, it’s just outside Paris, but it stil has elks, edelweiß and skiing decoration everywhere. They serve about 17 different ways to prepare potatoes and cheese. Awesome, in one word.

The restaurant is so close to the Yvette that it was very much affected by last spring’s flood. They were closed for all of summer for repairs. It was the first time we went again after the reopening and I was worried that they had changed the decor into something more subdued. It wasnT the case at all. On the contrary, if it’s possible there was even more alpine kitsch everywhere. And they had added little cabanas in the courtyard.

We also went for the fanciest éclairs of Paris, had a wander around the Marais and visited the Museum of Magic. It’s located in the cellar of de Sade’s former town house. Gergö was most impressed by the underground well. I had mixed feelings about the magic show that was part of the ticket – I was amazed and impressed by the magic and terrified of being called onto the stage as an assistant. Luckily the magician mostly chose children, but I still rehearsed the names of playing card colors in my mind (cœur, carreau, trèfle, pique) and was a little grateful there are only low numbers involved.

We also had excellent Moroccan food. In France couscous is used as the name for the whole dish. What we call couscous in German and English is just semoule in French (semolina in English / Grieß in German). When you order a couscous dish you get a big bowl of semoule, an equally big bowl of vegetables. And if you ordered a non-vegetarian version the meat is served on your plate and you add the grain and veg to taste.


Mon père nous a rendu visite

My dad and his partner arrived on Ascension Thursday by car. They had visited family in Germany before coming to us, so the trip wasn’t as long as it sounds. For the record: our address doesn’t appear to be in his satnav, though you can find us on google maps. They both had been to Paris before, so there were no urgent tourist needs to take care of, just a couple of days exploring.

I suggested the fabric stores that are on the was to Sacre Cœur. Sacre Cœur is one of the things Gergö hadn’t yet seen, and Greta sews and does upcycling. Besides there is a street with lots of guitar shops nearby that my dad was going to check out in the meantime, accompanied by Gergö, who still claims he really wants a trumpet.

We had impressed our visitors with the cheese selection and resulting smell of our fridge, but on our wander around Paris, we smelled a fromagerie with even more impressive stuff, sitting outside in a showcase. We were all convinced that most of these wouldn’t/couldn’t be sold in Austrian cheese stores.


After an extensive stroll through Paris we had a little rest in jardin Luxembourg and afterwards walked to the quartier latin by way of the Panthéon. It’s a couple of streets surrounding a square with street musicians. Every place is full of tourists looking for food and beer.


street art in quartier latin


interesting façades at the bottom of rue mouffetard, which is the french word for skunk and *exactly* sounds like it.

Last time Gergö and I visited the street we went to a Chinese restaurant that serves noodles. The ones that are made by pulling and rolling dough. You can have them in a soup or fried. That’s it. You choose an entrée, and what kind of meat you want to have with it (or the vegetarian option) and that’s it. Like a lot of places it was tiny and full. To my surprise we were sat between two sets of French people.

When Gergö and I went there last time, we decided for our next visit we were going to try either the Armenian-Persian restaurant or the Afro-Caribbean place. The Afro-Caribbean place had outdoor seating, so we went for that. In a long standing family tradition we all ordered different kinds of dishes to get a maximum of tasting options. I think all of them contained peanuts. The waiter impressed us with his english skills, but wouldn’t tell us the secret ingredient to the coconut pudding.

It’s something that Greta dearly misses from Austrian patisseries, but that I proudly showed of in my regular café: You can order a café or thé gourmand and get your hot beverage with a selection of tiny cakes or pastries. No need to choose a single one, you can try them all. It was the only time she took a photo of her food. Dad asked if I’m embarassed by this behaviour, which seems odd, seeing that he claims to read my blog…

I have no shame whatsoever where photos are concerned. I only hold back if there are signs.

For Saturday we went to the great big flea market of st ouen. They both had been before, but with a group of friends who claimed to know their way around but actually didn’t. So they mostly saw the stalls selling cheap t-shirts and jeans, and not the actual flea markets.

We went to marché Dauphine, which has the Ufo, the antiques, the books and music and vintage clothes. It’s all very pricey, but interesting to look at. Also, there’s a Lucky Luke cardbord cutout.

Luck Horst

Luck Horst

We wondered about this item for a while:

mystery antique

One guess was that it’s for combing raw wool. It turns out, that when I go to this market with serious looking grown  ups, the dealers don’t just grumpily ignore my presence. A very friendly antiques vendor explained that the tool is for making latex balloons. There are lots of small colour spots all over the wood from the balloons and it’s coated in the powder that is used to keep the latex from sticking.

Marché Dauphine is more for looking, marché Vernaison across the street also has antiques, but more small stuff, more junk. It’s easier to take photos, too.

We didn’t buy doll parts, but Greta found a silver spoon she is going to forge into a bracelet. It’s the third time I visited the market and I still haven’t schlepped home any furniture, I’m really proud of myself. I bought linen trousers though, on my way out. The vendor never even interrupted her phone call, even while she was trying to upsell. It was impressive to watch.

My dad wanted to leave really early on Sunday, so they’d manage to avoid the traffic jams they encountered on their way to us. The plan was for them to get up at the ungodly hour of 6:30 (I think, my brain refuses to memorise these times) and to leave right away, getting breakfast on the road. I really wanted to say goodbye and make coffee for Greta. She is not a morning person and it seemed the least I could do, if she was going to have to get up at this time.

At some point in the night I woke up and was convinced I had overslept and they were up already. Even though it was still dark outside. Well, how would I know if it’s light or dark at 6:30? I was so sure of having overslept though, that I didn’t even check my phone for the time. I staggered into the living room, only to be told to go back to sleep by my dad. Next time I woke up it was because of the alarm my dad had set. I can inform you that it’s light outside in May at 6:30. But I don’t know what to do with that information, to be honest.

le supermarché

Almost every day, Gergö and I go on a pilgrimmage to our local Auchan. It’s an enormous Supermarket (think Interspar) that sells everything from milk to washing machines.We’ve been so often, that I wondered if the security thinks we are casing the joint.

On our last day in Vienna we had to make a couple of snap decisions what to leave behind in boxes to be sent to us and what to bring right away. So apart from buying groceries at Auchan, we also wanted to stock up on things like towels, an extra sheet, a swiffer, a french press and things like that.

We tried different paths to reach Auchan. The shortest also seems to be the nicest: a mostly flat path along the Yvette, under trees. Then there’s a short steep climb up a slope, over a crash barrier and voilà. There’s also a bus, but the summer schedules are pretty bad and whenever we wanted to use it we didn’t have the 2 € you need in change handy.

If you have ever travelled with me, you know that I LOVE other countries’ supermarkets. And this one is so big, there’s something new for me to discover every time we go there. While Gergö checks out the cheeses, I usually have a look at the pastries. They sell meringues the size of my head! Also smaller ones with strawberry flavour or covered in chocolate.

Gergö bought foul smelling cheese that looks like Jabba the Hut. Whenever you open our fridge it smells like Jabba died in there.

Jabba the Hut in cheese form. It's delicious / disgusting

Jabba the Hut in cheese form. It’s delicious / disgusting

I also saw: a bag of 120 frozen escargots (snails) for 19.99 €, a bag of ice cubes for 3.50 €, a 5 kilo bag of durum wheat semolina (Hartweizengrieß), sparrows (flying around, not for sale), special dishes to cook / serve escargot in. Oh and a extension cord with a built in USB port.