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.


Encore une crue à Paris

I’ve been blogging for about two and a half years and I probably know all my readers personally. It’s my family, my friends in Vienna, Gergö’s brother (hi!) and one or two people in France. When I check the stats for the blog it’s always in the same low range (and that’s fine! I’m mostly trying to keep a record and keep my loved ones back home up to date with my life).

Ten days ago, the stats were unusually high. I looked closer and saw that there were 40 clicks originating from the same person in France. I immediately got paranoid and wondered if a coworker had found the blog. I tried to remember if I’d written anything objectionable but I think the weirdest thing was probably the story about the ob/gyn.

I told Gergö about the statistical anomaly and he just said “Ah, yes, that was me.” I recently linked to older blog entries, and so he started to re-read the entire blog. Apparently he’s sentimental like that, from time to time.

I’ll include some back-links again, but it’s not Gergö-baiting, I swear! It’s just that the Seine is flooding again. I complained about all the rain recently. Apparently there was enough of it that the Seine reached 5.50 m late January. For reference, during the flood of June 2016 (oh and here’s part 1 of the photo story), where the ground floor of our building was a metre under water, the Seine reached 6.10 m.

At 5.50 m the Zouave of the pont de l’Alma is about waist deep in water, all the river banks are closed and the RER C doesn’t stop at a few of city center stations. I’m occasionally checking the status and there was a short period of relief earlier this week, but now we are back up at 5.50m again. When I check the flood news, I always check the map of the area that is threatened by flooding and gleefully note that our old apartment on rue de Bercy went from the purple to the pink area. That means the 2nd underground floor, where our cellar was, is in danger of being flooded AND I DON’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT! We live far enough away from the river that it took me an entire week to realise that there is flooding.

When Gergö was away for a few days for a conference I went to the city center to hunt pokemon, shop and check out the flood situation along with a million other people with better cameras.

ile de la cité flooded with brown water. The tops of bushes and trees stick out of the water

That’s the western end of the Île de la cité on the pont neuf side, where you can board Seine cruise boats.

I also went for a long Saturday walk in the district, finally finding the entrance to the Jardin Ruisseau, the communal garden that I recently learned about.

I also took the Montmartre bus up to the basilica again and this time it didn’t rain.

Sacre Cœur, photographed from below with a lot of people on the stairs in the foreground

At work we celebrated epiphany. Not a single French person could explain what exactly it is we are celebrating on epiphany (but I already knew that, it was only a test!), just that it is vitally important to eat almond filled cake. Unlike the office Christmas party, for epiphany we were also served alcohol. Apparently it’s tradition to drink cidre with your galette.

When traditional cake eating month is over, there’s Chandeleur. It’s on February 2nd, and it’s traditional to eat pancakes on this day. Again, nobody could say why, just that the crêpes are really important and Nutella also plays a vital role in this holiday.

I knew of February 2nd as Maria Lichtmess, the day the Christmas decorations would traditionally be taken down and the end of the 40 days of Christmas season. Traditionally as in, my grandma thought that was kind of old fashioned. I didn’t know the actual background either, but Wikipedia explains in detail: In German it’s Darstellung des Herrn, in English it’s called Candlemas).

I don’t mind that people don’t know the religious reasons for eating cake on a certain day. I’m totally down with it. I’m just really curious and want to know why galettes and why pancakes! And I always assume that people would have learned about it, in school. But France is secular, there’s no religious education in school. You only learn about Christianity if your parents sent you to Sunday school.

I also went back to the dodgy street market, this time with Gergö. It was on a Sunday afternoon and it was everything I’d hoped for, photo-opportunity wise:

Recently my entire day was made already before 9 am. Surprisingly, it wasn’t related to croissants, pains au chocolat or pattes d’ours. I watched a truck lift an illegally parked car into the air on straps. 

It all didn’t take longer than 5 minutes and the guy was operating the truck and doing the lifting all alone. It was pretty cool. I include the pictures here for the drivers among you, just in case you ever wanted to park in Paris.

 


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.


Les marchés de Paris

When I told people in Palaiseau that we’d be moving to Paris a few of them commented that that is understandable. We are young after all, and want to go out at night, to dance at a boite. Ever since we moved, I live in fear of having to go dancing. But it’s just a regular Saturday night we spend like any couple would: in front of their respective computers.

Gergö will start work on March 1 and I on March 6, so I keep thinking we should run our errands and do our chores before that. And maybe get some sightseeing done and get to know the area while we are at it.

On Friday we went to a market on Place d’Italie. We wandered around the stalls, checking out the produce. I just really like to look and marvel at the fancy seafood and the stage of decomp on some of the cheeses.

We found a fancy boulanger at the market. Of course we had to try the pistachio apricot bread. It’s regular rye bread, I think. You can’t taste the pistachio, but I love the colour

We also stopped by a couple of those shops that sell “Klumpert” as I like to call it. Bits and bobs for the household. I feel like it’s easier to resist the urge to buy stuff we don’t need right after moving. When the memory of the insane amount of stuff we schlepped around is still fresh. But we still needed a few things for the kitchen.

We didn’t find what we needed but while we were on the other side of the river, we walked along the quai de Ivry. There’s a street named after René Goscinny.

Ils sont fous ces Romains.

In German the sentence is “Die spinnen, die Römer!”, while Obelix taps his head, making the sound “tock, tock tock”. In English apparently it’s “These Romans are crazy“. The French phrase, “Ils sont fous ces Romains!” has its own Wikipedia entry. And the exclamation mark is part of the entry title.

I have some projects to finish up before I start to work in March and I should be studying a few new things, so I was going to spend the weekend working / procrastinating. But Gergö went out to shop for food and saw that there was a flea market – a brocante just around the corner. I love flea markets, even though the experience is slightly marred by Gergö sighing and huffing next ot me and occasionally saying “wir brauchen nix!” when I look at stuff.

 


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.

fromage

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.

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street art in quartier latin

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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.