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.


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.


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 big nosed plastic roman soldier guarding the entrance of the cinémathèque

Les lieux speciaux de Paris

I recently visited a friend who’s working as a barista on weekends and because she was busy took a little walk in the Bastille area. Not far from the little coffee shop there’s a cat café!

I also came across rue de Lappe, which has a lot of restaurants and bars. Shuttered for the day they look quite interesting.

Among them is a Caribbean restaurant where you can get a Bokit – a sandwich in fried bread.

And a bar called only rum that has the interior design of a jungle. There are fake plants and vines everywhere, you have to duck below them to get to the bar. The place is lighted entirely in green and has a citric smell to it that was still noticeable in my clothes the next day.

The drinks are served in preserving jars and are good, but nothing special, but the atmosphere definitely is. Unfortunately the bar keeper is a grumpy bastard who put up a sign that asks you not to tutoyer him i.e. not use the informal tu when talking to him, like duzen in German. There are other signs around telling you that you don’t have the right to touch this and change that.

Last weekend P visited Paris for the 4th time. I’d been seeing ads for the Goscinny exhibition on the metro for a while but as it’s in the cinémathèque, I always assumed that it’s in fact a show of films by Goscinny. There’s even a boar on a spit in front of the cinema. Turns out it’s not just a cinema, the cinémathèque also has an exhibition space. I’ve been living across the place for 9 months now and never even noticed it! We went to “visit our childhood friends” like P. called it: Goscinny drew Asterix, Lucky Luke and Petit Nicholas.

Afterwards we had coffee and cake at the cinematheque’s café, together with a dozen screamy children and their parents for Sunday brunch.

I had been telling P about Poké bowls and Buddha bowls. They have become fashionable a few months ago and I finally tried a Poké bowl in summer – It’s a Hawaiian dish consisting of raw fish and vegetables on rice. The Buddha version is vegetarian and sometimes the rice is replaced by other grains.

We wanted to have a Buddha Bowl lunch on Friday in a place recommended by a friend not far from Saint Lazare. But we left home so late we arrived after all the lunch places had closed – In France it’s still very uncommon to eat outside of meal times and especially lunch places close at 14:30. We ended up finding a place with good tartes and spent the rest of the afternoon walking to Montmarte. We came across a small Colombian shop selling Colombian coffee. It was tiny and you had to ring a door bell just to get in. Inside were two tiny women speaking rapid Spanish with each other. We also saw a chocolate place that had monkeys made from chocolate in the shop window.

A monkey made from chocolate
We went inside to check out their chocolates and ended up buying a cookie, a quinoa energy ball and a sweet on a stick consisting of meringue and gianduja covered in matcha frosting. The back of the shop was partinioned off by a glass wall and behind it you could watch the sweets being made by the chocolatier and we all know how much I love watching people prepare food.

On Sunday night we went to a pizza place that has fried pizza. They claim it’s a neapolitan speciality, but I’m not so sure I believe it. Gergö had to have it, of course, and it wasn’t bad. “It’s just like filled langos”, was P. comment and I think she might be right.

A golden brown bit crescent of fried dough.

I only added the photo to keep up my food photo quota.

During this dinner our Italian friend A mentioned that there is a Mozza Bar in Paris, where you can try different kinds of Mozzarella cheese. I’ve started to make a list of places I want to visit and cafés and restaurants I want to try. The cat café and the Mozza bar are on this list, together with a place that has minus 8 degrees and this list of the best desserts of Paris.

I already went to one on the list: the Japanese French Patissier. They have everything in a matcha version, but I actually took the yuzu tarte. I couldn’t have said if it’s any different from a lemon tarte, but it was a very good lemon tarte and very good green tea, in a fancy fancy little tea salon surrounded by chocolate with black sesame and matcha.


Another pretty view of little France across the river Ill

Strasbourg

We went to spend a weekend in Strasbourg in October. It’s only an hour and 40 minutes by train and we really wanted to use our weekend card by SNCF. Everybody said Strasbourg has great Christmas markets, but I’m too much of a grinch to enjoy that, so we went in early October instead.

We met my friend V. who came from Brussels. We arrived on Friday night and walked across town, past the cathedral to our hotel. I liked Strasbourg immediately – a very walkable city with lots of cosy looking restaurants and wine bars and just generally a very pittoresque place.

V found the hotel and it was nice, too. I am not a huge fan of the wall decal trend, but our hotel had what I’m pretty sure is an ironic wall decal, in the loo, of all places, and that I like.

"Ici tombent en ruine les merveilles de votre cuisine"

We ate a lot of Flammkuchen and walked a lot. We did some shopping, drank some coffee and just generally enjoyed the pretty little town.

I took a lot of photos of half timbered houses and of street art – not a bad mix I think. On Sunday we spent a few hours at the Science museum, le Vaisseau. I had looked at the website and the reviews and while I noticed that they mentioned how great it is for kids, I only understood that it’s actually a kids’ museum when we entered.

It’s a place where you can touch and try out everything. They had a water playground to explore the power of water, they had a little parcours for kids to try out how to get around in a wheelchair or on crutches. Gergö and I tried a game where you put on a headband that measures your brainwaves. The goal of the game was to be as calm as possible. There was a little ball between the two players and by not making the EEG go crazy you could make the ball move in your opponent’s direction.

I figured I’d focus on my breathing. After all I’ve been practising Ujjayi breath for years now. Well. While I thought my brain was focused on breathing and relaxed the EEG was all over the place. Apparently when I think I’m relaxed my brain still goes “WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!”. Gergö beat me in a few seconds.

We occasionally joke that when he’s quiet and I think he’s thinking about work or something, in reality he is more like Homer Simpson.

via GIPHY

 

 


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).

 


Que reste-t-il de nos amours?

I’m still very much in love with Paris in summer.

Street art in Paris is so fucking classy.

I took a photo of the discarded matress as we were on our way to the cinema. Lost in Frenchlation shows a French film with English subtitles every week. That way I get to enjoy a bit of French culture, get to feel like I understand French (because of the subtitles) and broaden my horizon, because it’s not films I’s usually choose, I think.

I also posted this image on facebook and only because my sister commented: “beautiful song” it occurred to me to google it and so I found out it’s a song title, not just someone cleverly making a statement about consumerism and the transience of feelings in our modern time.

The cinema is in Montmartre and they always say that the cinema scene from Amélie was shot in this cinema. It’s a just 5 minutes from the tourist masses of Pigalle. In a quieter side street were people hung out outside with their wine and pastis all classy and Parisian.

Because we walked along the other Seine bank with my mum, we found out about all the bars that opened up over there. On a particularly warm and sunny evening we decided to try out one of those places. Most were already full as we showed up around 7. We ended up on a boat – the petit bain. It’s so hip, it has its own tattoo artist and massage therapist that does quantum therapy (We couldn’t figure out what that means, which adds to the hiness factor, doesn’t it?). There was also a DJ and not enough tables, so we ended up on a few chairs looking out over the Seine bank drinking beer and eating wraps prepared by two refugee chefs.

The place is very photogenis, but I think we are unfortunately too old / unhip for the loud music and lack of tables. And too sceptical for quantum healing.

After dinner in the evening sun we walked past a sorbet stall that advertised that it would freshly prepare your sorbet. Of course I had to get one.

Et voilà rasperry strawberry sorbet with oreo cookie, to be enjoyed ice cold on the Seine bank.

It’s not all food porn and ice cream, though. Once we met up in the 11th district (okay, it was for dinner, but I didn’t take a photo of the food, so it was probably not as pretty) and on my way to the meeting place I took photos of all the street art.

 


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.

 


Dehors!

I had another one of those terrible métro rides this morning. The platform was so full I couldn’t even get anywhere near the train. Before every single métro arrives the announcer will say “Let people get off the train” and the person on the platform says the same and keeps people from getting on the train after the beep. This morning this wasn’t necessary, because the train was far too full long before the the doors closed.

I thought there’d be trouble when a young man jumped the queue or rather side-stepped the scrum and walked up right the little aisle for people leaving and waited for the train to arrive in the most inconvenient spot for imaginable. I expected trouble and texted Gergö “Shit’s going down!”. But contrary to my expectations people didn’t tear him apart, they just shook their heads and tutted and huffed. The platform agent talked to him but he didn’t budge. Unfortunately there doesn’t to be a special RATP security force for queue jumpers.

I am reading the newest Ben Aaronovitch Rivers of London book at the moment and love the colourful London language employed by the main character / story teller. For a second I considered emulating him and shouting something a long the lines of “You can fuck right off, you little toerag!” but my inner librarian is a lot stronger than my inner Peter Grant. Plus nobody would have understood anyway.

The consequence of one single person ignoring the instructions was of course even more jostling and shoving than usual to get on the train. I got on the third train and ended up squeezed between several people. I was staring at somebody holding a newspaper with the title “GET OUT” while being elbowed in the boob.

But the weird and uncomfortable situation also finally gave me an opportunity to take a photo I’ve been meaning to take. I’ve been wanting to make a “What people think I do / What I really do” for me in Paris  for a while now and the cramped platform was the missing motive:

Honestly, I’ve been doing all of it, lately – taking photos of Parisian streets

rocking horse on a rainy parisian street

s’il vous plaît – souriez au passage

…and of food and my earrings

But we also had a visitor on the weekend, and we finally found out how to turn our couch into a bed. The most important aspect of the transformation is protecting your eyes before you take off the cover.

OMGWTFBBQ

We didn’t do do any sightseeing, because my friend already knows Paris and we wanted to avoid crowds and stress. But we went for a lovely walk in the park, (because we are middle aged now) where the heron is a regular guest.

“My” heron and turtles from the park across from our house. The heron often sits on the “peche interdit” sign but for this photo op it settled on the chair sculpture in the pond.

We also had lunch in the sun (!!) or, as I like to call it “lönch in the sön”, and went to about 3 different comic book stores, because they have the best stuff.

Obelix mug – I can’t believe i resisted the temptation. I can’t wait for the next visitor who wants to make a tour of the comic book stores.

We also stopped off at the lego store. They had a sign saying that you could press a button and they’d create a photo of you in lego bricks. Of course I wanted to check it out. We didn’t see the button at first, because it was placed for a different sort of target group. One about half a meter shorter than I am. But that rarely deterrs me, so I kneeled and got a lego portrait.


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!