Enfin à Paris

We’ve been staying in Paris since Thursday. And every day we have been going back and forth between Palaiseau and Paris to move our stuff. By train and metro.

Somehow Gergö was convinced having a fixed date where everything needed to be packed and ready to go would be more stressful than going to Palaiseau with two empty suitcases everyday. I went along with it, still convinced against all evidence that we don’t have that much stuff.

On the streets of Palaiseau

All in all we made the trip Palaiseau to Paris with two suitcases and two backpacks 7 times. We only moved 18 months ago. It remains a mystery how we could have accumulated so many things in the meantime. The first few trips I neatly unpacked my bags and filled up the wardrobe. Since Sunday it’s mostly just dumping stuff on any available surface, so the suitcase will be empty for the next trip.

I found out that I have a lot of socks, far more than I was aware of. I might be needing them in the future, though, we don’t have heated floors anymore. The new apartment doesn’t have a thermostat either. We have to switch the electric heaters on and off individually. So far we haven’t dared use the washing machine, yet. It’s a fancy American top loader that is somehow connected to the giant boiler. It doesn’t heat up its own water but takes the hot water from the boiler.

Off peak electricity is cheaper, so the boiler is programmed to only heat up water during the night. If we want to wash during the day we have to switch the boiler to the night setting and then turn it back off again afterwards.

Right now we are in the empty apartment in Palaiseau, waiting for our former landlady to show up and do the “état des lieux”.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the evil geese. I went in close to get a good last look before saying goodbye. They hissed at me but didn’t outright attack, I think because they were hoping for food and realise they won’t get any if they kill me.

The upstairs neighbour is playing music too loudly again. He has been becoming more and more erratic lately. He has always thrown empty beer cans through the metal rubbish chute but now he also occasionally shouts and screams and plays music so loudly he doesn’t hear the other neighbours knocking on his door.

This all makes us appreciate our new apartment even more. So far it has been a quiet place, even the train station isn’t loud. Only on Sunday night, after a hockey game at the nearby arena there was a lot of honking from the inevitable traffic jam of large events.

I had a little walk around the park of Bercy and I already saw a heron.

It’s promising to be a good area.

When we signed the contract, our landlady mentioned that we will need to introduce ourselves to the gardienne after she’s back from the holiday. I had no idea that was necessary and tried to ask for more info, but she didn’t elaborate. She also briefly mentioned that some people apparently tip her, but she doesn’t think it’s necessary. It’s their job, after all. I wanted to ask all about that as well! Tipping in France remains a mystery and responses from French people about tipping vary greatly. These small cultural differences interest me the most, but I couldn’t convey this, it seems. While she explained how to work the shower controls at length (it’s a regular tap), she wouldn’t elaborate on gardien etiquette at all.

Pile of stones with coffe cup on top

Déjà presque décembre

Another week has gone by in a blink and December is almost upon us!

This week I went to Paris to work in a café called le Cairn, close to the Eiffel Tower. When I looked at the website I was sure, I’d heard the word before. I just couldn’t place it. It’s not menhir, it’s not henge. Then I visited the café to work and voilà. It’s the same in French as in English apparently.

Pile of stones with coffe cup on top

When a nearby building site took out the jackhammer, I packed up and rewarded myself with a little Pokemon Go. I wandered to my usual spot at the north west corner, where there are three Pokéstops usually with active lures. In between catching Pokémon I looked up at the little pond and saw yet another heron. In the middle of Paris, right next to the Eiffel Tower. I’ve mentioned before how much these birds amaze me. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed, so I could share my delight and amazement. But everyone was intently looking into their phone, playing Pokémon. So I just enjoyed the moment and took a photo of a far away away heron.

heron at the eiffel tower

I went back to the city center, to catch a train home.

My day of unexpected delights didn’t end there. Next to Centre Pompidou I saw a Mongolian throat singing band playing horse hair violins. I didn’t dare film them, though I would have loved to share the music with my dad, who gets a kick out of good buskers. I did take a photo though.

Mongolian Band playing and singing overtone at Centre Pompidou

On Thursday I went to my French grammar class. One of my colleagues would have liked to join a conversation class, but since they are all full, our teacher instead suggested to spend some minutes of our grammar class talking every week.

She started off with a conversation about politics, because it was the week of the presidential primaries of the conservative and center parties of France. I think my colleague wasn’t thrilled about the development. She didn’t seem to be interested in politics much. Our teacher wanted to get us to talk about our countries presidential elections and asked me, what it’s like in Austria.

I think she only asked if we elect our president directly or indirecty. Instead of an answer I gave a summary of this year’s 4 past and future election (attempt)s. She praised me, because I used so much election specific vocabulary. And I was proud. Until I realised why I know all these words. I looked them all up to explain how fucked up the whole process was in Austria this year.

I learned something very interesting about the French voting process, however: They don’t have ballots with all the candidates in which you punch a hole or which you mark with a cross. They have individual papers for each candidate. Every voter takes all of the little papers, disappears behind a curtain and only puts one of the papers inside the envelope. The other candidate’s papers are discarded, or you put them in your pocket to discard at home. Our teacher claimed it invalidates the vote if you write on the ballot. At least that does away with the magic ink conspiracy theories, I guess.

After class I helped another colleague with her computer. It had gotten terribly slow and I said I’d have a look. Only after I had offered it occurred to me to ask about the language of her operating system. She assured me it wasn’t Cantonese, but French. Azerty keyboard layout is very confusing. I might be able to get used to swapped A, Z, and Q but having the M on the wrong row makes it completely impossible.

Looking at her machine I also found out that my computer vocabulary is non-existent in French. There are a few words I have in my passive vocabulary, like ecran and clavier, but I didn’t recognise start/reboot (re/demarrer) and was confused by gerer (manage), supprimer (delete) and éteindre (turn off).

As a thank you gift I got a little bag containing sesame honey sweets. They tasted delicious and exactly like the only sweets we got when we were kids and my parents didn’t let us have much sugar. I still know the name of the shop (a Reformhaus) where we got them and everything!

vacuum coffee makerMy favourite café is gearing up for Christmas shopping and has a very fancy new coffee maker in the window. The owner explained that this type of machine used to be a traditional wedding gift in the 1950s. She said that the brewing method is a mix of the Italian stove top espresso machines, the French press and the drip. The water goes into the bottom glass. The burner heats the water which is then forced into the upper container where it brews for a while and then is pushed down again through the filter when it cools off.

After some googling I think it’s a vaccuum coffee maker. The wikipedia article contains photos and a thorough explanation of the process. (And I wouldn’t expect anything less). So far I haven’t found out anything about its role as a traditional wedding gift but I’ve mostly read German and English sources so far, because the French results took me to Cafés you can hire to celebrate your wedding.

I still prefer my warm milk with only a drop of coffee. I probably could drink it with instant coffee and wouldn’t notice. But I love the look of the coffee maker. Very elegant!


Le heron et le ragondin

As I said on here before, I quite like autumn. But this year it is really kicking my ass. More than usual it feels like my body is preparing for hibernation. Last week I took an afternoon nap that I couldn’t wake up from. I ended up sleeping for almost 4 hours, waking up groggy and disoriented and grumpy.

So instead of giving in to the afternoon low, now I try to do something else instead. When I had a headache, I decided to go for a walk instead. I only noticed that it had started to rain after I had made my decision (and had texted Gergö about it), so I really wanted to go through with it. I have a good raincoat after all, am not made from sugar etc..

I walked our summer’s usual evening route along the Yvette. On my way back I saw the heron again. It was just standing in the Yvette in the rain. I stopped and watched. I didn’t want to spook it, so I didn’t even take out my camera. I just enjoyed the view. After a few minutes I saw a woman approaching from the other side. She stopped under a tree and also stayed watching the heron.

To mangle a twitter meme, “I am ‘stopping to watch a stationary bird’ years old now”. I’m still enormously impressed by herons, I don’t know why.

The bird got a little agitated after a while and I expected it to fly away. But it just turned to look at the little nutria, that had just crawled out of the bank’s undergrowth and was swimming past the heron. That was finally too much for me to bear and I got out my camera and took a photo. I keep forgetting that I don’t have a camera with zoom anymore, so it’s basically a wobbly photo of a heron in the drizzle. Somewhere in the foreground, hidden behind greenery you have to imagine the nutria swimming past. Not pictured is me squeeing on the inside.

the heron in the yvette


Le printemps est arrivé

The weather wasn’t great the last couple of days. It was mild during the day, but humid and it rained often. So on Friday, when I left for the supermarket, I hoped I’d make it home before the thunderstorm would break. Dark clouds were already gathering in the East. (I’ve always wanted to write a sentence as uselessly ominous as this.)

As I was walking along the Yvette, the insects were flying really low and I noticed the wind picking up. It was still warm and I’m not made of sugar, so I put up my hood and walked on. I figured I could wait it out in the supermarket, should the rain get really bad. Halfway to the supermarket, I noticed that I could already see the rain ahead, but it hadn’t reached me yet. When it finally arrived, big fat drops were falling, but so few, hardly any even landed on me. The wind was blowing petals around. At least that’s what I thought. On closer inspection, some of the petals turned out to be hail.

It was still mild and humid, just with big fat drops of water and the occasional hail pellet.

I got my shopping done and walked home with a heavy shopping bag on my shoulder. Just after the short descent down to the path along the Yvette I had to stop, though. Really close on the other bank there was the heron. I had spotted him before, but never this close. I stopped moving, turned off my music and just stared in awe. After a little while I wanted to take a step closer, but just this one step made him fly up. He circled a little, dipped his feet into the creek once and landed a bit further down on my side of the creek.

I was happy to stand still and just watch this time, but my shopping bag was so heavy it made my shoulder fall asleep, so I shifted it. That was enough to scare the heron away. He flew up, but they are big birds. It took him three circles to reach enough height to be able to fly away over the tree tops.

Only after my near religious experience with the heron I took out my phone to take a couple of pictures. The geese were for once not hiding. There’s a red headed duck around now. And I saw the first ducklings of the season and three (!!) baby nutria out and about where the geese feed, accompanied by one adult nutria. I didn’t photograph them, because all my nutria photos turn out terrible – the light, the water reflectin, the blurriness. You’ll just have to believe me.


duck parade


view towards the west along the Yvette


The red head.




New awesome smurf graffito under railway bridge


Gargamel has been caught spraying