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.


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

13° degré et ensoleillé

I’ve been noticing a purple bush outside our kitchen window for the past couple of days. It’s in full bloom and to me looked like lavendar. Today I went outside to take a picture. It’s not lavendar after all and my google foo isn’t enough to find out.

Amazingly, the bushes are full of buzzing bumblebees. I managed to get one unblurry picture.

bourdon et fleurs violets

The bumblebee had its hind legs covered in pollen!

20151223_123649 20151223_123742

I worry about our planet, but I have to admit I love the mild weather. There’s absolutely no need for snow, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been checking the weather forecast for Vienna for the last couple of days. It’s not exaclty freezing there, but I will bring my winter coat. I already know, my grandma will disapprove because I won’t be dressed warmly enough for Styria, when we visit.

Écrit sur mon support ordinateur

I hadn’t done a supermarket trip in a while, so I went ahead yesterday. Because I also hadn’t seen the nutrias the last couple of times I walked along the Yvette, I was extra alert. Instead of nutria I saw regular rats. My new theory is that feeding the ducks and nutria attracts rats, and that’s why the city put up traps.

Instead of nutria, I saw what I thought was a coot (Blesshuhn), but googling it now, I realise it’s a moorhen (Teichuhn).

common moorhen

This chick has crazy big feet

common moorhen pecking on the ground

On this picture you can see the red beak with yellow tip

On my way back from the supermarket I spotted the nutria again. It wasn’t in its usual place, but a little further upstream, munching on a fallen tree. NB: I’d take a house like that, with a garden backing onto the Yvette, ducks hanging out and nutrias visiting
nutria sitting on a fallen tree branch in the creek

nice place to live for ducks, people and nutria

close up of the nutria on the fallen tree

In the evening, Gergö and I went blackberrying again. Again, we didn’t find many ripe ones. I guess the birds are too quick for me. Instead we found a kiwi bush growing over a fence. And we saw the wild parrots Gergös friend was telling us about.

parrots sitting in a tree in the dusk
parrots sitting in a tree in the dusk

I think my next post has to be Parisian street art, to make up for all this nature talk ;-)

Encore un week-end, encore une promenade

Two weeks since we moved here!

Our weekend was very quiet. We are both not used to not having to prepare the move, we were at a loss what to do with ourselves ;-). We didn’t want to go to Paris, because we are waiting for main tourist season to be over. And instead of studying French or watching a French movie, we binge-watched Orange is the New Black. This won’t help with my language skills, but in case my cheese smuggling operation ever gets busted, I’m all set.

On Saturday we went for a walk, and since this time there was no shopping to be done, we went along the other direction of the Yvette.

(Heads up: I’m trying a new, better gallery for my photos)

Westwards along the Yvette

Edited to add: not happy yet with the gallery – doesn’t show my comments on the pictures and doesn’t let you navigate with cursors through the album. bummer..

la nature

I mentioned the path along the Yvette before and the ducks and geese that live there. Gergö’s Austrian friend also told us about what he called “Wasserratten”. He didn’t know an English or French expression for them, neither did his French wife. Apparently the rats used to live right by the bridge, just down the road from us. Recently, the town has put up traps. When we went to the little bridge, they seemed to be gone.

But on one of our next trips to Auchan, the supermarket, we saw them a bit further down the path. They come out to feed as soon as someone shows up with bread for the ducks. And they swim among the ducks as well.

I remember a story by my mum about the time we grew up in Baden. The smelly river of Baden, the Schwechat, apparently had some muskrats that we liked to visit and watch. I don’t actually remember any of that, just that at some point the muskrat family “had moved away”. In reality, they were poisoned, because they were considered vermin, but my mum thought us too young to tell us that.

So I assumed the swimming rats were muskrats as well, and did some Wikipedia-ing. Turns out what he have here are river rats, also known as coypu or nutria. In German they are also called Nutria (which to me sounds like an artificial sweetener, to be honest) or Biberratte. They look very similar to muskrats, but don’t have a flattened tail, like muskrats do. The French word for them is Ragondin.

They are not native to Europe but were brought to Europe to be bred for their fur. Some escaped or were set free and voilà, ragondin population along small brooks in Île de France.