Il y a une grève

I wrote about it before: Il y a une grève/There’s a strike was one of the first sentences I learned in French class in school. I had 4 years of French in high school and I remember barely anything from then, except how mean our teacher was. A bit after remembering that fact I found my former French book online and took a screenshot of the terrible graphics. I still hate Thierry.

There were a couple of noticeable strikes in 2016. People were protesting the loi de travail / El Khomri law. That’s when I found out that during a strike of the RER there will still be trains, just fewer of them. There’s a law that is supposed to regulate minimum service during a strike. They usually announced something like “there will be 2 out of 4 trains on Tuesday”.

I wasn’t really affected though, because I didn’t usually have to be anywhere on time.

This year’s big strike is a strike by the SNCF, the French National Railway Services, and it’s big. They are protesting reforms that Macron wants to push through that would mean that new hires would not get the same benefits existing employees have. The fear is also that the rail service will thus be prepared for privatisation. To my surprise they put up detailed info, even in English, about how the strike is organised.

The strike is announced to take place over 3 months, with 2 strike days followed by 3 regular days and so on. Monday was the official start of the three months of strike action. A lot of my colleagues commute from the suburbs and some didn’t have any trains at all. Some had so few, that they didn’t even try to wait 1.5 hours for one, because they wouldn’t stand a chance of getting on the train. Some were seriously delayed because of the metro line 13 (I complained about it before). The metro isn’t on strike, but the line is always busy and more so on strike days. On that day there were several incidents that ended up meaning no trains in either direction for 30 minutes.

We also had to cancel a trip to Lyon for the weekend. We’d have a train to go there on Friday night. But we wouldn’t find out until Saturday evening if the train back on Sunday would be on strike or not. And we wouldn’t have been able to just take a train on Monday morning, because that’s still a strike day. So we cancelled the entire trip. My project of getting to know France is off to a rocky start.

I am very clueless about strikes. Austria is famous for its very few strike days and the few times it happened it was single days of teachers or public transport strikes. I remember one single time I could have been affected by a strike. People in public service threatened to strike while I was a librarian in Linz. The reason was that Upper Austria didn’t want to give the raise that had been negotiated nationwide. I also remember that it was cancelled at very last second.

So I asked my colleagues if they think it will be cancelled at the last second. It seemed to immense a disturbance to go through with it. They laughed at me. This is clearly not something that happens in France. They already have a calendar for all the strike days up until June.

So instead of going to Lyon we spent the weekend being fairly lazy. Except tomorrow, we will go to a cat café and later to the musée Rodin. Spring is finally here, and I’m enjoying it immensely. There will be probably two entire weeks where I neither complain that it’s too cold, nor that it’s too hot!


Une nuit en Allemagne

At the end of February I was invited to a birthday party in Bonn. I told my colleagues about it and none of them had ever heard of the city. I said something along the line of “right next to Cologne”. “Isn’t that in Italy?” “No, that’s Bologne”. I also mentioned that it used to be the capital, before the reunification, which isn’t strictly true. It was only the seat of the government. Either way, I only earned shrugs – most of my colleagues were born around the time of the reunification.

The party was in a very special place: an indoor camping place. First, I was sceptical – I don’t do camping, really, and I feel like I’m way too old for youth hostel style living. But for one night, I’m prepared to try it. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Camping is taken literally – the big hall is filled with antique camper vans and a retired sleeping car from the Deutsche Bahn.

So in case you ever go to Bonn, be sure to check out the place. It’s called Basecamp.

On my way back I had a bit of a wait in Cologne / Köln. I keep forgetting about it, but the train station is right next to the city center. You walk out of the train station and the first thing you see is the cathedral. It was freezing cold but sunny, so I took a short walk around it for a couple of photos.

March started out lovely – the weather finally got better and we went for weekend walks and had our first outdoor coffee. Parisians have outdoor coffee all through winter. Most places with a “terrasse” have outdoor heaters. But I’m all about saving the planet and frankly prefer having my coffee without feeling like I’m in an incubator.

Then it got colder again and we had a lot of rain and no more outdoor coffee. Then it got worse and we had some more snow.

 

 


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.

 


J’ai essayé le yoga à Paris

I missed boxing class two times in a row and decided I really need to try find a yoga class that suits me better than the Ashtanga class I gave up on in autumn. So I googled yoga studios in the vicinity and found one that looked okay. I chose the intermediate class, not because I thought beginners would be too easy, but because beginners class was at 6pm and I have to work until then. I figured I could just do the easy version of those poses that are too difficult.

I showed up about 10 minutes early, because the website said you should, to get changed etc. The studio had two large shop windows and they were dark. That’s weird, beginners yoga should be on right now, I thought and got up real close to the window to see inside. That’s when I realised the beginners were in the middle of shavasana and I was staring at them through the enormous windows. It was also then that I realised that there are exactly 0 minutes between one class ending and the next one beginning.

When it finally opened my first impression was: this smells of feet. The second one was: the changing room is in fact a just a small space behind a curtain and we are going to practise yoga in a shop window. I took the mat furthest from the window, which was the one that everybody who wanted to use the loo had to climb over to get back to the room.

The class was way, WAY too hard for me. And the teacher was not the encouraging kind, but the making fun of some of his regulars kind when they weren’t concentrating. I should have just walked out when he instructed us to jump into a standing position from kneeling on the mat.

By this time I had already decided to not come back after my trial course. My decision was confirmed when there was omming in the beginning AND shanti-shanti AND then there was chanting. What I had missed when I was checking out the website is that the intermediate class is a vinyasa inspired class and apparently there is chanting involved.

The only upside to the class was the very long shavasana at the end. I didn’t understand a word of what I suspect was supposed to be a guided meditation. Strong accent when speaking French while trying to sound soothing in an mostly empty room makes for terrible acoustics. Instead I spent most of the time thinking about the mushroom paprikas that Gergö had promised me would be waiting for me at home.

I had been using one of the mats provided. The studio website said you should clean the mat after using it. But the studio website also said come 10 minutes early and yes, there’s a changing room. Based on the sweaty feet smell I figured nobody cleaned their mat after use.

But when the lights came back on, everyone jumped up and grabbed a spray bottle and a rag from a shelf and starting spraying and rubbing down their mats. I did the same and then grabbed my coat and walked home on shaky legs. I’ve had courbature / Muskelkater / aching muscles since Friday morning.

So, my first attempt of taking up yoga again wasn’t a great success, but there are a few more studios in the area. I’ll just try them all until I find one I like that doesn’t smell of feet.

 

 

 


Au revoir Bercy, bonjour Clignancourt

The move went as well as could be expected.

As per usual I underestimated the amount of stuff we had. But that soon became evident when I couldn’t fit all my clothes into my large suitcase even after I opened the zip that expands it by about 20 cm.

We discussed when the taxi van would come to pick us up (13:40) and then, on the Saturday of the big move, I suddenly misremembered the time as 13:20 and insisted to be downstairs with all our luggage at 1pm. I’m still surprised gergö agreed to it without arguing. We only cleared up the mistake once we had 9 pieces of luggage downstairs.

On the plus side that left us enough time to get lunch from the food truck that is in the park on Saturdays. I’d seen it once before but wasn’t hungry at the time. Of course I had to try the home made pickled veggies. The veggie burger was delicious as well.

It would be a lie to say I was getting nervous by the time it was 13:30, because I had already been very nervous for the entire day. Every time a taxi drove past I indignantly said “That’s not a van!”. When the car arrived it was a very big van. The driver helped with luggage tetris and we easily fit all the suitcases and boxes into the trunk and only had to take two medium sized bags to the sitting area – which was no biggie, as it had room for 6 people facing each other.

The plan was to unpack the two big suitcases and the small ones and return to Bercy with them. Maybe bring another bag or two. I was proud that I fit all my clothes into the wardrobe until I realised that a whole lot of them are still in various bags of dirty laundry and some additional boxes when I ran out of space.

After the first run.

When we arrived back in Bercy for the second tour it was evident that there was a concert – there were large groups of people everywhere. I sometimes try to guess the artist or music style based on the crowd. It was fairly easy for Metallica – I’d never seen so many middle aged men wearing metal shirts in one place. It was more difficult for Celine Dion – lots of women but not exclusively, all age groups. It was impossible for Phil Collins – what are elderly British couples doing here?

The crowd for the concert on Saturday was almost exclusively black. It was a different crowd than for Drake, though. There were vendors selling beignets (fried food, can be sweet like donuts, but I’ve also seen it salty) and drinks. There were women dressed in evening gowns who I suspect left their coats in the car, wearing extremely high heels. I saw someone wrapped in a flag, but I didn’t recognise it. It was only halfway to our apartment that I saw that it was a concert by Youssou N’dour. I know the name because of a song in the nineties he did with Neneh Cherry. Turns out he is not just a musician but also a Senegalese politician and he draws quite the crowd.

We returned to the apartment and did some more packing. Gergö really wanted to take at least his large suitcase back to the new apartment by metro. He was concerned that we wouldn’t fit everything into the van on the next day. I only took a small suitcase and our fresh food. I thought at 9 pm the concert would be in full swing and there’d be no more crowd outside the metro stop, and said something to that effect. Gergö finally stopped the tolerant boyfriend act he’d been keeping up all day and snapped at me “You are overthinking this, Verena!”.

Well, I wasn’t. The place was just as busy as before. I don’t think there was anybody trying to sell or buy tickets anymore, but there were people chatting and eating and arriving and leaving and just standing around. I bumped into about 20 of them with my suitcase and promptly lost Gergö on the way.

He wanted to use the elevator, but while it looked like it worked, it never moved. In order to get from our old apartment to the new one you need to change metros at châtelet. It’s the stop that most lines call “Châtelet/Les Halles”, except for the few metro lines that stop at both châtelet and les halles, like the 4. The change over from 4 to 14 isn’t so bad, as they are right beside each other and you don’t have to walk along endless underground tunnels for hours.

That was one of the reasons Gergö originally wanted to do the move by public transport – only two metros with an easy change over. So it was very gratifying when most of the elevators and escalators weren’t working – my decision to spend about 70 € on taxi vans was the right one. I’m sure even Gergö agreed as he was dragging the large suitcase upstairs at châtelet station. So yeah, I hate moving apartments, but I do get a kick out of being right twice in one day. Almost worth the move. Almost.

The second day the taxi van was smaller and the driver didn’t help much with the luggage. During the ride he listened to Radio Africa 1 and sang along and we even heard a song by Youssou N’dour. We successfully transported the rest of our belongings to our new place in Clignancourt. I was wrong when I said we’d be moving to Montmartre. We are in the ugly little sibling quartier of Clignancourt.

I’m glad I took photos before we moved our things, so I can show the apartment without having to tidy up the incredible mess.

The new place is slowly taking shape. The bed turned out to be far too soft, but before we buy a new mattress Gergö wants to try sleeping on the floor with just the mattress. For that we need to make enough room in the apartment to put the bed frame somewhere. For that I needed to go to the laundromat once more for the giant bag of bed linen and towels that needed washing.

You can tell that Clignancourt is less fancy than Bercy because there are more laundromats and they are busier. There are about 10 laundromats on my way to work. The closest is literally around the corner. I filled a 14 kilo machine easily and then hoped one of the 8 giant tumble driers would free up in time. We are looking at a manageable amount of laundry for the first time in months.

For the first week of his new commute Gergö sent me daily texts how long it took to get to work. It’s about 45 minutes and he didn’t yet have to commute in the warm embrace of a complete stranger while people try to shove their way onto an overly full train, so I think it’s a win. I’m not sure he agrees. I really enjoy walking to work – 2 kilometers which take 22 minutes. I hatch a Pokemon egg every other day. It’s definitely an improvement over métro 13.

 


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.


old sign advertising electricity, showers and phones in hotel Frochot

Encore un déménagement

We found a new apartment and will hopefully sign a new lease on Thursday. It’s closer to my work this time (2 km or 20 minutes by bus) and Gergö will have to take the metro to work instead of walking. It’s small, no surprise there, 39m2. It has a separate small bedroom with some closet space. The sitting room and kitchen are separated by a bar. The kitchen seems pretty fancy and has 2 gas hubs and two regular ones.

We’ll no longer have a fold out couch. The couch is definitely too small to sleep on, though I’ll probably still fall asleep on it and later regret it. We’ll keep the single inflatable mattress, for visitors, but it won’t be the same as our current couch.

our sofa with an ugly pattern of green, mustard and brownish orange

The loudest sofa in the world

The apartment is technically in Montmartre, I think – but in reality it’s a 20 minute walk to the back of the hill. So it’s not the romantic area of Amélie, don’t get your hopes up. It’s located between M4 Simplon and M12 Jules Joffrin. And it’s a little cheaper than our current apartment. The downside of the apartment is that we will rent it only until August 2018. The landlady’s son will return from his studies abroad and she’ll need the place back then. So I’m hoping he is one of the many, many exchange students who fall in love and stay in their host country ;-)

There’s a small supermarket in our building and a post office across the street. A little further down the road is a tea salon / patissier with nice street art.

 a collage of a rat wearing armour made from small lego pieces and spikes on its back street art of a bird with patterned feathers

During this move I’m working full time, as is Gergö, so we won’t be moving by public transport like last time. I just ordered a taxi van online for Saturday. We’ve only been in the apartment since mid-February. So, like last time, I’m hoping against all evidence that we don’t have that much stuff, really.

Gergö had a beer subscription for the last months. Every month there’s a box of 6 different fancy beers in the mail. So we should have at least 6 boxes we can fill with our stuff. Plus the two big suitcases and two small ones.

Like the two apartments before, we found the new one via science accueil. The process is to email them your requirements (how many rooms, which arrondissements) and then you get a list of apartments. They say it takes up to two weeks to get a response, so Gergö prepared me for the wait. I still got nervous about the fact that we didn’t receive any feedback and hadn’t even started looking at other ways to find apartments yet. And what if we didn’t find anything with science accueil, what would we do then? “It’s only been ten days! We discussed this, Verena, we don’t freak out before the 2 weeks are over!”, Gergö said, as if he never met me before.

While I was busy coming up with worst case scenarios of homelessness in Paris, Gergö also looked at another agency, renting out furnished apartments. My personal highlight was a 14sqm apartment in Montmartre on the 7th floor without elevator for 800 €.

Before we decided on the apartment we also looked at one other place – an apartment hotel across the street from Gergö’s workplace. I expected a soulless depressing place, but it was actually not so bad. It didn’t have any storage space though and not a single book shelf. Gergö didn’t like the tiny little kitchen – only two burners.

I was tempted, because it had a laundry with really big washers and driers and access to a gym room. Also the linen and towels are changed every two weeks and the room is cleaned as well. Weirdly, for Paris, we didn’t have to decide right away. The apartment hotel is very new and they could only build it because they agreed to accept researchers as permanent residents for a special reduced price. And they don’t have the right to say no to them. It’s good to know there’s an expensive but doable option for us in Paris, as long as Gergö is a researcher.

Because our week isn’t going to be stressful enough as it is, our washing machine broke. It had been acting weirdly for the last couple of months, occasionally forgetting the program or restarting itself. Now it’s completely broken and has started to smell bad. I was ready to face two weeks without laundry, I have a lot of clothes. But I also have an inexplicable affection for large washing machines. So on Thursday I trekked to a launderette. It was everything I hoped for: 13 kilo machines and even two for 15 kilos! I only had enough laundry for a regular sized machine, though.

I sadly didn’t have any more battery left to take a picture of the enormous driers. I could probably fit in there as a whole. I didn’t have time for another visit to the launderette but I’m already wondering if it’s not really time to wash all of our blankets and pillows.

Shortly before the place closed, somebody came in and opened the drawers of all the washing machines poured water into them and scrubbed half heartedly with a toothbrush. I was a bit disappointed that I had to leave before he got to the driers. I would so have loved to see if he opens up all the driers every day and gets out all the drier lint. I realise it’s weird, but at 3.50 a pop, launderettes and giant washing machines are a fairly harmless fascination/obsession.

Just to cut down a little on the amount of stuff to move, I went to a bookshop on Sunday – a second hand bookshop called San Francisco Book Company. They also buy English books or take them on credit and I figured I could get rid of the English mystery novels I bought in a moment of weakness coupled with my new disposable income. I got 17 € in credit which I will not spend before we didn’t move all our crap across town. I love the idea of having book credit in a cramped little bookshop with piles of books on the floor.

Today we visited our cellar for the second time since we moved here. We retrieved the two boxes of inferior French cooking pots we put there to make room for Gergö’s superior Austrian ones. We also spent 5 minutes trying to figure out how to deflate the inflatable mattress, pushing and pulling on the valve to no avail. I even googled the mattress name and found that another person asked the same question on amazon. The response was to put in the deflate nozzle. Ours didn’t come with a deflate nozzle, but I hope I can work the expression into a conversation soon! In the end I used a pen to open the valve, we won’t have to explain to a taxi driver why were transporting an inflated mattress.

Wish us luck!


A graffito of a girl crossing her arms in front of her body like in a defense move

Untitled

Shortly after the rentrée (as everyone calls the return to work after the summer holidays, but also the start of the school year) Gergö and I went to the parc de la villette. I’d heard from my Pokemon Go playing colleagues that there are always lots of raids going on.

It was a beautiful summer day. I’d been to the park once before but forgotten about it. In the sunshine the big globe of the science museum’s imax cinema is really impressive. They also have a u-boat on display and an enormous toboggan. There were only kids in the line for the toboggan, so we didn’t try it out. We might have to come back at a later time, when the kids have gone to sleep. There’s also a big event hall and under the canopy there are people doing breakdance, practising acro yoga and other impressive feats. I always wonder how they agree on the music to play in a place like this. There was also an elderly lady pushing a pram with cold drinks around. We also walked past the concert hall, la philharmonie and looked at the canal st martin.

On another Saturday I went for a walk with my friend, took photos of street art and had a Pokebowl. I was only a little disappointed that it has nothing to do with Pokemon Go. It’s a Hawaiian dish with fresh vegetables and raw fish over rice and it was delicious.

The Menu of the Poke bar with photos of their bowls

Poke Bar that has nothing to do with Pokemon Go.

The first September weekend Gergö’s dad came for a visit and we did a few touristy things – the tour Montparnasse. It’s one of the few skyscrapers in central Paris. They say after they saw how ugly it was Paris decided to build no other high rise buildings in the city, but it actually has more to do with the statics of the city.

We also went to visit the Louvre – a first for Gergö, I think. We spent a few hours in there. It amazed me, again, how few people check out the Egyptian collection. Even in the room of the Venus of Milo it is comparatively calm compared to the mayhem that is Mona Lisa. Very fittingly we overheard a group of American tourists say: “We saw the Mona Lisa, Ah think we’re done here.”

Once a month (except for the summer) we have lunch together at work and this time we went all the way from the sad ugly part of St Ouen to the artsy part at Paris’ biggest the flea market.

 


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).

 


Allons enfants!

We are having a long weekend. Friday was Bastille Day, French independence day.

I asked my colleagues at work what is traditional to do on this day, but they just shrugged and said get drunk on champagne. When I asked again in our chat a couple of my colleagues tried to convince me it’s tradition to give presents to your coworkers. I am naive, but I didn’t fall for that one.

Recently a coworker said something in French with a fake American accent. I laughed, because I found it funny that he can do French with American accent but not American with an American accent. I asked him if he can do German accents as well. He sheepishly replied he did fake German accents several times but I never noticed. I can totally believe this and found it very funny. He even made the gesture that says “it went right over your head” to explain how I never noticed anyone speaking with a German accent. Since then I heard him do the accent and noticed it, but to me it sounds more like a Dutch accent. I strongly deny that my v’s sound like f’s! Another colleague who learned German in school and can still quote Beethoven’s Ode an die Freude does a better German accent, I thought. The other colleagues think it doesn’t count since he knows some German.

Back to the holiday weekend: as we learned on “What the fuck, France“, on the night before July 14th there are often firefighter balls. We went to the one in Palaiseau last year. It had a band that played French hits,sausages, and a VIP lounge for the mayor, and they were really proud of a productinvented in Palaiseau: plastic bags that fit a wine bottle. You freeze them to keep your wine cold.

I found it quite an authentic thing – like a Jahrmarkt or Feuerwehrfest would be in Austria. So we visited the bal de pompiers in the 12th district. They emptied out the fire station to make room for the main stage, the junk food truck and the beer and champagne bar. And they parked the fire trucks outside, so the garage could double as a disco. So far, so identical with anything comparable in Austria. Only the firefighters are indeed very fit in France and there’s no grilled chicken.

The band played a lot of film themed cover songs with costumes and choreography. I learned that there is a Lucky Luke song, only it’s pronounced Lüky Lük in French and not Löcky lük, as I would have expected.

We also checked out the “disco” and it was awesome. There was a group of teenage boys who showed up and danced. They impressed the girls so much, they got applause and were cheered on. At some point there was breakdancing. The crowd cheered! A white haired lady joined them on the dancefloor – Not breakdancing, but showing off her moves. She got a big round of applause. A little girl wearing a white dress, she can’t have been older than 10, did a split on the dancefloor. The teenage boys, middle aged ladies and little girls were a lot cooler than I remember my adolescence.

The other thing we tried out on Thursday night, even before ogling the pompiers and seamen, was the terrace of the hotel opposite our house. We’d been walking past the terrace several times but it was always closed. It’s in the backyard of an ugly Ibis hotel, looking out over the park. It has food trucks and furniture made from palettes and potted pear trees – what’s not to like?

I finally gave up just showing up there and hoping it would be open and googled the place. Turns out they made this fancy terrace but hate money so much that they only open it once a week – on Thursdays.

To be honest: fried maki won’t be my new favourite food.

On July 14th Gergö and I both had a moment where we thought “The train station is loud today, and sounds different from normal.” At about the same time we realised that it’s the air show over the Champs Elysees that went past our house as well.

In the evening we met up with a German friend and had our own little barbecue: there’s a place on Rue du Pot de Fer that offers barbecue on a hot stone. While we sat and ate a photographer with a big fancy camera walked around our table neighbours and took a million photos of them eating. Or possibly close ups of the hot stone.

Halfway during our meal the group left only to settle down at a bar across the street, still followed by the photographer. We don’t know any French celebrities, so we just said “must be an instagram star” and kept on eating. Right as we were leaving a young man bearing flowers walked past. He was also followed by photographers. He disappeared pretty quickly but a little further down the road we heard a crowd cheering and finally the young man in a woman’s embrace. There was kissing, and clapping and two people filming everything. I wonder if it’s up on YouTube yet.

We made our way to the Seine – we sort of wanted to see the fireworks, but really wanted to avoid the crowd. Along the Seine and on various bridges across people were already gathering at 10 pm. There were picknicks, beer, and champagne. We walked past a fairly busy area and settled down across the Musée d’Orsay.

I don’t include a picture of the Eiffel Tower on purpose – the light show is under copyright and you are not supposed to publish pictures of the Eiffel Tower lit up. The law of freedom of panorama (Panoramafreiheit) is limited in France (and Belgium, as far as I know).

Only at 11pm, when the fireworks started, did we realise why so many people were sitting a little further away: the firework was not actually higher than the Eiffel Tower, but about at the same height. So when you can only see the top third of the tower and the rest is covered by buildings and trees, you don’t see a lot of fireworks either. Oh well, we did our civic duty of watching the fireworks even if it was only a little bit of it.