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.


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

 

 


À l’enfer et de retour

We just returned home from holidays in Austria. When I last saw my family in Salzburg in May I asked them if they wanted to go on a holiday together. My office closes for two weeks in August, so I had to take the time off anyway. And I wanted to see my family, but I also wanted to do something that feels more like a holiday than hanging out at my mom’s and my sister’s place.

They agreed and so we went looking for a place to rent for a week for 6 to 8 adults and 4 small kids. I’d have loved to go to Croatia, but the triplets aren’t up for long car rides. In the end we decided on lake Neusiedl. It’s only an hour from Vienna. I didn’t find anything on Airbnb but I got some recommendations from a friend so I found apartments in Podersdorf. It’s the only beach of lake Neusiedl, all other places have the Schilfgürtel (a belt of reeds around the lake, sometimes several kilometres deep).

The apartments were in an area from Podersdorf that time forgot. Dark red curtains, weird green couches, balcony tables far to large for the balcony. My sister thinks they just put everything that’s no longer needed in the nice hotel in these apartments. It was cheap, though, and there was a Spar with excellent air conditioning only 200 metres away. And a little playground (a swing, a plastic house, and a slide) in the yard right underneath a tree. My sister had even packed an inflatable pool for the kids.

Apparently they are really proud of their heating, not that we ever needed it.

I mention the air conditioning, because it was really very hot. I’d happily run all shopping related errands just to check out the supermarket’s drinks department, separated by a door and extra cool. When I booked the apartment I was a little worried what we’d do with 3 cranky toddlers if it rained for an entire week. Summers in Austria are no guarantee for sunshine. They can go either way. But instead of rain we had a week of 32 – 35 degrees celsius. The lake had the temperature of a bathtub.

The cool thing about Podersdorf is that the lake doesn’t get much deeper than 1m there. Even I can comfortably walk all the way to the buoys. It also means that when we went into the water with the triplets my shoulders were rarely under water and despite the SPF 50 I got a sunburn on the first day.

The kids have just started to enjoy the water more – they have been visiting my dad’s partner’s family and their pool and I think their step cousins left a big impression. A. mentioned their diving several times (“auch untertauchen!”) and wanted to try as well. She only ever let the water cover her mouth, swallowing a bit of sea water, but on the last day she wanted to go without the floating tyre, to practice.

The other cool thing about lake Neusiedl is that with the apartment you get a card that lets you use the bus and the Strandbad for free. I misplaced mine about 2 days in and posed as my brother in law for the next several days. I blamed the loss of my card on the kids – they often showed up in our room before 7 am to watch youtube videos or photos. Sometimes I could keep them busy (and let their parents and sisters sleep a little longer), but sometimes the videos just didn’t cut it and they went back to their room to ask “Mama, mama, mama!” until she woke up (“Oh, she woke up!”). I still have the earworms from all the children’s songs in my head and they will never leave me (“Daddy finger, daddy finger weh a yu.”)

A few years ago I was at a friends party and somebody there kept saying “Lieb sein, nicht zwicken!” to their kid all the time. He never tried to pinch me, so I found her constant reminder more annoying than his interest in his surroundings.

With the triplets, my sister had to be more specific on occasion: Don’t pinch, scratch, bite or push your sister!” They could be extremely cute, all three of them on a tire swing on the playground, singing “happy birthday to you, marmalade im schuh” for every person they know. But they can be grumpy little beasts when they get tired and hungry and nothing is more tiring than a day at the beach.

We also went on a carriage ride in the nature reserve. Two mares pulled our carriage and impressed the kids. We got to see white donkeys, which are bred there. We saw herons and geese and cows. And we saw very little water – the summer has been so dry that a lot of the marshland that makes up the nature reserve has dried up. The coachman kept pointing out the places that are usually water.

An old drawing well and a tent like structure for sheperds

The lack of water meant that there were fewer mosquitoes than usual, but Gergö is still covered in many, many purple welts. Normally it’s me with the giant swollen mosquito bites, I don’t know why they went after him this time. I appreciate it, though. They even stung him on his ear, the soles of his feet and inside his belly button.

I’m a giant hypochondriac, so I immediately assumed Lyme disease when some of the stings developed a red circle. Then the red cross called and asked for blood donations and we found out that visits to Lower Austria get you banned from donating blood in France for 4 weeks, because there’s West Nile Virus.

It turned out to be an allergic reaction, of course, but now that I read up on West Nile Virus I have an entirely new disease with vague symptoms I can imagine having.

On Saturday my dad visited and we went on a boat ride. It was just families with little kids, a lot of “Arthur, be careful!”, “Leni, don’t lean out of the boat.” We went past Hölle, the hottest corner of Austria, apparently.

Then, in the afternoon we rented a pedal boat. We got one that looked like a beetle car and had a slide down the front of the boat. I imagined it would be dangerous, having these difficult to steer boats with kids sliding down being squished between them. But the lake is so shallow everyone but the kids could just stop the boats and even steer them from the outside while we were waiting to catch the sliding kids.

At the moment stand up paddling is all the rage and my brother in law recently got a board. I thought you just stand on a surf board, but the SUP is in fact inflatable. I tried it out as well and promptly fell on my butt. With a little instruction from the resident paddler, the second attempt went okay. It’s really not that difficult and my sense of equilibrium isn’t bad after all these years of yoga and pilates. But sports in a swimsuit on a reflecting surface must be the worst idea for someone with my skin color.

On the weekend Podersdorf had a Feuerwehrfest, the equivalent of the bal de pompiers in France. We dropped by for a cheap beer and terrible oompah music. It turns out there’s a Hungarian version of Rosamunde and my brother in law knows all the words to it.

Feuerwehrfest traditions

On Sunday it finally cooled down and it was windy. The lake was covered in the sails of kite surfers.

We had to get to Vienna to catch out flight, so we packed and left by bus. Then we took a train to Vienna, and Gergö forgot his suitcase on the train. He noticed 5 minutes after leaving the train but it was already gone when he went back to check. We spent a few hours trying to get it back, but the lost & found is closed on a Sunday and all we could do was write a message to get it delivered to France.

The ÖBB will send the suitcase to France for 30 €, that’s the same price as booking an extra piece of luggage for a cheap flight by Austrian Airlines, in case you were wondering. The one thing I’m concerned about is the damp towel I wrapped my damp biknis in before packing it in Gergös suitcase. I’ll find out if polyester molds soon enough, I guess. Maybe this means Gergö will stop making fun of me for the time I forgot to pack knickers for a week in Vienna. Probably not.


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.

 


Des balades Parisiennes

I was in such a hurry to post something, anything, I forgot to include my favourite stories from my visit to Austria:

When we all met up in our holiday apartment with Pizza on our first night my sister told us about their drive from Vienna. The triplets don’t enjoy car rides much, so there was a lot of complaining and they took a long break at Mondsee. There were swans at the lake and my nieces I and H ran up to them all shouty and ready to play. A on the other hand, approached them slowly and greeted them shily: “Hallo Mingo!”

She thought they are flamingos like the ones she knows from the zoo. Hallo Mingo is now my family’s new favourite thing. The other two can’t say H yet, and also often drop the first syllable of words. When I joined them for breakfast on the second morning H happily shouted “‘Allo Arena!”

Now, back in Paris, I’m back to taking cell phone pictures of everything. Most recently: street art again. I had stopped off at the city center on my way home from work when a friend called. The phone reception on the subway isn’t great, so I decided to walk for a little bit. The call lasted much longer than expected, and I ended up taking the bus from Saint Michel to Place d’Italie and then walking home all the way from Place d’Italie.

It’s basically straight ahead, along one big boulevard, le Boulevard Vincent Auriol. I had seen street art from the métro windows before but never taken photos – they go by too fast. Apparently the giant murals are a project that was realised in 2016. The mairie (city hall) of the 13th district seems to be quite proud of their new “open air museum” and there’s a website dedicated to the street art of the 13th. You can look up the route and download a map that lists all the murals and artists.

Another day I just walked around the city center, not doing anything in particular. I just really enjoyed the sun and the city. And I still discover new mosaics every time I take a walk. I take photos of most of them, but I’m far too disorganised to actually collect them all in one place. As I typed this, I thought “surely people have done that already”. As it turns out there’s even a smartphone game, that lets you collect the mosaics. Maybe that’s a project for me for when Pokemon Go becomes boring. And you can buy his art as well.

These past two days I’ve been comlaining about the unseasonal heat (over 30 degrees in May!) but looking at the photos and choosing the ones for the next blog post I have to say I look forward to the summer. But that’s just my optimism speaking – I caught a climatised subway today – not my usual line, so unfortunately just a fluke.


La tête dans les nuages

Last Friday I left work early to fly to Salzburg, for my grandparents birthdays. I took the metro to get to the train, to go to the airport where I took the plane to Salzburg, the bus to the main train station, and the train to Taxenbach-Rauris. There we were picked up by car by my sister. Remind me of that journey the next time I claim I don’t need a drivers license.

The whole family stayed at holiday apartments at a farm on 1200m elevation. We slept in downstairs, so I when I woke up I could hear the triplets running around a floor above us. In the mornings I would walk up to the other apartment through the finest drizzle. It took me a while to realise that we had been inside a cloud and the could was drifting up during the morning.

 


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.


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.

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.

 


Printemps

We’ve had a few very nice spring days. Like everyone else, we wanted to spend it outside, in the park. I really hadn’t seen the park this full before, but it was still nice. We had a sandwich on the stairs of the arena and watched a few kids practise parkour on an empty fountain. Within minutes we were asked to move a little further up the stairs, so the lower stairs could be used for jumping practise by a couple of inline skaters.

When we walked through the park a little later I saw a group of boys playing cricket, a family playing football, people playing badminton and a whole lot of picknicks. I was really surprised nobody played petanque. It’s the first thing I notice when the weather is nice: ever flat surface is used to play it. Instead I spotted two games of what Gergö thinks is Kubb, apparently also known as Scandinavian chess.

The arena has been really busy this last couple of weeks as well. There was a weekend with three Drake concerts. Every time I walked past the arena someone tried to either sell me a ticket or buy one from me. Twice I got a “say no to drugs” leaflet. I’m currently rocking the librarian look, with the cardigans and the knee length skirts over opaque tights. I really don’t understand why they have me down as a high risk group.

The crowds are always huge and the traffic jam is enormous. That there has been a building site in the street for months doesn’t help with the traffic either. There’s usually police around and lots of people in yellow vests yelling that you should walk towards the “ballon allumé”. I didn’t understand what they meant, until I saw one of the security people carrying a large white lighted balloon on a frame behin them.

This weekend there was a political rally in the arena. Quite a different crowd from the Drake audience. Less police, too. When we got home from the market we saw that the rally had taken over the park as well. It was just a video screen of what was going on inside, though: music and applause.

I’m getting used to the commute – most days I manage to climb into the first métro that arrives. In Saint Lazare I already know that if I arrive early, the homeless person on the way to the 13 will have plastic bags around his shoes and will stand in a puddle while using the tap next to the stairs. If I’m running late he will be finished and chatting with commuters on top of the stairs.

For the last weeks there have been stationary bicycles in St Lazare station. You can ride them to show your support for Paris bid for the olympics. Almost every day I think I want to get out and take a picture of the mysterious white cave with elaborate doors at Liège. So far I haven’t.

The all seeing eye of Saint Lazare métro station.

During lunch break, I explored the park next to the church at Garibaldi métro stop.