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.

 


Vienne, tu me manques

We left for Vienna on December 24. We hadn’t been in Vienna for quite a while – we changed trains there in the summer but didn’t stay over night. We spent a single night there on the way to a wedding in June. But I think the last holiday in Vienna was a long weekend in March, when the triplets celebrated their second birthday.

So, as usual, we spent the week in a hectic blur of food and people. We met with my family on the 26th, Gergö’s family on the 29th and friends on all the other days. We were staying in the 7th district, very centrally and close to Mariahilfer Straße, which is a big shopping street. There were trams and the most useful of all busses, the 13A really close by. So I had the opportunity to play a lot of Pokemon Go during my week in Vienna. I could turn a lot of Pokestops on the tram and bus and hatch eggs and even put the occasional Pokemon in an arena.

I also went shopping – we found ourselves with a couple of hours to spend right on the biggest shopping street of Vienna. I bought a ridiculously huge dark red down coat. It even has fleece lined pockets! Several people commented on the size of it and how I look like Bibendum (the official name of the Michelin man, as I recently learned on twitter). I would have preferred it in black, obviously, but it was the red one that was 60% off, so I will be snug and smug in my ridiculous enormous coat.

Despite my declared dislike for Christmas markets, I managed to visit two in my week in Vienna.

Because we met with so many people we went to a lot of cafés and restaurants. And people in Vienna still smoke inside. We had brunch at a place that is non-smoking for breakfast, but it reeked of smoke from the night before. And even weirder: there are little stickers to show if a place is smoking or non-smoking or both and the non-smoking stickers are red and the “smoking is allowed” stickers are green.

When we visited some friends in the 14th district they told us that they have a Chinese restaurant around the corner that they’d love to try, but you are allowed to smoke inside. And as we walked past the restaurant we all glanced inside and there really were people smoking away at the restaurant tables. Very unreal.

I noticed two other things I apparently really got used to in France: When you enter a restaurant or bar or brasserie or café in Paris, in most cases you wait to be seated. Sometimes you are told: sit wherever you like but mostly you are seated. I went to a café with a friend and there were people waiting for a table that was about to become free and my friend suggested to look around for a table for two. I wanted to say something like “surely we’ll be seated right after them” when I realised: nobody cares where/if we find a place, it’s everybody for themselves in here.

Then I, the person to stop at red lights in Paris, found myself impatiently crossing at red in Vienna – with the exact same excuse as everyone here: There was no traffic! There’s really no point in waiting around at a red traffic light if there are no cars! And I promptly crossed the road in plain view of the police while looking in their direction. I didn’t get a ticket, though. Probably because it was in the middle of the night and there really was no other traffic. And today I almost got run over by a motorcycle because I was so busy avoiding Puddles (and checking Pokemon Go on my phone) I didn’t see that the light had turned red again.

I also noticed things that changed in Vienna: There are far fewer firecrackers before New Year’s Eve. When I lived across a playground in the 2000s, it felt like the teenagers from the school around the corner tried to blow themselves up every day of December. And it was still bad a few years ago, when we looked after Gergö’s former dog. Now it’s much quieter and I only heard firecrackers on the 30th and 31st. All that’s left to learn for Austrians is that the firework starts at midnight.

In a weird counter example to my experience in Viennese cafés, I saw a queue in front of café Sperl on Gumpendorfer Straße. People were actually standing outside in the cold waiting to have coffee in there. It seemed ludicrous to me. I remember Sperl as the place with the most worn down leather chairs and grumpiest waitresses and it was really smoky, too, though that may have changed since I last went there (in 2008 maybe?). I bet the café is mentioned in a guide book as the real Viennese experience and that makes people willing to queue for overpriced coffee.

Luckily we got to see a lot of my nieces, the triplets, as well. They love to sing right now and will burst into strange songs at any occasion. When we had a playdate with friends who have a daughter of the same age, two of them grabbed hold of railings in the hallway, dangled from them and sang “Hoch sollst du leben / an der Decke kleben / runterfallen, Popschi knallen / so ist das Leben” (“you shall be celebrated / stick to the ceiling / fall down, hurt your bum / that’s life” – I just checked, there’s a category called birthday songs on Wikipedia, but the original version of this song is missing, just like the children’s version).

Anyway, everytime they sang “runterfallen” they let themselves drop to the floor. Songs seem to be a way to get them to do stuff – as long as it’s not being quiet. There’s a song about a bear sleeping where they will immediately lie down and pretend to be a sleeping bear. They even include the snoring noises sometimes. The trouble is it goes on: the bear wakes up and then hops, hops, hops, or stamps, stamps, stamps, or dances, dances, dances all day long.

The apartment complex where my sister lives has communal spaces. We took the kids’ new train set and went to the “theatre”. It’s just a big room that could be used as a stage. Not half as fancy as the cinema room or the communal kitchen. The theatre just had the problem that the lights went out every 5 minutes. Whenever that happened H. would scream, get up and run towards the sensor, while I. spontaneously started to sing Bruder Jakob / Frère Jacques. She even sang it in French, well, an approximation of it.

We also went to the climbing room. The girls would have preferred the slide room, but they are still a bit too small to climb the ladders alone and we wouldn’t fit in the slides in case they got scared and needed support. The climbing room is mostly interesting for the big mat that covers most of its floor. While two of the kids ran around playing catch and doing summersaults, A. rearranged our coats and played with my handbag. I gave it to her thinking there’s nothing in there that could break. She promptly took out the USB cable and stuck the micro-USB end into the regular one. “That works?”, my sister asked. “Only with force.”

I showed her how to plug it into my external battery instead – I figured it might save her hours of time if she learns early on how to plug in a USB cable the right way up.

When it was time to brush their teeth before bed, they weren’t impressed my by rendition of “Zähneputzen, zähneputzen, das wird deinen Zähnen nutzen” though. I didn’t think anybody else knew this song. We had to sing it in kindergarten while the other kids brushed their teeth until it was our turn at the sink. Now I googled it and apparently it’s a thing to motivate kids to brush their teeth. Well, it didn’t work.

Later in the week we met with Gergö’s family, including his two nephews. His brother was impressed how much more experience we have with little kids now (“please sit down on the chair to drink”, “use both hands to hold the glass!”, “Ok, I’ll walk up and down the stairs with you, but you have to hold my hand!”). It was also the one and only occasion for me to impress someone with Pokemon Go. The 5-year-old was interested in the game, and duly impressed by my Pikachu wearing a Santa hat and my strongest Pokemon, a Tyranitar with over 3000 CP. He even caught a Sentrett while we waited for the train and only needed 5 or 6 Pokeballs to do it. Most grown ups’ reaction is “Somebody is still playing this?”

We also met his other brother’s fiancée. But Gergö didn’t get a chance to talk much or ask about the dress code for the upcoming wedding because his crown came loose. So we spent the evening at the dentist on weekend duty.

the smile of a real princess.

It wasn’t really how I wanted to spend the evening, but it could have been much worse. Across from us in the waiting room was a girl with her parents whose horse had kicked her in the face. Her dad carried bits of her front teeth in a tupperware container.

While I was waiting for Gergö to finish two young men showed up – one had a toothache, the other came to help with translation. When they struggled with the information form I offered my cell phone as a dictionary. They had brought their own, but readily introduced themselves – (Hello, I’m XYZ from Syria!) And while the translator’s German was pretty good, they were happy to have some help with words like Herzschrittmacher/pacemaker, Spritze/injection and the like.

The doctor glued Gergös crown back into place and most of the visit was spent waiting for the cement to dry. And it was also fairly low on bureaucracy for Gergö: He filled out two forms with the data on his European health insurance card and didn’t have to pay anything. He reckons there will be a bill from his French insurance at some point.


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.


La batterie et la cueillette

A few days ago Verena was taking a nap when I decided to do something I had been interested in since we arrived in Palaiseau, but she wasn’t: Climbing up the steep hill behind the railway station to have a look at the ruins of the fortress of Palaiseau. There are several ways up, and I chose the one that looked the most interesting, namely the path through the forest. The path is narrow and not well maintained, but I managed to climb over the odd tree blocking the way, and to not get cut to pieces by thorny bushes growing across it. The forest ist too dense to see much besides trees, so I cannot offer any spectacular views over our valley.

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Up on the hill are the last remains of the Fort de Palaiseau, which according to the French Wikipedia was built after the war of 1870, in which German troops occupied the whole area around here. It was one of a whole ring of fortresses meant to protect Paris. Apparently it was never useful and was finally burned down by occupying German troops in 1944. One part still survives in ruins, called the Batterie de la Pointe. (The French word batterie here means an artillary battery. It also has other meanings, including drum kits and batteries in cars and mobile phones. It does not refer to most other electrical batteries, which are usually called pile. It’s almost as flexible a word as baguette, which refers to most stick-shaped objects including chopsticks and magic wands.)

The entrance to the batterie is guarded by a gate that is apparently meant to be locked but, this being France, isn’t. Trespassing is prohibited, but I sneaked in and took a peek. I wasn’t the first one, judging by the graffiti.

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Sometime around September last year there was some sort of heritage festival thing which included some event up in the fort. It felt a bit strange creeping around up there all alone and illegally, but it might be interesting to come again if there is some sort of guided tour. We’ll see this fall.

The more exciting thing this weekend was the cueillette or harvest. We got a free magazine with news about our departement, which I didn’t read closely, but at least I found out that a young woman from Palaiseau is French champion in synchronized swimming. (Not alone, obviously.) Verena read the thing more thorougly and found out that there is a farm nearby where you can go and harvest fruit and vegetables. It’s up on the plateau, not all too far from where I work.

There is a direct bus to the farm, but not on weekends. Instead we took one to the village of Saclay and walked the rest of the way, about a kilometer or two. On the way we passed the two lakes of Saclay. These are artificial lakes, originally created to supply water to the palace of Versailles (maybe 10 to 20 km away). Nowadays, according to Wikipedia, they are fed by water used in some way by our nuclear research center. They are also a restricted military area off-limits to the public, and their water is used to cool the defense research agency’s adjoining center for testing propulsion systems. Despite all this there was a surfer in the water, but, well, this is France.

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We arrived at the farm and were hit by a strong scent of strawberries even from a few hundred meters away. The photo doesn’t do the smell justice, but at least you might be able to see the size of the farm.

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There weren’t too many other people, but apparently the nicer weather the day before had brought many people, so we weren’t sure how many strawberries we would be able to harvest. Verena wasn’t too successful in the beginning, but I got lucky with my row of strawberries, and in the end we managed to fill up a big bowl. Then we moved on to raspberries, which are a bigger variety than the ones I know. Many of them are not completely ripe yet, but as a sunny week is coming up, they should soon be perfect. All in all we collected a kilogram each of strawberries and raspberries as well as a cakeful of rhubarb and a big bunch of parsley.

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All together we paid 14.06 EUR, which is really cheap, especially considering the freshness and quality. Verena already has plans to go there again with our next visitor, and to tell a friend from her language course about it. And who knows how many times we will go back; according to the farm, their strawberry season runs well into October!

We completed the visit to the farm by feeding grass to cows (young bulls, we think) who seemed happier to take it from human hands than off the ground. And who would blame them. Verena also gave one a strawberry, which was well received, but she was opposed to my idea of handing them a whole stick of rhubarb. At least without asking a qualified adult or researching the question first. I intend to return, and to do it well prepared!

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la friperie

La friperie is the term used in France for second hand clothes and the stores that sell them.

I have been working on a new and improved carpet crocheted from strips of tshirts and I’m running out of material. So I suggested to Gergö we go visit Parisian second hand stores this Saturday. There is a chain called Guerrisol that has the reputation of being the cheapest in town, so we set out to visit their biggest store in the 9th district. It’s not far from Gare du Nord and about half way to Sacre Cœur.

I've created a monster!

I’ve created a monster!

The store didn’t have anything for me. I’m looking for cotton jersey tshirts and possibly old fitted sheets to cut into strips. It’s not typical Second Hand store material, but they had a few of those rummage tables and apparently also sell entire bags of stuff in bulk.

The place was packed, though, and had the typical second hand smell, so Gergö gave up after about 2 minutes and I after 4 more. We wandered in the direction of Sacre Cœur instead. And as chance will have it, the streets in this quarter are full with cheap fabric stores. The biggest one appears to be Reine (French for queen).

When you look closely you can see the big rack of ribbons in front of the first floor window

When you look closely you can see the big rack of ribbons in front of the first floor window

But basically the entire neighbourhood of Marché Saint Pierre was fabric stores and clothing rummage sales. You can buy everything from terry cloth totulle to the material I only know from Dirndlschürzen.

Fabric as far as the eye can see and the credit card takes you.

Fabric as far as the eye can see and the credit card takes you.

The French Wikipedia even says it’s the biggest collection of fabric (tissu) stores in Paris. Some of the stores are called “coupons de…” and I only now realised that it’s not to do with reduced prices but with bolts of cloth.

The Marché Saint Pierre was not a food market as far as we could tell but an art gallery / community center / hip café.

Marche Saint Pierre

The building itself looked really interesting, but I’m a sucker for those food markets. We were going to check it out, but Saturday is just to busy. I am pretty sure I will come back on a weekday when it’s less busy and I have one or two people in mind who would probably enjoy the fabric stores.

 


Quoi de neuf?

So, what’s up here in lovely Palaiseau?

On Wednesday, I got a bit carried away with the food shopping. Our local giant retailer is already in Christmas mode, I think. It has spread out to the parking space, where it’s selling coke in bulk and advent calendars. I actually checked the internet if there was any other kind of festivity coming up, because I didn’t believe it. I can be naïve like that.

Because of the upcoming Star Wars film, there’s also a whole lot of Star Wars themed merchandise. I managed to resist the Star Wars cookie cutters, and bought lollipos instead, in case there are any trick and treaters coming our way. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. In order to reward myself for resisting the cookie cutters, I bought a Star Wars canvas bag. I’m not sure my system is working very well.

Gergö said "Aw, look, with a foreword by Anthony Daniels!"

Gergö said “Aw, look, with a foreword by Anthony Daniels!”

I also spotted a pintade and bought it. My friend Stephen had shared an article with me about French opening hours which prominently featured the birds. They are called guinea fowl in English and Perlhühner in German and I had never heard about eating them before but apparently they are a thing in France. For a couple of minutes in Auchan, I forgot that I don’t really know how to handle an entire bird and that I hate cutting them up. So while it looked appetizing when it came out of the oven, eating it was a real mess.

Just like a chicken, but smaller and with darker skin.

Just like a chicken, but smaller and with darker skin.

On Thursday, I was planning to buy a pair of jeans. In an ongoing silly Thomas Bernhard joke, Gergö then suggested we should go have dinner afterwards. That turned into dinner and a movie with Gergö’s work friends at the large Mall at les Halles. We watched the Martian (Seul sur Mars) in VOSTF (version originale sous-titres français). It was fun and there are plans to watch Star Wars together as well, but Gergö insists on watching the Force Awakens in English without subtitles. I haven’t figured out if that’s even a thing here.

Of course I didn’t buy any jeans – I only found high waisted skinny jeans all afternoon and that’s not going to happen. I finally dared to go into Forever 21, though. I worried for a second of being kicked out for being so obiviously out of the age range, but I think they rely on the music to scare off old people like me ;-)

I also saw a lot of Star Wars merch at the mall.

Not your father.

Not your father.

And for the first time, I saw a deaf checkout clerk. He was signing with his customers. There was a sign next to his checkout stating that he is malentendant and to please look at him while talking. I didn’t want to take a picture because rude. I just think the visibility of it is great – I never see physically impaired people working in service in Austria. I wonder if Austria is just generally much worse with regards to integration (whatever that might mean)?

This week, I also had my annual moment of “I can’t believe it gets dark this early” when coming out of the shop.

chemin de l'yvette

As nice as the path along the Yvette is, the lighting is often bad and that can get creepy.

Oh, and I read a book. In French! Okay, so it was a comic book and only had 48 pages, but still. I learned many new words, like the word for boar, and magic potion.

asterix

And there were some piracy jokes in there, that I almost but not quite understood on my first attempt. Somebody posted on twitter (I think) that there was also a Twitter joke in the new Asterix, but that went completely over my head. Oh yes, there is (Spoiler alert).


le support ordinateur

I’ve been looking for a place to work.

At home all the chairs are rickety and all the tables too low. The couch used to be my favourite spot in Vienna. But our current model neither has an armest nor the corner required for stretching out. Besides, and most importantly, I gave away the laptop pillow I used almost daily in Vienna. It’s a plastic board on top and a pillow below, so your computer doesn’t overheat and it’s comfy on your lap. It was cheap, from IKEA and I figured I can always get a new one or hang out in Parisian cafés instead of my couch.

I tried the Fee café for working but it doesn’t have wireless and the tables wobble. Embarrassingly late in my search for a place to work I remembered the public library. Yesterday, when I returned some books, I brought my computer and saw they even have free WiFi. It asked for a username and password. The barcode number is the easy part. Because of my experience with Austrian libraries, I used the birthdate as password. That didn’t work, so I asked the librarian. She told me it is my name in small letters. This is ridiculously insecure, because the name is even on the card.

I tried to log on with that information, but the request timed out every time, both on my phone and on my computer. Just like the standard password and the catalogue that only load 1 out of 4 times, the dodgy wireless too confirms my opinions about public libraries. Then they go ahead and have a mobile fab lab in Les Ulis with 3D Printer, Arduino workshops and the whole shebang.

Maybe next time, before I visit the library I look up all the vocabulary I’ll need to troubleshoot my connection problem and try to figure out if drinks are okay in the library.

Because I bought a weekly pass for my navigo card this week, and both the Café and the library didn’t turn out to be ideal places to work either, I decided to go to IKEA in search of the beloved support ordinateur. There are about 6 IKEAs around Paris. Both in the south are on a different train line than I am. Turns out not just traffic in France in general, but also Paris in particular is organised like a star from the center. I’d have to go into Paris to change to a different train to get out of Paris again and then catch a bus. Or catch a Navette (a shuttle bus) from Paris, but they only run on Thursdays and Saturdays.

In the end I decided to go to the IKEA in the north, because it’s along the RER B, like me and the bus trip seemed short and easy. (I hate taking busses I don’t know). I rode the train almost all the way to the airport to find out that the relevant stop has a lot of construction work going on and no bus stop was where it was supposed to be. On top of that there were several buses without a number that shuttled people around on the Expo area and additionally confused people. When my bus didn’t show up for 10 minutes I decided to walk. It looked really easy and not too far on the little layout map.

It was a very typical Verena thing to do, I thought, as I walked around in the rain in an area where everyone else was driving, already doubting my decision but deciding the only other person I saw carried an H&M bag, so it must be okay and besides it’s too late to turn back. I also saw a lot of bus stops but not a single one for my potental bus. After I had gone past the two roundabouts from the map I figured I should be on Plein de Paris, but there was no IKEA. I walked a little further in the rain, the traffic, very hungry. Just as I was about to give up and turn on data roaming I came upon a block of small businesses, with a post office, a sushi place and a burger bar. In the burger bar I ate, used their free wifi to see that IKEA really was just around the corner and learned that the urban legend about the dangers of drinking directly from the can is still alive. I really only needed to walk 20 more metres to be able to see IKEA from the bar.

Arriving at IKEA, I saw there was some major construction going on and there were lots of people in yellow shirts around, all carrying tools, assembling and arranging furniture. I walked through the entire expo but didn’t find the support ordinateur. I walked through the entire market area – no dice. I figured I must have not looked hard enough and went all the way back through the market but still didn’t see any stupid computer pillow. When I finally found an IKEA person who didn’t carry a power tool and tried to avoid eye contact and asked, he wasn’t sure where the support ordinateurs were, but certainly not downstairs.

I wasn’t ready to leave without the magic pillow, so I went back upstairs and through the furniture expo. It was like I’d never been to this IKEA before. It is a maze after all. I found an area with 4 different computer support thingies to chose from. I grabbed one, turned around to leave and looked right at a little kid with his pants around his ankles going “uh oh” and both parents on their knees talking intently to him.

I found a different way out, made my way to the checkout and used the one where you scan all your own items. It was watched over by a bored shop assistant and a stern security guard. Under their watchful eyes I scanned my items, put them in a blue bag (of course!), paid and… while still leaving the checkout area remembered that I had not scanned the blue bag. I still can’t believe that the security guy didn’t stop me. I mean I didn’t think he’d notice, but the guilt in my face must have been so obvious.

I found my bus stop, got on, started reading, and looked up again when I noticed that the bus driver was clapping and shouting at me to leave his otherwise empty bus.

On my neverending, standing room only train ride home I wondered if the computer pillow was worth all that. Now that I’m writing this, propped up in bed with the pillow on my lap I can confirm: definitely. worth. it.

And the moral of the story is obvious: I really need a French SIM card. How could I think I could live without Google Maps at my fingertips?


Ci et ça

I went into town on Friday. Apparently this was the first time since the rentrée (français for back to school). Lots more shops were open than the last time I was in town. I saw at least two more Boulangeries, two Vegetable/Fruit stalls, a tiny fish shop with a 2 metre big lighthouse outside, complete with a turning floodlight.

I also discovered the Fee Café, a cute little café that from its facebook page seems to be new. I’m the fifth fan! I had a delicious apricot-pistaccio tarte. I’m sure I’ll be back but it probably won’t become my local, because it doesn’t offer wifi. But definitely a place I’ll bring all my visitors to, especially the ones loving salted caramel.

On my way home from town I saw a grey heron (Graureiher), again. I’d seen one before along the Yvette, but this time it was coming from the direction of the town and flew right over me as I was standing across from my house. I’m pretty sure I was standing in the middle of the road with my mouth wide open, staring at it as it flew past. Huge birds! Watch this space for blurry pictures of large birds ;-)

The weekend was very rainy, so I stayed in and did some programming and finally sent a few job applications. The website I’m making for a friend is coming along nicely and the web app I’m building for my dad is in a testable beta version, I’d say.

As a treat for these small successes, I bought myself a weekly pass for the train and went into town. I haven’t bought new clothes in a long time, so I went to Les Halles – a very big underground shoppping mall, and got a few things. Now I have a “nice” hoodie, should I be invited to a job interview ;) . I also got a present for the triplet nieces: a fluffy ball that’s very easy to grab. The shop assistant asked me if it was for me or a present (Apparently, I look much younger than I feel ;). I didn’t quite catch it and expected something like “would you like a bag?” or “is that everything?”, so I said, “Oui, c’est tout”. Contrary to the stories I was told before I came here, most people speak English and automatically switch to English when you stare at them wide-eyed and then go “Pardon?”. Or if you say something seemingly completey random.


le supermarché

Almost every day, Gergö and I go on a pilgrimmage to our local Auchan. It’s an enormous Supermarket (think Interspar) that sells everything from milk to washing machines.We’ve been so often, that I wondered if the security thinks we are casing the joint.

On our last day in Vienna we had to make a couple of snap decisions what to leave behind in boxes to be sent to us and what to bring right away. So apart from buying groceries at Auchan, we also wanted to stock up on things like towels, an extra sheet, a swiffer, a french press and things like that.

We tried different paths to reach Auchan. The shortest also seems to be the nicest: a mostly flat path along the Yvette, under trees. Then there’s a short steep climb up a slope, over a crash barrier and voilà. There’s also a bus, but the summer schedules are pretty bad and whenever we wanted to use it we didn’t have the 2 € you need in change handy.

If you have ever travelled with me, you know that I LOVE other countries’ supermarkets. And this one is so big, there’s something new for me to discover every time we go there. While Gergö checks out the cheeses, I usually have a look at the pastries. They sell meringues the size of my head! Also smaller ones with strawberry flavour or covered in chocolate.

Gergö bought foul smelling cheese that looks like Jabba the Hut. Whenever you open our fridge it smells like Jabba died in there.

Jabba the Hut in cheese form. It's delicious / disgusting

Jabba the Hut in cheese form. It’s delicious / disgusting

I also saw: a bag of 120 frozen escargots (snails) for 19.99 €, a bag of ice cubes for 3.50 €, a 5 kilo bag of durum wheat semolina (Hartweizengrieß), sparrows (flying around, not for sale), special dishes to cook / serve escargot in. Oh and a extension cord with a built in USB port.