Il pleut beaucoup

The last two weekends were depressingly rainy. Despite our best intentions we didn’t took any of the Saturday walks we planned.

Instead we went on a short bus ride up to Sacre Cœur. There’s an electric bus that goes up all the way to the church, making a long, winding ascent on narrow roads.

It was raining so strongly, we didn’t see anything of the view from up on Montmartre. The bus windows were completely fogged up and it poured down, so we stayed on the bus and took it right back home. You’ll have to look at the photos I took of Sacre Cœur and the view in Octobre 2015, when the weather was much nicer.

To be honest, we mostly took the bus to catch pokemon while making a few kilometers. But even if you don’t play Pokemon Go, it’s a good bus line. It leaves right across from the merry-go-round that still plays Christmas songs at the Mairie du 18ème – (all arrondissements have their own city hall). It’s 5 minutes from our place and you can stop by a bakery to buy croissants for your bus ride. It stops right in front of Sacre Cœur and then goes on to Pigalle, which is a metro stop and also an area that has all the dodgy bars and strip clubs. If you get out at Sacre Cœur you can take the funicular down and check out the fabric shops that cluster around the east side of the foot of Montmartre.

We did something fun on Friday night, though (your mileage may vary): two of my colleagues and a friend from Gergö’s work and Gergö and I all raided Pokemon together. It was freezing and windy, and I finally caught a legendary pokemon that had been missing from my Pokedex. Gergö also caught one. It’s his strongest pokemon and he uses it in all raids now. He is already a level 25 player, despite only having played for 2 weeks.

What you see when you spend Friday night raiding legendary Pokemon

This Monday I missed boxing class because I hadn’t been feeling well. So I finally located the marché des biffins (vaguely translates to ragpicker’s market) that I usually miss by going directly boxing after work. It’s a small side street before the underpass where I always see the street vendors on Monday mornings. It was dark but it looked like it was well visited, so I had a look.

 

The street starts with the same kind of vendors like in the underpass: people who sell shoes, clothes, electronics from a big cloth they have spread on the floor. Some illuminate their wares with their cell phone flashlights. I also saw someone looking over a pair of winter boots with using his phone as a flashlight. People were starting to pack up, but it was still pretty busy. At one moment I noticed that I was the only woman on the street, but there were plenty of people on the street, there was nothing threatening going on and no one seemed to pay any attention beyond advertising their wares.

As the street goes on, the vendors get more professional looking and more substantial in their set up – tables and furniture, tarp roofs to protect the wares. One one side people were selling right from their rather run down looking warehouses. Still further on the street goes past marché Malik and then Dauphine and Malassis. On that level most vendors have real stalls and most of them sell sportswear, tennis shoes and printed t-shirts.

I love the pigeon wearing swag

Today a friend from work told me that a colleague was assaulted on Monday night on his way to the metro line 4, which is pretty much where I walk every day. I don’t know any details other than he got a fist in his face. But I think it’s the first time I heard of anything happening despite people at work saying how dangerous and dodgy St Ouen is. I refuse to be scared, though. Ok, I might put my phone away and not whip it out all the time to take pictures of swag wearing pigeon graffiti, but I refuse to be scared.

I was going to hit post on this entry but then I realised that I hadn’t included a single food photo. Well, I didn’t want to post the one of the tartare I had a the (best, according to tripadvisor) burger place because the day after I got sick and missed boxing class.

But I wanted to tell you about the fancy brunch at Chez Claus, a small breakfast place. I was invited for my birthday! I had delicious scones, followed by a tartine with mushrooms, avocado and a poached egg. I think that constitutes a 7 on the Verena food preference scale. They also make a big mug of coffee to my taste: usually they add 2 double espresso, but for me it was 1 single espresso. The rest is milk.

It looked as good as it tasted

My friends also gave me present: An escape game set in an airplane. I think the hardest part won’t be escaping but trying to find a date when it’s open and free and everyone has time and coordinating that on facebook messenger.


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 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.

 


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.


Nous nous excusons pour la gêne occasionnée

My first week of work is over and I’m tired. I’m not used to getting up early (and not taking afternoon naps). And I’m definitely not used to squeezing into a very full Métro every morning. I work on the outskirts of Paris, St Ouen. It’s technically not Paris, but northwest of it, but it’s so close that you don’t notice. St Ouen is also home to the giant flea market I visited two or three times.

I was warned about Métro line 13 has a terrible reputation, but I thought it will be okay. I’m leaving town and not going into the center, after all. But it’s too full in both directions. I’m slowly getting accustomed to it: every morning I wait a little less, before I decide to get in on the big group cuddle. What surprised me is, that when I hesitate and look at the people standing in the door questioningly they mostly nod encouraingly. “sure, what’s one more!”.

Friday afternoon at 5 I walked into the station and just heard the last part of the sentence in the title “sorry for the inconvenience!”. The trains were delayed in both directions and the platform was filling up. I let three or four trains go, before I took heart and squeezed in. It was very uncomfortable, standing in a train so full I was sqished up to the person behind me and I could feel his breath on my neck everytime he softly swore “Putain!” when nobody got off on the next three stops so the train didn’t get any emptier.

I am already dreading the summer months – the same squeeze but in 28+ degrees!

Other than the commute, I really enjoy the work. My colleagues are all very friendly and patient. They talk too fast, of course, for my French skills, but I already picked up a lot of tech vocabulary. I work from 9 to 6, with an hour lunch break, and they make an effort to include me in their acitivities. So far I didn’t join in playing the ps4. I’m not into racing games or shooting, but I spotted worms, so I might change my mind. And we played a board game for a few breaks and successfully escaped the zombies.

I dreaded working with a French AZERTY keyboard layout, and now I know why: It’s impossible. It’s not just the A, Q and W that are in the wrong place, but also the M isn’t next to the comma, but where the ö is on a QWERTZ keyboard. And to top it all off, all the punctuation marks are in different places and when you want to write a number you have to use shift.

I work in a linux environment now and it’s heavy on Terminal commands and while people tell me what to do, I hover over the keyboard (or as I like to call it now kewboqd) and look for the -,/ etc. So it’s challenging, but the work is interesting, and I enjoy it, and I already ordered a QWERTZ keyboard, which will make me about 30% more productive.

Gergö wanted me to call the blog post “Blois will be Blois” because we went to the town called Blois and the chateau Chambord on the weekend. Blois is a lovely little town in the Loire valley. It has an old city with timbered houses and a great market that we rushed through to see three or four hôtel particuliers. Blois is famous in France because from King Louis XII it was seat of the French Kings for a few hundred years.

The weather was foul. It was grey and rained, on and off. Just not a great day for an excursion. And the tour guide kept saying she will keep it short on account of the bad weather, but she didn’t. It was interesting, too, I just couldn’t appreciate it as much as I would have in sunshine.

After Blois we went to the chateau of Chambord. It was build by François I. It is famous for its double helix staircase and for the fact that it is neither a chateau to live in (too small, only 27 apartments and difficult to heat in winter!), nor to hunt at, nor a church, though it has ecclesiastical features. Simply put, it’s a work of art. Quite unique for its time: Every side of the façade is decorated differently, while it’s rather simple on the inside.

Edited to add: There was an elaborate ceiling at the chateau. A coffered ceiling (Kassettendecke) and as we gazed up, I heard Gergö say “mmm, Linzer Torte.” The layout reminded him of the grid of dough on that cake. Naturally I thought he was joking, but on our ride home he looked for a recipe and later actually bought all the ingredients for Linzer Torte. His comment on the blog post was: “You left out the cake!”.