Decembre à Paris

I might have mentioned it before: I am not a big fan of Christmas. I don’t like the season much and the darkness gets to me. And the enforced cheer of the holiday season and the crowds make it worse. And don’t even get me started on Christmas markets! Far too crowded, expensive and who ever thought it was a great idea to drink outside in the most miserable season of the year?

Yesterday, when we were in the city center I saw a Christmas market on the place of the fontaines des innocents, right next to the Les Halles shopping mall. And it came to me as a huge surprise that I thought: that doesn’t look too crowded. Might be nice. Gergö went with it and for the first time in ages I voluntarily visited a Christmas market AND enjoyed it.

The market was really much less busy than the surrounding shopping streets. I think the fence and security personnel discouraged people, even though the just waved everyone through. Turns out Christmas is okay if it involves large amounts of cheese but very few people. Hot cidre and fresh churros might also have played a role.

December was busy at work as well – my department moved from the ground floor to the 3rd floor of the building next door. I thought it would be a huge deal, but we managed to pack everything up on Friday afternoon. On Saturday the movers came to take everything upstairs and on Monday morning we unpacked our workstations and went back to work.

Moving Goku and Vegeta upstairs is turning out to be quite a bit of work. We will have to scrape off every single square of colour without damaging the corners too much, put them back on the little plastic sheet they came on and transfer them upstairs. Mario has already been moved, but he came off the wall in one piece, I think.

The work Christmas party was a little different compared to Austria: Mostly because it was at lunchtime and there was no booze. There was, however, an ugly sweater competition and a voluntary random gift exchange. I only participated in the eating part of the party, evidently.

I think it was the first time I had Coquilles Saint Jacques. There was also a lot of cheese, to the expressed delight of my coworkers, and charcuterie and bread, of course. And yes, I find Macarons overrated, but that didn’t stop me from trying most of the colours.

I also had some time to discover more of my new neighbourhood – walking to work or playing Pokemon Go in the area.

I like my new neighbourhood. There’s a market all along the Boulevard Ornano on Sundays. Today someone was promoting their children’s clothes with a microphone and an amp. In the other direction there’s a boulangerie that has a long queue every single time I walk past it. All the shops were open today, including the bakery and the queue was even longer today. I had a croissant incident recently and will have to bring breakfast to the office soon, so I think that’s when I’ll try out if the wait is worth it.


Londres

Because clearly having two sets of visitors and a move isn’t enough for one month, we had also booked a trip to London in November.

I was even more badly prepared than usual, because of the move and everything still in boxes and bags and the rest being pretty chaotic. I spend hectic 20 minutes going through all kinds of things to find my oyster card and the adapters, for example. The night before we left I had a look around what markets Time out London recommended and that was about it.

We left at 10 am. From the new apartment it’s really just 5 metro stops to gare du nord, so no stress. There were lots of people because an earlier Eurostar had been canceled and there were nervous pensioners in the queue. I can’t stand people who cut the queue at all and in France it’s not as uncommon as I’d like it to be. When there was a couple who cut in line in front of us I started complaining to Gergö about it, but didn’t say anything to them because they weren’t English, so I couldn’t say “You bring shame upon your country!”

Other than me getting unnecessarily upset by retired French people, the trip was okay and we arrived in St Pancras sans problèmes. We couldn’t take the underground though, because my oyster card was depleted, so we needed to recharge it. The machine wouldn’t accept any of our cards, though, so we had to find an ATM. The ATM seemed to work just fine, right up until the moment when it said, sorry, I can’t give you money right now. Only the third of three finally gave us pounds in cash and for a hefty fee. Then we only had to queue for an oyster card machine that accepted bills. Easy!

Because we liked the area so much the last time, we booked a hotel on brick lane again.  (I just re-read my blog post from then – I did the exact same thing like last year and went to the fancy chocolate shop for hot chocolate and took photos). We went there directly to deposit our luggage and went in search of the near by cat café to pass time until check-in. It was already full, though, so we ended up in a hipster pub drinking our first lunch beer within an hour or so of our arrival.

Most of the brick lane markets open only on Saturday and Sunday, so in the afternoon we decided to go to Battersea power station. I had read that there’s a “craft” market there, whatever that means and an old power station seemed like a good venue.

We took a bus and walked 3/4 of a circle around the power station in the cold, because the market was actually in an area that can only be accessed from Chelsea bridge and we didn’t know that. The market itself was disappointing and small and we were cold. I’m sure in nicer temperatures the area is quite lovely, (think museum quarter but smaller and less central) but as a lot of it is still under construction or very new it has a bit of a soulless vibe.

We returned back into town by river taxi. You can use your Oyster card for the boat and it’s scarily efficient going from Battersea back to London bridge, stopping for 30 seconds at every stop despite the access bridge being lowered and raised manually. I had promised a friend to take a photo of Big Ben, but I had forgotten that it’s under scaffolding right now (I can hear Gergö going “Big Ben is not the tower, it’s the bell!” but even Wikipedia thinks it can refer to both.)

We went to Old Street to meet with Gergö’s brother and ended up in yet another hipster pub. It was even called Craft Beer. When we entered Gergö thought for a second it’s a gay bar, because there were hardly any women inside.

A. showed us another pub, that was another 8 on the hipster scale with a vegan jackfruit burger on their menu. The burger was no longer available but the halloumi kimchi burger was good as well.

Saturday we looked at the various markets on and around brick lane (food! t-shirts! jewellery! more food! yet more food! streetart! So much awesome streetart! vintage clothing). We started the day off with the best pork roll I ever had. It had a fried goose egg! It was from a stall called swine dining. You know the kind – with a beardy dude really passionate about his product who tells you all about the breed of pig they are using that only exists in one place in Britain. I immediately grabbed what I thought was a plastic egg, put there for decoration. Well, it was a real goose egg, which I carefully put back on the pile. Re-reading my other blog post about our last London trip, a lot of the street art has changed. At least I didn’t notice many identical photos.

Later that day we ended up in Spitalfields market. There happened to be a craft beer and independent label thing at Spitalfields market. To Gergö’s amusement I insisted on bringing my little wheelie suitcase to London and not a backpack like Gergö. He stopped making fun of this fact when we started purchasing cans and bottles of beer from the many many stalls. Fruit infused pale ales are all the rage, chocolate/coffee stouts and porters are still popular. We also bought a spiced Christmas ale.

I thought we’d buy a drink or two and maybe a bottle if we liked it a lot. But the stalls handed out little cups to try, so it was our duty, really to try to support as many craft breweries as possible.

On Sunday we walked to Broadway market by recommendation of Gergö’s brother. The walk there led us past another flea market and Columbia road flower market, which is also very nice.

A man sitting at a table with four chess boards and a sign CHESS 4 FUN

Chess 4 Fun!

And Hackney city farm, so we visited the animals.

Broadway market is closed on Sunday, except for a very small Christmas market in a courtyard. There were people doing yoga outside in 5 degree weather. It was so disturbing to me, I couldn’t even appreciate the stall selling eggs that called itself “laid” and the obvious joke that went with it.  I was freezing by then and really needed to warm up somewhere inside. So we had a lovely meal at a place that ticked all the Verena breakfast boxes and consoled me a little bit about the fact that I couldn’t have a breakfast burrito at hola guacamole because the stall wasn’t open yet, when we walked past in the morning.

poached egg: check
Avocado: check
cuppa: check
fried mushrooms: check and win.

On our way back I felt human enough to take pictures again and fantasize with Gergö about him opening a hipster sourdough bakery in a former brewery.

We went through the food hall one last time to pick up dinner for our journey home. I was pretty convinced that I’d want to try Ethiopian food, but Gergö was sceptical about transportability of the food. It was a little messy, but it was so worth it. The Lithuanian stall is still here.

 

 


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

 

 


L’Art de la rue

I see a lot of artful graffiti in Palaiseau. Today we went to the Centre Commercial because Gergö needed a coat and also because we both are excessively excited about Sunday shopping.

There is a some building going on at the supermarket at the moment and some mobile construction walls were put up around the building site. Today we saw sprayers at work on them. I didn’t take any pictures (I rarely dare ask), but it reminded me of all the other graffiti pictures I took in Palaiseau:

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Graffiti in Palaiseau

On our path along the Yvette there’s an underpass underneath the highway and the TGV, that’s full of graffiti. Last week was the first time we visited the second tube. The dark tunnel is creepy in itself, but it’s also covered in creepy clowns:

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Seriously, who ever thought clowns were funny? Clowns aren’t funny. Another time, we walked to the centre commercial from the town centre instead of our appartment. At some point, close to a sports field, we took a wrong turn and found another underpass with a few more artful graffiti:

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Love the octopus

There was a lot of Picasso-style graffiti. But it was impossible to take pictures because the walkway along a branch of the Yvette was too close to the wall containing all the graffiti.

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This bleeding flower is on the playground in town centre, along rue de Paris.
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These two are pictures I see every time I walk to the shops. Gergö is most impressed by the Wu Tan Dog. I quite like the gorilla. And the graffito is nicely executed as well!
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