Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity

Saturday night, a few friends and I went to the Paris satellite of Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity". It was held at the Thistle Pub - it's really too bad they couldn't have found a larger venue because the place was packed to the gills and spilling out onto the sidewalk, which also made it hard to see and hear the broadcast.

But that said, I supported the point of the rally. So many Americans out there are apathetic about the direction our country is headed and this was one man's attempt to wake some of those people up. To give voice to some of the "normal" people out there, instead of all the crazy extremists that have been hoarding the airwaves as of late.

The rally got off to a bit of a rocky start - opening with a slightly awkward mix Cat Stevens' "Peace Train" , Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" and The O'Jays "Love Train", and continuing on with a strange back-and-forth between Stewart and Stephen Colbert. But the highlight of the event for me was Stewart's speech. I thought he pretty successfully combined humor and politics - but take a listen for yourself:

Lastly, this has nothing to do with the above rally, but it is English Sunday and this is too funny not to share. This morning, C told me "Oh, your new tooth pasta smells really good". Me: ??? C: Teeth pasta?? Me: LOLLLLL, it's called toothpaste my dear. C: I was close enough, non??

Could the man be any cuter?


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ritzy Biarritz

A couple of weeks ago, C and I spent the afternoon in Biarritz. A huge storm rolled in just as we got there, which led to some incredible wind and waves:

But the storm moved on just as quickly as it came and soon the sun was back out in full force. The beaches quickly filled with suntanners and surfers. I found this lady's head rest pretty funny:
Another really interesting thing was the dual-language signs. I'm used to seeing them in Bretagne, but it's not very often that I see them in other regions:We sat on the beach for quite a while, and then spent some time looking at all the pretty shop windows:And then on the way back to the car, we just happened to come across some a practice session for the military planes that do the July 14th fly-over. It was really cool - we sat there for at least 30 minutes and watched them zoom back and forth, alternating between different flying formations and the colored flight patterns seen here:They also had a sense of humor - every once in a while, you'd see them doing something like this:I've been to Biarritz several times before and I have to say that it's a great little town, especially in the off-season. There are also some great deals to be had during the non-touristy times. We saw studio apartments a block from the beach for rent for 250€ for the week - something to keep in mind if you're ever looking for a beach vacation!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Because everyone loves some good gossip....

So I got some big news this week. I was talking to Fab the other day and we were totally judging a friend's child-rearing techniques. After which, I laughed and said "Well, I suppose it's easy for us to say, we're not parents". And then Fab was suddenly silent on the other end. And I was like "Wait a minute, is there something you're not telling me?" And he said "Actually....Kathell/Cattle is pregnant, so I guess I'm going to be a father."


Let me just say it again - Whoa.

Now I knew it would happen sometime, but I guess I just wasn't expecting right now. (And apparently neither was he!)

But he seems to be at peace with the whole idea now, and honestly, so am I. Even though I didn't really want kids, Fab was the first one I actually talked about it with. We talked about what our kids would look like, what our hopes were for them, potential names, etc. At that point, I still saw him as the future father of my kids. So it's weird to think about him now having a child with someone else. But as I sit here typing this, ironically almost five years to the day that I started blogging AND just a few kilometers from where my French adventure began, I find that I'm mostly happy for him.

Time may not heal all wounds, but this one is at least getting smaller.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Paris Insider's Guide

We were at the American Library of Paris the other day, and C happened to pick up a copy of the Paris Insider's Guide 2010. At first I thought it was just another random guide, but after flipping through it, I realized it was actually a really handy little booklet, even for the seasoned expat.

It has several different sections, covering everything from safety info to expat organizations & clubs to metric conversions. There are pages that list all of the different marchés in Paris and others that give hints about how to start & end a French letter or how to make friends with your building's concierge. There's even a short how-to for attending a French wedding.

C was particularly interested in this page, which mentioned various chalk-marks burglars could leave on doorways when scouting out future apartments to break in to:I'm not sure how "real" this actually is, but it was still interesting to learn about anyways - and now you'll know just in case to erase any random chalk marks you find on your door!

Portions of the guide can be downloaded on their website here.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

One year

I realized earlier this week that today marks my one year anniversary of becoming a French citizen.

Last year, I celebrated the news with C. We'd only been dating for a month or two at the time, and I remember thinking "Is it weird to be celebrating such a monumental event with someone I've just met?" And then my next thought was "Well at least if we stay together, it will become a good story/memory". What I do know is that my no-longer-having-to-worry-about-paperwork has made for a lot less stress, both for our relationship and for myself. I've been watching a few friends go through this issue lately, and I feel for them. As a foreigner, what do you do when the relationship goes sour and your carte de séjour is tied to your partner? It's something I definitely struggled with, and it certainly is liberating to be here now of my own accord. (Btw, if anyone has any advice on switching from a vie privée cds to a salarié one, please post it here so I can pass the info on!)

So I have to say that getting that letter kicked off the start of a really good thing. After a few rough years, things have now been on a general upswing and I feel happy. Things are going wonderfully with C, I absolutely love our new apartment and all is well on the work front. And if that's not a reason for some Friday-night bubbly, I don't know what is.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This past weekend was all about the eating. Saturday a group of us went to High Tea at the über fancy Hotel Crillon. Sarah did a great job of blogging about it (and everything we ate!) here.And then Sunday on the suggestion of Katia&Kyliemac, we went to Pari Fermier.

The Paris Insider calls it the ultimate Food Fair:
This sublime coming together of farmer and consumer, is not designed to be a private affair between producer and food industry elite, but rather, an opportunity for the public to taste, savor, and discover the riches of the earth, le terroir. Two hundred passionate producers of goods from over twenty regions of the country participate in these events and are confident in their ability to convince attendees that France is indeed the gastronomic capitol of the Universe.

If you missed the event last weekend, they'll be having another one at Vanves December 17-19. Entrance is 8€, but free tickets can be printed off their website. I'd definitely recommend going - if only to have Mr. Happy McMullet here serve you some of his Cassoulet!

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Monday, October 18, 2010

What the???

Last Thursday night C & I used up our Groupon coupon for the Happy Days Diner. It ended up being a pretty good deal btw - we got nachos, two cheeseburgers, a banana split for me & a chocolate muffin for C, all for 18€. Happy Days has the same basic decor as BIA, but the main difference was that all the staff were French and all the other diners were French too.

We were so full that we decided to get a bit of fresh air and walk along the Seine back to Saint Michel. One of my favorite things to do during a night walk is to look through the windows of all the fancy French apartments. You usually can't see much - maybe the glimpse of a painting here, or a bit of the crown molding there. So I had to do a double-take when I saw this:But I guess as far as dead animals go, at least this one has a pretty nice view.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

More English Sunday-isms

Me, picking up my purse and heading towards the door: Are you ready Freddy?
C: "Freddy? My name is not Freddy."
Me: *in tears on the floor*

Later on that day:
C: Are you ready Freda?
Me: ???
C: You know, you said to me "Are you ready Freddy?", so I thought the girl equivalent would be "Are you ready Freda?"
Me: LOLLLLLL. But the whole point is that it rhymes!
C: I still don't get it....

I swear, French people sometimes.

Later on, we invited a friend over for dinner and I made tomates farcies (stuffed tomatoes). There was one left and we were discussing who would get it.
C: I know, we can make like Jesus.
Me: ???
Friend: ???
C: You know, we can cut it in pieces and then it will multiply, like zee feeshes.
Friend: LOLLLL

And lastly, I didn't even think this was possible, but I'm dating someone who just might possibly make even more lists than I do. The other night, I was saying "We should probably figure out some kind of cleaning schedule for the apartment". Cuz you takes a bit more work to clean 50m2 than it does a shoebox, where one quick sweep and I was finished. C said "Actually, I was meaning to bring that up. I've been working on an Excel spreadsheet with all of the different rooms and what needs to be cleaned in them, and I thought we could assign how long it was going to take, how often it should be done and who was going to do each one".

Cue my surprised silence. Here I was thinking we'd have a talk along the lines of "Oh yeah, we should probably vacuum the rugs at least once a week, maybe defrost the fridge twice a year, etc." But he has a SPREADSHEET people. He is a MAN who likes to CLEAN. This is all new territory for me. But trust me, I'm not complaining!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rando Roller

This past Sunday, C & I participated in the weekly Paris Rollerblade event held by Rollers & Coquillages. It's something we've been talking about doing for a while, and we picked the perfect day.

They start out every Sunday at Bastille at 2:30pm on the dot, and usually get back somewhere aroudn 5:30-6pm. The parcours are usually about 20km long and cross all of Paris. This week's was 22.9km long:
We weren't sure where exactly to meet up at Bastille, but once we got there, we pretty much just had to follow the crowd.
And then we were off, with I'd say about 2,000 other rollerbladers. It was a pretty amazing experience to skate down some of the main boulevards in the city - Paris was literally at our feet.

There were also several policemen stopping traffic and helping maintain order along the way, as well as an amublance following the group in case anyone got hurt:
Plus several volunteers, including this guy who I named "The Roller Nazi":We didn't complete the whole thing because, quite frankly, 23km is really frickin' LONG. We left at the half-way point though and rollerbladed back home. It was a ton of fun, and something we'll definitely do again. Most people were at about the same skill level as we were - probably intermediate rollerbladers (I think the really high-level skaters probably take part in the Friday night one). Plus everyone was really friendly, and there was a wide age-range of participants, from young to old. The weekly event is free, but you can also become a member of the association (25€ for adults, 20€ for students/unemployed folk, 12€ for kids under 12). Members get access to special events, such as a once-a-month Saturday parcours plus some Saturday stages de technique. They also organize 3 roller weekends outside of the capital (and sometimes abroad). And just as an FYI for anyone looking to get involved, they also seem to do a lot of fund-raising during these events - for example, this past week we saw a lot of people wearing "we're skating for organ donation" t-shirts. And next Sunday's event will be for the World Food Program's Annual Hunger Day.

Also, in case anyone is interested in picking up a pair, there are a lot of used ones for sale on Ebay annonces or on LeBonCoin. Or otherwise we've got a pair of size 39 womens rollerblades that we're selling for 15€.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Taqueria in Paris? Mais si !

Last night C & I ate some really tasty Mexican food thanks to Loulou. She'd tweeted about a post written by Barbra Austin, a food blogger who lives in the 10th. The post described El Nopal, a small taqueria located just deux pas from the Canal St Martin (3 rue Eugène Varlin 75010). She talks about homemade salsa, guacamole and tortillas - and that's exactly what we got.

The place is tiny, and judging by the line of people (mostly Americans) going out the door and down the street, it's already become a popular eating spot. The delightful owners are of Colombian and Mexican origin, speak perfect French, Spanish & English and seemed to know most of their clientele by name. It was really refreshing to see how friendly they were and you could tell it was appreciated by the other customers as well.

There isn't really a ton of choice, but what they do have on menu sure sounds tasty. We had to wait for a fairly long time, but it was worth it. C got a chicken burrito with real refriend beans for 6.50€ (!) and I got a quesadilla with ham, chorizo & avocado for 5.50€. We also got a small order of guacamole & chips for 2.00€. (The guac was delish and full of cilantro - next time I will definitely be taking two!). They also have soft-shell tacos, campechanas and salsa with a big kick.

There's only seating for two, so we ended up getting a bottle of wine and taking our food down to the canal to eat by the water. It was perfect - the weather was balmy, the water was still and the neighborhood was just starting to wake up for the night. After that, we headed up to Montmartre to watch the Fête des Vendanges fireworks in front of Sacré Coeur. FYI: the harvest festivities continue on through this afternoon, in case anyone wants to check it out....

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Friday, October 8, 2010

I just realized I forgot to post the pictures from Les Journées du Patrimoine. This is one of my all-time favorite weekends of the year since you get to visit a lot of places that are normally closed to the public. We chose the Luxembourg Palace/Senate - even though I went last year, it's one of C's favorite buildings and I enjoyed it enough to want to do it again.

And then thanks to Heather, I saw that the British Ambassador's Residence was also open. You can read more about its history here, but it was once owned by Napoleon's sister Pauline, and the residence is in possession of much of her original furniture.

The ball room:Pauline's bed:I believe this was once one of Napoleon's thrones??The dining hall, all set up for a state dinner:View of the residence from the gardens:Isn't this adorable? It was half-hidden under a bush in the gardens:


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

La Nuit Blanche

La Nuit Blanche sort of has a special connotation for me now - after a month or so of dating, it's the night C & I officially had "The Talk" and became a couple. Last year we spent it waiting in an interminable line at the Luxembourg Gardens. C can't stand lines, so we decided to just go bar-hopping with a friend and see what we came across while walking from place to place. After a few drinks, we ended up down by the Seine. We took a quick look at Notre Dame, but it was such a lovely night that we ended up just hanging out down by the river. It was like a throw back to summer - the weather was so mild, there was music everywhere and the streets were filled with people having a good time. I think that's one of the things I like most about la Nuit Blanche - it gives you the opportunity to do something totally different each year. It can give you an excuse to go explore a new, yet-undiscovered quartier, or you can stay in your neighborhood and still come across something equally cool. It's like one last night of fun and frolicking before the cold weather rolls in and winter begins...

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cook & Go

One of the deals I bought on Groupon was a gift certificate for a company called Cook-and-Go. The idea being that you go to their store, prepare a meal for yourself, and then bring it home to bake. They have several different ateliers - you can learn about "molecular cuisine" (something I've eaten a lot lately - and Beurk! It just looks like someone spit in my dish!), how to make sushi, different foie gras recipes, etc. Or you can pick one of their formules. Have a big party coming up? They'll help you prepare your appetizers. Want a romantic dinner? Choose their "Tête à Tête Gourmand" offer and walk away with a three course meal for two plus a bottle of wine. They also have lunch deals as well as special sessions for parents & children.

I choose the Tête à Tête Gourmand dinner, thinking it would be a fun activity to do for our anniversary. I got the feeling that Cook-and-Go is a fairly new company though, because there seemed to be quite a few bugs (figuratively, not literally!) throughout the process. First of all, the website was down for quite a few days for a redesign. And once it was back up, I had trouble reserving for October. I exchanged a few emails with the manager, who kept promising it would be up "tomorrow", but to no avail. I did finally manage to reserve for the date I wanted though.

Secondly, I emailed them wondering how long the class lasted, and it took them at least a week to get back to me (it lasts about one hour btw).

Lastly, the evening before our class, I got an email from them canceling due to "technical difficulties". I was a bit upset considering it was our anniversary plans and I didn't want to have to find something else to do at the last minute, so I called to see what was up. Their menu changes every month, and apparently they'd messed up and included October 1 in September and thus couldn't provide the menu I'd chosen (vegetable samossas, stuffed herbed chicken with gnocchi and a sort of vanilla pudding topped w/calvados-soaked apples). The manager was totally unapologetic about it, and really didn't seem interested in helping me find a solution. I persisted though, and he finally suggested that we come in and make something off of September's menu.

Cook-and-Go has four locations in France - one in the 9th, one in the 15th, one in Marseille and one in Lyon. We chose the 15th and the experience kind of reminded me of my experience at the mosque. There really wasn't much instruction at all. We arrived and then kind of just stood around a bit until one of the two men working there came over to help us. They told us to pick a station and then left us alone again for several minutes, while helping all the others. Finally it was our turn, and we started making the salmon & ricotta ravioli:
Ready to be folded:
Next up was the croustillante aux gambas with an orange-mango-basil sauce:Pre-rolling:The finished product, ready to be eaten:
Dessert was a chocolate & hazelnut cupcake with lemon frosting. I didn't take a picture of the finished product because it was more of a cake than a cupcake and the frosting was not anywhere near up to snuff. Here is C making them though - you can get an idea of what the work stations look like too:Once everything has been made, you pack it up in little tinfoil barquettes, and they put a sticker on it with the cooking instructions. Then you choose your bottle of wine, box everything up, and off you go!

Despite all the setbacks, it was still a good experience. We learned some new cooking techniques and ended up with a really nice meal that neither of us ever would've thought to make. So like I mentioned earlier, I'd liken it to our Hammam day at the Paris Mosque - I'd recommend it, but it helps to read about someone else's experience before you go so that you know what to expect.

Last, here are the flowers C brought me - it's a lovely bouquet, but I had to laugh at the cabbage in the middle. You see them so often as decorations in French gardens, and it makes me laugh every time.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

There's a building that I walk by a few times a month on my way to the American Library of Paris that I find absolutely fascinating. (Though apparently not fascinating enough to cross over the street and actually read the plaque that's out front).

But here it is. Maybe you've seen it too?What I love most about it is its attention to detail:
Look at how ornate those windows are.And even the undersides of the balcony are over-the-top.How about that main entrance?Not to mention the view...