Archive for March, 2011

Bon Voyage

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

We’re heading north-west to Morlaix in Bretagne for the next few days to visit some friends. On Sunday we then head to Mont Saint Michel to watch tidal movements. I’ll let you google that yourself if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Right now I’m off to bed to get enough sleep before an early morning train. I’ll write again on my return next week.

Lost in Paris

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Another day wandering aimlessly through Paris – I got slightly lost today (on purpose) and stumbled upon areas that I didn’t know existed. I felt an extreme sense of “I have no idea where I am” and loved it. I found lots of cool cafes and a whole new section of shops to explore with my fellow female travellers at a later date.

Highlights include finding the Movida cook book (a spanish tapas cookbook written by the people who run the restaurant Movida in Melbourne) for the low, low, low price of 5 Euros. It’s a soft cover and has a different image on the front but it is the SAME BOOK. I was stoked. Also, walking through random back streets of Paris in the sunshine wearing just a dress and stockings. No jumpers or jackets required. Most other people on the streets were rugged up for some reason… Couldn’t they see the sunshine?

Lowlights include the intense heating system used in Galleries Lafayette – every time I go into that shop I want to leave immediately due to heat exhaustion. Also, the pathetic scoop of Belgian Chocolate ice cream from Häagen Dazs. I knew it was a bad decision as soon as I walked in there but I was craving ice cream so much and couldn’t find anywhere else. At least the small size means it was a ‘diet ice cream’ and I can eat something else delicious as well!

I had a lovely day today – I went for a seven kilometre run this morning along the canal and to Parc Buttes de Chaumont where I had the lookout and a view towards Sacre Coeur all to myself. Sure, on my way home I may have been somewhat stalked by a Tunisian man who decided we should run together but who just slowed me down, but let’s just forget that.

The sun has been shining all day despite original forecasts for it to be overcast and the park outside my window is blossoming, blooming and bursting with new leaves and flowers. So pretty. The only problem with leaf growth is that our view becomes less and less, but who wouldn’t want to stare at that amazing vibrant, granny-smith green all day?

Park

Look at all the colours!

Magnolias

Look at the flowers! So, who can tell me what these are?

Now I am home after spending the last four hours walking around the city, my back is sore from carrying my bag and my feet are going numb. But Tom just called to ask me what delicious treat I want from the boulangerie for dessert and I am about to whip up something amazing in the kitch (by that I mean I am making up a recipe and am extremely worried about whether or not it will work). Now that’s the good life in Paris.

And the Times, They are a Changin’

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

It is currently 11.21pm on Saturday 26 March. In two hours I will be asleep AND time will jump forward by an hour like some sort of time warp. Tomorrow is the start of summer time, which is exciting because it means the start of long evenings, glasses of wine and evening picnics by the canal. What more could you want?

Of course, if I were to start thinking like a typical Perthian I would be scared of this impending time change and be worried about the INTENSE HEAT that I will now be exposed to and the INCREASED RISK of cancer due to more time in the sun. Perhaps I will just spend all of summer inside so as not to put myself at risk. <—- That was sarcasm, by the way.

La Zoo

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

La Zoo – it’s French for “The Zoo”. We went there. It was great. It isn’t really a zoo as such – they called it a Menagerie and it is relatively small and located within the Jardin des Plantes.

 

Jardin des Plantes

Jardin des Plantes on a lovely sunny day

Menagerie

We went there.

Considering its small size, it was full of foreign and weird-looking animals and we managed to wander around staring into their cages for over two hours. There were animals that I never knew existed! Sure, the names were in French so that made it even harder to know what they were, but normally you can at least hazard a guess. Not this time. There were a large number animals that I presume are ‘cousins of deer’ including: les anoas, les gorals, les vigognes, les dik-diks de Kirk (we spent a lot of time giggling about their name, especially when we discovered they were very very small), and les markhors.

One of my favourite animals was the cabiai, or capybara, which, according to Wikipedia, is the largest living rodent in the world. It looked like a giant guinea pig with manners; a group of them were sitting on the ground with their front paws/hooves crossed or placed elegantly in front of them, looking very regal. I wanted to take one home as a pet. I think he would fit nicely in my apartment.

 

capybara
Look at him! So fat.

There were also plenty of Australian animals, although the signage was a little bit wrong at times, describing exactly where you would find them. Apparently you can find giant camels across most of Australia, black swans in the desert and cassowaries absolutely everywhere in Australia. If you look now, you might see one in your backyard.

There was a lone emu who looked quite sad and generally annoyed about being stuck in a small cage in Paris. I am currently concocting a picture book in my head about the Emu in Paris – he wears a beret, smokes too much and can’t be bothered running.

 

Emu smoking
He’ll be famous soon.

A few other highlights – the orang-utans are always entertaining and there were giant turtles which made me very happy. And a flock of pink flamingoes. They were more orange than pink really… They looked magnificent. For more animals snaps, head to my Flickr site.

What are the Chances?

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

You’re in a foreign city with an area of 86.9km² and a population of over two million. You know less than 10 people who live in the city. What is the likelihood that you will see a friend who arrived on the plane just an hour earlier in the metro on the otherside of the train line? Apparently quite high. Last night Tom and I saw our friends Sarah and Brandon (a Frog and a Yank who are touring Australia this year and who we met before we left for France – they are back in Paris to apply for visas etc) standing on the opposite platform at a random metro station in Paris. We all had dumbfounded looks on our faces and all I could do was whack Tom in the arm and point at what I was seeing. Remarkable.

Tower Time

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Today the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and Tom was in the mood to climb a tower. And so he took me on a hot date to the top of the Eiffel Tower. If that isn’t cheesey romance, I don’t know what is.

Eiffel Tower

The tower of love

We had put off going up the Eiffel Tower until the weather improved and today was glorious – clear blue skies and sunshine. Tom has a habit of making off-the-cuff decisions and so I was unprepared for the trip up the tower and chose to go for a run in the morning. I also chose to push myself on the run and came home to discover Tom ready to climb 600-plus stairs. My legs are a tad sore but I will sleep well tonight and wake tomorrow with buns of steel.

Paris

I live in this city.

At the top of the tower, Tom gave me the inspirational idea of writing a book on the theme of “Stupid Things American Tourists Say”. Joining the quote we heard at the Vatican on our last trip when an exasperated girl looked at the continuing stairs in front of her and said, “More stairs? You’ve got to be kidding me!”, today I overheard many American tourists gravely concerned that they had been separated from members of their group. Clearly they had buddies and were all supposed to stick together, but I really wanted to reassure them that the levels on the Eiffel Tower aren’t actually that big and the person they had ‘lost’ could only be within 100 metres of them. The problem with writing a book on this subject is that you lose the accent. Perhaps it could come with a tape.

In other great Parisian news, it is currently Printemps du Cinema – three days where all movies in all cinemas are just 3.50 Euros. Wonderful. You would think the cinemas would be impenetrable but we have just returned home from seeing True Grit and there were lots of seats left in the cinema. Tom went and saw some alien invasion movie yesterday and tomorrow night we’ll probably go and see something else. Have to make the most of a bargain!

Zaum Letters

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Good  news! The Zaum sewing monkeys have been hard at work and have produced two new products – A ‘T’ and a ‘J’! Who knows what will come next… an ampersand?

Stuffed T
T for Tom
Stuffed J
J for Jess

I think the J is better because it has the cool curly foot AND it has ducks and cows on it.

Music Madness

Monday, March 21st, 2011

This weekend provided an eye-opening insight into the world of live music for myself, Tom, and our friends Rom and Coup. Friday night we met up for dinner at an indian restaurant (hooray for flavoursome food!) and then we headed to Le Cafe de la Danse to see a band called The Woods, recommended by Coup. The doors were supposed to open at 7pm, which even by Perth standards is very early for a Friday night. Plus, having never heard of the other band, we assumed The Woods wouldn’t be playing until later in the night anyway. So we took our time and arrived at the club at 8.45pm.

The place was tiny and had the usual group of smokers standing outside puffing away. There was no one performing and the place was eerily quiet with no background music being blasted through the speakers. We bought some very average beer (1664) and sat down on the tiered seating. No dance floor in this Cafe of Dance. As we sat, the lights went dim and the band we had never heard of (The Low Anthem) started harmonising into a microphone. It was at the end of the first song when the lead singer thanked The Woods for starting the show that we realised we had made a mistake. It really had started at 7pm and The Woods were the support act. We had missed them and were stuck listening to a group who sang about going to Ohio and women wearing too much deodourant. Honestly, they weren’t THAT bad and they worked well together on stage despite a few technical hiccups. They were all very talented and played multiple instruments, swapping between songs. Quite impressive. But not what we’d paid our entrance fee for. We learnt our lesson – be on time.

Saturday night was my turn to organise the musical expedition – I had spotted a brochure for a show featuring a French group that I like – Poni Hoax. After dinner at our place (stuffed eggplants cooked by Chef Thomas) we caught the metro out to the edge of Paris near where we had been to the flea markets a few weekends before. We wandered through dark, empty streets towards what appeared (from the outside) to be a night club in the middle of a residential street. From the inside, the place looked like a community hall where little kids go to perform annual ballet shows to prove to their parents that spending that money on classes wasn’t a waste. We all stood and looked at each other for a few minutes as we tried to grasp the situation. Lots of coloured walls, tables set up with people drinking cups of tea that they had bought through a hall in a wall that lead to the community centre’s kitchen.

The music was set up in the next room, however, and it was atleast dark. There was a stage AND a dance floor and if you forgot about the community centre foyer you could have thought you were in a very small nightclub. The crowd wasn’t huge (thankfully) but did grow as the night progressed. I had checked to see when Poni Hoax would be on as doors for this event also opened at 7 and, once again, I figured that was a bit early. The email response said they wouldn’t be on until atleast 11pm so our arrival at 10.15pm worked well. Once we got there we saw they weren’t due to start until half past midnight which meant we’d only be able to watch them for about half an hour before going to catch the metro back to Paris. See? Perth isn’t so old fashioned after all! Paris is just as weird with its public transport.

Anyhoo, this show was just as odd as the previous evening, if not more. We watched the end of an electronic-The-Knife-esque band who were quite good but the lead singer needs to work on her singing abilities. The next band was Belgian and had the strangest mix of band members I have ever seen. It was like it was made up of members from various different Eurovision song contest bands. The lighting on the stage made it impossible to see the drummer so who knows what he looked like. The bass player had dreadlocks and stood at the back being quiet. Then there were two keyboard/cow bell players – one had wild, curly hair and a scruffy beard and was heavily involved in his music. Every time he would go to do back up vocals, he would screw up his eyes and lean forward over his keyboard as if in pain. The other guy looked Swedish but had a hairstyle that reminded me of the old fashioned photos in my year 8 German book where everyone wore limewash jeans and fluro bomber jackets. But that’s not all – this guy was wearing a long white jacket with blue trim and an upturned collar that he clearly thought made him look either like a space man or a heart surgeon. Really, it just made me laugh. He was deadly serious for the entire show and kept making gestures with his hands to demonstrate the power and intensity of their songs. Impressive.

The lead singer appeared to be from Spain (despite his insistence that they were from Belgium) and clearly thought he was hot stuff. A v-neck tshirt and tight pants – stylish. As a band they weren’t bad – I have heard worse. Their lyrics were SHOCKING, however. It is quite amusing listening to bands sing songs in English when it isn’t their first language. The lead singer had a thick Spanish/Belgian accent and for most of the songs, we had no clue what he was saying. Every now and then we’d pick up lines and they were generally very weird. I was quite glad when they made their grande finale and got off the stage. One step closer to Poni Hoax.

And then came the disappointment. I was expecting, and hoping for, the entire Poni Hoax band and for them to perform the songs that their fans know and love. Instead, it was two of the Poni Hoax members performing their dj set which consisted of them standing behind computers and mixing desks, heads down, not looking at the crowd and making a lot of duf-duf-duf sounds. I don’t mind electronic music but it wasn’t what I expected and I had dragged three other people with me telling them how GREAT Poni Hoax is and that they’ll LOVE the music. The djs managed to mix tiny elements of their songs into the music but I could have just stayed at home and listened to their CD. Still, it was an interesting night out and it isn’t every day that you go to a community night club in a residential street to listen to music performed by Eurovision contestants and members of a band you like. Certainly entertaining.

 

Poni Hoax

Poni Hoax sets up their desk-of-tunes

Venture Right

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

I fell in love with Paris again today. I do most days (sometimes I want to divorce it) but I have just returned home from a walk to find a shop called The Collection and feel I need to tell you about my experience. I had found this store via random website clicks and vowed to find it. I was particularly happy to note that it is within a not-so-distance walk from my place and so this afternoon I ventured out into the sunshine to try and find it.

To get there I had to take a route which Tom and I have taken on various occasions to get down to the Marais district. According to my map, the shop I was looking for was slightly to the right of where we usually go and so when I came across an intersection with various exits, I chose the road to the right of the one I would usually take. The usual road is lined with wholesale stores selling fairly ordinary clothes. This new road I had discovered was something else.

My eyes bulged and my chin dropped at the number of COOL designer stores selling homewares, clothes, jewellery, bags, linens, vintage. I even found a shop selling beautiful felt bowls/mats/balls. All over priced but WOW. Some of the stores required you to be the son of a rich man, but others were reasonably priced and just generally interesting. Unlike Perth, they weren’t selling all of the same products that you see in every other ‘designer’ store.

I found The Collection and spoke to a lovely lady who told me about the products available. They sell wall paper which is designed to be used in single pieces – ie. you just have one strip of wall paper on the wall and it blends into the room. The wall paper either had images of chairs, bookshelves, vases etc or were really unique and would make an impressive statement. I wish I had my own house to decorate. Maybe that should be my new profession… Interior designer. No. I don’t think that’s a good idea. I would be terrible at it. All of my room designs would be very ‘eclectic’ – aka. lots of stuff just thrown together.

On my walk I also found a market called Marche des Enfants Rouges which smelt DELICIOUS. I think I need to go there for lunch… It had stalls selling food from various parts of the world. Pity it was about 4pm when I got there.

The street was full of ultra stylish people but not in an evil snooty Claremont sort of a way. Such a great afternoon walk. I didn’t buy anything though… the egg cups that I wanted to buy from The Collection were out of stock. So I have to go back. What a pity.

Sewing in the Sunshine

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

I used Serge, my new sewing machine, today and he runs very well. He likes going fast so my first sewing project only involved straight lines. Unfortunately, the project involved me which meant something was bound to go wrong. I cut too close to the seams and had to spend a lot of time hand stitching (not my strongest point). So as the afternoon was sunny and warm, I decided to sit by the canal with my needle and thread. While I was at it, I fixed a hole in my new black jeans and watched the world go by.

Sewing by the canal
A ‘T’ for my Thomas

Of course, this being France, I was perfectly happy sitting at a bench by myself and then some guy decided to sit upwind from me smoking a cigarette. I almost told him to move on as this was MY bench and it was a no-smoking zone. Thankfully he left pretty quickly. I think the weird girl doing her darning put him off.

I did also have the opportunity to note how permeating American accents are. I was surrounded by french people sitting by the canal chatting and all I could hear were the three Americans sitting down stream.