Archive for July, 2011

Time to Read

Monday, July 18th, 2011

My new job has provided me with a new interest in the history of Paris. I have always liked knowing the history behind places but I am now starting to get a much better understanding of the development of this city and who all of those Louis-s were. I have started reading a book called Seven Ages of Paris written by Alistair Horne and it is proving to be a good read, although you have to concentrate a fair bit in order to remember which king is which. It covers the history of Paris from the early 1100s through to the late 1960s. I’m trying to read some of it every day and yesterday Tom and I spent the morning at the laundromat, avoiding the rain and trying to do some washing as the washing machines at Les Récollets are broken. Exciting stuff. I almost fell asleep from the warm temperatures and eye movements.

History of Paris book

History book and washing machines.

Interesting People

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

I have been meeting some fascinating people at Les Récollets recently. Last night we went out for dinner with a Swiss mathematician, a Canadian physicist/mathematician, an American architect, and a South Korean artist.

Kim, the artist, works with staples and I have just looked at her website and it is beautiful work! Everyone go to her website and look. The Canadian physicist is John Bush who seems to be doing big things in the world of science. Something to do with water droplets… Anyway, it’s exciting. Conversation is never boring.

Oh Yeah…

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

I forgot to mention something fairly important that has happened recently – I have been employed! I am going to start taking tourists on free three-hour walks through Paris as part of New Europe tours. So anyone planning on visiting Paris has to come on one of my tours and pay me lots of money because I will be living off the tips that I earn. I’ll give you a 10% discount – mates rates.

Bastille Celebrations

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Thursday was 14 July or Bastille Day to all English speakers. The previous evening (the 13th) I organised for a group of interested people from Les Récollets to head down to one of the local fire stations. At fire stations throughout Paris (and France, I believe) on the evenings of the 13th and 14th of July they hold balls that are open to the public. Being Australian and not fashionably late like the French, I organised for our group to get there right on the starting time – 9pm. It was practically empty when we arrived. But things soon heated up and by midnight the place was packed and there was a huge queue of people outside wanting to come in.

Fireman ball

There were half-naked firemen for a ladies and scantily clad ladies dancing on the stage for the men! Everyone was a winner.

The firestation had been turned into a dance hall with bars selling drinks and food and a stage set up for the AWESOME COVER BAND!!! to play on. I don’t know why the French have such terrible taste in music, but they do. Most of the songs were 70s/80s American pop tunes, there was a whole three-song segment of Michael Jackson impersonations, and then they started singing English songs in French. It was so bad it was great; the only option we had was to laugh and dance. The ball was run by the firemen and every now and then one of them would stand up on the bar and do the obligatory strip tease. I’m not really sure why firemen have to be strippers as well, but the girls in the room enjoyed it. But with only five toilets for a ball of 300-odd people, it was easier and faster for us to walk home and use our own facilities rather than wait in line. So that was the end of the night.

The following morning Tom and I attempted to get to the Champs Elysee to see the military parade but the metro wasn’t stopping on the Champs Elysee that day and they had then blocked off a lot of streets so it took forever for us to get anywhere close to the parade. This was a bit disappointing as I had hoped to be in the midst of the action but we managed to see a bit of it. I was amazed at the lack of French-flag paraphernalia. Australians can’t get enough of sticking plastic flags to their cars and fake tattoos on their bodies. There was none of that junk in Paris. I even went down to the Bastille in the afternoon and there were no flags flying! Where was the patriotism? Terrible.

Place de la Bastille

Place de la Bastille

To end the Bastille festivities, I also organised a party at Les Récollets for the evening of the 14th. There was a good turn out of about 20 people and at 10.30pm when the fireworks were due to start at the Eiffel Tower we headed to the highest point in the building (the roof) and discovered an amazing view over Paris. It was potentially dangerous (wine + ladders + standing on the roof = probably stupid) but WOW! I spent the evening of Bastille Day standing on the roof of a 13th century convent looking over Paris with a view of the Eiffel Tower and the golden arches of McDonalds. Once in a life time, folks.

Roof top

This was one of the best moments of my life. Absolutely amazing.

Over the past few weeks I have really gotten to know people at Les Récollets and it is becoming increasingly more obvious about how extremely sad I am going to be to leave. I have been having discussions about Christmas with my family and today I realised that I just don’t want to think about it at the moment because once Christmas is over then I will be close to having to leave. I don’t want this AT ALL. I need to find a way to stay.

Attempt Number Two

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

I have been dreading getting my hair cut since the last attempt went so very badly. But my hair had reached a stage of pure awfulness and I couldn’t take it any longer. So I decided to try a place called Shampoo that I had seen on my walks. It is another chain hairdresser but their website had nice hairstyles so I decided to give it a go.

It was great! My hairdresser was friend and he could actually cut hair, unlike the last girl I had who seemed to think I shouldn’t cut my hair at all. The end result is very pleasing and I think it looks good. Tom even seemed impressed and didn’t say, “It’s short” like a previous time. Success.

Hair cut

After I took this photo I went for a run and ruined my hair but for a few hours it looked 'styled'

Photo Selection

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Yesterday Tom and I went to the Bastille Day Parade. Well… we tried to. They had blocked off so many roads and the metro wasn’t stopping in the middle of the Champs Elysee so we had to walk a long way and didn’t get very far with the masses of people doing the same thing. We managed to see a bit of the parade, including the Foreign Legion which was the bit I wanted to see anyway. My photo of the bearded axe-men has been selected by the U.S. Yahoo Editorial to appear in their Bastille Day collection. Considering they only selected 17 images from all of Flickr, I’m rather pleased! Here’s the photo for your own enjoyment:

Bastille Day Parade

Look at those impressive beards!

Good Eatin’

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Last week Tom and I ate some awesome food. Last Friday lunch time we went to one of our favourite local restaurants, Les Enfants Perdus – an amazing place with friendly staff and simply delicious food. It is a bit fancier than other places we eat at but we like to go there to treat ourselves every now and then.

During the week, they have a set lunch menu – 16 Euros for two courses (entrée + main + coffee OR main + dessert + coffee) or 19 Euros for all three courses.You have two options for each courses to choose from and they change daily depending on what produce was available and what the chef feels like cooking.

Menu

The first hurdle is being able to read the French handwriting

Tom went the full three courses and started with a parmesan ravioli dish that was oozing cream and cheese. It was death by dairy.

Ravioli
Mmm… cream and cheese…

Then it was time for our main dishes. Tom had duck in a pepper sauce with mashed potato. Very tasty. I chose the red mullet that was served on deliciously crunchy vegetables and coated in this amazing olive tapenade sauce. I have no idea what they put in that sauce but it may as well have been drugs but I am still craving it now. It was so, so good. This is the second fish dish that I have eaten at Les Enfants Perdus that I still dream about.

 

Duck
Tom’s delicious duck
Fish
My fabulous fish

The greatest thing about having menu meals is that you don’t have the “Should I or shouldn’t I?” conundrum of whether or not you can eat dessert. You pay for it so you eat it! Brilliant. Tom had the cheesecake which was rich and sweet. I had an apricot tart that was very… tart. It could have done with a touch more sugar as it kind of burned on the way down. But it was still very yum.

 

Cheesecake
Cheesy Cheesecake
Apricot tart
Tarty tart

So that was lunch. Saturday night we went out with Coup to celebrate (well, more commemorate with tears and general sadness) the fact that he is returning to Australia on Monday (today.) We had been meaning to go to an area near the Sorbonne university for some time and so we looked up a restaurant on our favourite website, La Fourchette, and booked a table.

We went to a place called Savannah Café that described itself as “Mediterranean” but had lots of curries, spices and hummos. We were greeted with the friendliest Parisian waiter that I have ever met who joked and laughed with us, asked us why we were in Paris and was generally happy for the entire time we were in the restaurant. A miracle.* We each ordered our food and it arrived with delicious smells and even greater tastes. It was superb – I had a lamb curry that was full of flavour and was actually spicy! I couldn’t believe I was eating something that made my lips tingle in France. They even had a vegetarian curry for Coup (another ‘never-seen’ in this country.)

 

Lamb curry

My lamb curry

As part of the La Fourchette deal, we had to have dessert (dang) so Tom and Coup had baklava and I had a brownie (how these fit with curries and hummos to create mediterranean cuisine, I’m not sure, but I like it.) Super tasty, super wonderful. It was a great night.

 

Brownie

A simple and tasty brownie

Savannah

At least it was easy to see why the place was called Savannah

Sadly now Tom and I have to eat on our own as our friends are quickly departing. Rom and Coup have now both left so the only other Australian is Pip (which is great but she’s a busy girl serving drinks in an Irish pub.) Looks like we might need to meet people. That sounds hard.

*Since writing this, I have learnt that the waiter was in fact Lebanese. That would explain a lot.

Paris in Black and White

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Yesterday I spent the afternoon walking through Paris with my camera set on the black and white function. Last year, my brother and I went to Melbourne together and he spent the entire trip with his camera set to black and white and 1600 ISO and the results were fantastic. So I tried to copy him, although my ISO was a bit lower and I’m not sure it was such a success. I was very snap-happy and didn’t spend time setting up shots. Here are a few images that I managed to capture:

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

For more photos from my day out and about, visit my Flickr site.

Lazy Laze

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

I don’t know what has happened to me. I used to be so disciplined with getting up at a decent hour in order to achieve things during the morning. This week I have woken up at 9.45am twice. TWICE. This is really unheard of. Even on mornings when I have set my alarm for 7.15am in order to get up for a run, I have rolled over and fallen asleep again. I probably shouldn’t be so anxious about this fact as I am still getting a lot done in the day – I just start later and finish later. Considering the sun doesn’t go down until 10.30pm, I have plenty of time to do things in the afternoon. I have just always been a morning person and now my mornings are only two hours long.

I suspect it will all change back to my normal working hours in winter when the set returns to a relatively normal pattern. There’s another reason to vote out daylight savings – I sleep in too long and stay up too late*. Terrible.

*Please note: This is sarcasm.

Party Animal

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Those of you who know me well will know that I am not a huge party-person and will try, as much as possible, to leave early/avoid completely most social gatherings where I don’t know anyone. So why on earth have I started organising regular events at Les Récollets that puts me in a position of having to make polite conversation with random strangers? Because it is FUN!

Last night was the second Tuesday in a row where I sent out an email inviting all of the Récollets residents to gather in the evening to meet and mingle. Last Tuesday I thought I had been very successful when 15 or so people turned up and it was a very enjoyable evening. Last night I invited everyone for a “Wine and Cheese” night, expecting a similar turn out. I sat dumbfounded for the first hour as more and more people turned up with bottles of wine, lumps of cheese and baguettes under their arms. Our single 6-seater table was extended over and over again with people finding random chairs and tables and joining the party. I would say about 50 people came throughout the night and a similar number of bottles of wine were consumed. Everyone had a great time and at some point around midnight guitars were brought out and music was played.

The group was made up of people from all over the world – Italians, Canadians, Portuguese, British, Australians (I met a girl from Perth whose name is the same name as my name…), Dutch, Americans etc etc. It was such a wide variety – it amazed me how so many different people could be in the same space at the same time. Everyone got along so well and I didn’t get to bed until 2.30am. That seems to be a re-occuring thing. France is bringing out the night-owl in me. Considering the sun doesn’t set until around 10.30pm it’s hard to go to bed at a decent hour. But that is my plan for this evening! Bed before midnight! What bliss.