Archive for August, 2011

Jolly Good London-Town

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Jolly good. Rightio. That’s rubbish. Woh?!

As you can see, I became fluent in Pom while in London. Considering I spent the first two days apologising in French every time I bumped into someone, I think I have done quite well. I have since returned to Paris and appear to have forgotten how to speak French. Not so good.

Anyway, London was fun although it is one of my least favourite capital cities in the world. I don’t know what it is about London but I always find it confusing, over commercialised and lacking personality. Perhaps it is because I haven’t spent enough time there but usually when I go to a new city there is something about it that really interests and excites me. I don’t get that with London. There is plenty to see and do and I love the ‘free museums’ concept but it feels a little bit stale. I do think it is a beautiful city when the sun shines and the buildings turn a brighter shade of grey and the parks are lovely, but there really is something miserable about London. I honestly felt that Paris looked bright and cheerful in comparison when I returned home, despite the dirt and grime.

A highlight of the trip was our adventures with Tom’s family. We met a few of Tom’s mum’s cousins and were taken on a tour and out for lunch and dinner in the English countryside. Now THAT is something I enjoy. English countryside is beautiful, no matter what the weather, with its rolling hills and green, green grass. It is so fresh and colourful and the little country towns are quaint and adorable. We had good weather for our outing in the country which made things even better, but it was so nice to meet some of Tom’s extended family and to experience a bit of England outside the capital.

England

Green grass, blue skies, white clouds.

We were generously housed by my friends Angela and James who let me sleep on their blow up mattress every time I come to London. They are great hosts and always take me on out-of-the-ordinary nights out – this trip was no exception. On our first night in London, they had organised a dinner at an Austrian restaurant where we ate huge pieces of pork, drank giant steins of beer and Tom and I played the cow bells with the restaurant owner/entertainer who sang Austrian songs throughout the night. It was quite a spectacle. Once again I left thinking, “London has one crazy night life, or maybe it is just Angela and James.”

Austrian bells

Ring a ding ding!

We did manage to visit a few pubs while in England which is something I enjoy. France doesn’t have the same pub culture and seriously lacks good beer and cider. We also gorged on a few decent burgers to fulfil a desire that had been burning since we left Australia and Jus Burgers.

Byron Burger

A Byron Burger

One thing that London has done right is its museum and art gallery culture – I presume it is because everyone needs somewhere to hide while it is raining outside, so they make galleries free to enter. Fantastic. It means you can wander into a museum or gallery and not feel bad about just seeing part of the exhibitions. You can pick the bits that really interest you and then head to the next gallery when you’re done. We managed to visit the British Museum and the British Library and thanks to James’s membership card, we got into the Miro exhibition at the Tate Modern for free. I had been to see a Miro exhibition in Paris a few months ago and saw an extensive range of his sculptures. This time it was mostly his paintings and it was nice to see some more of his work. I really like his style and found it a particularly pleasing display.

So that was London. I have already prattled on about the concert and the mud on my shoes so I won’t go into that again. Tomorrow we catch a plane to New York (it seems the hurricanes have moved on) which I am now very excited about. I’m not so excited about the flight over but I will survive. I will try and write from the Big Apple, even if it is just to say, “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY ON THURSDAY!”

City Hopping

Monday, August 29th, 2011

A monumental fact has just dawned on me that I probably should have realised earlier but it wasn’t until I sat still and thought about it for long enough that it all hit me in the face. I shall announce it in point form.

  1. Yesterday I was in London.
  2. Today I am in Paris.
  3. Tomorrow I will be in New York.
That’s three huge, giant, overwhelming, heaving, crazy cities in three days. Awesome.
P.S. It’s my birthday in three days.

More Mud

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

It is currently 12.15am on Sunday 28 August and I have two woes.

Woe #1 – Underworld Concert

The main reason why Tom and I came to London was to go to the South West Four festival to see one of my favourite electronic groups, Underworld, play. I love seeing them live and have on previous occasions flown to other cities within Australia to see their concerts. So it wasn’t a completely out of the ordinary decision to buy a ticket to a concert in London seeing as it is just a 2.5 hour train ride away. I now wish I had saved my money.

The concert was out in Clapham, an area of London recently targeted during the riots. I wish they had locked up a few more people because I’m fairly certain half of the people at the concert would have been on the streets throwing bottles through windows last week. It was an interesting bunch of people – I always feel out of place at electronic music festivals as I stand in my fully-dressed attire waiting patiently for a certain dj/band to get on stage as drunken 18 year olds flirt, dance and throw themselves around provocatively nearby. I hate Australian crowds, but this was worse. EVERYONE was drunk. Usually it is only about 80% of the crowd – this was 99.9999999% with Tom and I being that last remaining percentage. Not only that, but at least six times during the four-hour period that we were at the concert I had guys with large wads of cash walk past asking the crowd if they’d like ecstasy, cocaine or marijuana. And there were a few ‘Yes, please’s.

Normally I would have just stood to the side and tried my best to ignore the idiots around me but it was a little difficult to move as every step you took resulted in you sinking into more mud. It had been raining for the past week or so in London and if there is one thing that rain, land and lots of people equal, it is mud. It was as if Tom and I had returned to the North Sea and were attempting to mudwalk with a bunch of intoxicated losers. It was awful. I had had prior thoughts of “Maybe I should buy some cheap shoes to wear in case it is muddy” but decided against it. When I arrived and saw what was in store I bid farewell to my Campers and plunged straight in. At least I am now a seasoned mud-walker and I didn’t fall flat on my arse. I did get a bit girly about the fact that my perfectly wonderful shoes were getting covered in mud. So when we were finally in front of the main stage, we picked a standing spot and stood there. The less we moved, the harder the mud beneath our feet.

When we arrived John Digweed, one of my brother’s favourite DJs was mixing it up on the stage and it was good. It was very good. But unfortunately he finished and was replaced with a guy by the name of Laidback Luke. Lazy Luke would be more appropriate – all he did was slop together a bunch of random songs with popular tunes/lyrics/choruses in order to make the audience say “YAY! I like this song!” and therefore make him look good. I felt like an old-woman-mother-figure standing with a frown on my face, not understanding the music of the youth of today. But finally he finished and Underworld came on stage.

Their set was short. And quiet. And there was no encore. And the crowd weren’t supportive and hardly cheered at all and were too busy smoking (there was a stall selling cigarettes); drinking; taking drugs; looking hideous with their ridiculously short shorts, bad hair cuts and general poor dress sense; and being obnoxious. Basically, it was no where near as good as when I saw them in Perth – now that is saying something. I would even rate seeing them at Bondi Beach on New Years Eve with evil drunk Australians as a more enjoyable experience than tonight. Such a shame because I had such high expectations. I don’t blame Underworld at all because they did their best and their music was awesome. But I just couldn’t hear it and was too busy trying to stop a stupid girl next to me from standing on my feet.

We did have delicious indian food for dinner though so I guess that’s a positive.

Woe # 2 – More Rain

We are supposed to be catching a flight to New York on Tuesday afternoon and there appears to be a bit of weather about on that side of the world (aka. a hurricane.) That’s a tad worrying as I don’t really want my flight to be cancelled or delayed as I had planned on being there for my birthday. At the same time, I also don’t want it to rain there because it has rained enough here in London. So hopefully that will all blow over (get it? Ha.)

Bed time.

I Have Two Minutes…

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

I have about two minutes to write this so it will be short. Ready?

  1. Yesterday was Tom’s birthday. We ate cake, went up the Arc de Triomphe, and had a delicious dinner at Tom’s favourite restaurant, Le Jardin D’En Face. It was so good. I will describe more later.
  2. Today we are getting on a train and going to London for a few days. We’ll be back on Sunday. This means I don’t know if I will write anything between now and then. Don’t miss me too much.
  3. We had some more visitors from Perth and we climbed to the top of Sacre Coeur. We have done a lot of climbing lately.
  4. I have to go and pack my bags.
  5. That is all.
  6. Bye!

Another Day, Another Cake

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Not many days go by that I don’t eat cake. Yesterday was no exception when Tom and I went for a walk (I was continuing my search for a restaurant for Monday night and once again was not surprised to see it was a construction site) and decided to try L’Estaminet, a cafe at the Marche des Enfants Rouges. I had seen it on my walks and had decided it looked like a ‘good cake place.’ What can I say? It’s a skill – I can spot them well.

Nectarine Tart

A piece of homemade tarte au nectarine.

The tart was homemade with a delicious crunchy crust and a soft almond paste centre. The nectarines were tart and combined well with the sweet almond filling. So good. The coffee was good too, and they served it in a nice red cup which always makes me smile. I’m going back for more.

Good Green Pizz

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

In Australia, going out for a pizza was generally a successful experience. Although usually overpriced, there were a few restaurants in Perth where you could find delicious, generous and interesting pizzas. Although definitely not ‘traditional’, care was taken in the bases, toppings and cooking methods and you were usually guaranteed a good meal. Paris is different – there are plenty of ‘Italian’ restaurants around offering pizzas, and sometimes announcing woodfired cooking, however they are generally all rubbish. You get the same toppings (canned artichokes, average ham, the wrong cheese (they use emmental for some unknown reason)) and then the base is usually covered in charcoaled bubbles around the edge and the middle of the base is soggy. Mmm.. delicious!

So my recent cravings for a good pizza were going unheard as I couldn’t bring myself to eat rubbish in order to satisfy a craving. It just wouldn’t do. Hence my excitement when I read about a relatively new pizza restaurant located not far from my place that was run by some young guys who were taking the pizza to a new level. They believed they had invented the “Pizz.” Their restaurant, GreenPizz, is designed to deliver a new concept for the pizza experience – interesting, healthy, bio toppings. Everything is home made, half the pizzas are bio, and they select only the best ingredients. Then they whack them on an oval shaped base and serve it on a cool, black, square plate. Cool.

So last night when Tom went off with some fellow computer-nerds to watch Captain America I invited the cooler, hip-er, more fashionable folk to join me for a GreenPizz. We got there at around 9.30pm (we’re in France) and were delighted by the smells wafting from the kitchen. We had an outdoor table on Rue Cadet which is a street lined with restaurants and food shops and is a quiet and calm place to sit. Very pleasant on a warm summer’s evening.

The choice of pizzas made life difficult – far too many potential winners – but I couldn’t go past my ultimate favourite, the Bayonette: tomato sauce base, delicious cheese (sourced from a farm in some far off village in France), AMAZING cured ham, rocket and parmesan cheese. And yes, it was good. The base was a bit overcooked and could have had a bit more substance and flavour, but the toppings were fantastic. The ham! Oh, the ham… I have never had such good quality ham on a pizza. It was deliciously salty, lightly shaved and clearly from a very happy pig.

Green Pizz pizza

Deliciousness on a pizza base

My three dinner guests all enjoyed their pizzas – there was a duck pizza (again, we’re in France), a mushroom pizza, and then the All Green pizza which was… well… green. Rocket, peas, herbs. It looked a bit like a salad on top of a pizza base. The service was particularly friendly (and good looking) as we were some of the last diners and we had a bit of a banter with the waiter. They are very proud of their business and the food they produce which I think always helped in the quality of the product. I will definitely be going back for more GreenPizz, particularly if they give me another free cookie for dessert.

How Could I Forget?

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Those who know me well will understand the complete and utter absurdity of what I am about to tell you. Believe it or not, I have forgotten to count down to my birthday. Most years I would have assembled a count down calendar with the days, hours, and seconds until the big day. Not this year. I’m not sure why – perhaps it is the water, perhaps it is the polluted Parisian air, perhaps it is because I have too many other things to look forward to – but my birthday has slipped to the side relatively unnoticed. However…

2 weeks until my birthday!

Yesterday I received two packages in the mail from my parents and brother and they were full of presents! As I still have two weeks to go I wasn’t allowed to open them, but I will also be in New York for my birthday which means presents will need to be packed into my suit case to be opened on my birthday morning. One of the presents was particularly weighty, so via skype I opened my present with my family. It was…

Brown rice

Brown Rice!

I was excited! Finding brown rice in Paris is like looking for pork in a vegetarian restaurant. So it was the perfect birthday present, although I am glad I didn’t have to cart it to New York. So now my excitement for my birthday is increasing and I am needing to find a nice place to go for dinner in New York. Any suggestions are more than welcome. In the mean time, I am having enough difficulty finding a restaurant that is open on a Monday during August in Paris for Tom’s birthday. He is getting old (yes, old.) this Monday. I have spent the last three or so weeks hunting for the perfect restaurant to take him to and I am failing miserably. Everything is closed or I don’t know if it is going to be nice. It’s impossible.

Presents and skype

Presents, Skype and Magyver

Café de Diable

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

It was Tuesday Lunch Club Day yesterday and Tom, Josh and I were kicked out of our apartments by the cleaning lady (ooh-la-di-da, Jess) at around 11.30am and we headed off on a weird trail set by Josh. It is interesting to see how other people visualise how streets connect in Paris – I don’t think anyone really knows the most efficient way of getting from one place to the next. The streets are far too confusing and diagonal here. No Perth-like grid systems for Paris!

We eventually arrived at Rue de la Roquette, a street full of restaurants and bars frequented by locals. The street eventually arrives at Place de la Bastille and then you will discover the phenomenon of “tourists” but for most part the street is tourist-free. Bliss. I had been recommended a restaurant called Café des Anges, which is French for cafe of the angels. Such a name suggests good things and so we decided to give it a go.

Considering there are no Parisians in Paris at the moment, the cafe was relatively busy, clearly with people who go there every lunch time during their two-hour break. We managed to secure an outdoor table “à la terrasse” – something that is apparently very important in France during summer. You’re low life scum if you choose to sit in the shade or inside during summer – unfortunately, outdoor eating in Paris also means passive smoking so I am often that low life scum, hiding away from the toxic fumes. So we had a table and then we waited for something to happen. And we waited.

Cafe des Anges

Our view from the terrace

Eventually a waitress arrived, looked at us with a puzzled look on her face and when I eventually said “Can we have a menu please?” she said “Oh! You want to eat? Ok.” and ran away. About five minutes later we saw her walking off down the street having just finished her shift. So we waited again. By this time we had decided to stretch our necks out of their sockets and read one of the blackboard menus and decided what we wanted to eat. But another waitress eventually spotted us and declared she would bring us menus as we helplessly said “No, we know what we want!” to her disappearing back. It took three waitresses and a lot of “Excusez-moi”s to finally get the waitresses to realise we wanted to order our food. It also took as much effort to get a bottle of water.

Luckily the sun was shining, we were at lunch club and we were all generally content so we weren’t that fussed by the strange behaviour. What amused and confused us greatly was when Josh (a vegetarian) asked if it was possible to exchange the chicken on the salad he wanted for smoked salmon. There was another salad on the menu that had smoked salmon in it but the other ingredients weren’t so great so we were at least certain that salmon existed in the kitchen. Here was the conversation (translated from French):

Josh: Can I have the Cob salad but with salmon instead of chicken?
Waitress: No. It’s too hard.
Josh: Really? But I don’t eat chicken.
Waitress: No, no, it’s not possible. The kitchen staff would get too confused and it would take a long time to make.
Josh: Ok… well I will just have the Cob salad with no chicken.
Waitress: Really? Are you sure?
Josh: Yes… it’s fine.
Waitress: Ok.
*Waitress walks away, turns around and comes back to the table.
Waitress: You can have potatoes in the salad if you like.

What is the difference between changing the chicken for potato instead of salmon? Apparently that wasn’t going to be an issue for the chefs in the kitchen and they would be able to handle it. ANYWAY.

Considering the speed of the waitresses, the chefs were clearly miles ahead and it didn’t take long for our food to arrive. And it was goooood. Tom was excited about his cheeseburger which had about five different sorts of cheese in it, all of which he declared were ‘real’. No plastic hamburger cheese here.

Cheese burger

Tom's burger

The bun was still full of sugar and out of a packet. I really don’t understand why the French think it is ok to serve such awful bread with their burgers considering how pedantic they are about bread normally. Tom still managed to make all sort of moaning noises while eating it so I believe it was good.

Josh’s salad was quite impressive including an entire sliced avocado and the magic potatoes. I didn’t photograph his food so I can’t show you but think salad, think olives, think green, think yum. It was worth the chicken/salmon/potato discussion.

I ordered a vegetarian lasagna and it was fan-awesomely-tastic. It was rustic, cheesy, and full of delicious vegetables, plus it was topped with a heap of rocket and parmesan cheese. What more could a vegetable and cheese loving girl want?

Vegetarian lasagna

Look at it! I want more.

The food was great and very reasonably priced so we certainly weren’t disappointed. However, we then wanted to pay and we had to rely on slow and incompetent waitstaff to deliver us our bill. The waitress who had been serving us the most (we’re fairly certain she was also the manager of the cafe) had to walk past us at least six times, each time saying “Oh yes! The bill! I will bring it!”, until she finally managed to print it off and bring it to the table. By this time we had looked at the menu, worked out how much we needed to pay and had scrounged together some money. My lasagna was 11.80Euros and I managed to put together the exact amount with a few small coins. I went off to the bathroom while we were still waiting for the bill to arrive and left the boys in charge of paying. When I came back, the waitress was rolling her eyes and grumbling because I was paying with ‘les petites pièces” and she wasn’t impressed that I had dared pay her the exact amount. So we left. If she expected a tip for her excellent service it would have been “Learn how to serve clients”.

It’s a shame when a cafe offers great food but is let down in another department. I can’t say I will rush back to Café des Anges but I did really enjoy my lasagna. So far the Tuesday Lunch Club has had some up and down experiences but I can’t wait for our next exciting adventure.

Cartwheel

I was so excited about lunch club that I did a cartwheel. Or at least pretended to.

Out of the Blue

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

I love random people meeting. I want to be instant friends with every lovely person I meet and I have another to add to my list. I spent today having lunch with Tom and Josh as it was Tuesday Lunch Club Day (we almost changed the name to Fancy Food Club because it sounds better) and then we wandered around the shops in the Marais looking for shoes. On my return home I discovered an email from a random German (yes, that’s right. A random German.) who was on a plane to Paris and had decided to send me an email! How GREAT is that! Anyhoo, she is also a sock creature maker (in other words, my competition) and the best thing about it is that her sock creatures all speak German, have German names AND probably eat wurst. Check out Bob der biber. Haha… Love it.

So, my sincere thanks to my new random German reader – this morning I was depressed about my lack of readership, so your decision to send me an email has made my day.

Bye Bye Jacob

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Jacob was packaged up and shipped out on Friday. I will miss having a little mudwalker in the house. My fear of going to the French post office and discovering how much he would cost to send to Australia turned out to be unnecessary. It was easy and remarkable inexpensive! So now it appears I have no excuses for not sending my friends and family back home presents. Dang.

Jacob the mudwalker

Jacob and his little book and "Thanks for buying me" card

I borrowed a cutting mat and knife off my next door neighbour, Josh. It’s handy having artists living next door to you.