Archive for August, 2012

Growing Up

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

As a kid, I suffered from terrible growing pains. The backs of my knees would ache and throb and at the time it seemed like the worst possible pain to have to endure. As a result, I have very long legs, but I have also come to realise that maybe my thirteen-year-old-self had it good. It turns out growing up also involves sharp stabbing pains in the heart, brain, back, stomach, etc etc…

In four days’ time it will be my birthday and I will move even further away from being “in my early 20s”. I think I will continue to claim “mid-20s” for another year but after that it is definitely “late”. Those of you who know me well will be aware of my obsession with my birthday. I live for this day, and every year as it comes along I become increasingly more and more excited as I count down towards the BIG DAY. I always try and make the day as special and cake-filled as possible; I am allowed to do whatever I want and, more importantly, eat whatever I want on my birthday. And the same rules apply for everyone else in the world on their birthday. It is the one day of the year where you can feel important and alive enough to drown yourself in chocolate cake. Hoorah!

This year, however, my birthday has managed to sneak up on me and I am currently experiencing a sensation that I have never felt before. I am not looking forward to it. Sure, I am pleased that my parents will be in town (especially seeing as ALL of my friends are leaving and going on holidays) and my mum’s cousin will be in Paris from Holland on the day, but it just doesn’t seem right. I always say that as long as there is good cake I am happy, but this year I am questioning this logic.

I think it boils down to the fact that I am scared about next year. I have been doing a lot of ‘thinking’ about ‘stuff’ lately and my plans for the future have played a significant role. Bad, bad move considering I have no idea what I am doing on a daily basis, let alone in a year’s time. So maybe it is time to stop worrying about what I am going to be doing then and focus on what I am doing now.

In four days time, I will turn 27 as a single, relatively young, Australian living in a 13th-century ex-convent building in the middle of Paris. I have great friends and a wonderful family. I am the fittest and slimmest I have ever been in my entire life and my thighs are no longer thunder-esque, they’re more just sturdy posts. I am working on creating myself a life that I love, rather than one that pays the bills and is satisfactory. I was in Italy last week, I am going to England and Poland in October and who knows where I’m going to be for Christmas. Today I am having lunch with 0ne friend and dinner with another. Last night I finally cooked myself a real dinner after three months of living on vegetable quinoa.

I wouldn’t normally spill these sorts of beans in such a public forum but I felt that I needed and wanted to. While I might be getting older, my internal wisdom says that that doesn’t mean I need to ‘become serious’ and ‘settle down’ and ‘get a real job’ because that will just reverse everything that I have done and achieved in the past few years. Instead it is about moving forward and continuing on this journey and seeing where it takes me. And I wanted a bit of an emotional rollercoaster so that when I eventually write my “My Life in Paris” book it is actually interesting. This is turning into a best seller.

Italia

Monday, August 27th, 2012

My trip to Italy was wonderful – good food, nice people, astonishingly beautiful views. Lake Como is one of those places in the world that make you wonder how somewhere like that can exist. A little piece of natural beauty – a super model of nature. I spent one and a half days in Milan and was somewhat disappointed with the city. I had been told by various Italian friends that it wasn’t the most beautiful city in Italy – they were right. It has pockets of ‘nice’ that make up for the general concrete-box architecture, but I can’t say I wanted to stay there for much longer. Maybe if I was rich and wanted to go shopping at Chanel, Prada and D&G I would have been more entertained, but as your average adventurer there wasn’t much to see.

Navigli

The canal in the Navigli area was my favourite part of Milan.

I met up with my brother and parents in Bellagio, a small town on the edge of Lake Como. Most of the towns scattered around the lake now operate as tourist resorts and while I had gone there expecting tourists, I don’t think I had adequately prepared myself. Lots of souvenir shops, inflated prices, average food and annoying tourists. Thankfully our way of travelling made us remove ourselves as much as possible from these situations and we explored beyond the tourist track, met some locals and sampled some decent food.

Lake Como

Wowzers.

Overall I was a little disappointed with my food intake – not so much as far as quantity but the quality wasn’t what I was hoping for. This is to be expected in a tourist-filled zone where food is produced to please international taste buds en masse rather than offering a REAL experience. The best pizza I ate was in Milan at a restaurant I picked because it was full of locals.

Pizza in Milan

Pizza Caprese

The best gelato was from a gourmet, hipster café, Ronchi, in Como whose cioccolato fondente (dark chocolate) was beyond amazing.

Gelato from Ronchi

The colour says it all.

The best experience of the trip happened on our last day in Bellagio. We had spotted a small church on the other side of the lake and on top of a hill and as we had run out of tourist ferries to take, we decided to walk there.

San Martino

Our destination

I felt very holy and considered converting to Catholicism as we made our way up (and I mean UP) a twisty path that went through towns, forests, gorges and along the edge of cliffs. The view from the top was spectacular – looking down to the lake and across at the mountain ranges. I was surprised by the number of other people who were walking the trail, but it also provided a pleasant relief from the swarms of tourists in the towns.

San Martino

Heading uphill

San Martino

The reward for making it to San Martino

For more photographs of my trip in Italy (we’re talking over 400), visit my Flickr site. To really know what Lake Como looks like, go there.

Monsieur Chien

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

I can finally reveal my latest linoprint that I created for my friend Chuck. Chuck is a small, flat-faced, wobbly-bottomed dog lover (that is a description of the dogs, not Chuck) and so for his birthday I made him this:

Pug lino print

Le Vie de Chien

I am very pleased with the final print and used my new press that I made with Dad when I was home in Perth a few weeks ago. It made for a nice even pressure and the final image turned out well. I have three more copies in black from this print run if anyone wants to buy one. I’ll be making them available on my Etsy site soon, or just contact me.

Italiano

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Exciting travel times – I am off to Italy today! In a few hours I will be in a plane flying to Milan where I will eat, eat, eat. Tomorrow my brother is joining me and we will explore Milan for a day before heading to Lake Como on Sunday. There we are going to meet up with our parents who are flying in from Perth and we will have five days of lake-side living. I can’t wait! The food potential is just too overwhelming. What am I going to eat? Stay tuned – you’re bound to find out.

Change of Fortune

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Thank you, Universe. For the past three weeks you have been against me – testing me, pushing me, making me cry. But today things have changed and you have shown me that all of those trials were for a reason.

I have returned home from a lovely day out in sunny Paris and a delicious lunch with a friend. I opened my window to let in some cooler air and took a moment to survey the park outside. And who did I see sitting on a bench facing my window with his arm around a clearly non-Parisian girl and a bottle of warm rosé to his right? My good friend, Mr Creepy-Kisser-Stalker man!

It appears he has fallen in love once again, moved on from me and has found himself a new lady friend. Perhaps I should be jealous, except instead I am currently feeling the biggest sense of relief and overwhelming JOY. He really IS a weirdo creep because unlike me, the new girl has agreed to sit down with him, has agreed to drink warm wine in a park, and just let him give her a rather sloppy-looking smooch (yes I am spying on them.) Oh there they go again. Gross. Her folded arms and crossed legs suggest it isn’t the greatest kiss she’s ever had. Oh dear, she has turned her head away. And now she has wiped her mouth.

Anyway, after the first kiss, it was clearly so monumental for him that he stood up and took a photograph of her with his phone. Recording the moment he fell in love? I suspect not. Maybe me writing this is mean and spiteful, but this is just too good not to record! Thank you, strange man. You really did give me something to write about. Maybe I should go down and say hi.

Biking in the Bourgogne

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

A few months ago, my friend Becky mentioned that for her birthday she wanted to catch a train to the Bourgogne region, hire bikes and ride for the day. I placed my hand into the air and solemnly declared that I would be joining her. Excellent idea.

Becky’s birthday finally arrived this last weekend and she, her husband Vivien and I caught a train at 8:56am to Montbard, a town not far from Dijon. Once we arrived we walked across the road to the tourist office and picked up our hire bikes. It was so simple, painless and inexpensive with the bike hire being just 18 Euros for the day. The bikes were nice and light and had 7 gears which was sufficient for the canal-side bike ride most people would do. Plus they were yellow. Who doesn’t like a yellow bike?

Bike hire in Bourgogne

Speed mobile.

The Canal de Bourgogne runs through Montbard and extends for over 200km. We rode approximately 25 kilometres (in each direction, making an amazing grand total of 50 kilometres!) and went inland in search of hills. This was Becky’s idea, and seeing as it was her birthday she got to choose. Honestly, while the canal is beautiful, it is very flat and a bit of undulating countryside is always nice.

Canal de Bourgogne

Canal de Bourgogne

We rode to an area called Alésia, where a battle between the Romans and the Gauls took place. Julius Caesar was victorious but there is a statue of Vercingetorix, the head of the Gauls, on top of a hill. We rode up that hill (well, Vivien did. Becky and I pushed our bikes up) to see the statue and discovered a man with a very impressive moustache and long hair. He was probably very handsome in his day.

Vercingetorix

Such impressive hair growth.

View from Alesis

View from the hill

Our next stop involved another upwards climb, to a medieval town called Flavigny where they produce aniseed flavoured lollies in an old abbey. I’m willing to ride up hills for sugary treats and I managed to arrive at the top of the hill first. Red polka dot jersey for me! It was a beautiful little town with lots of old houses for sale. At first we walked around picking which house we would buy, but then we started thinking about the actual reality of living in such an isolated town at the top of the hill. So we rode back to Montbard.

House in Flavigny

I wanted this house because of the turret

View from Flavigny

The beautiful countryside surrounding Flavigny

The ride was fantastic – it was a beautiful sunny day and the views were spectacular. It was a relief to escape the noise and grime of Paris for a day and to be outside in the country. The only down side (because SOMETHING had to go wrong considering how my past few weeks have been going with the entire universe turning against me) was that I fell off my bike. Typical really… I wasn’t exactly surprised and I could see it coming as I attempted to roll down a gravelly slope and felt the bike slipping from underneath me. I knocked my shin on the bike peddle, which was probably the best outcome as there isn’t much blood between your skin and your shin bone so I could patch myself up without too much excessive blood loss.

Cut on my leg

A boo boo.

Still, I now have a lovely purple scar on my leg. Perhaps that’s why no French men have tried to kiss me lately.

What Did I Do?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

I am currently sitting in my apartment, attempting not to move or do anything that may result in some sort of outcome. Writing this is risking everything. I really don’t know why the universe is against me but it is. And it is MEAN. Horribly mean. It keeps kicking me in the shin, right on the bone. I keep asking it nicely to stop but will it? NO! Instead it ups the anti and throws something even worse at me. I am contemplating just going to bed and giving up on today because at least that way I might not get hit by a bus or break my leg. But then again, with my current luck, a bus will probably somehow find a way to drive into the building, up two flights of stairs, along the corridor, through my door, up to the mezzanine and BAM! Got her!

Right, so I have already explained the spilt soap story which then led to my money being eaten by the machine. At 10.30am, I was told that the machine was working again and so I went downstairs to the laundry and inserted more money. It wasn’t working. So back I went and told the girl that it, in fact, was still broken, to which she was quite surprised but wrote herself a note to ask someone else to have a look at it. She would let me know when it was fixed. Goodo.

At lunchtime I hadn’t heard anything so I asked if there had been any progress but no, a technician had been called. At 2.30pm I received another email saying that the technician had come and the machine was fixed. Excellent! I was outside working at the time so I packed up my things, came inside, went back downstairs, inserted more money… Of course, it didn’t work and I now have 5 Euros stuck in the machine. Fantastic. Back upstairs I went where I was told that she had seen a man leave the general vicinity of the laundry and she had presumed it was the technician and that he had fixed it. Apparently not.

By now it was 3pm and I wanted to get my washing done so I put it all into my shopping trolley and walked to a laundromat in a street nearby where they had a long row of machines, all of them available, all of them working. I did manage to choose number 13 without realising it but figured it just made sense. I sat around and read a book as my clothes got washed and then headed back home, happy to have clean underwear.

laundromat

Number 13 worked remarkably well considering my luck today.

To get from the laundromat and my apartment, I only had to walk on two streets. Surely nothing significant could happen in those three minutes. WRONG. As I walked along, my shoe came off so I had to stop and put it back on again (that isn’t the significant thing). As I did this, a guy who was tall and relatively good looking walked past me, and then turned around and started talking to me. I was at a stage where I’d probably have spoken to anyone because I had clean washing and nothing bad had happened in the last 20 minutes. So when he asked me if I was doing the shopping I said no, and that I had just done my washing blah blah, where are you from, Australia is a nice country… etc etc. He spoke English, he seemed normal and didn’t appear to be a COMPLETE sleaze.

We reached my place and I said goodbye and he continued to chat for a little while and he seemed like a genuinely nice person. Then when I started to leave he kind of moved towards me, which is just annoying and unnecessary but I decided it would just be easier to do the French two-kiss thing and then run away. So I turned my head to enough of an angle to have that happen but then this weird, pathetic look of “Oh you are so bootifulll” came over him, as he then attempted to kiss me on the lips. NOOOOOOOOOO WWAAAYYYYYY!!!!! I pushed him away and walked off, seriously annoyed at myself for getting into that position. But why, why, why did he go and do that? What was he thinking?? Is he INSANE? Because up until that point, I was actually enjoying myself but then he turned into a creepy Frenchman and thought I’d want to kiss him after knowing him for an entire three minutes.

It did result in me briefly bursting into tears once inside the safety of my convent because I felt so abused. I know it isn’t THAT bad but still… who wants strange men kissing them randomly on streets? Not I. Maybe this will mean I will never find myself a nice French man but I really, really hope there are some who aren’t creeps and who don’t think that’s an ok thing to do. I am now completely turned off all men. Maybe that is what the point of today was – to make me feel good about being single. Actually no, because if I had a boyfriend then I wouldn’t have to worry about meeting someone and therefore wouldn’t have stupidly decided that talking to random strange men was an ok idea… Please make today STOP.

Caramel Cream

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

You may have noticed that I eat a lot of good food in Paris. It is a daily occurrence that makes the idea of ever leaving this city/country completely unfathomable. Despite the frequency of this deliciousness, every now and then I will eat something that will make me stop breathing, my eyes will pop out of my head in amazement and a large, extremely-satisfied grin will spread across my face. Holy moly.

And it happened again recently, when I met up with a friend from high school, Nat, and her friend, Chloe, who were visiting Paris for the weekend. I took them to Le Marché des Enfants Rouges for coffee at L’Estaminet where we were served by a lovely, smiley guy (miracle!) and we could sit outside and enjoy the afternoon sunshine. I ordered the cake of the day which was described as a ‘caramel tart’. Nothing exciting in that. OH BUT HOW WRONG I WAS!

caramel tart

Look at that…

The tart itself was deliciously rich without being too sweet – firm yet chewy and with a nice pastry base. Seriously good. But what made this tart so amazingly wonderful was the cream that was served alongside it. Normally, I ignore cream as it is just additional calories that don’t really taste that great. This rule only changes if 1. it is clotted cream or 2. it is the cream I was served on this day which was somehow infused with caramel. Holy mongolia, it was heavenly. The combination of the tart with the caramel infused cream created some sort of magic land in my mouth and all three of us couldn’t get over how good it was. My “this is making you fat” brain did stop me from eating ALL of the cream, but Nat happily picked up a spoon and inhaled the remnants. This tart sits alongside my favourite chocolate cake from Le Jardin d’en Face as a delicious sweet good that I think about daily. Anyone who can tell me how to make caramel cream OR (better still) deliver it to me now, will be my favourite person ever.

Déménagement

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Last Saturday I helped my friend Jen and her boyfriend Laurent move from their separate apartments into their new love nest. I have only met Jen twice – she is a friend of my cousin who got married and I met her at the wedding – but when the opportunity to stick my nose into three Parisian apartments came along, I couldn’t resist volunteering to help.

Thankfully Jen appears to be a highly organised and very well prepared person, so all of their things were packed and ready to go when a group of nine or so friends turned up at 9.30am. There was coffee and biscuits with smiley faces on them – everyone was impressed and in good spirits. And so it began.

I have never really been involved in the moving of houses before except for when I was very young and was given tiny things to carry so that I felt special. This time it was serious AND it was in Paris which meant we had to deal with the concept of carrying household items and boxes from the apartment to the truck. Without a lift. And their two apartments were on the fifth and fourth floors. Thankfully, I am a girl, and therefore was not required to lift anything larger than my torso. It was left to the manly men to carry couches, washing machines and cupboards out of the tiny doorways, through impossibly tight hallways and then down the narrow flights of stairs.

Moving truck

Of course a removal truck in Paris has a naked lady on it.

Jen had come up with a great team-work system involving one group of people carrying the boxes from the fifth to the second storey, and then another group carrying the boxes the rest of the way. That way we weren’t going up and down five flights of stairs for each box. It worked well but two or three sets of stairs is just as bad as five.

It was weirdly fun and the time passed quickly. But by the time we came to put all of the stuff into their new apartment we were all exhausted, hungry and thrilled to see a rather large elevator that made the transportation of their things so much easier. Hooray for modern technology!

Jen and Laurent then whipped out baguettes and cheese and ham for us to gorge ourselves on after six hours of heavy lifting. I came away with some scratches on my arms and two impressive bruises on my hips, plus some very sexy leg muscles from climbing all of those stairs. And I made some new friends! It’s amazing how a bit of brutal physical activity can bring people together.

Don’t Cry Over Spilt Soap

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Today I have had one of those mornings that you would like to fast forward and get over and done with. It all started with me waking up this morning somewhat light-headed and wondering why my apartment smelt so nice. Sure, the floors were cleaned yesterday, but it was an unusually strong, flowery smell generally associated with clothes after my Mum has washed them.

I got up, plonked down stairs to discover a thick, white, sticky puddle oozing out from under the staircase. Uh oh. That would be my laundry soap that was accidentally knocked over yesterday and that has now spread throughout my kitchen and under the stair case.

Soap is hard to clean up because all it wants to do is make more suds and the more soap there is (and the more concentrated) the more suds there are, the stickier the mess and generally the more annoying the clean up. I tried soaking up the excess soap with some paper towels but then had to dash off to meet Becky for our morning run. The soap had gone straight up my nostrils and gave me head spins (fairly certain I saw daisies floating through the air.) Anyway, I then came home and had a soapy floor and some things I had stored under the stairs to deal with. Fun.

It didn’t stop there, of course, because today I also planned on doing my washing and luckily there was still some soap left in the bottle. But as I went to insert my 3 Euros into the money machine to make the communal washing machines work, it just chewed up my first Euro as the machine was full of coins. I went to ask one of the people in charge of the residency if they would mind coming to fix it but apparently that isn’t their job and I have to wait until someone else comes. So I haven’t done my washing, I have a very flowery apartment and I didn’t get to eat breakfast until 9.45am. GRRRR…