Archive for December, 2012

Rewind to Christmas

Monday, December 31st, 2012

I realised I never blogged about Ben and my Amazing-Christmas-Dinner-Feast-For-Two so allow me to do so now, mainly through photographs. Neither of us could be called chefs (Ben is certainly a baker but a whole chicken is a lot different to a ball of dough), but if the help of a National Trust english cookbook, we made one mighty fine roast chicken. To go with it, we had some delicious buttery brussel sprouts, broccolini and asparagus, crunchy roasted potatoes, and it was all followed by gooey chocolate puddings. It was one seriously good Christmas dinner and our night was made even more special by watching the all-time family classic, Hook. RU-FI-OOOO!

Better than KFC.

Better than KFC.

The recipe made six puddings which sounded like a good idea at the time...

The recipe made six puddings which sounded like a good idea at the time…

Mmmm... chocolate pudding...

The End, My Friend, The End.

Monday, December 31st, 2012

I am currently sitting on the couch in my brother’s apartment in Sheffield with a rug over my legs and it has just dawned on me that in three hours it will be the last day of 2012. You may have noticed that I enjoy a good reflection and feel that the last day of the year is probably a very good time to do one. So here we go, chaps! My thoughts on the past year.

It has certainly been a ride – this time last year I was uncertain as to whether or not I would be allowed to return to France for a year and I was preparing myself for a flight to Australia to prove my visa-worthiness. It worked and I have spent 2012 living in one of the greatest cities in the world. I still love Paris and the past few days in Sheffield have reminded me of some of the things I really, really love about living in France. Great food, cheap wine, a massive variety of shops and things to see and do. It has also reminded me of some of the bad things – grumpy Parisians, smelly streets, dirt, dirt and more dirt. I think Paris will remain as the city my heart does back-flips for but you can’t spend your entire life jumping backwards. Time to move forwards.

This year was tough as I had to deal with breaking up with my boyfriend and learning to live on my own again. As much as it sucked at the time, it was definitely a good decision and life as a single female in Paris isn’t so bad. Although I can say that French men are shorter, weaker (I prefer the word ‘pathetic’) and generally more feminine than me so it has become very apparent that I will never marry a Frenchman. Of course I still have two months and I continue to be willing to marry for a passport…

I have spent this year building up my skills and knowledge of the craft world and feel that I have developed a much better understanding of how to gouge linoleum. Next year I hope to push this further and increase my output and hopefully income significantly. I have also written a LOT which is nice – nothing has come of it yet but one day… one day.

This year I travelled to Australia twice, England four times plus Spain, Italy, and Holland. I also took a writing course, went to a Parisian wedding, and made some awesome new friends. I ate over 200 different cakes. Yep. I sure did. And I didn’t get fat. I also ran the furthest I have ever run in my life (30 kilometres) and committed myself to running even further next year. That was probably the biggest mistake of 2012 but we shall wait and see how that pans out.

I guess that leads me to next year and my big plans for 2013. So far I have no idea what the year will hold for me as I don’t know what country I will be living in as of March. I am surprising myself but not being completely freaked out about this fact – I haven’t even made myself sick over it. IT’S A MIRACLE! I’m sure it will come soon, but I am currently ok with the idea of most likely moving to England. Manchester, to be more specific. That is my current thought – it might change tomorrow. What I do know is that next year I will be leaving France which is sad but I think well timed. I will be returning in April, however, to run 42 kilometres like a crazy lady in the Paris marathon. If that doesn’t kill me, I also plan on publishing a book. Yes, there we are, I have said it. Now that I have put it out in the public forum for everyone to tease and point fingers at me if I fail, I have to do it. Or at least try really, really hard. I have spent the last two years explaining to people that my reason for living in Paris is ‘because I am writing a book’. This hasn’t been a complete lie – just an extension of the truth. I have certainly be writing but it is in no way a book. More just general musings. Now the time has come to put my head down and get cracking. Mostly because my second novel, My Life in Manchester, needs to start being written and I can’t have two books on the go at once.

Ok, enough rambling. A very happy, safe and exciting New Year to everyone. May 2013 be full of fun times, great adventures, belly-laughs and a hell of a lot of cake!

Starting 2013 with a BANG! That's a volcano on my head, in case you were wondering.

Starting 2013 with a BANG! That’s a volcano on my head, in case you were wondering.

Merry Not-So-White Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

Merry Christmas friends! I hope you are all happy, healthy and having plenty of cake on this festive day. I am currently sitting in my brother’s lounge room in Sheffield, listening to a Hospital Records drum and bass podcast and waiting for my next meal. It isn’t far away – lunch should be in the next half an hour or so. Ben and I have bought a chicken for dinner along with some brussel sprouts and other vege and we’ll have chocolate puddings for dessert. Not bad for a Christmas for two!

I have spent the last few days working in my brother’s bakery and it is nice to sit down and do NOTHING. Ben and Martha have worked so hard over the past five weeks to get their bakery open, functioning and capable of delivering bread for the Christmas period. It was slightly insane over the last few days and I think my lungs are full of icing sugar from dusting 40 stollens three times. It has also been a delicious past few days with plenty of bakery treats being slightly too dark or misshapen and therefore available for bakery staff consumption. Mmm… weird shaped croissants taste just as good as perfectly shaped ones.

And have my dreams come true and is it snowing outside? No. But one of my favourite people, Stephen Fry, informed me last night on the Christmas special of QI that it only snowed in England on about 15 Christmas Days during the 20th century and therefore the likelihood that it would snow today is quite low… But it is raining so at least I know it is England.

I shall leave you with some glimpses of my Christmas. Thanks for reading – love to you all!

Poppyseed stollen

Poppyseed Stollen – so beautifully dusted and wrapped (I did that)

Forge Bakehouse

Christmas bread at Forge Bakehouse

christmas stollen

Mmm… marzipan stollen for Christmas morning tea

christmaswham

Waking up to Christmas with Wham!

bananachristmastree

Ben and my banana Christmas tree

Coffee and Carrot Cake at Café Coutume

Monday, December 17th, 2012

There are many hip and cool hangouts for the BoBos of Paris and I like to follow along behind like a lost puppy trying to be as ‘down with it’ as them. Not going to happen. But one of the biggest BoBo hang outs is Café Coutume, a coffee, brunch and ‘Check-out-what-I’m-wearing’ joint located in the ooh-la-di-da seventh arrondissement, down the road from Le Bon Marché. As I walked to find the place, I went past Hermés and various other designer stores that I would be refused entry into, and dodged lots of little old ladies in fur coats buying their grandchildren matching Louis Vuitton slippers for Christmas. I felt somewhat out of place, but pretended to blend anyway.

I had been wanting to try Café Coutume for ages but it’s location on the other side of Paris meant it wasn’t really somewhere I could go and grab a quick coffee. I had heard and read many good things about it so took the opportunity to meet my friend, Jen there as she lives on that side of the river.

The café is reasonably large compared to other places in Paris, although it isn’t particularly well laid out and the tables are quite clunky and take up too much space. I ordered a long black and Jen had a noisette (a short black with a dob of milk foam on top) and we each had a piece of carrot cake. The coffee was good – it was rich and strong which is always a pleasant surprise in Paris. The cake wasn’t bad although I have had much better (I think we all know this to be true.)

Café Coutume

Coffee and carrot cake

While the coffee was good, I don’t plan on going back because:

  1. It was expensive
  2. It was snobby. Seriously snobby. I can handle BoBo arrogance and coolness, but there was a different level of snob at Coutume.

I think because I am used to the less-rich-scene of the tenth arrondissement, the seventh just oozed money. The staff weren’t particularly friendly and there was a strong rich-Parisian attitude that alienates you if you are an outsider or your Daddy isn’t the CEO of a bank. It is a great thing to watch though – I find these people highly entertaining with their Longchamp bags and depressive attitudes.

Speaking of Longchamp bags, a few weeks ago I was bored on the metro and decided to count the number of Longchamp bags I could see just in my section of the carriage. Over a ten minute journey I saw twelve. Wow. Let’s all spend excessive amounts of money on a particularly unattractive handbag that every other woman owns. Congratulations, Longchamp.

Café Coutume
47 Rue de Babylon
Paris, 7eme

Ice Water

Monday, December 17th, 2012

This morning while on my run I realised I never wrote about my morning-run experiences of last week when the temperatures dropped to below zero on some nights. Most mornings now when I get ready to head out, I check La Météo to see what the temperature is. If it is above six degrees I won’t bother with a jacket because after ten minutes of running I need to take it off. Anything below six and I will wear the jacket and anything below two requires extreme measures. I was hit with a bit of a conundrum last Thursday morning when I woke up to discover it was -2 degrees outside. What to wear?! Jacket and gloves are part of my usual kit but the day before I had found a head scarf I had been given as a complimentary gift for doing the 10km race last year. PERFECTO! I have since learnt that by covering your ears, you can keep in at least ten times as much body heat. I’m making these statistics up, but trust me – I was very pleased with my head scarf when I saw the ice floating on the canal.

It was so cool (both literally and Americanly.) I had already completed two kilometres when I started running along the eastern edge of the canal. I run past a movie cinema that looks on to the canal and there are always tourist boats in the water at that point. The canal water was beautifully still and then I noticed that along the edge of the canal and particularly in between the tourist boats, the canal water had frozen. It was very exciting times for this Australian who is learning so much about the physical properties of water, ice and snow.

I was able to survey the ice quite well for most of my run as I had to go reasonably slowly due to slippery conditions. There was a ROAD SAFETY ALERT out for all of the Parisians who freak out every time there is some sort of slightly-more-extreme-than-usual weather. My observations revealed to me that the canal had only frozen on one side – the eastern half. My little non-scientific brain attempted to work out why this was but failed. All I could boil it down to was water flow and the fact that there were boats. Not very technical so if anyone reading this can shed some light on this freezing phenomenon I would love to hear the REAL reason.

In a slight aside, there was snow in some areas outside of Paris and the television screens that usually tell you which line is down as you entered the metro had a huge warning for POTENTIAL SNOW that might affect the train lines. WARNING! WARNING! ALERT! ALERT! It’s worse than how nervous everyone in Perth gets every time there’s a sprinkle of rain – HAIL!

That was the coldest of my morning runs so far. I have now run in -2 and +38 degree temperatures. I’m not really sure which was worse… I wanted to die and regretted my decision more after the 38 degree run but running in the cold is rather painful too.

Tuck In

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

A few months ago I was sad to see the closure of Sweat Shop – a café/sewing shop where you could rent sewing machines or take a knitting course while eating a piece of cake. Then the other day, a fellow Australian said “Let’s go to Tuck Shop.” to which I auto-replied with, “Ok.” I had no idea what she was talking about. But now I do. Apparently Sweat Shop had been turned into Tuck Shop – a new café for me to spend far too much time and money and calories at!

Tuck Shop is another “Australian style” café offering GOOD coffee (hooray) and great home made cakes. Run by some lovely expat ladies, it is vintage galore in this cozy little joint. I had a long-black equivalent which was delicious and served in a great looking cup.

Tuck Shop coffee

What a cup!

Plus a scone with jam and cream which was a little disappointingly rock-like but still tasted good. My friend had the cheesecake which was as creamy and cheesy as a good cheesecake should be.

Tuck Shop

Happy times.

The café wasn’t particularly busy, but it was a Wednesday morning in the middle of winter and close to Christmas so not the busiest time of the year. To be honest, it was nice to be in a quiet space for once as Paris is becoming a little bit manic with all of the christmas shopping requirements that are sending Parisians mad.

My friend and I stayed chatting and soon it was lunch time so we decided to do the lunch time formule backwards – we’d already had the dessert so we ordered the home made zucchini soup and grilled vegetable and houmus sandwiches. Luckily the staff aren’t French otherwise doing this would have caused massive brain explosions. So so tasty and healthy – it was the perfect lunch for just 10 Euros. Brilliant.

Tuck Shop
13, rue Lucien Sampaix
10eme

New Friends

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

It is a glorious morning in Paris today – crisp, cold and clear skies with the sun glistening off the frosty ground and trees. The birds are loving it, and I have just had some delightful visitors on my windowsill. I had to quickly close my window as one stuck his head inside but these little guys have been busy flittering about in the park and on my rather dead plants.

bird

Bonjour petit oiseau!

I hope they come and visit again soon.

 

Learning About Everything

Monday, December 10th, 2012

On Friday afternoon I needed to escape the confines of my apartment walls and so I took the opportunity to go to an exhibition that I have been reading about on various blogs. Called The Museum of Everything, it is a pop up gallery that has toured various European cities and shows works by untrained and undiscovered artists who have never been exhibited in any formal way previously.

Museum of Everything

That way to the Museum of Everything

Located in a rather disheveled building in the middle of the fancy-pants 7th arrondissement, the exhibition was a mish-mash of random drawings, paintings, sculpture and ‘other’. As I walked through the three levels of exhibition spaces I felt a sense of “What on earth is this?” which I liked a lot. I went to the exhibition knowing it was going to be odd – and odd it was. Although it wasn’t as odd as I had hoped it to be. The name “Museum of Everything” had implanted different, more exuberantly random ideas of what the exhibition would be about in my head and it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I think I was expecting more hands-on interaction, more random passageways, more every day items stuck on walls. But some of the work could have been on an average art gallery wall, while other pieces should have remained undiscovered.

My favourite part of the exhibition was a stage covered with large puppets and a film about a man called Calvin Black from Possum Trot in the Mojave Desert who made these puppets based on the people he knew. Clearly there wasn’t much else to do in Possum Trot than make life-sized puppets. But the passion and detail he put into them was incredible. He then made songs and a show in which the puppets performed, attaching electronic motors to each puppet to make them move. It was a bit like Home Alone carny style. Incredible. You can watch a film about Calvin and his puppets here.

I walked out of the Museum feeling quite overwhelmed and not entirely sure of what I had just experienced but interested to see that you really can make a museum about anything. There’s hope for me yet.

Museum of Everything chair

I really liked this chair that was outside the Museum of Everything

La Neige

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Friday morning saw scatterings of white stuff on car windows, roof tops and lawned areas. It had apparently snowed earlier that morning, although it was a typical Parisian attempt – just enough effort to say it was done, but nothing more. I went for a run through the centre of Paris and learnt a lot about what road surfaces are more slippery than others and that my concept of large bodies of water maintaining a higher heat level and therefore bridges being not slippery is COMPLETELY WRONG. In fact, it is the complete opposite! All of the bridges across the Seine were covered in a solid block of ice and I had to use my exceptional ice-skating skills to get to the other side. Luckily, my ice-skating skills = sticking as close to the edge as possible so that I can grab hold of something before I fall over, which is exactly what needed to be done in the bridge crossing attempts.

My other interesting discovery was when I reached the Tuileries and thought, “Oh, it’s that sandy limestone stuff. It will be soggy but not slippery.” Again, WRONG! The ground was covered in puddles of water that had frozen and so the garden was a giant ice rink. I had to get across one large section of icy sand near the Louvre and I must have looked like a duck-footed camel, loping across while avoiding puddles.

Having spent the last two years asking the weather Gods to send me snow in Paris, they finally did and I was extremely disappointed. So I am asking again. Only this time do it properly please.

Snow in Paris

It had melted a bit when I took this photo but still. That doesn’t count as snow.

Run, Rabbit. Run, Rabbit. Run. Run. Run.

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

For about a year I have been contemplating the idea of running the Paris Marathon. My running buddy, Becky, completed it last year and it was an amazing feat of inspiration and general pain. My cousin, Kate, ran the Queensland marathon earlier this year – again, pain. So I had been toying with the idea that maybe it was my turn. Then I saw how much it cost to run. Depending on how slow you were to sign up, the cost for putting yourself through torture and potentially dying was around the 100Euro mark. That seemed quite ridiculous and I think the organisers should pay the competitors to take part. Without runners, there is no marathon and no agony.

I briefly mentioned my horror of the price on Facebook and was overwhelmed by the number of people who encouraged me to sign up and who said they’d help pay for the cost of seeing me curl into a ball of ow. Such caring friends I have. I decided to hold off for a while because I am very good at thinking about things for long enough that a deadline passes and I can no longer do it and therefore don’t have to make the decision. Unfortunately, I then discovered a mysterious deposit in my bank account entitled “Paris Marathon”. I don’t know who sent it (although I have my suspicions) and the description of the deposit makes it pretty clear that this money isn’t just for a new pair of shoes.

So I have signed up. On 7 April 2013, I am going to die. Or at least my legs are going to fall off and I will never walk again. BUT hopefully that will be because I have run 42km and crossed the finish line. I am reasonably confident that I can make the distance, but I have heard of this thing called “THE WALL” that I am a little bit nervous about. The longest I have run is 30km and that was seriously boring and another 12km on top of that is quite unfathomable. But it’s a challenge and we all need challenges, right?