Archive for January, 2013

Marathon Training Run #4

Monday, January 28th, 2013

As I am attempting to keep myself accountable I am informing everyone that I completed my Marathon Training Run #4 on Friday morning. More perceptive readers may notice that there never was a Number Three because it was snowed out. Last week I could finally return to my normal morning runs on Tuesday after having gone slowly mad from my inability to exercise since the previous Friday. My legs sang with joy as I finally left my house and dodged piles of snow and patches of ice on the footpaths.

Friday morning wasn’t exactly warm. In fact, it was -4 degrees when I left home. Two hours and 21 kilometres later I returned home, still cold. The problem with running in the cold is that while your body heats up, your extremities don’t and the poor circulation in my hands and feet meant they were ready to fall off despite being gloved and socked. The cold air is also just a lot harder to breathe, making it harder to run. At least, this is the excuse I like to tell myself as I returned home having only completed 21 kilometres and feeling like it was 20 kilometres too many.

The cold air also makes my muscles much tighter and I get sorer quicker. I don’t know how people run in countries where it is cold all winter. I was surprised by the number of people who continued to run in Paris despite the snow and slippery ice – I attempted it on Monday morning and got half way down the street and realised it was a stupid, stupid idea, returned home and did laps up and down under the verandah (haha… verandah. How Australian of me.)

There has been a visible increase in the number of joggers over the last few weeks. While I am normally the only person stupid enough to run through Paris, there are lots of people training for the half-marathon in March and the full marathon in April. It is nice to see other people out running, although I find it funny how most of them have shiny new shoes that have clearly never been worn out on the streets of Paris before. My previously white shoes have a very strong tint of Paris-Black to them.

Égalité Pour Tous

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Yesterday I attended my first French rally, walking through the streets of Paris in support of marriage and adoption rights for homosexuals. I felt I have ticked another box on my To Do List – become political. The French are well known for their political debates and love for a good argument and you can’t truly assimilate into French life without demonstrating a strong opinion for something. A few weekends ago was the march against homosexual marriage rights and I felt overwhelmingly disappointed at the narrow mindedness of the participants. I do think everyone is entitled to their own opinions, however I also think that everyone deserves to be treated equally, no matter what their race, gender or sexual preference. I have also been watching the discussions for gay marriage laws in Australia and was disappointed that I couldn’t show my support for changes to the laws while living in France. So Sunday was my opportunity to show my support.

Thousands of people marching for gay rights

Thousands of people marching for gay rights

Clearly the weather gods are in favour of gay marriage as blue skies and sunshine replaced a grey and drizzly morning as soon as the march started. Everyone was in great spirits as tens of thousands of people walked and danced through the streets of Paris. It was colourful, vibrant and positive and there is clearly a strong support for marriage equality.

Such a happy umbrella!

Such a happy umbrella!

It was a fantastic mix of young and old, gay and straight, with my favourite supporter being a little two year old boy sitting on his dad’s shoulders, bopping and waving his arms about to the sound of the drumming band.

Microscope For Sale

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Scientists are notoriously difficult to buy presents for… not anymore! Scientists, young and old, will love to receive this sock microscope!

Sock microscope

Sock microscope

Made from REAL SOCKS, all that is required is an excellent imagination and you will be seeing more molecules than you thought possible. This microscope featured in my sock laboratory at the Art vs Science exhibition at Café A in Paris. That’s right – Paris. This isn’t just any old sock microscope – it is Paris Chic. If you don’t buy it, it is likely to feature in the next Spring/Summer collection by Dior. But don’t you think it would look SO much better on your mantlepiece? It’s easy – just head to my Etsy site and press the “Yes, I do want to own a piece of Parisian art history” button.

For those who are interested, I also have some sock scissors, a sock scalpel, and a sock test tube holder. Just drop me an email and we can discuss further.

This Rino Sure Can Cook

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

It has been a while since I last told you about an amazing eating experience so I am now going to rectify this. Today was a celebratory day for my friend Jen who collected her ten year residency card for France. I did consider stealing it but it would require a significant amount of plastic surgery for me to look like the photo on Jen’s card as she is little and cute and I’m not.

Anyway, instead of stealing her identity, I met her for lunch so that we could cross another restaurant off my “Must Eat Here Before I Leave Paris” list. We went to a small resto in the 11eme called Rino. For lunch they offer a set three course menu that is based on what the chefs found at the market that morning. There is no choice apart from the main dish where we could choose between guinea fowl or fish. A few years ago this lack of choice would have been an issue for me but I now love being served something I wouldn’t normally choose to eat. Most of the time it is surprisingly good.

This definitely occurred with the entrée. When the waitress took our orders I was only going to have the main and dessert but it was obligatory to have the entrée for some unknown reason. This was a bit weird and instantly increased the cost of my meal but I was pleased in the end. We were served small lamb meatballs with eel (yes, eel) and a watercress sauce. It was superb! I have never eaten eel before mostly because it is a slippery fish-like-creature that doesn’t look very appetising but it turns out it is super yum.

Hello Mr Eel

Hello Mr Eel

My fish was perfectly cooked and was served with grilled cauliflower and endives, with an olive tapenade and some sort of white sauce. We couldn’t identify the sauce but it was good. Both Jen and I are slightly addicted to cauliflower at the moment so we were both overwhelmingly excited to see it on our plates and it was very well done. The olive tapenade went really well with the smoky grilled veg. The endive was a bit bitter which was disappointing but the rest of the dish made up for it.

It looks so pretty

It looks so pretty

Dessert was also something I would never normally choose – a baba au rhum with mandarin sorbet and whipped yoghurt. WOW. The yoghurt was sweet, the sorbet tangy and the baba doughy and oozing rum. The three elements worked so well together and made for a surprisingly light and refreshing dessert.

Baba au rhum

Baba au rhum

It was a fantastic lunch and I would definitely go back again. The only down side was that Jen and I were seated next to a wall that was covered with a padded board to reduce the noise in the restaurant. It messed with both of our ears and we felt lopped sided for most of the meal. But who needs to be balanced when eating such good food?

It’s All About the Fashion

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

I think I have forgotten to mention that Jean Paul Gaultier is my neighbour.

Ok, so that’s not entirely true. His atelier is on the same street as my apartment and only a ten minute walk away (it’s a long street.) So presuming he works VERY hard and is therefore constantly slaving away at work, combined with the fact that a person who resides on the same street as you is therefore in your neighbourhood and is therefore your neighbour – I should go and ask JP to borrow some sugar.

To be honest I don’t really care about or follow his fashion exploits but today as I walked home there was much kerfuffle happening outside Chez Gaultier. Shiny black Mercedes were creating traffic jams as they stopped outside in the middle of the road to drop off their model/actor/rich person. Lots of fur, lots of dark sunglasses and lots of people standing around with cameras. According to a quick Google search, Jean Paul was showing off his Spring/Summer collection.

Ooh la la, la mode! C'est super chouette!

Ooh la la, la mode! C’est super chouette!

It was strangely reassuring watching the attendees arrive and pose for the cameras. Many of them had very ordinary hair or were wearing plastic bomber-jackets and didn’t look fashion-show-appropriate at all. One girl was even wearing a daggy orange beanie. That said, I wasn’t mistaken as a model and invited inside nor photographed so I guess I still need to work on my lip pouting, hair flopping and fur-wearing. Or perhaps I just need to invest in so-ugly-it’s-fashionable knitted headwear.

It’s All White

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Wow. As I sit at my dining table/writing desk/printing space/dump-stuff-area writing this, I keep having to look up and stare out of the window. Outside Parc de Villemin (aka my backyard) is white. Completely and utterly white. Well there are patches of grey and brown and a little hint of green, but it’s 88 per cent white.

You may or may not have heard that it snowed last night à Paris and this time the snow has stuck around for us to enjoy the next day. It started snowing at about 5.30pm yesterday and continued all night. I returned home from a housewarming party at 1.30am and walked through snow-covered streets, past snow-covered cars and bikes, and dodging snow balls flung by teenage boys. It was astonishingly beautiful. This morning when I woke up, I sat up in bed, looked over my mezzanine wall and out through the window, hoping hoping HOPING for all of my fairy-tale dreams and wishes to come true. Would I wake up to discover Paris covered in snow?

Yes!

Bonjour Paris!

Bonjour Paris!

I am so glad my apartment looks out onto a park because the view into the trees and snow covered garden beds is significantly more attractive than looking out onto Gare de L’Est and the big intersection out of the front which is covered in black slush and just looks soggy and dirty. But not the park! I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw Bambi prancing about in the snow.

One of the greatest things about snow in Paris is that everything slows down – people walk slower (or don’t go outside at all which is even more pleasant), cars drive more carefully and when there’s no traffic about there is that gentle muffled quiet that snow brings. It’s as if Paris is wearing a pair of giant earmuffs. The snow is slowly starting to melt but they expect another front to come through tonight and it should be even whiter tomorrow morning. Apparently I am very lucky to see this as Paris doesn’t usually get this much snow. I’m fairly certain it has been my positive thoughts and extreme obsession with seeing snow in Paris that has created this phenomenon. The citizens of this city can thank me later.

Amazingly pretty by the canal. There was no one in the tourist boat by the way.

Amazingly pretty by the canal. There was no one in the tourist boat by the way.

The strange thing, for me at least, is that Parisians don’t seem to know what to do with snow. They certainly weren’t prepared for its arrival and now that it is here, there isn’t the instant cleanup that I would have expected. Instead I have seen a lot of men in green uniforms, who would usually be hosing dog poo off footpaths with a high-pressure water sprayer, walking around with wheelbarrows full of salt and unidentifiable black stones and scattering them on the ground. This morning an overweight man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth was attempting to push a salt-scatterer along the paths in the park and was having great difficulty controlling the machine in the few centimetres of snow on the ground. Canadians must find this very amusing.

The lack of clean up has meant that I couldn’t do my 20 kilometre training run this morning (quel domage!) Actually it was weirdly upsetting and so I decided to postpone it until tomorrow morning but the current forecast suggests I will just be disappointed again. I am discovering my brain is very messed up in that it gets upset that I can’t go for a run because there is TOO MUCH SNOW on the ground. Right… Ok, time to go and throw snow balls.

My friend Chuck taught me how to make snow balls of death. Now that I think about it, maybe it was Chuck Norris...

My friend Chuck taught me how to make snow balls of death. Now that I think about it, maybe it was Chuck Norris…

Snow Keeps Falling on My Head

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I have an announcement to make. I, Jessica Davies, after two years of patient waiting, a few tears and much disappointment, can finally say that I have danced in the snow in Paris. Well, maybe not danced, but jumped up and down excitedly with a HUGE grin on my face. It has been one of my strange obsessive dreams to see snow falling in Paris, and while a few weeks ago it apparently did snow, I didn’t see it happening and it was pathetic snow that I decided not to count it. Last year I missed the snow completely as I had returned to Perth to renew my visa and was in 40 degree heat while it was snowing here. This year I refused to let this happen again and waited like a stubborn mule for the snow to arrive.

And arrive it did! In big fluffy white flakes that turned my black winter jacket into leopard print. It was a bit soggy and I did get quite wet standing outside staring happily up into the sky, watching the snow fall in the street light. But I felt like a five year old waking up on Christmas morning – I was so ridiculously happy.

The snow has melted but yesterday there were more brief appearance of snow and twice I had snow randomly fall on my head whilst walking outside. Now THAT is exciting stuff!

Snow by the canal

Snow by the canal

YAY! SNOW!

YAY! SNOW!

Marathon Training Run #2

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Another Saturday morning has passed and therefore another painful long-distance run in preparation for the marathon. The weather forecast said it was going to be rainy and so I told myself 10 kilometres would be a minimum, 15 would be good, 20 would be better. I figure there isn’t much point in getting myself sick while training and everyone likes telling me that running in the rain equals instant cold. I don’t actually believe this fact, however am willing to go along with it if it means I don’t have to run so far.

As I set off at 8.30am, it was cloudy, cool but not raining and the weather was fine for the entire morning. In fact, it was great running weather without too much wind. So good weather, new music on my iPod, feeling good and getting somewhat lost resulted in me running a total distance of 23 kilometres. That’s more than a half marathon! That’s more than half way! Sure, I suspect the second half is going to be significantly harder than the first, but I am still very, very happy that I can run that distance and not be intense pain at the end.

I think I need to work on relaxing my shoulders when I run, because one day later and my neck, shoulders and back are extremely sore. I also need to watch what I eat before and after as I spent the rest of Saturday in a very weary state and just wanted to keep eating, eating, eating. It wasn’t until after I had had lunch, multiple afternoon snacks and a very large ramen noodle soup and a fondant chocolat for dinner that I felt somewhat normal again.

But in case you missed my previous announcement, I RAN A HALF MARATHON! Go me.

She's going the distance. She's not going for speed. She's all alone (all alone), all alone in a time of need.

She’s going the distance. She’s not going for speed. She’s all alone (all alone), all alone in a time of need.

Oh wow. I just wrote the caption for that photograph and for those of you who don’t know, I stole the words from a band called Cake and their song “The Distance” and I have just realised that that song is now about me and I need a tshirt for the marathon that says “She’s going the distance” on the front and “Powered by Cake” on the back. Yes. Brilliant.

So What is that Shop…?

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Today I vowed to be good and have a day of writing, writing, writing, with zero procrastination and zero slacking off. I had been doing so well until I started looking up addresses for shops in my neighbourhood and I found a link that has completely overwhelmed me. I have been in Paris now for almost two years and during that time have frequently walked past a sign pointing down a small alleyway declaring there is a British and Irish store in that direction. I have never investigated further but in the last thirty minutes I have developed an extreme urge to grab my jacket and run out the door, down the street and enter this SHOP OF HEAVEN.

I have decided that if I write about my experience on here then the past thirty minutes of online-browsing could be considered ‘research’ for this blog entry and therefore I was never procrastinating at all. So here we go!

I’m not entirely sure why L’Epicerie Anglaise has captured my attention so much considering almost everything it sells is over processed, plastic and/or full of sugar, fat and artificial sweeteners. Perhaps it is because I am being transported back to a time when I was a young, innocent child and wanted to eat these things (although whether or not I was allowed to is another point entirely.) Maybe it is also because today I am having a ‘no cake day’ and so a Cadbury’s Crunchie chocolate bar or an entire packet of ginger nuts are sounding REALLY GOOD.

Mmm... Gingernuts...

Mmm… Gingernuts…

Some of the products are actually appealing or it would have been useful to know I could purchase them just down the road a lot earlier during my time in Paris. Golden Syrup and some decent oats, for example, for making my ANZAC biscuits. The Carrs table water crackers would have come in handy for the many cheese and wine nights I have attended, and while not the best for me, some dark chocolate covered digestive biscuits would have gone down nicely. And what did I have to return to Australia to purchase? Vegemite. And there it was on a shelf just down the road from me. Sure, slightly over priced at 4.50Euros for 220grams but that’s a lot cheaper than a return flight to Perth.

Oh dear, I have looked too far and discovered they sell red Creaming Soda, one of my all time favourite beverages that (at least when I was child and drank the stuff) makes me go completely hyperactive. I should stop looking and return to writing my book about Paris, although I now realise that I have a new addition to my guide to the 10eme – for all your expat needs!

They even sell Pop Tarts... I was never allowed these as a child. As a full grown adult, I could now choose to buy them!

They even sell Pop Tarts… I was never allowed these as a child. As a full grown adult, I could now choose to buy them!

Galette de Rois Returns

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

While often I slap my head and roll my eyes at French processes, procedures and general uselessness, every now and then I really appreciate the French way of doing things. One thing that they do exceptionally well is eat, drink and celebrate as much as possible. Any excuse will do, and they don’t just crack open a few beers and get drunk, they will often invent an entire meal, tradition or delicious layered cake that everyone embraces and enjoys.

The 6 January is Epiphany which apparently celebrates when everyone realised Jesus was God’s son and therefore had a big feast. The French love a good Christian holiday, and celebrate with the Galette de Rois – an amazing puff-pastry round cake filled with frangipane (almond butter.) Every bakery throughout France produces a galette and inside each one is a ‘treasure’ to be found by one of the people eating it. I believe I wrote about this event last year when Ben was still in Paris and we ate two on one day. This year I summoned my friend Jen as my fellow galette consumer. We were to have the galette the day after Epiphany, eat a light soup dinner and then gorge ourselves on butter, sugar, butter, butter and almonds. And more butter.

I purchased the galette from one of Paris’s most prized bakeries and the place considered to sell the best galette in France – Du Pain et Des Idées.

Such a pretty place to buy such a delicious dessert

Such a pretty place to buy such a delicious dessert

It is a gorgeous bakery, not far from my apartment, that sells amazing bread and viennoiseries and is very well known for their pastry. The galettes came in various sizes – I chose le petit which was bigger than my head and really designed for at least four people. At 19 Euros it wasn’t cheap and I hoped it would be worth the money.

So beautiful.

So beautiful.

OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH how it was so worth the money. I would go back and spend every last cent I own on these disks of buttery pleasure. Crisp, flaky pastry with the best frangipane filling I have ever tasted. Some frangipane loses its almond quality while in this beast you could still see glints of the almond skins.

By dividing it into eight, it felt like we weren't eating as much!

By dividing it into eight, it felt like we weren’t eating as much!

Jen divided it into eight portions and then, as the youngest guest, I chose who received each portion. I clearly got it wrong as Jen was the winner, discovering a ceramic crocodile inside one of her pieces. La Rein de Galette. And so we ate four pieces of galette each and felt remarkably ok at the end of it. I can feel butter oozing through my pores today and clogging every artery in my body, but if I die from butter-overload I don’t care. It was worth it.