Archive for the ‘Zaum in France’ Category

On This Day…

Monday, November 17th, 2014

I have just had a quick skim read of my blog posts on and around the 17 November in 2010/11/12/13 and it has made me quite pleased that I write all of this random drivel and chuck it into big bad world of THE INTERNET. So what was I up to, I hear you ask with excitement and vigour? Well!

In 2010, I was in Sydney applying for my first travel/work visa to go to France. These were exciting times as I suddenly had permission to go and live in my favourite city in the world and I was in Sydney eating cheese with my best friend, Gill. What more could a girl ask for?

In 2011, I was writing 50,000 words in one month for NaNoWriMo (a task I managed to successfully complete) and I had tripped over whilst running along the Canal Saint Martin in Paris, horrendously injuring my knees. Or at least, that’s how I made it seem.

In 2012, I was eating cake and enjoying Beaujoulais Nouveau in Paris while attending exhibition openings that I made a small appearance in. Ooh la la!

In 2013, I had recently met the Queen. That’s how I roll.

So that’s not bad really. Not bad at all.

Une Petite Course à Paris

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

It had been over a year since I was last in Paris. Despite insisting that I would return regularly to see my friends, the ability to travel between Manchester and Paris has turned out to not be as simple as first thought. While the two cities are reasonably close, the cost and travel time between them is surprisingly substantial. Plus life has gotten in the way and my grand return to my favourite city just never eventuated. Until last weekend.

A few months ago, I received a desperate text message from my running buddy, Becky, asking me to come to Paris to participate in a group run. It was a long way to go for a 5 kilometre race, however I was willing to accept any excuse to get me back there. Unfortunately one of our other team members had to pull out and so we never signed up for the group run. Instead, the week after completing the Manchester Marathon, while still feeling the high of running 42 kilometres, I googled “Run Paris 18 19 May” et voila! There was going to be a half marathon starting from the Bois de Bologne and heading out through the banlieue to St Germaine-en-Laye that weekend. I told Becky, we signed up and suddenly a month after completing a marathon we were doing a half. Mon dieu.

Go Number 2931!

Go Number 2931!

The race started at 8am, an hour earlier than both Becky and I thought. We then discovered it would take us 50 minutes to get to the start line. So working backwards, we realised we would need to get up at 5.45am to eat breakfast, get ready and arrive at the race on time. Yay.

Bon matin, Paris.

Bon matin, Paris.

We played ‘spot the runners’ on the metro out to the Bois de Bologne, as more and more people wearing lycra, race numbers and carrying the plastic bags we had been provided to transport our belongings got on the train. The weather was beautiful – clear skies and a nice light breeze. Perfect conditions for the run.

The race was fantastic – described as being 50 per cent urban, 50 per cent vegetation, the route started in one of Paris’s wooded areas before heading towards the suburbs. We passed through small villages, dodging cars, jumping over curbs and turning sharp corners on footpaths. We then headed along the river Seine, running along a sandy path with the water on one side and huge mansions with amazing manicured gardens on the other. It was very beautiful and peaceful. The two hill climbs were less peaceful and my poor legs, which haven’t seen a decent hill in over a year due to Manchester’s ultra flat terrain, were a little bit shocked. However Team Blonde managed to encourage each other up both hills and we made it to the top without stopping. GO TEAM.

There were two issues with the race:

  1. There were no toilets along the route. This is fine for the french men who are able and willing to go to the toilet against any tree, fence, pole or open space they can find. Not so easy for the ladies who either had to drop their dacks in front of hundreds of people or simply hold on.
  2. The water stations served water in paper cups. Have you ever tried running with a cup of water in your hand? Have you then attempted to drink from it? I dare you to try it and if you manage to get more than half of the water into your mouth and not up your nose, all over your hand or on the ground then I will kiss your feet. Perhaps it was therefore a good thing that they were filling the cups with a high pressure water hose so most of the water jumped straight out and you were served a cup that was only a quarter full. Not great. Water is quite important when you’re running 20 kilometres.

The race finished at the Chateau in St Germain-en-Laye which has views over Paris and the surrounding suburbs. It was extremely pleasant to stretch our legs with such an amazing view. Plus we both managed to finish in under two hours (my time was 1 hour 57 minutes) – very pleasing results considering the warm temperatures, the painful hill climbs and the lack of water and toilets. Definitely one of the prettiest races I have ever completed. And I have discovered that a half marathon is less than half as difficult as a marathon. The painful bit of a marathon hits after you have reached the 30 kilometre mark. Becky and I both agreed that 20 kilometres is the optimum race length – not too short and not too long. Now I just need to find another race so that I can add to my ugly medal collection.

Nice view.

Nice view.

How Ugly is Ugly?

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Very ugly.

Wow.

Wow.

Just in case you wanted to see in detail the hideousness of the medal that I ran 42km for.

Marathon Completed!

Monday, April 8th, 2013

I, Jessica Davies, writer of words, traveller of countries, blonde of hair, am now officially a runner of marathons. I DID IT! I am currently experiencing a sense of complete personal pride. In my mind, I am the fittest, most talented, most generally genius person in the world. It’ll pass, but for a few hours I am going to feel really bloody good about myself. And I think that’s fair enough – I just ran 42.195 kilometres in 4 hours, 42 minutes and 24 seconds.

The experience was extremely rewarding – as my group (we were separated into groups by expected completion times) set off from the starting line, I felt a huge surge of excitement and general “wow, this is happening!” as I joined thousands of feet hitting the pavements of Paris. The weather was PERFECT. Sunshine, clear skies and no wind. It was the wind I was concerned about – there was none of that today! It was cold at the start but by the time we got moving it got quite warm. We headed down the Champs Elysées, past the Louvre and through the centre of Paris before hitting the Bois de Vincennes, returning back through Paris, past the Eiffel Tower, through the Bois de Bologne and back to the Arc de Triomphe. Not a bad place to run. Thankfully, Paris is nice and flat so there were no major hills to climb.

While the weather was perfect and the scenery beautiful, the toilet situation wasn’t – there were portaloos set up at various points along the course, but by the time my slower group reached them they were all disgusting. Really not pleasant. I quickly ducked into a café along the route and smiled a “I’m running a marathon which is a really long way and you should DEFINITELY let me use your loo” smile and it worked. In and out like a flash, I was. Now I shall move on from discussing my ablutions.

I felt reasonably strong for most of the course and have potentially become addicted to sports-energy-goo-things. They’re DELICIOUS! I was eating chocolate flavoured goop whilst running through Paris in the sunshine! How great is that! The last five kilometres were a little bit extremely tough as my thighs were screaming at me, my feet were questioning my motives and my original plan on telling myself that five kilometres is the shortest distance I will ever let myself run in the mornings on my everyday jogs didn’t really work. Five kilometres became REALLY LONG and as I watched other runners dropping off, getting cramp and walking I doubted whether or not I would make it. This is starting to sound like a soap opera. Anyway, I didn’t stop, I popped another energy goo and as I hit the final kilometre the adrenaline kicked in as I realised that I was about to finish running a marathon. LET’S RUN FASTER! Without any consultation with my brain, my legs started working harder and I crossed the finish line in an impressive non-jogging pace. Hardly a sprint, but still. I was impressed.

Somewhat pathetically, I almost cried as I crossed the line, I was that glad it was over and that proud of my achievement. No tears were physically shed but they were in there somewhere. I collected my horribly green tshirt and my ridiculously hideous medal before walking very, very slowly to the metro. Walking down stairs in currently a challenge. Yes, the medal is awful – it is a huge rectangular thing with very poorly shaped text and images and some terrible colour choices. Whoever designed it needs to go back to design school. But still. I have a medal! WOO! It’s like winning the Olympics.

So I am now looking for another marathon to run! But if I do it I will have to take my amazing friends who met me before the marathon and positioned themselves at multiple points along the route waving flags and cheering for me as I passed. Knowing that they were waiting for me spurred me on and I feel so grateful for having such wonderful, supportive friends. Merci, mes amies! Vous êtes les BOMBS! A super huge thank you to Becky for your artistic sign-making skills and for being heavily pregnant yet willing to stand outside in the cold for hours waiting for me to run past. You’re either crazy or amazing.

And just to make this sound even more like an Oscar acceptance speech, I also would like to thank my friend Brett for making an unexpected, unrequested but ultimately generous and life changing gesture of sponsoring me so that I could afford to run in the marathon. Without him, I probably would have said “Bah, too expensive!” and never gone ahead with it. Then there were my fantastic parents who also helped me out and my friend Sonia who insisted on donating to the “Make Jess Run a Marathon” fund. And finally to my cousin, Sam for his kind shoe donation. I would like to recommend that everyone buys Mizuno shoes. They’ll get you across the line!

So my brain isn’t functioning properly, my legs are so, so, so stiff and I’m not sure I can stand up from this chair. But that was one of the best days of my life. Can I do it again?

Yum.

Monday, February 25th, 2013

This morning I ate this with my coffee:

Escargot pistache et chocolat

Escargot pistache et chocolat

It was from Du Pain et Des Idées (one of the best bakeries in Paris and where I bought my galette de rois from this year) and it was just amazingly good. Simple, crispy, buttery, pistachioy, chocolatey. Pure delight for my tastebuds. Gosh I’m going to miss French baked goods.

Is that the Eiffel Tower?

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

I wanted to share this strange site that my friend Becky and I stumbled across on a walk last weekend. We were wandering through the 15eme arrondissement and discovered this:

Odd.

Odd.

Next to it was a fish market, which somewhat explained the existence of a light house next to a train line in the middle of Paris but we both still had many questions. The fisherman wasn’t very talkative.

Little Popelini

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Yesterday I went on a random walk through Paris and as I was heading through the Marais I realised that I would be going past a cake store that I have been meaning to try. As I am about to leave this great city, I felt it only appropriate that I stop and sample their goods even if I had only just eaten lunch. Named after the inventor of choux pastry – an Italian genius by the name of Popelini – this patisserie only sells small choux balls filled with delicious flavoured creams. I, of course, sampled the dark chocolate and as I stood outside in the snowy weather and bit into the exploding puff, my eyes lit up and a huge smile took over my face. Why hadn’t I tried one of these earlier? I am not a huge choux pastry fan and I never choose eclairs – but this! WOW.

So cute and so delicious!

So cute and so delicious!

 

The chocolate cream was dark, rich and plentiful inside the pastry puff. I almost turned around and went back in for a second but probably would have felt very sick if I had. One was perfection.

Popelini
29 Rue Debelleyme
75003

It’s the Final Count Down (Again)…

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

I have lots of final count downs. Two years ago it was counting down to moving to Paris and now it is for leaving. Apologies for not having written in a while but my life has literally turned upside down and inside out and then been stuck together with packing tape. I am writing this from my apartment which is very quickly turning back into its original prison-cell-like form with only hard plastic furniture and bare walls. Yesterday a friend came and took my couch so I now have no where comfortable to sit. This is probably a good thing as staying inside is less and less appealing and I have been going for a lot of long walks through Paris (in the snow).

So what has been happening…? Lots. Apart from unintentionally starting the War of the Anglosaxons, I have been spending most of my days packing, cleaning, calculating box weights and how much I can fit in my suitcase, eating, working, and catching up with friends. It has been busy busy busy which is somewhat pleasing as it doesn’t give me time to feel too sad about the fact that I am leaving. Today is Sunday – so I have four more full days in Paris before my time here is up. Of course, it won’t be forever and at least I know I will be back in April to do a stupidly long run and eat more good food. Plus I will soon be a surrogate Aunt and will need to return to play with my adopted nephew and I have friends to visit! So Paris and I aren’t over yet – as my mum hates me pointing out, it’s not like I am going back to Australia.

Over the next few days I plan on eating as many delicious pastries as possible in between working out how to get all of my stuff to England. I had a successful day with the post office on Friday after I carried 30 kilograms worth of books there by hand to send on to Australia and England. There is a special shipping rate for sending books but you can only send them in 5 kilogram lots. So I had spent the first half of the week scrounging in Parisian bins looking for small cardboard boxes. I am quite fortunate to live near a clothing warehouse area and every night there are hundreds of cardboard boxes out for rubbish collection. So I became a crazy hobo and got my hands dirty and managed to find enough perfectly sized boxes to send my books. When I got the boxes to the Post Office I managed to smile nicely and flutter my eyelashes enough for the Post Office Man to ‘overlook’ the extra 100 grams in some of the boxes. It makes a huge difference! To send 5 kilograms of books to England cost 8 Euros. To send 5.1 kilograms of books to England cost 34 Euros. I had to repack two of the boxes but now they are all on their way to opposite sides of the globe.

Boxes o' Books.

Boxes o’ Books.

I am most likely going to send two or three boxes with FedEx as it is cheaper AND they will come and pick the boxes up from my apartment! And plus I can then say I FedExed them and that makes me feel like I’m in a movie.

So that is my exciting packing news. Tomorrow I plan on going to the Australian Embassy to vote in the Western Australian state election which will either be really exciting or really disappointingly frustrating. I am betting on the second option. But at least the Embassy is next to the Eiffel Tower so I can pop over and see that while I am there. Give a final salute to the big pointy thing.

Verjus is Vergood

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

I have added another major tick to my “Culinary Adventures To Have Before I Leave Paris” list. Last night my friend Jen and I had a “Day After Valentine’s Day” date at Verjus – another highly prized, much talked about restaurant in the Paris foodie world. Located in the first arrondissement next to Louis XIV’s old haunt, the Palais Royal, Verjus is a bit more upmarket than previous restaurants we have been to and we went there for their 60 Euro degustation menu.

I should perhaps mention that my day began with a pre-breakfast meal of drugs – cold tablets, nasal spray and cough medicine. I wasn’t particularly impressed that my body had decided to give me a cold on the one day that I really wanted my taste buds to be fully functional. But being a non-believer in colds, I pumped myself full of drugs and ignored it all day.

Goodbye, cold.

Goodbye, cold.

We met for a drink at the Verjus winebar located underneath the restaurant and as we walked in we both agreed that the ten or so people in the wine bar would all be non-French, most likely American, British or Australian. CORRECT! Not a word of French was being spoken and I don’t think there were any French people in the wine bar or the restaurant at any point in the entire night.

The upstairs restaurant is small and cozy with lots of wood and great windows that look out at the Théâtre du Palais Royal and the little passages surrounding the building. We were served by lovely waitresses who told us about the set menu, happily gave us tap water and recommended a good bottle of wine to go with our food. And then it began…

I got to eat ALL of that!

I got to eat ALL of that!

We were served eight plates in total and we could have also had cheese for an extra 12 Euros but we figured eight was enough. Each plate was beautifully presented with bright colours and interesting mixes of ingredients. It amazes me how chefs know to put some of these ingredients together and in what sort of quantity/shape/texture etc. Nothing was disappointing or disagreeable – I even ate clams and scallops and enjoyed them! I was very annoyed that, despite ignoring it, my cold had taken over by this point and I didn’t get to enjoy my food as much as I wanted to. However, the highlight dishes for me were the clam soup, the hanger steak with carrots, and the chocolate ganache.

Duck.

Duck.

Steak.

Steak.

Somewhat strangely they brought the two dessert plates out at the same time which I didn’t really agree with because I had both of them staring at me and it was as if the dessert courses weren’t as important as the others. That said, it isn’t every day that I have two plates of dessert sitting in front me and I get to eat BOTH of them.

Two desserts, one spoon.

Two desserts, one spoon.

The cardamon panna cotta had a very gelatinous texture which distracted from the flavour but once you got over that and mixed it with the pears, dates and almonds it was delightful and light. The chocolate ganache was one of the best chocolate ganaches I have ever had (and I’ve had a lot) and the Golden Graham ice cream was amazingly creamy. I could have kept eating both of them all night. In fact, I could have started the entire menu again – it was all so good.

Chocolate.

Chocolate.

For 60 Euros it was one of the best value dinners I have had in Paris – the quality of the ingredients and the presentation and craftsmanship behind each dish was just wonderful. I will definitely try and go back.

Except next time I go, I am going to take a large bucket of socks that I have pre-rolled into balls that I can stuff into the mouths of all of the excessively loud American tourists who surrounded our table. I had my back to a window, but on every other side of the table were groups whose voices became increasingly louder and louder as they fought to talk over the top of the rest of the noise. I really wanted to stand up, blow a whistle and call “Time Out” and offer a small piece of wisdom that I learnt at Primary School – if everyone speaks softly then everyone can be heard and no one needs to yell! The problem with these situations is that you start eavesdropping on the conversations because you can’t hear anything else and you have to listen to their discussions about how they don’t understand how the degustation menu works or how the guy who likes motorcycles proposed to his girlfriend on the plane on the way over because it was Valentine’s Day and yet before their friends arrived they had a little tiff about how she didn’t have a clue where they were going and that was his fault. Wow. I should write a book about it.

Loving Lithography

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Yesterday afternoon I ventured beyond the southern peripherique in sloppy, snowy weather to attend a lithography workshop organised by the Harvard Club. Yes, I was mixing with the finest and brightest once again, only this time I actually felt like one of the most qualified attendees. My non-law/business background and lack of doctorate, made me one of the more ‘artistic’ people in the group – or at least I told myself that.

What's behind mystery door number one?

What’s behind mystery door number one?

Thanks to my friends Jen and Greg, I was able to attend the workshop run by an American artist, Jonathan Shimony, who has lived in Paris for many years. He originally moved here for one year and then never left and now has an amazing studio with lithography, etching and other styles of printing presses. I walked in, inhaled the fumes of paints, solvents and other delicious chemicals and felt as if I had just walked into heaven. I was brought back to earth by the sudden need for me to shake hands and pretend to be interested in networking with Harvard Alumni (don’t get me wrong – they were all very nice people, I just find the whole thing disgustingly fake.)

Jonathan began by discussing the history of printing and lithography and I became instantly aware of how little I know about art history. Here I am attempting to get into these fields and I feel like I am a bit of a fraud. Obviously these things take time and research and you need to learn them from somewhere – I just haven’t.

We were then given crayon-like drawing implements and spaces on large blocks of limestone and told to draw. A few scratched heads and embarrassed faces later, everyone had added their piece of ‘art’ to the printing blocks and Jonathan then demonstrated the printing techniques on his amazing press.

It was wonderful to watch and participate in the whole printing process although I have so many questions and want to go back and experiment further. Jonathan mentioned the lack of continued interest in the lithography methods and so when I waved my arms around with excitement and declared that I will continue the traditions for years to come, he said I was welcome to come and be his studio assistant whenever I wanted, just as long as I was willing to get my hands dirty. OH YES PLEASE! If only this had happened two years ago and I wasn’t about the leave the country… Even so, I hope to be able to go in and spend a few days with Jonathan and watch the process much closer and ask the millions of questions floating around in my head.

Sometimes my talent amazes me.

Sometimes my talent amazes me.