Posts Tagged ‘2012’

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.

Lots of Lycra

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

My presence on the Champs Élysées for the end of the Tour de France has become an annual occurrence – yesterday my friend Brandon and I joined the crowds of British tourists to watch the boys in lycra roll into Paris. It amazes me how easy it is to actually do this – I always imagined pushing and shoving and hordes of people lining the grand rue for the final day. Instead, Brandon and I met 50 minutes before the riders’ expected arrival and managed to find a spot right near the finish line without any problems.

Tour de France

Le Tour

Paris finally brought out the sunshine and it was a glorious day. The atmosphere amongst the crowd was very positive and it is such an exciting experience to watch the bikes zooming past. They go a LOT faster in real life than they do on television. Absolutely amazing.

Tour de France

Allez!

I was particularly thrilled to see Jens Voigt, the craziest and awesomest German bike rider EVER, heading the group for most of the way. He was clearly telling those legs to “shut up and do as I tell you”. Amazing.

Jens Voigt

GO JENS!

There were a few amusing moments, too. Last year I complained about Tina Arena singing the Australian national anthem when Cadel Evans was standing on the podium – this year was even WORSE. Perhaps it was my proximity to one of the speakers, but the opera singing who screeched out God Save the Queen burst a few ear drums amongst the crowd. It made me screw up my face in horror, this then resulting in a girl standing near me laughing. It was truly awful. So I say “Go Tina!”

Then there was Wiggins’ speech, which he made in English and that wasn’t exactly the most inspirational thing I had ever seen. But there was then a French translation for all of the non-english-speakers in the crowd. I’m not sure if this translation was shown on the television but it was absolutely terrible! Firstly, the translator was a girl. This just seemed strange. Secondly, she then ‘beautified’ the rather crude things that Wiggins’ had said, and said that his father’s dream of seeing his son winning the Tour de France had come true, rather than his mother’s dream as Wiggins had stated. Wiggins had also asked the crowd not to get too drunk, which was not translated at all and somehow turned into him thanking the crowd with all of his heart. Good work, translator.

The third amusing element was the overly dramatic music that was pumped through the speakers before the presentation of each of the jerseys. It was all violins and rolling drums. It certainly ‘added’ to the atmosphere. Amazing stuff.

So another year of the Tour is over and next year will be the 100th! Looks like I will have to stay in Paris in order to participate in the festivities.

Au Revoir, Sarkozy

Monday, May 7th, 2012

I love those moments when planets align, miracles happen and water gets turn into wine, and you manage to find yourself in the right place at the right time. Yesterday was Round Two of the French election and I was eager to find out the results.

French election sign

Votez!

Unfortunately, I currently have no television, my internet is too slow to stream the results and I was out at dinner with some visiting friends when the results were announced. While in the restaurant, I could hear sounds the suggested the results had been announced – mostly horn tooting and “OOoouuaaaiiii!!!”s. Thankfully, the lovely waitress who was serving us asked if we knew the election results and happily announced that Hollande had won. Ouaiiii, indeed!

This was fantastic news – no more sleazeball as President. After we discussed politics with the waitress for awhile and she gave us free L’Eau de Vie to celebrate Hollande’s win, we headed outside and home. In order for me to walk home, I was heading towards the Bastille and mentioned to my friends that there may be something happening there as when there is something to celebrate or protest about, Parisians tend to head there. It appears I was correct.

Bastille election

That's a lot of people.

The Bastille was a swarm of people and the monument in the middle of the giant roundabout had been taken over by young celebrating Parisians. I have never seen so many happy French people – everyone was smiling! Seriously. I’m not joking. People were happy, dancing, drinking, and generally congratulating each other on having ousted the bad guy.

Apparently on the other side of Paris the rich folk were crying, but here in the Eastern half of Paris where people barely earn enough to pay their monthly rent, the people were ecstatic.

My friends headed away from the crowd and back to their hotel – I, however, had to somehow cross the Bastille to get home. Sure, I could, and maybe should, have gone around, but where’s the fun in that? And so I headed in, joining the throng of happy Frenchies.

Bastille election

Vivre la France.

It was fine until I reached the other side and tried to get out and joined a flow of people trying to exit next to a flow of people trying to get in. It wasn’t fun. I can understand why people would panic in situations like that as humans start pushing each other, trying to get through and yet can’t get anywhere. I took many deep breaths when I finally got out of it.

The walk home was entertaining – so many people out celebrating the political victory. It was like post AFL Grand Final celebrations except with less punch ups. I can’t imagine Australians ever getting that excited (or on the other side of Paris, that upset) by the results of an election. Young and old were out, shouting, cheering and tooting their car horns. It appears Parisians can get noisy.

It was wonderful to witness the celebrations, although I couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like if Sarkozy had won. Best not to imagine, I think.

The Final Day (For Now)

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

So here it is: my last full day in Paris. I get on the plane tomorrow afternoon and head off at 2.30pm, France time. I arrive in Dubai one minute before midnight, Dubai time, then get on another plane and get home at 5.30pm, Perth time. WHAT FUN! OH BOY! I CAN’T WAIT! Twenty hours of travel and plane time! Squished into a cozy seat! Listening to the constant hum of the plane! Eating at least four delicious meals of who knows what! Excitement plus. I know you’re all jealous.

My plans for my final day in Paris had originally involved Nutella crêpes, however over the past three days I appear to have stressed myself into a state of “Stupid Stomach” and my desire to eat such delights has completely disappeared. I know… how can this be?! It is terrible news and I’m not proud of it, but I am going out for dinner this evening with Tom and hopefully I will be able to stomach something chocolatey then. If not then I deserve to return to Perth. How dare I live in a city of deliciousness and not sample the goods! For shame.

I have to say that it doesn’t seem particularly real that I am leaving and the concept that Tom and I have been living in Paris for an entire year does not compute. It feels both shorter and longer at the same time. We have managed to do so much, see so much, make so many great friends and eat so much extremely good food, that surely we have been here for longer than 12 months? At the same time, a year is a long time but it has passed so quickly. I am overwhelmingly happy to know that I have secured our apartment for another year and that it is highly probable that I will be returning. I just need that visa… If I wasn’t coming back I think my stomach ache would have evolved into all of my limbs falling off.

So what did we do in each of these months? Let’s do a month-by-month breakdown! YAAYY!!

February
Arrived in Paris in -3 degree weather.  Bought lots of stuff for our apartment including an awesome miniature oven. Saw Rich Hall perform in a tiny room on the other side of the canal (he’s coming back while I am away. Boo…)

March
The sun started to shine and flowers came out. We went to Nancy and Custines. We got gastro. I bought a sewing machine.

April
We went to Morlaix and Mont Saint Michel. Tom got the flu. We saw Morcheeba in concert. We went to Lyon with Rom and Coup.  We went to Germany for Tom’s Opa’s funeral. I got my first Parisian haircut (unsuccessfully.) Mum and Dad came to visit.

May
We went to Madrid with Rom and Coup and had the best time ever. Tom’s parents came to visit. We went to Holland and met up with my parents. We went bike riding and mud walking.

June
We went to Germany and travelled with Tom’s parents. We went to Crete. We hired a scooter and drove around the island. We ate lots of food. We went swimming at the beach. It was Fête de la Musique in Paris. I successfully completed a 10km fun run.

July
I became a tour guide. It was warm and sunny. Rom and Coup went home. It was Bastille Day and we went to a ‘ball’ at a fire station and watched fireworks from the roof of the Récollets. I had my second, far more successful, hair cut in Paris. We watched Cadel Evans win the Tour de France on the Champs Elysee.

August
I sold my first sock creature from Paris. I discovered Kooka Boora. My Nanna came to visit. I spent weeks trying to find a restaurant for Tom’s birthday dinner. It was Tom’s birthday. We went to London. We saw Underworld perform while standing in mud.

September
It was my birthday!! We went to New York. We went to Maine and ate fresh lobster. My brother came to visit.

October
We went to Lisbon and Porto in Portugual. We ate good food and drank nice wine. We went swimming at the beach. We went to the Salon du Chocolat and ate way too much chocolate. We had a halloween party at the Récollets. We ate oysters and charcuterie, and drank wine off car bonnets.

November
I wrote 50,000 words in less than a month. Autumn arrived and all of the leaves fell and looked so pretty. We made rabbit stew with our friend Friso. I made a pumpkin pie for a thanks giving dinner. I accidentally ate tête de veau.

December
I made a science laboratory out of socks and displayed them in an exhibition at Café A. We went to a big wine tasting show at the Récollets. I put up Christmas decorations. It didn’t snow. We went to Germany for Christmas and stayed with Tom’s Oma. We ate lunch at the single table at Les Têtes dans les Olives. We went to Gouda for New Year.

January
We celebrated the arrival of 2012 with my family in Holland. We didn’t go mud walking. It rained a lot. Ben was in Paris for a few days. I started my count down for leaving Paris, doing one fun activity every day until I got sick.

So that’s it! There is my year in summary. Not a bad one, if I do say so myself. Now I am going to go and visit my favourite bakery lady and buy my last baguette for lunch. And then I have to pack. Dang.

News from Perth soon. Thanks for living this year with me.

Holiday Snaps

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

For anyone interested in seeing where I went and what I ate over Christmas and New Years, you can see my holiday photos on my Flickr site. Highlights include movies of crazy Dutch fireworks, a hill in Holland, and a GIANT spring roll.

Back to Business With Galette

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Happy 2012 to one and all! My year started with insane Dutch people setting off fireworks in their back/front yards, carparks, petrol stations etc., plus lots of olliebollen, appelbeignets and general consistent eating.

Olliebollen

Mmm... olliebollen.

It is strange to think that I have come back to Paris with the idea of now being able to eat ‘normally’ and hence hopefully return to my original pant size. I have hit one slight set back – La Fête des Rois. Also known as the Epiphany when the three Kings or wise men visited Jesus and gave him birthday presents, the French have taken hold of this great day and turned it into something even greater. Everyone eats galettes – a round puff pastry delight filled with almond paste goodness. OH, IT IS GOOD.

Galette

Galette

Inside the galette, the bakers place a small item (yesterday I was witness to the discovery of a jigsaw puzzle piece, a green cow, and a miniature ScoobyDoo) and when the galette is divided, the person who finds the item in their piece of galette is crowned the King. They then get to wear a crown for the rest of the evening, lucky buggers.

While we had plans yesterday evening to have a galette party with the other residents at the Récollets, as Ben is a budding baker, we went in search of a GOOD galette (as opposed to one from a supermarket) for morning tea. We decided to go to Julhès, a family empire of deliciousness where you can buy bakery goods, wine, cheese, tapenade, foie gras, chocolate, and every other delicious thing you can think of. Ben, Tom and I divided the galette into 12 pieces and then invented a complicated mathematical formula for deciding who received which piece of galette. Ben was the winner with his second piece of galette and wore, with pride, the golden crown.

Galette

Keeping things fair

The second rule of galette is whoever is crowned King is also, therefore, rich and must purchase another galette for his lowly citizens/friends/family. So Ben bought a second (smaller) galette from my favourite boulangerie to have with lunch. As this was a galette for one or two persons, there was no item hidden inside so no one had to buy another galette. HOWEVER, we did then meet my fellow residents in the evening for dinner and galette eating. Almost everyone brought a galette so there were plenty to go around. This time we followed even more traditional methods and the youngest person was sent to sit under the table to call out names of people and select which piece of galette they would eat.

The youngest person at the table was three months younger than me, and as he was quite insistent that I take the honour of sitting on the floor, I spent the next 15 minutes or so calling out names from under the table. What fun! I failed at choosing a winning piece of galette for myself on both the first AND second round of galette distribution. Once everyone had had two pieces, there were still a few kings missing but everyone was a little bit sick of puff pastry and almond so the rest of the galettes were attacked with knives to find the final items. It was a lot of fun and galette is definitely high on my Deliciousness list. The search for the hidden item is highly entertaining and the fact that you’re eating delicious galette instead of looking for a penny inside stodgy plum pudding is definitely an additional benefit.

Things are returning to normal now after the Christmas and New Year’s break. I have just dropped my brother off at the train station and sent him back to England to continue his baking. My plans for today mostly involve cleaning as I still have christmas presents, decorations and general “I’ll deal with this later” items scattered around my apartment. We returned from our two week trip in Germany and Holland with a lot of excess baggage in the form of presents and food. Lots of food. Tom got excited by the price and availability of Jagermeister in Germany, while I went a bit nuts buying chocolate sprinkles and biscuits in Holland. Luckily there’s no such thing as customs when crossing European borders. Ben is currently travelling back to England with a two kilogram bag of flour in his suitcase. That flour has been through Holland, Belgium, France and now England.

I am trying to work out how I can bring everything that is delicious from France to Australia. I have 20 days left in Paris until I get on a plane and fly away home. While everyone around me is telling me how great Australia is and how much fun I am going to have, the whole process of having to get on a plane for 24 hours, have jet lag, fly to and from Sydney, and spend the entire time crossing my fingers that I am allowed a visa isn’t really making me jump for joy. Yes, yes, beaches, sunshine and family. But also a lot to think about and hope that the French government doesn’t think of a stupid reason not to let me come back to France. What will I do then? Plus what cheese am I going to eat in Perth?!

Well this post is getting very long and I have cleaning to do. Spread the word that Zaum is back in action for 2012 with more stories, more adventures and plenty of photographs of food.

Stroop wafel

Like this fresh stroop wafel I ate in Gouda

Bienvenue, 2012

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Apologies for my recent lack of contact. The last few weeks have been particularly busy with completing my work for the exhibition, playing tour guide for my friend, Rachel, and my brother, Ben, and now Christmas and New Years adventures in Germany and the Netherlands. I am writing this from the loft of my second cousin’s house in Gouda (yes, like the cheese except with the correct Dutch pronunciation – Gcchhhowda.) To my left is a view of apartment blocks surrounded by a Dutch morning sky – grey, foggy and wet. No snow in sight. It seems that all of Europe has been hit by some sort of strange heat wave and snow has been rare this winter. Very disappointing but somewhat expected as I am here and hot weather seems to follow me where ever I go. I have now spent two snowless winters in Europe. I need to work on this.

So today is New Year’s Eve, the day when everyone is supposed to reflect on their past year, examine what they have achieved and what they need to put on their “To Do” list for the next year. We all know I love a good reflection so let’s do it.

This year really started for me in February when I moved to Paris. It is still hard to believe that I only have one month left of my year away. If I hadn’t planned on extending my stay I would now be in a state of complete and utter panic, depression and general Oh-Woe-Is-Me. I am still very nervous about my approaching trip back to Australia and Sydney to visit the French Embassy to ask for a second visa, but at least it is going to happen. I think I can grandly announce that this year has been the best year of my life thus far but how could it not be? I have lived in an amazing city, met awesome people, visited wonderful places and eaten some of the greatest food of my life. What’s not to like?

Next year I plan to continue this current way of living while also endeavouring to put more effort into my writing and ‘stuff’. When I first made my Zaum business cards, I kept my options open by declaring Zaum was a business for “Writing and stuff”. I am still trying to find out what that stuff is and how exactly to do it but my recent sock laboratory adventures have put a few ideas into my head. I have so much I want to do and try – I just need to work out how to do it. According to my horoscope in the Dutch tv magazine, the best time of the year for me to work out what I want to do with my career is from March to June of next year. Sounds like a plan.

So this reflection has become a bit of a pathetic thing but to be honest my stomach is grumbling and I want to go and eat some breakfast. At 10am I am expecting to hear the onslaught of hundreds of fireworks being set off. In the Netherlands, it is legal to purchase fireworks for a few days leading up to New Years and then legal to set them off between 10am and 2am on New Year’s Eve/Day. It is now 9.30am and apparently the existence of sunlight doesn’t put people off. Should be a fun day.

Happy New Year to all – I hope 2012 is exciting and fulfilling for everyone. I highly recommend running away to a foreign country and eating food for an entire year. It has worked out for me rather nicely.

And a special Happy Birthday to two of my most regular readers, Heather and Brendan. I hope people remember to say happy birthday amongst the happy new years.

We’re In!

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Great news, everyone! This evening I officially signed a contract to say that we have extended our stay at Les Récollets for another year. This is going to be the view from my window every morning until the beginning of 2013.

View from my window

Ain't it beautiful?

Now all I need is a visa… Santé! Pop the champagne, folks – time to celebrate! Big thanks to my friends who helped me throughout the extension process. You’ve made me a very happy girl.