Posts Tagged ‘canal saint martin’

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…

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.

A Week of Food Miracles

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

I don’t know what it is – maybe it is the arrival of Spring and the warmer temperatures. Maybe there is something in the water. Maybe there are some higher, more powerful beings at work. Whatever it is, I am, and will be, eternally grateful because this miracle worker has brought me two cuisines that in the past year of living in Paris I have missed greatly.

I’m certain that I have previously complained about the lack of decent Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean restaurants in Paris. Generally speaking they lack flavour, spice and/or have strange ingredients that only the French would use.

Dear France, Japanese food does NOT have cheese as a main ingredient. From Jess.

However, some sort of divine spirits (namely my friends Becky and Vivien) have led me to a Thai restaurant a mere 5 minute walk from my house that ticks every box in my “Thai food must include” rules. It is wonderful. A group of us ate there last night, sharing a tasting plate for entrée and then five main dishes. Each dish was flavoursome, hearty and exciting to the palate. One dish was beef with spicy sauce and wow, it actually was spicy! I even experienced a burning back-of-throat moment as a chilli flake got stuck on the way down. It was glorious. Another highlight was finally discovering pad thai that actually tasted like pad thai. A year’s worth of searching and finally!

The restaurant is owned by a lovely old Frenchman and his thai wife and has a very homely feel about it. It is hidden away in a side street so not many people have discovered it yet and it was therefore easy to get a table on a Saturday night. Hopefully enough people come and try it so that it didn’t close down within a few months, but at the same time I hope it stays a local hangout for Thai food lovers.

Miracle #2 happened last Thursday when Tom and I invited our friends Sonia and Guibril to try a new burger restaurant I had spotted near the canal, Le Mal Barré. I walk past it every day as I return home with my lunch time baguette and the menu has sparked my interest. Burgers with ingredients OTHER than plastic cheese and non-bacon bacon. What was this? We had to try.

Sonia and I were both undecided over the same two burgers so we decided to try both and share. A fabulous idea. The first was chicken with fig and spinach – very tasty and the fig was certainly a great addition. The second burger was chicken with avocado, sundried tomatoes and cantal cheese and was my favourite of the two. Both had juicy pieces of chicken and were really well cooked. The boys both went for the double steak burger – two beef patties with salad, tomato and onion and they both had huge grins as they munched away. Clearly impressed.

Chicken burger

Mmm... chicken burger.

The only downside of the burgers was the bread – why, oh why, do the French insist on using sweet, American-style burger buns when they make such amazing bread? When I suggested baguettes would be better to Sonia and Guibril, their French faces told me I had just uttered the worst possible sin – baguettes are baguettes, not burger buns. Sorry. But they did agree with me that the bread was too sweet.

The burgers were served with a side salad and homemade chips – big pieces of potato with the skin still attached. Now that’s a chip worth eating. The American theme of the restaurant continues in its dessert menu with your options being either cheese cake or cupcakes. I went for the ‘originale’ cheese cake and it was good! Apparently it is baked by an American so there aren’t too many French additives, other than a speculoos biscuit base. Very tasty.

Cheesecake

The presentation could do with some work but still tasty

So my week of food has been particularly wonderful, and the miracles continued today when I baked a banana cake that when I first put it in the oven it appeared to not want to rise but simply burn from the top down. But that Food God stepped in once again and my cake suddenly decided to rise and the end result is a rather delicious afternoon tea. Ahh food. How I love thee.

Anyone For Table Tennis?

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Autumn has arrived in Paris with the trees shedding their leaves at rapid speed. However, the past week has also seen beautiful warm weather – perfect conditions for spending the day outside. A recent visit to GoSport (an awful store selling all your sporting needs) saw Tom and I investing in a table tennis set. We didn’t just choose the cheapest option either – we went for the ultimate in table tennis brands, Dunlop.

There are lots of table tennis tables spread throughout the city in local parks and along the canal, and they are in high demand on a sunny Sunday afternoon. But if you’re lucky enough to score one then much fun can be had. Ben, Tom and I took our new set out for a spin the other Sunday at a table situated next to a lock on the canal and underneath some beautiful chestnut trees. We encountered a few potential dangers – the table wasn’t in the greatest condition and appears to also be used as a beer table, drug exchange hangout and a homeless-person’s bed; the canal/lock was right next to us and any mishit balls would end up in the water (this happened twice); and the chestnut seeds are currently in the habit of bursting open and dropping large cannonball chestnuts onto our heads. They hurt! Trust me.

Table tennis

Table tennis by the canal

We struggled on despite these dangers and discovered a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. This last Saturday, Tom and I headed back out to have a hit and had to walk up and down the canal for over half an hour in order to find a table. There are clearly dedicated table-tennis-ers who concentrate on their game play, as well as families out enjoying themselves, and groups of friends drinking beer and having a friendly game. I think as the weather cools down there will be less competition for the tables but we will also freeze to death playing next to open water. That’s the life of a pro table tennis player.

Sunny Weekend in Paris

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Ahh sunshine… I think I have prattled on about the wonders of the sun a fair bit, but it is amazing how much sunshine affects the general feeling of Paris. Everyone comes out of their grey coats and lies half naked in parks soaking up the rays. People drink beer, play guitars, and sit around chatting with friends, making the most of the weather. In Australia I think we take our weather for granted and know that tomorrow we’ll probably have a fine day once again. Whereas here you make the most of what you have because it may not happen again for awhile.

The days are getting much longer and the change into summer time really spurred the long evenings along. The sun sets around 8.45pm so we have been finding ourselves eating dinner very late and staying up until past midnight most nights. Considering I used to be a 6pm-dinner and 10pm-sleep person, this is just strange. I have had a few stomach aches in the last few nights thanks to going to bed with a very full tummy, but it is an enjoyable lifestyle. On Saturday night, Tom and I had a picnic with our friends Rom and Coup down by the canal Saint Martin. The canal edges were full of Parisians doing exactly the same thing and it was one of the most enjoyable things we have done while in Paris. But imagine doing this in Perth – at 8pm we went to the supermarket and bought two types of cheese, vegies, chips, dips, beer and wine; went to the bakery and bought two fresh baguettes and by 8.30pm we were sitting by the canal setting out our picnic. It wouldn’t have been possible to do that at that hour in Perth and if we’d bought all of that food during opening hours it would have cost us around $100. Here we bought all of that for less than 30 Euros. Oh, I love Paris.

Friday night we went and saw the Australian band Architecture in Helsinki at a new venue just down the road from me. It was such a great night – the venue was amazing. It is a new, contemporary art gallery/performance space that has been inserted into a beautiful ye-olde building. The performance space was a big box in the middle of what could have once been a ballroom. The bar was in another room which had frescoes with gold trim on the ceiling and red velvet puff seats scattered throughout the room. The band was great and once again I was amazed at how few people we had to watch them with. Despite being in such a densely populated city, most of the music gigs that we have been to haven’t been sold out and have been in relatively small venues with a moderately sized crowd. Perhaps I’m going to un-cool music but still. It’s great!!

Anyway I have to go to my French class. It has improved slightly as I have learnt some new verb tenses that I wasn’t sure about before (when I say “I have learnt”, I mean I have been given the idea to go home and look up what they are myself) and the teacher is cracking down on slack students. Hopefully it’ll continue to improve and I will actually get something out of this experience.