Posts Tagged ‘friends’

BFFs with the Baker

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

I forgot to mention a significant event that occurred over the recent galette season that has further solidified my position as loyal customer at my favourite boulangerie. When I went with Ben to buy our second galette for the day and two baguettes for our lunch, we arrived at the boulangerie to find it was jam packed with customers buying sandwiches for their lunches. The queue was reaching out the door and the bakery lady was running around serving people with efficiency and speed. I turned to Ben with a gleeful smile and declared that I would be able to jump the queue and receive my baguettes without having to wait in line. “Watch this.”

The bakery lady continued to serve two or so customers until she noticed me and made a call out across the bakery that anyone wanting to only buy bread should “Advancez!” to the cash register. My moment of glory! I excusez-moi-ed my way past people waiting to be served, held my head high and said “Bonjour!” to the bakery lady. She had already prepared my usual baguette for which I thanked her before then asking for a second baguette. I was nervous about my next request as I had declared that I simply wanted a baguette and that I would be leaving her establishment as soon as I had received it, but really I also wanted to buy another galette. So in my politest and most “You are so wonderful” voice I asked, “What it be possible that I also take a small galette?”
“But, of course!” she replied as she dashed over to the galettes and returned within a split second to take my money and wish me a good day.

Galette

A mini galette to finish off lunch

And so I strode out of the boulangerie, two baguettes and one galette in hand, having avoided waiting in line and being served before at least 15 other customers. I have to say I prefer the relationship I have developed with my bakery lady over the creepy lean-over-the-counter-and-stare-with-seedy-eyes I received on my return to another bakery I have to go to on Sundays or when I am feeling lazy. It appears the man in charge at this other bakery was pleased to have the foreign blonde girl back in his shop.

This does lead me to another point which is that I was instantly aware of my return to the land of Frenchmen as Becky and I headed out on our jog the morning after I got back and were wolf-whistled and had eyes stuck to us like magnets. I can’t say I missed it and it was nice to have two weeks in Germany and Holland where no one seems to find me visually pleasing. Although having fat old Frenchmen declaring that, oh la la!, we are “courageuse” and “sportif” can be quite amusing.

Sorry, Friends!

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Hello, hello! How are you all?

My sincere apologies for my lack of writing recently – I have, in fact, been writing a lot. Just not on here. I am averaging 2000 words a day and once I have hit that mark I tend to close my computer and go outside. That said, the last two days have seen temperatures averaging 5 degrees so my desire to go outside has heavily reduced. It is slightly warmer today. I might venture into the wilderness.

So what have I been doing in the last while, I hear you ask? And even if you didn’t ask you’re going to find out. I have been writing for the last 17 days and am quickly reaching my 50,000 word target for NaNoWriMo. Today I hit 34,434 words which is 6000 words more than I need to have written by this time of the month in order to reach my goal. I am starting to run out of things to write about Paris but usually after I stare out the window at the grey skies for a moment or two I get some sort of inspiration.

In other news, my knees are recovering from their slight mishap on Monday morning. I have two five-cent coin sized scars on my knees and they’re a dull shade of bluey-brown. I was hoping for a slightly more impressive bruise that I could show off and prove that it really did hurt but it hasn’t happened. So unfair. What’s the point of falling over if you can’t gain sympathy for at least a week? I returned to my morning jogs the day after my fall as I was determined not to let that damn Parisian paving get the better of me. I now run a little bit like a duck – flat footed and with my arms out for balance in case I trip again.

On Monday I hobbled my way up and down many flights of stairs as I caught multiple trains and walked through some of the city’s largest train stations to catch a train to Versailles. I visited my friend Louise and spent the day hanging out at her house. It was so nice to be in a homely family environment for the day. We just sat around and ate lunch, drank cups of tea and discussed the ups and downs of life. It was great. It is so nice to have friends around.

Speaking of, yesterday an American friend of mine, Sonja, arrived in Paris for a few days. She and I were English assistants together in 2006/7. She was working in a town relatively close to me and we used to meet every Wednesday afternoon in Nancy to help pass the time and make life in northern country France slightly less isolating. She and I travelled quite extensively together during that time and formed a great friendship. I hadn’t seen her since 2007 and yet as soon as she stepped off the train at Gare du Nord it was like we had seen each other every day for the past four years. She is here until Sunday so I am excited to have someone to hang out with.

Tom has some freelance development work so that’s keeping him off the street. And I am working on a project that will hopefully be exhibited in the chapel of Les Récollets on 16 and 17 December. Let’s just say there’ll be socks involved. I’ll keep you posted.

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.

Interesting People

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

I have been meeting some fascinating people at Les Récollets recently. Last night we went out for dinner with a Swiss mathematician, a Canadian physicist/mathematician, an American architect, and a South Korean artist.

Kim, the artist, works with staples and I have just looked at her website and it is beautiful work! Everyone go to her website and look. The Canadian physicist is John Bush who seems to be doing big things in the world of science. Something to do with water droplets… Anyway, it’s exciting. Conversation is never boring.

Living Your Paris Dream Challenge

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

I have received a few requests for Parisian dreams lived vicariously through me which is very pleasing! Please keep them coming. The more specific they are the better. Pretend I have no creative thought and need to be told exactly what to do. It’s your dream, not mine! I can’t read your mind.

So, Tom’s mum has given me a broad, though butt-kicking, challenge to do one fun thing everyday just because it is fun. No thought processes allowed. For those of you who really know me, you would be aware of my tendency to over-think things and to weigh-up pros and cons, consider what other people would think, etc etc. No more – now I am to be free and easy and jumping at any opportunity that entices me. Sounds like a plan.

So today was day one of “Jess’s Fun Times in Paris” and what fun was had! MY GOSH. I woke this morning to the delightful sound of falling rain. I thought at first it was Tom’s computer having a heart attack, but I went downstairs to investigate whether or not I had to go for a run (my morning ritual involves my alarm going off at 7.15am so that I can get up and prepare my calorie count for potential french pastries) and discovered it was raining quite hard. No run possible with that water creating slippery French pavements! That was fun thing number one: sleeping in.

Then, after breakfast, I wrote on my blog before Tom suggested a run. Dang. But I managed to run a decent length at a good speed and it started to sprinkle which added that element of “I’m running in the rain next to a canal in Paris!”

By this stage it was lunch time so a fresh baguette with cheese, rocket, tomato and nutella (not necessarily all together) was consumed and greatly enjoyed before Tom and I hoped on our Velib bikes and headed to the movie cinema to watch Pirates of the Caribbean 4. Ahhh… Johnny. How can a girl not have a good day when Johnny Depp is part of it? Yes, I am one of those girls but I also went to watch the movie because I think the Pirates series is particularly good. I found this episode to be quite well done with a good plot but a terrible casting with what’s-her-name-who-can’t-act-but-can-pout. I’m not sure how Penelope Cruz has reached the stardom that she has. Sure, she’s hot, but surely you need some sort of skill? She’s good when she’s speaking Spanish because then I can’t understand her. Good to see Geoffrey Rush again and the religious guy who falls in love with a mermaid was pretty.

On our way home, we stopped in at the bakery to buy our second baguette for the day to go with my sweet potato, carrot and chickpea soup. It was still warm, fresh from the oven and released delicious, enticing smells. This is where my official “Do something fun because it is fun” moment occurred. Normally I resist the temptation of breaking off the end of the baguette. Usually I wait until I sit down and eat my lunch and can devour the crusty tip with a dollop of nutella. But not today. I turned to Tom and said “This is my moment of fun for the day” and I ripped off the rounded baguette end with my bare hands and tore into it with my teeth. Worlds collided. Taste buds danced and I’m certain Bambi pranced down the street. The simple things in life can bring the greatest joys and a fresh baguette end eaten on a street corner outside a pharmacy is one of those simple things. Wonderful. I love France.

P.S. Not so dream like news is that I didn’t get that job. Luckily I didn’t reallllyyy want it anyway because who wants to work full time?

P.P.S. Tomorrow is Fête de la Musique in Paris where apparently the streets will be filled with free music performances. The sister of a friend (who I will immediately adopt as a friend) is visiting for the day so she timed it well. Lots to see, I suspect. A guy I went to primary and high school with is in town too so I may actually be able to show him something exciting in Paris.

A la Bretagne

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Grave apologies for the lack of posts. Actually, no… My Dad said to me via email that it is good when he doesn’t hear from me as it means I am too busy doing enjoyable things. Therefore if I don’t write on my blog it is because I am far too busy discovering new places, travelling, shopping, eating etc to spend time telling you about it. But today my planned shopping trip with my friend Pip has been postponed and so I am finally having a day at home. And so I shall write.

I think I will do as I did when I returned home from Nancy and write a list of things to write about in case I forget. Ok, here’s what you have to look forward to:

  1. More sickness
  2. Bretagne in all its glory
    • Crepes
    • Coastline and countryside
    • Friends
    • Salted butter caramel
  3. Mont Saint Michel and impressive tidal movements
  4. The weirdest salmon dish I have ever eaten.

Ok, that will do. I have other things to write about but they fit under other categories and will have to appear separately. Ready? GO!

So Tuesday afternoon I wandered around Montmartre shopping with my Australian friends, Rom and Sam. I bought an amazing dress from a wonderful clothing store called Aeschne and was served, dressed and sold the dress by the woman who made it. I also had a chat with a model who was in all of the photographs scattered around the store. I didn’t just talk to the photos – she was actually there and was very friendly. Anyway, the dress is a beautiful blue silk and is just stunning. I am now searching for a reason to wear it and will continue to hint to Tom that he needs to take me out for a nice meal. You can see the dress if you go to the Aeschne website and look at the Automne/Hiver 2010 collection and look for the picture of a short-haired woman standing against a white wall. My dress is a nicer colour though. And it looks WAY better on me.

So my point is that I had a good day but at about 5.30pm my stomach started turning on me again and I felt like the dread E-coli was returning. It didn’t completely but I did have a dinner of plain rice and boiled broccoli (which I actually enjoyed). On top of this, Tom had been complaining about feeling off all day but as I decided I was feeling worse I ignored him.

The next day we got up early (too early – we ended up waiting about 40 minutes at the train station because we were too organised) and caught the metro to Montparnasse before catching a train to Morlaix in Bretagne. Tom spent most of the train ride groaning and saying he was sickly, which I continued to ignore. We arrived in Morlaix and were met by Sarah (a friend who had been staying at Tom’s house the week before we left for Paris. Sarah is French and her husband, Brandon, is American and they live in Paris but are spending the year travelling through Australia. They had to return to Paris for a few weeks to sort out Brandon’s visa) who took us to her house for lunch before showing us around Morlaix. That evening, Tom lay in bed with a fever as he had apparently caught the flu and actually was sick. Damn.

 

Sick Tom

French blood tests are just as gross as Australian blood tests – I had to watch in case he fainted and I had to translate his unconscious groans.

So Tom ended up spending about two and a half days in bed while Sarah and Brandon took me exploring in Bretagne. Tom went to the doctor and had a blood test which I kept trying to talk-up as an ‘exciting experience in France’! I don’t think Tom felt the same way.

Bretagne is beautiful – rugged coastline, beaches and green, green, green countryside. We had one day of amazing sunshine and Sarah took me (Tom stayed home) on a long drive along the northern coast of France, visiting little coastal towns along the way. A highlight – galettes and crepes for lunch (a galette is a savoury crepe). Also being able to walk along the beach in the sunshine and inhale fresh sea air was quite wonderful. It has been awhile and I am getting a bit sick of Paris’s pollution and general secondary-smoke.

 

Bretagne

From a cold and windy day...

Bretagne

To sunshine by the beach – Bretagne has it all.

It was nice to be in a family environment again and to speak a bit of French. It is quite strange talking to Sarah and Brandon in French as I spent a week talking to them in English in Perth but now that we are in France it seems only appropriate to change languages. Speaking French with Brandon is very weird – he is American so it is instinctual to speak to him in English but we spent a lot of our time speaking in French. I guess when you are surrounded by the language it is easier to just stick to it rather than constantly reverting back. I do enjoy jumping between English and French with people who can speak both languages. It adds a new level to conversations and you can explain yourself to a much greater extent. Somethings sound better in French than English and vice versa.

I think it is about time that I wrote about the food. As I have previously mentioned, galettes and crepes are products of Bretagne and it is customary to drink cider with them. As they say, do as the locals. While I find eating galettes fun and a bit naughty, I’m not sure I would choose to eat them often. Crepes, on the other hand, I would eat at the end of every meal if I wasn’t guaranteed to get fat. Particularly if they are filled with nutella…

 

Galette

Spot the difference between a galette...

Crepe

... and a crepe

I also sampled a cake which was made from pastry, sugar and butter and butter and butter and butter. You had to drink a litre of water after every mouthful as it was so buttery. So so good. And then there was the salted butter caramel. I’m generally not that interested in caramel but this stuff was amazing. On our way to Mont Saint Michel, Sarah took us to Saint Malo where we had afternoon tea at an amazing cafe with amazing cakes. I had a piece of chocolate and caramel tart which was one of the greatest things I have ever eaten in my life. Crispy tart base with a huge slab of gooey, buttery caramel and then a thick layer of dark chocolate on top. My eyes almost popped out of my head as I ate it. It was a huge piece and I doubted my ability to finish it, but I did. I worked through it and I made it to the end. I am proud of my achievements.

 

Chocolate and Caramel Tart

Look at it! That's a burst artery.

So the few days we spent with Sarah and Brandon were full of fun and exploration (and Tom’s constant coughing fits and general groans) and it was sad to part ways. At least we did it at the top of Mont Saint Michel as we were being surrounded by approaching tides. Very cool.

So, for those of you who don’t know, Mont Saint Michel is an island off the coast of Normandy on top of which there is an abbey dating back to the 700s. It has become a bit of a tourist haunt as most days of the year (as the moon prescribes) during the day the tide goes out and you can walk across the sand (being careful to avoid quick sand) to the island, while at night the tides return and the island is surrounded by water. There is a dyke with a road allowing for easy access these days but you still need to remove your car from certain car parks before the water returns to avoid having it washed away.

 

Mont Saint Michel

Wow.

We arrived on the island at about 5.30pm and stood in the rain and slightly cool temperatures until 7.45pm and watched the water come in from the ocean.

 

Mont Saint Michel

The water approaches

It was one of the most amazing natural phenomena that I have ever seen. I put it on a similar scale to seeing the salt lakes near Menzies in Western Australia – truly spectacular. It started slowly – you could see the water approaching from the ocean far off in the distance and slowly covering the sand. Then, at about 7.15pm, it all started happening – the water broke over the lip of sand and you could see waves of water sweeping across and filling every hole it could find in the sand. The current was strong and before we knew it we were surrounded by water. Of course, my camera ran out of batteries as the water really started doing its thing, but you can see some photos and movies on my flickr site if you are interested.

 

Mont Saint Michel

Waves!

Staying on Mont Saint Michel was nice as there were hardly any other tourists around, but it was also very touristy and every shop and restaurant was set up to remove money from us. We knew we would have no option but to eat rubbish touristy food and so tried to find the best option. I don’t think we made a wise decision. We each had a set menu which is the normal deal for tourist restaurants. The food was edible but not special and my main meal was one of the most thought-provoking dishes I have ever eaten. I ordered “saumon avec riz de bretagne” – simply translated, it means salmon with rice of Bretagne. It sounded ok – I like salmon and rice so I couldn’t go too wrong. The salmon was a fairly average fillet but at least it was salmon. The rice consisted of two inverted cups of rice – one flavoured with saffron, the other was some sort of ‘wild rice’. Tasteless but I love plain rice so that was ok. It was the sauce that really got me – I think they were trying to make a béarnaise sauce but I’m not sure what they were thinking. I’m fairly certain they had whipped it, creating a soft, fluffy sauce that was just WEIRD. The fish was completely surrounded (swimming, if you will) in the stuff. Further consideration of the dish makes me wonder if perhaps the chefs were trying to represent Mont Saint Michel and the tidal movements in the form of a seafood meal. Whatever they were thinking, they should think again.

 

Salmon

Just weird.

The other problem with Mont Saint Michel is accessing it without a car. We had to catch a train from Rennes, a town 1.5 hours away at 6.30pm and so we figured we had plenty of time to wander the island before catching a connecting bus to the train station. Luckily I decided to check the bus timetable in the morning and discovered we would have to catch a bus at 2.30pm in order to be in Rennes at the right time. There were only four buses a day and the last bus would arrive 15 minutes after our train left. So we visited the abbey, wandered through the town, ate a quick lunch before catching the bus to Rennes and wandering aimlessly through the town for 2.5 hours. Luckily the weather was beautiful and Rennes is a lovely town so it wasn’t so bad. But considering the bus connection between Mont Saint Michel and Rennes is promoted as being the way to get there, it was quite disappointing.

 

Rennes

Look at how French Rennes is!

So a great week away was had and we returned to Paris being not all that excited to see rubbish and filth and dog-poo everywhere again. That said, this week Paris has had amazingly warm weather and I have been quite happy to wander aimlessly through the streets. The parks are in full bloom and every evening the canal is chock-a-block full with people sitting by the water drinking wine and eating Pringles. Tom and I joined them on Wednesday night with beer and cashews before trying out another local restaurant. Very, very pleasant. I think we will be doing that a lot in summer.

 

Beer and the canal

Good times.

Canal

All of the French people were silly and faced away from the nice view

Canal

But not the Australians!

Six Days Later…

Monday, March 14th, 2011

I need to write a list of “need to write about”s so that I don’t forget anything. So much to write about… It has been six days since my last confession and lots of things seem to happen in very short periods of time here. Just crazy. Ok, here’s the list:

  1. New members of the family
  2. Internet speeds
  3. The night of the toilet
  4. The return to Custines
  5. Tom speaks French
  6. A parcel in the post

Ok, I hope you have a nice cup of tea and are sitting comfortably because this will be a long one. Ready? LET’S GO!

1. New members of the family

Tom and my ‘family’ is continually extending – first there was Seb the oven and now we have Gerome the pig. Last week we were excited to welcome a brand new addition to the household – Serge, my sewing machine.

Singer sewing machine

Welcome home, Serge!

Serge is a Singer 1507 and he’s very handsome. I am actually yet to use him because when he arrived I was too tired and fell asleep (see discussion point 3) and then we went away (discussion point 4) and then we went for a walk yesterday. So if I manage to write this fast enough I might whip him out before meeting Pip this afternoon. Otherwise tomorrow is sewing day. Soon our house will be full of material scraps and lint. Excitement plus.

Singer sewing machine

Serge with two new sock creatures I prepared earlier

2. Internet speeds

Our internet appears to be slightly faster than it was previously which is bringing much excitement and happiness to our lives. Last night I even managed to upload photos to Flickr AND look at websites! That’s some sort of miracle. Sadly, it isn’t as lightning fast as it could be and it is still generally terrible, but web pages actually load now which is a great start.

3. The Night of the Toilet

Warning: The following discussion point contains graphic details that may induce nausea.

So Tuesday was a lovely sunny day and Tom and I walked around Montmartre and visited Sacre Coeur and then had lunch at a cafe near our house. We both had salads which were tasty and then we had a light dinner of a roast vegetable salad prepared by me. We were excited about our impending trip (the next morning we were heading to Nancy) and yet Tom started to feel a bit queazy at around 11pm. I ignored him and went to bed but couldn’t help but notice the sounds of regurgitation coming from the bathroom at around 12.30am.

After cleaning up Tom’s mess, I started feeling what I presumed was sympathetic nausea but which very quickly turned into full on gastro and I spent from 1am until 4am sitting on the floor in the bathroom next to the toilet, waiting for the next wave. I haven’t thrown up since I was about 12 and I was quite happy about this fact. It is NOT fun. Never again will I roll my eyes when someone tells me they had gastro. I’m a generally unsympathetic nurse and for once I could see why people complain.

Anyway at 6am I rolled and groaned out of bed and cancelled our train tickets to Nancy. So sad. Luckily we could get a refund on one of the tickets and we rebooked for the next day. Despite having a nickname of “rabbit” due to my excess love for green leafy food, I have suddenly been turned off salads. Give me meat.

4. The Return to Custines

Once we eventually made it onto the train early Thursday morning (it was great! Our train left at 8.12am and all we had to do was cross the road and walk 100m to get there!) we headed towards my old hangout of Nancy. I spent 7 months living and teaching English in a small country town near Nancy called Custines and it is an area of France that is very close to my heart. People tease me and wonder why I am so obsessed with it but it is where I grew to love this country. Custines may be a hole but it’s a nice hole.

We spent a day with my friend Christelle, one of the english teachers that I worked with, and her family and visited the new Pompidou Centre in Metz. A wonderful art gallery with amazing architecture – definitely worth the visit.

Pompidou Centre Metz

The Pompidou Centre in Metz

I love spending time with families when I am in a foreign country. Already we have managed to get an invite into a few French family homes and it is so nice to see how they function and to be a part of it. Meal times are especially great – particularly the cheese course which arrives between the main meal and dessert. This is the best way to sample French cheeses – they’ve been selected by French people so they must be good.

I took Tom to Custines on Friday to see where I spent seven months of my life. Custines isn’t exciting (although there is a new kebab restaurant and cycle paths!) and it isn’t big but in my eyes it is beautiful. Tom made comparisons to Bridgetown where he grew up as Custines is located at the bottom of sweeping valleys and green hills. Bridgetown is slightly bigger but still, a fair comparison. I didn’t manage to bump into any of my old students except for one who I pretended I didn’t see because he was a rude brat and he wouldn’t have wanted to speak to me anyway. The saddest thing I saw was that my dodgy Champion supermarket had been taken over by the bigger Carrefour chain and it is now open during lunchtimes AND Sunday mornings! That is an outrage! That is family time and church time not shopping time! How dare Carrefour bring consumerism to Custines. Unimpressed.

Custines

I'm back!

Friday evening and Saturday Tom and I spent with Melany (one of my ex-students (she was 12 when I first knew her and now she is reading Great Expectations and has a better level of English than me…) and her family. We felt so welcome in their home and were fed like royalty. Melany was the only one who could speak english so I am losing my voice from speaking lots of French and translating for Tom. That said, Tom did remarkably well and impressed our guests with his effort at speaking French. I was just as impressed – he had conversations on his own and managed to understand a few things. Such a clever boy.

It was a fantastic weekend and I was sad to leave. We have new friends with Melany’s family now so we will hopefully go back and visit again at the end of the year to show everyone how much Tom’s french has improved.

Place Stanislas

Place Stanislas in Nancy

5. Tom Speaks French

I have already talked about this… Tom spoke french. It was impressive. Hooray for him!

6. Parcel in the Post

My parents sent me a parcel which was very exciting because a. I love getting mail and b. it had stuff in it. They sent me a copy of the local Post newspaper, two tubes of pawpaw gel which is the cure for everything and very much needed in these evil cold French temperatures, 2 pairs of socks to make sock creatures with, my delicious magazine which had arrived in the mail and my incomplete sock creature who I left at home. It’s amazing how exciting receiving socks in the mail can be.

Sock creature
Please make me into something beautiful

Phew! Well I think that is enough for today. I have to go and catch a train to Saint Germain now to meet my friend Pip. We’re going to have lunch and explore. We do this often and usually end up buying things. It’s great! Tom starts his French classes this afternoon and is supposed to be studying but has spent the morning grooming himself to look beautiful for class.

For more photos, please visit my flickr site.

Here’s the Latest

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Exciting and fun times have been happening over here. Our French teacher from Perth, Louise, (a wonderful young lady from Versailles) is in France at the moment and has been our tour guide and food provider for the past few days. She was kind enough to invite us to her family home in Versailles for lunch last Thursday. It is so nice to go into family situations in other countries. It gives you a much different perspective on the way of living and how people function.

Louise’s family lives in an apartment on the fourth or fifth floor. The apartment layout is beyond confusing – all rooms seem to be connected with multiple entries and exits, random bedrooms attached to sitting rooms and the corridor to the kitchen is also the dining area. The walls are covered in trinkets and souvenirs from places they have been. It is cosy, warm and inviting and Louise’s family welcomed us with open arms. Wine flowed, we ate delicious saucisson, and Louise’s mum prepared an amazing French lunch of chicken with a mushroom sauce. And we had CHEESE. One of my favourite things about going to French people’s houses for meals is being offered cheese. We were given five different cheeses to try (we sampled them all), three of which they had purchased in the Alps the previous week. It was fantastic and our breath stank as a result.

Friday night we were invited back to Louise’s for a party with Louise’s friends. Everyone was so friendly and spoke English with ease and were excited about meeting Louise’s Australian friends. I’m not a party person and generally hate being social when I don’t know anyone, but I felt really at ease and had a great time. Sadly we had to catch trains back to Paris and left just in time to catch the final train from Versailles to Paris and then the last connection back to our place. I was somewhat relieved to be leaving the smoke-filled rooms of Louise’s house. Every one at the party smoked. We were engulfed in toxic smoke fumes which we are strangely starting to get used to. It amazes me how many people smoke in Paris. My “You know that thing will kill you” threats don’t even seem to work. I couldn’t wait to wash my hair after that party.

Train to Paris

Heading home on the train

Then it was Saturday. We met Louise, her husband Marcelo, and another girl from Perth, Anuska, at the Musee D’Orsay and we wandered around the gallery with hundreds of other people being cultured. The Musee D’Orsay is a brilliant gallery with some amazing works. One of my favourite sections was a collection of photographs revolving around the theme of sleep. The introductory text said that there was a movement of taking photographs of people pretending to be asleep as it was like seeing them at their most innocent. There was also a collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and some amazing paintings by Manet.

After our cultural boost, we headed our for dinner to a lovely little restaurant in Montmartre. I have walked past this place a few times when looking for somewhere to eat but never went there. It is always so hard to know where to go unless you have recommendations. Like most menus in France, the mains consisted of meat dishes. Hard to be vegetarian in France. I had a steak with roquefort sauce. So so good. Everyone’s food was delicious. To start we had an oeuf cocotte which is an egg cracked into a ramekin and cooked slightly. This version then had foie gras on top and you dip pieces of bread into the sloppy egg/foie gras mixture. SO SO SO GOOD. Yes, foie gras is bad. But it is also delicious. Very delicious.

Oeuf cocotte

Oeuf cocotte. Mmmmmmmiam!

Anyway, the past few days have been really great. Today Tom and I went for a walk to a local park called Parc de Buttes Chaumont which has rolling hills a big cliff/hill/thing in the middle with a look out that has views over Montmartre and towards Sacre Coeur. Everyone is out and about on Sundays, going for walks with the family. It’s nice to be part of the ‘normal’ lifestyle instead of just a tourist.

Buttes Chaumont

Parc Buttes Chaumont with the lake and look out

Oh and we have shelves! We had bought them 2 weeks ago from a shop in the city called Conforama but we had to wait for them to be delivered to the store. We collected them on Friday lunchtime and had to carry a 35kg box along streets, down flights of metro stairs and home. My body is so sore. I have bruises on my hip from where I rested the box. I may have given Tom a few evil glares as he didn’t want to pay to have the thing delivered to our door. That said, once we got it home it was fine. We then opened the box to discover it was divided into 20 different parts that had to be stuck together. So we left it in the box until the next day when it was raining and too yucky to go outside and we put it together. Our shelves are so great. We can put things on them. This excites me more than seeing the Eiffel Tower. Seriously.

Shelves

Look at how the shelves hold things! Brilliant.

On saying that, the train ride from Paris to Versailles goes through some outer suburbs of Paris that have an amazing view back towards the Eiffel Tower. The thing sticks out above the city like a sore thumb and at night time is lit up. It looks so cool.

Look for more photos on my flickr site soon (ie. once the internet builds up a bit of speed.)