Posts Tagged ‘Holland’

L’Amour à Paris

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

I have exciting days ahead of me full of family, food and most likely lots of fun. Saturday is the wedding of my mum’s cousin’s daughter (still with me?) and so lots of my dutch family are heading to Paris from Holland. Luckily for me, the wedding is in Paris so I don’t have to go anywhere. Hoorah!

I am also honoured to have been invited to Freya and Mark’s civil ceremony on Friday, because just like everything in France, one wedding isn’t enough and you HAVE to have two. Ok, that’s not completely true, but you must go through the boring, administrative civil wedding at your local town hall and it is up to you whether or not you want to have a nice party and/or a church service. Seeing as most people like an excuse to eat food, drink wine and dance the night away, most couples fork out money for two events. Suddenly the single life is looking deliciously inexpensive.

Anyway, over the next few days random people from my extended family will be arriving in Paris, something that makes me very happy as I love family and these are some of the members that I don’t get to see very often. There will be my mum’s cousins, their children, my Grandma’s sister, and my great-half-uncle and my almost-great-half-aunt-in-law. This makes for very complicated introductions when you have to try and explain how we are all related.

The other thing I am excited about is the food (WHAT A SURPRISE!). Knowing Freya and Mark the food at the wedding is going to be fantastic and plus there are additional family dinner gatherings on the days before and after the wedding that will involve more food consumption. I am preparing my stomach in advance. Last night was the first of these dinners at a restaurant that is on a barge on the Seine – Café Barge. The exterior of the boat could do with a lick of paint but clearly they spent all of their money doing up the inside. There were fluorescent pink lights, plastic pink and silver glitter chairs and on the walls were murals with images of Marilyn Munro and Elvis. At one end of the boat was a ‘dance’ zone with disco lights that was being occupied by a group of international business people, clearly all trying to network while surrounded by mirror balls. Amusing.

Café Barge chair

It’s… pink.

However, despite all of this I have realised this morning that I have disastrously overlooked a very important fact. This will most likely be the single wedding that I will ever have the occasion of attending in Paris – the city of fashion and style – and therefore my one opportunity to wear a dress that is down-right FANTASTIC. Up until this morning I had been planning on wearing one of the two dresses I own, depending on the weather and my mood for the day but I realise this could be a wasted opportunity! How can I settle for a dress I already own when I could go and buy a new one? Sure, money. But as I mentioned before, the wedding is in Paris and I therefore don’t have to travel to Holland OR Australia and I am therefore saving money! I should really spend that on a new dress. And a new bag (this one is a necessity. My current plastic, water proof, go anywhere, fit anything bag isn’t really wedding-friendly.) And potentially a hat (I made a new friend last night who is wearing a hat to the wedding. This sounds like a GREAT idea.) So to the shops it is! Luckily, whenever I am searching for something in particular I can never find it and therefore I will return home this evening empty handed and I will wear one of my two perfectly nice dresses. But in the words of Daryl Somers, you never ever know if you never ever go (to the shops).

Round One

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

At 8 o’clock yesterday evening, the results of the first round of the Presidential election were announced. They had already been announced in every other country in the world, just not France. They like a surprise. Tom and I set up our computer-based television in the common room on the first floor and were joined by our friends Becky and Vivien to eat curry and watch the announcement. My curry was delicious. The election results were less great.

The results weren’t surprising – Sarkozy and Holland, the two strongest candidates were the leaders, with the difference in votes being a very small 1.4 per cent. This isn’t the end of the world, although Sarkozy and I have a mutual dislike for one another seeing as he’d prefer I wasn’t living in his country (damn foreigners).

Sarkozy

Creepy man.

The scary part was the fact that the third highest scoring candidate was Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen (notice their evilly similar names?), and pusher of extreme-right political views.

Marine Le Pen

It scares me that I have the same hair as her. Photo from abc.net.au

She wants to keep France for the French, kick all foreigners out and minimise trades between France and other countries. Her extremely racist views are quite horrifying – I would have hoped humans had learnt from their previous mistakes and could see the benefits in cohabitation by now.

It was disappointing to see Mélenchon miss out on a decent percentage of votes as he seemed to be one of the more level minded candidates in race. Plus he has such a happy smile. Who wouldn’t want that in a President?

Mélenchon

See? So friendly!

So now we must wait another two weeks and watch more debates between Sarkozy and Holland. There’ll be more posters scattered throughout Paris that will soon have new moustaches and deformities. Then on the 6 May, France will vote again. And there’ll be another election party at the Récollets!

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.

Ten Months

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

It’s amazing what you can do in ten months. Thursday marked the ten month ‘event’ of Tom and my arrival in Paris and it has come as quite a shock. Ten months is a long time and yet it feels like we just arrived. We shouldn’t be thinking about the fact that we only have two months left until our Year in Paris is over. We should still have so much time left with so many things to see and do. But alas, this is not the case.

LUCKILY we have decided to extend for an extra year, so while I would now be bawling my eyes out and chaining myself to the nearest pole and refusing to leave, I am somewhat less sad. I am still a bit worried about my impending return to Australia and visa application, but I am crossing all of my fingers and toes that it goes smoothly. It can’t not, right? What am I going to do if the French Embassy refuses to grant me a visa? Probably bawl my eyes out, fly back to Paris and chain myself to a pole.

Our friend, Phillipa, is here on the same visa as me and hers expires the day after mine. She is currently going through the horrific procedure of applying for a sponsorship from her work. She works at an O’Sullivans Irish pub and they have kindly agreed to go through the whole rigmarole of filling out forms, writing letters, and photocopying pieces of paper in order to help her stay next year. I am also crossing all fingers and toes that it works for her because she has no other visa alternatives in order to be able to stay in Paris. If Pip can’t come back then who am I going to go shopping with?! We have made a pact that we will meet on 1 April next year at a pub in Montmartre and drink to our good fortune of being back in Paris.

SO! I have 55 days left in Paris. What am I going to do in that time? Let’s write a list!

  • Continue to eat lots of food.
  • Go to Koblenz for Christmas.
  • Go to Holland for New Years.
  • Exhibit some sock creations in an exhibition at Café A (the coolest, hippest place in Paris)
  • See snow in Paris (I REFUSE to leave until it has snowed here because otherwise it is likely to do so while I am away and that is NOT fair.)
  • Go to lots of great exhibitions which are coming up in the next few weeks (when my brother, Ben, comes to visit over Christmas/New Years we’re going to see a Stefan Sagmeister exhibition AND a show about monsters puppets!)
  • Decorate my apartment for Christmas (I bought a mini Christmas tree this week.)
  • Start editing my book.
Ok, that’s probably enough. The first dot point is going to take up most of my time anyway so who knows if I’ll be able to achieve anything else. Anyway, those are my thoughts on this wet and windy Paris day. Actually, I am going to finish this entry and start another one about the weather. It deserves to be discussed separately.

Farewell Jacob!

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

I come to you on this glorious Thursday morn in sunny Paris bringing news that is both good and bad. Jacob, my cute and squishy mudwalking sock creature, has just been sold so I must wrap him up and send him on his way. He is heading to Tasmania of all places. I think he will fit in well.

Jacob the mudwalker

I'm going to miss those eyes.

Jacob is Ready to Discover New Muds

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Jacob, my mudwalking sock creature, is for sale on my Etsy store and is looking for new lands to discover and new muds to walk. He’s the perfect gift for mudwalkers, Dutch family members or that grubby person in your life. Buy him now.

Mudwalker

Love me.

Five Months Down

Friday, July 1st, 2011

I’m feeling rather ‘bleerrr’ today as today marks the five-month point of my stay in France. This means I only have seven months left which, considering how fast the past five months have gone, are going to disappear before my eyes. This makes me very sad. I thought I’d do a bit of a recap on the past five months – what I have done, what I have seen, where I have been etc. Ready? Go!

  1. I have been to Versailles (twice), Bretagne (Morlaix, a few small towns along the coast and Mont Saint Michel), Lyon, Nancy, Madrid, Holland (various towns), Koblenz, and Crete
  2. I have eaten at least 15 nutella crêpes
  3. I have found some really great restaurants and shops in my neighbourhood
  4. I have started organising events for Les Recollets residents (that started this week but it still comes within the 5-month mark!)
  5. I have been a tour guide for my parents, Tom’s parents, and various friends
  6. I have seen Morcheeba, Architecture in Helsinki, and some other random bands live
  7. I have been up the Eiffel Tower twice
  8. I have experienced -3 and 37 degree temperatures in Paris
  9. I have been swimming in the Libyan sea
  10. I have applied for a few jobs and have finally almost been successful
  11. I have started four sock creatures and completed one
  12. I have competed in a 10km fun run
  13. I saw Rich Hall in a tiny room with about 30 other audience members
  14. I have been (unsuccessfully) to the hairdresser once
  15. I have established a nice home to live in
  16. I have seen some amazing works in some spectacular galleries
  17. I have attended French classes although skipped most of them
  18. I have been sick more times in the past five months that I normally do in a two year period
  19. I have eaten lots of delicious food
  20. I have sat by the Canal Saint Martin on numerous occasions and had a beer/picnic
  21. I have maintained my weight from when I left Perth
  22. I have run 5-7km almost every day
  23. I have updated my blog and flickr site relatively frequently but have failed to write anything of any significance
  24. I went mudwalking and survived
  25. I ride Velib bikes around Paris, dodging traffic like a true Parisian, on a daily occasion

Twenty-five things isn’t bad. There’s potentially more but I am starting to make things seem more significant than they really are so I should stop. To be honest, I am currently feeling like I haven’t done enough in the time I have been here. I think I set myself some high expectations when I left Perth and I’m not fulfilling it as I would like to. Things I wanted to have done and haven’t are:

  1. Improved my French
  2. Made friends
  3. Travelled more (although maybe not as I do enjoy the daily life of being in Paris)
  4. Met more people
  5. Started to write something which has the potential to be published/used/good
  6. Started more creative projects
  7. Taken art classes.

I seem to feel this way a lot of the time that I am here and maybe I am not doing enough to change it. I know it isn’t entirely my fault as it is hard and while five months sounds like a decent period of time, in the scheme of making things happen it is really very short. But I am a bit disappointed in myself. I mustn’t waste another seven months.

I have made some moves to change things a bit. In this last week I have initiated two new activities that will hopefully help me feel a bit better about being here and what I am doing. On Tuesday morning I had an interview with a guy from NewEurope tours who run a series of tours in cities throughout Europe. It was a significantly more successful interview than my last (mostly because it was in English) and I am now in the process of learning the history of Paris in under a week. Well… elements of the history of Paris. I have been given a base script and an outline of where the tour goes. It is a three-hour walking tour through Paris and it is run on a tips-basis ie. the company doesn’t pay me and I will be relying on people giving me tips. I have been on one of the tours to see how they are run and this afternoon I will go on my second. There’s lots to learn and my biggest concern it being asked a question that stems outside my range of knowledge. But this is giving me a good excuse to sit down and learn some French history. Next week I will do an audition and then hopefully I can start. I am looking forward to it.

The second change also happened on Tuesday. I have started to organise events with the residents of Les Récollets and the first one was last Tuesday. I had organised it for 6pm and as the thunderstorms after a stinking hot day rolled in at 5.45pm I had to run around changing the venue, worrying about whether or not people would come etc. At 6.30pm it was still only Tom, myself and Diogo, a guy who is also keen on organising things within the centre. But slowly people started to arrive and by 8.30pm there were about 15 of us sitting around a very small table drinking wine, eating nibblies and talking about what we all do. It was great! Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and some of us didn’t leave until after midnight. At one point, the two italians of the group went off to their apartments and whipped up pasta with a spicy tomato sauce for everyone. It was really wonderful to meet new people and to get the ball rolling for some more gatherings. I am going to send out an email for a wine and cheese night next Tuesday night. Should be good.

I think as long as I continue to bring new things in to my days then I will be content when I have to leave at the end of January. I think I might need to look into become a student again, only this time in Paris. The idea of doing a creative arts course in Paris is very appealing I just doubt they would let me in with my lack of experience and the high demand for those sorts of placements. Perhaps museum curation… We shall see.

Walk This Way

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Introducing the latest edition to the Zaum menagerie – everyone, meet Jacob. Jacob, meet everyone.

Jacob the mud walker
Hello…

Jacob was born near the Zuidplaspolder – the lowest point of the Netherlands and has always felt a strong affinity to all things ‘marshy’. This is potentially because his mother gave birth to him in a swamp (it’s a long story involving flat bike tyres, a windmill and lots of herring) and the fact he spent a lot of time playing in canals and soggy ground throughout his childhood. Whatever the case, Jacob has never shied away from getting a bit dirty.

Jacob the mudwalker

Jacob is ready for any muddy situation

Unfortunately for Jacob, this backfired slightly in that he was constantly teased and getting into trouble at school for the muck under his finger nails and the general stench that wafted off his skin. But no matter how many times he was tripped up by bullies, he couldn’t stay away from the ooey-gooey goodness that mud provided. In his opinion, all humans should live in mud, be constantly coated in mud, and live off the creatures and fungus that grow in and around mud. There is nothing better.

This is why when it came time for Jacob to leave home and find himself a job, he headed to the north of the Netherlands and took up mudwalking. He couldn’t believe his luck when he found out that he could make a living taking tourists on treks across the North sea sea-bed when the tide was out. Suddenly people were interested in his passion – people wanted to become with mud, just like him!

Jacob the mud walker

Everywhere he goes, he takes his mudwalking stick

While he did manage to get a job as a mudwalk tour guide, it wasn’t easy. People get scared by his odd looks and obsession with the slimy stuff. Due to decades of contact with mud, Jacob’s pasty-white skin has turned into a dark, mouldy-black. His blonde hair has permanently stuck to the top of his head and you can’t tell the difference between hair and skin. The only part of his face that is easily decipherable are his eyes that bulge out in a mole-like appearance. The only part of him that makes him clearly a Dutch-man are his limbs – long and gangly compared to the rest of his body. His legs are excellent tools for getting out of tricky mud-situations and his arms can pull out stuck tourists in an instant.

Every time he heads out on an expedition into the great mud, Jacob will always wear his lucky green hat. It is the only colourful item that he will wear – he never washes his mudwalking outfits as he has broken too many washing machines and he hates doing it by hand. His hat, however, is his pride and joy and he will do anything to avoid it getting muddy. In addition, he attached a small bell to the back of it in case of emergencies – should he ever get completely stuck in the mud he will ring the bell to call for help. Now that’s a pro-mudwalker.

Jacob the mud walker

Lindt Bunnies aren't the only ones who need bells

Jacob will be available for purchase from my Etsy Store soon! I just need to go to the post office and work out postage costs… That’ll be fun. Not. Also, Jacob is made from a sock that had a one in three chance of being used by me when I went mudwalking in Holland. The socks I actually used were beyond repair so this is as good as I could do. I don’t think any quarantine departments would have been too happy about me sending mud-filled socks across their borders.