Posts Tagged ‘Parisians’

Time is Flying

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

I can’t believe it is August already. Where is this year going? Summer has finally arrived in Paris as all of the Parisians head south to the beach. The city is gloriously quiet, except for the throngs of tourists who have descended. And Becky and my vegetable garden is doing amazing things – every day I pick a handful of tomatoes and now every time I look out of my window and down at the garden, this flower smiles back up at me.

Flower

Big. Red. Beautiful.

Why I Hate Office Depot

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Much like OfficeWorks in Perth, Paris has one large stationery chain store that is astonishingly useless. At least OfficeWorks isn’t THAT overpriced, while France’s OfficeDepot likes to make you pay big bucks for not much in return. I am reasonably certain that I have complained about them on here before but here we go again. Round Two.

For a few weeks I have been slowly draining the ink from the cartridges in my printer, hoping that through some miracle they will just refill themselves for free. Sadly, this hasn’t happened and as I need to print boarding passes for my flight to Bilbao on Friday I thought I had better buy some ink.

So I memorised the number on the ink cartridge and the model of my printer and headed down the road and around the corner to my nearest OfficeDepot. I was in a bit of a rush as I was expecting guests in the next half hour or so but I figured it couldn’t take THAT long to buy ink. Surely.

For some reason the ink cartridges were located behind a counter so I had to wait for someone to serve me. This being France, there wasn’t a huge rush for this to happen. Eventually it was my turn and the overly excitable (that is a lie) salesman asked how he could help me. It wasn’t a good start when I realised I wasn’t sure what the word for ‘ink cartridge’ was but I had a guess and it was a good one and asked for an HP 301 cartouche.

Cartridge 301 doesn’t exist.
Umm… but that’s what it says on my printer and on the cartridge.
No, that isn’t possible, it doesn’t exist.
Right.
If you can tell me the reference number on the cartridge I can tell you what you need, otherwise there is nothing I can do.
Well it says 301.
No.
Ok bye.

So I stood in OfficeDepot trying to find some sort of information on the HP website about what ink cartridge I needed, only to get even more infuriated as the HP website is as useless as their printers. So home I went, determined to prove to the grumpy sales guy that I was right and he was wrong. I got home, opened the printer et VOILA! A big fat 301 was printed on the ink cartridge. And so back to the shop I went with my evidence.

There was now a long queue and I was eventually served by a different guy who actually smiled. Miracle! I showed him my cartridge and said “I’d like a new one, please.” MIRACLE OF MIRACLES he turned around and pulled a 301 cartridge from the shelf. Clearly in the time it had taken my to go home, get the cartridge and return to the shop they had restocked their shelves and HP had invented a 301 ink cartridge. I was a little disappointed that the first rude guy hadn’t served me so I couldn’t make some sort of sarcastic comment about how he had been wrong, but the happier salesman was significantly nicer and he took my old cartridge away and gave me a rebate for recycling it at their store! HA HA! TAKE THAT, GRUMPY FRENCH MAN!

HP ink cartridge

Macgyver knew the 301 existed. He knows everything.

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.

Left, Right, Left, Right

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

The weekend before I returned to Paris, my friend and running buddy, Becky, completed the Paris Half-Marathon. Impressive stuff, although her boyfriend, Vivien, a man who runs very infrequently, completed it too, which is potentially even more impressive, but I am on Becky’s team. Anyway, Becky is now in training for the full marathon – a decision that has made me question her sanity, but she is a neuroscientist so she must have a fairly functional brain.

She has been going on long runs and this week I put up my hand to accompany her on her Saturday morning death-jog. What can I say? It was early in the morning, I wasn’t fully awake and my brain was clearly in some sort of self-harm mode. So this morning, at 10am we met in the front courtyard, kitted out with water-bottle holding waist belts and GPS watches. We looked impressive.

I must say that the great thing about going for runs in Paris is that time and distance passes very easily due to all of the distractions. We spent most of the time either looking at beautiful buildings, pointing out newly blossoming trees, or dodging Parisians and dog poo. Constant distractions. We ran down to the Seine and then along towards the Eiffel Tower. By the time we had reached there, an hour and a half had passed and we were 13km from home. Time to turn around and go back.

Our total distance was over 23km and we ran for two and a half hours. Considering the longest I have run previously is about 15km I was extremely pleased. My knees are currently yelling at me and I want to go to sleep, but knowing I am capable of running those sorts of distances is very good for the old ego. If I have managed to recover from this run within the next week I might agree to go again on Becky’s next cross-city adventure.

Paris run

Look at us go!

All Smiles

Monday, February 20th, 2012

It has come to my attention over the past few weeks being back in Perth, that Australians (at least those in Perth or country Western Australia) are 300 million times friendlier than the folk of Paris. I’m not saying you can’t find friendly people in Paris, because that is one of those awful stereotypes about the French that just isn’t true. I have met some wonderful French people who have made my life in Paris very special. However, on your average day in Paris, you don’t often have random conversations and laughs with people you meet. In Perth you do.

While in Denmark, I had numerous occasions where I sat back and thought, “Whoa… they were so friendly…” and needed to take a few moments to comprehend the situation. A visit to a bottle shop to buy some wine involved a particularly helpful manager who chatted about the wine we were buying, suggested other options and wished us a really great stay in Denmark. Cheers, mate! Then when Velia, Alex and I had dinner at Pepper & Salt, once again we were served by some of the easiest, most relaxed and generally chirpy people that I have met in a long time. It is lovely and refreshing to be surrounded by people who have smiles on their faces and appear to be enjoying what they are doing. I do get a bit sick of having a cup of coffee dumped on my table with a Parisian sigh and a negative attitude. Maybe it is the sunshine and warm weather, but Australians do tend to have a lighter, brighter way of being. I have to say it makes me proud to be part of a cheery nation. Cheer up, Madames et Monsieurs. La vie est belle.

Bugger.

Monday, November 14th, 2011

I conducted a small social experiment this morning. Clearly I was bored with my usual morning run or I was delirious from not sleeping well last night, and I decided to trip on the annoyingly bumpy cobble stones that are along the edge of the canal and hence fall forward onto my hands and knees. That was fun! Not. I managed to avoid sliding too far but as a result planted myself quite heavily on my knees. Let’s just say it hurt but we’ve all been there and done that – we all know what it is like to fall over in public.

As I sat on the ground telling myself how stupid I was, I switched my attention to see what the numerous Parisians who had DEFINITELY seen me fall over were going to do. Would they rush to my aid? Would they appear concerned for my well being? Would they point and laugh? Turns out they did none of the above and instead pretended they hadn’t even seen me. As I stood up and wobbled my way over to a bench to sit down, a man who would have had a very clear view of my tumble, did everything possible to avoid eye contact with me. A group of men who were a few metres away looked at me at first but then turned their backs to avoid any sort of involvement.

I am 100 per cent certain that if I had been in Australia someone would have come to see if I was ok. As I sat there thinking, “I want my Mum” I hoped someone would come to my rescue and offer to drive me home. But no. Nothing. Not even a glance. Not even a furrowed brow of concern. Not even a “Ca va?”. Nothing.

So! As I sit here unable to bend my knees and thinking about all of the metro stairs I have to climb today, I would like to give a big high five to Australian comradeship and a big BOOOOOO to Parisian “If I stop and help her she might ask me for money”ness.

That said, after a little rest I was completely fine and managed to run the rest of the way home BUT for a moment there it was the end of the world as I knew it.

Baguette Club

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Being accepted into a foreign society is hard and Parisians are tough nuts to crack. You are never dressed correctly, you have a strange accent, you drink coffee while eating food, or you nibble on bread before your meal has arrived. All of these things make you stand out as a weird outsider who doesn’t understand the culture and never, ever will.

However, every now and then, the sun comes out from behind a cloud and somewhere you can hear the sound of angels singing as a miracle of all miracles occurs – you feel SLIGHTLY accepted. Yesterday I heard angels.

Every lunch time, we purchase a baguette from our favourite boulangerie around the corner. There are so many boulangeries nearby for us to choose from, but we have narrowed it down to this boulangerie for our baguettes. The baker and his wife (I presume it is his wife) are both fairly grumpy people – they never really smile and they are very ordered and forceful in their approach to serving customers. However, I have great respect for this as often the boulangerie is full of people buying sandwiches and cakes and they take forever to make up their minds. So when people arrive wanting to just buy a baguette, they are told (ordered) to go to the front of the line and then quickly served and sent on their way. Love it.

When we first started going to this boulangerie, I always felt like I had done something wrong as the lady was very brisk and would shove the baguette in our face and turn to the next customer. Recently, however, things have changed as every now and then we get a half smile and she welcomes us with a bit more enthusiasm. Yesterday was the ultimate – as we walked into the boulangerie, she saw us, turned and grabbed un tradition (the baguette) from behind her, put it into a bag as she said “Bonjour Monsieurdame!” and by the time I had reached the till she had prepared our baguette and was awaiting payment. She knew what we wanted, was happy to see us and wished us well for the day. Tom and I left the boulangerie with smiles on our faces as we knew we had made it in the boulangerie. This is a momentous occasion! Your local baker is the person you want to have on your side at all times. If they like you they will give you the good baguette, the tart with more strawberries on top or the pain au chocolat with the crispiest pastry. Loyalty pays. And it only took us 8 months to feel truly welcome. We are on our way to becoming true Parisians.

Baguette

It's worth 8 months of grumpiness

Boating on the Canal

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Something that I love about Parisians is despite their snooty attitudes, strict style guides and general up-turned-nose at anything seemingly ‘different’, they still manage to celebrate strange, somewhat banal things with vigour and passion. Yesterday delivered a prime example of when I had to stop, shake my head and laugh at the ridiculous contradictions that were appearing before my eyes.

Tom and I went for a walk along the canal, heading to a show for regional produce from Provence. Along the way, we passed Point Ephémère – a hip and happening bar/club/restaurant full of bobo-Parisians hanging out and being seen. This all seemed normal except for the wooden boat floating in the canal, the folk music and the number of people dressed up in traditional costume. It was the Festival of Estonia (apparently) and for some reason they had set up a small exhibition with wood turning, music and general information about Estonia and viking boats for those who were interested.

Estonia festival

An impressive banner.

Tom and I joined the Bobos for a drink and as we sat by the canal, a group of well dress Parisians (most of them with children) jumped into the viking boat and took it for a spin along the canal while a ye-olde-Estonian played a horn-like instrument in the back.

The juxtaposition of snooty French people not daring to do anything out of the ordinary, and the fact that there was now a viking boat replica being paddled around with a group of ultra serious Parisians was really too much. I just sat and stared and wondered how on earth this could be happening and why it is ok for these Parisians to do something that dorky and yet me wearing a slightly old jumper is just SO INAPPROPRIATE.

It was fantastically entertaining. I also particularly liked the fact that kids were being allowed to use the wood turning machine with no eye protection and were getting bits of saw dust flung straight into their faces. What is health and safety?

Estonia Festival

Wood working at its best.