Posts Tagged ‘Recollets’

A Weekend in Paris

Monday, September 17th, 2012

This past weekend it seemed as if Paris was having one final attempt at making the most of summer and sunshine and there were lots of events and activities happening around the city. My weekend was full of action which is always enjoyable particularly if it means I get to wander through Paris in the sunshine. Here was my weekend:

Saturday Morning
I have decided I should train for my 16km Paris to Versailles run that Becky and I will be undertaking at the end of the month. So Saturday morning I put on my Garmin GPS watch and headed out into the Parisian madness. I left early as there is no point in running through Paris when there are people around. Both tourists and Parisians are incapable of not being in the way and you may as well walk slowly behind them because you’re not going to get anywhere. I wanted to do at least 16km but wasn’t sure how I would go as I was running on my own and I usually get bored or just give up. I managed to surprise myself, running across the city and reaching the Eiffel Tower in under 7km. I then ran back home along the river, took a slight detour towards the canal and arrived back home having completed 17km.

Running through Paris

That red line is me!

It was fantastic! The key to running long distances is having something to look at. My run took me past the Opera House, the Ritz Hotel, through the Tuileries (twice), along the Seine, to the Eiffel Tower and then back past the Louvre, Notre Dame and finally the canal. I couldn’t get bored, I was too distracted thinking, “Ooh look I’m running past where Louis XIV lived!” That and “Move out of the way you slow tourists/Parisians who are taking up the entire footpath.”

I managed to do the 16km in around one hour and 30 minutes which was very pleasing considering I though I’d stop half way. GO ME.

Saturday Afternoon
I had read about a music event called TechnoParade last year but never went, so this year I roped my friend Marcello into coming with me. It is a electronic music festival that is open to the public and that had DJs standing on top of large semi-trailers and driving through the streets of Paris. These large trucks are then surrounded by hundreds of drunk, half-naked teenagers. I hadn’t thought about that aspect. When we arrived, I instantly felt OLD and as if I had been transported back to Perth and was at an electronic music festival. At least this time I hadn’t paid $150 for a ticket and there was lots of space to stand back from the crowd.

Technoparade

Technoparade

It was an interesting thing to see and there were approximately seven trucks playing different styles of music. They were driving very slowly so you could easily walk up and down the street, listening to the various sets. But I don’t think I will go again – it was very messy, the music wasn’t that great and it is hard to dance while walking! I did spend the entire time thinking, “This would NEVER happen in Perth.” Free music, driving down the streets of Paris, alcohol everywhere, drunk teenagers and people climbing on cars/bus stops/fences/walls/trees/lamp posts. Crazy.

Saturday Night
I thought I would be having a quiet night as all of my friends were either away or busy. I went and sat in the garden of the Récollets and was soon joined by various other residents and the night turned into a late one. The Récollets had been taken over by the Mairie de 10eme (the local council) and there had been activities, art shows, and music performances all weekend. The garden was full of people eating and drinking and at about 11pm a band started playing. It was fantastic music, I have no idea what it was though. There was a group of men playing brass instruments in a very upbeat “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” kind of way and then 10 or so girls with fantastic voices and gorgeous smiles singing along. It was exciting, vibrant and made you want to dance – so that’s what we did. You could certainly pick the foreigners from the Parisians – the dancing Australian/American/Italian weirdos and the straight-faced, sullen French refusing to even tap their feet (although the more alcohol-influenced Parisians were dancing too.) It was a great night.

Sunday Morning
My Saturday night did stretch into Sunday morning but I still managed to get up early enough to ride down to the Hôtel de Ville and be one of the first in line to go inside. This weekend was Les Journées du Patrimoine – two days where all of the old, beautiful buildings that are usually closed to the public are open. There are hundreds of buildings across the city that are used as government departments, hospitals, museums, or are privately owned, and on these two days you can enter and see what they are like on the inside. It is a fantastic idea and last year my brother, Ben, and I managed to be at the right place at the right time and went into the Senate. This year I had decided I would go to the Hôtel de Ville – one of the most prominent and most beautiful buildings in Paris that is now the main town hall.

Hotel de ville

Hôtel de Ville de Paris

While you followed a set route to go through the building, you are allowed to explore quite extensively and there are lots of people around to provide you with information about the building. The Hôtel de Ville was even bigger than I imagined and was beautifully decorated with plenty of gold and wonderful floorboards. The floor is always my favourite part of these old buildings – I love the way it creaks.

Hotel de Ville

Fancy.

You could enter the Mayor’s office – a lovely room with a great view but a really UGLY desk that looked like it was from IKEA. If I were the Mayor, I’d ask for a new one. The Mayor wasn’t there which was a shame. I would have liked to ask him if I could stay in France for longer.

Paris Mayor's office

Salute the Mayor!

Morning Tea Time
It was time for coffee so thankfully around the corner was one of my favourite coffee shops – Caféotheque. Unfortunately I decided I needed cake and made the mistake of ordering a chocolate cupcake. It was described as ‘chocolate’ but it was in fact chocolate and orange, a combination that I dislike profusely. Plus it was dry… but the coffee was delicious.

Caféotheque coffee

Mmm… coffee.

Next…
I then wandered along the river as I had heard there would be a market near Notre Dame. On the way, I had to wait for a group of very slow cyclists to pass – there was apparently a bike ‘event’ (I want to say race but they definitely weren’t racing) and I had been watching these cyclists ride past the window of the café for at least 30 minutes. Most of them were plump and over the age of 55, wearing lycra and taking the whole thing very seriously. There were designated people in yellow vests stopping the traffic, which is problematic in Paris as any hold up in the movement of traffic results in a fusillade of car horns. As I tried to cross the road I had to wait for a hundred or so cyclists to pass. At one point a taxi attempted to drive through the pack and a man on a bike with a yellow jacket started blowing a whistle, yelling at the driver and placing himself and his bike in front of a moving car. He was NOT happy. Neither was the taxi driver. Neither was the person who had hailed the taxi. Neither were the people in the traffic jam. Neither were the bike riders. I was THRILLED to be watching this incredulous action – it was absolutely hilarious!

Eventually the bike riders disappeared and things returned to normal and I went to the market, sampled some foie gras but didn’t buy anything. The same market had been there the year before, selling exactly the same products. Clearly nothing changes in Paris either.

Before Lunch
I decided to see if any of the buildings on Ile de la Cité were open and discovered a small queue of people outside the Conciergerie. This was where people were held before being trialled and/or executed and it is now open to the public as a historical monument and an exhibition space. It was open for free and the queue didn’t seem very long so I went inside. I managed to get into the first main space – a large medieval dungeon-like space with an impressive arched ceiling – before I realised that there wasn’t a queue outside because the REAL queue was inside the building. People had clearly been waiting for hours to go and explore the rest of the building and while it would have been nice to see, outside the sun was shining and it was a glorious day. Why spend it inside a dungeon? So off I went.

Conciergerie

Nice arches.

Crêpes
I met up with my friends, Sonia and Guibril, near Montparnasse at 4pm for goûter – the French version of afternoon tea. I love any country that has afternoon tea and really don’t understand those that don’t. Anyway, Montparnasse is known for having Breton-style crêperies and we sat and had delicious sweet crêpes (mine had chocolate and banana) and cider. We sat chatting for a few hours and before we knew it time had passed and our stomaches were grumbling thanks to the delicious smells wafting from the kitchen. So it was round two – this time savoury galettes for dinner. Yum.

Home Time
One of my favourite things to do in Paris is to hire a Velib (the city bikes) and ride from the Montparnasse area, straight through the middle of Paris to my house. It is essentially one long, straight road and the first half of it is on a slight downwards slope. This means you can zoom through Paris with wind in your hair and not a care in the world (except, of course, the traffic on the road but at 9pm on a Sunday night there were hardly any cars.) It is such a thrill, particularly as you reach the Seine and ride over the river and see all of the lights reflecting and dancing on the water. Such a beautiful city.

So that was my weekend. Full of adventure, I learnt lots, I spoke plenty of French and I made new friends. Sometimes my life is awesome.

Birthdaying With the BoBos

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

I did it! I made it to the ripe old age of 27! What an achievement. Thankfully people think I am still in my early 20s thanks to my innocent-blonde appearance so I am quite happy to quietly grow old.

I spent my birthday with my parents and my mum’s cousin and his wife who had popped over from Holland for the day. It was lovely – the sun shone all day despite the forecast predicting clouds and I managed to eat plenty of good food. I had chosen to go to a restaurant called Le Cul de Poule (The Arse of a Chicken or also the name of the metal bowls used in kitchens) but the chef was in an accident and hence there was no food that day. Luckily we were up near Montmartre when I discovered I wasn’t going to be fed, right near my never fail, always good restaurant, Le Jardin d’en Face. There was one table available, outside and away from the smokers and my birthday ended with delicious steak with blue cheese sauce and THE WORLD’S BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE. To be honest I’m not sure why I even thought about trying a new place and missing out on this delight. It was the perfect way to end my day.

Chocolate cake

Nom nom nom…

Last night I claimed the usual Friday night gathering in the Récollets garden as a belated birthday party for myself and my friend, Chuck. My school friend, Nina was in town, and I invited a few randoms from outside the residency and it was a really enjoyable evening with wonderful friends, great cheese and awesome cake. The highlight was blowing out birthday candles as all of my friends and a garden full of Parisian BoBos sang happy birthday to me and Chuck. This is the second birthday I have had where a large number of random strangers have sung happy birthday to me and I never imagined the hip and cool BoBo crowd would actually participate in a sing-along. But sing they did, en anglais!

My friend Becky and Vivien hunted down an AMAZING chocolate cake from an amazing pâtisserie in St Germain called La Pâtisserie des Rêves (Pastry store of dreams) and fall into a state of dream-like bliss I did. It was a soft, smooth dark chocolate mousse cake with chocolate ganache, chocolate icing and small pieces of chocolate biscuit through it. Seriously amazing. There is even a movie about my cake. Merci beaucoup, mes amies!

Ma Vie à Paris

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

I have realised that I haven’t written about life à Paris for quite some time. My focus has shifted to my experiments in the world of linoleum and paper and I haven’t kept you up to date with the latest and greatest happenings in Gay Paris. Times, they may be a’changin’, but I shall now redeem myself with a longwinded discussion on the ins and outs of the French capital. Vous êtes prêts? On y va!

Weather

Allow me to start with what everyone is talking about – the fact that it is now June, and therefore apparently summer, yet I am wearing pants, a long-sleeved shirt AND a cardigan. Today the sky is covered in varying degrees of grey cloud and the forecast for this afternoon is rain, rain, rain. This is seriously going to disrupt my friends’ and my plans of having a picnic by the canal. Sure, the sun doesn’t set until after 10pm these days, but that’s difficult to enjoy when you can’t actually see the sun anyway. We had a week or so of glorious sunshine and last Saturday I got sunburnt. The following day I was wearing jeans and a jumper. Something is wrong here.

Politics

France has elected its new President, Monsieur Hollande, and he seems to be fitting in just fine. I haven’t really heard much about him, nor have there been any scandals involving him and a younger woman (yet). So really, he’s quite boring and we can tell this just by looking at him. He looks like a maths teacher (or, as I have been informed by my American friends, a MATH teacher). Not that I have anything against maths teachers – they just make for fairly limp Presidents. Maybe Sarkozy will give him some hot tips on how to be a slime-ball.

In the meantime, France is gearing up for the NEXT election where they vote for their local representatives. I really don’t understand how this works because it seems candidates can stick their hand up to be a representative in any area of France that they want. I’m sure there are some rules, but it is probably just as long as you have a friend who lives in that area or you went camping there once then you can be a candidate. This has resulted in the extreme-left candidate from the Presidential election (Melanchon) challenging the extreme-right candidate (Le Pen) in an area in the north-east of France. This is risky business and could result in Melanchon not being elected which would be a DISASTER because really he’s the only candidate with any sort of human sentiment. It would also mean that Le Pen gets in and every foreigner in France will pack their bags in anticipation of their departure. Anyway, we shall see. I believe the first vote is this weekend, with the second round the following week. Exciting times.

Fashion

The latest in summer fashions are in the stores and despite not having been shopping for at least three months, I can report that the style for this season is beige, beige, beige with FLURO PINK or FLURO BLUE or FLURO ORANGE. It is extraordinarily awful. The BoBos have been out in force when the sun does peak its head out from behind the clouds and big, thick-rimmed glasses are still a must.

Food

Weird and disgusting as this may sound, the latest craze in the French food world is… American hotdogs and hamburgers. WHY?? I really don’t know. Actually, I do. While BoBos are proud of their native country and French ways, they also crave the style of New York and therefore a van driving around the city selling over priced hamburgers (on gross sweet ‘hamburger’ buns I might add) is considered to be “trés Brooklyn”. The hamburgers I can manage, but the other day I noticed a new restaurant on Rue du Faubourg St Denis that is a “New Yorkaise” style hot dog restaurant where you can buy a “real American” hot dog for 4 Euros. They even were proud of the fact that you could add fake “mustard” in your sausage in a bun. Needless to say, I haven’t tried these hot dogs and never plan to. I’m happy to stick to good traditional French food that is full of fat and cheese and cream and everything that is delicious and artery-clogging.

Life aux Récollets

Life in the convent is plodding along nicely. The next few weeks will see the departure of some residents who have become good friends. It is a hard aspect of living here – I get to meet so many great people but often they will leave after a short period of time. It is nice to know that I will have people to go and visit in Italy, the US, Canada, Poland, South Korea, Germany, Greece… But still. It would be nicer if they would just stay here.

My electricity still turns off at least once a day and the internet continues to be painfully slow. There hasn’t been much action from the ghost downstairs but I think he/she might come out when summer finally arrives. Becky and my vegie garden is growing like crazy and we will have tomatoes before we know it. We just need to build an anti-rabbit/bird/mouse/snail/monster contraption to save our plants. Something is very, very hungry and likes eating our green-leafed plants. Very annoying.

So I think that is about it. Most of you will have heard or worked out through amazing sleuth-work that I am now a single lady living in Paris. This has both its ups and downs as emotions are still quite raw and so any form of romantic liaison between people on the street can result in floods of tears. This is problem considering Paris is the city of love and sitting on every second bench or lying under every other tree are gross, soppy, lovey-dovey couples kissing and cuddling and doing all sorts of French things. I have considered going over and asking them to stop but I have refrained. Anyway, life is all about changes and growing and discovering new things, new places and new people and that is my plan. I would just like to sun to come out so that I can wear a skirt. I’m bored of pants.

Potting About

Monday, May 7th, 2012

For months I have been eyeing off some dirt that runs along the sides of the driveway behind the Récollets. So much vegetable-garden potential. Recently some gardens have popped up and after some investigations I discovered that the plots are given out to people who live in the community and who have no garden space of their own. As a resident of the building, I figured I should be allowed a slice of dirt, and so I inquired and I am now a proud land owner (well, user as I haven’t bought it nor do I own it in any way) in Paris!

Recollets garden

Lots of little gardens

Becky and I are sharing a 180 x 100 patch of clay that we are hoping to turn into a blossoming, productive and essentially delicious garden. On Saturday we ventured to Truffaut, a garden and animal centre, and purchased plants and a 40L bag of soil improver.

Interesting fact: Carrying a 40L bag of soil improver from a shop to a train to home is about as fun as carrying a 40kg flat-packed shelving unit on the metro. Becky is wonder woman and carried it most of the way, while I mastered the ‘drag it along the shiny floor’ technique.

Anyway, we now have massive muscles and yesterday we planted our new plants. We have snap dragons (did you know they talk?! Becky showed me this for the first time… wow.) and marigolds; a lavender plant; some bulbs which we are hoping to see again soon; beetroot; various sorts of tomatoes; tiny lettuces; and mint, parsley and basil.

Vegetable garden

So much potential

We will soon be producing truck loads of vegetables and selling them at market stalls. And in the meantime, I can stick my head out of my window and throw rocks at any one who is attempting to steal our produce. You’ve been warned.

Are My Eyes Deceiving Me?

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Are you seeing what I’m seeing, J1?
I think I am J2.

IT’S A PACKET OF TIMTAMS!

TimTams

Now THAT'S a biscuit.

TimTams in Paris?! Surely I was hallucinating. Yet as I reached out and touched them I discovered they were as real as the Oreos on the shelf next to them. It appears that TimTams have finally broken through the tough French market and have made their way into the supermarket near me. I checked to see they were definitely made in Australia and yes – they have been sent to me from my good friends at Arnotts in New South Wales.

I made this discovery on Friday night while at my local Monop’ (a small version of a big supermarket chain in France) and almost had a heart attack. I then came back to life and died once again when I saw the price. Three Euros and 15 cents for a packet of TimTams. That equates to AUD$4.30. I haven’t bought a packet of TimTams in Australia for quite sometime but I would be horrified if they cost more than that. Still, I bought a packet and shared it with my fellow residents at the usual Friday night gathering, proudly declaring that I had discovered some Australian biscuits in France. They were all very impressed and eager to know more about Australia’s baked goods and deadly animals. Now all I need is for Arnotts to start exporting the dark chocolate versions because they are so much better.

We’re In!

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

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

View from my window

Ain't it beautiful?

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

Summer in Paris

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Yesterday it sprinkled for most of the morning and then at about 6pm this arrived –

I haven’t seen that much rain in Paris since being here. It did it again later that evening. At least it was decent rain and not that stupid, useless, drizzle stuff.