Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Best. Weekend. Ever.

All because of my favorite Germ Savannah Kay Powell.
Really looks a lot like that Calvin and Hobbes picture.  But this pretty much sums up our crazy ridiculous weekend/crazy ridiculous selves.  Why weren't we friends back home???

Friday started with google searching cannibals in Germany and France, and then Angelina hot chocolate (I've been looking for an excuse to go back) to show Savannah a proper French breakfast.

Next was an Eiffel Tower picnic with Matty, Emma, Irene, and a few other people.  We made lemonade (which I miss dearly) and the weather was great (yes, those are bare legs for the first time in months).

After a quick powernap, we went to Thistle and then (as usual) ended the night, albeit a bit blurry, at WOS with carbombs and cider and took ridiculous pictures.

Saturday we attempted to have some Breakfast in America but there was a line so we attempted to find the other BIA location but failed miserably and ended up eating gummies and then burritos at a Mexican place called Mexi & Co that made us a bit nauseous, but we got to take in some sights along the way.
like this one

After taking our ill stomachs home for a while we went back to BIA (the original location) where we had some of THE best milkshakes I've had in a while.  Reminds me of 2 am Steak N Shake trips with that one waitress that we always got...if only I could remember her name...
Another stop at the Eiffel Tower and we called it a night.

Sunday was a whirlwind walking tour of Paris including Sacre Coeur, a train ride, Pigalle/Moulin Rouge, Notre Dame, and the Louvre, and capped off by drinks at WOS and getting hijacked by a taxi driver and killing a spider before waking up at 5:30 am to catch the train back.  Thanks for my breakfast, it was one of the best chaussons aux pommes I've ever had.
so stinkin cute, as usual.

So we've pretty much decided that I will stay in Paris and she will come be an au pair here too after she's done in Germany and we will find nice European non-French men to civil union us and we will take pictures by the Eiffel Tower every single day.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I gotta feeling...

...that tonight might not be so exciting but this week as a whole is gonna be a good week.  (yeah, try fitting that into the song, I'm a lyrical genius fo sho).

Yes, it's only Wednesday so I don't know how much predicting I can do here, but I think I can say with confidence that it is going to be A-mazing.  For starters, the sun is out for its 3rd day in a row, following a 2 day hiatus (I understand, too much too soon, it's best to ease into these things, wouldn't want to cause a sudden panic among the Vitamin-D deficient Parisians, now would we?).  I have noticed though that sunglasses are not very big here.  A few people have them, but it's not like in Florida where everyone has them and they are handily stored on your person at all times either in a purse/backpack/totebag or around your neck with ridiculous customized croakies that I really have come to love so much, if nothing else but for their convenience.  Of course I didn't think I would really need my sunglasses in the famous grisaille parisienne and so now I am in search of a cheap pair, preferably ones that look like Wayfarers without being priced like Wayfarers, because I have wanted some ever since I was a kid listening to Boys of Summer by Don Henley and didn't even know what they really were, and am so glad they have come back into style over the last few years.  If anyone manages to find a cheap ebay pair or something, let me know.

But anyway, I digress.

Another reason this has/will be a good week is my work situation the next few days.  Wednesday will be standard, probably a bit difficult since the mother has a friend coming which means I will likely be in charge of the Girl who will want nothing but to be involved in the conversation between mother and friend even though neither of them really want her there.  But Thursday Christine won't be there, which means the Girl will probably be lovely and easy to deal with and we can do whatever we want without the constant clingy attached-at-the-hip syndrome the Girl has going on with her mother (I'm really starting to worry about that one).  And Friday my responsibilities include picking the Girl up from school, dropping her off at a friends house, and skipping merrily on my way to mayhem and shenanigans with Savannah.  Saturday = no work, they are out of town.  Could the end of this week get any better?  I doubt it.

And of course, the final reason that my week will be stupendous (a word that I love because of this) is that despite being told by multiple people back home that they either will come visit or will at least consider a visit, Miss Savannah Powell is actually coming.  As in, booked her train ticket, will be here tomorrow night, coming.  Granted, she's an au pair in Germany right now so it's not as big a trip for her as it would be for other people, but nonetheless I am excited to have a houseguest to show around and be my excuse to do obnoxious touristy things and spend money and just be ridiculous with.  I want to blow up my air mattress now in anticipation.  In about 30 hours I will be meeting her at the train station and who knows what we'll get into from there??

Yeah, this is gonna be a good week.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

staying delightfully uninformed since 1988

It is 11:12 on Sunday night and I haven't left my apartment today.  I really intended to, I had plans to go running and maybe poke around some shops in the Marais or enjoy the sunshine after 2 days of gloom in a park or along the Seine.  I kept telling myself I'd go.  "Right after I finish reading this article."

I'm not really all that embarrassed to say that I spend the entire day exploring the New York Times website in an effort to become more informed in what sounds suspiciously like another Middle East situation on which I will eventually be required to become well-versed.  It has given me a deceptive feeling of productivity, and a small sense of sophistication as I sipped my tea and read about worldly things.  But when I suddenly realized that my entire day had been sucked up by a single news website, it made me seriously wonder how The Informed remain so and still maintain friendships, a full time job, a life at all.

We all know those people; the ones who are on top of every political decision along with well-sourced information about the history behind and possible wide-sweeping ramifications of said decision.  Or the ones who somehow manage to know about (and sometimes acquire) every new technology and gadget seemingly before it becomes available to the rest of us.  Or who amazingly know and remember every score of every sporting event when I'm barely aware that it was going on, let alone finished and finalized.  I really have a new respect for those people.

I always think of the stereotypical person who puts on slippers and a robe (I've only seen these people on TV or movies, I don't know any real person who wears slippers or robes over pajamas, or even pajamas, really) when they awake painfully early to coffee that's either already made in a machine with a timer, or in a French press (because it seems like that's something sophisticated, informed people would use), and then sit down to their full breakfast of eggs and toast and OJ and manage to read the newspaper and eat at the same time without the oversized paper folding down or the pages refusing to turn properly or the cat coming to lie on it or spilling coffee on it and rendering it unreadable, all while watching the sunrise through the east-facing windows of a breakfast nook (I don't even really know what a breakfast nook is).  I'm not convinced this person actually exists.  When I imagine the more realistic counterpart of this fantasy morning routine, I think about hitting the snooze button 3 times too many, rushing about barely having time to put on regular clothes, let alone intermediate loungewear, and being lucky to grab a banana or granola bar on your way out the door (or more likely, stopping for coffee and a hash brown at McDonald's).  Add that to getting home around 6ish, making dinner, possibly adding kids to the mix, and all the other realities of life (from my perspective, anyway) and I really don't understand how any Average Joe/Jane finds the time to become a member of the mysterious and elite club of The Informed.  Who are they and how do they do it?  All I'm sure about is that they exist mainly to make the rest of us feel inferior over dinner conversation.

People wonder why our generation is so ambivalent to the news.  I'd argue that we are overwhelmed by the huge amount of information and the time it takes to really take it all in, as I'm fairly sure we are bombarded by massively more headlines at any given time than were previous generations.  Having increased access to information via internet and social media does not correspond with more hours in the day.  But even so, if anyone can share some of this Wisdom of The Informed with the rest of us commoners, I would very much appreciate it.

In other news, I tried making instant mashed potatoes but used too much milk/water and didn't have enough potato to thicken it up so after 20 minutes of simmering and stirring I gave up and ate mashed potato soup. Still tastes the same, and it is actually easier to evenly distribute salt/butter.  Maybe I'm on to something here.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

the most uneventful weekend ever

So this is my weekend, this week went by pretty quickly actually, I don't crave the weekend like a pregnant woman craves peanut butter and cheeto sandwiches anymore, maybe that's a good sign that things are going well.  However, I must exercise financial restraint and therefore I am only going to spend a little money on booze tonight instead of my usual amount.  Rachel and I will be enjoying beers that are cheap enough to purchase in change so it doesn't feel like you're using real money, surprisingly delicious handmade mojitos, and that righteous plate of free cous cous that comes with a whole piece of grilled chicken and steamed vegetables.  Not quite heaven, but close (I doubt they'd charge 4 euros for a mojito in heaven)...the Tribal Cafe it is.  The waiter has started smiling and greeting me when I walk in, even though I still don't think he understands my attempts at French, but hey, add that to the growing list of places I feel like a regular at.  I like it.

I also met probably the most entertaining person I've ever met.  Ian is a bartender at the Bombadier, an English pub not far from the WOS bar, who stopped by after close to tell Matty, Pierre, and I the story of his St. Patty's Day beatdown at the bar, a hilariously failed attempt at a threesome, and fighting gypsies for money (favorite quote of the night: "Fuck me, that's a big fat fuckin' gypsy.")  Apparently gypsies are real people who live and run fight clubs in England.  They even have a TV show: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.  Nothing like the impression I got from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but Disney has given me unrealistic expectations in many areas of my life, so I shouldn't be surprised.

That's about it for now, I'm currently eating buttered toast because I don't want to open my new box of Cheerios until I really need it.  This is mostly just a dear-mom-I-haven't-been-kidnapped-yet post.

Oh, and in other news, I spoke to Kyle and Caitlin, my African AIDS clinic friends, and they appear to be disease, arrest, and worm free for the time being.  We planned some details of our trip to Amsterdam (less than a month, wahey!), and discussed the idea of sending our mothers pictures involving particular activities they surely enjoyed back in their youth in the late 60s/early 70s.  My mother will be so proud.

Well, I have a rule that whenever sending inebriated photos to one's mother starts seeming like a good idea, it's time to call it a day.  When I get more money I am embarking on my homemade maraschino cherry project, but that will have to wait.

And Savannah is coming to visit in 5 days.  KKG takes over Paris.  Get excited.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

so this is love...

I think I've gotten there.  For real this time.  I know I've said this before, only to bitch and moan about the kids misbehavior or silly French people or whatever.  But I think I mean it this time.

Could it really be that I've fallen in love with Paris?

A random and completely unscientific ehow.com article I found via google lists 4 stages of a new relationship:

  1. The Chase = the summer before. Finding the job, getting the visa, hunting down the plane ticket. Building excitement.
  2. The Happy Cloud = aka the Honeymoon phase. Everything's perfect and I'm just skipping around eating crepes and croissants and still wearing flip flops and admiring French men and fashion and just living in a f-ing Brady Bunch episode.  Namely, this one (I'm having DM 08 flashbacks)
  3. Yeah, I went there. Believe that.
  4. Confronting reality = end of November until about mid January when I hated Paris and the grey weather and crepes and croissants and snow seeping into my boots and the stupid things they wear and thinking about how it wouldn't kill the male population to step foot in a gym every so often or parents to raise their kids properly instead of like wild animals. You've read plenty of these posts, so I probably don't need to go on.
  5. Getting comfortable = where I am now. Hopefully for good
Maybe it's just that the sun has been out for two whole days in a row and I am high on a Vitamin D overdose.  Or maybe it's because the kids have been relatively decent lately and I'm experiencing the proverbial "calm before the storm."  Maybe they have finally accepted me as a presence in their lives whether they like it or not and have given up the coup-throwing.  I don't know what it is specifically, but "getting comfortable" is a pretty good way to describe it.  There are things I like about Paris and there are things I'm not such a fan of, but I can live with it and laugh it off and enjoy the rest.  I've made some friends that I don't like the idea of leaving behind.  I'm even enjoying a lot of my time spent with the children.  (this is where you all say, "what?? Sarah doesn't like children!"  I know, I think it's weird too).

Unfortunately, this is coming at a time when I have to start thinking about leaving Paris.  And I'm not convinced that I want to anymore.  Could I take another year as an au pair?  For the same family or for a new one?  I mean, I'm 23...I have time.  I don't know.  Hmmm things to think about...

In other news, the pigeons are still mating all over my dying daffodils, and I went to Angelina for what is hands-down the world's best hot chocolate with Emma and Rachel.  For real, I think they just melt chocolate into a cup, add some milk, and voilá, 10 extra pounds on my thighs.  But it's ok, my baguette/too-broke-for-booze/eating-as-much-as-humanly-possible-at-dinner-with-the-family diet should make up for it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Summary of the last few weeks...

Usually I do not force my readers to just trust me when I tell them stories.  I prefer to back it up with proof, generally in the form of photos.  This is probably a reflection of my personal way of looking at life, of which those who know me best are well aware.  However, this time I have no proof.

You'll have to take my word for it that I went to Nice, which is quite possibly the most beautiful (and most ridiculously wealthy) place in the world.  You'll have to trust me when I tell you that the Monte Carlo casino in Monaco is not nearly as impressive as they make it seem in James Bond-style movies (at least from the outside, and the parts of the inside they let us see).  You'll have to have faith that the Carnival parades in Nice are epically better than the New Orleans equivalents.  You will have to take my word for it, because after taking hundreds of pictures of it all, I also got mugged and subsequently have no more camera.  Which also means no more pictures.  Possibly forever.  (Cue life crumbling down around me and some Chicken Little-esque end-of-the-world lamentations.  Oh, drama.)

But I do have a nice black eye to show for it all.  My one souvenir.

Ok, the "forever" part might be a bit of an exaggeration.  Mom mailed me my old camera from before I bought my current one (which is now sitting in some Nice-ian pawn shop somewhere, no doubt).  It's a bit archaic in comparison but it will get the job done.  New problem: it does not have the USB cable that allows me to upload pictures to my computer.  I suppose I'll have to suddenly become adept at ebay shopping and see if I can dig one up on the cheap because otherwise I'll just have all these photos on a memory card and no way to share them with the world.  No one but my mother will read my blog anymore and my dreams of being an international freelance writer/journalist will die a slow and painful death.  (that last part was a lie, but you get the idea.) 

I also just realized that after years of being overshadowed by a dramatic sibling I now take full advantage of opportunities to let my dramatic side run away with me.  No healthy outlets, and look what happens.

So as a result of yet another near-death experience in a foreign country, I've been lying low for a bit and taking it easy.  No need to push my luck too much, if I haven't done that already.  Once I get my technology right again I will continue posting in the name of Project 365.  I haven't decided if I will just pick up where I left off, ending a few weeks into 2012, or if I will just consider these last few weeks "the dark ages" of my life and keep going, just missing a few days.  We shall see.

In other news, it appears that it is approaching pigeon mating season as they have taken to sitting in my window box and making what can only be a strange mating call and destroying my daffodils.  I still maintain that we should teach the homeless to catch and cook pigeons, we would feed the hungry and take care of the pigeon overpopulation, two birds with one stone.  Nothing could possibly go wrong with that plan.

Well, I have a rule that when pigeon-eating homeless people enter the picture it's time to call it a day.  Besides, it's almost time to go off to work, which frankly makes me feel a bit like this (just the face, not the caption...but we could get there...).  I'll conclude with a few pictures stolen from Alex's facebook to make up for an otherwise aesthetically mind-numbing post.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Old Orléans vs New Orleans

Joan of Arc. You'll pick up on  a theme here soon...
Alors. Orléans. I hope that cliff hanger made it sound really exciting, because reality is that poor little town can use all the hype it can get. Granted, it may have been more exciting if we had managed to make it on a day that wasn't Sunday (ahem. Alex.) I thought Paris was bad because a lot of things are closed on Sunday. Paris is the 24 hour McDonald's to Orléans' Chick-fil-a.

But anyway, we managed to get a later train at 9:22 instead of 7:30am and still kept the same low ticket price. We got on the train and quickly realized that everyone else had gotten there before us; the only pair of seats we could find was blocked by a window divider, which took all the fun out of getting a window seat. We eventually switched and scared away someone else. See, each car had pairs of seats facing towards the middle of the car (not the aisle middle, but between the front and back middle), and in the center where there are two pairs of seats there was a small table separating them. So we found a guy who had claimed a 4-person table to himself and his book and squeezed into the other side. Within 5 minutes I think he got tired of us talking, so he moved to the pair of seats we had just left and we ended up with the whole table area to ourselves for the next hour. That is officially my new train seat strategy.

An hour later we got off the train and saw...a whole lot of nothing. No stores were open, there weren't even people around...it was a little creepy. But in the distance we could see the top of the cathedral so we headed that way. Along the way we found a little garden that happened to be connected to the Hotel Grislot, the town hall of olden days so we stopped in, and the nice guy behind the reception desk (after switching to English because our French was just intolerably bad, I guess) gave us a map and some information on the building and we went in (free of charge!) to take some pictures.

Left: ruins of a little chapel in the Garden.

Right: cherub statue "pouring" water into what probably used to be a little pool but was now all dried up.
Back of the Hotel Grislot, from the garden

and from the front

(above) Portrait of Joan of Arc; they really like her and she is everywhere.
(right) chair in the sitting room, all the furniture was very elaborate.

(above) Another elaborate chair that I want in my future dining room. The leather looks as though it was painted blue with brown detailing, and the wood carving on the back is flawless. I'm obsessed.
(below) The first flag flown by the city after its liberation in 1944. What is it with these people, constantly needing to be liberated...?

Some fancy official meeting room. I want to have a meeting here.

While we were there there was another small group of French-speaking tourists who kept giving us looks. Alex at one point overheard one of them asking another "where do you think they're from?" (in French of course) and the second immediately labeling us as "des Etats-Unis." Are we that obvious? I've come to be ok with that.

After leaving we realized we were right across from the cathedral that has become famous because Joan of Arc attended mass there (seriously, everything in this town is about Joan of Arc). It was really quite nice, and looks a lot like Notre Dame in Paris on the outside, but the inside is much more open. I was also very impressed with the preservation of the stained glass, but later I found out that it looked so nice because it was relatively new and now tells the story of (big surprise here) Joan of Arc fighting the English.

stained glass
outside of the cathedral
one side, a wooden shrine and a rose window
Organ in the back
another stained glass, I don't know what part
of the story this tells
The front, behind the alter

Tribute to American soldiers who died in France in WWI and II
So after poking around the cathedral for a while, we decided to expose our frost-bitten fingers to the sun (we could see our breath INSIDE the cathedral. It was cold) and search for some food. We walked along the river and through a lot of cute little streets that looked like they belonged in Beauty and the Beast, exploring a little to see what we could find. We found a lot of Indian restaurants open (I guess it's the same as how the main area that stays open on Sundays in Paris is the Jewish Marais) but finally found a restaurant that seemed to be making a nice living by being the only place in town that served on Sundays. Of course, we didn't know what anything on the menu was, but for 14 euros you could get one of about 5 appetizers and 5 entrees, so Alex went for the 2 things we vaguely recognized (salad and beef something) and I took a shot in the dark and hoped for the best.
Attempt 1: Appetizer. Turned out to be some sort of oniony beef stuff on a biscuit type thing. Considering I thought I would be getting some sort of vegetable dish, I was way off. But still good.

Attempt 2: White fish with rice, carrots, and a creamy sauce. Delicious. On the menu it said something about "nage" which means something to do with "swimming" so I probably should have guessed that one. I was really happy I picked this.

                                  The street by the river.               And some other little street.  I just liked 
                                                                                                    the lamps.

                        Alex crashing my picture.                             And a boat I wanted to steal.

And of course, my Day 58: 2-27-11 photo.  I really like the colorful wooden beams.  This is what France should look like to me.

So after a mysterious yet satisfying meal we made our way to what is known as "the Joan of Arc house."  They do not bother telling you that 1) this is not her house, this is a house she once stayed in while visiting here, and 2) it's not actually the real house, just a recreation.  But it was only 1 euro, and there were little recreations of Joan of Arc-time period Orléans.

Miniature Orléans
           Exterior of the house

And even a little paper figure depiction of the battle against the English.  They really thought of everything...

Soon after leaving the Joan of Arc house we decided that since there wasn't a lot going on we'd just catch a 2:30 train back to Paris and call it a day.  All in all, this would have been a significantly better trip if a) it wasn't Sunday and there were some things open other than Joan of Arc stuff (like, say, a bar) and b) the weather was warmer.  A stroll or picnic style lunch by the river would have been a nice way to spend an afternoon, but losing a few fingers to the elements didn't seem worth it, and there weren't any grocery stores open anyway.  But hey, I'm only out 18 euros.

In conclusion, if it came down to old Orléans vs it's newer American counterpart, NOLA wins.
But at least we can all agree: fleurs-de-lis are still pretty cool.