Saturday, November 28, 2009
However, there is one stereotype I find to be particularly true and absolutely annoying. The French are undeniably rude. Certainly not everyone is unpleasant all of the time and I am sure that there are lovely people floating around who never, ever have a rude moment, but I have found an overall disregard for the normal politeness to be the norm here. Perhaps I am too sensitive (after all I was raised in a place where politeness is the ONLY art form), but I am not the first, nor will I be the last to point this out; as a generalization, it seems the Froggies go out of their way sometimes to be particularly unpleasant.
Two recent examples come to mind (the first of which prompted this post). The other day, a new friend and I were on the stationary bikes at the gym. We were talking, in English as we are both Americans, about random things. I would like to point out that we were having a quiet discussion about completely non-offensive things, like exercise and traveling. An older French woman sat down on the bike next to us, looked at us, smiled and then proceeded to tell us that we talk too loud, that she hates our accent and would like us to stop talking and that every Saturday we bother her, basically insisting that we immediately stop speaking. There were about 20 other available bikes, but she sat next to us so she could spew forth this anti-social poison. She even went to the trouble to involve a trainer, ineffectively tattling on us in order to get her point across. Oh, and my friend and I had only met the previous week and had been to the gym together twice, so the crap about us always being rude was a total load of poppycock. I've traveled a lot and I can honestly say, France is one of the few places where somebody would go out of their way to sit next to me in order to tell me I was bothering them.
The second thing was a bit more painful because it involved people I actually know and like. Last week in an attempt to celebrate Thanksgiving with my students (all of whom are older than 30), I made four pumpkin pies to take to work. I handed out 30 slices of homemade (from scratch) pumpkin pie. To be perfectly frank, it was one of the best recipes I have ever tried. Nothing fancy, just fresh pumpkin, condensed sweetened milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and vanilla and eggs. Well, out of the 30 people I gave the pie to at work, two thanked me. TWO PEOPLE said thank you. That's it. I woke up at five in the morning, baked four pies individually in my little microscopic oven and I got two mercis. Even that wouldn't have been so bad if it had just ended like that, but no, the French can't keep opinions to themselves. I had eight people tell me it was disgusting, four people throw it in the trash in front of me and most of the rest ate a bite and looked at me with a pained expression, like the idea of eating something so different from what they are used to would kill them.
I've not always had the best relationship with the French. And if I am completely honest, it has been a supreme effort on my part to remain open-minded (at times failing miserably) through this strange journey of mine. But I try because I do believe there must be some reason why the French lifestyle is respected throughout the world. However, sometimes it just doesn't seem worth it, like maybe there are just personality types that do not belong in certain countries and maybe I have the type of personality that just doesn't sync with France.
Friday, November 20, 2009
I've read different accounts as to how many lights are used, but the number I have seen most frequently is 400. Apparently, they are using LED lights to spotlight the different colors on the Eiffel Tower.
Normally, the show lasts for ten minutes every hour on the hour at night. There are tons of twinkling lights and it is really breathtaking to behold. But until December 31st, there will be an additional 'show' of colored, patterned lights four times a night, on the hour, beginning at 8.
Unfortunately my pictures do not do it justice. Let me just say, it was cold and windy and I had to pee really, really bad but I stayed until the entire show was over (5 minutes for the regular lights and then an additional 12 for the special display).
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I honestly had every intention of going to the Arc de Triomphe today to see Sarko and Merkel lay a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier but a very rich dinner (raclette: fatty, stinky cheese melted in an awesome table grill, served over potatoes and a multitude of hams-none of which does my tummy any favors) eaten late last night prevented me from keeping my schedule today. Instead of being up and out the door by 8:30, I slinked to the gym at 11:30...not a productive morning for me. Although on the way to the gym, I was pleased to several bouquets placed on historic plaques in remembrance of those who died during the country's several wars.
I have to admit, the relationship between German and France surprised me when I first arrived, considering the recent history of the two countries. I expected the Frogs to hate the former invaders but haven't found that to be so. For the most part, the Germans and French seem to like each other very much. Culturally, there is at least one television station which promotes the Franco-German relationship through joint ventures and politically they agree on almost everything. I guess it is normal to try to get along with your neighbors but it seems to me that the French and Germans go out of their way to heal the wounds of the past. Bravo!
Monday, November 09, 2009
So I've been carrying around my camera the past few days because I have the lofty goal of catching the celebratory light show at the Eiffel Tower. I've seen pictures and it looks really awesome but since I have until the end of December to see it, I've managed to find an excuse every night to go home before the 8 o'clock show. I know, lame, but it is so cold these days that I just can't seem to make myself stay out just for the purpose of taking pictures of ol' Tour Eiffel. Hopefully this will be the week.
Anyway, in the meantime, I've gotten some, um, interesting photos of Paris. I do a lot of walking and by that, I mean close to 2 or 3 miles a day outside the gym so I see various things a lot of normal folks miss like: the space invaders on buildings all over the city, crazy street art, homeless people fornicating (where else are they going to?), all sorts of demonstration/manifestations, etc, but this is the first time I've seen the crazy cake toppers pictured below. And just to be perfectly clear, this store is on a major street, at a major intersection. I walk by it all the time and never, ever have I seen the wares that were in the window this weekend. Mickey, Hello Kitty!, Barbie yes, but the very accurate genitalia on the second shelf, no.
Now I realize that I am exactly the type of person who would buy stuff like this for a prank or to shock someone, but I absolutely expect to go into some dark, dank, seedy room to buy such an item, not stand in front of the window and point it out to the nice old lady who hand crafts them (okay, I am sure it is a mold, but still!). I just can't help but wonder, is there such a huge market for them that they have to be in the front window right next to St. Nick?
Friday, October 30, 2009
If you are not into modern building, then you probably wouldn't appreciate La Defense, but I love this area. Most of the buildings are quite artistic (I didn't get a shot of my favorite which is bent).
And being France, there is plenty of artwork sprinkled throughout the area, both modern (Calder) and classical. I believe there are three fountains which are quite pleasant in summer, not so nice in winter.
I should also point out that while La Defense is cram-packed from 8a.m. - 7p.m. every workday, it is a ghost town on the weekend and at night. About the only attraction then is the fabulous Quatre Temps mall and the American style grocery store Auchan.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
It's a lovely city and a great representation of Europe-good as it is the E.U. capital. Normally I would give a brief history of the city and add a few interesting factoids, but I think for this post, I will let the photos speak for the city. Suffice it to say, it is full of interesting, international, nice people, great beer, good food and awesome views. I really hope I get to go back and see more of this fantastic city (it's only about 1.5 hours by train from gay Paree).
Lovely stained glass windows inside the church.
Manneken pis: famous statue near the Royal Plaza. There was an incredibly crowd around him everyday. Tourist are very lucky to see him 'dressed up' like this. The real challenge is to find his dog and girlfriend.
A celebration of Chinese culture and art?
The breathtaking Royal Square
More of the Square
View of the Centre Ville
Cool building, isn't it?
Thursday, October 08, 2009
However, there are a lot of interesting things to do. All the concert halls start their new season with interesting plays, ballets, symphonies, etc. The first weekend of October is Nuit Blanche which literally means 'sleepless night' but is in fact a celebration of art, or at least it is supposed to be. All of the museums are open until the wee hours of the morning and there are tons of people on the streets all night.
But for some reason everyone treats the night as a big party. I've gone out every year except this year and have noticed that a rather large number of people get totally tanked. For the most part, I find the French really responsible (boring) concerning alcohol consumption. They have 1- 2 glasses with meals and that's it, but during the Fête de la Musique and Nuit Blanche they just let loose. For the Fête de la Musique I understand the party mentality, but for Nuit Blanche? I just don't get how art appreciation and drinking go together. Maybe I am missing something but when I go to museums the only thing that makes me want to drink is the suffocating amount of people.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Today though, I grabbed my bags, opting to leave the granny shopping cart at home which turned out to be a mistake, and headed to the market. I just wanted figs (I have eaten about 5 kilos since coming back from vacation), broccoli and mushrooms. I ended up with a kilo of figs, a kilo of mushrooms, 4 peaches, a kilo of red peppers, green beans, a kilo of grapes, a kilo of tomatoes and no broccoli. I don't know what happens to me when I go to the market but I never buy just what I want. I end up with random things like beets or fennel because it just all looks so good. So now for the next two or three days I will be stuffing myself with fresh produce, not a bad thing, I know, but a silly lesson I should have learned several times over by now.
If you are coming to France, I suggest you find one of these markets as they are a wonderful experience and a great French lesson combined. I am sure you can find a listing for the markets in other towns (all places have them) but if you are coming to Paris, you can find the dates and times of all area markets on this site: Paris markets.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Musée du Luxembourg to see the Tiffany exhibit. It was nice, but definitely not worth the 11 euros I paid for the ticket. I managed to take about 30 pictures before I was told photography wasn't allowed (what can I say, there were no signs).
It was a pathetically small exhibit. I read all the of the informative blurbs and really studied some of the pieces and was completely done in 35 minutes. Another annoying thing was that everything was in French. Granted it was pretty easy French (I understood about 95%), but for all the tourists who don't speak French, well I guess the museum made a lot of extra money off them by offering the audio guide for 4.50...such a racket!
I wouldn't recommend the exhibit only because the price is the same for Louvre and D'Orsay and they are much more exciting and interesting. However, it was nice seeing Tiffany pieces and learning how Tiffany came to be Tiffany & Co, but as I said, I am a country girl at heart and couldn't help but think, "It's just a bunch of broken glass glued together."
Thursday, September 17, 2009
The transition back to Paris was hard the first day. I was sad to be back and the weather is completely depressing at the moment, but after the second day and a full day of jet-lagged work, Paris seemed more welcoming. Plus I have some big plans for this year in Paris so I am looking forward to getting everything in motion.
I hope everyone had a great summer and the return to school, work, real life, etc. wasn't too hard.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
My street's homeless man's digs. Don't know how he expects to actually watch the television as there is not an electrically outlet.
One of the many reasons I love Paris. This advertisement is sponsored by the Mayor of Paris. Imagine such an ad in the U.S. Yeah, I can't either. At first, I really liked it because it is cheeky and a bit classy but after I thought about it for a while...well, why is it the woman's best friend? Shouldn't it also be the man's best friend?
My neighborhood bonbon vendor's hub. Notice the 'I want crack from Noy York' and 'I got macaroni cheese.' No idea what the little vandals were thinking.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
For the past 24 years there has also been a huge fireworks display around the Eiffel tower. This year marked the 25th anniversary. Johny Hallyday performed in front of a crowd of one million (according to papers) screaming fans and then there were a lot of fireworks. But again, I just wasn't feeling it this year. Will I regret not going in the years to come, maybe, but I doubt it. Really, how cool can fireworks be? And that crowd, not for all the tea in China and I really, really love tea.
What did I do, you might ask. A big bowl of nothing. Went to the park for some exercise, caught some sun, read and just enjoyed the one day when silence reined in my apartment.
However, the night before. Well that is another story. You see, the 14th juillet is proceeded by the Bal des Pompiers. Now that was something else. This year was the first year I attended the firemen's ball and I really hope I get to go to another. Theoretically, it is a neighborhood gathering at the local fire station with food, games and a band. Technically, I think it is just an excuse for the firemen to chat up pretty girls and vice versa. But whatever. It was great fun. I danced all night to mostly old American songs and just a little accordian music.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
On a funny note...One day I tried on a bra without looking at the price and only after I had taken it off realized it was 275 euros. That's about 350 dollars. I almost had a heart attack, although I must admit, I think it made me a better person. Needless to say, I did not buy it.
Monday, July 06, 2009
July 4th is a special day for all of us Expats. We miss the bbq, the fireworks, the time spent with families, the day off work, etc. Usually we try to get together and have a picnic somewhere nice, like one of the many (although small) Parisian parks. Often there are several groups of Americans picnicing and it is a nice way to celebrate La Vie Americain in Paris. This year, we had a lot of Frenchies and Canadians who crashed our picnic, but the more the merrier, although at one point we (not me) and the Canadians did get into a bit of a pissing contest.
My friend Kally and I have spent the last three Independence days together. One of those years was in Romania (we were really creative with that cake, using flavored yogurt which resulted in a very pastel looking cake). Anyway, I realized how cool it is that although I've now spent 4 Independence days outside of the U.S., I've always managed to celebrate with cool people.
I hope everyone else got to celebrate with cool people, ate a lot and watched lots of fireworks.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Anyway, my blog has never really been that interactive, but I would love to know something cool about your town, city, state, village or community. I realize that while I do know Paris rather well, I have no real grasp of the history of my hometown and that makes me a little sad. So go on, tell me something amazing about where you live.
Friday, June 05, 2009
All of a sudden, we have fantastic temperatures and lots of sun. Last night the sun did not set until after 9. I am often amazed what copious amounts of sun will do to my attitude. It’s all I can do to keep from hugging perfect strangers and walking around with a silly smile on my face.
Anyway, enough with all the gushing. I’ve been busy these past few weeks doing lots of cultural things. One of my best visits was to the Petit Palais. For some odd reason, I’ve never been, although I’ve been to the Grand Palais, which is right across the street many, many times.
Some of the permanent collection
Currently there is an exposition of William Blake’s drawings and etchings. Being the nerd that I am, I had to go. I have distinct memories of reading Blake’s poetry and couldn’t miss the chance to see some of his visual representations of his writings.
Tiny, tiny etching of Blake's (Songs of Innocence)
Luckily for me, I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to take photos, so I was able to snap a few before the security guards yelled at me (I would have never taken photos in the first place had I seen the sign).
Portrait of the greatest poet in English history - Milton by William Blake
Even if it weren’t for the exhibit, I would have enjoyed the visit because the Petit Palais is wonderful. There is a great café in the tiny garden and the overall layout of the museum is beautiful. I will definitely go back soon.
Monday, May 25, 2009
I took this photo of the hospital in order to catch its dilapidated state but the photo is a little flattering. Trust me, it was horrifying! And the nurses, orderlies, etc. were not wearing gloves. I know I am a little obsessed with germs, but give me a break!
Saturday, May 23, 2009
So I mentioned before that my building is going through its 10 year resurfacing process. Well, along the way, we are also experiencing plumbing and electrical updates. Not so much fun when the water is turned off for 9-10 hours each day. And yes, normally most people would be at work between 8 and 6 but since this is May, many of us aren't. I digress, but this information will be necessary later. One night, I came home rather late (11:30) and found I was locked out of my apartment. My landlord lives in the building so I called him and when he didn't answer, I knocked on his door, which he didn't answer. Luckily for me, I had a nice friend who was still awake who told me I could crash at her house. I ran to catch the last metro and then ran to catch my connecting metro (last one being around midnight). For my entertainment, there were a bunch of drunken guys on the metro who desperately wanted to tell me how much the U.S. sucks, how crappy Americans are, etc. This is a relatively common occurrence, so I am never offended, just annoyed by being yelled at. When I got off, they got off with me and continued to harass me and block my way. After being locked out, running to catch the metro and being harassed by a bunch of thugs, you can imagine I wasn't in the best of moods.
The next day I didn't get into my apartment until 4:30. Turns out, the plumber had locked my bottom lock after checking to see if my water was working properly. Locking the bottom lock is a big no-no because the mechanism in said lock is older than God and just refuses to function properly. It took two men to unlock the door (one lifting the door up to align the lock and the other using some kind of tool to get a better grip on the key).
Fast-forward to 1 a.m. I went to my friend's new apartment for a drink and some nibbles. THE drink turned into 3 bottles of wine between two and I had to stumble home. My friend's apartment is in an interesting area...interesting during the day, downright frightening at night. A guy grabbed me two feet away from my friend's doorway and wouldn't let go of me. He insisted on walking me home, holding my hand, kissing me, etc. Now, I know had I been sober I could have neutralized the situation sooner or at least handled it a bit better, but being rather drunk, I couldn't suss out how to extract myself from his grip. I finally got home and literally had to throw my entire body weight against my entryway door to keep the bastard from following me into my apartment building. Very, very scary stuff.
But, the bad stuff doesn't end there. The next day, I went with my friend to a neighboring city to visit her hospital-bound husband. On my return journey, I noticed a man staring at me. It made me very uncomfortable so I decided to switch cars at a stop. Of course he followed me and continued to stare at me and make me uncomfortable. When I got off at Chatelet (biggest stop in Paris), he followed me and actually approached me and asked for my phone number. When I wouldn't answer or acknowledge him (it really is best not to engage these types of people), he started touching my arm. I tried to get away from him; I even stopped, turned around, changed course, etc., but he just would not leave me alone. Not wanting a repeat of the night before, I decided to stay in the station until I could get rid of the guy. I found a transportation cop and in what I am sure was very bad French, told him I was scared, that the man had been following me, staring at me, touching me for a while and that I was worried he would follow me home. I repeated that I was scared about 10 times, in case my accent and bad conjugation was unintelligible. The cop's response? Perhaps he just likes you. And with that, the cop walked away, leaving me with my newly acquired stalker. Now, if I had be watching this on television, it would have been funny, but as it happened to me, let me assure you, it was not.
I finally found a female employee and after walking with her a bit, the man left me alone, but still, scary. Anyway, those were my three bad days. Hopefully that adage, "bad things happen in threes," will prove itself true and I will have nothing but sunshiny days for a bit.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
They start everyday at 7:30, which is incredibly surprising because nothing 'starts' at 7:30 in France, and they bang metal until about 10, at which time, they take an hour break. Then they bang around for another hour or so and take a two-hour break. (Honestly, if it weren't for the ridiculously long breaks, I wouldn't know I was in France.) Then at 2 they come back and start again, but with much less vigor, and continue until 5.
It's just waking up to banging metal or the noise that is driving me insane, it's the fact that I now have no natural sunlight in my apartment. And I am sure it is going to be like that for the duration of the summer which really, really depresses me. I won't be able to open my curtains (leering workmen abound) or my windows so if it ever gets hot, I will have no air. Things like this make me think Paris isn't as charming as it seems.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
I would like to thank Jules at Lovely Las Vegas for her kind shout out and this award. It is the first blog award I've received. I looked at the rules for this award:
*List 7 Things That Make You Awe-Summm!
*Pass It On To 7 Bloggers Who Are Awe-Summm!
*Be Sure To Tag Your Awe-Summm Bloggers To Let Them Know!
*Then Link Back To The Queen That Tagged You
I'm afraid it is quite difficult to list 7 awesome things about my blog. I can only come up with two things: the pictures and it has basically served as a complaint forum for me over the years (kept me sane).
I can however, list 7 awesome blogs. Here they are:
Jen at Expat Travels for her great photography and for being such a great gal!
Lotus at Lotus Reads for giving me great reading ideas and a whole new set of friends.
Pardon my French for being a fellow expat to commiserate with over the years and for her insight on having a child in France.
Random Attention Disorder for giving us all a look at life in a Corsican village.
Betty C. at La France Profonde whom I have just recently discovered but still really appreciate her photos and commentary.
Starbender at This S#%t drives me CRAZY!!! for always making me chuckle.
And most recently Buffalodick for the great recipes.
And again, a big thank you to Jules and her great blog!
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
One of the most fascinating and most recent ones was the T.A.G. exhibit at Grand Palais. It displayed a collection of graffiti art collected by some type of art historian/profiteer (not really sure which because I couldn't understand everything he said) in a really awesome space in one of the smaller sections of G.P. With the exception of my visit to l'Orangerie, it was the longest I have ever queued for art.
Anyway, this man found some of the best known 'artists' throughout the world (but mainly NYC), gave them two panels each and told them to 'tag' one and paint their interpretation of love on the other.
Not being too into graffiti, I thought this exhibit was going to be a waste of time, but I was pleasantly surprised. I actually really appreciated all of the colors and designs and came to realize that some of the little delinquents who deface public property are indeed artists.
And while I am still not crazy about randomly damaging walls, metro, buildings, etc., it was nice to see that a lot of these people are crazy romantics. Yeah, sure there were a few paintings with messages of 'love kills', but for the most part, it was all hearts and butterflies. Who knew?