Friday, October 01, 2010

OZ!

One of the few things I hate-the birds. They make the most awful noise at about 5am.

That's right. I am in Sydney. I've been here just a little over a month and I love it! I never want to leave. It's beautiful. There are tons of things to do. The people are fantastic. And there is water all around. It's heaven. How have I just now gotten to know the place? I should have been here my entire life. I've fallen in love-hard.

So that is the big issue on the agenda these days: finding a way I can stay (legally). I am sure I will do it, because where there is a will, there is a way, but I image it will be tough going. At the moment, I am looking for a job which will sponsor me. Hopefully I find one soon.

Friday, September 24, 2010

New Home


I've moved, not in the blog-o-sphere but physically, which is why I've been so quite in recent months. Can anyone guess where? I imagine the picture is a dead giveaway. Anyway, I am happier than I have ever been here and hope to start blogging again on a regular basis. Hope you'll continue reading!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Giverny Pictorial

We are obviously not going to have a Spring this year in Paris. Fortunately for me, I spend the one week of nice weather playing tour guide and got to really enjoy the weather. I love flowers and gardens, so being out and about in Paris during this one week of sunshine was wonderful. Lucky for me, we also went to Giverny. If you come to Paris, I definitely recommend you make the trip to this tiny town where Monet painted many of his most famous canvases. It is well worth the trip! For those of you who have never been, here is some of what you are missing.






Saturday, May 08, 2010

En Grève

This week started with a bang! Monday afternoon instead of leaving the office via the lobby, I had exit by the roof. Why? Well because there was a grève chez Otis and the elevators and stairwells were blocked by employees demanding more money.

For those of you who know France, the grève or strike, demonstration, manifestation is a pretty common occurrence. I imagine that if you spend a week in the capital, you will see at least one. Striking is a way a life in France, almost as common as the baguette, wine or cheese.

I remember one time complaining to a colleague about the amount of strikes here and being especially confused because French workers have it so good. They get at least five weeks paid holiday, are almost always guaranteed to keep their job and if they do happen to become unemployed, have a fantastic social system as a means of support during the interim. My colleague kindly explained that these were the precise reasons why her co-patriots organized so many strikes-to keep the norm from changing, to keep from losing the benefits and to show businesses how much damage non-working employees can cause.

But I don't want to comment on this social custom because it exists and nothing I say, feel or do will or could change it, so I will just get back to my most recent up-close and personal experience.

The technicians at Otis decided that a 1% cost of living increase was not enough (in defense of the powers that be at Otis, no technician jobs were cut and everyone got an increase whereas many companies laid-off several employees and/or did not provide any cost of living increase) so they decided to strike. They began at 9:30, blocked the elevators and stairwells (incredible fire hazard, right?!) and would not let the office employees walk the hallways, leave the building, go in between floors, go to the lunch, smoke a cigarette, etc for two days.

Me being me, I basically ignored the creepy guys milling the hallways and entered the stairwell at about 11a.m. in order to go from the 5th floor to the 6th. I was instantly yelled at by a pompier (fireman) and was told I would have to remain in the stairwell because it was too dangerous to change floors. I just looked at the guy, said in English, "I have no idea what you are talking about. I am American and I have an appointment on the 6th floor." Either from exasperation or incomprehension, the pompier banged on the door and demanded that the technicians open the door (yes, they were blocking the doors) so a non-Otis employee could exit the stairwell. Scary incidence #1 dealt with.

After I was finished with my lessons (around 2:30), I had to leave as I had another appointment. I exited via the stairwell and tried to go down the stairs and again a pompier stopped me and told me I was stupid to try to leave, that I was in grave danger of being physically attacked if I tried to leave the building through the lobby, blah, blah, blah. I am not proud to say it, but I pulled the hysterical American card, told him, I didn't speak French, that I demanded to be released, as an American I refused to be held against my will, and other such sentences along that line. And guess what. It worked. Dude promptly said, "Okay, we will leave on the roof like Spiderman." He took me up to the rooftop exit, did the whole peeking around corners, used really exaggerated hand signals for stop and go and wait (because the strikers had been up to the roof and he was afraid we might run into some stragglers), walked me to the next building over, down to the parking garage, welcomed me to France, wished me luck and left me to figure a way out of the garage by foot.

I wish I could say the rest of the week was as exciting, but it really wasn't.

Here's a link of the strike in the lobby. There were many more people outside.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Fellow Blogger's Visit


Ridiculously rich chocolat chaud at the famous tea house Angelina's

When I first moved to France I used this blog as way to get rid of my frustrations of living in a foreign country, talk about the insecurities of learning the language, point out the bizarre differences between my culture and theirs and as a way to share my life with my friends and family back home. Along the way, I made a few friends, thanks to this blog.

I know that internets aren't exactly the same as real friends, but some days the emails and comments I got from this blog helped me realize that my irritations were small and that I was living a dream most people would love to have a crack at. I would even say that some days these people made my day.

So why this mushy post? Two reasons: I would like to thank the folks who continue to read even though my posts are irregular, but also because I met my first blogger friend! Melissa (from Hello Melissa!) and her husband visited Europe on a work vacation and I got to spend a week with them. They are really lovely people! Apart from generally liking them, I got to play tour guide-probably my favorite part-time job-and was able to see Paris through a first time visitor's eyes.

So there you have it, internet connections don't always produce slimy, creepy men. Sometimes you meet nice, fun people!

Thanks again for visiting Tommy and Melissa!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Who Knew?


Seriously, I never would have guessed that there was a chapter of the Hell's Angels in Paris. Or that I've walked by it several times without ever noticing it. Granted, it isn't as if it is in a highly visited area of Paris. I would even go so far as to bet most people who live here never venture to that specific area (it's in the Indian grocery area past the two big train stations), but I go there a lot. As a matter of fact, I go shopping there for English, Indian and American products at least twice a month and I have honestly never noticed this building. Isn't it strange how we can be so oblivious to our surroundings? Now I am totally curious as to the type of people who are members of this club and what they do. I didn't think the Hell's Angels advertised their existence so, um, proudly.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Musée Jacquemart-André


It is still a bit chilly to do the neighborhood visits. I started on the 11th on Saturday but after three hours, I had to come home and warm up. I hope I never live anywhere arctic! Until I can do the visits, I guess you'll just have to be entertained by my little museum visits and/or my bitching.

I went to the Musée Jacquemart-André for the first time last week. I wanted to go because they advertised this exhibit all over the metros for months and for some reason seeing visiting expos advertised has the same affect on me as seeing food advertised has on most people.

The museum, in olden times (like early 1900s), was actually a private house and it is a fantastic work of art itself, complete with a garden room, a wonderful staircase and lots of fresco. I think the museum is worth visiting on its own.

The actual exhibit I wanted so desperately to see was of the Spanish masters from El Greco to Dali and I must admit, it was quite good. I particularly liked the way they organized the works. Instead of grouping similar artists or time periods, they grouped them by theme. I appreciated this organization because I am not that knowledgeable about art so I was forced to actually look at Dali next to El Greco and Picasso next to Goya. It was really rather eye-opening.

The price is a bit steep (11 euros), but you get an audio guide free and considering you don't hear that word a lot in Paris, well, it made me not focus on the price gouge quite so much. FYI the Louvre is only 10 euros and it is MUCH bigger.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter (Damn Chocolate)


Thank goodness Easter is finally here. Now, hopefully all of those beautiful, tempting chocolate eggs, bunnies, ducks and fish will be removed from the display windows and the boring ol' bars of chocolate will find their rightful place, out in the opening, tempting the masses.


I have no idea why Easter chocolate makes my mouth water so much. For the most part, I am not a big chocolate eater. I might have some chocolate once every two months and when I do, it is rarely just a chocolate bar, more often than not, it is a dessert with chocolate as an ingredient. I almost never crave it and when I do, I can usually forget about it before I actually get to a store to purchase some. And believe me, Paris has no shortage of specialty chocolate shops, so it isn't a lack of product that keeps me from consuming cacao, I just don't NEED it like some people do.


But this year, I couldn't help myself. I had to have one of those eggs. I mean, just look at how tempting they are! And of course, I couldn't buy one from Auchan or Monoprix or one of the other grocery stores. No, I had to have one from an artisan. So I ended up paying 14 euros for about 100 grams of chocolate only to be pretty disappointed (as I stated earlier, not a big fan of it). But it was absolutely necessary.

I hope everyone has/had a Happy Easter. I promise those neighborhood posts are coming up real soon, well as soon as the weather learns how to behave itself. We've had rain, hail, wind and unseasonably cold weather the past two weeks.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Coming Soon...

I've been playing with the idea of doing a review of each arrondissement in Paris. The weather has been nasty so I've put off starting this rather time consuming task, but now I think (hope) I am up to it. There are 20 and it will take a while, but seeing how I've now put it in writing, I will probably do it. Although, I have not finished my initial goal of getting on or off at every metro stop in Paris (I am ever so close though). Stay tuned...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring has Sprung

Near the Chateau de Versailles

I always comment that Spring just sort of hits us in Paris around mid-March. And for the most part, it is true. Usually around the 15th or so, I start noticing that it is light for my morning run (around 6:30 if the weather permits, 7:30 at the gym, if the weather is being a bastard) and all of a sudden the temperature warms up noticeably, we have sunnier days and light past 5 p.m.

However, there are other ways Spring announces itself. The most breathtaking are all of the budding flowers and trees. Not that Paris is really a "green" city or anything, but I do try to get out to the suburbs about two times a month and Versailles is always a nice, Springy city to see. Also, the 13th arrondissement (Asian Quarter) has an excellent boulevard lined with horse chestnut trees which are just breathtaking. I often miss their flowering because the blooms only last about 10 days, or so it seems, but it is always worth the trip to catch a glimpse of them.

But by far, the announcement of Spring's arrival I find most amusing in every sense of the word is the plethora of nude or partially nude advertisements. True to form, the French have no problem with the human body, but sometimes these photos, magazines, ads, etc. just take my breath away. For example the magazine Votre Corps (might be slightly incorrect on this title). For the month of March, they had a completely naked woman on the cover. Full frontal. Don't get me wrong, she was perfect, just a bit shocking to see a nine foot version at the local paper stand. Just today I saw another magazine with a girl, fully dressed, pulling her dress to the side to cheekily expose a breast. And don't even get me started on Tetu, the magazine for the young gay male. I nearly trip every time I see its cover.

Anyway, Spring is here and hopefully with it, pleasant weather for all of the Northern Hemisphere!

Monday, March 15, 2010

If You're French, this Post is Probably Going to Piss You Off

Looks like a woman from behind, no? Colorful poncho, nice lovely
gray hair pulled back by a wooden barrette...but it's a dude, in a suit.


Throughout the years, I've bitched aplenty on this blog. For the most part, something gets under my skin, I come home, angrily type out a few paragraphs and send my frustration out into the world. More often than not, I feel better after I get whatever is bothering me off my chest and read some angry responses (go home, you're stupid, etc.). For the most part, I prefer living in Paris (even though I have never wanted to stay here) to living in Arkansas. Actually, if I were a praying women, I would send up a request daily begging never to return to my home state. And for the most part, I can handle all the bullshit that comes with being an expat/foreigner with a smile or a small gripe-fest with friends.

However, the one thing I have never, ever gotten over, or will get over for that matter, is how rude some people can be here. I have tons of examples, but the thing that irritates me the most is how almost every French person I speak with feels the need to tell me how badly I speak or pronounce French.

Now, I will openly admit, I don't practice French enough. I don't/haven't taken any classes because I really don't care if I learn French. I know this is a terrible attitude and I am not defending it, but I never expected to live here for more than a year (how it got to be 5 years, I will never understand), so going to classes never appealed to me. When I have spare time, I prefer to spend it at a museum or exercising, not going to a class where a teacher can tell me how badly I speak French. And you'd be surprised how easy it is to live here without speaking the language. So yes, I absolutely, unequivocally admit, I suck at French. I understand damn near everything I hear, but my spoken French is probably not much better than a 4 year old's.

Normally, I do not strike up a conversation with someone I don't know. So if I am speaking to someone in French, I either know them (which makes the whole, "Oh my god, you're French is so terrible," comment even harder to take) or it is some random stranger who starts talking to me in a public place. In the US, I probably wouldn't respond to these people, but here, I just think, "Eh, here's a good chance to practice my conversational skills without feeling too stupid." I should know better. I always end up regretting this thought because without fail the person who started speaking to me ends up making some hateful comment about my level of French.

The most recent occurrence happened last Friday. I went for a walk in a neighborhood I've hitherto avoided because it isn't the best place in the world to go for a promenade. But the weather is getting better and I definitely wanted to see the area before leaving so I decided to suck it up, hide my wallet and brave it. I wasn't on the street for more than two minutes before a guy popped up beside me and started chatting. He walked with for about ten minutes, the whole time conversing in French with me responding in French. I did not say ONE English word. When I'd had enough of the the general, creepy conversation, I told him bye and said I was off to meet my husband (good way to get rid of pesky men fast). At this point, he decided that he should let me know just how badly I spoke French. Not only did he tell me my pronunciation was terrible, but also my conjugation and my verb usage was embarrassing. He even hinted that I might possibly be mentally challenged and should be tested because there are special programs in France for people who have "difficulties".

I hate to say that I will always recall incidences like these after I leave Paris because I have had some really great experiences here, but it just feels like things like this happen all too often for me to remember my time here with much more than a lukewarm feeling. I hope that after I've lived elsewhere for a few years, I will reflect and dreamily say, "Ah, Paris...," but most days I just can't think of many things I will miss once I am gone.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Free Sunday at the Louvre

The great pyramid of I. M. Pei. Perhaps one of the best thing
about the Da Vinci Code...the whole world got to see this.


The first Sunday of each month is a "free" day at most of the National Museums in France. When I first moved here, I took advantage of these days, sometimes going to as many as three museums in one day (a bit too much, even for an extreme art lover), but the hassle of queuing, the crowds inside the museum and the general overexposure of art kind of killed my desire to venture into a gallery on these days. However, last Sunday, I decided to wait until late in the afternoon, brave the crowds as well as the horribly cold weather and head to the Louvre to see my favorite piece of art.

The crowd is almost enough to keep me away...
this is what it was like 15 minutes before closing.


I know I've blogged about this statue before because I just love it so much, but honestly, until you experience seeing it in person, nothing I can say here, or any picture, will do this piece justice. I am talking about Winged Victory of Samothrace. I don't know exactly what it is about this statue, whether it is the actual craftsmanship, the size or the placement of it (at the top of a huge marble staircase), but I am breathless every time I see it. I am especially confused because from what I understand, this statue was part of a ship, so technically it didn't begin as art. Which always makes me wonder about what people in future decades and centurieswill consider art from this time period. Will they look at the Mercedes emblem and comment on how talented we were in our primitive ways?

As I said, no picture actually does it justice. I believe this wing was
rebuilt based on a hand they found, but I could have that wrong
.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lazy Blogger

The weather has been crap here and I am suffering from a general malaise so blogging has been the last thing on my mind these days. I hate that I let so much time pass between posts because I see/hear/do crazy things everyday and would love to post each incidence. So I am making a St. Patrick's day resolution (it's the closest holiday). I will post at least one post a week. Since it's in writing and in interspace now, I will do it. Happy Friday everyone!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bruxelles: Deuxième partie

For Valentine's weekend, I went to Brussels again, not because it was Valentine's day or anything, I just happened to get a free ticket from a friend and decided to go. With the weather as it was/is in Paris (blah, cold, rainy, snowy) any excuse to get away is a good one. However, the weather in Brussels proved to be just as horrendous, if not more so (incredibly colder and constant wet unpleasant snow).

Some fun artwork adorning a construction site by the European Union headquarters

Unlike last time, this trip I went prepared with a list of things I wanted to see and places to visit. Brussels is a cool city and it has a lot of culture. I did some searching and found a few things that seemed interesting. One of which was a car museum (eh, I am a daughter of the South), but it ended up being too expensive for such a small space, so I opted out. Fortunately, the walk to the museum was beautiful and the park was lovely looking with all of the snow.

The basilica of the Sacred Heart in Brussels

A couple of the things I wanted to see most were the Basilica and the Atomium. I walked a million miles in the worst temperature to see the Basilica and ended up not going into the chapel because of a funeral. I must admit, I wasn't that impressed with it, even though it is one of the largest churches in Europe. It was rather too austere for my taste.

The Atomium: A very impressive structure just outside the city proper

The Atomium on the other hand, was definitely a cool sight. I didn't go in it because it seemed a bit too costly just to see such a small exhibit. I am sure it is worth the view of Brussels when the weather is nice.
Beautiful stain glass windows at the Falstaff restaurant

I did manage to get to some of the bars on my list where I was able to enjoy some fine Belgian beers. I do love beer. If it weren't so fattening, I'd drink one everyday. And the Belgians know how to make some yummy ones! I particularly like the Trappist beers, but this time I tried a cherry flavored one (Mort Subtile) and it was fantastic! I brought back 20 various brands in my little carry-on suitcase. It was heavy but worth it!
Hope everyone had a nice Valentine's day!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Superbowl Sunday/Monday Paris Style

Superbowl Sunday-American mini style

I've been in France for four Superbowls (and one in Ireland) and I must say, Paris is getting better at televising big American games. Normally I go to the Great Canadian to watch because it's a sports bar and one of the few places that will stay open until 4 or 5 a.m. in order to show the entire game, but this year I had a lot more places to choose from. After scouting out a few joints, I decided to go to Le Players off of Grands Boulevards and it was quite an experience!


French "Cheerleaders" doing a very random routine

Like all American/Irish/Indian things the French try to do here, they absolutely missed the authentic mark and instead came up with their own little, unique holiday. For example, there were no fattening finger foods but lots of goofy distractions, an annoying d.j. who talked over parts of the game, silly 'cheerleaders' who ran around the club at various intervals and a really cool fire dancer. The show was aired via ESPN America so we only saw a few commercials; it was rather disappointing because as everyone knows, the advertisements are half the fun.

Not really sure what they were supposed to be.

The game itself was disappointing; I was rooting for the Colts and to see them give away a game like that was a bit hard to take, especially as I was surrounded by about 400 Saints fans (for the obvious reasons, the French were cheering for the Saints, though I doubt many of them actually understand the rules of football.). I screamed so much I lost my voice. It was a good thing I decided not to work on Monday.

Awesome American fire dancer

video

Friday, February 05, 2010

Chinatown


Tang Freres on a Sunday-My favorite supermarket in Paris.

One of my favorite areas of Paris is Chinatown. It is located in the 13th arrondissement and while there is little there to make it a tourist destination, it is fantastic for finding strange cooking ingredients or if you happen to love the Asian flavor, whether it be the food, the atmosphere or the people. It is particularly fantastic if you go in the Spring when the horse chestnut trees along the main rues are blooming.

I particularly enjoy going on Sundays. Well, I love and hate going on Sunday. Most grocery stores are closed on Sunday, but not the ones in China town so toute la monde is there, dining, shopping and wandering around. I love it because it is one of the few areas of Paris that does not feel absolutely dead on Sunday. Often my laundry does not get done because I opt for a trip to the 13th instead.

I usually take my shopping caddy (I resisted buying one of these things for 4 years because I thought I would feel like a 90 year old lady with it but now I am ever so grateful to have it.), eat some delicious pho, stock up on lots of cheap fruits and veg and end up cursing like a sailor when I have to drag that damn caddy up the zillion steps of the metro. And no my metro does not have an escalator or elevator.

Anyway, I braved the awful weather last Sunday and went with a friend to Chinatown; we ate pho, did the normal rounds of shopping, indulged in lots of fantastic desserts and enjoyed the normal long walk to price check different items at different stores (miss Wal-Mart so much). Along the way, we noticed that the crowd was larger and more aggressive than usual. Finally we figured that it must be because the Chinese New Year is just around the corner. Neither of us had the courage to fight the crowds too much so we gave up sooner than we normally do and headed home.

Apparently if you are Italian and/or drive a Porsche, you get to park on the sidewalk.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Grand Rex

The Grand Rex: 1, Boulevard Poissonnière 75002 Paris
Métro Bonne Nouvelle
I was going through my pictures and I am pretty sure I have never posted a picture of the Grand Rex. I've never been in this Grand old theater, but I pass by it about once a month when I go on one of my big walkabouts. I took this picture the opening night of the Michael Jackson show, This Is It. I tried very hard to get some of the images of Michael flashing on the screen (wasn't a big fan, but thought it would be cool to have a photo of the event), but I didn't manage to get any good ones.

I have to admit, the facade of the building is very impressive. The neighborhood is a bit dodgy, but it is sort of a mini-theater district. This being Paris, there are tons of theaters, but I am pretty sure the Grand Rex was one of the first big ones constructed in Paris. It opened in 1932 and at the time was the biggest theaters in Europe (or so the website says). If you are in Paris, you should walk by it as it is near the Opera Garnier.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Long Overdue Christmas Post

The magnificent Christmas tree inside Galleries Lafayette. Absolutely worth the crowd to get a look at this.

I am just slightly ashamed that I did post these before Christmas and would be even more so if I hadn't been so busy. But packing, working, buying presents, organizing my apartment so that nothing would be damaged during a month's vacancy, well what can I say? It was a bit much this year. I did however, take photos of some of the Christmas lights in Paris. So here are some belated pictures for those of you who have never seen Paris really lit up. Christmastime is a lovely time to visit!

Lighted chandeliers on the rue leading up to Place Vendome

Place Vendome (kind of disappointed as it was decorated exactly the same as last year)

No idea why this particular street is Canadian-I am sure there is a good reason, though.

Sidewalk outside Printemps. The windows are decorated beautifully but I didn't have the courage to fight the crowd in order to get a good shot.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Job Applications, Life Changes

I've decided it is time to leave France and have given myself a deadline of six months to find something, somewhere, but I had forgotten how daunting the job application process is. After reworking my CV for the last week, I think it is probably in okay shape to start submitting. If anyone, anywhere knows of any job opportunities, please let me know. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

Since I have decided that I am on the last leg of my French journey (I know, I know, things can always change and I might be here longer than I want considering the job market at the moment), I promise to blog at least once a week and to take as many photos of Paris and the surrounding areas as possible. But, if any readers-if there are any left-want to know or see something specific, please let me know and I'll do my best to blog about it.

Hope everyone is having a pleasant New Year!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a great holiday and will be able to enjoy 2010. Something tells me it's going to be a great year, perhaps I am just being overly optimistic, but I definitely think it will be better than 2009. For the two or three people who read my blog, I apologize for the long absence. I was in the States celebrating the holidays with family and just did not have the chance to blog. I do however have some nice photos to share in the next few posts.

In addition to everyone in my family being healthy and happy, I received the best Christmas gift ever: my Italian citizenship. I've been trying for almost three years to get it (proving that my family is from Italy, having documents translated, etc.) and finally I have the passport to prove that I am indeed Italian. While I have no immediate plans to move to Italy, the passport will enable me to live or work in any countries of the European Union (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) without having to obtain a visa. I can't even begin to explain how huge this is. It's like getting married and having kid.

I hope everyone else had a good holiday too!