La Page Française In Exile
While my other blog is down, I'll post here at my old blog
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
You're always looking up, you're never looking down
Right, ok, where was I? Oh yeah.
Earlier in the summer, on one of the many rainy Sunday afternoons this summer had to offer us, I wandered after brunch over to one of my favorite little nooks of Paris, the crypt underneath the parvis of the Hotel de Ville. If you've never been, and if you can look at Gallo-Roman and medieval ruins without declaring them as nothing more than a pile of rocks, I do recommend this place. I have had an inexplicable fascination for late Roman, early Christian and medieval ruins since as long as I can remember. This must stem from having grown up in a town where 1950s tuck-and-roll diner booths are considered antiques.
Anyway, as I was wandering through the damp, dark coolness of the ancient walls, cellars of sixteenth century houses, and Gallo-Roman heating rooms, I came across a little booklet on a chair that an English speaking tourist has discarded. Judging from its water drops, I suspected an attempt had been made to use it as an umbrella outside. The booklet contained little maps and an explanation of the what used to be on the parvis, what was torn down in the middle agaes and then again in the Renaissance. Upon reading this booklet, I learned something I did not know: on the parvis, there is a cobblestone line that marks what used to be the rue Neuve Notre Dame, the part that splintered off into the rue de Venise (which was, as a sidenote, really tiny! It sort of reminded me of the actual size of pathways in Venice), and a round set of cobblestones marked where the former Eglise Ste Genevieve-des-Ardennes had been, and the sixth century Eglise St Etienne, which was torn down when construction began on Notre-Dame in 1163. Alongside the cobblestones that mark the rue Neuve-Notre-Dame, there are written indicators of what shops lined them.
As I followed these markers up above, taking care not to bump into tourists squinting upwards for a glimpse of Quasimodo, it occured to me that Paris is a city where you are constantly looking up. Although a seasoned Parisian will always keep an eye on the sidewalk to avoid stepping into a pile of, ahem, le chocolat, it's the buildings that one's gaze always soars up to. The cathedral. The Pompidou center. Sacre-Coeur, high up on the hill in the distance. The wrought iron balconies on the fifth floor of the Haussmans.
But we don't realize that there is a whole other history at our feet. I was reminded of this a few months ago, while strolling with my friend Dina around the Bastille, when she mentioned a documentary she had seen and pointed out that on the busy place de la Bastille, a line had been drawn on the road and sidewalk to mark the original fundations of the dungeon of the Bastille.
And so, there it was. There it was, once again. That feeling, that rush that just keeps returning, even after four years in this city. I was standing in the parvis of Notre Dame Cathedral, a place I have now crossed possibly a thousand times, and I was standing in the rain surrounded by tourists, them looking up with their wide eyes and dropped jaws, and me looking down, but still with wide eyes and dropped jaws. There it was. Four years, and once again, this rich city has rendered me speechless in awe...
Friday, September 01, 2006
Shutting down shop for a month
Our time at the beach on the Atlantic coast of France was a long melding string of lazy days filled with lying in the grass staring up at the (mostly) blue sky, drives exploring the beaches, lighthouses, oyster beds and vineyards, and the ruins of an ancient Cistercian abbey on the islands of Ile-de-Ré and Ile d'Oléron, stopping in quaint little villages whose church spires beckoned to us from départmentale roads whenever our fancy struck us, swimming near mussel beds with a view of an old military fort in the middle of the water, strolling through the sand and picking up seashells, picnicking in pine forests next to beaches with sandy dunes, stopping to buy local shellfish from roadside huts, restorative evening meals of local oysters, local muscadet wine, and pain de seigle spread with butter made from local fleur de sel enjoyed on our very own terrasse, coffee in a cafe next to the impressive fourteenth century fortress at the port of La Rochelle, drinking Pineau des Charentes for an evening apero picnic by a little river in the marshlands, and contemplating different shades of green in the dunes and the forests. If ever you should venture to these islands in the sea, I have two suggestions:
1) Rent a bicycle. The islands are flat and only a few kilometers wide, and there are tons of bike paths. If ever we return, we shall certainly be doing that.
2) I have one compound word for you: windbreaker.
One day, I hope to get most of the three hundred and ninety-three photos I took on our trip up on to flickr, but right now is not quite the moment.
For I am undertaking a rather time-consuming, personal enrichment project this month, and so, much as it pains me to do so, I fear I must put blogging and blog reading on the backburner until the first week of October. Please do check back then. I hope to be back in full force at that time.
The things that are getting me through the month are the thought of a return to blogging and my ayurvedic massage at Cinq Mondes at the end of the month, courtesy of a gift certificate that was a birthday present from two good friends of mine.
So please do return in a month's time, O Dear Reader, and until then I wish you happy blogging trails.
Meanwhile, English As A Foreign Language teachers of the world, I wanna hear from YOU...
An attempt at a haiku, in order to demonstrate why today, September 1st, is a day that merits celebration for me
Friday, August 25, 2006
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Dans ma valise, je mets:
French Elle is one of my guilty pleasures. I don't get it every week, but I do snap it up whenever something on the cover catches my attention. At the beginning of July, they had an article entitled "Dans Ma Valise, Je Mets...", roughly translated as, "What's In My Suitcase". For no good reason other than it is fun, here's What's In My Suitcase for our late season week at the beach, in which we hopefully escape this utterly rotten weather that has plagued Paris this August. I think everyone must have prayed just a little too hard for the heat of July to go away:
Dans ma valise, je mets:
-2 bathing suits
-1 pareo, purchased in a street market in Portugal years ago
-1 pair of linen pants
-Shoes: a pair of flip flops, a pair of walking sandals, a pair of ankle-tie espadrille wedges, and Converse (Yes Eddie I do need four pairs of shoes for one week)
-several plain t-shirts
-moleskine notebook and pen
-guidebooks (checked out at the library)
-Er, Elle magazine
-beach towels, including one for the dog
-a picnic backpack, I love this thing, it has little cracks and crevices to hold plates, cups and silverware
-and if all else fails, an ibook with some downloads and a few DVDs, in case it rains.
Regular posting to return in a week and a half...
Friday, August 18, 2006
Des vrais Parisiens...pour de vrai
About a year or two ago, there was an amusing article in the Paris publication Zurban entitled "One Hundred Ways To Know If You Are A Real Parisian". It's a well known fact that most "Parisians" were not actually born in Paris, but in the provinces. Kind of like many people who consider themselves New Yorkers who were born in Kalamazoo. Well anyway, some of the high points of the article included:
Number 23: You know that Paris is recognized worldwide as having the best museums in the world, but you haven't set foot in one since 1988. (This is eerily true, the last time Eddie went to the Louvre was when the glass pyramid opened up).
Number 58: You know the best places in the city to watch the sunset, that aren't packed with tourists such as Sacré Coeur and the Eiffel Tower (hmm, I'd like to get around figuring that one out)
and last but not least, the incredibly true number 76:
You know you are a real Parisian if you venture out of the metro to take the bus.
It's an odd phenomenon, but many people, when they first either visit or move to Paris, have a phobia of the bus. Myself included. I'd been living here for two years before I took a deep breath one afternoon and decided to attempt to get from the Jardin de Luxembourg to the Piscine Butte aux Cailles on the bus. And I was up at the front window, glancing every ten seconds at the map above the door to count how many stops I had left, ringing the bell miles before my stop, and then performing some judo moves on fellow passengers to be sure to get right in front of the exit so there was no chance the bus would shut its doors and carry me off to the banlieue. Just last week, having dinner with a newly expatriated American who moved to Paris a month ago, coming out of the restaurant at 11pm Eddie suggested he could avoid having a metro change by taking the bus, which was direct. NO WAY! the expatriate exclaimed. I'm not ready to use the bus yet.
It's true that riding the metro is considered by many visitors to be one of the most quintessential parts of Paris living, and that may explain in part the initial reluctance to hop on the bus. I know that was the case for me. Even if it's smelly and crowded and unbearably hot in the summer, coming from a city obsessed with car culture, the Paris metro was a brilliant marvel to me. I actually went out of my way to ride it, and my heart would flutter with joy whenever a performer would get on and begin a loud rendition of the accordion theme from Amelie and then come around afterwards to passer le chapeau, or dixie cup as was often the case. But then one day, I realized that to get to the Champs Elysees, I would have to take one metro south and then change and then another line west to get there, whereas I could hop on a bus and be there in about ten minutes without changing. And so, it has come to happen that I'm a converted Parisian bus user, that I seek out possible buses instead of the metro, especially if I'm in a new neighborhood so as to get my bearings.
I do suggest taking the bus. Some of those routes are really pretty and will take you past many historic sites. Line 72 will start you off at Hotel de Ville and will take you up the right bank along the river, past the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens, through Concorde, then past the Pont Alexandre III and Trocadero with a great unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower from across the river. And Line 27 will drive you through the Louvre courtyard at night, with the pyramid and museum all lit up and the Eiffel tower sparkling in the background. Now that is sight to behold, that never fails to impress even the most seasoned Parisiens...
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Rose of summer
What would a blog based in France be without at least one reference to wine? Not a very complete blog, if you ask me.
The New York Times announces that rosé is the summer drink du jour. After years of being shunned as cloying, pink wine, it seems, is coming into its own. Perhaps there will be no more guffawing when someone suggests white zinfandel.
We go through quite a bit of rosé in the summertime in this household, I like to think it is in part due to Eddie's Provence roots, but it's also just really light and refreshing and goes with summery foods. I don't much care to drink a heavy red on a warm evening. On a trip to Marseille last summer, I was surprised when we went into more homey neighborhood cafes and ordered a carafe of local rosé, they would often bring us a bucket of ice cubes to drop into our glasses. Now, I'm no connoisseur, but I was brought up to believe that putting ice cubes in wine was just about the biggest gaffe one could commit. But we actually found it be pleasant, depending on the wine, and so now we put ice cubes in our rosé at home during the summer, and sometimes even mix in some sparkling water to make a variation on a wine spritzer. I wouldn't do this with a really good wine, but for the everyday stuff, why the heck not...
Sunday, August 06, 2006
A windy, rainy day in Paris, in 2002
A few days ago, going through some old papers, I came across my first assignment with the class. We were supposed to do a ten-minute, freewriting exercise on a recent trip we had taken. Because it was a freewrite, it's choppy and ends abruptly, but as I was reading this, it brought back a lot of memories of my first impressions of the city that I was just setting out to discover.
A recent trip
I arrived in Paris on a windy, stormy afternoon in March. It wasn't particularly cold, but rain poured down very heavily all day. I was relieved to walk off the airplane after eleven hours and very happy it had not exploded somewhere over the Atlantic. (Note: this was only a few months after 9/11, my already strong dislike of flying was in full force at this time.)
My first thought upon driving into town was that the city was gray. Not just because of the storm clouds, but the buildings were gray, the sidewalks as well, even the river was a grayish green color. This was quite a shock to me, coming from the brilliant orange light in Los Angeles.
I wanted very much to have a look at the Eiffel tower, and so after dropping my suitcase at the hotel, I fought back my jet lag and headed out with my dog into the rain to catch my first sight of it. Despite my raincoat and umbrella, I was soaked by the time I stood underneath its arches. The cuffs of my pants were drenched. The dog's fur was dripping. I decided to duck into a cafe to get dry, and see if the rumors were true, that dogs really were allowed in cafes and restaurants in Paris. I found a very Parisian-looking cafe on a little side street and taking a deep breath, marched through the door and waited to be told I couldn't come in with the dog. Instead, the waiter gave my dog a pat on the head, and directed me to a table by the window. The dog flopped down under the table at my feet and began snoozing. I ordered a cafe creme and, holding it between my palms to warm my hands, looked out through the window into the wet street with its rushing gutters and trees swaying heavily in the fierce wind.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Mangos. I heart them to pieces. More like to drippy messy slices.
I ate my first mango at the age of sixteen on a trip to Brazil to visit my best friend who was studying there for a year. I was so taken with this fruit that when I think back on my food and drink consumption during that visit, the things that immediately spring to mind are Brazilian cafezinho (Brazilian coffee boiled with sugar, strained through a cloth strainer and served in little cups with sweetened condensed milk), Guaraná soda pop (made from a local tropical fruit, with an extraordinarily high caffeine content), and ripe mangos. Yep, I was one wired little sixteen year old when I got back home from that vacation.
For years after that trip, I eagerly looked forward to the months in which mangos were in season. I would always eat them plain, perhaps with a bit of yogurt, and then one day about eight years ago I was walking around the Garment District in downtown Los Angeles, and I saw a teenage girl chattering in Spanish and selling mangos which had been peeled and sliced and wrapped in a paper towel, for a dollar each. What intrigued me was that after she cut the mango, she would sprinkle some lime juice and salt and chili powder all over the slices. Given my fondness for odd and unusual and seemingly contrasting taste experiences (I recently subjected Eddie to Pesto Fraise Basilic), I got in line and watched as she peeled and sliced an orange mango, wrapped it in bit of newspaper, and handed it to me.
"What, no lime and chili and salt?" I asked her, my face falling.
She looked a little surprised. "Oh, you want all that? Chili too?"
"Well duh" I said, though probably not in those words exactly.
She sprinkled the mango with a dash of salt and a bit of chili and stuffed a lime wedge in between the slices, and handed it to me.
From that day forth, nearly every mango I've ever prepared for myself has been sprinkled with lime, chili and salt, though I've met a few folks who use cayenne pepper instead of chili powder. Since then, I've come across another delightful recipe at other street food vendors in Los Angeles that is similar but takes it a step further: Combine cucumber and jicama along with the mango, peel and slice all three into thick spears, arrange the spears in a glass or a plastic cup if you're feeling environmentally naughty, and sprinkle with lime, a pinch of salt and just a quick dash of cayenne, not too much as it's quite fiery. A very refreshing and exotic snack, especially during these hot summer months, and hey, the catch phrase "fat-free and lo-cal" never hurts, does it?
But the lovely mango is a ubiquitous world traveler, and can be found in a variety of prepared forms. There's the mango lassi of Indian origins, a yogurt drink that can be served either sweet or salty and provides a particularly pleasing coolness to counteract the spicy heat of that cuisine. Also served on the south Asian subcontinent are green mangos that have been picked before they have ripened and are subsequently crunchy and slightly tart, and are prepared as mentioned in the previous paragraph, with lime and chili powder. Having never been east of Turkey, I've yet to get my sticky fingers on this yummy sounding treat, but I do hope that one day, green mangos will be mine. In France, Berthillon makes a mean mango sorbet, so flavorful that I've actually wondered if it isn't simply just a frozen puréed mango, and nothing else. Finally, when one requests the dessert menu in Thai restaurants in the western United States, more often than not it will list fresh mango served with coconut sticky rice. This is another one of my very favorite dishes, although if you are anything like me, a trip to a Thai restaurant often involves stuffing myself with so much pad thai, that I sadly have to push the coconut rice to the side of my plate and head straight for the mango itself...
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
The view from the top
Monday, July 24, 2006
Fave B-day prezzies
New Vanessa Bruno sac cabas
A lovely mini-rose-filled jardinière that Eddie planted in the afternoon
B-day present to myself: ipod cozy that I knit last week
In addition, I received birthday greetings from a few readers and fellow bloggers, which was really heartwarming. Thanks again for those...
Well, except for the eyeball
I have to admit that reading this article yesterday morning gave me a pang of homesickness for several things, including that beautiful oceanside stretch of Highway One between Santa Barbara and San Francisco, Taqueria Vallarta on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz, and of course, my mouth is still watering at the thought of a taco, good ones of which are just so sadly few and far between in these parts. And yes, I've been to that colorful crowded place on the rue Dante in the Latin Quarter. It's good. It will do in a pinch. But it's just not the same...
Chasing the Perfect Taco up the California Coast(registration required)
Saturday, July 22, 2006
It's my birthday, and I'll cry, if I want to
I'm thirty-two years old today.
This week two years ago, I was panicking in a big way. That terrible fate that strikes fear in the hearts of twentysomethings the world over was crashing towards me at lightning speed. Lord have mercy on us all, I was only days away from The Big Three-Oh. Few events in my life had been as nerve wracking as that.
For I wasn't ready. I hadn't done nearly as much as I thought I would have by the age of thirty. Where were my two point five kids and dog? (Ok, I had the dog already at least). Where was my house with a picket fence? (Granted, I lived in Paris, there aren't any picket fences for miles in these parts. Nor houses, for that matter). Most depressingly of all, I was approaching that time crutch with no husband and no prospect of one. (At least that what's I thought at the time. As it turned out, I had met my future husband already and didn't even know it. But that's a blog for a rainy day).
That list of things that women should have done by the time they were thirty loomed over me. I had the eight matching wine glasses and plates but couldn't cook for crap. Why should I, I had no husband. And anyway, it's not like eight people could even stand up in my tiny little chambre de bonne. I had several black lace bras but no idea how to use a cordless drill, let alone have one packed away in my little chambre de bonne. And while I was content with my youth up until that point, I wasn't at all ready to move past it.
I woke up that hot july morning that was my thirtieth birthday, and there are two things I remember about that morning:
One: the cherries I had bought the night before were the sweetest and juiciest and ripest I had tasted that summer.
Two: As I was walking down the stone steps of my old building to go to work, I slipped in my flip flops on a puddle of water that the gardien had left while cleaning the staircase, and fell smack on my buttocks, leaving a huge bruise. As I watched my apartment building flip upside down and I found myself staring up at the sky through the courtyard, two things went through my mind:
1. "That didn't hurt as much as it should have. Better cut back on the croissants."
2. "Today I am thirty years old, I don't have too many more years left in which I can fall like that without snapping any osteoporosis-stricken bones in two."
I picked myself up calmly and as with as much elegance as I could muster and slid gingerly down the rest of the steps on my backside, wincing all the way.
I got through the rest of the day with no more tumbles and I celebrated the momentous event with a couple of friends while drinking a bottle of wine by the Seine at Paris Plage. And then I woke up the next morning, and poof, the thirty thing was gone. It was over and done with. All the anxiety that had led up to the date was over with. I was no longer in my late twenties, I was now a woman in her early thirties. For some reason I woke up feeling younger than I had in a while, not older.
Two years on, I have come to realize that I didn't really have much to worry about. I actually prefer being in my thirties than I ever did being in my twenties. My twenties were a time filled with pressures from everywhere. Pressure from family about what to do with my life, school pressures, career pressures, pressure to find the love of my life, pressure to go out and enjoy my fleeting youth because one day I would turn thirty and it would all be over with.
There's pressure, of course, in one's thirties of a different kind, but what I've come to realize is that things are not so absolute, as they seem when one is in one's twenties. At thirty-two, I feel like I have more knowledge and experience than I did at twenty-two, but I still feel young enough to take advantage of that knowledge and experience. At thirty-two, I'm still not exactly certain what my life's calling is, but I do have a better idea of what kind of life I want, as well as what kind of life I don't want. I think the most important thing that I learned in my twenties is that things aren't always absolute, that you are allowed to change your mind even if it's towards something you once completely shunned. And also, that miraculous things do happen, both good and bad. Life can throw you the most horrible curveballs, but it can also dish you, in the blink of an eye, the most amazing turn of events, that are sometimes even better than you ever dared wish for.
At thirty-two, and this part is weird, I feel more comfortable in my body than I ever did when I was in my teens and twenties. I find this odd considering I've arguably got more of a backside on which to cushion my fall down the stairs than I ever did when I was a slender nineteen year old eating everything in sight. I still long for those twig days, but at the same time, I'm more comfortable flaunting it than I was back then. I have no explanation for this. I don't know why this is.
With all this in mind, I'd like to revisit a previous post of The Bold Soul, in which on the eve of her 45th birthday she recounts 44 things she has enjoyed up in her life up till now. I'm cheating a little bit though, because I'm just picking 32 things that I like off of my list of 100 things I like:
32 things I've enjoyed so far:
1. I have to start with Bold Soul's number 1: Chocolate. Hands down.
2. Bit 'o champagne with my chocolate, and I'm good to go.
3. If I'm eating by candlelight, whoa mama!
4. the sound of snow crunching under your feet
5. purple sunflowers
6. the view, after the hike
7. sinking into a hot bath
8. the smell of night blooming jasmine in the summer months in Los Angeles
9. coming across old pictures of friends and family
10. opening the mailbox and finding a postcard by snail mail
11. having a real good laugh, so hard your side splits and you aren't sure if you are laughing or crying
12. the 360 degree view of the ocean at Point Reyes in Northern California
13. the smell of christmas trees at the end of november
14. swimming in the mediterreanean
15. Italy. Everything. The food. The art. The architecture. The language. The food.
16. Friday afternoons, knowing you have the whole weekend ahead of you
17. foot massages
18. getting a baguette that is still warm
19. when the fog rolls in at four pm in San Francisco
20. Vietnamese spring rolls
21. Speaking French, especially while sitting at a café….with an espresso… in the Latin Quarter…while smoking a gauloise…wearing a beret….ok I've gone too far.
22. the first strawberries, apricots, cherries and basil of the season
23. shiny, metallic toenail polish
24. the sound of hair being cut
25. the sound of the Xylon voices in the original Battlestar Galactica tv show.: "By. Your. Command". (Did I just admit that out loud?)
26. The Eiffel tower when it's doing its hourly sparkling dance
28. thunderstorms in summer
29. watching the sun come up (A rare treat, let me tell you).
30. picking up right where you left off after not seeing eachother for a while
30. my very good friends, the ones I've known for most of my life, who are more like family at this point
31. having had the good fortune to come across the World's Greatest Dog ten years ago, whom someone had thoughtlessly abandoned along the 101 freeway near Salinas. Their loss.
32. having had the great fortune to come across the World's Greatest Husband, thousands of miles from both our roots, who brings me breakfast in bed on my birthday.
Today on this maddeningly humid July day in Paris, I am thirty-two years old, and I feel inclined to reflect upon and celebrate this event with a bottle of wine consumed by the river at Paris Plage. And to continue to take advantage of being Old Enough To Know Better, but Young Enough To Seem Like I Don't.
But I'm still not yet ready to move past my youth. Get back to me on that one when I'm forty.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
It's hot out there, I'm not going to say anything to the contrary, and a lot of people have asked me how on earth does one cope in a country that does not have ubiquitous air conditioning. For some reason though, the heat in Paris has never bothered me too awful much. Granted, you are talking to someone who grew up in a desert climate. Also, I spent the summer of 2003 in San Diego and therefore missed out on the horrendous heat of that year. But I find summers in Paris to be bearable, even without air conditioning. I personally find that the two or three weeks of really intense heat are offset by the several months of cold gray damp winter. In fact, whenever I feel too warm, I think of how I shivered in my big winter coat in the month of February, and suddenly I'm not unbearably hot anymore. There are several ways to cope with the 34 degree celsius type weather such as we are experiencing today:
-Draw the curtains and blinds closed in the late morning, turn off the lights and turn on the fan during the heat of the afternoon. As soon as the sun begins to go down, open up all the windows again and leave them open at night.
-Get outdoors in the evening, go sit on a patio somewhere or go to the park. Eat outside. The buildings retain the heat so it's usually warmer inside than outside.
-Carry one of those lovely silk japanese fans with flowers on it, the ones you've always loved but never could actually get any use out of without looking pompous, and fan yourself on the bus.
-Take advantage of the summer hours of the municipal swimming pools.
-Leave town in the month of August.
-Go to the beach for the weekend.
-If all else fails, make an extended afternoon shopping trip to Picard for a few hours...
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Bols, cidre et pichet
Friday, July 14, 2006
Paris je t'aime
Oh wow, I just saw the nicest movie, I didn't even realize it was out until I read a review earlier in the week in the Village Voice and said to myself, I must see this movie RIGHT NOW. It's called Paris je t'aime, and it's a collection of eighteen short films, each taking place in a different neighborhood of Paris and each directed by a different director, including Alfonso Cuaron, Tom Twyker, the Cohen brothers, Olivier Assayas, Wes Craven, Gus Van Sant, Christopher Doyle and others. It has an equally impressive cast including Gena Rowlands, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Natalie Portman, Elijah Wood, Emily Mortimer, Steve Buscemi, Ludivine Saignier, Nick Nolte, and a whole lot of others. It's based on the age old theme of Love in Paris, but in varying forms. It does a wonderful job of accurately showing Paris as a multicultural patchwork of a city, with the shorts taking place in posh areas such as the 16th as well as violence in the downtrodden suburbs. My favorites were a sequence with mimes, and a sequence with Natalie Portman as an American actress living in Paris with her blind boyfriend, directed by Tom Twyker, which had some of the flashiness of Run Lola Run. I also enjoyed the sequence with Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazzara as an aging couple who are divorcing, directed in part by Gerard Depardieu, which I'm told was supposed to be an homage to John Cassavetes, whose films were distributed and promoted in France by Depardieu. And quite a few others.
I'm not sure if the film is in the US yet but I highly recommend it to francofiles when it arrives. Even if most of it is in French, a few of the shorts are in English, and some of the ones with American actors had them not speaking at all, such as Steve Buscemi entangled in a lovers' quarrel inside the Tuileries metro station in the Cohen brothers sequence, and Elijah Wood's encounter with a vampire in "Quartier de la Madeleine". Maitresse reviewed the film here, I love and agree with her ending words: "If I were still living in the States, frustrated and longing to move to Paris, seeing this film would have put me over the edge. Good thing I'm already here." Be forewarned, francofiles, this is very very true...
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Somewhere in time
Because he left the US in 1986 at the impressionable age of 13, Eddie is a walking time capsule of TV commercial jingles that date from the time he left in the mid-80s. From that point on, his brain then began filling with French jingles from the past twenty years. Therefore, the last American commercials that he saw have remained in a remarkable state of preservation, ready to pop up by the slightest trigger. Because we grew up in the same city, these are jingles that lurk somewhere in dark recesses of my memory, but as my mind has been polluted by commercials from the 90s and aughts as well, they have a few more layers to push through and therefore I have forgotton most of them. But every once in a while, he will randomly sing one and I will immediately remember it, and it will take me back to the days of Hubba-Bubba and Keds, of being a latchkey kid growing up in southern California in the 1980s.
"Oh oh oh, ice cold milk and an Oreo cookie" he absent-mindedly sings as we tear into a bag purchased at the Gourmet section of Galeries Lafayette.
It's an odd reaction I have when one of these pops out of him. An immediate wave of recognition washes over me, followed by a practically visual transportation back in time, a feeling of childhood revisited.
I look at him. "Keeps your milk from getting lonely", I say. "I haven't thought about that commercial in decades."
We spend the next half hour trying unsuccessfully to remember the rest of the lyrics, but the only thing we can come up with is the last line, in which the name of the cookie is musically spelled out: "O-R-E-O". Then we try to think of others we had forgotton about.
Penguin's Frozen Yogurt (tastes like it's bad for you).
Wendy's (Where's the Beef?!).
Whatever it is I think I see
Becomes a Tootsie Roll to me.
A sure sign of a childhood spent in southern California, we decide, is being able to recite catchy tunes from car lots in the southland cities.
Pete Ellis Ford
Long Beach freeway
and of course, the ever famous Cal Worthington Ford jingle, "Howdy folks, I'm Cal Worthington and this is my dog Spot!" (Oddly enough, I don't remember seeing him with a dog, only a big scary looking tiger, and I think he was riding Shamu at some point too):
If you need a brand new car, go see Cal
If you need a brand new car, go see Cal
Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal!
Or something along those lines.
It never fails to amaze me, that thousands of miles away, I would have found someone who makes me feel like I am right at home...
"They forever go together, what a classic combination..."
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Shoes of summer
Well, at least those firecrackers outside our windows have finally stopped and I don't have to sit through another one of those matches. Try as she might, La page française is just not nuts about soccer (sorry, I mean football)
Monday, July 10, 2006
There goes the neighborhood
A new cafe has opened up downstairs from us. When I say downstairs from us, I mean, as in directly downstairs from us. As in the people who work in the back have to use our entryhall to get into the kitchen. As in, our wireless connection on the fourth floor reaches the cafe, I can blog over an afternoon espresso, which how about that, I just happen to be doing at the moment. For those in the US, you might say, big whoop, but as finding a cafe in France that has a wireless connection is still not very common, this is definitely a big plus of having this cafe downstairs.
The cafe replaced a former bar that looked so depressing that I never stepped into it. It was dark and had no windows, and had old mustachioed fat men drinking cognac at seven in the morning and reading Le Parisien. I don't think women were welcome, in any case I certainly never tried. The new place is airy, with those wonderful windows that French cafes have that open up in summer so that you can sit inside but still feel like you are sitting outside, or else in winter you can still people watch. It has a beautiful mahogany bar, horse wallpaper, quiches (including a vegetarian offering) and decently priced coffee and wine by the glass. It also has tattooed waiters.
Now, I have nothing whatsoever against tattooed waiters, it's just that in my experience the arrival of tattooed waiters in cafes means a possible Silverlake-ization of the area could occur in the near future.
On a recent Saturday morning, while enjoying a coffee on the terrasse of said cafe, we suddenly jumped as trombones started blaring. The dog, sitting otherwise quietly underneath our table at our feet, began to bark at three men across the street, wearing funny straw hats and suspenders and playing instruments. After about a minute of music, one of the men picked up a loudspeaker, greeted the residents of the neighborhood, and proceeded to talk about the difficulties of the area and how the increase in rent has caused twenty percent of the local businesses to shut down in the last three years, and how important it is that we the people of our neighborhood patronize our local shops. The Tunisian bakery that closed in February immediately sprung to mind.
That, added to this recent article, means I have a feeling that the times they are a-changing up here in our cozy little corner of the seventeenth arrondissement....
Sunday, July 09, 2006
What I did on my teutonic vacation
A last minute decision to hop on a plane and visit family and friends in southern Germany led to some very summery activities such as bicycling to lakes in order to swim in them, taking breakfast, lunch and dinner outdoors in the garden while swatting some very persistent mosquitos, watching some soccer (sorry, I mean football), going through a gallon of sunscreen in a week and BBQ-ing in the backyard:
Lunch in the garden with a view of the Alps:
Reading and napping under a grape covered trellis with a view of a beautiful garden and the mountains on both sides:
Stopping to smell the roses:
More swimming in lakes:
This lake has a section off to the side where people can swim and sunbathe nude. I didn't realize this until after I took this picture*
It was quite hot and humid, but then a huge thunderstorm came in the afternoon and broke the heat:
We watched the wind and rain howl while having afternoon kaffee und kuchen under the glass-covered cactus-filled porch:
Revitalized and refreshed, arriving early in the morning in drizzly Paris, La Page Allemande became La Page Française once again...