Sunday, December 23, 2007

Camembert pasta chez Baptiste

Our friend, Baptiste invited us for a pasta dinner that he'd promised to make me while he was visiting Texas as soon as I came to France. It was definitely worth the wait - gooey Camembert, crushed pecans and just the right touch of parsley on maccheroncelli with a goose foie gras appetizer was the perfect pasta meal. We enjoyed the meal while watching soccer (what else?) and a bit of Rugby before heading out to catch a late movie. All-in-all, an enjoyable evening.

Pre-Christmas update

The Christmas festivities for Guillaume's family begin tomorrow evening, so with my fully-charged camera, I'm sure to take tons of pics over the next few days to share with you when it's all said and done. Before that, I thought I'd share a short picture review of what we've been doing the past few days while we prepare for the holidays.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Countdown to clean air

Paris restaurants will be smoking out the smokers beginning January 1 next year, and I'm quite happy about it. More than 5000 people die every year in France from secondhand smoke, and as many as 70,000 people die each year in France from smoking-related illnesses. Ridiculous and unnecessary? Yes! I have no problem with smokers or smoking, but I agree that it's necessary to consider others when one's actions affect not only oneself. I'm glad Paris has finally come around and decided to join other big cities for the sake of health, and in a effort to create a smoke-free world.

Margot & moi

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of babysitting Guillaume's second-cousin, Margot, while her parents worked and Guillaume went off for a job interview. She's such a sweet girl, and I realized there is definitely a difference between little girls and boys. I don't have any little girls in my family, so it was a new, but very fun, experience watching Margot for a day. We started off with a chilly (and short) walk outside after breakfast, and spent the rest of the day playing, dancing and reading with a short nap in-between. Guillaume came back after her nap, but after a few minutes of playing, he caught-up on some sleep himself. We had a fun day, but she sure was pooped by the time her papa came home.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Rude reality

I've never considered myself a patient person - in fact, I'll often declare myself the opposite. But, what's up with the I-refuse-to-wait-for-any-reason attitude of older French folks? I know it's not news, and yes, it's a stereotype, but people here simply refuse to wait their turn! Last weekend, Guillaume and I were waiting to be seated at a small restaurant with nearly no seats available when an elderly (like senior citizen) couple dashed ahead of us with "pardon, pardon" only to jump into a rare available booth, whilst rudely disturbing the neighboring table. Today, while we were waiting our turn in line to see the exhibition, a group of old folks, once again, jutted ahead of the line to get in first. What's up with that? I find myself even more patient than ever here, as I refrain from scolding the elderly, but I'm also becoming ruder myself, I think. After failed attempts to be polite by saying hello, apologizing for a bump, or giving a smile, I've reverted to the French glare and snob-approach. And I don't agree with those people who say, "Well, it's because Americans are all so fake-nice and French are just real," because if that's the case, then I never want to live in a place that makes people's reality equate to rudeness and scowling. Sure, you'll find the fake friendliness in the States, but I'd rather someone's fake smile provoke me to smile than someone's real scowl provoke me to scowl.

Une bonne journée

Today we spent some time at the Musee d'Orsay's exhibition of Gustave Courbet. It was my first trip to a museum during this visit to Paris, and I was glad to finally check something out. The artwork of Courbet was decidedly nothing overly-impressive, but there were a few notable pieces, one of which I can't get my hands on in the form of a print or postcard anywhere, which is driving me crazy. I'm not a fan of landscape or animal art, but the portraits and nudes that Courbet created are worth taking a look at, especially his most scandalous piece (click with caution). I like someone who isn't afraid to paint what he likes, to create art that shocks and makes people squirm. After all, what's art if it doesn't provoke an unusual emotion?
So, after the exhibition, we headed back home, but not before making a quick, unscripted stop to LeNôtre, which happened to be on the way. This patisserie is not like the others - it's wonderfully posh and every little grain of sugar is perfectly placed on each delectable treat. Guillaume came away with a meringue with chantilly which was superb! And, Gui's mom and I had a nougatine cup full of rich chocolate, topped with a chocolate truffle and crispy square. It was divine!

A perfect little, gloomy, freezing day spent in Paris.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sorry, Charlies

I wanted to post some pictures today, but I left my camera at a friend's place last night where I was enjoying a raclette! Needless to say, yummy photos are forthcoming.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nearly freezing

So, it's cold in Paris. Luckily, it's not raining, but it's still freakin' cold. Guillaume and I attempted to finish Christmas shopping today, but besides the fact that I have some sort of stomach bug, we could barely stand to walk around for 15 minutes in the nearly freezing temps. I think I'm going to try to finish the rest of my shopping at home, online. I expected this weather, but it still doesn't make it any easier. At least it's still mostly sunny.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Insomnia

For the past few nights now, I haven't been able to find the right sleeping position or just the right spot on my pillow to keep myself sleeping through the night. Tonight, I think I slept for a couple of hours, but I found myself tossing and turning again right around 3 a.m. and I finally decided to hop out of bed and make some use of my sleepless night. I was thinking that I've been getting so much sleep lately - getting to bed by 1 or 2 a.m. and sleeping right through 11 or even noon most days - that my body doesn't know what to do with all the extra sleep I'm forcing myself to get. I guess I could also just be suffering from a long bout of jet-lag. Or maybe my usually-OK habit of having a coffee or tea or Hershey bar just before bed (and still be able to sleep like log) doesn't apply here to my after-dinner espressos..? Hmmmm.

Perhaps this a good opportunity for me start waking up early and being productive - doing things like working out, emailing friends, reading a book or studying for the grad-school exam I've been putting off. Yes, I think I'll turn this annoying occurrence into a productive habit! Now, I just need to convince Guillaume that I'll be interrupting his 10 hours of shut-eye for a worthy cause.

Un bon apetit

We've been pretty busy the past few days - mostly with Christmas planning and shopping, meeting up with friends and family and spending time with each other. On Sunday, Guillaume and I met up with his aunt for a drink in a really famous area in Paris. We had spent some time in Bastille the night before with a friend of Guillaume's, having a bottle of wine and some tapas before heading out to a crowded Parisian bar where we met a few cool peeps and sipped our drinks. I made the mistake of letting Guillaume order my drink and I ended up taking 20 minutes to finish 2 ounces of alcohol!! I still had a good time, trying to speak some French without being made fun of and watching the bartenders crush ice from a small bucket with a wooden mallet.
Sunday evening was equally fun, and we ended up walking around
Victor Hugo's old 'hood before tackling a pitcher of agave margaritas at a Mexican cantina. It was such a treat! I want to go back to this cantina to try out their tapas because the nostalgic smells of spices and herbs were totally teasing my full stomach. We had a really good time with Guillaume's aunt - she so super cool and I can't wait to hang out with her again, which will probably be around Christmas when we all get together.
Last night we treated Guillaume's mom to a choucroute dinner (with a fresh oysters appetizer) on the Champs Elysees, which was très magnifique!! Gui and I had been to this restaurant before and enjoyed the same meal equally as much the second time as the first, so his mère was very happy!
We'll be staying in Boulogne-Billancourt for the next 2 days, which is a pretty nice and trendy area in barely-suburban Paris. It'll be nice to be a little closer to the city, within walking distance of a metro station, too! We have a lot planned for the next couple of weeks - Guillaume's sister comes in from London tomorrow, there's a trip to the museum set up and a dinner party to attend next week, and there's still some Christmas shopping to be done! We haven't done anything extravagant (mostly eating, drinking and being merry), but I feel like we're go-go-go all the time! I guess that's the way it works around here, and I'm happy to conform - for now, at least. :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Invasion sirens in 2007?

While I was putting on a pair of earrings this afternoon, I heard one of the strangest sounds I've ever heard. Is there a tornado? Should we go hide somewhere? Why am I the only one stirring at this very odd sound? I stepped out of our room and asked Guillaume "What is that??" So, apparently, sirens are tested every first Wednesday at noon in case there is ever an invasion - or other disaster. I'm not sure how much this will help, I bet everyone is well aware what they need to do, but I still find it so strange that this practice still continues today.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Planes, trains and small cars

So, I made it! The flight from Memphis to Amsterdam wasn't awful, but I only managed a short nap for the entire 8-hour flight. Usually, I try to get some sleep on the plane ride over so I can adjust more easily to the time change, but this time my insomnia was in full-force.
I spent only a few hours in Amsterdam, but it was so early and the weather seemed so bad that I didn't mind that I spent those hours trying to catch some sleep. Finally, I got to Paris, and I was so stoked that I didn't have to go through customs! I guess since I'd entered a Schengen country already, it wasn't necessary for them to check us again. Guillaume arrived at the terminal a bit late - he got a little turned around at the airport - imagine that! But, nearly 3 hours later, I finally arrived in Chatillon - the traffic in Paris around 5pm was absurd!

We've pretty much been non-stop since I arrived last week. I feel like I've been here a month already, but there's still so much I want to do! Mostly, we've been meeting up with Guillaume's friends and family in Paris. On Sunday, I got to meet all of Guillaume's cousins from his father's side of the family, and also his grandmother, which was a little intimidating. Luckily, she was incredibly nice and patient with me. For the most part, everyone's been able to communicate with me on some level, but lately Guillaume's finding himself with a new profession as a translator. We met up with his family at his dad's apartment in Boulogne-Billancourt for delicious desserts including apple tart, pear cake, belgian chocolates, coffee, clementines and other sugary delights. It was very comfortable and everyone was so sweet - trying to speak English or teach me a bit a French, and I was able to understand quite a bit of their conversations in French. One of Guillaume's cousins and her husband have a gorgeous little girl named Margot, and we offered to babysit for them at any time. She's so sweet and I'll probably benefit more from babysitting her than anything else since most of her books are on the same level of comprehension that I'm on!!
On Sunday night, we met up with a friend to see the movie "We Own the Night" which was showing in English with French subtitles. It was actually a really cool movie, and I think watching it with subtitles was really good for me.
So, I guess that's kind of the update on what we've been doing. If there's one thing that I wish I could change about Paris, it's the smoking. I know things will change on February 1, but not one day passes when I don't inhale someone's secondhand smoke. And, unfortunately, all of the places we go to meet friends and have a drink are pretty much smoke-factories, so there's just no escaping it. I guess it's the price I'll pay (for now) for the perks that come with being here - like the food! I've eaten so well since I've arrived - maybe not as much as I'd like to, but definitely enough. :) I've had cheese galore, steak, ratatouille, saucisson, creamy soup, fresh fruit and veggies, good coffee and the most amazing panini baguette I've ever tasted! Oh, and one more thing I'd like to change about Paris is the selection of beer - man, I never realized how spoiled we are in the states with the beer selection! My goodness, it costs nearly $7 to get a decent-tasting beer anywhere around here!! I guess I'll have to wait until we make that trip to Belgium in February!!

A la prochaine...