The best thing about Paris

Ok, one of the best things..is this:

 

Good logo, but upside down!

 

There are many of them. Hundreds, possibly thousands, but not all taste as good as this one.

So, why am I excited (apart from being on the sort of chocolate high that the likes of Cadbury’s can never approach)? Because I just ate Chloé. This is one of Pierre Hermé‘s delights. I shall let the chocolate speak:

“Chocolats au macaron Chloé (ganache au chocolat et framboise, biscuit macaron framboise, pâte d’amande fondante au macaron framboise, enrobés de chocolat noir)”

If you’d like that in English: Chloé macaron chocolates: (chocolate and raspberry ganache, raspberry macaron biscuit, soft raspberry macaron marzipan, enrobed [delightful word!] in dark chocolate).

All of that in one small chocolate!

There is only one in the bag because I was supposed to buy buying a gift for someone else…

So, as if all this wasn’t good enough, one chocolate like this costs €1.90 (US$2.70). Why is that good? Because it makes it VERY easy to just buy one when you’re trying to watch the waistline!

 

Stunted conversations

Down to business in France and it can be very impersonal. What many consider the language of romance leaves me rather underwhelmed when I start translating from Arabic.

Take a mundane situation: I call my nice physio to make an appointment. I haven’t seen him for about two months and spent about 3 months having appointments with him prior to that. Let’s call him Physio French.

“Hello, is that Mr Physio French?”

“Yes.”

“Hello, it is Trailing Grouse.”

“Aah, hello Madame Grouse.”

[Pause while I think what I can say next, can I ask how he is, or should I just continue?] “I would like to make an appointment please.”

“Which day?”

With my, also nice, Egyptian physio (let’s call him Physio Egyptian), it would go something like this.

“Hello, is that Physio?”

“Yes.”

“Hi, it’s Trailing here, how are you?”

“Aaah Trailing! I’m fine, how are you? Everything good?”

“Yes thanks, I’d just like to make a new appointment.”

“Ok, when?”

First name terms and personal questions such as “How are you?” are not deemed intrusive, or personal. It may not seem very professional, but it is much nicer I find. I miss Egypt and the people that were in my life when I have what feels like stunted interactions here.

But the sun’s still shining, so it’s all good!

 

Wrinkled Grouse

I’ve been studying my quickly forming wrinkles increasingly frequently lately. To Bo or not to Tox? Is it a modern day necessary evil, or just downright ridiculous? I feel the answer will be formed the day a wrinkle can’t be removed by contorting my face…

In the meantime, an alternative strategy has made itself apparent: nice cashiers.

As I went to pay for entrance to a museum, the cashier asked, “Are you under 27?”

The correct answer, I soon discovered, is “Yes, of course!” said with the casual, bored arrogance of a 16 year old.

The wrong answer is something along the lines of , “Umm..[look left, look right]..uh..[grin like a Cheshire cat]..yes?”

Entrance fee paid: full price.

But the possibility of being under 27? Priceless!

Paris in the Spring

It’s a cliche that had my eyes rolling to the heavens years before I even had an inkling that I’d one day live in Paris. Some friends thought that Paris in the spring equated a romantic experience for as long as you were there. Cue more eye rolling (whether actually done or not, I don’t know, but the urge was certainly strong!). I would argue that romance could be found in many different places and touching down for a long weekend in a city could not possibly mean that romance would flourish – and by extension, dissipate upon departure.

I still think that.

But..and it’s a big but, Paris IS delightful in the spring. Even more so when you’ve suffered the grey, black, beige and perhaps, just perhaps navy, Parisian uniforms of winter, coupled with the grinding grey skies. Paris in winter is not recommended (Christmas shopping break excepted).

Green buds start appearing on naked trees, birds begin to arrive and mornings are accompanied by birdsong. More than that, the sun makes this museum city come alive and vibrancy pokes holes through its unwavering facade of stuffiness.

I may not want to stay here indefinitely, but I have to say that I do love living in Paris in the spring.

Operation S.B.A.M. – update 1

It's not what my mirror reflects...

There was a major hurdle for Operation Stop Being a Minger. Sure, shoes, clothes and accessories need to be purchased, but, there is little point in doing that if you cannot see what they look like on. Yes, dear friends, I needed a “miroir”. I can now, exclusively share, that our hall finally sports a full length mirror.

Wow.

Do you know what you look like if you haven’t seen yourself in “full” for four months?

Are you wondering?

Well, the waist has become a little thicker, unsurprising, given the city TG is living in.

There is also a distinctly dishevelled air – and not the sort that screams super cool. More the sort that is sported by frazzled first time mums at around month one of their baby’s life. They, at least they have (extremely valid) excuse of a newborn…

On the plus side, thank goodness I only have one mirror. I’m not sure a Trinny and Susannah style ‘mirror cupboard’ would be psychologically possible at the moment!

Photo from here

Alliance Francaise

One of the reasons I was less than enthusiastic about our move to Paris was, how can I put this, the Parisians. I didn’t really care whether they were Parisian born and bred, or had moved here from a French province last week, they were Parisians and, in my experience, usually rude, insular, unwelcoming and unaccommodating.

Outside the areas I visited when I was a tourist, I have found it isn’t as bad as all that. There is, however and unfortunately, a legitimate reason for my stereotyped Parisian.

In an effort to integrate with the aforementioned people, not to have to resort to an expat ghetto to meet people, I have enrolled in a language course. To be honest, the thought of bureaucracy (enrolling) wasn’t appealing and despite saying I would do it on Monday, it has taken until Thursday for me to haul myself over there.

But what a fool I was! I was completely blown away by how friendly, open, welcoming and accommodating everybody I dealt with was. I perhaps should add that I’d read really bad reviews about the language school, but decided their curriculum seemed suitable and did not hold any hope of the Sorbonne being a super friendly learning spot. But no, I say again, I was completely wrong in my apprehensions and it was such a wonderful surprise. I had to take a placement test and didn’t care how I did because I was floating on friendliness-shock endorphins.

Let’s not go over the top though, they were not as friendly as Egyptians, who take some serious beating in those stakes, but efficiency coupled with friendliness…was I in fact in France? I want to start the course just so that I can be in that environment!

We’ll see how enthusiastic I am on Monday evening with my first set of homework…

Lack of Vit D vs Skin Cancer…

It is no secret that I was not over the moon at the thought of moving to Paris. I was no less displeased to actually be here – a fraud, living someone else’s (many others’) dream. Mr S was a little peeved about this as there wasn’t much he could do about it and, after all, Paris is in France and being French, France is the best country in the world: rejecting Paris was rejecting the best country in the world, his family, his heritage..all the way to his toenails. Ok, I exaggerate, but it certainly seemed like that.

It’s getting better, as logically I knew it would – it had to. Yesterday afternoon I was organising my photos from the past few months. It was nice (can you hear the heavy sarcasm) to come across photos like this:

and then as I got closer to the present, they were starkly contrasted with this:

What? You can’t see the top of the tower? Aaah, that’s because there’s freezing fog.

You think I’m kidding about the weather? That almost-vertical (my bad angle, not a rival to the Leaning Tower of Pisa) structure in the background is the Eiffel Tower. The spots just in front of the lense: sleet.

The same day that we moved from Cairo to Paris, some good friends of our moved from Cairo to Mozambique. I was insanely jealous, a radioactively glowing green. That has changed a bit as the months wear on, especially as the working spouse’s job involves outsmarting pirates. ‘Nuff said!

This change is faltering a little now, however, after talking with them on Skype yesterday. Mr S and I were wearing about three layers of clothes. She was in a sleeveless top and he was topless.

Later on at dinner, Mr S said to me, “Do you think you could change the calibration of your webcam? It makes us look white.”

“We are white.”

“No, I mean it makes us look really white, it’s not normal.”

“We are really white – we’re living in Paris in the Winter.”

Might it be, just perhaps, Mr S is realising that while Paris, and by extension France, has everything*, it does not have the best weather?

*I have to admit, as evidenced by my rapidly disappearing waist, that France’s food is indeed, excellent.

Cultural surprises – not for weak stomached!

A few things that I found particularly “interesting” after arriving in Paris.


The French have such a different attitude towards food than us Anglo Saxons. This was in our local market. Yes, they’re trotters.


Not only pigs’ ears and trotters though, which is odd enough…


..but yes, two pigs’ heads. I hadn’t seen so much pork for about 10 years.


Now for the truly stomach churning: McDonalds. This is some kind of felafel burger *shiver* with some strange squiggles above it that I’m guessing is supposed to be Arabic. It probably is, if you don’t speak Arabic…


And finally this. I just don’t know how the French haven’t been protesting about this. In McDonalds they have the McCafe which has the Macaron (get it? McAron..groan).

Note that they have a double cream layer. I’m not sure if this is supposed to make them look like mini burgers (big yuck) or is an American offering to French cuisine, the former being infamously fond of rather more cream/calories than the latter.*

I have not tried any of the produce or products on this page. Here’s hoping it stays that way!

*Looking at the ones in the box, it seems that not all flavours get the double cream treatment. A mystery…

Operation S.B.A.M

I lived in Egypt for 8 years straight. Before that, I was there the two prior years for extended periods with the rest of the time spent as a student in Scotland. In total, that is 10 summers, 9 autumns and winters and 8 springs in Egypt. Of course, “Winter” is a rather loose term in Egypt. It certainly gets cold, exacerbated by the fact that Egyptian homes are built only for hot weather, but snow, horizontal rain, sleet, sub-zero temperatures and weeks of grey skies are not a feature of the “Winter”.

And now I’m here. In Paris. The city of Style.

Before leaving Egypt, I decided that altruism would be a nice parting gift and gave away all my clothes, other than evening gowns, wedding dress, two t-shirts and two winter coats – neither of which I liked).

My name is Trailing Grouse and I’ve been wearing the same grey marl jumper since early October. And the same pair of jeans, changed with one of two crappy (read drawstring AND elasticated waist) trousers that sag in the bum after the first wearing. And one of three t-shirts (two came from Cairo, one I bought here).

My name is Trailing Grouse and last week I found myself wearing sky blue velour trackie bottoms (10 years old) with a fuschia fleece (bought exclusively for skiing two years ago). I hasten to say that I did not leave the house in this fashion hideosity.

My name is Trailing Grouse and until a week ago, I had not had a haircut since late June 2009.

My name is Trailing Grouse and I can’t watch TV with my glasses on because the lenses are so scratched that I can’t actually see it.

My name is Trailing Grouse and I feel completely overwhelmed by all the brands, types of clothes and products in general, so much so, that I have not been shopping.

My name is Trailing Grouse and I’m really not kidding about these shameful facts.

And so it is, after reading the delightful Peonies that I have decided to join Operation Stop Being a Minger (in comparison to her, my reasons for joining are pretty crap – when has apathy been a good excuse –  but somehow, I’ve ended up at a similar point!).

Lucky old France

notre dame sunset

I left Mr S at home as I made a quick trip across the Channel from 5-7th January. He was issued with what seemed, well, to me at least, as clear instructions to take down the Christmas decorations and get rid of the tree on the 6th.

It’s quite obvious, really, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

We spoke on the 6th and with the hints of irritation he told me how it had taken 45 minutes to chop the tree, as it was too large to take downstairs.

Words twitched the tip of my tongue, which I quickly bit, concerning how the tree got up there in the first place. “Oh gosh,” I said, “Really? Oh no! At least it’s done now though.” I semi-consoled.

So, imagine my surprise, on the 7th, when arriving home from a long journey, the first thing that greeted me were Christmas decorations.

I said nothing..for all of five seconds.

Mr S was adamant that removing decorations on or by the 6 January was not obvious. I was stunned.

Notre Dame
Notre Dame – 15 Jan 2011

Until, that is, we passed Notre Dame on Saturday (15 Jan).

notre dame creche
Angel in Notre Dame Creche – 15 Jan 2011


Not only is there a stonking great Christmas tree outside..

notre dame creche
Wisemen and shepherds in Notre Dame Creche – 15 Jan 2011


..but inside, the creche is still in pride of place.

notre dame creche
The Family in Notre Dame Creche – 15 Jan 2011


I have to say, it is all rather tasteful and I absolutely love the ethereal animals.

notre dame
Notre Dame’s Christmas tree – 15 Jan 2011


So, I have no idea when decorations come down in France, but it’s safe to say that on 6 January, while we make sure Christmas disappears, the French are too busy eating their Gallette de Roi (a heavy almond-paste filled pastry with a hidden tuppence-like object inside, the finder of which gets a crown) to be bothering about superstitious removal of festive reminders.

A wee note: not excellent photos, but not bad for an iphone..