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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Yes, the weather was lousy this weekend. Yes, this was my last weekend in my apartment in the 10th. Yes, I had my first final on Thursday.

But despite all of this, the weekend was a fantastic one, because my Berlin-based friend, Tim, came back for a second action-packed weekend of Parisian adventures.

Wednesday night, I took the RER — regional express train, kind of like the metro but not as nice and kind of weird and sketchy at times — out to the Charles DeGaulle International Airport, where Tim was waiting on the train quai. We got right back on that train — it’s a really expensive ticket, but if I stayed in the train system I didn’t have to pay, hat tip to my friend Claire for that helpful hint that would have been really useful for retrieving my parents back in April — and took it to Gare du Nord and my neighborhood, where we celebrated our reunion with an expresso and a delicious plate of gorgonzola and pear.

Thursday, we traipsed on over to the Musée d’Orsay for some art watching — finding time to run into somebody I know from UNC who is in town for a summer project on ballet, waiting in line outside the museum, crazy tiny world that this is — and I went off to take my first of two finals.

It wasn’t terrible — multiple choice and an 11-page essay on media models in transition, in English — and it feels good to be that much closer to being finished with school.

We spent our Friday picnicking in the Jardin de Plantes, drinking coffee at La Caféotheque and avoiding hordes of tourists in the Louvre — it helps when both you and your guest can get into museums for free, yay European youth benefits! — finishing up with a victorious second attempt at the strawberry-asparagus tart — more butter, almond powder and creme fraiche this time — and a movie outing at the Action Écoles Cinema to see Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest.”

Saturday, more coffee wanderings, coupled with a marvelous and lively rendition of Manhunt on Ile-Saint-Louis. More epic chase sequences, more distracted and angry tourists and more sweating international young adults meant a fantastic game. Plus, at one point I avoided being tagged by rounding a street corner and ducking between rows of school children on a field trip, using their adorable small size and charming tendency to hold hands to create a tiny human barrier between me and my huntress. It was quite, quite epic.

We ended the day with some delicious asparagus risotto chez moi and a happening party at the uber-posh apartment of one of my journalism program friends who lives right next door to the Eiffel Tower. The party was a lot of fun, and Tim actually found a girl from his hometown of Dusseldorf — a girl who had been in my French language class here — with whom he shared a lot of mutual friends.

Capping off our weekend of adventuring with a delicious Sunday brunch at Breakfast in America in the Latin Quarter — so much American drip coffee and a big pile of raspberry-coconut-white chocolate chip pancakes YUM — we again rode the RER to the airport, saying goodbye only until July 1, when I will be staying with Tim in Berlin as part of my European Opera Adventure.

This week will see me:

1) Moving out of my apartment

2) Taking the LAST final of the year

3) Going to see “Rear Window” at Action Écoles

4) Running along the Seine

Stay tuned, dear readers — la fin va arriver!

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So, I have this thing — some might rightly call it a complex — about being a tourist.

While I do enjoy traveling to some extent, and while I continue to preserve every young writer’s romantic fantasy of hitting the highway à la Kerouac’s “On the Road”, I just don’t like the feeling of being obviously out of place that tourism engenders.

I wrote extensively on my feelings on the tourist side of Paris in an earlier posting, but my thoughts are essentially this: Paris is a museum city, a dead city remembering the lively excitement and creative spark that so animated it in the late 19th century, the early 20th century and the middle of the 1950s and 60s.

So, with the arrival of my parents for a week long tour of the city, I had the opportunity to try and figure out how to play tourist in a city in which I had no desire to do so.

Seeing my parents was absolutely wonderful. Even though we endured roughly the same amount of time between parent-child reunions last spring, I was only a 12 hour drive and a quick phone call away that time, making the distance seem ever so much slighter than the ocean and continent and time zones that separate us now.

Together, we had a lovely week, exploring the city that I have come to know fairly well. We went on long walks, ate delicious meals and drank good wine every night.

Saturday, after some difficulties in locating them in the massive Place de l’Opèra, we dined in the tiny and tasty Chez Prune, a café on the Canal St. Martin. We then split for a while, reuniting for a light dinner of bread, cheese, strawberries and wine at my house. My parents got to meet both of my roommates, our cat, and my landlord, which was very strange, considering that weeks often go by without me seeing any of these people.

Unfortunately, my landlord took both my month’s rent and my dear friend Flocon with him when he left Saturday evening, saying that the spunky cat had another job to do in a neighboring apartment. I really miss him, and I think this separation will do us both good. I never realized how nice it is to have a cat waiting for me when I come home until he left.

Sunday was Easter, and we had a small lunch together in L’Atmosphère, another café on the Canal, followed later by my award-winning Easter Dinner. The menu was as follows:

  • Savory tart with pears, caramelized onions, bleu cheese and rosemary
  • Balsamic and honey-glazed salmon served over whole grain rice
  • Baguettes
  • Pecan-Carrot Cake with Marscapone-Cinnamon Frosting
  • Various Wines
  • Coffee

Except for the salmon, I had never prepared these foods before, so making them for Easter Dinner was a big risk on my part. And it paid off handsomely, if I do say so myself.

Monday was Easter Monday, a strange holiday that seems to be the French version of Good Friday, so we wandered around the city, visiting the Jardin des Plantes, picnicking in the Jardin de Luxembourg and having a delicious dinner in the Café de la Petite Bourgette, just around the corner from my apartment.

Tuesday, the parents took a long and epic walk through the Jardin de Tuileries and the Champs-Elysées, ending up at the Arc de Triomphe. I was in class, so I could only hear their reactions afterwards. They were impressed by the grandiosity of the city and its monuments.

“There are a lot of statues,” my mother said. She’s right.

We had a picnic dinner in my favorite place in Paris, the Parc de Buttes Chaumont, and retired to my apartment for coffee and carrot cake.

Wednesday was more walking for the parents — this time, around the islands of the Seine — and more class for me, followed by a visit to a famous café in Montparnasse — Le Select, home to Picasso, Hemingway, and others — and then on to a dinner party with friends and friends’ respective parents.

As a group, we poor ex-pat students decided it would be nice to show our visiting parents how we spent a lot of our evenings here in Paris. Also, it was nice to show them that we actually had real friends here.

Thursday, we headed over to the Eiffel Tower for pictures with our local hometown weekly, The Milford Times, and then returned to the neighborhood for an elegant and absolutely superb closing dinner at the Hôtel du Nord, a little café-restaurant on the Canal. It was fantastic, and we agreed that I should probably find the money to go there again at least once while I am here in Paris.

Saying goodbye to my parents, it was hard to believe that the week was over. As strange as it was to have them here in Paris, it was also a real delight.

They brought three of my favorite things with them: Peanut butter, good food, and unconditional love.

As spring continues to blossom here in Paris, those are three things I could certainly get used to having.

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Blah blah blah, went to school, ran twice — it was warm today! And sunny! And spring-like! And it also rained while I ran! In the sun!— discussed a journalism program dinner party, planned for the weekend, etc. etc. etc.

My day was pretty standard and rather lovely. I tried out a new boulangerie, one a little bit farther away from my apartment, but it might be worth it, because that baguette was really really good. I had purchased said baguette for the second round of my tasty winter roots meal that I prepared yesterday — roasted sweet potatoes, tubers, garlic, red and white onions and spices complete with olive oil and chevre cheese — and was planning to reheat it on the stove top today.

Which I did. I added a little more olive oil and fooled around with the leftovers from last night — a full  meal in itself, really — and then sat down to eat my food, complete with the above described yummy baguette.

Suddenly, there was a loud bang on my door. I opened it, holding Flocon, the cat, so she wouldn’t run out. There was a small, thin, red-haired woman there, who immediately began speaking in quick, difficult to understand French. From what I could gather, she lives upstairs and was upset about my cooking. I kept nodding, and she got angrier. I swallowed my pride and explained that I hadn’t completely understood her.

She rolled her eyes and told me, forcefully, in English, that “it was impossible to continue to cook in the manner which you have cooked.” She continued, telling me that the building had no chimney and the “escapes” were too much for her, and if I didn’t stop cooking like that, she would call the police. I told her I was sorry and that I had no idea that my cooking was bothering anyone, and that I would open the window to try and spread the scent and smoke around from now on.

“Yes, be sorry,” she said. “And open the window, but it is impossible to cook like that again. I will call the police if you do.” And then she turned around quickly and was gone, without even a “bon soirée” or any such pleasantries.

I closed the door, shaken and upset. I think what bothered me the most was this woman’s attitude. She treated me like I was personally lighting a fire under her front door and waiting until the toxic fumes were too much for her. Which is not something I was doing.

I cook. I like to cook. I am a good cook. I use spices — cinnamon, pepper, cayenne — and sauces — olive oil, balsamic vinegar — and like to make good tasting, good smelling food. My roommates here have told me how nice the kitchen and the apartment smells when I cook.

So I can’t really understand this woman’s problem. I thought maybe it was partly because I asked her to repeat herself — in French, mind you — and the request of a ‘dumb American’ made her angry, but even when she scolded me in French, she was rude, direct and not friendly. She did not say hello. She did not introduce herself. She just opened up when I opened the door and let me have it.

I emailed my landlord for suggestions on what to do, but I’m going to continue to cook, only now I will have the window open when I do so. I like cooking. I cook well. We live in an old building. The walls are thin and ventilation is terrible. I am terribly sorry that the smoke or smells or what have you bother this woman and her family. Really, I truly am.

But the way in which she treated me first shook me, and now really bothers me. She treated me as if I was being malicious, which is not wrong and silly.

I was cooking. And I’m going to keep doing it.

With the window open, and my stomach waiting.

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Hey friends!

Things have been happening — classes, homeworks, runs, delicious homemade dinners, etc. — in my life, per usual.

But today, rather than tell you about them —  because let’s face it, after Monday’s peanut butter victory, everything else would seem like a let down, you know? — I have decided to share with you a brief but complete list of the homeless people who live in my neighborhood, including their usual hangouts and what they carry with them. Enjoy!

(Please note: I understand that homelessness is a very serious problem, here in Paris and everywhere. While this list is lighthearted, it is merely meant to be an observation of some of the very real characters who populate my daily life.)

1. “That Guy” — This guy really is THE homeless man here on Cité d’Hauteville. He takes up his spot right at the end of the intersection of Cité d’Hauteville and Rue d’Hauteville, spreading out his sleeping bag and supply corner in a little overhang underneath the large plate glass windows of a costume shop. He usually arrives in the early-mid afternoon, and remains there, sleeping, eating, peeing on parked cars, listening to the radio, etc. until the morning time. I use “That Guy” as a landmark for my friends when they come to visit me for the first time. He really works well. Sometimes he has friends who join him, but he really is the most consistent feature of my life here.

2. “Stair Tent Man/Woman/Person/Individual” — This person — I can’t tell the gender, as I have never really actually seen them — hangs out by my front door in a alcove, which they cover with a sheet or tent thing, blocking their hideaway from the elements and the prying eyes of the neighbors. It’s actually a perfect sleeping place. I live at a dead end running up into a large concrete wall, so it’s quiet, dry and safe. The police only bother the tenter occasionally, but the stairs don’t go anywhere but into a wall, so the stair tent guy/girl is set.

3. Kitten Man — This man hangs out by the McDonald’s at the corner of Rue Magenta and Rue Chabrol. He isn’t always there — though his sign that reads, “SVP Aidez-Moi À Manger” (If you please, help me to eat) usually is. When he is there, he sometimes has a small calico cat with him, attached to his hip by a small rope leash. I’m not sure why he thought having a cat on a leash with him would help encourage people to give him money, nor can I figure out why he also feels the need to feed and take care of said cat if he himself has problems doing those same things on a more personal basis, but it is a pretty cute cat.

4. Angry Camo Monoprix Youth— This camouflage-parachute pant wearing guy sometimes has a couple of angry dogs/friends with him, but mostly he just hangs out in front of the Monoprix — higher-end supermarket — by Gare de l’Est and harasses people who walk by. Sometimes he’s nice — offering to carry groceries, complimenting people, etc. — but mostly he is loud and confrontational. I’m glad I don’t go to Monoprix very much anymore, because he kind of intimidates me.

5. Bank Machine Bums— These guys are pretty ubiquitous, but here in the 10th Arrondissement, we have quite a few number of the ATM “attendants,” quietly sitting by the bank machines with their food signs. These guys are actually pretty chill. They usually don’t bug you when you get money out of the machine, they just hang out by the machine and hope their visible plight inspires you to take more money out than you were planning and maybe give them some of said additional money. The guy who sits by the Fortis/BNP Paribas bank machine with his doberman puppy is friends with a local old lady, I think, and she sometimes comes by with bags of food and gives it to the man and his dog.

There are so many more homeless people who make up the cast of characters in this neighborhood, as well as people who live in my building and on my street and attend the community remedial college across the street. If this post is well received, I might go into some of them in more detail.

Off to dinner and homework. Yummy winter roots…tasty.

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Really, good things did happen to me today. I’m not just avoiding writing my “modern French fable” or researching my Mediain Transition paper on a historical case of press censorship — I’m doing the Pentagon Papers (released by Cranbrook grad Daniel Ellsberg!) — or doing other such homeworky things.

In fact, here is a partial list of the good things that happened to me today:

1) I went grocery shopping and didn’t spend a lot of money

2) Class was interesting

3) The weather was lovely today

4) I had a nice run

5) I got a package from my parents!

6) That package had peanut butter in it

7) There was peanut butter in the package

8) Did I mention the peanut butter? I got some today

9) There were also Reeses’ Cups in that package, as well as a pair of shoes and my Lego watch

10) I did some laundry…while eating peanut butter

So, as you can see, good things happened to me today.

I also noticed — or rather, finally got fed up enough with this to write about it here — that people here in Paris really are quite awful at walking in public spaces. It is absolutely impossible to get around people in streets, in the subway, in the market, everywhere.

That’s not saying, of course, that Americans don’t also suck at public walking. We most certainly do! But here, I have really noticed a true difficulty in getting around people. And no amount of “pardon” and “excusez-moi” will do it.

Well, it’s back to my homework, now that I have successfully stalled long enough to make it closer to my bed time — and hey! someone is Skyping me! More stalling! — meaning less work for me to do.

And besides, none of this stuff is due for a while, anyway. So I’m good.

Did I mention I have peanut butter?

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Today was the big day.

I finally got my PasseNavigo, the easy-to-use and affordable metro monthly user’s card that allows me to freely travel on the extensive Paris Metro without troublesome and expensive paper tickets!

Well, actually, today was also the official start of my classes here at SciencesPo and the real beginning of my term here in Paris, but the Metro pass thing was pretty exciting too. I even rode the metro rather unnecessarily back from a place not too far from the 10th just to use it and try it out — it works.

But the main excitement of my day was that this day, the first of February, was my  first day of class.

The way my schedule here at Sciences Po works is very different from my schedule at UNC. Most classes only meet once a week, for two hours at a time, so well I have at least one class every day and two classes on Tuesdays, I only actually total up to 12 hours of UNC-type class time.

Monday features an early-afternoon lecture on “Media In Transition” by Peter Gumel, the director of my journalism program here and a pretty accomplished journalist in his own right. Today was mostly an introductory lecture, talking about the general scope and themes of the course, his expectations of us and the general plight of the media — read “newspaper” — industry.

We were also introduced to our course Facebook page — rather than Blackboard, we are using Facebook to post assignments — which began the slow descent into eerie familiarity that continued for the rest of the course. Even though I was on the top floor of the main building of one of France’s most renowned and unique  institutions of higher educations, it felt like many other college courses I’ve already taken.

It might have been partly due to the fact that the course was taught in English — Peter is from the UK — but that was only part of it. The structure, the student participation — or lack thereof; it seems that few students bothered to read the four posted articles for the first class, or rather, they didn’t want to make it known that they had done so — and the overall mood of the class felt distinctly like home.

But even in this home-like setting, there were a few noticeable differences. To start with, the international makeup of the class far surpassed the makeup of most UNC classes. Students from France — mais oui — the States, Australia, Canada, Ireland, China, Hong Kong and more lined the large classroom. That, too, was different: the “amphitheater” was like a big classroom where the lecturer just talked at us — despite his own wishes otherwise — making it a weird mix between UNC’s small, personal classrooms and big, impersonal lecture halls. It was too big to be intimate and too small to be anonymous, which had a decidedly unsettling effect.

On another, semi-UNC related note, they too have student elections here in France. And just like at UNC, loud election supporters line main campus buildings and meeting spaces, encouraging passerby to vote for their particular student federation or proposal or initiative. However, it is worth noting that the elections here hinge more on issues like “Listen to us or we’ll strike” and “French and English aren’t the only languages spoken here” rather than on things like, “Don’t Build That Bridge” or “Let’s Get Involved on Campus and Volunteer and Stuff!”

Granted, tomorrow will be different. I have a French language course and another lecture on media — this one on media and politics — a smattering of reporting labs on Wednesday and Thursday and a real, live French-language sociology lecture Friday night, meaning that my term here will probably be a mix of several kinds of pedagogical styles.

Unfortunately, my courses don’t really seem to take up the time commitment that I want them too. I don’t feel obligated to walk across the city to save metro costs anymore, thereby cutting down on time necessary for a visit to campus, but two hours a day isn’t enough. Maybe I’ll have a lot of homework. Maybe I’ll start exploring more. Maybe — and this one is not a maybe, it is a must and a will and I am already planning on doing it this weekend — I’ll start exploring food markets and buying interesting and fresh ingredients and making hearty, tasty meals like last summer.

But one thing is certain. Whatever I do now, I have my Navigo. So I’ll be taking the metro. Which is a good thing.

“You must take the A train
To go to Sugar Hill way up in Harlem

If you miss the A train
You’ll find you missed the quickest way to Harlem

Hurry, get on, now it’s coming
Listen to those rails a-humming

All aboard, get on the A train
Soon you will be on Sugar Hill in Harlem” — Duke Ellington, “Take the A-Train”

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So, today was not really too productive on my part. I got up, ate breakfast, lazed around, made french toast with my friend Zeina — yummy — and went for a nice long run.

I did find Parc des Buttes Chaumont, a magical little park in the north east area of the city complete with paths, trails, a lake and a rocky island in the city connected to the mainland by bridges and topped by a classical Greek temple. It made for lovely running, and I know that when the weather turns nice, I will have picnics there for sure.

I wanted to head over to the Cafe Liszt on the corner for some after-dinner coffee, like Jamie and I would do this summer at Cafe de Soleil in San Francisco, but it was sadly closed. I’ll have to figure out another place to get my post-dinner coffee, because I think I really need it.

In lieu of a longer post, please find here a link to my first study abroad column in the Monday, January 25 edition of the Daily Tar Heel. Enjoy!

If you can’t tell, I really want classes to start. It might give me something to actually do here. Just a thought.

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