Posts Tagged ‘Rain’

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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I have not yet verified the claim in the title above, but judging by the exterior of said bread-making establishment, and the rather posh neighborhood in which this so-called “Au Bon Pain” found itself, what I’ve written in the title is probably true.

I wonder if the owners of this bread shop know they have a cheap American cousin on full massive deployment in the United States. I wonder if they would change their name if they knew.

Today was a strange day. I really didn’t sleep last night, thanks to my 13 hour slumber fest the night before —huzzah jetlag— so around 7:00 a.m. I decided to get up and start my day that never really ended.

I should mention that John, the UNC alum who graciously opened his home to me this week, came home last night as planned and took me out to a tasty little French café, where we dined most excellently. We exchanged life stories — although his involved a most considerable amount of globe hopping (Greensboro! Eastern France! Chapel Hill! Hamburg! Chevy Chase, MD! Frankfurt! Paris! — and discussed how I might find housing in the city. I wanted very much to stay on in his incredible apartment, but I know I need to find my own space and not wear out my welcome.

Here’s a quick thank you to the past cousins who laid the groundwork for my stay with the Watson-Blackwell clan: some oboe player in the early 2000s and Eva Archer, ’11/’12 — thanks for doing exactly what I’m doing, only at an earlier date! You’ve made the beginning of my term ever so much easier!

But I digress. On this morning in particular, I went for a run along the Seine and through its environs, and almost ran across the bridge that leads one to the Champ de Mars and the Eiffel Tower — almost — but I decided that particular fun bit of Parisian tourist life would wait for later. I’ve seen it before, and from a runner’s perspective the quai of the Seine  was a much more interesting route than a park under a tower.

After eating some lunch, I worked up enough courage to walk down to the nearby Place Victor Hugo and buy myself a French mobile phone. I was really terrified that I would horribly embarrass myself with my silly efforts at speaking other languages, and this fear kept me from the store until about 2:00 p.m. this afternoon.

But magically, IT WORKED. With minimal pointing and a whole lot of 9th grade French vocabulary that never seemed necessary until just today, I now have a French mobile phone all my own — I asked the very helpful saleswoman for “un petit portable avec un prix assez petit” (a small phone with a price just as small). It’s a Nokia some such number or the other, and it is charged with little charge card tokens you can buy at corner stores and tabacs. Plus, it doesn’t cost anything if someone calls me or sends me a text. Hopefully I make friends with some phone-happy French college students, who really enjoy calling other people and not the other way around, because, as we all well know, I am very frugal —read: cheap.

That momentous event successfully carried out — I even got to check it off in my planner’s To Do list! — I then decided I might go for a walk across the city to see what kind of neighborhood Sciences Po likes to hang out in.

Let me just say, it was cold and rainy today in Paris, a combination I’m told to expect for the rest of the winter here. I am exhausted and have very limited shoe and sock options. I should not have gone out in the rain, thrusting aside however inactive I would have been staying in.

But out I went, crossing bridges, jumping puddles and dodging umbrellas carried by hurried, chic Parisians. The appeal of the Watson’s apartment, lovely though it is, wore off a little when I found myself on Rue de l’Université for more than a dozen blocks. This apartment is nice, but what it is not is close to the place where I’ll be spending the majority of my time here. Point noted.

Sciences Po is located in the 7th arrondissement, a charming little neighborhood home to the famous Latin Quarter and the Assemblée Nationale. Outside the Assemblée complex, a large group was protesting something rather loudly. At first glance, I thought they were protesting violence against and killing of “cops,” which is a fine and noble goal of course, but a closer look showed they were in fact protesting the deaths of Copts, or Christians in Egypt. From their yelling and massive signage, it would seem that the current Egyptian government doesn’t like the Copts very much.

Their cause is of course justified if it is true, but I just wasn’t sure what the French Assemblée Nationale could do about it. It’s almost the equivalent of group of, say, Roma gypsy people picketing the Canadian Parliament for their mistreatment pretty much everywhere. Both legitimate angers, both appropriate responses to the frustration of seeing loved ones killed for their ethnic or religious background, but completely beyond the scope of the respective national governing bodies.

They could have just picketed the Egyptian Embassy, as I’m sure it was around there somewhere — I walked by the Mexican, Romanian and Taiwan embassies this afternoon, in addition to a Lebanese restaurant and a Cameroonian travel agency. The diversity here is staggering — but at any rate, the French police were out in full force, looking sort of bemused. Looking, well, French.

Sciences Po is in a series of old mansions and Haussman apartment complexes, so the outside was really not that exciting, especially in the rain. But I found it, which was worth an afternoon of shivering and wet clothes. It got me out of the house, which isn’t even mine, and forced me to be the faux Parisian I aspire to be.

I even gave some American tourists directions to Saint-Germain — maybe they thought I was French? — only because I had just passed it myself going the other way.

I found home again, changed clothes and sent some Craigslist emails before cooking dinner. I’ve decided that I’m only making commitments to Craigslist ads that agree to meet me in person and show me the apartment in question. I am not sending money by Western Union — I really wouldn’t know how — and I am not waiting for you to get in town. Either in person, or out of a deal. I know better than to demand anything less.

My hopefully solid lead is tomorrow evening, after my afternoon with an Outward Bound Sierras alum in the city. We’ll soon know if my search for a home has just begun or is in fact ending quickly with a big win for the visiting team.

John got home late, replete with a yummy French bakery gift celebrating the Epiphany . I politely devoured my share and decided to call it an early night. I’d read, but I’m too zonked. I am going to GET on this time zone, whether my body wants it right now or not.

My favorite thing of today was hearing a little old French woman use the phrase “qu’est-ce que ce que ça”, one of my most favorite French expressions of frustration. It doesn’t really translate, but I suppose the best possible translation comes close to, “What in the hell is this?” Today’s lady in “qu’est-ce que ce que ça” question seemed to have forgotten the code for her apartment building’s door pad.  Judging by her expression, I bet it was the landlord’s fault. That bastard. But it was still fun to hear the language used in a real-life scenario by real life people. I’d be wondering the same thing were I that little old lady: “What in the hell is this shit?”

French is all around me. With any luck, I’ll scoop some of it quickly and carry it around with me always. That’s always the hope.

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