Parisian entrepreneurs

Everywhere you go in Paris, there are street performers, buskers, artists, and sadly, many people begging. It’s heart wrenching (as surely as its intended to be) to see small children begging with their parents, the elderly or infirm shaking their cups or people down on their luck, with signs asking for money. It’s not possible to give to everyone (although I’ve never given money, I have given bread and croissants away).
There’s also performers on the streets, some with magic tricks, some gymnastic tricks. Musicians will jump onto the métro to serenade the train car. There’s one fater/daughter pair with a clarinet and violin, who are quite good. Some are good. Some are….well…not so good. But my very favourite is the ensemble who play at the Chatelet station. I think they’re there (or some group of them, not sure if it’s the same people) every day. They. Are. Fantastic.
I’ve attached various photos of different acts here (there’s loads) but also a thirty second clip of the ensemble playing yesterday. It’s such a great way to travel…

20120822-130351.jpg

20120822-130403.jpg

20120822-130413.jpg

20120822-165954.jpg

2 Comments

Filed under travel

Blasted heat

It’s so hot here, I’m considering jumping into fountains when I walk by them. I’ve seem kids wading through them – smart kids. Everyone is complaining – the French, the Africans and Indians. It’s hot. It’s 40+ degrees by 9 in the morning and only cools off to 30 by midnight. Its unbearable.
I’m just posting some pictures I’ve taken recently, because frankly, it’s too bloody hot to think.

20120820-124610.jpg

20120820-124628.jpg

20120820-124638.jpg

20120820-124653.jpg

20120820-124710.jpg

20120820-124724.jpg

20120820-124759.jpg

20120820-124816.jpg

20120820-124835.jpg

20120820-124847.jpg

20120820-124907.jpg

20120820-124920.jpg

20120820-124944.jpg

1 Comment

Filed under travel

McDo

The French call McDonald’s ‘McDo’ [mick-dough]. Not a place I usually frequent, however, I had an appointment the other day and was an hour early. I hadn’t had breakfast and was in need of caffeine. I was on rue de Rivoli, which, while awesome, is obscenely overpriced – tourist central. I refuse to pay six and a half euros for coffee! I’ve heard that the coffee at McDo is good and cheap (and I’m no connoisseur, so I decided to give it a try).
First if all its been grossly hot in Paris. 40+ degrees everyday. It’s still 30 degrees at midnight! When I walked into McDo, I was stunned into immobility – air-conditioning! In France, the coffee doesn’t come from a pot at McDo, no sir. There two baristas there with a proper expresso machine – no joke. The coffee was under a reasonable three euros too! I had to order les petite pains because, well, just look at the adorable pot of marmalade you get with it! Also, it had free wifi.
I spent a very pleasant hour, in air-conditioning, drinking good, reasonably priced coffee out of a real cup (no paper here!), enjoying my breakfast (which wasn’t fabulous but was fine, especially for the price) and using free wifi! Bliss!

20120820-123931.jpg

Leave a comment

Filed under travel

Mosquée du Paris et Jardins des Plantes

20120814-174750.jpg

I went to the Mosquée and Les Jardins des Plantes today. I had a delicious couscous for lunch with mint tea. Only parts of the mosque are open to the public. There’s the teahouse, the restaurant, a beautiful courtyard and the hammam. The hamman is open to each gender on different days of the week and some days for both (swimsuits are mandatory on the days). There are no visits on Fridays (the most holy day in Islamic religion). It’s beautiful and richly decorated. The restaurant is both inside and out, with the doors open, hence the wee birds who flit in and out of it, landing on abandoned tables to nibble before the waiters can clear up!

20120814-175312.jpg

20120814-175325.jpg

20120814-175336.jpg

20120814-175345.jpg

After, I went to the Jardins de Plantes, which is down the street. The zoo is also in the garden, you can smell it from certain parts! The day was cut short by a rainstorm, as I had forgotten my umbrella at home. I dodged under storefronts and trees to the métro!

20120814-175618.jpg

20120814-175627.jpg

20120814-175635.jpg

20120814-175647.jpg

2 Comments

Filed under travel

A favourite haunt

One of my favourite places to wander into is a bookshop, particularly the infamous Shakespeare and Co. (although do not forget The Abbey, it’s smaller and not as well known but equally wonderful and a place to get lost in for a few hours).

I love it not just for the history and books but also the people and events. There’s always something interesting going on there.

20120808-114130.jpg

An author reading…

20120808-114204.jpg

A mini concert…

20120808-114236.jpg

And a wedding! I didn’t want to be intrusive so it’s not a great picture but seriously…you can get married there?!? Hmmm…..

1 Comment

Filed under travel

OIF continued

I forgot a few!

There’s no screens on windows or doors. So yes bugs can get in but it’s not the end of the world. I’m a little worried about a pigeon flying into the bedroom but Shmoe assured me that I’m neurotic and that will never happen. We shall see.

All windows have glass doors that open wide and shutters. There really is no need for air conditioning in the house (the same cannot be said for public areas!). If you keep the glass doors open and the shutters shut, it doesn’t get hot at all. It’s actually quite cool.

When you buy a chicken at the market (not in Monoprix or Dia chain stores but actual markets) or the butcher, it comes with the feet still attached. Sometimes the head too. Occasionally a few feathers. I’m a hypocrite and request them to be chopped off, to the dismay of the butcher.

Fish in a restaurant always (in my experience) comes with head, tail and bones attached. I’m too squeamish. I try not to remember that my food was alive once. Things like heads make that harder to do.

Daily life is very local. Obviously, people go to dinners, parties, visit family and friends and other outings that aren’t so local but day-to-day life is within a small community. In our area, the lycée is a few blocks away, as is the maternelle and crèche. The train station is as well. Once you are home from work, everything is within a few blocks. Mostly people walk. There a few boulangeries, the boucherie, the epecurie, the supermarché, the charcuterie, the fromagerie, the banque, the droguerie, the poste, the pâtisserie, two brasseries, two coiffures, at least four kabobs and others in a four block radius. There’s a tailor (essential for French living), bookshops, cafés and more. As such, people walk about during the day and after work. They stop and talk to each other. As I cook dinner, I can hear people chatting, gossiping and catching up out in the street. Men with hang out for hours and talk at the coiffure across the street (I’m not sure how their wives feel about it!). People go to the tabac, which is the brasserie, not just for coffee, wine and cigarettes (yes, it’s France – everybody smokes) but to chat with others. People know each other. Even as I walk to and from the train station each day, I say a bonjour/bonsoir to several shopkeepers and people walking on the street. It’s amazing that in such a large city, there can actually be more of a small town experience.

1 Comment

Filed under travel

Only in France…

Okay, not ONLY in France (many are European in general) but here are some of the differences, the oddities, that make France so….French.

20120806-094824.jpg

I had to get a key cut a few weeks ago. Look at the board of keys. Notice all the skeleton keys? That’s because they are still used in France. All the time. Seriously.

And speaking of keys…even modern keys, well, locks are different. For the three apartments I’ve lived in while in France, you have to turn the key two complete times, it clicks twice, to be properly locked. After a few glasses of wine, I can get confused as I’m convinced we’re locked out of the apartment as I frantically turn it both ways, hearing the clicks but cannot open the door. I don’t even feel stupid (well, not too stupid) when Shmoe takes my hand and turns the key for me. I’m just relieved.

Doors. Doors usually are pushed in France. I always go to pull them (I mean like the door to a restaurant- in Canada it’s almost always a pull). Of course, what happens is my arm jerks as the door slams into the door jam and I look like a moron. Particularly when I simultaneously am stepping forward and hit my head into the door.
That’s only happened once.
Fine.
Twice.
That there were witnesses.

Les vacances. When trying to book appointments or get your building manager to fix your electricity, it’s common to hear in summer about les vacances. The holidays. For example, we had a blown fuse and couldn’t find the right switch. Oh, we found switches. We found not one but two fuse boxes. However, none of these flipped the fuse for our place (yes, only one fuse, which is why you cannot run the vacuum and have a light on a the same time. Who knew?). We looked for the manager. Can’t find him but one if the long term neighbors of the complex is ‘in charge’. He can’t find the fuse switch either. Shmoe decides to run a huge extension cord to our place so at least we can have some power. I ask the guy n charge when the manager is coming back. He replies “Les vacances.” Thinking that there’s a language barrier (i.e. I said in wrong in French) I ask Shmoe to ask him. Again he replies, this time with a Gallic shrug, “Les vacances.” and he leaves. This drives me insane. Guess where the fuse switch was? In a suite down below us and over a few. Yeah.

Also, loads of businesses are closed for weeks, a month or even longer in the summer, for holidays, especially in August. There’s an expression of whether you’re a ‘July or August’, based on when you go on holiday.

Cars don’t have cup holders.

Electricity is expensive. Fridges are small. Ice is like gold and you usually have to ask for it.

Air conditioning is practically non-existent. Even in plus thirty degree heat. Women (and a few men) actually carry and use fans. Karl Lagerfields fan is not only an affectation, it’s also practical.

Bathrooms. Sigh. Out in the ‘burbs here, I’ve been to several small brasseries, they’re like your local pub a home. Small, not schmancy but nice. The bathrooms are all Turkish. Seriously. In public, there’s either a single toilet (like on the streets) which is sometimes Turkish or the group bathrooms in the mall. Men and women use the same facilities, there’s no ‘Ladies’. And you pay to use both of them. In homes, the toilet and the sink are in separate rooms.

Women’s products, like make-up, are outrageously expensive compared to home. Even for things like conditioner. Even ones made in France. French women pay through the nose to look fabulous.

The big sales are only twice a year in stores, as it’s regulated by the government. Only in January and July.

Boobs are everywhere. On the t.v., movies, adverts, everywhere. And the ideal French breast? No more than a champagne glass. (not a flute but a glass, think of the ‘fifties and before)

Yes, the beaches are nude.

Anything to do with the government, or any unionized organization (so most of France), like the trains, is going to require every piece of ID you’ve been given since birth, paperwork from you, your neighbor and every employer you’ve ever had, it will take four times as long as you think it should, then they will charge you fifty euro and tell you that you’re still missing two forms and to come back three weeks from Tuesday. Which will cost you another fifty euro. Oh, and you’re not an EU citizen? Well, that will be four more forms, another hundred euro and you need to be in that line over there. But she’s busy, on her lunch break. Come back tomorrow, wait four hours and then we will tell you you can make an appointment for next month.

There’s are hundreds of great things about France that are unique, landmarks, museums and it’s history. I enjoy France, the people, the customs and the culture. But sometimes, it’s difficult to live here and sometimes…it’s just odd!

Leave a comment

Filed under travel