Saturday, September 30, 2006

For those of you missing Paris

I'd just like to alert you to two articles on it in the NYTimes, and a fabulous slideshow of night shots (including the one posted here):

Where Parisians Go Out After the Sun Goes Down
Paris la Nuit
Paris Under the Stars (slideshow)

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Someone needs to do this for Paris. It is the Gawker NYC subway smell map, with choices (and icons) pictured on the right. The one biggie that is missing here that is definitely present in the metro is smoke! So many people smoke while waiting on the platform (even though there are no smoking signs posted), and I've even seen people smoking on the train itself. The smelliest metro station by far is Châtelet, whose medley of olfactory pleasures includes Alcohol, Body Odor, Feces, Food, Mold & Wet, Sewage, Urine, Vomit, and of course, Smoke. Simply horrific. A close second would be République, where I've seen actual piles of steaming shit, and once even came across a well-heeled businessman pissing in a side tunnel in the middle of the day! Revolting. On second thought, maybe we don't need this, since almost all of the stations are disgusting and share the characteristic Métro blend (Parfum du métro). The notable exception is on line 14, where you can *almost* pretend you are on the tube, not the metro.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

I'm used to the French-US tensions. But I usually don't get any crap for living in France when I'm back home, just like I don't get any crap for being an American when I'm in France (the extent of it usually involves eyerolling at Bush). Which made me even more taken aback after the following encounter. I was at a lunch with some acquaintances, and I had been chatting with one kid's girlfriend. I knew we were off to a bad start when she started bragging about how she got her current job just because Daddy made some calls (who actually *brags* about nepotism?), but it got worse when she asked where I lived:

Etienne: Paris, actually. I'm just home for a few weeks.
Kid's GF: Oh really? How do you like it?
E: I looove it.
KGF: Oh, well you know the only bad thing about France...
E: ?
KGF: It comes with the French! (laughing hysterically) I have a right to say this, you know, because one summer in high school I, like, went to camp in Switzerland and we took a trip to Paris and I, like, spoke French.
E: *resists eyeroll* yeeahhh...

OMG LOLZ LOLLERCOASTER!!! What an airhead. Thankfully I don't think I'll ever see her again.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

I know I've been living in Paris too long when I'm OCD about the way I place my items on the conveyor belt even at Publix*. In Paris, where I shop, you have to bag your own stuff. To make it easier on myself I categorize the stuff as I place it on the belt - veggies, cold stuff, bottles/cans/jars, etc. I have no need to do this at Publix, where the fabulous bagboys double bag as policy; automatically put the bread and eggs in their own bag so they won't get smashed; and even help you out to your car - no tips expected or even allowed!; yet I can't help myself.

Other things I've noticed while home:

-Shampoo bottles seem like they were made for giants in the US, compared to the itty bitty French bottles. And everything else, for that matter. On one of my first days back I went to Costco. I was overwhelmed, not only by the quantities of the items (a gallon of soy sauce, anyone?) but also by the sizes of a majority of customers. The free samples in the food aisles highlighted the differences between France and the US. Americans really are fat. Very fat.

-How easy it is to contact companies and resolve problems.
I had bought a Christmas gift for R last fall, but it didn't fit and so I had to return it. Even though it had been months since I bought it, I had the receipt and I got my money right back, no questions asked. So simple, so hassle free, I love it.

-Going to eat in restaurants.
I don't even care. I know that might seem wierd for anyone who has ever read this blog before, where it is very obvious how much I love the food. But I'm just not excited. As soon as I get my major cravings out of the way, it's all the same to me and I could eat Honey Bunches of Oats for dinner every night without complaining. Even though it is so cheap and so easy to eat out here. Part of it is the timing - why does everyone want to go out to dinner so early here? I'm not ready to eat til 8 pm at the earliest. Another thing is the huuuge portions. I prefer 3 dainty courses to one imposing American one anyday.

-How addicting Half and Amazon marketplaces are
I had ordered the obligatory American DVDs, CDs, and books before I left, so that they would be awaiting me. Dude these places rock. As cheap as ebay and without the post-auction hassles and delay. And I have only had one sour transaction where the condition/quality was not up to par.

-How annoying commercials are
Praise French TV!

So, yeah, it's great to be home. But I am also missing Paris, and when I return I will feel a different type of relief -- ahhh...pain au wine...museums -- and discomfort -- shit everywhere...stinkymetrosmell...expen$ive prices...
Just the give and take of being able to call two fabulous, parallel, cities home.

*I must confess, my loyalty to Publix is wavering. On a recent trip to visit a friend I discovered Wegmans, which combines Publix customer service and prices with Whole Foods random-ass selections. I think I'm love...
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Saturday, September 02, 2006


For my last dinner before my trip to the States, R and I decided to try out a Bib Gourmand restaurant in the 2nd, Mellifère, drawn in by the reviews which raved about the classic dishes, prepared with the freshest ingredients and faithful to tradition. In short, we were very disappointed. For a 32€ fixed menu, we expected more, we expected better, and certainly not just "Red or White?" when we asked about the wine list.

We were seated outside on the terrace, which was great for a summer evening, except for when the garbage trucks stopped right in front. The people behind us made a big show about it, the woman holding her napkin over her face and waving her hands dramatically, trying to shoo away the stench, and their daughter pinching her nose and squeezing her eyes shut, but after about 5 minutes the smell had passed and my appetite had returned.

In spite of this temporary olfactory problem, the actual meal started out well enough. I started out with the gaspacho, which hit the spot. The way it was served was really cute, too: a mug filled with the gaspacho, and an empty bowl lined with herbed bread crumbs, so that I poured it myself. My only complaint was the quantity, which was very tiny even for a French restaurant, and seemed disproportionate with the enormous platter of charcuterie that R had.

The main meal was where we ran into problems. I had ordered the salmon, marinated in balsamic vinegar and served with homemade potato chips. I was served smoked salmon, plain and simple. With a smidge of butter and a slice of lime on the side, no homemade potato chips.

A couple of problems here:
- the fumé that should have been in the description was missing. But perhaps they had a totally different dish in mind, since the side had disappeared as well.
- Menu errors aside, who serves smoked salmon as the main course?!
- I hate smoked salmon.

I sat immobile, staring dumbly at the dish before me, wondering how I could have knowingly ordered smoked salmon for dinner. But R sweetly enough got up to talk to the waiter, doublechecked the menu (victory for the American! salmon filet with potato chips =/= smoked salmon), and had my smoked salmon whisked away and replaced with the quail. Not exciting, I know, but safe. Which was what I needed. R's dish was fine (I think it was steak...?), as was my quail.

For dessert I had brebis with black cherry jam, and R had fruit soup. Both were fine, but after the salmon mishap I felt like such a jackass I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. In France you just don't send back dishes, even if there is a real error on the part of the restaurant. If I had been in the US I would've had no qualms about it, and I'm sure I would've been comped on drinks or dessert as a sign of the management's good faith. Not so here and I know it, but I couldn't eat the smoked salmon, and couldn't *not* eat it at that price, and so I felt like I had no choice but to send it back. This mishap aside, the menu isn't really that great (choice, quality, quantity) for 32€, and you can do better elsewhere. The young waiter we had was super sweet, though the older (queen) was snippy.

8 rue Monsigny
75002 Paris
01 42 61 21 71
M: 4 septembre