Outside our window at sunrise, 8:28 am, Tues. 9 Dec., 2009
Yes, sunrise is at about 8:30 am right now. Check it out:
It’s a screen shot of this site: Time and date dot com – Sun & Moon. Believe it or not, Paris is really far NORTH. Like As Far North as Canada North. Infoplease lists Paris as 48° 48N latitude, which compares to Cornerbrook, Newfoundland or Minot, North Dakota. We’re freakin’ north of Québec (city). No, it’s not Alaska North, but a lot more north than I think the average person realizes.
What this means is that we near the Winter Soltice and the days shorten, it is dark in the morning until 8:30 and beyond, and then sun goes down before 5 pm. It’s conducive to hibernating, something I do quite a lot of these days.
I’m hibernating in part as I reacted super badly to a food on Tuesday night. I think it was pork. I woke up at 4 am with the most incredibly painful stiff neck and joint pain in my right hand (which I have almost 95% of the time, but in varying degrees depending on the weather and what I have eaten). I did some reading on rheumatoid arthritis, for which I have a lot of symptoms, and one blogger who happened to post Wednesday evening, my time, mentioned pork was a huge trigger for her. Granted, I also had eggs and a cup of caffeinated coffee and any of them could have cause the pain. It hurt, at any rate, and I am not going to eat anything of those three foods again for a few weeks. If and when I do, I will try them out without eating any other potentially-offending foods to see if I can isolate which food it was that knotted my neck and shoulders up so much. A couple of days later, the pain is easing, but it is still stiff.
Some days really suck with this whole food sensitivity thing. The past couple of days were in that category!
On Tuesday before all the pain, I met up with my new friend Priscilla again. We did not really do very much as she had a last-minute job interview that morning and had been rushing around all day after it. We wound up at the McDo’s (Frenchie for “McDonald’s”) on Ave. Secrétan where she ate some lunch and we talked for a couple of hours, and then she needed to get some smokes and I needed to pee. The McDo’s potty was a pay potty (you put a coin in the door to open it —> hassle and not free) and Priscilla speculated that it was probably dirty, so we went to get her ciggies, then I went to Monoprix to get PJ some instant coffee and Amurrican-style moutarde (mustard), and then we went to my place so I could use the bathroom. We hung out at my place for a couple more hours and had some water and some more conversation/language practice.
I learned a couple of things from Priscilla. First, I learned that in France, papered purebred dogs have to be given names starting with a specific letter each year. There’s some info here about it at this site. This year is the letter E, so her puppy (I forgot which breed, but it is a really small and sweet-looking lapdog) is named “Eden.”
That was a new concept to me. Good thing they do not do that with kids, eh? ;-)
Another thing I learned was a proverb about wolves and their tails. Hmmm, let’s see if I can find it online.
Yup. Here we go: Quand on parle du loup, on en voit la queue. (WikiQuote: French Proverbs). It literally means, “When we speak of the wolf and we see his tail” and it is the same meaning as “speak of the devil (and he will appear)” This site says it means:
speak of the devil (lit.: when one speaks about a wolf, one sees the tail; n.b.: the second half is often omitted, in part because of the homonym between queue and cul)
Cul, pronounced “kü,” means “ass” (not the donkey). La queue can mean an animal tail, or a ponytail in the hair (I always wondered why in late 19th and early 20th century writings about China during the Qing Dynasty, the braid that Chinese men wore was called a queue — now I know), orrrrr, a really nasty and slang-y word for “penis.” It has the equivalent of the word cock in English (not the rooster). We discussed the differences in slang words for body parts like this, and I learned a couple of more, too, for the female anatomy. It was an enlightening discussion on cultural mores and language. The linguist in me was pleased with the discussion.
Speaking of, notice anything going on with this pear I ate this morning?
Yeah, I thought so, too. Hee hee hee hee! I didn’t notice it when I bought it last week, but after I grabbed it out of the fruit basket (I make it sound so fancy — it is a leftover plastic container from packaged fruit; see “ghetto” in the next part of the blog), I saw it in my hand and started cracking up. Had to take some photos, and look how I was able to segue that into the whole blog!
Sometimes I feel so creative. :)
“Ghetto” Living in Paris
I am having a bit of an attitude problem of late. It has to do with what I started in my last blog.
PJ and I are seriously, SERIOUSLY ghetto when it comes right down to it. Kinda white trashy is what we are in a lot of respects and here we are, living in the city that represents the very ANTITHESIS of white trash and ghetto, HA! Part of me feels this ghetto-esqueness with pride, like TAKE THAT, snooty Paris! We are ghetto and we belong here, too!!
I mean, that is the angle I should take this blog. Ghetto Paris Living: How to do it. Hee hee hee hee!
Anyways, we are pretty normal is all I am saying and the other Paris blogs out there seem to take this kind of fancy-shmancy attitude because people want to believe in some kind of DREAM about Paris that sort of exists, and a lot of blogs “out there” emphasize and promote this dreamlike quality (not naming names here, but you can probably guess which ones by a quick glance at that blogroll have posted). When it comes right down to it, I do not want that kind of a blog.
I spend a lot of time reading up on and researching Paris-based blogs (for example, see the blog links on my top page), and a lot of what I read really does emphasize a version of Paris that everyone wants to read about: the fairytale kind of version.
Heck, I even like reading this stuff, else I would not spend so much time doing it, but there is a part of me that can go on Paris Overload with it. A lot of it is really pretty elitist stuff, too, like you HAVE to have Pierre Hermés macarons, or you have not had a proper one, and you have to shop at Galaries Lafayette, or you have not really shopped. You have to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, or you have not really seen Paris…
Stuff like that. It’s stuff based on keeping up the mythos of what is, I have come to understand, a magical city in many regards. I can’t help but feel, however, that Paris is like the Popular Girl in high school who has her minions to do her PR. You knowwww, maybe you have seen Gossip Girl — it is like how in the first season Blair Waldorf has Queen Bee status for a while (until she loses it, along with her virginity, to Chuck Bass) and has all those friends around her to do her bidding and keep up her appearances.
Paris is like this kind of Teen Queen Bee and bloggers gush over her food, her fashion, her parks and buildings, and her cultural panache. Hell, even I have done some of that here as I am genuinely impressed with a lot of Paris’ plumage.
But if you think I am that kind of chick who is In the Paris Know, wining and dining with her French and Expat elite, heh — no. No way.
I am, pretty much, ghetto.
Literally, ghetto means,
A usually poor section of a city inhabited primarily by people of the same race, religion, or social background, often because of discrimination.
An often walled quarter in a European city to which Jews were restricted beginning in the Middle Ages.
Something that resembles the restriction or isolation of a city ghetto
Urban Dictionary, however, says this about ghetto:
1. (n.) an impoverished, neglected, or otherwise disadvantaged residential area of a city, usually troubled by a disproportionately large amount of crime
2. (adj.) urban; of or relating to (inner) city life
3. (adj.) poor; of or relating to the poor life
4. (adj.) jury-rigged, improvised, or home-made (usually with extremely cheap or sub-standard components), yet still deserving of an odd sense of respect from ghetto dwellers and non-ghetto dwellers alike
Ghettos, according to Wikipedia, are formed in three ways:
- As ports of illegal entry for racial minorities, and immigrant racial minorities.
- When the majority uses compulsion (typically violence, hostility, or legal barriers) to force minorities into particular areas.
- When economic conditions make it difficult for minority members to live in non-minority areas.
The ghetto usually refers to a “broader range of social situations, such as any poverty-stricken urban area.”
I am a Caucasian chick who grew up in a white, middle-class part of Colorado, so I am not really and truly ghetto. Also, there are a lot of *actual* ghettos in the suburbs which surround Paris, and I do not live in one of them. I am living within what is considered the municipality of Paris and because it is a top tourist destination in the world**, safety and security have a high priority. Technically, there is nothing truly ghetto about either my living conditions or my life.
(** France is the number one tourist destination on the planet according to this Wikipedia article, Paris is the most-visited city of 2007, also according to this Wikipedia article, and is the number one tourist city, according to this article on Bukisa.com.)
When I am speaking of the fact that PJ and I are “ghetto” in this blog, I mean it in the sense that he and I lead a very urban, somewhat impoverished by comparison, sort of sub-standard Parisian life when it comes to things like dining and going out and keeping our lives presentable in the manner to which a lot of bloggers would have you believe the Paris Life really is all about. Not saying that that kind of life is not what those bloggers are living, just saying that it is not our kind of Paris living, by a long stretch.
I do not want to seem like I am wingeing about living in Paris. That’s not the point here (okay, maybe a little, lol. There is a slight bit of sour grapes I feel about being in Paris, what with my lack of funds and food intolerances). But I want people to have a realistic picture of some lives here, too. What it is really like for people who do not give (much of) a rat’s bum about cuisine and fashion and art and architecture, just some of the things for which Paris is famous.
I just keep thinking about how Paris is like that Popular Girl. For those of you who are older, the movies Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club conjure up what I am thinking of. In the latter example, this is Paris:
Paris is really good-looking, she’s sexy and rich, she’s of a very high standing and family background, she wraps millions around her pinky finger each and every year. She is the Star, she is the one *everyone* wants to be friends with. Paris has it all.
In contrast, I feel like I am and my Paris life is this person:
(Source. By the way, while you are at that blog, you should read this post: Sincerely, John Hughes. It is about the author of the blog’s two-year correspondence as a young girl with the late screenwriter and director, John Hughes. A remarkable post. It made me cry.)
(Source. Another blog post that is a touching tribute to John Hughes.)
As the blogger for that second picture describes Allison, she is “the outcast, loner weirdo.” The Wikipedia article on her states,
“The ‘basket case’ of the group, she is in detention because according to her, she “had nothing better to do.” She is the most socially isolated and claims to have no friends. For the first half of the film she is quiet, save for occasional squeaks of fear and a few random outbursts, and contributes nothing to the conversations between the others.
Okay, so maybe it I am not that bad, although in all honesty I kind of was when I first got here. I had a semi-serious case of agoraphobia for about the first six months I was here. I still barely make a peep when it comes to speaking French. I really feel a lot of empathy with Allison Reynolds when it comes to my Parisian life.
Our Freebox Free Home Video subscription channel on TV had the whole first season of Gossip Girl not long ago, and I watched it all. With this more up-to-date example, Paris (at least the Paris that is portrayed by the vast majority of bloggers I have run into and as I already mentioned above) is definitely Blair Waldorf:
(Source — a great description of the character, if you don’t know who she is)
(Source – funny post about Halloween costumes!)
In this whole scenario of Paris as Popular Girl/Gossip Girl I am either a:
or a Suicide Girl.
(Source. Note: lots of photos NSFW.)
Rory Gilmore is the young daughter of single mother Lorelai. She attends a rich prep school while being raised distinctly lower-middle class. Her wealthy grandparents are the ones funding her education, but her mother, Lorelai, has distanced herself from her upper class roots to make it on her own. Suicide Girls are well known for their alterna-sexy photos. Tattooed and pierced (I am both), they set themselves apart from the typical standards of beauty and self-expression.
Due to PJ’s and my socioeconomic status here in Paris, our location (in the non-touristy 19th, which has sections that are pretty gritty and ghetto by the standard definition), and the way we approach life (distinctly non-elitist), I think of us as living a pretty ghetto life in Paris.
Case in point, the part of the blog I shall call
I think it was in the previous blog, the one about the Christmas windows, where I wrote about how at the Place de la Madeleine my new friend Priscilla and I went into the chichi Fauchon. Central Paris, the areas around which tourists tend to stay such as the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th arrondissements, has a lot of world-class shopping and restaurants nearby. It is Haussmann’s Paris, with traditional limestone buildings and their wrought iron balconies. It is classical Paris, which has been depicted in films and photos for decades.
This is not my Paris — not the one of my day-to-day existence in this city.
Awwwriiiight, I am being a bit hard with the whole F*ck Fauchon thing up there — it is the writer in me that is going for not only hyperbole, but alliteration, and I liked how it sounded when I repeated it over and over. Give me just a little slack on that one, will you? I understand that there are centuries of Paris being the epicenter of class, taste, cuisine, and fashion. I can totally see someone saying to me, “If you don’t like it, leave.” I know, I know.
But I am here a little bit by accident, it just so happened that PJ was here and I wanted not to be in Paris, but to be with him, and there is a part of me that didn’t ask for life to move me to a place like this one, it kind of just happened to me. I cover some of this in another blog on almost the same theme here: Paris is Often Not My Kind of Girl.
I am still just trying to work out in my head how someone like me can make it in a Popular Girl Place such as this, and sometimes saying “F*ck Fauchon!” is my solution.
Let me introduce to you the store that is eminently more practical and cheap, and Oh So Ghetto:
Leader Price has 558 stores in all of France and 17 in Paris proper (source: store website). It is a part of the Groupe Casino umbrella company. This Leader Price is one of two in the 19th, the one on Rue de Meaux. I also note from the website that there are NO Leader Price stores in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th arrondissements. That makes me giggle a little. I also note that a competing store, one which also used to be owned by Groupe Casino, but which may not be any longer (I saw some conflicting info about this on the interwebz), Franprix, has more locations in and around Paris, even in the center of the city. Franprix also carries the Leader Price brand in their stores.
See? Ghetto tagging!
This is the Wall of Yogurt. Leader Price may be a discount supermarket carrying only its own brand of products, but it is still France. Yogurts of all kinds, crème fraîche, fromage blanc, cream, and lait férmente (buttermilk) line this section, of which I could only take a part of with the cell phone camera (yeah, I did not bring the Coolpix in here to snap photos. I thought the cell phone would be more surreptitious).
Then there is the Wine Aisle. These are just the reds (lol). Most bottles are under 10€ and there are quite a few under 5€. I’ve had some wine from here and it is good stuff! Yeah, that is wine in a box, too. See? Ghetto!
This is the cheese and packaged salad and other refrigerated goods that are not dairy products like yogurt (I’ll explain milk in a moment). There is no cheddar but there are lots of packages of a Swiss-type cheese called Emmental. In the far upper right are processed cheese slices called “Special Hamburger.” The packaging says it is spécialité fromagère fondue, which basically means it can melt. PJ and the kids like this cheese on their burgers. Very Ghetto. They also have Camembert and chèvre and other soft cheeses. I don’t know if they are “official” Normandy Camemberts or not. I guess it has to be made from unpasteurized milk to be official. There also is not any specialty cheese such as Cantal or Comté, but there are a couple of decent Mimolettes (aged and not aged) with which I have made mac ‘n’ cheese (Ghetto!!). Right now, though, I don’t eat any cheeses because of my apparent intolerance to dairy.
I learned a heckuva lot for this section from this listing of French cheeses on Wikipedia! Have a read if you are not up on cheeses like I am not.
On the right side of the photo we have the milk section. Yeah! Unrefrigerated. Milk and related products such as cream and coconut milk are packaged in UHT boxes. UHT is ultra-high temperature processing and special packaging which gives milk, juices, etc. a shelf life of 6-9 months. The Wikipedia article on this states that “UHT milk has seen large success in much of Europe, where across the continent as a whole 7 out of 10 Europeans drink it regularly.” It then goes on to say that in France, 95.5% of the milk consumed is UHT (stats here).
I did not get a photo of it, but just across from the milk are the eggs. Unrefrigerated. Stacked on shelves. Yeah, turns out eggs do not really have to reside in a refrigerated section! They do not last quite as long, but it is possible to leave them out for up to a week or so. Also on that aisle are the baking products, such as flour and baking mixes, jams and syrups, honey and coffee. The baskets just past the milk hold mini-chocolate chips, almond flour, almonds, marzipan, and other nuts (walnuts, I think. Peanuts and pistachios are on the snacks aisle, of which I did not get a photo either).
There were lots of things I would have taken photos of, if I had been thinking about what to write about concerning Leader Price. I totally missed the cleaning products, soap, and toilet paper aisle, for example. Part of that was because I did not have to buy anything in that section that trip. As it was, too, I was lurking around with the cell phone, just trying to snap what I could because I felt paranoid about taking photos there. I don’t know why. It’s not like anyone would have arrested me, I don’t think. Anyway, this is a smattering of photos to show what the store looks like.
Veggies. A lot of them are imported from countries like Spain. Frenchies kind of have a thing about food origins and prefer them to be from France. French produce is often more expensive, however. Leader Price often has great bargains on produce in season, and I like getting stuff from here. Generally the quality is very good and fresh. It may not all have French origins, but I don’t care. Ghetto!!
Part of the fruits and veggies section, with cookies and cereals in the background. This lady is an Asian lady weighing out her produce and getting the sticker with the bar code and price to put on the produce. In a lot of supermarkets you have to weigh and get the scanner labels for your fruits and veggies. It is not rung up at the checkout all of the time. At the Monoprix where I sometimes shop and where things seem to cost four times as much, I do not have to pre-weigh the produce. How you tell whether or not you need to weigh your own produce before the checkout is whether or not you see this kind of scale with pictures of the produce with lot numbers and a scale. Some things are also sold by the piece. I have to look at the signs to see if the produce has a price per kilo sign or a sign that says “la piece.” Things like cabbage and cauliflower are often sold by the piece. Apples and oranges are not. My French for fruits and vegetables has improved a lot by my doing the shopping for PJ and me. I mentioned that this lady was Asian because she asked me a question. I am not exactly sure what she said, but I could tell that she could not find the photo and word for “oranges” (spelled the same as in English, but pronounced “oh-rahnzh” even in the plural. The “s” is never pronounced unless there is a word following that begins with a vowel) on the scale. I pointed to it for her and pushed the button. She seemed thankful. It crossed my mind to try to talk to her in Chinese, but then I think I have forgotten most of it at this point! Ha! At any rate, it is good to know I am not alone in negotiating words and so on in this country. Ghetto.
Pears. This is where I bought the curious-looking one pictured earlier in the post.
The checkout with the stuff purchased by the gentleman in line in front of me. Also, pictured there is one of the nicest cashiers at this Leader Price. PJ thinks she may be from Eastern Europe as her French has an accent, he says. I don’t know if she has one or not, I just like her smile, and she always smiles at me. I blurred out the faces in Picasa, though, as I wanted to protect the identity of the people whose permission I do not have to post the photo here. The guy in front of me is buying a dried sausage, some potato chips, some grenadine syrup (I have learned since moving here that grenadine — or grenade— is the French for pomegranate! Who knew? I have thought all the time since I used to get Shirley Temples as a kid that grenadine was some kind of an exotic non-alcoholic liqueur), cotton swabs and sugar cubes, some bread and something between the sugar cubes and bread which I cannot identify. It is in a plastic wrap and with red, cube-looking things. Cheese for fondue, maybe? Don’t know. Looks pretty ghetto, though, eh? ;-)
This was taken outside of the Leader Price. There is a sign stating ERRATUM in the window. It is explaining that an ensemble de table 12 couverts for 3 € 90 is momentarily not available. The set includes a tablecloth and forks and stuff. Presumably paper and plastic for the price. No, I do not know what couverts are, but I can guess the word means “place setting” or something like that.
Like I wrote, not the best photos, but not too bad for a humble cell phone. Maybe I can get better ones again soon!
To close this segment, here are a couple of links I found really good when writing/researching for this blog. First, here is a link to customer photos from the Leader Price website: Customer Photos. I thought they were cute and it shows a diversity of people shopping. Okayyy, actually, I kind of take that back. Our Leader Price has a lot more persons of color and of diverse ethnic backgrounds than the folks in these photos. Still fun to look at, though, in my opinion.
Next, here is a comprehensive and helpful link I found on shopping in Paris: Discover France – Shopping in Paris. Author Ian Mills mentions supermarkets in Paris in one of the paragraphs. There is a drop-down menu with links to various kinds of places to shop such as bakeries and chocolatiers. If you are into that kind of thing, hahaha. Fauchon is listed under “Epiceries.” *snort*
Finally, thanks to reader Carole who commented on the previous blog that she would indeed like to read more about Ghetto Parisian Living. This is the first part in who knows how many segments I might write on this topic! Thanks to her and to others who commented the same, you have been reading about Ghetto Shopping. I will try to think of more posts and keep my eyes open for the ghetto side of life here in Paris: the non-elitist, kinda white trashy point-of-view. :)
Well, I am off to meet up with some Frenchwomen who are intent on practicing English tonight! We are meeting at Forum Les Halles at 7:30 pm, 19.30 local time, and will head to a pub or something to drink and chat. I will be the only native speaker. Priscilla will be there and our mutual friend Karine, who has made arrangements.
Tomorrow I am meeting Tess to go to Versailles. It just re-opened fully in the past couple of days after a museum workers strike (*snicker* Museum workers strike, hee hee. WTF. Welcome to France).
Then on Monday I am meeting Peter of Peter’s Paris. We have made an appointment to check out the Mouzaïa neighborhood of the 19th arrondissement. It is a historical heritage area designated by the City of Paris (French website on it here). There is an architectural walk that is downloadable from the website, and it is a place I have been meaning to check out. I’m looking forward to the meetup!
Now that I have typed all those plans, it sounds exhausting, too, heh. Wish me luck in keeping up.
I hope you all have a bon week-end. See you here again soon.
an alien parisienne