A thunderstorm approaches on Rue de Couronnes, 11th arr. Paris, Monday 29 March, 2010, in the evening, on the way to yoga class
I’m trying to get better about posting once a week. I realized this morning [ahem — this was started last Thursday — today is Tuesday] that means today I am due another post! And how can it already be APRIL? Wow. Now that each day represents proportionally less and less of my overall years, it seems like they fly past at warp speed. I envision my life as the Starship Enterprise with time being the escaping Klingon warship and my brain and body are Scotty, telling an impatient Captain Kirk, “I’m giving her all she’s got, Captain!” but getting to warp speed is a trial and only just happens at the critical moment.
Yeah, that’s how I feel about this blog, too. It’s a bit MacGyvered in some posts, huh. Sometimes I envision posts are stuck together with chewing gum and duct tape, and pieced together like a crazy quilt (I think I even entitled a blog post that way, huh), then launched out for god/dess knows who to read (well, except those of you I know who do because you leave lovely comments to say so). This will probably be another one of those… Get a cup of coffee or something for yet another one of my cobbled together and lengthy posts. 😉
What’s the Difference?
First off, anyone who has been reading this blog for a while know I like to take photos out of our dining area window. Also, those same people will know I have taken photos of this view for a few months now, too. Recently, though, the view changed. Can anyone spot the difference?
[Note: the difference cannot be seen in those three pics. The difference can be found from past posts until this current one. There has been evolution in the square. EVolution, not revolution, lol. Another clue can be found in comments!]
I appreciate the positive responses to the previous Paris off-the-beaten-path post, An Adventure Along the Rue de Mouzaïa. It’s always difficult to follow up posts like that where I spend a lot of time and effort constructing them and weaving together what I hope are informative details about places in and around Paris. I like those posts — I always learn so much in the process of writing them, too. They are the most “official” kinds of writing pieces over which the Academic in me about wets herself because she is so excited about deconstructing the whole experience and tying together the facts. Geek Girl at her most promising! Woot!
Then there is the mish-mash of all the things in my brain I hope and want to turn into posts like the Rue de Mouzaïa one, but for which time does not allow. It took me *three* months to finally get around to posting that one, after all, haha (ruefully)! I can’t procrastinate that much, though, and have to just learn to write things faster. And more concisely, but let’s work on one thing at a time, eh? Did I learn nothing from the NaNoWriMo Experience? *sigh*
Anyway. Onward. Let’s see what we can do here.
In the past month, I gathered up a lot of photos and had some fun experiences. We’ll call this part of the post:
Things About Which I Would Have Liked to Write Full-Blown Individual Posts, But Did Not, Yet
(and ones which, therefore, would likely have been of reasonable length!)
My friend, Tess, who has appeared in various posts here on AAP, most recently the one about meeting Elizabeth Bard, author of Lunch In Paris, has been living (up until a couple of weeks ago when she moved closer to the Trocadéro) in the southern part of the chi-chi 16th arrondissement. The above is the view (looking to the north) from the (one) window of what used to be her studio apartment of approximately 15′ x 15′ (roughly 5 m x 5 m). I have wanted to write more about the visits I have with Tess and about how wonderful it is to have her friendship and the friendship of others in this city. [I also saw her and her new digs this past Saturday and hope to post about that soon. Heh! Guess we’ll see if that happens, eh? 😉 ]
Amber, one of my online friends at the blog Traveling Amber wrote a really fine blog post about friendship as an expat here in France: Know Your Role. She writes very insightfully about the kinds and nature of friendships she has had since living in France. I appreciated this post because it really made me think about the nature of my own friendships and how they have changed and evolved over the years. At the end of her post, Amber asks her readers:
What role do you fill in your circle of friends? What role do your expat and your home friends play for you? How much of a friendship should be give and how much should be take?
I have a budding e-pal (as differentiated from “pen-pal”) relationship with Bj of The Armchair Parisian. We were exchanging thoughts on friendship in our 40s and how much less B.S. we are willing to put up with than in our 20s and 30s when it comes to friendship. Friendship to me, at this stage in the game, is much more about who we ARE with one another than what we can do for one another in a give/take relationship. I appreciate that friendship, indeed, like any relationship, is about exchange and involves some form of give and take, but at the same time, I just can’t take it anymore when people turn friendship into a set of rules and keeping score. While I don’t want to take advantage of people (nor be taken advantage of), at the same time, I don’t want to be in a situation where there is a constant weighing of who did what for whom and how often. I want there to be acceptance and natural flow and ease to the relationship.
I was thinking about the friendships from home that have stuck with me since moving to France. Because I abruptly left “home” for another life here, it really sorted out the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, in terms of who chose to stick with me and who did not. Since coming here, I have been really fortunate to bump into people who seem to appreciate more of who I am than what I can do for them. I’ve found, in any case, whether here in Paris or there in the U.S., the true-blue friendships happen and continue because we really enjoy spending time with one another, and who does what for whom and how often matters less and less. What matters is that when we see one another, we enjoy being together, and when there are times that we cannot be together, it really does not matter for we can just pick back up where we left off.
As for the role-in-friendships part, that one requires a bit more thought. I think I would have to ask others what role they think I play. It probably depends on which friend I am talking to. Overall, though, I think I am pretty good at giving moral support (laughing to myself here as healthy doses of immoral support have also been shared in the past, haha). My meager means do not really make it possible to extend more than that, but if you need a listening ear and an empathetic and gracious point-of-view, I’m your girl. I’m not very good at tough love, though. Because I understand and know just how difficult life is, I tend to cut people a lot of (sometimes too much) slack. So if you want one of those honest friends who won’t mince words, I’m probably not your girl. I’m good for trying to be a cheerleader, though, and always like to look to the positive side of a situation.
What about you?
A view of a greengrocer on my most favorite street in my neighborhood, the Rue de Meaux (19th arr.).
A similar dynamic plays out with my online friendships, too.
I view the blog world like kind of a high rise apartment building, a college dorm, or maybe, better yet, a big neighborhood. We each have our front porches and doors (our front pages) which invite people in to see a bit of our lives, our lives being like the inside of our homes. Some people only invite people into their kitchens (the food blogs), their formal sitting rooms (the specific blogs, like photo ones, where we get an artistic, but limited and maybe somewhat impersonal view). Other bloggers invite us into virtually (heh) every room in the house, except for maybe the bathroom (although, ahem, some of us even do that). Anyways, because I am now living in the neighborhood of Paris Blogs, I am getting to know a few of my neighbors, sometimes literally.
I run into new neighbors all the time. Many of them invite me in and we spend a lot of time together, having fun with a lot of comment exchange. Others, I come in and visit, sometimes not saying anything at all, but appreciating the information or creations therein. I like, though, that there is a natural flow to what happens, and as Catherine of The Five of Us wrote in a comment:
…please, do not apologize for not visiting my blog, Karin. What is a blog except a recreation, and commenting is not an obligation (according me! I know, I know….some see it differently). My life doesn’t depend on how many numbers of comments a day I get!
I replied to her:
I appreciate your gesture of not needing to apologize for not visiting your blog more. It’s true, blogging is just a recreation when it comes right down to it. I do tend to feel a bit like it is a neighborhood, though, and I feel a little rude if I do not at least offer up a “bonjour” now and again! I don’t live and breathe by the comments either, but I do appreciate them very much for what they are: people taking time out of their busy day to read and respond to things. So I will also say “merci beaucoup” to your doing the same for me.
I like to be a good neighbor and I really do enjoy meeting others in the neighborhood.
One thing I have been extraordinarily bad about is updating my blogroll. I hope I can reorganize it this coming week [Note to self: It *is* next week, chick. Hop on it.] and add several blogs to the list of those I have been reading.
You’ve already got a couple up there, but here are a couple more where I have been having some fun hanging out of late (in no particular order except where I had them open in tabs as I thought of them):
- An American Mom in Paris – I’m enjoying MJs accounts of her life in Paris so very much. With a toddler and baby in tow, we learn about how MJ is (or is not) learning French, negotiating sticky cross-cultural situations, and getting along with the oft-ornery place called “Paris,” where things like caramel beignets can and do make life a little sweeter. I am so glad to be in her neighborhood and be a part of her blog posse.
- Je Ne Sais Quoi – Shannon is gloriously snarktastic, and I have been laughing so much at her posts! She’s loads of fun, as long as you enjoy irreverence and poking a bit of fun at the expat life. Shannon is the neighbor girl who is having an evening cocktail on her porch if you want to go over and hang out, gossip a little, and laugh.
- A Twofer — Just Another American in Paris’ Anne has started a really, really helpful blog called Posted in Paris where posts focused on the practicalities of living in the City of Light shed light on things like when and how to go to the grocery store. I knowwww, sounds like something for retards (used in the colloquial sense — no offense to any actual developmentally disabled people, whom I love dearly for the view on the value of life they reveal to us). Thing is, stuff like this in a foreign land IS different, and one really does feel like a short bus kid sometimes. Just calling it like it is. So far, what has been posted I wish I had known about 22 months ago when I first arrived here. Check it out if you either live in Paris and are still at sea when it comes to the day-to-day, or if you just want to get some insight into what it is like living in the day-to-day of Paris. Anne’s blog (linked first up there) is also a good read with a lot of cultural information on Paris.
It is a goal of mine to update links I read both on my blogroll and on a page in this blog. We’ll see what I can do. For now, just go to A Taste of Garlic, which is a blog dedicated to reviews of expat blogs in France. [One reason this post has taken me so long is that I keep finding *MORE* to read, like this and this. I seriously wish I could find a paying job to do all of this blog reading! I rock at it!]
MORE ON FRIENDSHIP
But first, this blog brought to you by Falco, 1982, Der Kommissar.
On this past Monday night [last week, not this week] while riding on the Métro to go to yoga, I heard two German girls chatting with one another in rapid-fire speech. Whenever I hear any German, I think of this song, or this one. The only German I know is the lines from the above song, “Alles klar, Herr Kommissar?” and whenever I hear German, this song sticks like an earworm in my brain. I was telling this story to my friend Karen once we got into our yoga class. Then, MJ in her blog post for the day on An American Mom In Paris mentioned she is traveling to the German speaking part of Switzerland and I was again reminded of this song. Blame the 1980s. Thing is, I don’t even know if Karen has heard of either song as she was born after they came out. Wheeee! Way to make a girlie feel old. 🙂 It’s not her fault. One day she will be in her 40s with rockin’ friends in their 20s, too, so it’s all good. She will tell their friends what it was like coming of age in the 1990s and 2000s, back when the young friends were born. It’s the way it goes. I know I am probably entering the “Crone” stage of the “Maiden, Mother, Crone” triad. Yeah, it’s weird sometimes, like Cronehood has snuck up on me and thrown a cloak over my shoulders, just when I was kind of getting used to the shift from Maiden to Mother. Cronehood? Already?! You gotta be kidding! I’ll take all the wisdom that is implied, even if it comes at some other costs, like having flabby body parts and wrinkles. But still. So soon?!
Anyways, I wanted to post that song as I a) can’t get it out of my head, and b) I wanted Karen to understand better exactly what it was I was talking about.
Speaking of Karen, she did something wonderful for Paul and me last weekend. She invited us over to her lovely home in Villejuif (yeah, it means “Jew Town” in French) for some allergen-free eating and conversation. It was such a wonderful time, I wanted to give her a shout-out here and show you all a little about what we ate.
Villejuif is a town just outside of the southern edge of Paris proper, which is ringed by the Périphérique motorway. I note on the Wikipedia site that the original Latin of the town was “Villa Judea” which may not have meant that it was an area of Jews, but instead could mean the
“estate of Juvius or Juveus”, a Gallo-Roman landowner.
The population is somewhere around 52,000 in just over 5 km sq, or two square miles. It’s not huge in terms of area, but contains a significant number of people for that area.
We got off at the stop Villejuif/Léo Lagrange, which is nearing the end of M° Line 7.
Here are some shots of the Métro station:
Not sure whattup with the croc and turtle on the walls — and those numbers measure minutes and seconds up there, not inches. I think it may have to do with how fast they can swim a hundred meters, based on some of the other things on the walls in the station.
Léo Lagrange was an Under-Secretary of State for sports and recreation/leisure during something called the Popular Front, a left-wing movement in France from 1936 to 1938. Why he is important to France and worthy of a Métro station being named after him I am guessing is this:
He participated in the organisation of the People’s Olympiad in Barcelona, organized to counter the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin which were used as a propaganda instrument of Nazism.
That and as it says in the plaque, he founded popular tourism. Hmmmm, not sure about how they figure that one, but it’s on the plaque, so there you go. I also discovered he was connected with André Malraux, a French author, adventurer, and statesman. He was killed at the beginning of WWII at Evergnicourt in northern France.
We were warmly welcomed by Karen and her husband, Julien.
This is the view out their living room window. They have the coolest coffee table, too! It’s a wooden cable holder thing. It’s like a bobbin for thread, only for large cable. Anyone know what that’s called? Also, they *found* it. As in “for free.” It rocks!
And here’s their kitchen window. You know me: I love the views out of people’s windows. 😉
Here are Karen and Julien, hard at work to make true Breton galettes de blé noir, which are buckwheat (also farine de sarassin in French) crêpes (except when they are made of buckwheat, they are called “galettes.” I don’t know why either, as a galette is a cake and these are not a cake. There is more on this on this discussion forum. Wow. They are pretty hardcore about the whole making and eating of galettes thing…).
The “true Breton” part means that the galettes are made of 100% buckwheat flour, with only water and salt added. Most recipes call for a mixture of wheat and buckwheat flours. Buckwheat, by the way, is gluten-free flour that comes from a plant in the rhubarb family and can successfully be eaten by me. Ahh, here is more enlightenment about the galette from Wikipedia:
Galette is a general term used in French to designate various types of flat, round or freeform crusty cakes. One notable type is the galette des Rois (King cake) eaten on the day of Epiphany.
Karen in true-blue friendship form wanted to be sure that she prepared foods that could be ingested by all of us together. She is aware of all the food intolerances I experience and she wanted to be sure that we were all well-fed. This kindness of hers I appreciated so very much. It was wonderful to go to her place and be able to relax and eat confidently.
Here Julien and Karen are trying to refine the ratio of buckwheat-to-water. This was the first time for them to leave eggs out of the batter. Since eggs can be problematic for me, Karen wanted to leave them out.
The first attempts were not stellar. (Those are the failed galettes on the plate. They tasted pretty good, but weren’t so pretty.)
But eventually, Julien got the blend right and the pan hot enough, et voilà:
Une Galette. There are some sautéed mushrooms, leeks, and some sliced magret de canard (duck breast) I made and brought with us to share inside the galette. People who can eat it usually put in grated ham and cheese and sometimes an egg, fried.
Here are Karen and Karin, happy in the kitchen.
It’s traditional to drink hard cider with galettes. Yeah, it contains fructose, and fermentables like yeasts, and I don’t do great with those, but the combo was AMAZING and worth the gas. 😉 Julien was a little distressed that I could not put a little salted Breton butter (heh heh — “breton butter,” get it? That’s funny, and I didn’t even mean to be!) on the galette, but eh, that’s the way it goes. I do miss butter these days… Still, the cider made up for it.
The sun has set in Villejuif. After spending the better part of the afternoon and evening at K & J’s place, it was time for Paul and I to return to Paris. (That’s an elementary school courtyard and school building pictured.)
I wanted to make sure to give Karen and her husband Julien a huge thank you for inviting Paul and I to their home, for providing a wonderful allergen-free meal, and for the lovely conversation. It was a wonderful afternoon and evening. I feel so grateful for their hospitality!
Since visiting Karen and Julien, I’ve been experimenting with my own galettes au sarassin sans œuf ou lait (buckwheat galettes without egg or milk), and have been having some success. I’m not going to write up the recipe yet as it’s all been metric measurements that I have been using, and I want to get a little better at the whole enterprise before posting anything. I will say this much I have learned so far: the batter needs to be runny, it works best if it can sit for a minimum of two hours for the batter to ferment a little bit — overnight is great — and the pan needs to be super, super hot for it to work. I set mine to about 2/3 (temp mark 4 out of 6 on my stove — but I have gone as high as 5). A dab of dairy-free margarine in the hot crêpe pan helps keep the batter from sticking to the pan too much (and this is with a non-stick pan). Mine don’t totally have the lacy look of the real deal, but I am learning that fermentation of the batter and high heat are what create this lacy look. Mine are getting closer.
(a little late…)
I hope you all had a Happy Easter. On Saturday I spent a wonderful afternoon with Tess having lunch at her new apartment. On Sunday, we had a relaxing time with Paul and his two kids. We went to see “Alice in Wonderland” (this was for the second time for Paul and me, but I enjoyed it as much the second time as the first) and had Easter hamburgers and fries for lunch. Heh — remember, we’re ghetto.
On Easter Monday, which is a day off for most in France, Paul and I walked around the Jardin du Palais Royal and went on a walk through the shopping galaries and passages along Rue Vivienne. I’ve posted photos on Flickr here.
Here is a little taste of what we saw, though.
I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes I enjoyed from the movie.
The Mad Hatter, to Alice:
You used to be much more…”muchier.” You’ve lost your muchness.
Thankfully Alice gets her muchness back, a major theme to the story. Here’s to all of us keeping hold of our muchness, eh?
And then there’s this one:
The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?[Alice checks Hatter’s temperature]Alice Kingsley: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.
There you go. Here’s to all the mad ones,
the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
(Thank you, Mr. Kerouac.)
Until next time, then, you all be well.
Over and out –
Karin, an alien parisienne