Tulips in the Parc de Belleville
It feels as if it has been forever since I have been online. Eleven days ago, the fMIL (a/k/a my Mother-Sinlaw) arrived in Paris, just in time for some GORGEOUS spring weather. I have been online in those days, but only to just catch up on a couple of emails and to be able to read a post here and there as they came up in either Google Reader or Facebook. I’ve missed checking in on my fellow bloggers more regularly. If you have not seen nor heard from me in this time, it’s nothing personal! Finding moments to read and respond to people have been few and far between in the past week-and-a-half. I’ve missed you all!
But I am back, and with a KarinBrain-style post at that. I’ve taken lots of photos I would like to share, so here goes.
Author’s Note: I tried to add some “anchor tags” and a little table of contents here at the beginning so that one could “jump” within this blog post to the appropriate section, but I can’t do that in WordPress, apparently. Trying to do so jacked everything up. So, if you are in a hurry and looking for some specifics about the tags in this post, let me put the headings here and what’s in each section so you can find what you need perhaps slightly more quickly:
- What’s New in the Hood — more signs of spring in the 19th arrondissement
- Parc de Belleville — another journey to Paris’ most elevated park (in terms of elevation, literally). Also, photos of Place Fréhel and Rue Dénoyez.
- And then there was cake… — A link to a gluten-free cake recipe is in this section, as well as information about the Degranges Boulangerie
- How the fMIL helped to de-Ghettofy things in our apartment… — Home improvements and “ghetto gardening”
- I’m almost finished… — A write up on gluten-free options at the restaurant and juice bar chain in Paris: Le Paradis du Fruit
Of course in and through those topics are juicy bits on my personal life here in Paris. I aim to entertain as well as inform. 🙂
What’s New in the ‘Hood
Here is a photo of the triangular “square” in front of our apartment — it is also the view out my dining area window of which I like to take photos. The above is what the trees looked like on April 18, 2010.
Here they are now:
The leaves have come out! (Orrrrrrrr, here are the shadows the leaves make now. I thought the pattern was interesting! I realized I did not take an actual photo of the leaves themselves, yet. Whoops. I’ll get on it, soon.)
Here is another photo of the leaves across the street, along with some rain clouds that were looming on Sunday:
It is so nice to have green leaves fluttering out my window again. Paul and I are really lucky to have this view. A lot of views in Paris apartments involve looking at other buildings and nothing as natural as these trees, which I am pretty sure are chestnut trees.
In the past eleven days, I did a lot of walking, shopping, cooking, and hanging out with the fMIL and the rest of the family (Paul and his two teen kids. The youngest just turned 13! More on that in a moment).
Parc de Belleville
On Saturday, April 24, we visited the Parc de Belleville in the 20th arrondissement. We walked there from our apartment, which induced moans from the kids. It is up an incline from where we live and is maybe three-quarters of a mile (about 1.2 km) or so away (maybe a little less, actually). At any rate, it is a bit of a hike. Because the kids are used to taking the Métro everywhere, they aren’t used to walking places. It was good for all of us, though! Exercise in the sunshine! Puts hair on your chest! Oh no, wait, that’s orange juice. It does burn calories, though. And it was a beautiful day.
When you arrive at the top of the hill on rue Piat, coming from rue de Belleville (see it on Google Maps here), the view in the photo below pops up out of nowhere. It is the most amazing thing to feel the movement from inside of maze-like Paris with buildings all around you, and then suddenly “BOOP!” — you have all of Paris at your feet. It’s incredible.
This photo shows that it was a bit of a hazy and polluted day, although it was also very sunny and warm. Off in the distance are the Tour Montparnasse and the Tour Eiffel (Montparnasse Tower and Eiffel Tower).
It was warm enough to sunbathe, as these chicas were doing:
And the flowers! Oh the flowers… They were gorgeous.
I have all of the Parc de Belleville photos in my April 2010 set on Flickr, if you want to see more.
After walking through the park, we found ourselves further down the rue de Belleville, here at Place Fréhel (click on the link to see the street view and location from Google Maps):
Those aren’t real people up there –they are a part of this piece of building art, as is this painting here, also in the place:
This is Jean Le Gac’s “Detective,” as I discovered at Virtual Tourist. The building art above “Detective” is by artist Ben Vautier and says, “Il faut se méfier des mots” = beware of words.
Another famous place in Paris for street art is the rue Dénoyez. I had explored here before, but this was the first time Paul or any of his family had been here. Rue Dénoyez is an alleyway where graffiti has been officially sanctioned by the city (source here).
I think this one must be called “Nose Picker.”
The walls have all sorts of things glued and stuck into the bricks.
Comic book, pop art is present:
Here’s an atomic mouse with asplody head:
and the view of the alleyway looking towards rue de Belleville. The café Aux Folies, a hipster bobo (bourgeois-bohème) spot, is just around the corner to the right.
For more on the area called Belleville, Catherine Sanderson, author of Petite Anglaise, has written an article for The Observer entitled “My love affair with Belleville.” Her writing captures the multicultural essence of this dynamic neighborhood.
After traveling back to Métro Jaurès, we stopped at the Café Jaurès for some drinks. I had a cider, Paul had a pastis, his mom a white wine, and the kids an ice cream and a milk shake. While there, I spotted this little girl in her bubble skirt and Winnie-the-Pooh boots. She cracked me up, and I thought about how she is a mini-chic Parisian girl in style: skirt, tights, boots, but with a four-year-old twist. I did not want to take a photo of her face, just to preserve her and her parents’ privacy, but she was really adorable.
And then there was cake…
Tuesday, April 26 was Paul’s daughter’s 13th birthday. We had an amazing dinner (fixed by moi, so I shall add “If I dare say so myself”) of cocktail shrimp as an apéritif, duck (magret de canard), roasted potatoes, steamed asparagus, and birthday cake for dessert.
Girl Child had requested chocolate cake for her birthday, so I made this one from scratch. It was a basic white cake recipe to which I added Dutch processed cocoa and made a chocolate frosting. Since it had gluten I did not try it, but I have it on the gluten-eaters’ word that it was tasty (I did try the frosting and it was appropriately chocolatey). The little roses are cake decorations sold in Monoprix in the baking aisle along with the colored sprinkles. Girl Child seemed very pleased.
My fMIL is eating gluten-free now! She was having some health issues that have *completely cleared* (and fast!) by giving up gluten. I cannot tell you how nice it was to have a fellow intolerant person in the house during the week she was here. It was so comforting to have more than one person eating this way in our home. Paul has said that I am welcome to feed everyone in the house gluten-free, but honestly, I choose not to at this point for a couple of reasons. First, it is much more expensive and time-consuming to do so (I find gluten-free breads in Paris to be about four or five times the price of their gluten counterparts, and making one’s own is complicated), and it is more difficult for me to find gluten-free filling foods that will satisfy everyone on a budget. I know that there are gluten-free mommy-types out there that make nutritious, inexpensive, filling, and tasty gluten-free fare for their families out there, I’m just not “there” in coordinating it, yet. In addition, I have had more than just the gluten intolerance working against me, so it has not been practical to really switch everyone over to the things I have had to eat (or, more accurately, not eat). Anyway, like I said, I might eventually get there, but for now it is enough to make their meals and my meals, and occasionally coordinate a meal all of us can enjoy together. I did find with Paul’s mom’s stay that I tried some more variety of gluten-free foods while she was here. I reacted to some things I tried to eat again (tomatoes! Onions! Argh!) but did okay with some others (potatoes? The belly, body, and brain jury is still out on whether potatoes are having ill effects). We’ll see how it goes.
Girl Child’s birthday was a good excuse to cook an entirely gluten-free cake, which fMIL and I both nibbled on over the next few (okay, maybe just a couple, lol. It was very good) days. I found this fantastic chestnut flour (farine de châtaigne) cake recipe on the BBC Good Food site. It’s in British measurements, so it includes both metric weights as well as things like teaspoons. This suits me fine as I use both forms of measurements when I bake. You can find an online converter here (and I just noticed the BBC Good Food site has a converter as well), but I have to say I am enjoying using a scale and working with metric measurements for baking. It is actually easier and more exact for baking, I think. A good digital kitchen scale will have both U.S/British and metric units, by the way. Heck, there’s this one at Wal-Mart.com for under 20 bucks! You can open a whole new door on gluten-free baking with a scale. Try it!
Here’s the cake:
So, my cake does not look as sexy (food stylist I do not aspire to be, obviously) as the one in the photo at the recipe link here: Lemon, crème fraîche and chestnut cake, but it tasted gooooood. Yum. It is a recipe from Mary Cadogan, whose site is here: marycadogan.com. Mary moved to France from Ireland (or maybe the UK — she is Irish, but it read like she may have lived in the UK) a few years ago. While clicking on links around and about the Good Food and Mary’s sites, somehow I came upon this site as well: La Tartine Gourmand. The site has an entire section of gluten-free recipes. I know I am committing a writing error by throwing in this sort-of off topic sentence in this paragraph, but it was an open tab right next to the one I had opened for Mary’s site, and I wanted to add it in here in case anyone is interested. There are some tasty-sounding gluten-free recipes there!
What can I say: My blog is often like a messy notebook with Post-It Notes stuck all over it. Welcome to my brain.
(Oh, check the photos out here! That’s me. I guess I just have right-brain leanings. )
Back to the cake: this cake is not only good as a dessert, but it would be perfect for a Coffee Klatch with the girlfriends.
In fact, this past Saturday, I made this same recipe, but divided the batter up into 12 cupcakes, baked them for about 25 minutes, and brought them to a luncheon with Tess and Natalie (they are the friends I went with to the reading of Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris at WH Smith).
Check it out. Those are a half-dozen of the muffins in the Ziplock baggie next to the box of these sexy mofos:
Who could compete with these lovelies, eh? God I love/hate Paris. These are treats from Degranges Boulangerie/Pâtisserie in the 16th (I’m sort of guessing at this. Natalie picked them up on her way to Tess’, and a quick Google search yields this address in Paris not far from Tess’ place. Yes, that site is in Japanese. Yes, it’s the bakery on rue de Passy around where Natalie said she got them, and 2+2 adds up to 4, even though I don’t read Japanese. It looks like this is the store website. OMG, *this* makes me want to be able to eat gluten again).
I did not give a rat’s behind if these babies had gluten in them or not, I was *trying* some.
There is a small section of the humble muffin up at the top of the plate (and also a corner of an entire one still in the plastic bag) next to the fudgy-chocolate-to-die-for whatever-it-was up there (the one with the pistachio, almond, hazelnut and coconut on top). TOTALLY worth a little tummy swelling and achiness later, totally. Those goodies were pretty foodgasmic, lemme tell ya.
I have to say, though, I really feel like those muffins as an American woman living in Paris among Parisiennes. The muffins are delicious in their own right, but they sure cannot hold a candle to the good looks of those sweet little dressed-up beauties. *sigh*
But mine are organic. Substance over style is what I say.
How the fMIL helped to de-Ghettofy things in our apartment…
Future MIL likes to go shopping, or as she puts it, likes to “go buying.” This is a nice thing. We all got spoiled while she was here, with new clothes for the kids, treats she brought from the States (a couple new Maybelline Great Lash mascaras for me that did not cost an arm and a leg! Yay!), and a little bit of not-so-extreme-but-more-than-adequate home makeover items.
One of the many things she got for Paul’s and my place were some new plants:
There’s a ficus on the left, and a bamboo stalk and philodendron on the right. “Ficus” is pronounced “fee-koos” in French, which Paul says sounds like something vaguely sexual to him. “Let me take a look at your fee-koos.” Kind of like how I think about the word “kumquat.” Giggle-worthy words, don’t you think?
Then she also got some new window boxes and planted hot pink geraniums in them:
We got new boxes because one of the boxes we had before now contains our Ghetto Garden:
The Ghetto Garden is keeping in theme with our Ghetto Lifestyle in Paris (see posts here and here). This is the Ghetto Garden this past March, when it was in the early stages.
One day last year, I saw a sprouted garlic clove in with the other garlic cloves. I decided to stick it in one of our then-empty window planters. Then on another day a few weeks later, I found a sprouted onion in the onion bag. Finally, there was a tiny sprout in a shallot that I saved until I was prepared to plant them in with the garlic.
In they went, next to the garlic, which had been growing for a little while by that time, in cold and snow, no less!
The garlic during the first snow on December 17, 2009.
The garlic a couple of weeks after that snow.
That garlic clove is quite a survivor, eh? So keeping in with the ghetto theme, methinks. 😉
Well, then the fMIL and I saw potted herbs for sale at the local Mr. Bricolage (“bricolage” has no exact one-to-one translation into English, but it is a noun generally meaning “home improvement/DIY”). Mr. Bricolage is pretty much the same as good old Ace Hardware in the States. You can buy lumber, fixtures, nails, tools, paint, kitchen and bath items at Mr. Bricolage — there is even candy at the checkout just like at Ace. Mr. Bricolage is on rue de Meaux just near our home:
It’s just there on the right in the above photo. The photo below shows the interesting building in which it is housed. It’s very Art Deco-looking.
Here’s another view of the building.
Anyway, we saw all these pots of herbs and fMIL bought six to put in the other extra planter we now had:
We have, from left to right: thym citron, verveine citronelle, menthe verte, estragon, romarin, and ciboulette. In English, those are lemon thyme, lemon verbena, mint, tarragon (I always think of “estrogen” when I see it in French, though, haha, like I need more of THAT), rosemary, and chives. Some parsley and sage, and I would have a regular folk festival going on in the planter. The lemon thyme and chives are taking off like crazy, and I expect the mint to do the same. I’m a little worried, actually, that some of the herbs are going to oust out the others, so I may have to consider repotting some of these. Either that, or we’ll play Survival of the Fittest and see which ones make it and which don’t. We could start a betting pool or something, ha! I’m a little worried for the tarragon, but it would be fun to root for it as the underdog (earworm alert!).
I’m almost finished…
Per usual, I am just going for broke on a post and want to add in a couple of more things. One is to add that the fMIL, Paul’s Expresso, the Girl Child and I had a lovely meeting together during the week fMIL was here at a restaurant and juice bar chain here in Paris. Expresso has Celiac Disease and eats gluten and dairy-free, too. (We have a running joke that knowing Paul causes it. My best friend, Janet, also an ex-girlfriend of Paul’s and how I met him, has gluten intolerance as well.) The fruit and juice bar serves gluten and dairy-free foods and drinks, so I thought I would post about it here to alert travelers and city dwellers about another g-free option for food and snacks.
It’s called Le Paradis du Fruit (just like David Lebovitz cautions on his posts re: linking French websites, there is MUSIC and some sound effects on this site. Turn your speakers down if you visit) and there are several in the Paris area (seven on the Right Bank and two on the Left as well as others in the Île de France region). We went to the one on Wagram. Le Paradis du Fruit serves fresh-pressed juices, fruit desserts, salads, fish and chicken dishes, ice cream, sorbet, and more. Prices for meals are generally under 15 euros, and at a glance, there appear to be gluten-free meal options. Like anywhere, if you have true cross-contamination issues and suffer from even the smallest amounts of ingested gluten, you may not want to have an entire meal here, but the fruit juices and smoothies would likely not be a problem. I had a carrot and pineapple juice and some apple and anise-flavored sorbet, which was lovely. Girl Child had this, the Île Paradis, a giant fruit salad with two scoops of ice cream:
She said it was awesome. So, while a gluten-free meal is not out of the question if you ask for bread items on the menu to be left off (many of the wait staff at the Wagram location spoke English and there was an English menu available, too), certainly a gluten-free fruit snack is available in the form of fruit, juices, teas and herbal infusions. It was a very refreshing place to meet and have conversation.
What I appreciated the most is that there we were: one ex-wife, one mom-in-law, a daughter/granddaughter, and fiancée all there, comfortable and enjoying one another’s company. Not a typical thing, I expect. But then again, we four are all clearly exceptional and loving women, all there for the shared love of one little girl growing up and celebrating becoming a teenager. I think that was the most lovely thing about the afternoon. Thanks to V, the Expresso, for introducing me (and now you) to Le Paradis du Fruit.
So there you go…
That’s more or less what I have been up to in the past couple of weeks since I posted last. I appreciate your reading all the way to the end here! I hope you are all well, and for those of you that have blogs I usually read, I’m ON IT, just as soon as I can hit “post.”
Over and out;
(an alien parisienne)
I made it! I made it! Although I sat here one Saturday and flipped through all you photos on Flickr, I enjoyed reading the stories along with them here. (But thanks for the follow-up comments on Flickr!)
I love geraniums! Those hot pink ones look stunning, and I like how they hang over the railing. I’m also a fan of the Japanese yummy stuff. I would have broken any rule to have a taste of that!
Your chocolate cake looks delish. Way to go, Karin!