Greetings, Readers. I hope you are all staying cool this summer. Or, if you are in the southern hemisphere, warm this winter. 🙂 Don’t want to forget my friends “down under” who are in the middle of the winter season.
Paris finally got HOT.
After a fairly cool and rainy 4th of July weekend, Paris has warmed up again to the pitch of about 35° C-ish through the rest of the week (and then some, as I am taking several days to write this post), which for those of you stuck in Fahrenheit mode is about 95°. Paris is a lot like the East Coast and Mid-West of the United States: muggy. Humid. There is no such thing as a “dry heat” in Paris. It’s sticky. They don’t use “heat indexes” here, so I have no idea how much warmer the humidity makes a city like Paris, but I do know this — Paris is not an air conditioned place. We don’t have it in our apartment, and it does not really exist in public or private buildings as a general rule. Grocery stores usually have it, I’m sure to keep the food from spoiling too fast. Movie theaters have it, most of the time. Sometimes it is not working as well as it could, and one sweats a little in the theaters. I know that the Métro system *has* to have some kind of ventilation system, and occasionally one can feel a slight shift of air when transversing the tunnels, but mostly the Métro is a system of sweat and stink, and the subway cars are sweltering, oppressive buckets of stewing humanity that leave a person feeling like a limp, fusty washrag that’s been left in the corner of the tub too long.
Yeah, like that. (Thank you, Thesaurus.com.)
It is not pleasant.
As I sit in my attractive cloister, writing away like the femme écrivain that I am (heh *SNORT*), I have to say I am not too uncomfortable. I have a fan aimed at my back, I keep a supply of ice going in the freezer, and homemade iced tea quenches my thirst. I keep a gallon Ziploc bag in the freezer. It holds two trays of ice. I empty the trays into the bag each morning, use the ice through the day, then once the two trays have frozen again in by afternoon, I empty them out once more, use those two trays in the evening, and then re-do the whole process the next day. I use a lot of ice for when one makes iced tea from scratch, the tea has to be both diluted and cooled down and ice is perfect for this. While the post I linked in up there notes how someone can make iced tea in bulk, I sometimes just make it by the glass, steeping a concentrate (2 teabags per 10 ounces/300 ml) in a mug and then pouring it over a glassful of ice.
I like my ice. But even with these cooling measures, Paris life is still very warm.
For more about what I have been up to, keep reading. Have that glass of rosé on ice, or iced tea ready to go. You know me (although if this is your first time reading, you may not. My posts generally average a healthy 3,000 words. But there are lots of pretty pictures. Love it or leave it, is what I say! With a smile… :)).
Opéra Garnier, 9èmè arrondissement, July 2, 2010
La Chasse aux Trésors
On a cloudy and wet Saturday morning, July 3, Paul, his daughter, and I ventured out of the apartment to participate in a Paris Treasure Hunt — La Chasse aux Trésors.
Paul has a short (!) and humorous account of our journey posted at his blog: Hidden Treasures — The Paris Treasure Hunt 2010, and Colleen of Colleen’s Paris posted “Before” and “After” blogs about the Treasure Hunt — the “After” post has a very helpful summary of what the game is actually like and how to play it.
It’s probably best shown rather than told.
Snippets of text, drawn in vegetable-based ink were found by gardeners underneath the [sic] Paris’ eldest tree. These secret routes seem to lead to a true miracle of nature: the eternal roses!
(From the treasure hunt instructions)
The Paris Treasure Hunt is a story, a puzzle of words creating a scavenger-hunt-like tale solved by a discerning mind and observant eye.
The story we were given said that in 1910, during the great flood of Paris, several plants of the species selaginella lepidophylla, aka Roses of Jericho, were washed away by the rising waters of the Seine. Our task as gamers was to follow the clues of the secret texts to find the missing plants.
Your journey starts in front of the town hall of the 19th district of Paris. Your first appointment is with the journalist, Jean Macé. Pay special attention as he lends you an ear. Now, cross over behind him, and enter into the third largest park in Paris. Once inside, remember Mac’s ear, and head in that direction.
(From the treasure hunt instructions)
The directions continued as such, and we went from place to place in the 19th. Here is a rough guide of the places we walked:
1 ) From the Buttes Chaumont Park we went to
2 ) Avenue Mathurin Moreau,
3 ) and into the Butte Bergeyre neighborhood.
4 ) We exited at the Allé Louise Labé, turned on rue Rébeval, and continued down
5 ) rue Jules Romains to the rue de Belleville.
6 ) We went along the rue de Belleville and up rue Rampal,
7 ) until we came to rue du Général Lasalle, on which we continued to walk to rue Rébeval.
8 ) At rue Rébeval we walked until we came to rue Pradier, then along avenue Simon Bolivar
9 ) until we joined rue de Belleville once again.
10 ) From there it was to the Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Belleville (where Paul recounts a snafu in the game)
11 ) and down rue Fessart until we received our final clue
12 ) on the rue de la Villette.
We got a little turned around until my Plan de Paris and Paul helped us get oriented back towards the Parc des Buttes Chaumont and 13 ) our final rendezvous with the Rose of Jericho.
At the double 3s you must look carefully for two little birds sitting on a branch… Avoid the sand dunes and continue on the end to this road… You will come across an eight with a flattened head. Or is it an upside-down fish? At the T-junction, you must look for a bit of an Irish atmosphere… Keep going until you pass the golden post box and meet up with the banker again.
(From the treasure hunt instructions)
Here, keep a look out for the junk, a Chinese sailing vessel that will change the course of your voyage… It might be normal to see the French flag above your head… Go against the wind that is blowing this ship onwards. This should take you to a region in the Middle East… Look for the slow-moving purple creature who is heading towards a rose to take a bite out of its head… Stand in front of the church and look at the sculptures above the main entrance doors… Continue as you pass the man dressed like a bee as you keep looking for this miracle of nature… Now, find a restaurant with a two-letter name.
(From the treasure hunt instructions)
The answers to the clues were not the only fun things to notice. I was able to go on a photographic treasure hunt of my own, looking for things that were fun and unusual along the way. If you would like to see all of the photos, I’ve posted them, in chronological order of the walk, in a set on Flickr here: Chasse aux Trésors.
All-in-all, this activity was a treasure trove of fun. I really want to do this again next year. Until that time, I have learned there is an entire book (in French) of these kinds of walks: Jeux de piste et énigmes à Paris — Les arrondissements. Might be a good way for me to learn some more French, eh?
Ethnic Diversity in the ‘Hood
Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Saturday, July 3
One of the things I like about the arrondissement (district) in which I live is its ethnic diversity. Lots of West Africans populate this area, and they have the most beautiful, colorful, decorative clothing I have ever seen. I’m not sure which ethnic origins this wedding party has, but they were gathered for photos in the park after our search for the Rose of Jericho.
French weddings are not the same as traditional weddings in the U.S. While not every wedding in the U.S. is a religious one, many of them are: Christian and Jewish weddings especially. In the States, pastors, rabbis, and other ordained persons are allowed to ratify the marriage certificates of marrying couples. Not so in France. In France, every couple getting married has to be wed by a government official in their local district’s town hall: the Mairie. Each district has one, and the town hall for the 19th is just across from the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. Especially on summer Saturdays, couple after couple are wed at the town hall and then pass over into the park to take their wedding photos. This generally starts in May and goes through September, peak wedding season, just as it is in the U.S.
I loved seeing the clothing this wedding party was wearing.
Other examples of dress diversity abound, and the Karin Cam attempts to catch unique ethnic dress when she can.
There’s a chica in the center of the photo wearing hot pink. If you take a look at the photo at its Flickr link, original size, then you can see a little better her groovilicious outfit.
I tried zooming in on her dress with the camera, yielding a blurry but more unobstructed shot of this great skirt and top combo.
I love being able to see this stuff just outside my window.
The Homeless Hippie Couple
Speaking of the view out my window, do you remember the hippie couple from the previous post?
Well, there was more drama and mystery with the couple a few days ago.
1. I noticed the couple on the plaza again, with their dog.
2. While I was taking photos of the couple, a young woman shook the homeless hippie chick awake.
3. Turns out the black puppy of the black and white puppy combo the homeless couple has with them got into the trash on the south-east corner of the plaza, and the young woman woke up the hippie chick to let her know what was happening.
4. Upset with the puppy, the homeless chick was, unfortunately, a little rough in disciplining him (5).
6. Strange thing was, she took the black puppy and walked him across the street, leaving homeless hippie dude alone with the white puppy. I’m not sure why she walked the black puppy across the street — maybe to tie him up there? — but she walked there and then she returned without the black dog (7).
8. Taking her place next to her homeless partner again, she was obviously yelling at him for something. Maybe for not keeping a closer eye on the dog? Bad thing about domestic arguments when you are homeless: there is no domestic depot in which to fight. It’s all out in the open, and can be noticed by old ladies who are passing by (9).
10 & 11. The older lady and the young, homeless hippie chick exchanged harsh words. I imagine it went something like this:
Old Lady: You need to get off the streets, and watch your pets more carefully, you trashy, homeless, hippie chick! And why are you creating such a ruckus with your boyfriend here? Get a home.
Hippie Chick: Shut up you f*cking bitch! You have no idea who I am and why I am here, so mind your own f*cking business, hag!
Or something like that. Based on the tone of voice and the odd word I could catch here and there from a distance and in another language, I don’t think I am that far off. Body language, pitch, rhythm, and tone of voice compensate a lot for not understanding the actual words that were said.
12-14. The couple lay on the plaza for a few moments longer, but then Homeless Hippie Dude decides to get up (15-16).
17. He retrieved an empty, used plastic liter bottle from the trash. He took the bottle and walked in the same direction as the hippie chick had when she walked the black puppy across the street (18-20).
Where did he go? Did he take the plastic bottle to the puppy? Did he give it to the puppy as an impromptu chew toy? Did he fill the bottle with water to give to the puppy? It all remains a mystery.
When I checked back a little later, the couple had left.
There is a fountain near our house, though, and two days later, I saw the homeless hippie chick sleeping on the steps up to the fountain, with the white little puppy tucked up under her chin, also asleep. It was about 6 pm on what had been a very warm day. She was wearing short denim shorts and a cropped top. She was visibly very dirty and very thin. Her blond hair was a little matted. She had a labret piercing — the one that is just under the lower lip — and, if I remember correctly, one in her nose, too. I passed by slowly enough to try to get a good look at her, but not slowly enough to be caught staring. She looked exhausted.
I still don’t know their situation. They don’t look like users, but then who knows. Maybe they are homeless because of horse. Maybe another DOC is involved. It makes me wonder at the top causes of homelessness in Paris, and why it is this couple chose our neighborhood as their non-house home.
More Neighborhood Mysteries
Right now, as I compose this post, I am using the title “Working Title” for the name of this post. Heh! As I am writing, though, I realize this is beginning to read like a Nancy Drew novel, what with the treasure hunt, and the mysterious couple in the plaza, and then this:
Look very closely. See the African colors there? I think this was an African heritage parade of some kind, but an hour of searching for information yielded no information. I know that it went on for over two hours, with lots of music — marching band style — and drumming. That’s Avenue Jean Jaurès, one of the main drags in our district, so to close it down is no small thing! If I had not been so pooped from the four hours of walking on the treasure hunt, I might have gone down to check it out. There was even a huge truck of people singing and making music. I mean like a semi-truck. The side of it was open and people were in it.
The close-up version is here.
And what would this post be without more photo collages, eh?!?
Karin and Karen Have a Canal-Side Picnic
It had been a little while since by yoga buddy, Karen, and I had gotten together, so we met a little over a week ago to do something that hip and young Parisians do: have a canal-side picnic at the Canal St. Martin in the 10th arrondissement.
We set up with a picnic cloth and some things to eat, and chatted while sipping some rose and lychee iced tea I had made and brought.
I brought some dates, carrot sticks, and “quick pickles.” (These are also called “refrigerator pickles” by some.)
Here’s the recipe for Quick Pickles, real quick:
This makes enough to almost fill a glass jar that used to have almond butter in it, and would be four very generous servings (or six smaller ones). The jar I use is about the same size as one that you might have from store-bought spaghetti sauce. More on the jar in a moment.
1 English-style cucumber (fewer seeds than a standard US one, and they are the kind that are like this one. Or the “Sandra” one on this site. You can use regular US style cukes — like the “Jazzer” or “Pontia” varities, also on this site — which I have done in the past)
1/2 tsp sea salt (about 1/2 to 3/4 of a coffee spoon, a cuillère à café). Adjust if using table salt (which has a different flavor than sea salt. Some say it is less “salty.” I use enough salt to lightly cover the cucumbers and to get the liquid to release from the cukes)
1/4 to 1/3 cup rice vinegar (about 80 ml)
1 TBS honey (one soup spoon-ish, cuillére à soupe)
1. Very thinly slice the cucumber. I use the mandoline slicer on my cheap cheese grater. My cheese grater looks just like this cheese grater slide. The thing in the middle is the mandoline slicer. It works perfectly for this. If you don’t have a mandoline slicer, consider peeling the cucumber as the skins will be very thick and not as nice to eat if you have to slice with a knife.
2. Salt the cucumber and let stand for 5 or so minutes to allow the salt to bring the juices out of the cukes.
3. Mix the honey and vinegar.
4. Put the salted cukes into a glass jar, or another container of your choosing, but one you can safely shake without the lid coming off.
5. Pour the honey and vinegar over the cucumber slices.
6. Close the jar and shake to distribute the honey and vinegar all over the cukes. The cucumber slices should be pretty much swimming in the vinegar mix and their own juices. If not, add one tablespoon/soup spoon at a time of vinegar until the cukes are almost covered with liquid.
7. These get better if they have a little time to soak in the ‘fridge, but I have also eaten them fairly straight away. One batch lasts about 3-4 days, refrigerated. I eat these instead of pickles in a jar these days. They are very refreshing in the summertime, and make a nice picnic dish.
Options: You can also use apple cider or white vinegar for these, but you may have to adjust for taste. Rice vinegar is very mild. You can also use table/cane sugar to taste, but since I am intolerant to cane sugar, I use honey, with which I seem to do better.
Karen brought some delicious grapes, some buckwheat crackers, some wonderful smoked fish, and some 100% pure cacao chocolate, no sugar added.
Wheeeee! That chocolate was POTENT. I love dark chocolate, but had never eaten 100% pure cacao chocolate before, and I imagine that it is better used for baking, just like baker’s chocolate. It’s some strong stuff! I felt like I had my daily allotment of antioxidants and then some from the two squares I tried (and with which I had to eat with some dates to add a little sweet). I’m glad I tried it. The texture and purity of the chocolate was really incredible, and really STRONG. Not recommended for the faint of heart. For sure.
One more photo for you about our time on the Canal. We were sitting just across from this space invader, which I later saw posted on the Unurth Street Art site here: Space Invader. I think it is a pretty new one in the city. Here’s my picture of it:
The Mystery School
After our picnic, we went walking to find Métro Jacques Bonsergent to get home. We’d walked from Métro Jaurès near my place, but we were too weary to walk all the way back, and Karen needed to hop on Line 7 to get home, too. On our way we saw some interesting stuff.
First was the art on this school building. I liked the door of the nursery school (“école maternelle”) and the sculpture/relief on the site of the building was interesting, too. Karen noted all the soccer balls trapped on the overhang above the school’s entrance. Amusing, no?
A little research later, and I learned this is the back side of the Collège Louise Michel. I can’t find evidence that it is still the nursery school, or maternelle, but around the corner at 11 rue Jean Poulmarch the internetz shows that the building is a part of the collège. But, I also found something called the “Foyer du Collège Louise Michel,” which is an after school club providing activities for children, at the same address. (By the way “collège” in French means “middle school.”) It is possible that this is no longer an operating school, but a center for extracurricular activities for the kids in this area.
The Mystery Bakery
Then we came upon this boulangerie with wonderful stuff in its windows — lovely tins, recipe books with interesting titles, like “Cuisine et Pâtisserie au Gaz” which basically means “Cooking With Gas” (heh heh. I know they mean gas ovens and stovetops, but the Beavis and Butthead part of my brain thinks it’s funny).
I saw this on the window, though, and it was a big clue:
The Gault & Millau award is very prestigious. But I laughed when I saw the following in the Wikipedia article, for it is a very “French” idea to have, even for schoolchildren, for whom a score of 15 out of 20 on a test is considered a very good, solid score (above average. It’s a “C” in the States, a 70%, considered a kind-of-squeaking-by score by most from that part of the world. But in French schools? It is a solid grade — more like a “B” with how people think about it):
Under its original authors and for many years after they left, Gault Millau never awarded a score of 20 points. They claimed that perfection was impossible to achieve. (Wikipedia)
Anyway, when I looked up the winner for the best baker in Paris in 2008, I came up with the very well-known (amongst those who know these kinds of things) Du Pain et Des Idées — Of Bread and Ideas.
Lots of Paris bloggy folks, including Prom King of Paris Blog High School, David Lebovitz, have posted about this bakery:
- David Lebovitz on Du Pain et Des Idées
- Eye Prefer Paris on Du Pain et Des Idées
- Croque Camille here and here on the boulangerie
- Barbra Austin’s post
- and Meg Zimbeck’s article on the bakery for Budget Travel.
Gives you an idea of what is going on at Du Pain et Des Idées. You’ll have to read it there as this gluten-free/dairy-free/grain-free/sugar-free chica sure ain’t partaking of any pain there any time soon. As painful as that is, it would be a literal world of pain for me if I did.
I liked the pretty windows, though.
I’m headed for a record post. I see I have over 3,800 words already. I have taken about a week to write this post — granted, there were breaks this past weekend while the kiddos were here, and we had Wednesday the 14th off for the Fête Nationale, aka “Bastille Day” as it is known in the U.S. I have trouble concentrating on writing when there are a lot of people around and unless I have relative silence and a large chunk of time, I can’t really focus on writing. What this all adds up to is that it has taken me forever to write about the things I did during the first couple of weeks of July, and I still have things about which to write. It’s like a constant backlog. I got really discouraged while composing this post, thinking things like “the things I am writing about feel so unimportant” or “oh my god/dess, this post is going to be too long and no one is going to want to read it.” My self-esteem plummets yet again when I think about how unlike other blogs this one is, and how I break so many rules with it (namely that rule that seems to be in place for most blogs which is that one should post pieces of about 500 words or less three times a week).
I feel like I FAIL at blog writing the way it is “supposed to be” and I get down about it. I get really frustrated with myself, and start to think “F*** It” and have thoughts about walking away from this altogether.
But here I am, finishing this post, mostly because I need to. It’s hanging over me, like some kind of piano out a window, ready to drop unless I get in there, pull the piano up, and get it moved into the apartment building. I still feel like my posts squish me sometimes, though.
But here. I did it, I wrote it. And I already have ideas for the next one, things I found out about, like why that damn tent was outside in our plaza a month or two ago. About how I finally made it to the Pont des Arts a week ago. About how I finally went to the Rosa Bonheur guingette in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. And about how Paul and I went to another Fireman’s Ball here in Paris on Wednesday night. I’m uploading the photos now. Maybe I will be better about focusing and just doing the writing, and not waiting two weeks before posting again. Maybe. I’ll keep trying, anyway. And I will also try not to get so discouraged about the things I am writing nor my behemoth posts, either.
Paul’s Mystery Post
I left what I think is the coolest clue ever to solving the mystery of where and what this building is, so hop over to his blog post about it, read the clue, and see if you can come up with the solution! You, too, can experience a little of a Paris Treasure Hunt.
Okay, hasta la pasta, babies. Thank you for reading (or at least for looking at the nice pictures and skimming, lol) and see you back sooner than later, I hope.
I am Your —