Nice Knockers: Dome Nature
Adventures in cancer treatments, plastic surgery, French architecture, painting, inexplicable French policies, and cheese.
Let Them Eat Cake: Coeur de Marie
Marie Antoinette, a mistake, cuteness overload, and the Treat-y of Versailles
Then, Now, Wow!: Reblochon de Savoie
How much has Paris changed in 100 years? Both less, and more, than you'd expect.
Un-continent: Rodat de Brebis
You may consider me -- or yourself -- North American. But the French would disagree
Jan 31, 2015
Jan 29, 2015
You may have heard about Fox so-called "news'" so-called "no-go" zones in Paris. I say "so-called" twice because, really, they're both bogus. If there are any zones that are best avoided in Paris, it's the various red-light districts that tend to be on the outer circle -- just where I wander the other day to get Pippa to an audition. The neighborhood, not far from Sacré Coeur is, um, how shall I put it?...different.
Jan 27, 2015
Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks, we here in Paris are living in a state of heightened anxiety, alertness, and security measures. There's an official name for it: status Vigipirate. I could tell you it means the equivalent of code orange, but really I just think of it as Vigilant Pirate. We all must be vigilant pirates. Like these guys on a boat in the Seine.
Har matey, this vigilant pirate will protect us all.
Jan 25, 2015
There are French people I've been friends with for almost four years now, and I still don't know what they do for a living. Are they hiding something? Covert spies? Drug dealers? Book shop owners? Or, perhaps, they're just French. So they don't define themselves, their personalities, their friends, or their lives by their jobs. The feeling is, when you're not at work, why talk about it?
Jan 23, 2015
Jan 21, 2015
My friend Nancy is an American who's lived her nearly all of her adult life in France and has been married to a Frenchman for over 20 years. Yet she laughs and rolls her eyes when talking about the French and their fear of "the courants d'air [air currents, or breezes]. They're all so afraid of the dreaded courant d'air. They're so convinced you catch a cold from a courant d'air, they won't even sleep with windows open. In the summer."
Jan 19, 2015
We are talking to friends, recently moved over from the United States to Paris, about a girl on the gymnastics team. But which one? You know, the one in the blue leotard (that's all of them), with the ponytail (all of them), the tall one (relatively speaking, at least, that's half of them), the one who's good on beam (half of them).... It's exhausting. Finally, I simply ask, "Do you mean the black girl?" It appears I've lost my American politically-correct filter.
Jan 17, 2015
After three days of early morning rising, staking out news kiosks, reservations, and waiting for hours on long lines in the dark and cold, I am finally the proud owner of two Charlie Hebdos, with the by-now famous cover -- one for me and one for a friend in the US. I had to buy them at two different kiosks, because most places would only sell one at a time, to try to accommodate the most people possible.
Jan 15, 2015
There are souvenirs you want to remember, and others you'd rather forget. And in case you didn't get the play on words, souvenir is the French word that means, "remember". The all-too-common apron-with-boobs is perhaps the most baffling of souvenirs to me. Who wants to remember their boobs in Paris? Who on Earth buys these tacky things? Well, evidently my daughter does. For me.
Jan 13, 2015
In my art class, I am trying to paint a scene that's particularly difficult for me, and I announce, in French, "I've met my Waterloo!" Surprisingly, this leads to a conversation not about the best way to tackle the painting, but about why on Earth an English speaker would refer to Waterloo as the point of defeat, when it was the place of Napoleon's defeat at the hands of the English (under the Duke of Wellington along with some Prussians).
Jan 11, 2015
Day 4: Saturday, Yesterday
Gigi and I are out shopping the "Soldes" of the season, the day after the hostage situation, day four of the entire sordid affair of the terrorist storming of the Charlie Hebdo office. Paris is still not quite business as usual, but try telling that to the hundreds of bargain shoppers crammed into each store. The stores open longer than usual because it's the first weekend of the Soldes, but the streets are quieter, and some cafés and restaurants are shuttered, unusually.
Jan 9, 2015
I receive an e-mail to sign up for Mealtrain for my friend, Sarah, undergoing chemo in San Francisco. It's a website that lets you schedule a day when you can bring a meal. This is, it turns out, an extremely American way to help out a friend, and I'm not talking about the internet part of it. I learn that bringing a meal to a friend or neighbor with a newborn baby, or during an illness, or after a death is simply not a French thing, no matter how French the food.
Jan 7, 2015
DAY 1: You may have heard the news -- a terrorist shooting in the Marais at the offices of a satire magazine, Charlie Hebdo. While it's true we live in the Marais, we were nowhere near the scene of the crime, so don't worry about us. But not everybody was so lucky. Anthony's boss lives right in that area, and his daughter's school is just buildings away, so he rushed home to be with his family.
Gigi's school is in the neighborhood, and the elementary and middle school kids get out around 12:10, just after the attacks. Amazingly, they let the children leave as normal, many of them walking home alone -- some of Gigi's friends live right next to Place des Vosges -- with no special warnings, advice, chaperones. Somehow, I feel like this would be handled differently in the US, but I'm not actually upset by it. It just seems odd to me, that they let them all walk home, especially considering the perpetrators were still at large; however, to give them credit, the children get out of school at 12:10, and since the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office was just at noon, it's entirely possible the school didn't yet realize it was sending children to walk home through a danger zone. Luckily, the incident was over by the time the children would have walked through the area, and the place was swarming with police; perhaps it was safer (though certainly more traumatic) than usual.
I hear about the attack because I am out running errands with the girls in the 6th arrondissement after lunch and think of stopping at Gerard Mulot for a treat. I know I am nearby but have a stupid-phone and need to ask Anthony the specific address of the bakery. I then receive a series of texts from him:
1) 76 rue de seine. A few blocks past Odeon
2) I think it's closed today according to google
3) Yes, it is closed today. Just checked their site.
4) Their Marais branch is open today. 6 rue du Pas de la Mule 75003.
5) By Place des Vosges
6) But don't go there. There was a shooting right around there. 11 people dead. At noon today.
What?! That last one really sneaks up on me. Actually, the final number is 12 dead, two of whom are policemen, and 11 more seriously injured. The first evidence we see is walking home from the metro on our way home from gymnastics. We live right next to Hotel-Dieu, where the wounded are being treated, and the news reporters -- and, of course, police -- are swarming around it.
UPDATE, DAY 3: Out with Gigi at the Bastille, and we see a convoy of 16 police vehicles racing by with sirens blaring. In fact, the city has an almost constant hum of sirens.
The hostages have been taken, and now the texts I'm getting from Anthony are about how his building is in lock-down mode. This BBC map, modified by Anthony, will show you why:
The streets are just covered with machine-gun-toting, bulletproof-vest-wearing police and military. There's even the Protection Civile, which I understand to be akin to the National Guard. I've never even see these blue and orange uniforms or trucks before.
And everywhere, everywhere, the signs of solidarity.
Now it's dark -- Friday night at 11pm as I'm writing this. The weather is nice -- mild and dry. But I have never, ever heard the streets so quiet, especially not on a Friday night. All the neighborhood cafés are closed. In fact, it is so unbelievably still that I actually research to see if the city has instituted a curfew (appropriately called a "couvre-feu" or "fire-cover"). The gunmen have been killed; the remaining hostages -- those that weren't murdered -- have been freed. No curfew, but I think everybody is just hunkered down at home, breathing easier but still happy to be inside.
And I hope -- I hope! -- that this is the end of the updates for this post.
[Click here for Days 4 and 5...]
Jan 5, 2015
To know Pippa is to know that anything that could be said in five words can also be told as a half-hour story, complete with choreography, props, and the occasional burst of song. But mostly words. Words and more words. I would say she's a chatterbox, but I like the French expression much better: she's a moulin à paroles -- a "windmill of words", which implies not only volume but unnecessary volume.
Jan 3, 2015
Just hopped back to this side of the Channel from a New Year's week jaunt to England. Yes, there's culture and history, but one of the things we enjoy most in London after living in Paris is.....get ready for it......the food. No, I'm not being sarcastic. Yes, really. And no, we are not crazy. Not only is Paris not home to the best food on the planet (for instance, in most -- though not all -- ways, we prefer San Francisco's food), we don't even think it's the best food on one end of the Chunnel Eurostar.
Jan 1, 2015