Paris Snow, December 2009

I missed out on Paris’ snow last year as I had to wait on an important package, and now this year I have Bébé Têtard to content with, so my snow photos come from the warmth and security of the apartment (sorry if you wanted to see the Eiffel Tower or Champs-Élysées in a snowy scene!)

paris in the snow, december 2009

If you roam around Paris and notice that there’s a lot of unaccounted for space between the Haussmann architecture, that’s because they’re usually filled with courtyards and apartments. These photos are an example of that mysterious inner void, and the architecture here bears no real resemblance to the fanciful façades on the street. The view from the kitchen is also quite different from that of the living room.

paris, december 2009

I’m not sure how much more snow is due, but it’s been coming down for at least a good couple of hours now. If you’re scheduled to arrive in Paris soon, wrap up warm!

French Hospitals, and City Rat Race Stress

I should retitle this the Paris blog of neglect, but free time is a commodity that often eludes me, much to my undoing; I found the true cost of this the other weekend when I had first-hand experience of a French hospital.

Christmas has always been a busy time for me (being self-employed), and places in a local Parisian crèche is all about who you know; something I always suspected, but had confirmed after hearing from a couple of locals. So as it stands, I’m a work-aholic, baby raising superdad (in hindsight I’m glad not to have a baby in a crèche) still adjusting to this alien city, culture and language. I thought I was doing quite alright, until I woke up the other Saturday having had a man cold the night before, feeling a little short on breath. Assuming I’d caught the bug I get most winters, I ignored it, took a shower and felt reasonably okay until I stepped out and found it hard to catch my breath. Mme. Grenouille was feeding Bébé Têtard in the bedroom. I declared ‘Mme. Grenouille, I think I’m going to pass out now’. She came through to the living room as I sat on the floor trying to get my composure and breathe. She asked if I wanted a doctor to come over, but I pooh-poohed this as I have an aversion to doctors, and decided to get up and sit on my chair. This only exasperated my breathing and within seconds I really couldn’t breathe, at all and from not wishing to bother a doctor I told her to call an ambulance at once as I collapsed on the floor wheezing and fighting for every breath. I tried to remain calm, but then my body started doing strange things as my wrists bent over double, fingers went rigid, pins and needles throughout and found I couldn’t move my body. At this point that internal voice that was saying ‘stay calm, stay calm’ was changing its tune to ‘this is it, your time is up!’. I think I added ten years to poor old Mme. Grenouille’s life. She actually called the pompiers (firemen) who are medically trained and can get you to hospital rather fast. They arrived in about 2 minutes which was impressive. I lay half naked (fortunately got some undies on before leaving the shower room) as three Paris fireman stood around me (under any other circumstances I think Mme. Grenouille would have been quite titillated by the experience!) They spoke in French and threw in a bit of English, and after I got my breathing calmed to some degree I had to keep working on being able to move my limbs and hands which I was concerned I’d damaged. Eventually they took me off to Boulogne hospital, Mme. Grenouille stayed with the baby until friends could look after him.

Contrary to what most people think, the French usually only speak high-school English if that, and of course there’s no reason they should speak English fullstop, but it did make life a little tricky in the hospital as I tried to explain what had happened. The male doctor laughed and said ‘you’re not Irish are you?’ pretended to look worried (the France vs Ireland match had just been played with the controversial hand-ball induced goal).The female doctor kept saying something about tetany which meant nothing to me (I thought maybe they were saying tetanus, but that didn’t sound quite right and didn’t make any sense to me either). By the time Mme. Grenouille arrived and I left hospital I still wasn’t quite sure what had happened, but they seemed to think it was tetany or spasmpohilie and that I had to keep calm and relaxed. When I googled it, it turns out all French physicians are aware of this condition, but it is not properly recognised outside of France. If you’re going to fall victim to tetany, it seems France is the place to be!

I popped to the doctor who conveniently lives in the building right next door in a grandiose old Parisian apartment with ultra-high ceilings and elaborate sculpted walls and ceilings. Despite a two hour wait, she was very good, but quite cold and direct and remarked ‘everybody suffers stress’ (I hadn’t tried in anyway to imply I was an exceptional case!) She did seem to think I have asthma though, so if that is true I’m a bit surprised to be diagnosed at 32. Still she was a darn sight better than any English doctor who had told me I just had a general bug, there was nothing they could do and I should just rest in bed for a week or two. It also explains my lingering coughs that used to last a month or two.

Bon bref… How to live a less stressful life. Well I’m working on it, but Bébé Têtard and work are things I can’t ignore. Paris isn’t a stress-free city either. Just yesterday I went to pick up the bed linen from the dry cleaners. On my last visit when I dropped off a sheet, the lady asked how many items there were – I didn’t quite catch her question the first time and asked if she could repeat herself, and she very abruptly raised her voice and repeated it quickly as though I’d caused her some great miscarriage of justice; there was a malevolent look of scorn to accompany it. Yesterday some poor quietly spoken 80 year old woman was there, but had misplaced her ticket. This same wretched employee went ballistic at her, literally yelling, telling her how she’d been sick for the past three days, how she did not have the time or inclination to search for her laundry which could be anywhere. I was gobsmacked at the lack of professional courtesy, and if I’d been more fluent I would have stepped to the old lady’s defence. Her colleagues had stopped working and were just watching her fly off the handle too, until one realised she was going to continue shouting and getting things off her chest for some time, and so attended to me.
Afterwards I went to the boulangerie opposite where I thought I had come across my first English xenophobe, given she smiled a lot to the French customers and always looked at me with contempt and never once with a smile. Luckily on this occasion she did actually smile and was polite, so I think it was just her Parisian mentality and nothing personal.

Well, best put my nose to the grindstone and bring my entry to a stop, in my usual abrupt manner. I will surely try and write something more interesting prior to Christmas.

Paris Baby and the Jardin du Ranelagh

 

The froggy/roast-bif made an appearance in early August, but not before Mum and Dad rode the ambulance out of Paris to St. Cloud hospital at 6:15am. I’ll not rabbit on too much about Bébé Têtard (tadpole) as the subject of other peoples’ babies is quite boring to all but the parents. You’ll have to forgive one indulgent post, and I may post another about the experience of having a baby in France at a later date, as I’m sure it will be of some interest to other expatriates (it was a very positive experience). I also ask lenience on any grammar or spelling as I’m not quite firing on all four cylinders; feel free to tear apart my earlier posts though!

paris baby

I guess life continues in more or less a similar vein, but a baby does cast a slightly different perspective to the city; mainly the ability to get around. A visit to Charles de Gaulle to see the pediatrician involved being crushed by the middle opening bus doors when the conductor allowed time for the pushchair, but not the father. The bus was already rather crammed when a second pushchair arrived, and then a third tried to board despite the driver playing the automated message to say, two pushchairs per bus (unless folded up), three times in a row. People might have been a little more understanding until they noticed an obese four year old, too heavy and old for the pushchair being stuffed full of crisps by the mother.

The metro is pretty filthy, so off limits to a newborn, therefore last weekend we invited friends over for lunch then took a stroll in the nearby park, Jardin du Ranelagh, which sits more or less nextdoor to Bois de Boulogne. I like this park as it has a few old fashioned features from the old Victorian styled swings that Mme. Grenouille used to play on as a child (no suggestion on my part that she’s THAT old!), there are pony rides and an ancient merry-go-round where children are given a wooden pole to catch hoops as they go round, and the Eiffel Tower pokes out in the background. Aesop’s Fable, ‘the fox and the crow’ is also brought to life with a rather enchanting sculpture.

jardin du ranelagh, paris baby

We took to the shade of a tree and enjoyed some fresh air and warmth from the summer sun. The trees are already reaching their autumn potential, the seasons seemingly out of kilter.

paris autumn colours, jardin du ranelagh, autumn, trees

I spied a couple of earwigs – an insect I haven’t seen for years – and I directed them towards our Parisian friend much to her horror, whilst explaining the name to her in English. Bébé Têtard spread out in our little circle sleeping soundly in the fresh air (earwig free I hasten to add). Whilst I may have missed out on a lot of the current summer, next year there will be a Bébé Têtard wanting to soak in sights and sounds.

When we split company and returned home, a very friendly middle-aged lady was in the courtyard outside the apartment and struck up a conversation mainly about babies and feeding. She even asked us what our names were (a very un-French thing to do) – she transpired to be actress Béatrice Romand, although neither of us were acquainted with her films. If there are any fans reading then you’ll be pleased to know she is charming in actual life. She’d just bought a small apartment to renovate and rent out.

jardin du ranelagh, aesops fable, fox and crow, fairytale, sculpture, paris

The Crow and The Fox

Master Crow sat on a tree,
Holding a cheese in his beak.
Master Fox was attracted by the odour,
And tried to attract him thus.
“Mister Crow, good day to you.
You are a handsome and good looking bird!
In truth, if your song is as beautiful as your plumage,
You are the Phoenix of this forest.”
Hearing these words the Crow felt great joy,
And to demonstrate his beautiful voice,
He opened his mouth wide and let drop his prey.
The Fox seized it and said: “My good Sir,
Know that every flatterer,
Lives at the expense of those who take him seriously:
This is a lesson that is worth a cheese no doubt.”

The Crow, embarrassed and confused,
Swore, though somewhat later, that he would never be
tricked thus again.

Le Corbeau et le Renard

Maître Corbeau, sur un arbre perché,
Tenait en son bec un fromage.
Maître Renard, par l’odeur alléché,
Lui tint à peu près ce langage :
“Hé ! bonjour, Monsieur du Corbeau.
Que vous êtes joli ! que vous me semblez beau !
Sans mentir, si votre ramage
Se rapporte à votre plumage,
Vous êtes le Phénix des hôtes de ces bois. “
A ces mots le Corbeau ne se sent pas de joie ;
Et pour montrer sa belle voix,
Il ouvre un large bec, laisse tomber sa proie.
Le Renard s’en saisit, et dit : “Mon bon Monsieur,
Apprenez que tout flatteur
Vit aux dépens de celui qui l’écoute :
Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage, sans doute. “
Le Corbeau, honteux et confus,
Jura, mais un peu tard, qu’on ne l’y prendrait plus.

Champs-Élysées and the Tour de France

Popped to the Champs-Élysées this morning to catch a film completely forgetting the Tour de France was finishing there. The road was closed up when I arrived, in preparation for the grand finale.

Champs-Élysées, champs elysees, tour de france, paris, last leg, final stint

When I turned around to grab a stereotype tourist shot of the Arc de Triumph (as if I didn’t already have enough of them), I managed to capture the creme de la creme of Paris tourists; I probably ended up with a better photo of him in mid-pose than his Mrs.

arc de triumph, tourist, champs elysees, tour de france

arc de triumph, tourist, champs elysees, tour de france

After the film Mme. Grenouille went to buy some new glasses from Grand Optical who say they can have them made and ready to pick up in an hour. Despite she is 8 months and 3 weeks pregnant, they left us hanging around the crowded Champs-Élysées for two hours, before calling and saying sorry, they didn’t have the lenses in stock to cut to size. By this time we were hot and fed up with the crowds which had expanded exponentially with each passing minute.

tour de france, paris, france

We left about an hour before the leader made his way up to the finish line. On my way home I stopped by the metro station La Muette as a few weeks ago I noticed they were renovating and had demolished the new walls to reveal the old signs and posters, many of which date back to the second world war. Unfortunately I’d left it a little late and the most interesting ones had been removed leaving a mixture of smaller morsels from the 1940’s to around the 1970’s.

Unfortunately I’ve had such little time to update my blog on a regular basis, and most likely within a week my life will be a big blur with the arrival of a little demi-froggie!!

Night of the Museums, Metro Pickpocketers and Madeiran Adventures

 

 

My posts have been so infrequent of late that I’m forced to come up with these ridiculous titles and then waffle on, skipping from topic to topic at tangents that would bamboozle even the greatest Mathematicians.

rodin, the thinker

Following a weekend of kitten-sitting (being woken up at 2am with a cat walking over my face with the same indifference as walking on a concrete pavement), I took advantage of Saturday’s free museum night (La nuit des musées). I hadn’t yet visited Rodin’s museum, and had Decartes’ aphorism floating around in my mind – I think therefore I am (Je pense, donc je suis), which is a little like saying ‘I breathe therefore I have a respiratory system’, except Descartes makes it sound a lot cooler. I also carried with me the childhood memory of the famous ‘Thinker’ statue. It’s actually the first one you notice as you enter the gardens, although the original statue is in fact only 70cm tall. As night crept in, they handed out free head torches to walk around the gardens. From the house you could watch dozens of lights move about like fireflies, lighting up sculptures with each random turn of the head. It wasn’t so practical to turn around and talk to your friend without dazzling them like a rabbit in the headlights, and when I returned home at 11pm lighting up Mme. Grenouille (who was in bed and had stayed at home) with my new headlight toy, I soon found myself in the bad books.

My shoelace situation (described in another random post) hasn’t improved. They were comedically long and forever dragging across the poo infested streets of Paris, so I went to Carrefour and bought a new pair… Not the smallest pair, but not the largest pair I could find either – 3,50 euros for some shoelaces (I do miss England for one or two things). Anyhow I’ve underestimated the size of my feet, and by the time I laced them up I can only just tie the daintiest of bows by using the tips of my fingers, so they now look even more ridiculous than before, but at least they can’t drag through any dog’s mess. With that said, two days ago I did notice, whilst in the metro, that a pigeon has plopped on one of them…

Yesterday I was coming back from the cinema (UGC have been showing films for 3 euros these past few days) on the metro and had to stand near the door. Near the adjacent door further along the carriage were a group of eight or nine year olds speaking in an Eastern bloc language (Albanian perhaps). I didn’t pay it too much mind, but did think it weird they were unattended. Unbeknown to me at the time, a lady tried to warn some Japanese tourists who stood next to them that they weren’t to be trusted. As the train stopped and the doors opened all I saw was a Japanese guy trying to force his way back onto the train as the doors started to close, and then the kids prying the door back open as they ran off. The guy’s lens cap was lying on the floor and they’d obviously tried to make off with his camera. I think he’d jumped out to retrieve it before getting back inside. There were some kindly souls asking the family if they were okay – they smiled and I think they were a little embarrassed to have the attention of the carriage upon them. This happened at the Trocadero stop near the Eiffel Tower. I frequently see tourists with valuable cameras carried without concern, and whilst this is the first time I’ve witnessed anything untoward first-hand, it’s not a very smart thing to do wherever you are in the world.

Now our froggy/roastbif hybrid is six months in development, we realised we weren’t going to get a summer holiday this year, so at the end of April we spent a week in Madeira whilst the mother-in-law looked after the apartment.

Madeira chaffinch
Feeding a Madeira Chaffinch

I hired a car and reckon I must have driven just about every road on the island; I certainly covered all the major ones following the coast and bisecting the island in several places. Imagine drinking a cold beer on a hot day with mountain and sea views for 1 euro, or eating fresh fish with plenty of side dishes for 8 euros, having an entire restaurant floor to yourself with panoramic sea views as far as the eye can see. It was really quite grim coming back to Paris when the holidays finished, and I required a little adjustment.

Madeira levada walk
The brave and noble explorer, charting unknown territory.

Madeira cow, paul de serra
Discovery of a never seen before Madeiran cow… Actually this one was quite aggressive and it took a while to get around it to follow the Levada. Six month pregnant Mme. Grenouille took some convincing that we weren’t going to be mauled to death.

Driving out of the tourist spots sometimes takes you to areas where you think you’ve stepped back a hundred years in time. With woman carrying large bags on their heads and old men cutting down sugarcane, or attending to banana plantations (actually it was largely the women attending to the crops), dressed in mucky rags. Many walk the long steep hills to get from place to place, and they stare intently at you. Even as we passed by, I’d watch in the rear view mirror and their heads would turn and their gaze would follow the vehicle until I’d driven out of sight. This also happened on occasion when we walked about places like Seixial, although occasionally Mme. Grenouille smiled and would greet them in Portuguese and then the deadly stare would break into a smile and a friendly wave or nod, so I guess it’s just a Portuguese thing.

Madeira lizard
One of the many sun lovin’ lizards. Although we have plenty of the critters in France, I never tire of them.

Madeira Boaventura
View from our terrace hotel in Boaventura.

Whilst taking a shower here I noticed through the translucency of my shower curtain that I was not alone. A LARGE orange centipede lurked on the other side! I hoped to hell it wasn’t going to move, but as the shower started it went on walkabouts all over the curtain and so I freaked out and ran into the bedroom (I’m truly pathetic where insects are involved, but I think big centipedes can bite!). As I stood on the rug next to the bed trying to get my heart rate back down, the bloody thing was on a rampage and having run (with it 100 writhing legs) out of the bathroom it was now on the same rug I was stood upon. A second before it ran across my foot I leapt onto the safety of the bed with my heart in my mouth and it was some time before I could resume that shower.

Madeira mist, trees
Driving up the road to Paul de Serra, I thought we were going to be stuck in this perpetual (though enchanting) mist, but after a long time we popped out of it and were all of a sudden on a dry, hot plateau, the highest on the island.

island of madeira

With the island being so far away from any mainland country (I think the closest is Morocco about 400 miles away), I joked about seeing another car without a P (Portuguese) registration plate. I’ll be damned if several days into the holiday I don’t see a British registration plate with a GB sticker!

Madeira island and ocean

Madeira paradise flower
Paradise flower, very typical to Madeira

Madeira beauty
Beautiful spot with cheap drinks and spectacular views.

Madeira view from Santana

Paris in Photos appears in Cheri the Movie

 

I finally got around to watching the film, Cheri on the Champs-Élysées last week. It was nice to see that the photograph I provided was used on the very opening scene, and I was actually quite surprised to find this website mentioned in the list of credits at the end. It’s down towards the end of the list, and mentions my company name followed by ‘Paris in Photos’ – I pinched Mme. Grenouille and pointed enthusiastically when I spotted it, and spent the next five minutes basking in my lowly ‘fame’.

Cheri the movie, Michelle Pfeiffer balcony, guimard, paris

I hadn’t realised they’d been filming on the road literally just behind where I live, otherwise I would have poked my head around the corner to watch. It is known as the Hôtel Mezzara (60, rue La Fontaine) designed by Hector Guimard one of the most prominent architects from the French Art Nouveau movement. In the film, they show a cobbled street where Cheri approaches the house, but that was filmed at a slightly different location as the actual street runs parallel to the building.

Guimard, 16th district Paris, Cheri the movie, Michelle Pfeiffer, paris

I believe some of the scenes from the background conservatory of the country estate might have been filmed at Serres d’Auteuil botanical garden which is about half an hour’s walk from Lea’s (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) lustrous home.

The attention to detail to the Belle Epoque era in Paris is wonderfully done (I suppose technically the Belle Epoque had finished by 1915; the film being set in the 1920’s), and Michelle Pfeiffer plays her part well. All in all the film itself was a little flat and really not my personal cup of tea, but I could see the appeal it may have to a certain audience.

Guimard, art deco door, 16eme Paris, Cheri the movie, Michelle Pfeiffer, paris

Printemps – Paris in the Spring

bercy paris library, sunset, printemps, spring

I feel like the larval butterfly emerging from its cacoon. On Sunday the windows of the apartment opened up and I could wear a t-shirt without fear of goosebumps. The sun found its way into the kitchen and as I feasted on wine, cheese, rice and vegetables with the sun nourishing my depleted levels of Vitamin D3. All seemed good in the world.

In the afternoon I went with Mme. Grenouille to meet her friend on the other side of Paris in the 12th district, next to Bercy park – a lot of big bands play here, including Metallica who are live in a fortnight’s time; I failed to obtain tickets though. 🙁

Put two French chatterboxes together and they’ll do more than just talk the hind legs off a donkey, the front legs soon disappear too. Asides from feeling like an odd sock it was a pleasant afternoon, and we managed to leave just as the sun was coming down. Unfortunately I had no tripod so just rested on whatever I could find, and had to rush as I was in company. This very modernist part of Paris was particularly interesting, although futurist architecture doesn’t usually float my boat. The library as shown above, encircling a small pine wood, is a huge construction, I’ve not seen anything quite like it before. There were even chopped up logs down below, giving it the appearence of a managed wood in a surreal location. I’ll reel off the photographs as unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of time. I need to construct a new wardrobe from a flatpack job that arrived this morning.

passerelle Simone de Beauvoir, footbridge, bercy, 12th, 13th, 12eme, 13eme

This interesting bridge is known as the Simone Beauvoir footbridge. I know this thanks to surfAnna who did a small article about it in February (Simone Beauvoir Bridge). Funnily enough she has my domain name but in French (paris-en-photos.fr) and posts far more regularly than I ever do, with interesting photos of architecture from all over the city.

paris sunset

bercy library, sunset

paris industry, smoke

bercy biblioteque, library, paris

Bercy university, reading, library, futurist, modern architecture

parisian sunset, printemps

simone beauvoir, paris

paris gloaming

Paris Neighbour Wars – doormat abuse

You could be mistaken for thinking people living in a nice corner of Paris might have the gift of civility about them. Now there might exist one or two antiquated kind and educated souls who understand the importance of manners, but they are a dying breed.

For almost the past decade Mme. Grenouille has put the washing machine on at 11pm so as to economise on costs. There is a lady on the ground floor partially deaf who we do not disturb and a young woman who has been renting upstairs for the past six months or so who has not complained about our washing times, I believe because the washing machine is on the opposite end of the apartment and is never very loud.
At 12:30am last night there was a BANG, BANG, BANG at the door. I would have slept through it if Mme. Grenouille hadn’t awoken me. In my state of slumber I said she’d probably imagined it and to go back to sleep, but she insisted on getting up to have a peek through the spyhole. Somebody was there on the other side! I think it freaked her out so she ignored it and snuck back to bed wondering if we had an intruder in the building. This morning the spyhole was covered up so I opened the door and pulled off a note that had been stuck there. It very impolitely demanded we not use the washing machine after 9pm (I think it should technically be 10pm), and that she would go to the owner of the apartment (it’s actually Mme. Grenouille’s apartment) or the police (who would really wouldn’t care less) – bearing in mind the washing machine had stopped itself by the time her blow-up had begun. When we opened the door again we hadn’t noticed that our outside doormat had been picked up and flung across the hallway and was halfway down the stairs; she must have thrown a hissy fit because we hadn’t responded to the banging on our door. If she had the courtesy to speak to us respectably at a sociable hour we would have apologised for unknowingly disturbing her (despite the fact she has woken us up on countless occasions) and changed our washing times.

Mme. Grenouille was quite annoyed by it this morning, but I told her not to react in anger because that’s how neighbour wars begin. Instead I wrote a note, included the original note from our door and stuck them (with La Poste prioritaire stickers as I ran out of sellotape) both to the main outside door so that any tenants in our building passing through the courtyard might read it. I was opting for the shame tactic so hopefully they can reflect on what is a wholly irrational way to behave.

Mme. Grenouille translated into French (just in case you thought I had girly handwriting!), but in English it reads.

“To Whom it concerns, Our mat was very traumatised last night, having been removed from its favourite spot and thrown without mercy down the stairs. We will refrain from washing after 9pm, but please do not take it out on the mat who is completely innocent in all matters.”

paris neighbour wars

Random Paris Musings

This is a catch up post. Mme. Grenouille is away in Switzerland and I thought it an opportune moment to update the Paris blog, although I cannot neglect my duty of renovating the kitchen units and door lest I face the infamous wrath of a Parisian unleashed.

Fur is back in fashion. You’ll always see an old lady or two wearing fur in Paris anyway, but now it’s everywhere you look. I peered through the window of a fur shop and these things don’t come cheap; it’s really just a showy flash of affluence for the older lady to try and gain one over her neighbour. I’ll stay clear of any ethical debate, suffice to say if this were London those coats would probably come with a designer streak of white paint from a semi-militant animal protestor and the shops would undoubtedly look a little worse for wear with an arty graffiti streak or air conditioned, brick through the window job.

the eiffel tower, paris

Last weekend I was walking around the top end of the district, and passed by Trocadéro and the Eiffel Tower. The irony is, now I live here I actually visit such places very infrequently and certainly less than when I came in my capacity as a tourist. I was very surprised by the number of visitors about, and maybe the rise of the dollar to the euro has prompted more Americans to pop over. There was a peaceful protest going on to say no dictatorship in Madagascar.

trocadero, eiffel tower, madagascar protest

trocadero, architecture
Building top close by to Trocadéro.

Wednesday gone, I went to Lidl to do a spot of grocery shopping. It was only recently we discovered there was a Lidl not a million miles from us so I have only been twice, and am wondering how I managed to miss this mini when I came down the road on my first visit. I also briefly caught the gloaming because when you’re surrounded by tall buildings almost everywhere you go, sometimes you have to look to the skies for signs of nature. I do miss being able to see a horizon.

mini car defying gravity, paris

sunset in paris

This is the Orève restaurant on 25 rue de la pompe, comprised of interesting mosaic walls and windows. Probably out of my price range for dining, but one of many interesting pieces of architecture within walking distance.

oreve restaurant, 16eme, Orève , 25 rue de la pompe

A couple of weeks ago we went to visit friends in the suburb of Bois-Colombes, which still has a lot of the Paris character (being very close to the city) and ironically they can probably get to the centre of Paris and places like Opera quicker than I can. To get to Bois-Colombes from inside Paris you have to go via the St. Lazare station which brings with it a real mix of character and people. Monet painted a few impressionist pieces of this place and I am always quite taken by this strange clock sculpture directly outside the entrance. It just needs a few droopy looking clocks to look Daliesque.

gare saint lazare, paris, monet, clock sculpture

I’m still keeping an eye on the dog poo issues (it’s hard not to if you want to keep clean footwear). A few people replied to that thread saying they had not experienced it in the same way. I may take a video camera and film one particular street very close to me that I take on my way to La Poste. It may just pass for the biggest turd infested street in Paris, and with no exaggeration there is something to avoid every one to two steps.
This also reminds me that I must do something about my excessively long shoelaces. I stood in Monoprix this week to buy some fruit juice and a well meaning Parisian pointed out how my laces were dragging over the floor and might trip me up. I thanked them for their warning but explained they were just extraordinary long laces and I was aware of my precarious situation in wearing them (I didn’t quite use those exact words, I think it was more like ‘Oui je sais, c’est trop long’ followed by a shrug that said, what can you do, because my French is still very much work in progress). He then seemed inquisitive as to where I was from and thought I was Dutch, so I told him I was English so then he spoke a few words of English but possibly in the heaviest French accent I have ever heard. I continued to reply in French otherwise I’m never going to improve. The next till became available and he went to that one whilst I got held up by the women trying to replace the receipt till roll. He turned and apologised for going before me, which wasn’t necessary because he couldn’t have known I would be held up, but I thought hold on a second, here’s a polite Parisian. Ordinarily people push into the queue and there’s misery and impatience all around from the people at the checkout to the customers twitching and writhing in disquietude. A small gesture of goodwill is a notable event. Anyway back to my rambling point – if your shoelaces are too long, and the streets are paved in merde, it is not a good combination, but it is the same as dragging a heavy trolley back from the supermarket and then wheeling it into your house. Suddenly washing your hands whenever you return to your apartment is no longer the realm of the OCD sufferer, but a necessity in hygiene.
If I can randomly hop whilst on this free topic association lark, Mme. Grenouille is carrying a froggy/roast-bif hybrid due late July/early August. I figured just in case moving to Paris, trying to make a living and learning the language wasn’t challenging enough, let’s see how easy it will be to raise a bilingual baby in the city. That isn’t really want I wanted to talk about, as the subject of other peoples’ babies is boring to anyone other than the expecting parents (and you’re probably thinking ‘excessively long shoe laces’ is a fascinating conversation?!) I wish to return to the lack of manners in city-dwelling folk, which I believe to be a true generalization of city’s worldwide, it just so happens Paris is the only city I’ve happened to live in. You would think, or at least hope, that if you saw a very obviously pregnant, tired looking woman on a train or bus, that a kind soul would give up their seat. Earlier in the month Mme. Grenouille saw an even heavier pregnant lady get on the bus on her return from work, and as nobody was prepared to get up for her, she gave her, her own spot – a pregnant lady giving up a seat for another pregnant lady. Nobody batted an eyelid. The behavior is typical and it is very infrequent indeed that a young and healthy individual will use their legs to stand for the old, the frail or expecting mother. Our mutual Italian friend in Paris was on the bus recently with a very pregnant friend and kindly asked two young girls if one of them would mind if she could sit down. Their response was simply ‘we have our problems too’.

When I think back to our holidays in Les Pyrénées last summer, the people are so open and friendly. Strangers in the supermarket would spark up a conversation; in the bank staff struck up a polite, ‘hello, where are you from?’ when I wasn’t even a customer being served. Locals would talk to you when you stepped outside despite knowing you were only a tourist. Such behavior in Paris is met with the deepest of suspicions – why are they talking to me? What’s their motivation – do they want money from me? Why are they wasting my precious time? I nearly ignored a person today in Passy until I did a double take and noticed they had a map and were simply looking for a particular metro stop. It’s sad, but it hardly comes as any revelation. I had expected the city mentality to be such as it is, and it is what it is, lump it or leave it.
With all this said, there are nice people living in Paris, but generally you have to know them to scrape through the hard icy exterior and that takes time.

Well I can’t stall kitchen renovations much longer now. We have a kitchen that is straight out of the 1960’s. It is not a modern retro styled kitchen, it’s the real deal and as such it’s looking a little tired. The kitchen units were custom built in the 1960’s to optimise as much space as possible as your typical Parisian kitchen is a little on the small side, ours being no exception. The cupboards start over five foot off the ground and go up about ten foot to the ceiling and we were led to believe they were made from high quality wood. After I peeled back the veneer it turned out whilst the frame was quality timber, the 12 doors were chipboard. My plans for painting them were severely compromised, but we bought some wood filler (enduit) and using my oil painting knives I have managed to create a smooth but firm surface for painting. If it’s not a complete DIY disaster I may post some photos later, but how long it will take me to saw off the rusted hinges from the other unit is anyone’s guess.

Just one more photo to share before I go. Mme. Grenouille’s office looks down on the Arc de Triomphe so if I meet her for lunch or in the evening I usually stand around waiting idly at the Charles de Gaulle roundabout. I’ve never actually been inside it and up to the top; I’m sure I’ll get around to it one day, but for now I generally watch the traffic amazed by the lack of collision and recalling my own attempts at driving here (I no longer own a car). I also remember coming to Paris when I was twelve years old, on a holiday with the school. None of us had noticed the underground passages to the centre, and so we crossed by foot in what can only be described as a insane game of frogger! If you’re into high-adrenaline dangerous sports and pursuits, I highly recommend it.

arc de triomphe, place charles de gaulle, paris

Gonna wind up a big ole pile a them bones – The Paris Catacombs

 

Beneath the feet of the living lies the empire of the dead; six million bodies filling the former Roman tunnels, seated beneath Paris, in desperation to stop the spread of disease. The official name given to this spectral realm is l’Ossuaire Municipal, and known to many simply as the catacombs.

cataphile, catacombs, paris

The transfer of bones from surrounding cemeteries took place between the middle of the 18th century until the middle of the 19th. Eventually the caverns and tunnels were replete with pile upon pile of neatly stacked tibias, femurs and skulls, lining the walls from floor to ceiling.

The legendary figure of Philibert Aspairt, a door keeper to the Val de Grâce hospital, descended into the catacombs in November of 1793. Eleven years later he was discovered in skeletal form in the rue de l’Abbé de l’Epée, gnawed by rats, clutching his keys only a short distance from safety, yet unable to have seen his way. The dangers of the catacombs exist today, which is why unofficial escort has been illegal since the 1950’s, however they are often frequented by cataphiles. The cataphiles have a particular affinity with Paris’ underworld and gain access by unconventional means. They have to contend with the hidden dangers of the unstable catacombs, and should their lights fail, may await the same fait as Philibert Aspairt. The police also partrol parts of the labyrinth imposing fines on anybody caught.

Paris catacombs, skulls, bones

Under my own district in the 16th arrondissement, cataphiles had gained access through a drain next to the Trocadero (nearby the Eiffel Tower), underneath the Palais de Chaillot. The group (claimed to be La Mexicaine de Perforation) set up an underground amphitheatre having installed electricity and phone lines. The story can be read here – In a secret Paris cavern, the real underground
cinema

Paris catacombs, tunnels, passageways, ossuary, skulls, bones

For members of Joe Public with no desire to squeeze their way into the tunnels by unceremonious means, there is an official tourists’ entrance. The details in English can be found here – The Paris Catacombs.
I paid a visit there in 2005 just a few months after my journey to the ‘Church of Bones’ in the Czech republic.

You have to go down a number of steps before you reach the tunnel, and follow the path for about a mile before you resurface. A lady in front of me brought her young child down to this unearthly dominion, struggling to get the pushchair down the steps, and then carting the young toddler through the darkness with looming skulls and bones leering out at him from all around. I don’t imagine the visit was for the benefit of the child.

Paris catacombs, tunnels, passageways, ossuary, skulls, bones, official entrance, tourist attraction

My prior visit to the Sedlec ossuary near Prague very much softened the effect of my catacomb visit, and as my thoughts often tend to our own mortality and short lived lives anyway, I don’t recall being philosophically challenged by my surroundings. I do however think it helped build upon my perspective of Paris not merely as a city above ground. Like the grandest of trees, Paris has deep cavernous roots.