Last hurrahs in Paris

Today we waved au revoir to Paris, but we do have some other” Paris adventures to catch you up on. We managed to squeeze out two more museums, a dead person bingo part 4 and dinner out. Plus, I finally had what I would consider a French meal, with my new friend Linn, who is Norwegian and Filipino.

Sunday, we had petit dejeuner (I just like saying that). Steven had un croissant avec café au lait and I had un café allongé avec des pain au chocolat because I had to. Next, on the recommendation of the lovely French couple we met last week, we went to the Hôtel de la Marine, which is not a hotel but did house the French Navy. The building has been restored to its former glory – if you think it’s glorious that Marie Antoinette’s death warrant was signed there. It is beautiful. There are also four different audio tours you can choose. We tried to choose two different ones, but both ended up with “Traveling through Time.” No complaints from either of us. We both enjoyed it (except for the fact that the maid was named Susan). Pictures below.

Next, we finally had crêpes. Yes! And they were delicious. We were in on the outskirts of Latin Quarter restaurant row. I suspect all the crêpe places would have been equally delicious, but ours wasn’t on a street mobbed with tourists. I had a veggie (surprise) and Steven had chicken, mushrooms, crème fraiche and cheese.

Finally, on to our last dead person bingo: the Pantheon. These very famous French people are lined up neatly in crypts along a hallway with alcoves housing several each. We didn’t even need a map to find anyone since their names are conveniently posted on the wall outside each alcove. So, we saw the real Alexandre Dumas, along with Marie and Pierre Curie, Voltaire, Emile Zola, Louis Braille, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Victor Hugo (my new hero since we kept bumping into his memory wherever we went).

We thought that was it for being tourists, but then we realized we hadn’t been to the Musée de la Contrafaçon (Museum of Counterfeits) just down the road from us, so on Monday we walked over there and learned all about how to spot a fake. Steven and I always have interesting conversations. This time we agreed that if you really think a “Game Child” is the same as a “Game Boy,” that’s on you.

Our real last Parisian day was Tuesday and I made the most of it. After working in the morning, I headed out to a lovely two-hour lunch with a woman I met in my class. It was the first time I ate in a French brasserie and ate French cuisine. I had melon gazpacho and a yummy salad with a glass of Chablis. Even better than the food was the conversation. Thanks, Linn! À bientôt. Then, Steven and I went out for our last night’s dinner and had Italian food. Can’t go wrong with pasta and limoncello sorbet!

A hearty thanks to Paul and Oona for letting us live the Parisian life for a month in their apartment.

And now … Clamecy.

Our last weekend in Paris

Thursday night we decided to go out to dinner. We were celebrating Sue’s brilliant (89%) score on her petit test – I have always known she is brilliant. (I hardly call a B+ brilliant, but considering that my French consisted of “je ne sais pas” and “pardon, no parle pas français,” I am proud. Also, I would highly recommend the Alliance Francaise if you have the need for French lessons.) We went to a Lebanese place around the corner called Al-Dar. It is always interesting to us the similarities and the differences when eating the same type of food in different countries. One thing we have both noticed in all the food we have been eating is that it is much more mild than the American versions (also, everything here has viande, mostly jambon). At Al-Dar, we saw many things that we knew from the U.S., but lots of things that we did not know. We both ordered some of each. The food was delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Friday night we went out for a drink at the Sir Winston Churchill pub, mostly we thought it was funny to go to a “real” English pub in Paris. It is about a ten minute walk and a block from the Arc de Triomphe. We had a great time, they had many varieties of gin & tonics, and all that we tried, we like. However, it isn’t a real English pub. To start with, they had no British beer! But we sat outside and watched Paris go by. There is something wonderful about just sitting, having a drink, talking and watching the evening unfold.

Notre-Dame

Today, Saturday, we decided to take it easy…At least that was our intention when we woke up. However, we don’t do lounging very well, so by 10 a.m., I was restless and we put on our walking shoes and headed out. Sue wanted to visit a mall near her school to see what the stores looked like away from the tourist crowd and we promised a friend of ours that we would go to Nespresso to buy metal stirrers that she had found here before, but could not find in the States. We hopped on the Metro, looked in the mall (it was pitiful and depressing – many closed stores and not much interesting stuff) and then looked for a Nespresso store. We found a store, but they didn’t have what we wanted and the very nice salesperon (who spoke English to us, despite Sue trying to explain coffee stirrer in French) suggested that we go to their flagship store near the Opera. We consulted Google and found that it was “only” about a 40-minute walk, and since we had nothing else to do, off we went.

When we arrived, after some fumbling attempts to explain what we wanted, we were directed to the lower level, only to find that they did not have them. Apparently they no longer sell them. Oh well. (I can’t decide whether the masks make communication difficult or it is simply that my French is TERRIBLE!)

Sue’s crepe

We exited the store and realized that it was only noon, so we still had lots of time. We decided to head to the Latin Quarter, just to look around. We took the Metro to Châtelet walked across Île de la Cité, gazed at Notre-Dame (the damage was not really visible from our point of view) and then into the Latin Quarter. By now it was lunchtime so we headed for a creperie called La Petite Bouclerie. We had a nice leisurely lunch, the food was great (and also our first French food) and relaxed. Once we were ready we headed out to wander the Latin Quarter.

The door to Restaurant Shu

Wander is exactly what we did. At each street corner we more or less randomly decided which way to go and just kept walking. Looking at the shops, finding little parks, and people watching. We found a Japanese restaurant called Restaurant Shu with a tiny door (for comparison, I am a towering 1.75m or 5’8″) on some random street. It was a grand time.

Along about 3 p.m. we decided that it was time to head on home. We had a quick look at the map, realized that it was “only” a 50-minute walk, so off we went.  4.5km later, we were home.

A long day of doing nothing but walking 10km. (I call it exploring and drinking in the sites and sounds of Paris.)

Tomorrow we are going to Hôtel de la Marine and the Pantheon.

Paris From On High

First I’d like to mention a personal achievement. You probably know that I have been “learning” French. Well. today I had a “mon petit test.” I was very nervous, which is unusual for me. The test didn’t really affect me in any way. I just hate failing! Soooo, it’s over now and I can say that I think I did fairly well! No, I still cannot speak very much French, but I have a start. Yay!

OK, so on to the events of the week so far. Sunday, we took in another view of the city, this time from the Terrace at Galeries Lafayette. It’s really a high-end department store that has an excellent marketing tool: A beautiful rooftop terrace. C’est gratuit (that means it is free), but you do have to walk through the trop cher merchandise to get there (oh by the way, I am afraid of heights, so I stayed as far from the edge as I could and spent the entire time looking down at my phone so didn’t losing my mind. Also, the barriers at the edge – are glass – EEEEEEEEEEEEK!).

We walked from there to 59, rue de Rivoli, which used to be a serious art’s squat when the area was downtrodden. Since then, the city bought it and rents spaces out to artists on the cheap. C’est gratuit aussi and if we weren’t “unhoused,” which I guess is the new PC term for homeless (we are not homeless…we are nomadic), we probably would have bought a few paintings (or at least one).

On the way between the two, we stumbled upon one of Paris’s covered passages, Galerie Vivienne. It reminded me a bit of some of Chicago’s underground walkways, but it was fun to walk around in because it was pretty much empty. Get ready for another photo montage (but there’s more text, so read on!). Yes, it was that kind of day. Everything was très, très, très photogenic.

So far we have managed not to eat any French food (besides pain au chocolat, des baguettes et fromage) and Sunday was no different. So what kind of food did we have, you ask? Belgian, of course! We went for the good beer at un resto nommé Au Trappiste. Good beer, good food and we met a very smart Danish guy (retired economics professor and now works for the OECD) for excellent conversation. Of course, he spoke excellent English.

I don’t know, maybe I am just a starry-eyed tourist. Maybe Paris was pleasantly empty (it’s starting to refill now that August is coming to a close). Maybe I just love it here, but everything has been wonderful and every time we go for a promenade, we come across a beautiful building or park, something unusual or another place we file away for our next visit. There are more photos, but I don’t want to overload your visual cortex right now. (Plus I may have a down week and need some random shots.)

Oh, BTW: we got fooled by the old bait-and-switch. The Alexandre Dumas we saw at Montmartre was not THE Alexandre Dumas. It was his son. So guess what? We’re off to the Panthéon for one more round of dead person bingo. FYI: Josephine Baker will be transferred from Monaco. As in the U.S., racial tensions are high and this is one attempt to lower the temperature. She will be the first black woman interred there.

Dead Person Bingo, Pt. 3

Another weekend, another time to go all Sixth Sense and play one more game of Dead Person Bingo, this time at Montmatre Cemetary. I must admit, that I am a little worried that people who don’t know us think we have a whole death thing going. But I can assure you we don’t, the Paris cemeteries are peaceful, beautiful and right in the middle of the city and so they are oases of calm in the middle of the city madness. Sue finds tons of interesting things to photograph and at some level it reminds us that we are only here so long, so we need to enjoy ourselves.

Friday night, we decided to try a Vietnamese restaurant called Dong Phat. It was about a 25-minute walk, but it was a beautiful evening so we strolled over there. We sat outside and had a really nice meal. Outdoor dining in Paris is so nice. Towards the end of dinner, we started talking to a couple at the next table. They spoke a reasaonable amount of English and were very patient with us as we tried speak in French. They were so kind and we talked for an hour or so. So kind, in fact, that they emailed us this morning to say they were happy to help with anything. BTW, Steven says he is not great at social stuff, but he is the one who started the conversation. It reminded me that I keep meaning to mention a book that I read called “Rudy’s Rules for Travel: Life Lessons from Around the Globe” by Mary K. Jensen. It is a great little book about traveling and life. I highly recommend it.

On Saturday morning, we decided to walk from our apartment to Sacré-Cœur, about 5.5km,  and stop a few places along the way. We walked up Rue Victor Hugo, passed the Arc De Triomphe and along Avenue Hoche, which led us right into Parc Monceau. One of our friends from Chicago recommend the parc by telling us that it has the “most beautiful public bathrooms in the world.” What she meant was that the bathrooms were housed in a really great building, but we will get to that. The park itself is fabulous; it isn’t very large, but holds lots of interesting features, including a somewhat odd installation related to the smurfs. The bathrooms are housed in a Pantheon-style domed building, which is very nice to look at, but the bathrooms themselves were awful. Just an FYI.

Once we exited the park ,we just wandering in the general direction of Montmatre. One of the things I love about walking the streets of Paris is that so many of the boulevards have a walking path/mini-park in the middle of them. It makes strolling them so pleasant and at some point we got to walk through a farmer’s market, which was fairly large even though it is August.

As mentioned at the start of the post, we went to Montmatre Cemetery. One of the interesting things about it, is that Rue Caulaincourt runs right over the cemetery, so some of the crypts are right under the road and reach right up into the girders.  We once again played dead person bingo, finding Alexandre Dumas, Émile Zola, Léon Foucault, François Truffaut, Jeanne Moreau, Vaslav Nijinsky and despite some resistance,  André-Marie Ampère – sorry couldn’t pass up that joke.

We continued our walk up to Sacré-Cœur, the highest point in Paris at the not-very-high 122m. It is mostly a very gentle uphill, but near the end it gets a bit steep. We found this installation, which, according to Atlas Obscura, is a reference to the book “Le Passe-Muraille”. The area around the basilica is tourist central and we fought through the August crowds and headed for the overlooks so that Sue could get some photos. Once she had her fill, we headed down the steps and away from the crowds.

We were getting hungry, so after about 15 minutes we looked at Google maps and found an interesting looking Japanese bento box place. We picked up a couple of meals and sat outside and enjoyed the delicious food. Once we were refreshed, we headed home. We figured we walked about 12-13km (7-8 miles).

We had a quiet dinner of salad, cheese and a fresh baguette and once the sun went down at about 9:30 we went for an evening stroll. We had no particular plan for the walk but at some point turned left and had this view. (Boy, it really stinks being in Paris!):

I am not sure what the white dot on the left is…could it be Aliens? 😉

Oo la la! l’espagnol est facile, le français est difficile or

… how I sort of had a conversation with my French teacher + the day’s adventure

Another week down. Oo la la! I think the subtitle of the Paris portion of the trip has to be “a baguette and a bottle of wine a day make for happy temporary Parisians.” We are in this weird hybrid world. We don’t really live here, but we’re not really tourists (although, as you will see, we did another touristy thing today). Definitely not complaining at all, just musing on the temporary life. So far, it’s pretty great being homeless (or nomadic if you prefer). Anyway, I think, like New York, Paris is a city one could live in for a lifetime and still find surprises to revel in. Of course, Paris would be better if I could … speak French!

Gratuitous pic of Paris, because.

With only 7 classes left in le cours de français, I have moments where I think, “Hey I don’t totally suck at this” and others where I think, “Now I know how my special ed kids feel!” That brings me to the title of this post. My teacher, Laurance, and I had a “conversion” in which I sort of in French said that I always imagined learning Spanish, not French, to which she offered the encouraging words: “L’espagnol est facile, le français est difficile.” Yeah, no kidding! I did stumble through a short conversation with her and that gave me hope that if I keep going, I may not sound like a total idiot some day.

The good news is I am definitely beginning to hear actual words within the lovely French sounds. Yesterday I watched episode two of “Dix Pour Cent” which translates to 10 percent, but is called “Call My Agent” in the States. While I pretty much had NO IDEA what was going on, at least I could tell they were saying words. Progress!

By this time next week, I will have taken a “petit test” that will be “très facil” according to Laurence, our excellent teacher. Of course, it also lasts one and a half hours. OK.

Today the whole class went out to lunch at le Jardin du Luxembourg (while her darling husband was at home slaving over a hot computer and watching just a couple episodes of “Better Call Saul” on Netflix), which is pretty much around the corner from the Alliance. I am so lucky (in so many ways), one of them is that the class really gelled and we all get along really well. I hope we will keep in touch and meet in other fabulous spots somewhere in the world.

After lunch, Steven and I headed over to the Catacombs. If you get lucky and get up early, you can get same-day tickets for half price. Regular price is 30€, which didn’t seem worth it to us.

We were right. It’s definitely worth going to once in your life, but it’s much better at 14€. The amount of bones piled up can really get you thinking if you’re in a melancholic mood (Interestingly, the bones were all moved from other cemeteries during the 18th and 19th centuries. The bones are from the 14th-18th centuries) . In general, it’s overwhelming but interesting and takes about an hour to walk through. The website says to dress warmly because it’s cold down those 131 steps into the former quarry so I wore a sweatshirt and brought a jacket. I ended up rolling up my sleeves. If I’m not cold, you won’t be! Maybe you’re thinking, well, it’s August. True. But it was 20 degrees (68 degrees F) today. So you probably don’t need to bundle up.

The antichrist?

Steven thinks the apology at right, which was written on the bathroom wall at the catacombs, was penned by a French person about Emmanuel Macron. I mean, our dental hygienist (in Maryland) did explain to me that he was the antichrist. Something about Emmanuel meaning G-d is with us but Macron meaning he who values power over love. To be honest, I mostly stopped listening after the word antichrist, but I think that was the gist. I say it’s an American apology that’s been there since the president who shall remain nameless. What do you think?

Dead Person Bingo – Part 2

It is 8 p.m. and we just walked in after a long, fun day of wandering.  It is still very light outside and if we had the stamina, we could be out wandering for a few more hours before it gets dark. But we are old, so we ran out of gas.

We were going to keep a promise to our uncle and pick up a little book for my aunt. The book is entitled “Vendredi ou la vie sauvage” which roughly translates to “Friday or the wild life” and is available at a bookstore called “Librairie philosophie VRIN” which is near the Luxembourg Gardens. The second part of our day was going to be visiting a neighborhood called Canal St. Martin. It is supposed to be a cool neighborhood set around the Canal St. Martin (hence the name) with nice cafes and shops. It seemed like an ideal place to wander.

We had coffee and breakfast of pain au chocolat from our neighborhood boulangerie. It is called A-la-Petite-Marquise and we go there almost every day for our baguette and every once in a while, a fabulous desert or two. Today was our first time trying the pain au chocolat and we were not disappointed.

With our bellies happy (perhaps – our tongues happy and our bellies full) we hit the Metro and headed for the Luxembourg Gardens. We had a nice wander in the park for an hour or so and then went to the bookstore. Despite their website saying they were open, we were disappointed to find that they were not. Sorry Aunt Marcella, but we promise we will head back next week – when the sign on the door says that they will be open – and pick it up. We headed back through the park for a late addition to our schedule, the Montparnasse Cemetery to honor my no doubt now disappointed aunt by visiting the grave of Jean-Paul Satre. We left the gardens and walked right into another park called the Garden of the Great Explorers, which was dedicated to Marco Polo. It is a cute little park that had a great fountain in it. We navigated to the cemetery, where they have quite kindly buried Satre and Simone De Beauvoir right near the entrance to help idiots like us find them easily. We play a bit more dead people bingo by finding Susan Sontag and Charles Beaudelaire and then were done with finding dead people (at least for today).

We headed out of the cemetery and worked our way back up to the Luxembourg Gardens to find our spot for lunch. If you remember in our previous post we discussed the falafel from L’as du Fallafel. Well, one of our trusty readers (@ banjaloupe) sent us a comment about an odd French fast food called tacos. No, they are not Mexican-style handhelds; these are an altogether French-type of hot sandwich. He referenced an article in the New Yorker which we read and instantly recognized a takeout place called O’Tacos that we had seen in our wanderings. We found another one right near the Luxembourg Gardens and were determined to get lunch there. It was well worth the walk! Any place that puts French fries inside the sandwich gets an A+ from us. With a little help from a very patient cashier we managed to place our order and sat outside and enjoyed ourselves to no end. Thank you @Banjaloupe. Your suggestion was absolutely delicious and no doubt was really bad for us.

We wandered back into the gardens to have the required sit on the green chairs and allow our mildly distended stomachs to digest. It was at this point Sue said to me, in the way she does…”You know, I feel like we should visit Victor Hugo’s house, since we are staying on Place Victor Hugo.” Now a normal person might have said, “Why? He didn’t know that they named the place after him, he was dead” or “Why? It is just his house, it isn’t like we are going to visit his grave and say thanks for having such a nice little place named after him.” But nope, the only thing that came to my mind when she said that was: “OK, that seems fun.” So off we went. Back onto the Metro to Place des Vosages and into the line for his house.

A quick side trip to once again mention that we have not been able to get a carte sanitaire (the European Covid vaccination card), but once again, Sue’s smile(another sign of Steven’s delusions. These people can’t see my smile – I’m wearing a mask!) and my mildly confused look convinced the card-checker that the American card was real and they let us in. We have used it over and over and have yet to have a problem.

Anyway, once they looked at our cards, we began to wander through the house. It is sightly confusing because, while he lived there, all the rooms are reconstructions that are grouped into the three portions of his life (pre-exile, exile and post-exile). It was interesting, but I did not feel it was worth doing. All in, it was disappointing (and pretty hot. It’s the second day in Paris that it felt like summer. It was about 26 degrees C. We’re trying to think like natives.).

Street Art & Graffiti in Canal St. Martin

While we were in the Luxembourg Gardens, Sue made another suggestion that once we were done with the Victor Hugo’s house we should head straight to Canal St. Martin as it was nearby, and while it is really an evening place, it was unlikely we would head back out if we went home first. (She was so right about that!) We jumped back onto the Metro and headed straight there. We walked along the canal and were a bit alarmed that there didn’t seem to be much there. Happily, we spied a side street that had some cafés and then the whole neighborhood opened up before us. It is a cute little place, and we enjoyed the wander. It seemed like a really nice place to visit with friends for drinks and dinner. But it was too early for dinner and the place hadn’t really started to come to life. We wandered for a bit more and then decided to head home.

Once again onto the Metro and 30 minutes later we were at our stop (Victor Hugo – of course). Rather than going home we went to our “local”, for a couple of drinks sitting outside on the sidewalk watching the comings and goings on the Place Victor Hugo. It is a place called Maison Sauvage – which brings us nicely back to the start of our wanderings – looking for Aunt Marcella’s book.

All in just another glorious day in a glorious city.

Fountain in the Garden of the Great Explorers

Was it supposed to rain?

If you know anything about me you know I spent a fair amount of time complaining about the weather forecast. When you get minute-by-minute updates, but they change every minute, it’s frustrating. Just tell me you’re not sure and I’ll prepare.

The trusty umbrella: Never leave home without it.

Well, it’s worse here! Saturday, we checked the forecast: No rain. We went out: It started pouring. We sat in a cafe drinking a cafe and then bought umbrellas. It stopped raining. Sunday: No rain. We went out. It rained, but it really was a five-minute drizzle. Everyone around us pulled out umbrellas or plastic-baggy-type rain gear. We got wet. Not a big deal. It’s not just me: One of my classmates noticed the lack of accuracy in the weather forecasts, too. He says a 30% chance of rain is a guarantee of getting wet, but a 90% chance = sunshine. From now I, have raincoat, will travel.

The picture on the right was taken as we waited for falafel from the L’as du Fallafel, the place that has the best falafel in Paris, according to Jacob Getto. Steven didn’t even have falafel. Instead, he went for the shawarma, which he declared delicious, if no better than Libanais back in Chicago. I had the falafel. It’s worth the 20-minute wait, but I would say it’s more because of the fixings in the pita that just the falafel itself. Roasted eggplant, yum! Add to the greatness of the experience by getting it to go and sitting on a park bench eating and pigeon-watching. BTW, they take your order and your money before you get to the food window. You get a ticket with your order on it, but the British woman in front of us (who had been there several times before) was suspicious that she wouldn’t get her food. Evidence that the Brits and the French are still locked in an eternal pissing match. One more piece of evidence on that front: My French teacher, Laurence, was trying to get us to understand une carafe d’eau was tap water without speaking English. When the light came on and we all got it, she carefully explained that the tap water in France is fine to drink, but definitely don’t drink it in Great Britain.

You’ll notice that one person in the photo at right is wearing a mask and the other is not. There’s no outdoor mask mandate, but everyone must wear one inside and if you want to go to a museum, restaurant or any other indoor public gathering spot, you must show your proof of vaccination. France has a QR-coded carte sanitaire, but has not yet decided how to extend that to non-EU citizens. Steven called the US Embassy and they gave the verbal response of a shrug (the most helpful people were a couple of pharmacists in the 11th, but were unable to get us into the system which issues cards). They, too, are waiting for guidance. Pas de problème. Our hand-printed CDC cards do just fine. (We have successfully used them at museums and restaurants.)

La pizza de Ober Mamma

Yesterday, we went to lunch with a classmate of mine and her petit ami (apparently that means boyfriend). Wow, we have friends! They are fellow homeless folks, or as she puts it, nomads, which she says sounds better. Either way, they are Americans living and working in Paris for a few months while they figure out how to get a handle on the crazy housing market, which is their business, too. We had a normal Parisian lunch of 2.5 hours and 2 bottles of wine (and then we all went home to work). Guess what type of food we ate? I’ll give you a hint. Check out the picture on the left. It ain’t New York pizza, but you won’t catch me complaining (except about the weather forecast).

In case you’re wondering how my French is coming along, très bien! At least I can now pick out the individual words (most of the time) from sentences that used to sound like a string of sounds. I can also ask scintillating questions such as “Quelle est tu nationalite?” and “Où habites-tu?” In case you are wondering the answers: Je suis americaine et habite à Paris pour août. Below you will find gratiutous picture of Paris, because … well, just because. The first two are the view from my classroom. The second row has a shot of our morning walk to school, a street view and the pigeons who watched us eat lunch. Finally, a sky view taken in the Marais.

Dead Person Bingo (plus Dali and Gaudi)

Today was our first day of wandering around the city. We were here last weekend, but we were still getting adjusted and settling in. Today, we were in full venture out and see things mode.

On Friday night, the weather looked like rain all day and so we decided to postpone planning until Saturday morning and see what the weather actually was. When we woke up, the forecast was for partly sunny and cool, but little chance of rain until late in the day. Perfect wandering weather.

We walked over the farmers market and picked up our fruit and vegetables for the week and then headed home to plan our outing.

We decided that our destination would be the 11th Arrondissement which is a hipper area than where we are staying. The metro stop is right next to Père LaChaise, which is a cemetery that has many famous people buried in it. It was about a 40-minute ride from our nearest Metro stop (which is 2 minutes from the zpartment).  Before we left we found that there was an immersive Dali & Gaudi exhibition at the culture space called Atelier des Lumieres. We booked 2 tickets for 14:30 and headed out.

Our walk

When we arrived, Sue wanted to wander in the cemetery, take some photos and see if we could find Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde’s graves. There are maps at each of the entrances and with the help of our trusted google Maps app, we headed off to look for their graves. It didn’t take 10 minutes before we started to feel a little bit of rain, and then within another couple of minutes it was raining pretty hard. Sue had a coat, but I was in short sleeves. We looked at each other and thought, nope this isn’t going to work, so we headed for the nearest exit and found a café for a cup of coffee and a re-think.

The rain quickly ended and we decided to look for a store to buy a couple of umbrellas just in case. In a couple of blocks we found the perfect store; a little hole in the wall that sold everything from umbrellas and flip flops to kitchenware. We picked up our umbrellas and headed off to see what we could find. We walked up Boulevard de Ménilmontant, turned left onto Rue Oberkampf and left again on Avenue de la République, which this being Paris, took us right back to where we had started on Boulevard de Ménilmontant.  A perfect triangle; it seems all streets in Paris operate on a triangle system. It rained on and off during the walk, but we had our trusty little umbrellas and so we were not bothered.

While we were on Rue Obrekampf, we found a nice little Chinese restaurant and went in for lunch. They were kind enough to give us dual-language menus, unfortunately the languages were French and Chinese (I realize that there are multiple Chinese languages and I have idea which one it was, so let’s leave it at Chinese. I’m betting it was Mandarin). We managed to find two dishes that looked interesting, and we ordered them. Sue (who knows how to say, “Je suis végétarien”) had what we would call tofu in chili sauce and I had beef with cumin, Both were delicious and while to portions did not look big, we were totally stuffed by the end of the meal.

One thing that I have not mentioned up until now is that the French government is now requiring all people entering restaurants, concerts, museums and large social events to produce a government-issued vaccine card. The rule went into effect on August 1st, but up until now we had not really given much thought to it. No restaurant has asked us for one, and have mostly been sitting outside at cafés. However, the Atelier des Lumieres website specifically stated we would need one to get into the Dali/Gaudi show. Along the way we had asked a number of pharmacies (who can issue them) whether they would accept a U.S. vaccine card as proof and then issue us a French one. They all have said they did not know and it seems as if the rules for that are not in place. We decided to go to the show a bit early and present our vaccine cards and see what happened. The women checking the cards took one look at them and said they were fine. So we were all good. We will continue to try and acquire a French one, but for now we are not having any issue.

The Dali/Gaudi show was great. It was a series of three video/light/music shows (Gaudi, one developed by local artists and then Dali). We sat on the floor for Gaudi but made our way up to a balcony for the other two. That was a much better choice as we had clear sight lines and better perspective. We enjoyed ourselves immensely (and immersively). It is the modern version of the planetarium laser light show, complete with Pink Floyd music. For reals.

Oscar Wilde’s final resting place. It is surrounded by glass

At the end of the show, we emerged to find the sun shining and so we walked back to the Père Lachaise Cemeter and started to play find the famous dead person. It was sunny and mild out so we wandered around and despite a few challenges found all three (Morrison, Piaf and Wilde – Bingo!). Once we had completed the Bingo card we headed for the exit grabbed the metro home.

A long but very enjoyable day.

À quoi je pensais?

Coucou! No, that doesn’t mean I’m cuckoo (although you will realize that I am soon enough). It’s a casual way of saying hi in French, for all you mono-linguists. OK, so I learned that yesterday. I have been in French class for three days. After the first day I realized the teacher was amazing and I was, yes, cuckoo. My brain hurt and I told la professeur (yes Unckie, they say la professeur for female professors in France). She said, “Yes, this is normal.” OK. I still showed up for Day 2. See, cuckoo. BTW: That was the last English I have heard her speak.

Day 2. Here is what I learned:

I love the view from my classroom!

Really? I am with the cabbie on this. It seems just a little weird. Charming? Maybe. Frustrating? A little. I think I am getting the hang of it, but I was so intent on practicing my counting on the stairs that I walked past our floor in the apartment building and then had no idea where I was. Of course, the Parisians see no reason to use apartment numbers. Deuxième étage à gauche, oui. No problem. Psst, the second floor is really the third floor in the U.S. since the ground floor is floor 0. And the Alliance Française building has a “supérieur premier étage,” which is a second first floor between the deuxième étage and the premier étage. As one of my classmates says, “You just have to let it wash over you and understand that you are a dummy.” Le vérité.

Really, it’s very exciting, fun and challenging. I am one of the oldsters in the class, which I expected, but everyone is friendly, adventurous and mostly they all speak English. The view from the building is incredible and Steven and I have been walking the 5 km there, so at least we are getting some exercise. It’s tough walking by the Tour Eiffel and Invalides every morning but someone’s got to do it.

In case you think it’s all wine and baguettes, we are still working. So after a morning of trying to understand and speak a language in which I had two sentences (Pardon, no parle pas français et Je ne sais pas) before this week, I head home on the Metro with my travel companion Antonia, a nun who speaks four languages already and lives right nearby, I sit down at the computer and do work that I get paid for. Then, I do homework and try to memorize vocabulary, pronunciation and where the accents go. No wonder I can’t answer the store clerk when she asks if I will be paying for my wine with a credit card!

I am looking forward to a weekend of exploring and a break from homework. No wonder the kids complained every day about it! Every time the teacher draws a little maison on the SmartBoard, I cringe.All in all, it’s all I hoped for and more. I am a firm believer in doing. And oolala, I am doing!

Settling In

We have started to settle into our new place. We spent most of Thursday unpacking and getting set up. We met Sue’s friend Suzanne (the one from Burgundy) for lunch as she had come up to Paris for the day. We walked about 8km (5ish miles) from the apartment to the restaurant, ate lunch wandered a bit more and then took the Metro back. One of the Metro lines near us (the #6) is undergoing some repairs and is closed, so we had to exit at a station that was about a 10 minute walk. We could have taken a bus, but at the time that seemed a bit daunting to me. We will try the buses another day.

Everything is a huge adventure especially having to interact with people. We are desperately trying to speak French and the Parisians have been patient and helpful. It seems like most people speak at least some English and they will switch back and forth for us. It must be pretty funny to hear us butcher French, have the reply come back in reasonably good English, and then we reply once again in butchered French (although a couple of times Sue has mistakenly answered in Spanish which make the whole interaction even funnier). We are wrapping our heads around prices, especially for things priced in kilos. We keep looking at prices and think 15 Euros for a kilo that is a fortune … only to realize that we would pay $7.99 a pound at home. It seems like things are more expensive here, but we expected and budgeted for that.

Saturday morning we walked to a farmer’s market about 15 minutes away and loaded up on fresh produce and some Middle Eastern food (there were a few Lebanese vendors and it seemed like a nice treat). After lunch we strapped our walking shoes back on and headed for a Monoprix, which is sort of a small department store. We needed some toiletries and other minor bits and bobs. It was about a 20 minute walk and the weather is beautiful, mid-70s and sunny.

The evil espresso maker
Our coffee savior

We have had one challenge – as there always is. The apartment has an espresso machine that clearly hates Sue. No matter how carefully she follows the directions (even watching a couple YouTube videos), it proceeds to leak coffee out the sides and put a bunch of grounds in the bottom of our cups. We surrendered and picked up a French press to satisfy our need for coffee. While we were out, we asked one of the shop attendants for the name of a store that might sell them. She kindly gave us the name Darty and we wandered off to find one. We now have the ability to make coffee.

Our final outing was to the grocery store to pick up a few more things; pasta for dinner, rice, more coffee and wine. All in all a successful, but exhausting day.

Steven forgot to mention that we got trapped in the grocery store because we didn’t know we had to scan our receipt after doing the self checkout. So many little things to learn.