French Eating Habits

So much is written about the French and how they eat a lot but never get fat.  It’s true, you don’t see many overweight French … women at least.  I do see the guy with the beer belly.

Few friends have more than coffee for breakfast.  Maybe a pain du chocolat which is chocolate roll.  And then they have a – at least to me – huge lunch.  Entrée et plat, or plat et desert.  And by plat, I mean what I consider a dinner meal.  Steak. Fish. Big. Heavy.  Sauces.  Yes, you can get a salade but I see the French eating the plat more often.  (And burgers are more often on the menu than in the past.  Burgers have become a gourmet item here.)  And then maybe a snack about 4 when the kids get home from school.  And a big dinner again about 8 or even 9 pm.

Yes, they do walk a lot.  But I think it is more that they don’t snack.  You eat when you are at the table.  And that’s it.  And when you eat that much, your stomach is full!  In fact, for me, uncomfortably full.  Like, I don’t even want chocolate!

I also notice a lack of vegetables compared to the US.  Our steaks are almost always accompanied with potatoes AND veggies.  Here, potatoes are de rigeur.  But not veggies.  It’s a white world.

Yesterday I had a delicious lunch – supreme du poulet.  Chicken breast!  Sauce.  And pasta.  I miss chicken.

At the meal with my French friend at her house with her friends, she served aperitif (asked me what the word was in English – I love it when it’s the same and it surprises them so much!).  Champagne, carrots, dip, raw leek and olives.

The plat was melted cheese- Mont d’Or – a Cantin.  It comes in a wood basket, wine is poured into the center of the cheese, then put in the oven to bake and bubble and get a nice crust.  Then it is served on top of potatoes (HUGE potatoes) with a plate of cold cuts – beef and ham.  And after, a tiny salad.  Then tarts for dessert.  They don’t really make pies here.  But they love tarts.  And everyone finished their plates.

Now that I think about it, it seems like all French are members of the Clean Plate Club.  There’s nothing left.

 

Parapluie

French for Brolly if you are a Brit and umbrella for the rest of you.  Simon Parapluie on blvd Saint Michel is my favorite umbrella shop.  Since 1897 the Simon family has been selling umbrellas. I take visiting friends here for a cool souvenir. 

I bought a great umbrella there but had a problem with the opening and closing mechanism. They happily repaired it for free.  

So of course when I thought I lost my medium size umbrella (yes I have a XL for big rain storms, a medium for days it is sure to rain and a tiny to carry for an emergency)- When I thought I left it in Lyon, of course I went back to Simon for a replacement. It’s Christmas so their stock was low. I did find one but didn’t like it as much as more has one I lost. Oh well. 

And you know I am in the process of packing?  So guess what I found? Right. The original medium umbrella 

Now this is France. Not well known for customer service. But 38 euros is a nice sum. I went back. Why not give it a try?  They could say no. And maybe in a moment of Christmas spirit they say yes

Delighted to tell you Christmas spirit is alive and  well!  With no hesitation he said bien sur madame.  But certainly!

So more reason to love Simon Parapluie!

You’ll Put Your Eye Out Kid

A Christmas Story happened to me in my foyer yesterday.  I was in a rush to donate 2 sacks of clothes and then to head off to the Marais for lunch with a friend.  Had the sacks in one hand, the sunglasses in the other.  Got to the main door and somehow, while trying to open the door, I poked myself in the eye with the end of my glasses frame.  Actually, it didn’t hurt that much.  But the strange thing was that I poked out Not my Eye, but my contact.  If you have ever had hard lenses, you know how they can pop out.  But I now wear soft lenses.  I have no clue.  Maybe the frame tip pulled it out?  But I definitely couldn’t see well out of that eye.  So back upstairs to figure out if it was really out of my eye or perhaps had slid off the pupil and was hiding in a corner.  After much inspection, I decided it was truly gone.  Put in a new one and was good to go.  But late.

I was proud of myself for knowing where the donation box was – last year I stood with my back to it and searched around.  Hiding in plain sight.  This year I found it quickly.  Stuffed the clothes in and set off for lunch.

When I got back home, I looked one more time but still couldn’t find a spare lens in my eye.  I have on one occasion put a lens on top of another lens.  That’s why you should follow a strict process of put the right one in first, then the left.  That morning, I got confused and put them both in my right eye.  Then I stood in front of the mirror with the empty case wondering where was the lens that went in my left eye?  Took it out and found two.  Haven’t’ done that since.  I do learn from time to time.

More on Marches du Noel

My goal is to collect as many Marches de Noel as I can.  Won’t bore you with the list but I did add to it this year.  I returned to La Defense for theirs with my friend – we had gone last year.  Pretty much the same.  I didn’t buy much but I finally had the mixture of cheese and potatoes and sausage that I have watched the French eat in the streets at the other marches.  And miam miam.  Delicious.  I can’t recall the name…

In Lyon we also went to the marche.  I find the biggest difference is the color of the little boxy chalet each vendor has.  I have seen red, white, black and brown – several shades of brown.

Marches are on their own schedule.  Which is confusing.  Budapest started on Nov. 13.  Champs Elysees on Nov 11.  Aix en Provence Nov 22.  Yet when I went up to Montmartre, nope, nothing until Dec 15.  But it was pleasant in Montmartre – I would enjoy living there.  Until the tourist hordes arrived.  Then it is hideous.  But before the marche, the funicular was just a walk on, no lines.  And then coming back, I hopped on the tiny RATP minibus that serves Montmarte.  A normal bus could not make the twisting hills.  I wasn’t too disappointed.  It was a nice day.  I stopped in the church St Pierre – one of the few medieval churches I had missed.  And I realized I need to come back about 5 when the lights are on as it’s a beautiful place.

Even Dourdan, a tiny town at the end of the RER C line, about 90 minutes south west of Paris, they even had four chalets.  I went there to meet a friend who lives about 20 minutes to the west of Dourdan.  She’s an American who married a Frenchman she met in Hong Kong years ago.  And lived in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Denmark, Sweden and now retired in France.  She’s terribly interesting.  So we had a nice chat over crepes and a ramble through the chateau and looked at the marche for all of 8 minutes! It was so small.

2016-12-16-17-29-09Other areas of Paris have their own marches – the chalets are set up on the sidewalks.  We even have one at Neuilly sur Seine where I live.  I got a selfie there yesterday with Pere Noel!

 

LIGHTS!

I love fireworks and Christmas lights!  So when a friend said let’s go to Lyon for the Festival of Lights on Dec 8, 9, 10, I jumped.  But.  It’s not really Christmas.  There are nicely lighted streets.  And a light show on the cathedral like we saw at Chartres, and Orleans.  But most of the rest are art installations. 2016-12-09-20-20-21 Beautiful!  But not Christmas.  And that makes sense because the festival roots are a thanks to Mary for saving the town from a plague.  The residents put lights/candles in the windows.  This was normally in September but I think about 20-30 years ago, someone had the bright idea to move it to December… darker… timing for Christmas didn’t hurt.  One restaurant said that in 2013 they served over 3,500 dinners in one evening!  Yup.  Good for tourism.

The crowds are huge!  But they have crowd control down well.  And after the attacks of Nov 13 and Nice, they have cordoned off the entire downtown!  You get shuffled to the check point – just like cattle going on the cattle cars…  And there were police cars parked at all major intersections – no way was a truck going to drive in like in Nice.  The only time I was a bit unsettled was when we were directed around tiny streets to end up in front of the Cathedral for the light show.  I looked around and thought this would be a great place to be trampled if the crowd freaked.  I quickly put that thought out of my mind, watched, enjoyed and got out as soon as I could.

2016-12-09-13-14-09My first time in Lyons, I was introduced to the Bouchon….  2016-12-09-18-49-57The typical Lyonnais café/restaurant.  And had the most interesting and tasty food – honey cheese!  And pistachio sausage with potato sauce.  Something called pimatele or near that – again cheese and potatoes and sausage.  Miam Miam.

 

However, nothing rivals London as Queen of 2016-12-14-18-14-55Christmas Lights2016-12-14-17-00-41!  I went over for a day and evening just for the lights.  I recall as a child enjoying the lights in Regent Street – they were huge chandeliers.  This year – angles with wings!  And lights everywhere I turned on all the small posh streets.  Loved it!

A Jumble of Thoughts

I guess I am not a “real” writer: I don’t carry a notebook around with me – well, actually, I do – but I don’t jot down key and witty observations, or beautiful turns of phrase.  Oh, I have them.  But they dance away quickly.  Maybe flit…  I have tried using my IPhone Voice recordings and that works from time to time.  But then I forget to listen when I get home.  And forget trying to write a blog on the iPhone itself.  I do email myself notes from time to time but…

I mention “writer” because when I was going through British Border Patrol at Gare du Nord [let me explain – to speed up things on the border, you first go through the French checkpoint   and get your passport stamped and then 4 steps away you do the same with the British.  Although they require you to complete a “landing card.”  Much like you have to on the way into the US.  And on the other side, you have the reverse —   British then French…  That means when you get to the destination, you are legally there and you just set off to find a taxi. Or Uber. ]

Speaking of Uber, last Thursday when I set out for Dourdan, I discovered my go to buses were on “deviation” and when I headed for the Metro, I saw smoke rising in front of the Palais des Congres (not a Versailles – far from it – a convention center!) and lots of noise of honking cars.  Yup.  Clearly another dreaded manifestation.  I found out on my return that it was the VTC – the guys who drive for Uber and other limo services.  What’s with the French anyway?  Why do I even ask?

Back to the border patrol.  So the Brit officer and I had a bit of a chat.  No one ws in line.  She asked me if I lived in France so I explained…  and that I was going back January 11.  She winked and asked if I had finished my book?  LOL.  I said nope, never started, but I did take a lot of photos.  These officers live in France, it’s like a military posting.  But she said her French was terrible.  I was able to say mine had improved.

You are sick of my talking about my language skills, I know.  I long for the day when I don’t notice how well I have managed.  When it just seems normal.  And I am getting closer to that…  Instead of after every encounter, now it’s more at the end of the day that I think – wow I spoke.  I was understood.  I understood.

I doubt I will ever say that about the French culture.  Or parts of it.  I was castigated… maybe upbraided… by a friend because when I ordered my tea, the server asked if I wanted my milk hot or cold.  That’s such an English issue.  I really don’t care.  So I said – ce m’est egal.  It’s all the same to me.  I was told that I was impoli – impolite.  He could tell from the look on the waiter’s face.  Huh????  I apparently made him feel bad by saying it didn’t matter to me…  So when he came back with the milk, I asked whether it was warm or cold.  I forget.  But I then said with a BIG smile, tres bien! Merci.  To which my friend gave me thumbs up.  I had smoothed the ruffled feathers.  Of course, I asked another Frenchie who said that was no big deal and determined my other friend was bourgeois.  As in snooty, I believe.

Paris has hills.  I know that – certainly Montmartre!  And Buttes de Chaumont. But somehow I am always surprised when walking along to notice I am charging uphill – or suddenly going downhill.  When I am on the bus, the incline is not as noticeable.  But going down Blvd St Michel last week, I was really going downhill!  And yesterday walking back from the hair stylist, Ave Raymond Poincare was uphill to Victor Hugo and then down.  I traverse that on the bus all the time.  My new Fitbit – which does nothing different from the other one that broke after two years – is encouraging me to walk more.  Weird.

I stopped by Georges Larnicol  (food and pastries and chocolate) in Montmarte the other day.  While there, a woman – probably another worker – came in and went to the gal that had just waited on me and they embraced!  I mean, not faire le bise – a full on American style hug!  I was so shocked that I actually said to them it was the first time I had ever seen French people hug.  (In French!)  And they laughed and laughed.  And said, but we are not French!  One was Moroccan and the other Algerian.  Ha!   We had a good laugh and she offered me a macaron.  Yum.

 

 

Pollution

Yikes.  I knew it was smoggy yesterday. I went out in the morning and in the evening.  But it was this morning reading the news service The Local (a nice app with news from all over Europe but in English!) that surprised me:   Worst pollution in a decade.  The vehicle restrictions continue.  Free bus and metro – costing up to 12 million euros – continue.  1700 people were fined yesterday for flaunting the even/odd license plate rule.  I am sure more were lucky.

Why is it so bad?  The cold weather and near windless conditions.  The exhaust fumes etc. are just trapped here.  It’s bad.  The current level of airborne particles is 60% of what is in Beijing and a fraction of that in New Delhi.  So I guess there is something to be happy about…  If it means anything to you, the level last Thursday was 146 – over 146 micrograms per cubic metre of air particles.

And it’s not just Paris.  Nope.  Same problem in Lyon which is my destination tomorrow.  Going for the Festival of Lights.  3 nights of amazing lights for Christmas.  If we can see them through the smog…

At least I wasn’t traveling to London yesterday. (I am next Wednesday.)  A train coming into the Gare du Nord station cut an electrical power line.  The entire station was without power and without trains coming or going all afternoon and evening.  Even the Eurostar stopped.  And I guess all the trains just ended up stopped on the tracks in the middle of nowhere… Because what else to do?  When you think that Eurostar has a train almost every hour…  Electricity is working today I hear.

So I am staying in today to lessen my smog intake and catch up on odds and ends and packing.

Last night I went to a movie at the d’Orsay – the American 1930’s series.  Coming out I was going to take the bus home.  But I totally misread the bus schedule and thought the service had terminated for the night.  I finally figured it out about 15 minutes later while in the Uber driving down the Champs Elysees.  Ten euros I needn’t have spent.  But maybe it was a good investment.  I have walked down the boulevard to see the lights and made many bus trips up and down.  But riding in a car, in the middle lane, looking up at the Arc de Triomph and back at La Roue with sparkling lights in the trees and so many shops beautifully decorated – Wow.  A total different perspective and a beautiful one.  I guess I am easily amused.  Christmas lights and fireworks.

Cluck Cluck Smog

No, the subjects are not related but it is to make sure I address both topics.

Cluck Cluck.  I like chicken.  For supper.  Unfortunately for them, as the entrée, not as a guest. Or that would be Le Plat here in France – entrée means the Starter.  Like the entrance to the dinner.  I wonder how that got changed in English….

Why not a chicken as a friend or pet?  I have been told that at the young and impressionable age of 3 I was chased about the yard by angry chickens.  For some odd reason my mother had decided to try raising chickens.  I don’t think they lasted long after attacking me…  My brother raises chickens (well, he lives on a farm) and so does my friend Leslie (who lives in Elk Grove so why?).  Not me.  I was scarred for life.

In France, you will discover that chicken or poulet is not often on the menu.  In spite of the fact that Henri IV promised a chicken in every pot.  (He really did!)  A friend, French, was puzzled when I told her that (not about Henri IV, about chickens not on the menu)– and then reflected that indeed it was not on every menu.  I look for Supreme du poulet – Chicken breast!

Since 2001 until I moved here in 2015 I was a limited –or is that unlimited? Vegetarian.  That means I ate mostly tofu, beans, nuts, and all the regular veggie stuff plus chicken and some fish.  I rarely ate pork and never beef.  Not for any special philosophical reason.  I went through the attunement for the Reiki Master level and just spontaneously stopped eating red meat.

I survived all my trips to France without problems.  But when I knew I was moving here for a longer period of time, I decided I would have to return to beef.  But I am not including mussels! Yuck… Or snails…  Just not that French!  I was a bit concerned that reintroducing beef to my system might have a negative result.  But nope.  Just decided it was tasty again.  And when I was back in the US in early 2016, one of my first stops was In’N’Out Burger…    Californians will understand.

Why a paean to chicken?  Because yesterday I discovered frozen chicken in my fridge.  It’s a tiny fridge but things can get lost behind boxes of frozen vegetables or Picard desserts.  I cooked it up and yum.  Or as they say here, miam miam.  Tasty.

And now Smog.

La pollution sits over the City of Light.  And it looks like Los Angeles did years ago – but not as bad as Beijing.  Still cars are limited by license plate even or odd and all public transportation is free.  If you use a Navigo monthly pass as I do that doesn’t mean much.  But it’s a good effort by the city.

And by the way, isn’t it just irritating when you are about 6 paragraphs into the best, wittiest, most clever blog you have ever written and Word crashes WITHOUT auto saving?

I am curious as to my recent revival of blogging.  Maybe it’s the cold weather? It’s not a bad deal to sit at the computer with the electric wall heater pumping out comfort.

I think it will help me do my monthly bill paying exercise.  While I listen to my Christmas music on the iPod.  (Strange to walk through the Marches du Noel with American Christmas songs blasting through their speakers.)

Off to the bills.

A Heat Wave is Coming!

Yup.  Bien sur.  It will be 50 F tomorrow.  I must admit parenthetically (oh, is it parenthetically if I didn’t actual use parenthesis?) that I still have not made the switch to centigrade.  Or to kilometers.  The US should have done it years ago.  I remember being in New Zealand talking to a guy my age who said the change was difficult but he now was metric.  Except for the golf courses which continued in yards.  And in England while most is metric, miles are still the way to go for driving.  OK. The parenthetical segment is now done.

France was cold! The past two weeks.  Even at that awful “feels like” 23 degrees stage.  I had to rediscover my winter clothing.  This year I bought a cardigan.  Great choice with my shirts and under my heavy coat.  It meant that in the restaurants I didn’t have to take off or put on again the pullover.  And which pullover at that?  Cashmere or wool or cotton?  I tend to run towards the warm side – my Minnesota upbringing I suppose.  It gets complicated.  You don’t want to have to take off the sweater and carry it – or carry the coat!  I was mulling that over today and realized it’s not an issue in California because I dress for the car or the destination.  And running between the car and the building or store or restaurant is quite manageable in something light.  We just don’t dress for the cold there.  And the car makes it easy as you can always throw an extra coat or sweater in the back.

When you are walking, busing or metro-ing, the “back” ends up on your arm.

My destination today was the Salon des Saveurs.  Like a Home and Garden show but for food.  My foodie friends would have loved it. But everyone was out of town so I went by myself.  I did enjoy it.   However, tasting is just done better with friends. Still, I found and bought some cheese (comte) and dried fruit (including hibiscus!) and chocolate for a dinner gift.  I might have bought more but bad timing.  I leave in….. OH MON DIEU!… just over 4 weeks.  Wasn’t the time to buy spices or wine or mushrooms or olives…

OH WHEW.  That was incorrect.  Just over FIVE weeks. I have too much to still do.  Too many Marches du Noel to get to, too many Christmas lights to photograph.  But I have given up on several outside of Paris destinations.  Even day trips.  I will have to leave something for next year.

 

Museums and Art

Yesterday I went to the Musee d’Orsay.  I join its association each year and get discounts and free entrance but most importantly, I get to go in at 9:00 am.  The rest of the world has to wait for the normal opening time of 9:30.

2016-11-30-09-07-47Being in that spacious hall by yourself is an incredible feeling.  Like ownership! If you didn’t know, the d’Orsay was one of the major train stations in Paris.  It was closed and eventually remodeled and reopened as a museum.  The focus is the impressionist period- the Louvre retaining the antiquities and Rembrandt, etc.  The Pompidou took all the modern art.  The ‘Orangerie holds the Monet water lilies in specially designed rooms and has other special exhibits and a small permanent collection.   This year American Gothic by Grant Wood made the trip over to L’Orangerie from the Art Institute of Chicago for a special American exposition.

I am also an Ami du Louvre (Friend of the…)  But I can only take the Louvre in small doses. So the membership allows me to drop in from time to time and see just what I want and not feel like I am wasting a ticket.

2016-11-30-09-28-212016-11-30-09-28-38However, it’s the d’Orsay that really draws me.  To go early when it feels like your personal space.  The only other people (usually) are the guards.  Guards?  Well, they are not docents.  Security I guess.  Wearing black and with a museum name badge.  They all smile and welcome me.  In fact, this week when I got to the door where they usually take your ticket or scan your membership card, there was no one there.  I saw them all gathered off to the side in a meeting.  I waved my membership card at the guy standing who seemed to be in charge and he graciously waved me in.  Trusting.  Nice.

The d’Orsay also has my favorite café.  You might recall I call it my office?  I have many conversation exchanges there with friends.  The servers know me.  It almost feels like Little Italy when I worked in Visalia.  They would have the diet coke at my table as soon as they saw me walk in the restaurant.  OK, it’s not quite like that!  But some do remember m

While waiting for my friend, I wandered through the rooms.  Stopped by to see Starry Night by Van Gogh but it was gone.  I asked – it’s in Texas right now.  That made me think once again of the complexity of arranging painting exhibits.  How they get everything in the right place at the right time!  And how they know where things are to begin with.  Of course, that’s not that difficult for paintings in museums.  But I have noticed there are always several paintings from a Collection Privee.  Meaning a private collection.  I suppose the art auctions houses keep lists?  Or the museums have been keeping lists for years.

A couple donated their impressionist collection to the d’Orsay – with the stipulation that their paintings be kept together.  The Bonnards from their collection can’t go off to a room dedicated to Bonnard.  Nope.  I like the idea.  Maybe their kids can stop by and see the art altogether like they were visiting the parents’ house.  The paintings are related and can stay together.

The other thing I noticed on this visit was how my knowledge of art has grown over the past two years.  Now, mind you, I did know my art in general.  And I could always recognize the big names.  But now I can walk into a room and say – ah, Maurice Denis, oh, Berthe Morisot, a Degas, a Cezanne, and a Manet or a Monet.  And of course a Bonnard.  And from across the room even!  When you drop in often enough, instead of one day where you cram your head full of all the paintings in the museum, you unconsciously begin to notice enough to recognize styles.