Stupid Hot… and Noisy

Thursday was another holiday.  But the workers seem to be on a strange different schedule.  The big remodel across the street was deserted on Monday.  Not sure why.  The quiet was nice until the guys working on the courtyard next door starting making noise.  But wait, was it them?  As I walked downstairs, I hear a huge racket from the apartment on the first floor – it sound like a giant sanding machine at work.  I was glad to be leaving.

Then on Thursday itself, yes. Quiet all around.  I was praying for the famous Faire le Pont on Friday- where they make the bridge to the weekend by taking Friday off.  Making a US long weekend longer.  But no.  Except the construction across the street was again strange – like there were only a handful of workers and all working on the opposite side of the building so sounds were small.

Well and good.  Until the office building that is in one piece – an ugly piece, but one.  Suddenly those workers are having a break on their balcony and chatting and laughing away.  OK fine.  That’s allowed.  But at 10 pm on a Friday night???  When they started a second break about midnight someone yelled at them and quiet ensued.

Which was good because it is once again stupid hot.  Three days of 90 degree weather.  And tomorrow it’s supposed to rain.  Stupid Hot.  Stupid Humid.

So now it’s Saturday.  Another day of blissful silence to sleep in undisturbed.

No.

The guys working on the courtyard directly to the east of me at hard at work.  IT”S SATURDAY.  IT’S FRANCE.  WTH?

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Tomorrow a Holiday & Planning

Yup. Another of the famous French May holidays.  It’s Ascension Day.  Another of those religious holidays that France a definitely non religious country honors faithfully.

I ended up staying in today doing planning on the computer.  More about that in a moment.  But at 6:30  I realizes that the bakery and most other things may be closed tomorrow.  And I was out of bread!  Mon Dieu!!!

Got dressed.  Ran downstairs.  Decided to be smart and buy two baguettes so I could freeze one for later.  Yes, they thaw beautifully. But when I get there, I am forced to take what they have left.  Two steaming hot baguettes.  So warm that my hands hurt!  What?  How can I put warm French bread into a freezer?  It must be a crime against humanity!  And of course how can you not have a bite or two… or three… when it’s warm?

As for Planning:

I should have been a travel agent.  Really.  At one point, I thought about it.  But I guess my intuition predicted online self-serve bookings and led me in other directions.  I love the puzzle of putting trips together.  The complexities of fitting hotel reservations in with the cheapest train tickets and then adding ferry rides on top.  And all being done simultaneously so that you don’t book one and find out that the train you were depending on is full.  And then are you stuck with a non refundable ticket that won’t work?

So yesterday and today I have been finalizing trips. TRIPS.  The trip to Nice on June 4 is pretty much done except for printing out the AirBNB details.

But I added a trip to Aachen, Maastricht and Cologne for a long weekend in mid June.  I am training to Aachen where my Dutch friend will pick me up and then we hang out for 3 days.  Stupid me.  Aachen just seemed to be a central meeting point.  So what’s Aachen anyway? A German city.  BUT then I discovered it’s French name – Aix la Chapelle.   And that is a city of the Middle Ages that I studied and always wanted to see.  Kismet.    The hotel reservations were bizarre – with hotels saying they were sold out and the next day available.  Maybe cancellations?  Thanks to those who changed their minds.

A friend and I are off to Annecy in July.  It’s called the Venice of France and rivals Lake Geneva in beauty.  In the French Alps.   We have a pretty hotel on one of the canals.

Then in August I have special friends visiting – a mom and her 7 year old daughter.   We will do the Paris thing but I wanted to get out of Paris for a couple days.  Our destination?  The Channel Islands!  Guernsey and Jersey.  These are interesting little places – they are not really British.  Definitely not French even though they are closest  to France.  And they are independent of each other.  Crown dependencies owned by the Queen – well, the Duke of Normandy as she is to them.  I could have gone to either one to satisfy the requirement to exit the Schengen but the ferries are few and far between in the month of November.

This was the most complicated puzzle. There are only two ferry companies – one French, one British.  And finding a way to get a day trip is difficult given their sailing times.  After several hours and two conversations with the Brits, I found a way to visit Guernsey for 4 hours and then return via Jersey for a brief two hours and back to Saint Malo for the night.  So: SCORE.  We will go to both.  And a ferry ride is always exciting.

Part of the puzzle piece is figuring out the websites here.  When I logged on to the English version for Condor ferries, I couldn’t search for a trip from Saint Malo to Guernsey.  Only from Guernsy to Saint Malo.  They make a big assumption that if you speak English, you will not be coming from France.  When I changed to their French language site, there was my choice to go from France to the islands.   I am more accustomed to websites that have basically the same content but in the respective language.

Then the train decided to be difficult too.  I wanted a club quarto.  Seating for 4 around a table.  The first search gave me two in a club quarto and one solo.  After doing three separate searches, SNCF finally let us all sit together.  But why?  Oh well.

Tickets paid for ferry and train.  Now to go back to the hotels.  I have three hotel reservations on hold but they are for a different day as I had originally planned for the ferry on a day that turned out impossible for the ferry company.  No worries for the hotels.  No deposits.  No cancellation fees.  I shall work on them presently.

Now just printing and filing for future reference.

 

 

3 Weeks

Today I have been back in France three weeks.  It’s been a strange return.  I was so sick and out of it.  And then suddenly I was here two weeks.  I seem to have missed that rush of excitement to feel I am back in Paris.

But it’s ok.  I AM back in Paris, and that’s all that matters.

After two years, I am still discovering things.  There’s a super easy bus connection to my favorite shopping mall that I never knew existed.  I can’t figure out why neither CityMapper nor RATP showed it as an option before.  No, it’s not new.  But it means I can easily come back with my purchases in my bag pack and no need for Uber.

And I have rediscovered Orangina Zero.

Macron.  Last week a friend shared a photo a friend of his took of Macron at the brassiere La Rotonde.  Old well known spot – I think Hemingway hung out there too.  So I was excited because now I am two degrees from Macron.  His Friend.  My Friend. Me.  Or is that three?

Yesterday my friend and I met there for a conversation.  Really just because it was close to the Columbia center where I was going for a lecture.  And why not?  It’s one of those old Frenchy spots.  I went for conversation but as we sat down, my friend suggested I look casually at 11:00.  And lo and behold: DSK.  Dominique Strauss-Kahn.  You will remember him from the maid rape scandal in NYC.  He used to be with the World bank.  Was on track for French president perhaps until that scandal upset everything.  He wasn’t very impressive, I must say.  A friend asked if I felt the need to shower after seeing him….  No.  But he didn’t radiate any power or charm.

Manchester.  So terrible.  Of course, all the elected officials reacted with statements.  And of course, Macron did too.  But what I found charming was that he and his prime minister just walked down the street to the British Embassy.  Just like walking down to call on his neighbors… which is what he was doing.  But no cars.  No ceremony.  He signed the condolence book in the Embassy, made a short statement, and walked back home.

I just like that.  I would think it gave his security heart failure!  What a target.  Whew.

Whew

What a morning of catch-up on the blog!  And this is my recuperation day.  Think I am going to go take a nap.  At least I have a major task checked off and can erase all my blog notes.

On the other hand, you dear reader, are rewarded with this tiny addition to say thanks for reading.

French Politics

So Macron won!  Defeating that High Priestess of Fear, Marine Le Penn.  That’s what he called her during a debate.   Much of France seems to have embraced him.  Yet apparently many people abstained.  It’s certainly a crossroads fro France… and Europe.

I don’t totally understand the 5th Republic.  This constitution was written after the military coup in Algeria by de Gaulle.  During the 4th Republic there were 16 prime ministers between 1946 and 1958.  Whoa.  The 5th has been revised 24 times impacting 2/3 of its articles.  I don’t know if it started the two rounds of voting but it’s normal now.

And the results are in very fast.  The election was called for Macron at 8:04pm.  Most polls closed at 7, 8 in the cities.

And two weeks later, not 2.5 months, Macron is president.  That was Sunday.  The investiture is different from our Inauguration.  We have more pomp and circumstance.  But they have La Guarde Repubique on horseback.  They have Salon at the Elysees Palace.  We have a stand outside on the mall.

So here, Hollande was waiting at the Elysses Palais (their White House) for Macron.  Greeted him and they went upstairs for the “talk.”  Apparently to pass secrets…  I read Sarkozy and Hollande took 15 minutes – they dislikeeach other.  And then Hollande drives away.  Bye bye!  And Macron gets instructions abut the nuclear codes.

Then he walks down to the Reception room.  Ornate. Gold. Beautiful  Full of people.  And he stands there.  The president automatically becomes the Grand Maitre (Master) of the Legion of Honor and his chain is displayed and then Macron signs a certificate… making himself Grand Maitre I guess.  Then he stands while a guy talks to him.  No subtitles, but I could tell it was a retelling of the vote.  What he won in round one and then in round two.  So basically, he won.  And now he’s president.  I found out this guy was the President of the Conseil Constitutionnel.  OK.  No Supreme Court Justice.  No swearing in.  The French laughed at the idea of being sworn in … on a Bible?  Mais Non!  They are a secular nation…. That takes off every church holiday they can find as far as I see.

Today, Thursday, he has announced his cabinet.  Half female!  It also seems to be an interesting mélange of right and left.  Except nothing is simple in France.  And after this election, the usual suspects aren’t in the running.   In the past it was the Right – Sarkozy etc vs. the Socialists Hollande.  And neither made the last round.  In a way it’s a blank slate.

So what about the Assemblee Nationale?  That’s like our House, or Parliament.  Sort of.  Don’t hold me to that.

That election is June 11 and 18.  And Macron’s party is fielding candidates as I write.  So when you start a movement on the fly, you have to catch up quickly.

He called it En Marche.  I think of it – Let’s Move…. Moving forward…  Now it is La Republique En Marche.  I seem to be the only person who has noticed that the initials are the same as his…

Manuel Valls was the Prime Minister under Hollande.  He contacted REM and wanted to run for the Assemblee Nationale under that party.  Um.  No.  They were polite.  Said he didn’t meet the qualifications – was still a member of the Socialist party.  And HA!  Then the Socialist party tells him they don’t want him because he tried to support Macron.  Hoisted on his own petard.

So now we wait to see who’s elected and how well Macron is supported.

Funny note about Le Pen and Trump.  She traveled to the US earlier.  Seemed like she wanted to meet Trump.  Never heard it officially happened.   Trump made some comments over the months that implied she was following him.  Ah. NON.  She was explicit that her Front National party was doing all this long before Trump got into politics.  And, of course, she too likes Putin.

Let’s hope that the UK is smart enough to vote out Teresa May’s party in the coming election.  I have a friend in Brighton and have been reading more and more about their politics.  Shameful.

I am becoming much more of a socialist than I would ever have thought possible as I generally disliked government regulations while working in HR.  But how governments are treating people is shameful these days, in my humble opinion.

DNA

Ever wonder where your ancestors are from?  It’s such an American question and it makes sense.  Do you recall when I told you about the American from Seattle who asked my friend where her ancestors came from and the French woman said, “France.”  And the American said, “oh no no.  Before that.”  And the French woman repeated “France. “ I think there was one more round.

So for her: France.  She did tell me her husband’s great grandfather was from Sweden – he came down to work in fishing in Normandy, fell for a French woman and stayed.  But that was the true outlier for her family.

It’s the US that is the Melting Pot.

However, given my family history, there’s not been much melting.  Grandparents or great grandparents came over from Sweden or Germany.  There ya go.

Clearly, I have a great affinity for France.  Also for Brittany and the Celts.  So I fell for an Ancestry.com DNA test.  The results took forever!  I think everyone responded to the same ad!  But the results are in.

No surprise:  Europe – 100%

Scandinavia – 61%, Europe West – 13% , Ireland – 9% , Great Britain – 8%, Europe East – 7%

Well, I see the Celts in there through Ireland and maybe GB.  Ancestry defines Europe West as France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany.

OK fine, it’s probably Germany but I am claiming France.

The DNA results were on their website which drew me back to my original stab at a Family Tree.  And I got hooked.  I think it was a fleeting moment – I am always focused forward more than to my history.  But it was interesting and pretty slick.  Ancestry is connected to tons of data bases.  And you’d be impressed at the collection of birth, marriage and death records that exist in Sweden and Germany.  I have traced back to one grandmother born in 1704.  And if others in your family tree have used Ancestry.com and given permission, their info and research is available to you.  The biggest puzzle (and it’s because it was a puzzle that I got drawn in!) was how to make the jump from the US to Sweden as Ellis Island had changed the spelling of one grandfather’s name.  And in Sweden the “Oh” sound was written with the A with the tiny circle over it.  Not on my keyboard!  But I found a name I could copy and paste and then I was on my way again.

What’s strange to me is that the tree that goes back to 1704 is through my mom’s father – the one person in the family we didn’t know much about other than he was born in Wisconsin to German parents.  Surprises.

I showed the family tree to another French friend.  He was equally puzzled as to way one would want to do this.  Clearly, we are the Melting Pot people.

Health & Book

I wrote earlier.  Caught a cold in Sacramento a week before I flew.  Normal cold.  Maybe some allergies.  Almost over it and then got on an airplane.  Not a good idea.

My friend was so generous to put me up for 5 days before my apartment was available.  And we were going to have a bit of fun.  Nope.  I did get into Paris for Foire de Paris (big home garden craft state fair kind of thing) but that was it.  And I only spent 3 hours.  All the rest of the time was spent hacking and coughing and sleeping.  I hate to be sick at other people’s homes.   Cold seemed to improve.  Moved in.  Went to the Columbia event where I had to walk out of the room probably 8 times so I wouldn’t interrupt with my coughing.  That’s when I decided to see the doc.  Fortunately he could see me the next day, Friday.  I got the exact same medication as I did in June 2015: antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory for an official sinus infection.  And you know what?  Drugs can be amazingly effective.  Finished my anti-biotic regimen today. I think now I am back to my normal clearing my throat cough.  And my sleep cycle seems to be getting back to normal.  Not jet lag after all this time I don’t think – but every other night I would wake up at 2 am and read until 4.  That’s 5-7 pm in CA so it doesn’t fit for jet lag.

A shout out to my accountant who told me she loves HP laptops.  I bought a new HP, much lighter than my Dell.  Very happy with it so far…  the big question is must it travel in my baggage when I finally fly back?  I hear they are going to restrict laptops from the cabins.  Who wants to leave an expensive piece of equipment in the hold??? Not me.

Today is the first day since I returned with NOTHING to do.  It’s a recuperate day.  And I need them.  I am catching up on my blogging as I am sure your email has informed you.  I don’t need to go out for anything. It’s not raining now but will this afternoon.  I may go see a couple friends for a tea this afternoon, but I don’t plan to decide anything for a few hours.

I have to figure out the theme of this stay in Paris.

In 2010 I wrote a book.  Actually had an agent.  Never sold anything.  Everyone who has read it tells me to get it published.  And someone said that to me two months ago.  OK fine. I brought the draft hard copy over.  New laptop.  No excuses.  Except France awaits…

NO!  So I am hoping to figure out a schedule today of what days and times I can write and if I need to take the laptop places to do this.  I feel so…  what?  Cliché?  The writer in Paris???  We’ll see.  And yes, I suppose writing a blog for 3 years already allows me to call myself a writer…

How the Environment Impacts You

And I don’t mean ENVIRONMENT in caps.  I mean the space around you.

My dad was an architect.  He pointed something out to me years ago; I have observed many places and think he’s absolutely right.

Your impression of a home is made at the front entry.  No matter what size the house.  If it is a large entry way, spacious, then that feeling carries through to the rest of the house.  Even a tiny house.  You don’t feel claustrophobic.  But if you go into a small, cramped or dirty entry, that impression stays with you.  And no matter the square footage, it always has something negative going on in your mind.  (Think of the tiny houses you see on the internet from time to time.  They rarely feel small.  The designers know it has to feel open and airy.

So.  What does that have to do with me and Paris?  I live in a very nice city. It’s not Paris. I am one and a half blocks from the Paris city limits.  Many reasons I decided to do this, all explained in blogs form 2015.  It’s known as the Beverly Hills of Paris.  But I have said on many occasions, I live in the slums of Neuilly.  Well, not really!  But I have two ugly office buildings directly across from me and having a Haussmann style apartment there would be much better for the eyes and soul.  At least, eventually, one of the office buildings will finish the remodel and will be better.  And if I look to the right or left, there are Haussmann buildings.

And my building is cute.  Old brick.  Little bit of design.  The problem?  You enter into a dark foyer with the mail boxes.  Then pass into the stairwell.  The wall paper is dirty, ripped; the carpet is ok but dark and not inviting.  The landings lack landing numbers in many cases. Someone put up a 2 with a sticky post-it note.  But I can also understand the owners not wanting to spend money on the communal areas.  Still.  Yet, I pay at least 300 or 400 less in rent a month.  That can pay for a lot of trips!

So this year, the owners decided to upgrade!  And for once, my timing was impeccable.  It’s almost done!  The wallpaper is gone.  Walls are painted a bright white.  The exposed wood is painted taupe – my door; the window frames.  And the light on the digi-board where you key in the code even works now.  AND the street light across from me also works!  It had been out for three months before I left…

So my dad’s theory works.  Because passing through this “new” entry and staircase makes me feel better about everything!

Chez Moi

This is my third year in this apartment.  Because of my relative’s health, I took everything – all my belongings – out last year.  I didn’t take it all home (where is home anyway?? I mean the U.S.)  I had two stashes at friends who have room to store.  Which means they live outside of Paris.

I got everything back and it’s now in its place. Or various places.  And as I take mental note, I think it’s all working out well.  The walls have nice posters – from museums I have visited – in addition to her two frames.  I have jerry rigged pulls for curtains and windows.  I know exactly how to hang the washing.  And when to wash so things dry efficiently.  I have a good collection of cubes (cheaper in the US) to act as my chest of drawers.  She has this place furnished for an Air BNB and so shelves and an armoire work in that context.  Living here longer, I wanted to put things away.  And so this year, less stuff out to look messy.

I can exist in 400 sq feet.  I do like the two rooms, however.

So this raises questions for me about Sacramento.  What do I miss?  That wonderful magic no noise no rinse dishwasher and the clothes dryer.  Hmmm.  I thought of the dishwasher this morning as I washed dishes and while I missed it, it’s not worth more rent here to find one.  My stuff???  My art?  My photographs?  My crystals?  Well, yes and no.  Since 2015, I really do live in Paris and vacation in California.  And I don’t sit here and daydream about any of those possessions.  I DO enjoy them when I return….  Is it time to sell the condo?  Throw out my entire CA life? Or find storage?  And what do I do when I come back for my time there?  Rent?  Where are my clothes? My things?  Right now it’s easy.  But expensive as I don’t have a renter.  And I don’t really want another – my first was a friend and it was fine.  I’d have to find someone I trust that much because I don’t want to have to move everything before I sell.  When the time is right, I will move into the single story condo I own about 3 doors from my current one.  So why move twice?  Ah well, it is a problem solved in the future so I will just stay in France for now.