It’s Just Not Right!

Here I am in Paris!  And I have to vacuum.  And dust.  And clean.

And even shine my shoes!!!

I didn’t sign up for all that.

It’s when you have to go out and buy shoe polish that you realize you are not in Kansas anymore.  (OK well duh!)  But my point is that when you are on a vacation, you don’t have to do those things.  When did you last pack shoe polish for a trip?  Exactly my point!

But after 2 plus years, you’d think I realize I live here.  Guess the ambiance of Paris clouds my mind.  Or the dust…

And let me tell you!  As beautiful as these Parisian gardens are, they are all full of dirt.  I am not quite sure of the right word… it’s not gravel on the paths.  It’s tan colored and very fine.  And when kids play, they kick up a dust storm.  And when you walk, you bring the garden path home with you.  My black shoes look beige.  Seriously!

Hence the vital need for polish.

 

 

 

Randomness

Well now that I am finally at my laptop, I guess I will try to put down some of the random thoughts I have been storing up for several weeks.

Today is Tuesday, June 13.  And the workers were not working this morning. I woke up about 730 and lounged in bed waiting for their noise to get me out of bed.  And it never happened.  Finally got up about 900 and looked out.  No one there. And the office building even seemed empty of workers.  Then everyone seemed to arrive about 10 and the noise began.  I asked a French friend if it was a holiday. He said no.  Just “the French touch.”  Whatever that means.

I am so happy about Macron.  And in the first round on Sunday for the Assemble National, his party did very well. Surprisingly well.  Of course, now there is the second round.  Unless you got over 50%, the top two and sometimes 3 if it is close, go on to the second round.  But it will be very surprising if they lose there.  Marine Le Pen’s party the Front National did very poorly.  So he will have a mandate and should be able to put in all the labor and economic reforms he wants.  How the unions take this will be interesting.  And many if not most of his party candidates have not held elected office before.  Yup.  Interesting.

A reader came to Paris for a vacation and I had the pleasure of meeting her and her sister.  She kindly brought me some things from the states (over the counter drugs, etc).  So I guided them to the Champs Elysees via bus.  I forgot that when you buy the ticket on the bus, you cannot transfer.  So my bright idea was not so bright.  In the long run, a taxi may have been faster and cheaper.  Still bus 72 runs along the Seine and you can see so many things.  And then at the Champs, I suggested lunch at the Publicis Drug Store which sounds dorky but has a great café and restaurant.  Unfortunately it was closed for remodel.  We ended up at an Italian café with sadly just ok food.  My apologies again.  I couldn’t join them but I heard they were going to Café Carmine for the cook it yourself steak.  Hope it was good!

More stores are open on Sunday than before.  That’s thanks to a law Macron pushed while he was in Hollande’s cabinet.  Used to be the stores in the train stations.  Now around the stations.  And FNAC seems to be open everywhere.  It’s like Best Buy in a way… My French friends ask me why is it necessary for stores to be open on Sunday.  To them Sunday is family time.  Hmmm.  They have a point.  Yet, I am so used to shopping on Sunday – here I have to plan ahead.  Hey my local boulangerie is now open Sunday mornings.  That’s a plus!

The UK is bizarre right now.  Interesting contrast to France.  Europe is perking up.

And I won’t even comment on the obsequious cabinet meeting that 45 held wherein everyone sucked up to him… it’s a blessing to work for him????  Oh.  I guess I am commenting… Sorry.  A seasoned journalist (former AP and editor of the International Hearld) suggested I watch the Last Dictator in Scotland for a comparison to 45.  I will check out Netflix later.

The workers are all gone – but it’s lunch time.  As I look over at the building, I think they are almost done with the demolition part of this remodel process.  The floors look empty.  And the trash bin they have been loading up look only half full… as if they have no more to add.  Now the question is how much noise will the remodel make?

Always always always zip up your bag.  A friend had her wallet stolen out of her bag on the metro last week.  I am not surprised.  She carries a big bag that’s about 18-24 inches across.  And while there is a zipper compartment, she doesn’t really use it.  The wallet was begging to be taken.  Fortunately, her passport was not in it.  But her carte de sejour was.  That’s the official You can be in France for a Year paperwork.  She discovered she didn’t keep the receipts.  She is supposed to go to the UK for two weeks in a week and she can’t get an appointment until mid July.  So she is dropping in today.  Good luck.  Without the carte de sejour, she would be taking a great risk at being allowed back in at the border.

Oh dear.  I just checked.  This random blog is turning out longer than I wanted to.  Forced stop now.

Nice Is Beyond Nice

But first before blogging, I had to replenish the larder after a week in Nice.  The gentleman coming out of the boulangerie was munching on the end of the baguette!  That’s always good to see and yes, it meant the bread was hot!  Miam Miam!

Nice was my one week vacation in France with a friend from North Carolina.  We had a lovely AirBNB with great views from either balcony (yes, there were two) and A/C which was an added bonus on the hotter days.

Dollar Rental provided us with the Peugot through Rentalcars.com.  This is the third time I have rented through them and it’s a simple process and good price.  And I learned exactly how to do the American Express we will cover you for rental insurance.  (If you are counting on using them, you must decline all the other insurances.)  This time Dollar didn’t ask me if I could drive an automatic like they did in Montpellier last year.  It was a manual transmission and I found myself quickly feeling like I was back in my dad’s MGB zooming through the Hollywood Hills and Griffith Park in Los Angeles.  But it really wasn’t as zippy as that car, the top down, wind blowing in my hair.  We didn’t even have a sun roof.

The car and the driver and navigator all got back with nary a scratch.  Something I was very grateful for.  A couple times in the mountains, a bus and trucks came towards us with their front driver wheels over the center line.  To our right was a mountain.  Yikes.  Of course, that was nothing like the guy we saw in Monte Carlo.  He had no patience for a truck and construction congestion.  He saw an opening between a car and truck and he took it.  Unfortunately, his passenger side mirror didn’t go along with him.  We heard this awful noise and saw the mirror go flying and end up in the gutter.  That was an expensive poor judgment.  Didn’t harm the truck at all.

Some highlights in case you are ever in this area.

Nice – museums for Chagall and for Matisse.  (I really don’t like Chagall much…)  A boat cruise through the harbor and over to Villefranche.  (Do call first.  We are glad we did when we found out the trip we were planning on had been cancelled for that day.  Changed all our plans as a result.)  And the wonderful beaches.  As we drove down and back on Quai des Anglais, we were conscious of the horror here on last July 14 when the idiot drove a truck and killed so many people.

We made it to Ventimilgia in Italy for lunch.  I loved this city and its beach.  No, we didn’t make their famous market (they say the top chefs from Monte Carlo go there for the fish) – really on Fridays and that didn’t fit with our schedule.  The trip to Ventimiglia was on the middle Corniche.  There are three Cornich drives, High, Middle and Low.   All giving different perspectives of the coast.  From Nice we drove through Villefranche which has a gorgeous harbor.  Very deep too.  Apparently US ships were moored here after the war.  The villas were also gorgeous and expensive.  Like $200,000 per square foot… or maybe I missed the translation – but very expensive!  Elton John has a house on the top of the ridge that  allows him to see the bays of both Nice and Villefranche.  Nice.

And Eze – a wonderful mountain town filled with artisans.  They didn’t have running water until 1952.  And even now we saw the bellboys (men) carrying the suitcases up to the hotel and the delivery guys with boxes of supplies going to the various restaurants.  Much manual labor.

Gorge of Verdun – some 2 hours away and real mountain driving but not too many switchbacks.  It was pretty.  My friend from North Carolina raved.  I smiled and thought about Kings Canyon and Yosemite and said, nice.  On the way we stopped in Vence to see the Chapelle Matisse designed.  If you get the chance, watch the documentary about it – A Model for Matisse.   Worth the side trip.  We didn’t go into St Paul de Vence itself as it was full of tourists.  So we just went on to the gorge.  Beautiful views back to the Mediterranean.

Another day off to Antibes and Juan les Pins, west of Nice.  We stopped in the hilltop town of Biot.  Lovely old buildings and the present claim to fame is art.  Paintings, ceramics, glassware.

Churchill came to Antibes to paint and I can understand why.  You’ll find the Chateau Grimaldi there – where Picasso painted – for a mere four months – and donated some paintings so now it’s the Picasso Museum.  I am not a big Picasso fan so I will avoid commenting.  But I do respect and admire Churchill so he’s enough to make me want to stay in Antibes.  Maybe more than Nice…

But… then there’s Cap Ferrat.   Now that’s an incredible place.  It’s on the east side of the Villefrance bay.  That’s where the real estate is so expensive.  We visited the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.  WOW.  She was a Rothschild who married and separated from a Russian banker before he gambled away all her money.   With that money she bought 17 acres on the top of a hill and built this beyond beautiful villa. And gardens.  Spectacular.  I discovered that you can find a fairly reasonable apartment on AirBNB on Saint Jean Cap Ferrat.  Only problem is then you must have a car.

Did I say the apartment came with an underground parking space?  Yikes.  It was a small car but we had only 2 inches to spare on each side.  The first night I think I had to make about 9 corrections.  By the last day, I could make it with only two turns!

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?

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.