Couch 8, Blog 1


OK…  This blog was written this morning before I realized that I had two other blogs that had not been posted yet.  Of course, that’s part of the problem…  Couch wins if I don’t hit the POST button…

That’s what it seems like to me.  I have great intentions of writing clever witty pieces on life in Paris and yet I seem to spend most of the time thinking that while casting a glance over at the laptop on the table from the couch with my Kindle open to a book.  One of the greatest discoveries in the world is of a book series that has been going on for a while so when you come across it, you have 5 or 10 or 15 books that you can read immediately.  No waiting for the author to write a new one a year later.  And I must admit…. Well, I guess I don’t have to but I will since I have started this topic…  that my weakness is a witty or clever or both Regency romance of the Georgette Heyer or Barbara Metzger type (NOT Barbara Cartland or the bodice rippers)  [did you know that Kindle and other e-readers gave a big boost to bodice ripper books – because you don’t have to hide the cover!  It’s true!]  Or scifi or magic/fantasy.  Fortunately, an old friend from high school has an endless supply of recommendations.

(Our idea of a great Saturday was to go book shopping in Glendale at a great bookstore and come home and read together – trading books, sharing funny parts.  My mother found it a bit strange…  For Introverts, reading together is actually a bonding group (no more than 2) experience!)

I do feel the need to maintain my street cred – I loved Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner.  Pulitzer.  And how many of you have read – in the entirety! – Moby Dick?  I have.  It was better than reading the Cliff Notes.

One of the challenges to blog writing is remembering what to write.  I mentioned great writers who keep notebooks.  I try.  And lose the notebook.  Or have either the pen or the notebook but not both.  And sometimes I try to dictate an email to remember things.  Today as I was off to the market, I recalled Voice Recordings on my Iphone.  Sweet.  This may be the answer.

Big construction down the Avenue de Charles de Gaulle here in Neuilly.  There’s a new RER line and they are putting in the air and escape hatches.  So the marche is split now – half down the sidewalk, the remainder in the square as usual.  I have a craving for fruit suddenly.  I can wait for the market day, or I can pick it up at Galleries Gourmand or Marks & Spencers Food Hall, both at Palais de Congres.  Different from the US, these marches are not really the local farmers coming to town.  The vendors buy their food from wholesalers.  So I don’t seem that much difference between store and market.  Either way, you have to plan to eat it immediately, or soon.  Clearly that bodes well for the freshness.  But it does mean a change in how I plan.

I left at 10.  Beautiful blue sky.  Cool.  64 degrees.  Got what I needed from the market but stopped by the apartment before going on to the next store.  I was wet.  And not from the rain.  Sweat.  (Oops.  Glow.)  The humidity here is killing me this year.  It can’t be menopause – been there, done that.  Nope, it’s the humidity.  I have to be very careful to under-dress and choose cotton or something breathable.  I don’t recall it being this bad last year.  But when I headed off to the Palais de Congres in with a cotton shirt, I could see the clouds rolling in.  100% chance of rain at 1pm.

I want rain.  I want the dust to be washed away.  Almost wish it for the apartment.  As I would glance at my laptop, I spied dust bunnies on the floor.  I finally got up and cleaned, including vacuuming.  But where do these dust bunnies come from?  And it’s a misnomer in France.  They are not dust bunnies.  More like dust elephants.  HUGE.  I have the bathroom window cracked open.  Just a crack!  And daily I clean the beginnings of dust elephants out of the drain strainer.  (that doesn’t sound right… is there another name?)  It reminds me of living in Pittsburg in the 70’s when I would see chunks of coal on the window sill.  (OK, not chunks!  But big enough to see!)

The Kindle is calling….  Kindle 8   – Blog 2

Faire le pont…

It’s May again.  The most favorite month if you are a French worker.  Four, almost 5 holidays in May!  (I don’t count Mother’s Day because it’s a Sunday and everything is already closed). And if the calendar falls advantageously, you can Faire Le Pont several times.  That’s French for take a long weekend.

  • May 1 – Labor Day/ May Day
  • May 5 – Ascension Day
  • May 8 – End of WWII
  • May 15 – Whit Sunday making Monday May 16 Whit Monday
  • May 29 – Mother’s Day

Doesn’t it seem odd for a secular country – which the Republic is – to recognize Christian holidays?  I haven’t figured that out yet.  Except it’s time off – cynic that I am.

So my schedule was such that I had computer things to do – working on the Bloom Where You Are Planted day for the expats.  And prepping for a client.  And studying the Enneagram so I can get my case study out of the way.  And a sore ankle is appreciating the feet up on the coffee table for the day.  But I did have planned a quick trip out to Monoprix to pick up a couple things.

Good plan.  Until this afternoon the quietness of my street finally sunk in – with the realization that nothing, including Monoprix , would be open.  Guess I will make do with what I have.

Happy Holidays.   (BTW – when writing a blog, do remember to do your draft in Word where the text will be auto saved and not on Word Press where a misplaced fingertip will irreversibly delete your draft.)


Tres Cher Chalk!

2016-04-28 11.57.24The Pastel Shop was a treat.  The tour2016-04-28 12.53.14 – well, really a lecture – was in the Henri Roche shop: La Maison du Pastel.

The store was founded in 1729, bought by M. Roche in 1865.  He sold pastels and actually created new colors and changed the formula when working with artists including Degas and Bonnard.  His son, a doctor, joined him.  The son continued the enterprise after M. Roche’s death and he was later joined by his three daughters.

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The direct line ended there – but in 1999 when the eldest passed, the two remaining sisters sought someone to get involved. . A distant cousin took it over in 2000. An engineer, she learnt the craft from those elderly cousins.

Isabelle Roche (that’s with an accent on the ‘e’ if I had a French keyboard) (ro-shay) welcomed us and told us her family story. I loved the shop with the original wood shelves and boxes.

It was a big job to take on by herself.  Dwindling stock and small clientele…

Serendipity is a marvelous thing.

Isabelle Roche met 2016-04-28 11.55.47Margaret Zayer in 2010.  Margaret is an American and an artist who was at the time a student in Paris.  She joined Isabelle.  Now the two, an engineer and an artist, make the pastels by hand.
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The studio (you can’t call this a factory) is in the country outside Paris so we had to settle for an
excellent video of the very time-consuming process. The process hasn’t changed much – the scale is from 1909 or so. The pigments are now bought from distributors so they no longer have to grind it.  But they hand mix and squeeze and roll.

The pastels are pricey – 27 euros for 3 half sticks, 120 euros 2016-04-28 11.40.36for 12 sticks – but when you see the process, you understand the cost.  The pastels in and of themselves are a work of art.   See the open box on the left?  That holds 72 pastels – with the box it costs 1,385 euros.  Almost $1,600.

2016-04-28 11.49.03I have included a link to the website for the store itself and a link straight to a 15 minute video with much of the same footage I saw today of the process.  I never much enjoyed working in pastel but now I want to pastel again!  Too pricey – and yet, I would feel like I was buying a piece of art and of history.2016-04-28 11.56.38


It’s only open one afternoon a week.  The rest of the time I guess they are in the studio making more pastels.  And nowadays with the internet, why not?

Funny coincidence – I am going to have dinner tonight in a restaurant two doors down from La Maison.  My vegetarian French friend selected it: Le Potager du Marais.  We are checking out a veggie restaurant each week.  (I must admit I am not up for the French cuisine of eat every part of the animal… veggie is stressless!)

The Friday Of Speaking French

IMG_4551   IMG_5178

The light in this city is amazing…  City of Light.  Many people make the mistake of making that plural.  And think it refers to the twinkling lights on Tour Eiffel and other monuments.  But really it refers to the spectacular effect of sunlight on the city.

Early day meeting Alain at 10 (yup – that’s early for me nowadays!). And speaking French. His English is definitely better than mine. But he was sweet and patient when it was my turn to speak French. And he’s interesting and smart and able to explain things like – high school. French courts. IMG_5166And whatever else I will ask. I guess I passed his test as he said he’d like to meet weekly – 45 min each French and English. I am up for it – but now I definitely need to study! So I am hitting the books this weekend.  We met in a nice Café near Palais Royale.  And I found this lovely cat sitting in a lobby area at the top of the stairs by the toilettes.

Then off to meet Laura (from Sausalito and returning in April in case your forgot the players…) for lunch and shopping – but she was taking the bus so I had some time to spare… IMG_5170so I just dropped into the Louvre for a few. I love this annual pass – never feel like I have to see all I can see when I am there. And I discovered something totally new to me – apparently in 1984 they ever excavating the courtyard Carree and found the foundations of the palace that had been there years – as in 1400 – ago. Soooooo cool.

Then back to Paris and the 6th Arrondissment for lunch. At a restaurant that was new to Laura (been coming to Paris for 30 years) but was delicious. Best chicken I have had in France. And the dessert of poached pear was also delish. The lunch took 3 hours and two glasses of wine. I really enjoy this style of lunch!   After we walked some – she was on her way to Bon Marche where I want to go to someday so I tagged along. And as we walked, we passed my favorite restaurant – the soufflé one – and I was delighted to see that it really is now open again. That is on the short list of things to do soon.

Laura helped me sign up for the carte de fidelite at Monprix.  Which means some discounts but more importantly, free delivery!  You can buy online.  Or you can fill up a cart at the store, take it to the delivery counter and they write it up and send you to the caisse (check out) and then I guess you run back home because they deliver within 3 hours.  You have to buy over 50 euros – but that’s easy if you are stocking up on the heavy and bulky stuff.  Hmmm.  More strategic planning needed here…

I came back home for a quick rest before setting off to another MeetUp.

This one – La Vie Parisienne – was about Hemingway and American writers. Edith is smart and shared interesting tidbits. But has a heavy accent. Still – good stuff and I have added to the list of what to read. I think the first one will be Moveable Feast. And met an Irish/American doctor.   She is Irish but was married to an American so is also a US citizen now.  In that wonderful position to hold both US and EU passports – so she can come and go to Europe whenever she wants – no need for a visa.  My dream.  She has arranged her life to work 6 months and take 6 months off. So she goes back in May. We exchanged numbers (oh I LOVE my French phone number!) and may plan a walk. This is her second extended stay in Paris so she has done many of the Meetup walks already. We shared stories of our own walks around the Rue St Denis and the many prostitutes we saw – over age 50 prostitutes!  We were both amazed as it seemed a “nice” neighborhood.

Friend Bill found an apartment so his Parisienne adventure is not cut short.

Note to travelers – a handy utensil is that weird thing you sue to help open jars.  I am having a friend bring it over.  It goes on my list for any future long term stay.  And speaking of long term stay – did you notice my comment yesterday that my ticket doesn’t expire until March 2016?  It’s been 3 weeks now and I am feeling more Long Term Stay just because of the kitchen – I actually am building up a pantry.

IMG_5184 (2)And I hate this coat.  Actually.  I love this coat but I am so tired of wearing it.  Where is the warm weather?  Oh – just as I wrote that, the sun has come out and my living room is bright and warmer.  It might get to 60 today.  Maybe a late afternoon chance to try the Velib’ again.  (It’s now attached to my Navigo Decouverte carte so renting should be easy.

I am typing this early Saturday afternoon.  I lazed and lazed this morning – after breakfast went back to bed to read and snooze.  I am slowly but surely getting over that manic drive to go out and experience Paris every waking minute.  A good thing or I will soon be sick and we are NOT getting sick in Paris.  Let me rephrase that -I am HEALTHY in Paris!  And France!  And Europe. And the UK. There, I think I got that covered.  I have a book to finish (I do not recommend the Portrait of the Lady in White at all but I only have 15 minutes left so I am sticking to it.)

The sunlight beckons.

(I also hate Windows 8.)


Another resting day.. Thursday 3/27

I just have to get on a schedule. But I think it will take a while. Wednesday was a great day after the Tuesday rest. I had more energy and less body aches. I did remember that the gym guys do tell you to take a day off each week. Walking over 5 miles daily – and several 8 miles is a lot when you don’t walk that much regularly.

IMG_5152This photo is out my kitchen window – it’s the courtyard of the building next door.  Amazing how they park cars!  Did I post this already?

The Over 50 Meetup for Conversation was extremely popular this week. Almost 30 people. So many people to meet and contacts to make. Met a lady who had lived here for 35 years and says she has two clients for me. OK…

By chance – par hazard – I sat next to Edna who turns out to be a teacher of FSL (equivalent of ESL) and who wants to improve her English. So we spoke in French for about 40 minutes and my brain did NOT explode. Amazing. So we set a time to get together to practice. She understood my French! Whoo Hoo me!   She described it as “quiet” which we never really figured out – except to say I spoke slowly. And I signed up for Conversation Exchange and have three other French people I will be meeting with to speak English/French. One is a tax attorney, the other works in publishing and the last says he’s a pilot.

After getting all excited about this, the reality sunk in. French conversations – while I was in immersion class last fall – did make me feel like my brain was going to explode. It is very fatiguing to talk in another language. Even Pig Latin – which I could never do. So now I am being strategic about scheduling – only one a day and not on a day with other big events. And eat lots of carbs before!

Hmmm. Another strategic issue. Finding lots of them here, aren’t I?

So before the Meetup, I dropped by the train station and bought my tickets for the Netherlands and a visit to Gear and family, ending with a day in Amsterdam. Sad to say, my Senior Carte does not work on trains to other countries!   This will be the first week of April, just after Easter. I am looking forward to it!

And after the Meetup, I dropped by the SFR (telephone if you don’t recall) to figure out a message I received that said my service was completed. Finished. Used up. Even my French friend Sabine whom I roped in to help me translate at the Meetup couldn’t understand it. French communications leave something to be desired. Oh could my Maximizer strengths be put to good use here. It turns out that message referred to the first 5 euro internet package that came with the SIM card. The normal plan is all fine for another month. The good part about this – well, that it’s all fine, of course, – was that the guy in the store didn’t speak English. And yet, I understood. Each time this is a huge accomplishment for me! I want a band and streamers! And I look forward to the day that I don’t notice.

Then to BHV for that final cushion cover (I didn’t buy it because I thought it was too expensive. Then after looking online and finding nothing, I decided it was ok to spend 15 euros. LOL Selective memory. When I got there I discovered it was 35 euros, not 15. At that point, I no longer cared and just bought it.)

IMG_5157A friend from the walk Meetup and from Minnesota is having major apartment problems – the company that he worked with… the broker… went into bankruptcy. His landlady told him. And that she had not received the money he paid for rent. And he was supposed to move the next week to anther apartment and that landlady called him and said yup, she didn’t get paid either. So she had gone and found a new tenant and he would have to find somewhere else. Yikes. So he is scrambling to find something during the Easter break. After Easter, he’s got several possibilities. So we met for a drink that turned into dinner at Camille. I broke down and ordered a steak. I haven’t had red meat since 2001. Did I write earlier that I was rethinking this? Without beef, the French menus are so limited.IMG_5158 I snuck in some beef in ravioli last week and didn’t get sick. So I went full out and ordered filet mignon last night. With béchamel sauce. OMG. Tasty. Why did I give this up?  We have plans to go to Le Cigale Recamier if he doesn’t go back early to the US (which he doesn’t want to. I wouldn’t either!). Le Cigale Recamier is my favorite Paris restaurant – the soufflé place!! Mmmmmmmm. Looking forward to that.

But when I got up after the wonderfully leisurly dinner (love the French relaxed style) (the waiter tried to speak to me in English – I finally asked him to speak to me in French so I could practice and he was from that point on delightful.) Anyway, standing up was a bitch. Took 10 minutes walking to work out the kinks in my hip. So Thursday has become another resting day. Except for a quick trip for the heavy staples – took the chariot. LOL That’s the term for the shopping cart you pull behind you. Now I sit here typing and looking out from time to time at the drizzly day.

IMG_5156And here are photos of them cleaning the streets and sidewalks here in Neuilly-sur-Seine. A small water truck drives slowly down the street and two guys – on either side – hose down the sidewalk with a hose that extends out of the truck…IMG_5155

A bientot.

Oh My God

Got new information. I just found out from Delta – and in writing – that my ticket does not expire until March 2016… Infinite possibilities…

Taking it easy…

A good night’s sleep  most likely because I had all the electronic lights off!  Amazing how that can impact one.

I feel like a true slug.  (Of course, many of you know I really am one -UCSC Banana Slug…).  But I lounged in bed enjoying doing nothing.  And once up, I lounged over breakfast and over list-making.

Shopping is totally different here.  Well ya – you go to a store, pick out stuff and pay for it.  I didn’t mean that!  I meant how you approach planning…  At home, there’s a lot of storage.  We Americans take space for granted.  Can you imagine living in 116 sq ft – that apartment I mentioned yesterday?  I am in 400 sq ft or so I think.  And there is not a lot of storage here- even though it is very Ikea equipped!  So when I think about meals, it’s not like I have supplies in the cupboards.  At least I have a serviceable freezer!  I have a busy week coming up and so I had to think about food.  Then when you start to think about food, you have to think about how it gets from the store to your kitchen.  And here, that’s your shopping bags.  Or cart but I find the cart can be a pain.  To make it manageable, I try to stagger what I buy when – milk and orange juice on separate days – they are HEAVY.  And so on…  It really is a strategic process.

I missed the market again.  I simply have to start getting up earlier.  But here are some pics of them packing up.IMG_4847       IMG_4852

Busy week I said – yes.  After just taking time to get settled in, I finally got on to the MeetUp site.   I signed up for two walks tomorrow – one around Ile de la Citie (and Notre Dame) to see the angels on the buildings, then in the afternoon for a walk around the Montparnasse area.  Sunday is a walk in the Bois du Boulogne.  Monday is the train trip to Troyes.  Then Tuesday a client and maybe a toastmaster’s meeting. Wednesday the famous Over 50 Meetup (maybe I will meet Philippe!)  Wednesday night a Franglish event – the speed dating version of speaking French and English.  Thursday a sketching MeetUp and client at night.  I was thinking I might go to Chartres on Friday – the labyrinth is normally available to walk on Fridays.  But I think I might prefer staying in bed to recover.

I have discovered the best boulangerie.  It’s half a block away.  I must confess to sneaking a bite as I walked up the 3 flights… it was warm too!   This is the view down my street.  My apartment is on the left.

Look to the end

Look to the end

At the end of the street, you see a building that seems to lean.  It’s the Palais du Congres – a convention center.  At night the front changes colors.  It always surprises me when I see it leaning over!

I spent some time researching today.  And dang I just missed the Violette le Duc exposition.  But I have the info on the Klimt.  And there is a musical stage version of Singing In the Rain that I want to get to.  But, thank you very much, I will NOT be getting over to the Pompidou for the Jeff Koons koonsretrospective.  I am so disappointed in Sacramento’s decision on his sculpture…. I would prefer to say his trash….  ya, I don’t really care for his work.  I hesitate to call it art.

And I will end with a quick mention of the big news item here – Belgium was going to produce a euro to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.  The French complained.  Not healthy for European relations.  Brussels is back to the drawing board.