Saturday, April 30, 2011

My Apartment Building

I’d like to welcome you in a more concrete way to my every day existence.  This is my street, Rue Cler.  It’s adorable.

There are 3 amazing cafes that are always bustling day and night, and I just stare at them and think, "This is France. Oh how magical you are." Here I tried to sneak a photo of one of them & I turned out almost sideways bc I didn't want to look like Super Tourist, but eventually I'll take some real pictures. Not trying to be artsy.  Just sneaky.

This is the adorable blue door to my building, sandwiched conveniently in between one of the best Italian gelato shops in Europe and a Chinese place.
In case you don’t know, Asian is my favorite type of food, and in my normal Dallas life, I ate some type of Asian food almost daily.  Here it’s a solid twice a week, but only because I’m still distracted by 9 foot baguettes every day.
Once I walk through the door, there are mailboxes and then a glass door that I have to unlock with a key.  I then walk past a set of stairs (which I accidentally went up while moving in, hauling my 4,000 lb suitcase filled with bricks up the stairs and thinking “I never want to do this again. I will have to live here forever.”…only to realize I had gone up the wrong set of stairs, and did, indeed, have to do it all over again in the correct stairwell). 

I walk through courtyard #1, which I love:

Everyone sigh together. I know I just did.

I walk across these big uneven cobblestones, wondering how old they are, who has walked across them, how long have they been here?
Looking back, that door on the end is the door to the Chinese restaurant’s kitchen.  It smells delightful and I always hear the clanking in the kitchen and have a momentary daydream about the day when I’ll walk through the back door, pop my head in the kitchen, and be like “Hey guys!!”, and then they give me free dumplings and other stuff because we’re cool with each other and they love me.  I do some dishes, fry up something on the wok, and walk out again with something awesome.  Long ways away from that, in case you’re wondering.  There’s only one guy who even recognizes me enough to say “Bonjour” when I’m walking by.  But usually I’m just another random customer as far as anyone is concerned.

Then more ancient stone walkways…and up the stairs to my apartment. 
I’m on the 3rd floor, just the right amount of stairs.  Enough to give you a slight workout & momentary hamstring burn but without making you want to die.  There’s this cool green door in the stairwell, not sure what that’s for. 

I think these are cool, too.
The view up...glad I stop on 3rd!

 And then ta-da!! My apartment!!  (door on the right)

The rest of the apartment will come later…for now, I'm off to work, and then dinner on Isle St. Louis, an island in the middle of the Seine river, for dinner with Maygan & Kyle!  Happy Saturday!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Foie Gras & Friends

It's about time I introduced some of the peeps in my life here in Paris!  I'll eventually do a full introduction of my coworkers, but for now, might I present to only non-work friends!!!

This is Maygan & Kyle.  
Aren't they adorable? Dare I say, presh? 

My best friend from high school, Mindy, introduced us because we happened to be moving to Paris within a week of each other.  They moved here for Kyle’s job, and they’ll be here for 3 years. 

I love them to death.  We get to share the ups & downs of this new experience and laugh about French culture, language woes, and the multiple ridiculous scenarios we make up like foie gras unicorns.  We are united by our Texas roots, Aggie familyhood, a common love for foie gras (obviously), the difficulties of being famous, and a mutual affection for the word “troisieme”.   

And best of all...they're food lovers AND they live in the same neighborhood, just a few minutes walk away, so we go to dinner together all the time!!  I can’t tell you how excited I am to have friends who appreciate good French food and are ready and willing to go on delicious dining excursions as often as humanly possible.

Speaking of delicious dining excursions...this was our fantastic meal last night at one of our favorite places, O Chateau, near the Louvre.
Um...I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but it's about a million tastes of amazingness.  One of the things was tomato basil sorbet w/ shaved prosciutto!! Ah!!  The chef was on Top Chef France this season.  Oh it's so good.  Once the food comes, we all just lose focus completely and stare our our food and say "it's so good" over and over.  Look I've already said it twice without even trying.

Last night as we got into a taxi after this incredible delish-iosity, the first thing they started talking about was what they were going to have for breakfast in the morning.  And then Kyle suddenly stopped and said, "Look at us, we just finished dinner and we're already planning our next meal! ...We're just livin' for the next meal!"  

These are my people. 

House Hunters Filming

Just wanted to post a few pictures from when House Hunters was here filming.  This is the agent, Iris, who owns the agency I used:

Somehow I managed to put this big line here.  No idea. Nope.  Can't get rid of it.

The crew was awesome…the director, Ben (middle), is from the UK, and the videographer & sound tech, Gordon and Simon, are from Scotland. Then Melody (below), who lives just outside Paris, went to film school and was our driver/translator/production assistant for the three days.

Here's everyone trying to squeeze into my tiny studio for an interview.  It was quite close quarters. 

As you can probably tell by Gordon playing "Big Texas hat" here, they were all super fun, and I had a great time with them!

The whole crew on the Pont des Arts, where we filmed the decision scene...Fun times!!

Supposedly it's going to air sometime late summer.  I sincerely hope to not look and sound ridiculous the entire time.  But considering that I hate even hearing my voice on voicemail or anything else recorded, I'm sure I'll cringe through the whole thing.  But it was a super fun experience, and most paid for my agency fees!! Yayyyy!

All thanks to my awesome friend, Charla, who told me all about House Hunters!!  We thought it was kind of a joke, "you need to be on House Hunters"...and then I actually ended up doing it.  Of course, this was back when I thought they actually found you an apartment but that's besides the point.  Thanks Char-Bar, you're the best!!  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen

I'd been to Paris somewhere around 12 times before moving here.  Sometimes for a week, two weeks, weekend visits when I lived in France '04-'05, etc.  It's always been an unspoken rule, written deep in my heart, that I would never ever commit the oh-so-American crime of wearing huge hideous running shoes (this is akin to wearing snorkeling gear in Paris.  You're not snorkeling, why would you walk around wearing flippers and a mask?).  People just don't wear them.  If you're not jogging or clearly exercising in some form, you just don't wear running shoes.  It's a cardinal rule which I knew I would never break.

Before moving, our manager had emailed at some point to tell us about our work uniform that we needed to wear every day, a Fat Tire t-shirt and closed-toe shoes.  I'm pretty sure I gasped slightly in horror, scoffed openly, and thought to myself about how I would clearly have to walk to work in normal cute clothes and then change once I got to the office, because I wouldn't be caught dead walking through this glorious city wearing a t-shirt and jeans.  It just wasn't going to happen.  Part of the cardinal rule.

Well...(A) I had no idea how physical this job was going to be (B.) We're having an unusually warm Spring and AC is non-existent (C.) I brought ZERO Spring/Summer clothes with me because it's usually cold until June, so I was going to have a friend bring that suitcase in the summer.

Conversation w/ my friend Anne last night (fellow new office girl who I trained with) at a wine tasting event:

Anne: "Hey! You look cute!"
Me: "Thanks, you too!! Our group really cleans up well!"
Anne: "Yah because we look so disgusting every day?"
Me: "I don't even recognize anyone without the t-shirt."
Anne: "Hey remember when we both thought that we were going to wear regular clothes to the office every day and then change into t-shirts once we got there?"
Me: "It's almost hilarious."
Anne: "Yah I saw you walk into the office the other day, and you were wearing the t-shirt with gym shorts, white tennis shoes, and a huge backpack, and I thought, 'Oh how the mighty have fallen!'"

It's true.  I thought I'd never even wear tennis shoes except on a jog...and now I'm 5 days a week wearing a tshirt & running shorts, w/ tennis shoes & a backpack.  Took about a week.  And I don't even think about it anymore.  And I still haven't jogged yet.  Pastries first, jogging later.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Random Collection

I have so many things to share, I'm certain I'll never catch up.  This is going to be the most random post ever.  I'm just going to warn you now.  Its only common thread is that they are all pictures I took within the first 2 and a half weeks of being here.  Shall we?  Let's.

First glimpse of the Eiffel tower from the cab as I was arriving from the airport.  Huge smile.  "Can't believe I'm here" moment.


How would you like this guy's job?? Cutting down tree branches while balancing on a branch that looks like it's about to snap about 10 stories up?  No thank you!  (I digress already.) 

Ohh look at this lovely view I had over breakfast.  Isn't that stunning?  Nothing says "Welcome to Paris" like a huge delivery truck parked right in front of your line of vision.  "This is it," I thought to myself.  "This is why I'm here."  Tire. In my face.
This little breakfast was about 2 days after my arrival, when I was still wholely confident that a quaint little affordable apartment was just going to pop up at any moment.  Then a 9 day period passes before I take another picture.  Hotel bill...crying..."What am I doing here?"...etc, etc.  We all remember. 

These lovely ladies are Jillian & Anne, the two other new office staff that joined at the same time as me, so we went through training together.  They're awesome, I love them!! 
This was the day we took the D-Day Tour to Normandy so we could understand this tour that we sell.  Which normally might be cool and fun, but it was about 40 degrees and rained the. whole. day. 

The. whole. 12 hour. day.  

Inthecold.  Did I mention I'm a baby and I hate cold and I define cold as anything below 70?  So Tundra, pretty much.

Also, I wore sweater boots, which doubled as an excellent pair of sloshy sponge boots, should you ever be in the market for boots that absorb & hold water extremely well.

I went to the American Church of Paris one Sunday.
It was really pretty, but also really traditional, so I'll probably check out a couple other churches in the next few weeks.  The best part was at the end, when I saw on the program that an African church would be doing some sort of dance offering, and my ears perked up.  (Yes please!!)  It was pretty much amazing.  They sang and danced down the aisle. Africans know how to worship.  They just do.  

Then we had some nice weather finally arrive, so our manager, Jack, texted everyone about meeting for a picnic.

I could partake in the picnic activities every day.  Especially when this is the view:

Will I ever get over it?  Will the Eiffel tower ever get old?  No I don't think so.

And then it just gets prettier as the sun sets...

And even prettier when it starts sparkling!

Ahhhh.  Love.  Paris, I love you, lovelove.  I envision many a summer night spent this way.

This is Jeff, who is also new to Fat Tire.  He's awesome, I would vote him into my top 3 favorite guides.  Had to get him wearing my earmuffs. Clearly my camera was having issues. 
He has a variety of nicknames, such as Mr. Nutella (bc he polished off a whole jar within his first week--PSH!--who would do something like that?? ...Maybe we should go to Nutella rehab.), Ripley (because he looks like Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley), and Rip, for short.  I also call him "Heff" a lot, it's Spanish for "Jeff", not sure if you knew.   

And finally...I know you have been dying to know...
I got some houmous!!!  I had to get some for my first Skype session w/ Katrina.  Pita chips & hummus have been a roommate staple for quite some time...possibly every it was only appropriate.  Pita chips yet to be found.

This concludes my random collection of pictures from the first couple weeks.  Just to recap: Man in a tree, Delivery truck, Hummus.  Riveting.  Insightful.  We can only go up from here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pain au Chocolat & Undecipherable Space Laundry

Back to more interesting things, like breakfast pastries.  I decided that a good rule to implement was "No pastries during the work week."  Only on my days off.  Specifically, this was needed because of my walk to work, and the fact that I had a pain au chocolat almost every day the first couple weeks.

Pain au chocolat is an amazing delicious croissant with two thin strips of melty chocolate in the middle:

It's crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, flakey and buttery and delicious...AND THEN you add chocolate!!  Which, when fresh in the morning, is all melty.  I'm about to go break into a bakery right now.

I found myself magnetically attracted to the bakeries in the morning during my walk to work, almost involuntarily.  Suddenly I'm inside, and next thing I know, I'm eating a pain au chocolat on the walk to work and somehow there was a 9 foot baguette in my other hand, which I would of course eat throughout the day.  I had to give myself some boundaries.  So delicious morning pastries are reserved for my two days off per week.

Um, hey, does someone want to help me figure out my washing machine?

My options appear to be "different departure", "super wash", "easy re-passage", or "extra rinsage".

What about "normal wash"? Hm?  I don't think the SUPER washing is necessary every time (the one that sounds like my laundry is preparing to launch into outer space), but I don't even know what the other 3 do! And then those two buttons next to the key, which both look like "on" buttons to me, that I push back and forth various times until I finally hear some water start.

And it appears to take a total of 9 hours for laundry.
If I'm understanding correctly: 2 hours for "single drop of water", 2 hours later, lots of water, 2 hours later, some water movement, followed by a spin cycle that will finish after 3 hours.

By the way, since it's my day off tomorrow, I am ABSOLUTELY getting a pain au chocolat in the morning to eat on the way to the bank, where I will attempt to speak French and find out why it takes 15 days to access my money after I deposit a check.  I oh-so-sadly have a morning appointment when all I want to do is sleep in. 

Oh and there's a baby screaming its head off right now.  That's new.  More soon!

The Butterfly Shift

It's my first night off since I don't know when, and I'm sitting here at my apartment doing laundry and eating hot & sour soup from the Chinese place downstairs.  Don't be jealous of my French life.

I don't even know what day it is because I work weekends and get 2 weekdays off, and I just got done w/ three consecutive butterfly shifts (8am-8pm), which apparently used to be called the "hell shift" by the office staff, until the manager requested something nicer sounding.  Voila, butterfly shift. 8-8.

A 12-hour work day may not normally be so bad if it was a desk job.  But I've come to realize that I haven't had an active on-your-feet-all-day job in years (if ever, to this degree), and it just produces a different kind of worn-out at the end of the day.

(By the way, my washing machine, which fits about 5 tshirts per load and also take 17 hours per load, sounds like a rocket ship that is about to take off right now.  I mean it is seconds from blast-off.  I fully expect it to go flying through the roof at any moment. I'm not exaggerating when I say the walls are kind of shaking, and I'm slightly concerned.)

The first time I did a load of laundry, that towel & Kleenex box went flying. 

Back to work.  For anyone remotely interested (i.e. my mom & best friends), to give an idea of what work is like...I present to you a typical butterfly shift:

-Early wake-up

-Brisk & speedy walk to work, past 2 tempting bakeries, where I repeat to myself the new rule: "No breakfast pastries allowed."  (Until my days off. More on this later).

-After a 20 minute walk, arrive and start hauling out the big metal sign boards, followed by 50-60 fairly gigantic bikes up a couple steps, and line them up outside.  

-Get 50 people into two groups, on bikes, and off to the train station for the 9am Versailles tour.

-Go with the group by bike to the station, go in ahead of them and feed the train tickets through the turnstile, bungee cord a door open, then help the group carry their bikes down the stairs, and help haul bikes onto the train.
     (Side note--The train door opens for about 15 seconds, where you get 4-6 people to charge through the nearest open train door w/ their bikes, usually into a sea of people.  We tell them it's like the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, and you just have to charge forth into a full train of people, where there is seemingly zero room, through a door that is not all that big, with two poles in the way, with your giganto bikes.  And often w/ an additional tandem bike attachment for kids with a huge metal basket cart on it, that's about 6 feet long, super heavy & awkward to maneuver, which I almost impaled a guy in the head with the other day while trying to get it on before the doors slammed shut.  I once saw a tour guide fling herself between the closing train doors and almost get cut in half in order to get the rest of her group on the train.  It's crazy.)  Okay now that group is on the train.  Repeat and do it all over again w/ group 2, which is just around the corner.

-Bike back to the office, through traffic, with no helmet.  Try not to get hit by cars.  This is kind of humorous, considering that I wouldn't even bike to the mail box at home without my helmet on, or the 3 minute ride to work down a practically deserted side road where I would nary see a single car...and now I'm biking down a legitimate boulevard with delivery trucks passing by in the same lane.  I know my mom will email me in about 5 minutes concerning the helmet matter.  

-Back at the office, to help: 9:30am Segway group, 10am walking tour, bring out more bikes, 11am bike tours

-Take 5 minutes to run and get a 9 foot baguette, tell yourself you'll eat half and save the rest for dinner. Proceed to eat all of it.

-9:30 Segway group comes back, 2pm Segway group goes out, 11am groups come back, 3pm groups go out.

-Bring bikes in/out.

-2 hour "pause" during the day may now include hauling boxes of wine to the scary underground storage facility that has 19 different steel doors to open and close along the way; bringing up cases of cokes/candy/cups; hauling boxes/bags of t-shirts; or stacking 36-pack cases of bottled water that get delivered by the pallet-full. Work up a sweat and repeat the words "pastry cream" silently to yourself.

-Both Versailles tours, 2pm Segways, & 3pm bike tour groups come back in waves. People everywhere.

-6:30pm Segway group goes out, and the last hurrah, the 7pm night bike group of 40-60 people through the office and out the door.

-Bring all remaining bikes & signs into the office.


-Walk home 20 min, up the stairs to the apartment, a couple hours to eat, check some emails, and get ready for bed, because 7:30am is coming early.

Oh and you're old and you eat too many pastries and you're used to sitting at a desk for the past 7 years of your life, only getting up once per day for a lunch break or a rigorous 30-second walk to the restroom.

I genuinely have no idea what part of the week we're in.  All I know's weekend time for me, and that makes me so happy.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Paris Pastry Perils

We all know I came here for the food. Once we can accept that, with full awareness in our hearts, we can together realize that 99% of my posts are going to be about food.  They just are.  This one is all about pastries, because I have gone overboard on pastry consumption in the past week, and I don't regret it one bit.

Confession (I sense there will be a lot of these):  I had 3 pastries in one day.  That's right. Three.   French people probably eat 3 per year.  But I just got here, so I'm still riding on my "I live in Paris!!!" ticket.  Don't worry, I bought a scale.

First, a lemon tart that I have been eyeing every day when I buy my baguette at the bakery across the street (yes, every day, lay off me!).  

The weather has been GORGEOUS, and it was my day off, so I thought to myself, "Hey self.  You should get an awesome pastry and go sit under the Eiffel tower."  So I did.

And it was glorious.

And THEN, later that evening, I was going to grab dinner at a cafe, but got chastised by a waitress for asking if I could sit at a table that had just opened up, and she made it evident to all that I was a buffoon for not coming through the front entry to ask this question like everyone else.  (During the day, you can just grab a seat outside, and it's no big deal...How was I to know the rules changed at a certain unnamed hour??)

So I thought, "Fine!  I'm just going to get an awesome pastry for dinner, and that's that!"  And then I got two, because, it's dinner, you know??  Someone help me.

But let me tell you...THIS was a great dinner!!

I mean...Do you see this?
Chocolate mousse caramely heaven! Thank goodness I had some fruit w/ this dinner.  It was almost really unhealthy, but then that blackberry totally redeemed it.

I had some difficulty with the other one.  I kind of just smashed it.

Couldn't really figure out how to break through the top layer, so i just kept pushing and smashing, I mean life is tough, I know you just wonder, how do I do it?  Well, I persevere. 

Oh my gosh, I'm a monster.  It's like pastry explosion.  I didn't know what to do!!  This one needs instructions.  I'm just glad I wasn't in public. 

Afterward, I felt a combination of "that was the best dinner ever" with a side of "I feel a little sick".  But I'd do it again, oh yes I would.

Then there was this specimen from a few nights prior:
Look at it.  So perfect you almost don't want to eat it, but of course that would be crazy.

And then I dropped my camera directly into the creamy liquid chocolate.  Couldn't have been the crisp unbreakable pastry top, could it?  Had to be the liquid pool of chocolate that my camera nose dives into.

I don't know if I was more concerned about the tart or the camera.  But I attended to both immediately.

These are the perils of living in Paris.  Danger lurking around every corner.  The camera is fine.  The pastry has gone to a better place.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

One Month Anniversaire!!

Today marks one month of being in Paris!  Does that feel like a time warp to anyone else??  I feel like I JUST got here.  That’s insane.  I realize I have posted all of two times in the past month, and I do intend to have a higher blogging frequency now that I can start getting settled, and I'm not wasting time fruitlessly searching for apartments and crying.
As you know, my first two weeks were pretty physically/emotionally/mentally draining, I had a couple mini meltdowns, and then proceeded to buckle under the stress of not being able to find an apartment and ended up getting a place that is waaaay-hay-hay over my budget.  I will therefore be eating PB&J sandwiches every day in order to pay for my apartment…WHICH by the way, is awesome and adorable and on my favorite street in the world, and I absolutely love it!!! 

I may regret it in a few months when I have absolutely no money left over to do anything but sit in my apartment and eat crackers.  But it’s only a 6 month lease, so I figure…how often do I get to live in Paris???  (Once every 29 years, historically).   

I can live in my dream apartment for 6 months in its perfect location with its adorable courtyards, stroll up and down my adorable street stuffing my face with pastries & sighing in happiness, and THEN, when the lease is up, face reality, cut down on my carb and sugar consumption, and find something cheaper. 

But for now…IT’S AMAZING!!!  I seriously smile every time I walk down my adorable amazing street, Rue Cler, which is featured in guidebooks and has always been an immediate must-visit street every time I’ve come to Paris over the years…please see how adorable:

And then more smiling again when I walk through the adorable amazing courtyard…

And then again when I sit at my desk and look out the beautiful French window at the vines covering the building across from me while I listen to someone play piano in the apartment below while the birds chirp along.  Usually while eating a 9 foot baguette, not surprising.

Confession: 2 nights ago, after eating quite a large dinner, I came home and then proceeded to eat a substantially giant block of cheese & finished off a jar of Nutella with just the jar and a spoon (I don’t even pretend to use the crepe was just getting in the way).  There I said it, it’s out there.  Cheese block.  Nutella jar.  I’m not allowed to buy anymore.  

Okay cheese is still allowed, but Nutella is BANNED. 

Your soon to be fat friend,