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I like pretty cocktails from Combat

 

It’s been a little over two weeks since I’ve settled into my new place, and slowly but surely, things are finally starting to feel like home.

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Finding creative ways to hang photos helps

Quite a number of notable events happened in those two weeks, at least one of which was witnessed by pretty much the entire world over in one way or another. I closed my last post with my housewarming party, and all the leftover chips I (still) have in my house, sitting on my table…just waiting to be consumed…at some point.

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Old mustard pots make great vessels for desserts…just saying

In the days that followed, I reoriented myself with my (not so) new surroundings, trying to establish a routine that could follow me through into the rentrée. I planned new walking routes (because of course I did), I acquainted myself with my new smaller kitchen, I made things, gifted things, stocked my tiny fridge to the brim with things. I got back in touch with two old friends, one of whom I hadn’t seen in about five years, and who I had originally met in my first study abroad program when I was an undergrad. They work as an actor full-time in New York now, and were in town as part of an independent production : a reworking/reimagining of sorts of La Vie d’Adèle (Blue is the Warmest Color). I won’t go too much into the details of how this went because even though my friend and I had a long and incredibly cathartic on their end, at least from what I gathered, talk about all the almost unbelievable nonsense that muddied the overall mood of the production, I’m not sure how much negativity I want to put out into the world right now when there are so many others (two world leaders in particular are coming to mind…) doing the job so astoundingly well already. Suffice it to say that an overinflated ego that all but blinds you to the – I know, astounding – reality that your audience is more than fully capable of interacting intelligently with and drawing informed conclusions from your piece, is never the best way to go about things.
On the bright side, the aforementioned cathartic conversation with said friend did allow me the opportunity to add a new restaurant to my list, Le Cadoret, located about 5 or so minutes from my apartment. It’s going right up there with the three dumpling places, and the proximity to my favorite café on my list of reasons why I’m really glad I moved into this apartment.

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Beets and boudin noir to start
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Pork and the fluffiest pommes dauphine I have ever tasted
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Cheese…because of course.

This first reunion was followed up on by another with another friend – from the Cité U days – who I also hadn’t seen since the last time I moved out of Paris in 2014. Unfortunately, schedules never worked out in our favor to meet up during my subsequent short visits, and right before I moved back, she took a job in Vienna. Luckily though, she was in town for the night of July 14th (Bastille Day), so a small group of us were able to get together for dinner before heading over to the Pont Alexandre III to watch the fireworks with a slightly smaller crowd than the masses on the Champ de Mars. Let me tell you, watching the fireworks with an incredibly, excessively belligerent human squawking the Marseillaise – along with several other chants relating to France’s semifinal win the night before – right behind you is quite an experience. I mean really, it was almost as though we were right there, on the champ de mars, listening to the soundtrack of various pop songs that no doubt accompanied the (several) ecstatic bursts of color. The theme this year was Paris in Love. I have no doubt that nothing illustrated that theme better than the love that was shown between that man the the robust capacity of his vocal chords (really though, the show lasted just over 30 minutes, and he kept at it the whole time…yes people asked him repeatedly to knock it off…and yes after a while we realized that this, like the fight against our own mortality in this journey called life, was a futile endeavor).
Anyway.

Speaking of celebrations, France won the World Cup. I met up with the boyfriend at a bar near his friend’s place, a bar that, once I walked in, gave me strong California vibes, with a touch of New England maritime aesthetic.
Despite the very palpable feelings of stress that permeated the room during a large part of the first half (let’s get this out of the way now: France did not play well at all during a very good portion of that game), once the goals started happening – and especially once victory became almost inevitable –, the mood changed, as one might expect it would during an event like this.
Really though, I don’t think anything can quite capture the absolute joy that radiated out into the streets after the match was over. I didn’t really feel up for heading down to the Champs Elysées that evening (or the day after for the team’s welcome home parade), but honestly, it almost didn’t matter where you were in the city (I’m going to stress that last bit here because, of course, access to the celebrations from the banlieues was all but cut off that night), the celebration all but found you.

All this to segue into another victory, a smaller, more personal one, perhaps, but a victory all the same.
I installed a washing machine.
A bit of background: before I moved in to my apartment, the friend of mine who was living there before me informed me that the in-unit washing machine was smoking. This is, of course, not normal. Not a problem. I strategized my laundry at my old place, a new machine was ordered, and two weeks later, there it was in my ‘living room’.
Now here’s a thing about France that I did not know at the time: technically, if you order a large appliance like this to replace an old or broken one, the delivery service, by law, has to take the old one out of your place when they deliver the new one. The former is then dropped off at an appropriate recycling facility where it is either repaired/refurbished (if possible), or taken apart and its materials being put to use elsewhere. Of course, this system does at times mean that you will encounter people who conveniently ‘forget’ to take your old machine, meaning you find yourself in a conundrum of being on the top floor of a 5th (US 6th) floor walk-up with one more washing machine than you really know what to do with.

One thing was for certain though: I needed to do laundry. For that, I had to install the new machine.
Shout-out here to the boyfriend for helping me figure out how to do it over the phone, and for granting me the realization that it really isn’t quite as annoyingly complicated as I thought it would be.
Well, the actual installation part at least (apart from this moment where I almost had a breakdown because the damn faucet thing wouldn’t stop leaking until I realized that the tube was screwed on slightly crookedly and that there really was a very simple solution to that problem). The moving the old machine out and the new one into place was slightly less so.
Honestly, that part was a bitch. But at least now I have clean underwear so…

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*Victoriously sips on a really quite excellent Freddo Cappuccino from IBRIK as a way to mark the completion of an initially daunting task…

 

As to the old machine, thankfully I had a few friends willing to come lend a hand to bring it down the stairs (and a neighbor who caught us about 2/3rds of the way down and offered his help as well), otherwise that thing was (metaphorically) going right out the window.

Finally, the week was rounded out with another first for me: my first trip to a public swimming pool in Paris. Yay!
My friend Isabella and I were keen for a bit of sun/sunning, and since going to the beach was not an option (1: last minute train tickets there were a bit too expensive, and 2: all the trains back were full), we figured why not do the next best thing and go to an open-air swimming pool (conveniently located near both the Parc des Buttes Chaumont and my apartment).
Contrary to my expectations, the pool wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded that day, and was actually very nice and clean (as in, the water was crystal clear, and did not smell overwhelmingly of chlorine clean). We mostly sat out on the pool ledge to get some sun and dip our feet in (no lounge chairs in the immediate area, unfortunately), but after a bit, we did end up donning our (mandatory) swimming caps and taking a quick dip in.

Coincidentally, this is also the thing that reminded me of why I never really sought out going to public pools here. I hate swimming caps.
Another side note: someone is going to need to explain to me exactly why it is that in France the rule is that you must take a quick shower – with soap, provided in the changing rooms – before going in the water. This seems counterintuitive.
As I am going to be off to Greece in a couple of weeks, I don’t fully anticipate visiting the pool again this summer, but given how pretty excellent their access packages are price-wise, maybe this could become a weekly thing next year. Who knows?
Hell, maybe by then I’ll have bought myself a swim cap that’s a slight more comfortable than the 2eur one I bought from the vending machine in the entrance lobby. There were two colors available: black and navy blue. Take a wild guess as to which one I picked…

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As you can see, this is not a swim cap. No, this is some apricot jam I made. Another mini-success

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I like to push my limits sometimes

 

I learned a new thing about myself this week. Despite my eternal and unwavering love of all things spicy, I may have finally met my match: spice level 4 at Trois Fois Plus de Piment.

 

(For reference, the spice level goes up to 5. I’m just going to go on the record now and say that I probably won’t be attempting that any time soon…at least not yet.)

 

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This is the face of someone who is both very determined and somewhat apprehensive.

 

I figured since I had, on several occasions, devoured bowls at level 3 with little difficulty, a 4 would present a welcome, but doable, challenge. Let’s just say that although I was able to – very slowly – finish my noodles and pork, the rest of the broth remained untouched (a shame really, because even though the burning sensation lingered for what seemed like forever after each bite, the broth was just too flavorful to not keep eating. There’s a word for this kind of behavior: masochism).

 

Honestly, I have no shame in saying that maybe I found my limit. On the contrary, if anything it almost makes me more determined to surpass it. Mostly, I find it hilarious that this new discovery happened in Paris of all places, considering how spice-averse many people still think the city is.

 

You know what else helped my coming down from what I can only describe as spice nirvana? This:

 

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Other great discovery of the week: Glaces Bachir is literally a minute away.

 

Other than the fact that Paris felt more like the upper ends of Siberia this week – what with winter making a last-minute appearance to remind us that no, spring wasn’t here quite yet – , not too much to report in terms of significant events. The week was mostly spent shuttling my sister + her boyfriend around to various (mostly food-related) places, though I did extract myself from the grading and whatnot I left for the last minute (yay!) to join them on a visit to the Pompidou.

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The temptation to jump into this was
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An ostrich on wheels…literal nightmare fodder…

 

I also finally consumed something at La Fontaine de Belleville that wasn’t coffee or a sablé…

 

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Carrot soup is always a good idea.

 

I even stole a couple of bites of my sister’s (very delicious) croque-monsieur, so at least now I can say that lunch here is definitely a good idea (for those who may have been curious).

 

And as with most visits, when it all came to an end on Saturday, looking back on the week that was felt like staring a whirlwind in the face. But that’s just what happens when you change up an otherwise regular routine.

 

Speaking of which, class was back in session today. Going to have to get used to running at high energy on little sleep again. Oh and finish drafting up my first version of a bibliography for my prospectus tomorrow.

 

Bring it on, March. Bring. It. On.

 

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Instagram @effie143

 

Another weekly breakdown. Let’s do this:

 

 

Monday

  • You know what’s fun? Showing up to yoga only to find everyone standing outside the studio looking confused. No, class was not cancelled. Train delays (caused, in part, because of the Seine overflowing into some of the lines) meant that the girl who was usually at the front desk was…not at the front desk. And our instructor did not have her keys. Normally this would not have been an issue for me, but I was counting on class ending relatively close to on time that evening, as I had to run to a show after and needed to figure out my dinner situation. Thankfully, one of the owners of the studio – who lives like two doors down – was just reaching home and came running down with the keys, cutting a potential 30 minute delay down to 15.

 

  • I decided to stick around anyway – even though I was going to be cutting it pretty close in terms of being able to eat something. We practiced head stands. I…almost got it this time haha.

 

  • Staying did, however, mean I had to book it over to the Théâtre de la Bastille afterwords, but at some point during my post-yoga sprint, I remembered that there was a small café/bar on the premises. This being France, I assumed – correctly, thank goodness – that they would be serving some sort of actual food there, and that it probably wouldn’t be too expensive. The (very generously-portioned) quiche and salad pictured below cost me 6 euros. Just going to add this to the list of reasons as to why allocating a good portion government funding to theatre/the arts is a good thing (along with ridiculously affordable ticket prices).

 

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  • The show I saw that evening – Quoi/Maintenant – was something of a social satire, and probably one of the only outright comedies I have seen since being here. Premise: rich, bourgeoise, liberalist/capitalist family hires a maid to look after their house/their 12 year-old son. The matriarch of this family also fancies herself an artist, and works as an assistant for some eccentric painter/sculptor who she also probably slept with at some point. In the end, the maid kills the family with the bouillabaisse.

 

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  • Oh and the son and painter are both played by the same actor – an older, bearded gentleman who, although he did not look like a 12 year-old, had the same boundless energy and mischievous playfulness of one.

 

  • And I think that was my biggest takeaway from this performance: how just plain fun it was. There were moments when it became evident that one of the actors fudged up a bit, but instead of trying to cover it up, they just rolled with it – one of the advantages of satire, you can actually get away with this sometimes if you’re already a pretty solid ensemble to begin with – drawing the audience in to their world as they did so. This isn’t groundbreaking theatre or anything. But sometimes it’s just good to have a bit of cheeky fun with it all.

 

Thursday (yeah, Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty quiet)

  • I have a feeling a new tradition may have started today: Thursday evening drinks with a new friend, who also happens to be a PhD. Tonight’s edition was held at Red House, and I can safely say that I and my _____ negronis really welcomed the moment of relaxation after another long week of teaching and BNF…ing.

 

Friday

  • Right, now to the photo at the top of this post. Back when I first moved back, I had taken my mom to grab food at this place called Pizzeria Popolare, one of several restaurants run by the Big Mamma group. Although our meal was very good, I still wasn’t convinced that I understood the hype around this and all the other ‘Mamma’ restaurants that justified nightly hours-long waits. Well, the meal I had this evening changed that. I understand the hype now.

 

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The hype is this burrata pillow.

 

  • The night before, I was invited by some friends to join them for dinner Friday night at Mamma Primi, located in the 17th arrondissement and, as the name suggests, heavily focused on primi piatti, aka pastas. As we were five – and this restaurant, like all their restaurants, does not take reservations – we made sure to show up early, like 45 minutes early, to get our places in line before the restaurant opened at 19h00. We were originally thinking of showing up at 18h30. Let me tell you, those 15 minutes made a huge difference.

 

  • I’m going to skip over the décor and whatnot, except to say that the whole place was very tastefully decorated with a keen eye for the fact that literally everyone would be taking multiple pictures of everything during their meal (and yeah, I’m including myself in this too….whatever). On to more important things, namely, the food. We started the meal off with cocktails – for me, a twist on a gin fizz with gin infused with eucalyptus that provided a nice counterbalance to the drop in temperature outside to make me wish it were summer again – as well as some parmesan and olives (top photo) and that bouncy, bulging burrata ball pictured just above. Then came the main courses – and wine, of course – and this is where I had my little ‘epiphany’. And it came in the form of pasta with braised rabbit.

 

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I can almost taste this again just from looking at it.

 

  • The minute I saw rabbit on the menu (which, being seasonal, changes relatively often), I knew I had to have it. I actually quite like rabbit – surprising, I know, given that I used to have a pet bunny -, but it’s not really something I usually make for myself at home, since my preferred way of eating it involves the kind of low and slow cooking that demands a few hours of one’s time. This one was served with fresh, homemade pasta with a sort of sweet/sour sauce. I’m not lying when I say I had to struggle a bit to keep from devouring this thing in one fell swoop. The rabbit was melt-in-your-mouth tender, the pasta perfectly al denté, the sauce layered with a depth and complexity of flavor that almost makes you want to run your finger along your empty plate to pick up any stray drops. Hell, this thing almost made me miss American-sized ridiculously gargantuan portions at Italian restaurants. I say almost because first, quality generally outweighs quantity in my book when it comes to food, and second, having correctly-portioned food meant that I was able to make it through all the courses feeling pleasantly satisfied but not overstuffed to the point of bursting.

 

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Splitting this tiramisu helped in the not-feeling-full factor.

 

  • We ended the evening with some cocktails and dancing at Lulu White, whose playlist was pretty on-point that night, what with all the 80s Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson (among others) they were playing. It helped also that we were incredibly lucky to snag a table, thus able to set our things off to the side while we danced off our dinner.

 

Saturday

 

  • So for the past couple of weeks, the people in the apartment next to mine have been embarking on a big renovation project. Given that I’m usually away teaching/at the library in the mornings, I haven’t been subject too much to the nonsense that comes along with these sort of things. Until today. That’s right everyone, 09h30 found me being woken up by a hammer banging something on the wall directly on the other side of my bedroom. Sigh.

 

  • As a way of consoling my annoyance, after doing my weekly market run, I ventured out to le Caféothèque (yeah, wanted to get pretty far from the noise…) to grade some exams over a hot chocolate, the universal cure-all. The night ended with some drinks at a bar near Ménilmontant, as well as the hope that Sunday morning would not result in another rude wake-up call.

 

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So, fun fact: the Square du Vert-Galant is not normally meant to be this much underwater…

 

It’s funny how so many things can change even within the span of two short weeks. I had forgotten how much the Seine tends to rise in the winter months – what with all the rain – , and so I was a bit taken aback when, on my walk back to the metro today, I saw water sloshing up paths I normally walk on.

 

I’m also not entirely sure those people in the photo above have the best idea of standing literally inches away from the water,  but hey…choices.

 

Anyway, today was mostly a day of laundry, tutoring and lesson planning, save for a lovely few hours this afternoon at tea with a friend.

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For once, I resisted getting tarte au citron in favor of something else (in this case a mango-pear clafoutis). No regrets

 

At her suggestion, we met at a lovely little place called L’Heure Gourmande in the 6th near Saint-Germain. I don’t often venture over to this side of the river (exceptions being venturing to get pho and/or dim-sum in the 13th), but given how warm and cozy this place was, I might make a point to try and swing by a bit more often. It’s a bit hidden away in a passage of the main road – although there is a little sign right above where you’re meant to turn, it can be a bit easy to miss – which means you’re far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the area that you can really sink into your chair and dig in to a very generous slice of pie with abandon.

 

Back to the grind again tomorrow. Thankfully, I managed to plan my lessons for the week so I can actually get back to spending the majority of my downtime focusing on my prospectus…thing.