Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dickhead

I've been here nearly two years now but have yet to receive my Carte Vitale (yeah, put that in your movie, Michael Moore!). Because I'm able to see doctors on Fred's card and hate doing paperwork and reading instructions, I could have gone on like this forever. As a condition of my new employment, however, I had to produce a card or at least an attestation that I was in the process of getting one. I received the attestation and my card was supposed to arrive the following month. Instead I received a notice that France is introducing new cards that require a photo I.D. The other night, the only night I had on make-up, I finally mustered the energy to take the photo. We arrived at the Saint Michel station photo booth a few minutes early before meeting a friend for dinner. I stepped in the booth and was ready to go. Luckily, Fred is more astute than me and said “if you use this booth that will be in the photo”. I focused on my reflection and turned around to examine the giant penis and scrotum scribbled on the plastic backdrop. I tried standing up, rearranging the seat, having Fred hold up my coat as a back drop, all to no avail. I considered just taking the photo with my head perfectly framed by male genitalia. Certainly a giant penis growing out of my ear would convince a doctor that I was worthy of medical attention.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Want to hear something gross?

I'm traumatized and am seriously considering a thumb amputation. I called the elevator at the airport today because I was lost and in a hurry (just so you don't think I'm lazy) and while I was waiting some gross woman walked up. She was sniffling and wiping her nose with her bare hand like a three year old. We entered the elevator and I chose my floor. She couldn't wait the millisecond for me to move away from the panel and brushed her slimy snot hand up against mine thereby depositing a pool of glistening mucus on the tip of my right thumb. I spent the entire time in the security line trying not to touch anything. Of course, I couldn't stop off at the bathroom because I was late for my flight; a flight that I ultimately missed, which in a way is good because it gave me the extra hour I needed to try to scrub my thumb clean.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Socrates, alive and well on rue Daguerre

We entered the Greek store on rue Daguerre to treat ourselves to some baklava. Fred placed our order and the man behind the counter asked if we were espagnol. I said no, he is français and I am américaine. While ringing us up, another owner chimed in and referred to us as the le français and la canadienne. I seriously don’t know why I even bothered, but I said that I was américaine. That’s when he explained to me that because Canadians, South Americans, and “Indians” are American too, I can't just say that I’m américaine. I explained that I was aware of the make up of the continents; regardless, we are called Americans/américains. Canadians and Argentineans, for example, don’t refer to themselves as Americans when asked their nationality. I asked him what I should have said and he said that I should say that I am from the United States. I explained that I would have said that had he asked me where I was from versus what I was. I asked him the French word to describe a person from the United States – an innocent woman who had just walked in overheard my question and offered “américain” – exactly! It’s a French word, if he has a problem with it he can take it up with the French minister of culture. Plus, he’s an idiot because since Canadians, South Americans, "Indians", and "people from the United States" are all Americans, then my answer was correct, I am American! According to him, all people from India are Americans too. I was willing Fred to tell him that his French was crap and that he should shut the *F* up. See how agressive I am? Now if that's not American, then what is?!?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Not even a little?


When did France get so strict?!? Another myth down the drain! I was shocked to learn that French women do get fat. That bad French food does exist. And now this? What happened to, "in Europe it's totally acceptable for women to have a little red wine during pregnancy"?

There is a simpler way to make yourself Chinese.



When I saw this ad, I was in disbelief. "There's no way it would have run in the U.S.," I thought to myself. But, it seems that Wanchai Ferry is a division of General Mills. I'm curious if anyone saw this ad in the States?

Friday, September 14, 2007

I Can't Quit You . . .

After 10 days of living la dolce vita, we headed to Bordeaux in search of la belle vie. While I enjoyed being on equal footing with Monsieur Frederic in Italy, I have to admit that it was nice to be back "home" with my personal translator. (There were a few times during our trip when, forgetting where we were, I completely tuned out in the midst of getting directions only to turn to Fred after and ask: "What did he say?" During one ugly incident, I raised my voice at him in frustration and accused him of "not listening"; he kindly reminded me that he did not speak Italian.)

In Bordeaux, we stayed in a comfortable and reasonably priced chambres d'hôtes called chez in-laws. The only cost was enduring a few annoying comments from one of the proprietors. That being said, my belle mère is a wonderful cook. Following are some of her offerings, including duck breast (that my beau père barbequed on sarments aka vine shoots); moules à la marinière, a chorizo and potato omelet accompanied by home-grown tomatoes, and wine and cheese (with all of the above):





I've come to realize that my favorite vacations are where we don't have an agenda, where we can sleep in and the day is marked by meals, not a wristwatch. As much as I tease Fred for being pampered by his parents (e.g., having his mother do his laundry, not filling up the gas tank after he uses his dad's car, having his parents prepare our meals and fetch our morning croissants), it's amazing how over the years I've allowed myself to accept it and profit by association. Something about staying with them puts me in a time warp. Perhaps it's sleeping in Fred's old bedroom with the tropical beach scene wallpaper, his 1980s CD rack, and boyish belongings. I feel like a teenager on summer vacation without a care in the world. Bilbo, who came along for the first time, quickly adjusted to being pampered as well.




The first two days of our stay, we were joined with another guest, someone just as even more important than Bilbo, our friend Todd. We did a day trip to the beach town of Arcachon and then a small hike up La Dune du Pyla. Here's a photo of Fred and Todd at the top. There's a picture of the three of us, but I refuse to post it because the stranger charged with taking it didn't count to trois so my eyes are closed and I'm not sucking it in. My bag, however, is in the picture because Fred is a sweet husband and carried it up for me. (Just thought I'd clarify that Fred does not carry a man purse like many of his countrymen.)





The next day we walked around Bordeaux, something I never get tired of doing. We were married just outside of Bordeaux nearly 3 years ago and my 30+ American friends and family took over the city for the weekend, thus it holds very happy memories for me. But this year, Bordeaux had something else to celebrate. It was named to the UNESCO World Heritage List based on it's stunning architecture:

The Fountain at Place des Quinconces


La Grosse Cloche (the bell that used to signal the start of the grape harvest)

Place de la Bourse (by day and by night)


Le Petit Bois
A cute little wine bar tucked away on a side street near L'Eglise Saint Pierre. It's decorated to look like you're outdoors with trees and lights, a little like The Blue Bayou Restaurant at Disneyland in the Pirates of Caribbean. A glass of wine runs about 5€ and you get your choice of a salty or sweet snack plate gratuit. (Le Petit Bois is dark and cozy, more of a relaxed bar atmosphere. For a more sophisticated/serious wine tasting, another great place is Bar à Vin du CIVB (Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux), located just across from the Office of Tourism. A glass of wine at the CIVB is around 2-4€.)



The highlight of our trip, however, was a tour and wine tasting that Fred's parents arranged for us at Château Rouaud (an organic winery in the wine region (AOC) Côtes de Bordeaux Saint-Macaire).






The contact info is:

Château Rouaud
17, grande rue
33490 PIAN SUR GARONNE
Tél : 05 56 76 41 69

They also have a chambres d'hôtes. It's not fancy, the restroom is on par with that of a ferry boat. But the hosts are very lovely and generous people with a passion for their work. Part of the charm of staying there (I imagine, I haven't done it yet), is that it's a small family vineyard and you can stay during the vendage and learn about the process. It sounds like a great experience for those who are interested in wine making. But if you want a relaxing 4 Star-type vacation, I don't think this would be a good fit.

[Sorry, I'm boring myself too! It's almost over . . .]

After the winery, we did a quick tour of l'ancien village de Saint-Macaire:







Finally, on the last day of our visit and the primary reason for our visit, we attended the baptism of Fred's second cousin, Audrey. Her parents hosted a lovely brunch, evidenced by this cute little dessert (a poussette de petit choux au chocolat et à la vanille)


The End!

Score:

Italy 1 France 1
Rematch in 2008

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Put on a happy face . . .

The party's over. I got a new job. It's full time in the Paris office of a British law firm. I'm very excited about this opportunity, but I'm a bit concerned given my propensity to lash out at rude people on the metro. My new office is 150+ so the odds of me working with that annoying commuter next to me (or being witnessed in an eyerolling match) on the metro just shot up.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Our Italian Vacation . . .

I would make a terrible travel writer. We returned from Italy more than one week ago and, despite the best of intentions, I just can't find the flowery words necessary to convey my experience (evidenced by the title of this entry)!

In sum, we had a wonderful time. We were taken by the hospitality of the Italians, the delicious food, and the stunning scenery.

Here are some highlights and observations of our trip:

It’s better to be French in Venice,


but not in Florence.

Unless you're buying questionable goods from a Senegalese street vendor, then it's better to be French over Italian and English. His arbitary "pricing chart" for some purple hued, gold rimmed Raybanish looking shades? French 20€; Italian 25€; British 30€.

I also learned if I'm really going to get the good deals, I'm going to have to perfect my French (at least if I'm going to pretend to be French). I figured that being French would get me farther with vendors than being American. I had a near miss with the Senegalese vendor - who spoke French - I told Fred he would have to do the bargaining for my next purchase, a suede orange purse. My shrewd scientist husband countered the vendor's initial price of 50 euros with 45 euros (obviously he didn’t spend his summers in Tijuana). I was in shock. I ended up having to bargain with Fred while the perplexed vendor looked on. Ultimately we arrived at 27 euros, i.e., all the money Fred had in his wallet. Our Laurel and Hardy routine worked to our advantage. The vendor just wanted to get rid of us especially after Fred said something about having to go the ATM to get more cash. Fred could never be a druggie. He'd be trying to score crank with his Carte Bleu. Although, in the end, his innocence paid off. Bien joué, Frédéric!

We loved the food in Italy! Simple, fresh, and delicious, whether it be a warm panini and a cool glass of pinot grigio at a little cafe near Venice's Santa Lucia train station,

or this perfectly salted Beef Tagliata served on a bed of roquette and tomatoes and drizzled with a vinagerette at Ristorante Marco Polo located on (we think) Salizzada S. Lio not too far from Piazza San Marco.
The food in Florence was just as good, if not better! For an excellent Beef Tagliata or Chicken Tagliata (served on cooked carrots, yellow peppers, and roquette), try Trattoria Gabriello, Via Condotta, 54 r. 50122 Firenze; it's just behind the Piazza Signoria. I started with the baked lasagna for my primo and then had the chicken. Our last night we returned and I had the beef as my secondo.

We took a day trip to Siena and ate at Ristorante il Sasso, via dei Rossi 2/a 53100 Siena. I still dream of their gnocchi gorgonzola.

Of course, we also tasted the Tuscan wine at Corte di Valle in Greve in Chianti. In addition to the winery, Corte di Valle also grows saffron. We enjoyed the experience, but found their "Super Tuscan" a bit too spicy and strong for our tastes.


Now with the food out of the way, here are a few photos of where we stayed:

In Venice we stayed at the Relais Venezia. It was well-situated and surprisingly quiet. We never opened the windows, however, because we didn't have a view (other than the brick wall directly across from us). Our room was immediately off the lobby, which I thought would be annoying, but we slept in past 10:00 a.m. nearly everyday, despite the fact that the lobby was converted to a continental breakfast dining area from 8:00-9:30 a.m. They must have some serious sound proof walls.

I love hotel bathrooms, and this one was small, but very nice. There's a design defect with the shower though. The water runs along the side of the wall and onto the bathroom floor if you're not careful.

I thought this sink bidet combo was cute and a good use of space.

In Florence we stayed about a 15 minutes walk from the center of the city, opting for a "residence" style hotel at the Residence Michelangiolo. Angela and Cherubino the owners and operators, couldn't have been nicer. We loved this place and now have dreams of opening up our own Residence in Bordeaux someday! Sigh.

Not too far from Residence Michelangiolo is a Bottega dei Sapori (P.zza Gavinana, 6 -Firenze), which carries wonderful Italian meats, cheeses, bread, olives, etc. Our room had a kitchenette so we could make our coffee each morning and picnic in our room on prosciutto and prosecco if we didn't feel like facing the crowds.

The bathroom here was beautifully done as well.

Finally, last, but not least, some shots of the cities in general:

Venice




Burano


Florence









Siena


Pisa


Marina di Pisa


Inspired by our trip, today we went to the marché and bought a roasted chicken, tomatoes, and roquette to make our own Chicken Tagliata for lunch (and perfectly ripened green figs and baby bananas for dessert):


We're off to Bordeaux tomorrow to give La France a chance to win back our affection through wine and cheese!