March 31, 2006

Random photos and decision making


D and I spent several hours last night discussing the way that we make choices. We sat in a pizza place on Place St Michel that looks out onto Notre Dame. Both aware of exactly how much we are envied, because we live in Paris, because this is a normal after school activity for us.

I am in a little bubble when it comes to next year. I have sent off my applications, imagined myself on beaches and in cities, wondered about a life in sandals or in snowboots. In the end though, I have put my thoughts into the world and am waiting quietly to see what comes back. Here comes the question that D asked: How do you know that you are waiting for the right thing? If you want to go live on the beach, don't you do everything you can to make that happen?

In my own hippy way, I want a more natural outcome than that. There are places and schools that I have been drawn to, and in my mind that makes it interesting enough to apply. Am I imagining that fate plays too strong a hand in where we end up? I have spent the last few weeks wishing and wanting to live in the US, only to be presented with life on an island. Don't we need to have a wander down the paths that we notice at the last minute?

March 30, 2006

Stressed without stress


A few weeks ago I made cryptic comments on my blog about moving again and where I might end up if I did. It has felt like an eternity since the part of February when I thought that choices and excitement were just around the corner and all I had to do was pick where I would go.

I have been applying with fervour to places all over the world and I have to say that I really do not feel any further on than I was two months ago. Yesterday I withdrew my application from my old school in Warsaw. They left me waiting for so long that I felt I really had no choice. It has left a bitter taste in my mouth, but I feel already that it is for the best.I also have my first interview in a week and a half in London. It is for school far away from Europe, a school on the beach, sun, sand and sunshine.

Two things have made me unsettled over the last few weeks. Protests and possible employment. Day to day I feel fine, stressed without stress. But inside my stomach is churning. One interview soon, and then whatever comes next comes next. I am trying to just see where the road leads and be open to whatever comes. Maybe it will still be Paris? Maybe somewhere far away?

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving"
Albert Einstein

March 29, 2006

Storm in a teacup - Part 2


L and I have been on our tea trails again, this is a place that we have been meaning to visit for ages.Every time we seem to go for a wander to find somewhere new it rains and the skies are grey. Yesterday was no exception. The miserable time when the weather is beating up Winter to get to Spring, and nobody knows who is winning. We went to Angelina on Rue de Rivoli looking for some sugar spun sunshine.

The waiters are lovely, cute, friendly, and they all spoke in French to us. Sometimes people automatically break into English and you have no chance to practise. He was patient and attentive, the perfect French waiter. He even went to find me a better menu to take a photo of, a brighter one.

We chose to have the Mille Feuille, even though the Mont Blanc looked like a little bit of cloud on your plate. The tea was mellow and warm, the atmosphere gold and soft. Angelina would have been an amazing place to visit in the Winter. H tells me that it is known to have the best hot chocolate in the whole of Paris.

The next one to find in Mariage Freres. Maybe it is back on the left Bank, I am not sure. I only know that I am enjoying these mini adventures. Five seconds into gazing at the Patisserie with its polished glass cases is enough to forget that we ever were at work. Slipped only into the moment, of cakes and perfect tea.

"Comfort was allowed to come to them, rare, welcome, unsought a gift like joy"
Ursula LeGuin

March 28, 2006

Roller skating jam named Saturday

(Passage Vivienne)
Sometimes I forget about the pictures I have taken and the posts I intended to write, so I end up with a little backlog. Today I have decided to throw something into cyber space and see what comes back. I always like posts when the blogger asks for advice so here we go. What should I do with my Saturday?
(Passage Jouffroy)
One of the things high on my list was a trip to Versailles. This would be a whole day out and it could be indoor or outdoor depending on the weather. I could try and persuade L to come and have mint tea at the top of the Institut du Monde Arab. I could spend a day wandering the length of the Canal St Martin. I could go on a photo fest and take pictures of the best Metro entrances. I could go and see the Rubens room at the Louvre again, I love the quiet of the wings away from the Mona Lisa.
(Mosaic Floor in Passage Vivienne)
I need some amazing slice of Paris to look forward to this weekend. I need to have a reason to get up and go, pack up my camera and go experience something new. So I am throwing it out to every-one else. Where should I spend my Saturday? What should I do?

March 27, 2006

Contre cancer


The steps of the Pantheon have become a riot of yello over the last couple of days. Raising money for the Marie Curie Cancer Foundation is done by sweeping pails of daffodils on the steps and then selling them for charity. For streets away from the Pantheon, there were people with bundles of jonquilles and Rue Soufflot was awash with residents of the 5eme walking home with their flowers.

After the grass path was laid, part of this display, the rain came dripping down this weekend and made soggy, brown muddy earth trails along Soufflot. It was bright and yellow at the end, but you had to hop over the mushy trail to get there.

I love an excuse to take pictures of flowers amd green stuff. This has really made me believe that Spring is here. It is Monday morning and I am sat in a Tshirt with my window wide open as the mild air waves through my window at work. Only two weeks until Easter, counting every day until then.
"I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom"
Simone de Beauvoir

March 26, 2006

The Blue line

It was less than two days before I stood back on the platform of the Luxemboutg station watching the RER whisk Jo away like a hot pie on a window sill in old American movies. She stayed just long enough to make me laugh hysterically, eat too much and fall asleep talking till the wee small hours.

We did nothing really amazing and did not take advantage of the museums and galleries that Paris has to offer. We did walk and talk, go to the cinema and just enjoy spending the time together that old friends do. I miss Poland, but only because they are all there, going to Green Coffee without me.

There are few people in the world that can put up with your quirks and make it seem like they are perfectly normal. I like to sit on the end of the row when I am at the cinema. Jo is the only person who knows that and indulges me every time. Back to my quiet flat, still behind the barricades. No more clothes piled in corners and an extra coat on the hook.

March 24, 2006

Pictures of lunch at the Orsay


A while ago D, L and I had a conference at the American University in Paris. We spent the day in an out of lectures on different aspects of education. The Keynote speaker made some interesting points in his lecture 'France- Crisis in Culture and Culture of Crisis'. One day, when I am feeling more able to culture comment, I will write a whole post about this.

Being between the Eiffel Tower and the Orsay, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch in the fancy restaurant there. We waited to be seated and when we did, the food was pretty good, not amazing though. What was breathtaking was the high ceilings, gold leaf and murals across each and every wall. Just to sit in there and have coffee and cake would be amazing. It is so old and traditional within this huge modern Art Gallery and the placement of these two things side by side slots in well.

If you are coming to Paris and want to treat yourself, go and sit in here for an hour or so. You can watch the old French couple who all seem to order the Plat du jour. You can watch the waiters balance massive plates with silver domes on the top. It is worth every penny of a 4 euro noisette to get the tiny pieces of cake that come on the side with a little ball of ice-cream.

March 23, 2006

Yellow and Green


There have been some changes to Rue Soufflot over the last 24 hours. The Prime Minister is not changing his mind, he is worried about being seen to be weak before the next general election. Before I arrived home last night some-one laid a path of grass up the length of the street. Part of the protest? An art installation? Who knows.

All I know is that no-one is happy with what is going on. The older generation of French think that although the students have a right to protest, that there has to be some change if the French economy is going to survive. French businesses say that the new laws are not going far enough. And all the way down the bottom are the students, wondering how the hell they are supposed to really get a foot on the work ladder when the rungs are being greased by their own government.

The French people I work with are amazed that the government has not backed down yet. In France this is learnt behaviour. If you are going to be affected by something the government does, you protest. And you protest knowing that the government will cave in, because that is what has always happened.

I only understand a small part of what has happened over the last couple of weeks. All I know is that Paris has changed for me a bit, I see her differently than I did before. I can only understand what I have experienced. There is something in the air in Paris, a quiet fatigue amongst the students. An air of defeat through the defiance, of living in a country they love, but feel will not give them the future that they want.

March 21, 2006

High Drama


Well, another day has gone by and France is now looking at a general strike next Tuesday. Here in my world, things move on as the whole of Paris is waiting for more protests and more trouble as no-one seems to be backing down. The end of my street now has some sort of mini tank with battering ram barricading the end of it. It is such a joy to walk past the police in their riot gear and smile sweetly, hoping that they will let me past to get into my apartment block.

Every night for the last two weeks, I have gone home straight from school. I don't want to be out on the streets. Not just because there are clearly Police expecting trouble in my area, but also because I don't want to have to cope with the eerie quality that has descended over the Sorbonne. There are many more protests to come and the papers are full of who said what.

This involvment in a real part of French politics and the voice of the students has made me feel like I am a part of Paris in a way that I never felt before. I felt connected to Poland, and always will, but it has taken a long time for me to feel like Paris is my home. How strange, it takes huge social unrest to bring out in me a connection to the place where I live.

March 20, 2006

Storm in a teacup

Saturday was spent hiding away and wondering where all the people had gone from the last few days. There were no police and no vans waiting around Luxembourg, and the only thing I did was skip to Montparnasse to see D for a couple of hours. By the time Sunday came around I was well ready for a good long walk and to get out of the fifth.

L and I spent Sunday looking for another Tea place to cross off our lists and we went all the way to the second and ninth to find it. After strolling through some of the Passages off the Grand Boulevards, we found our way to Gallerie Vivienne, off Rue Vivienne. Inside this passage is an amazing salon de the called 'A Priori The'. It gave us our perfect huge pots of tea and also sold tarte framboise et armandes to die for.

Sitting in the zen like space of the passage was amazing, although I imagine that it would be very hot in the summer. This is a good find for winter I think, snuggly warm. Tea and cakes that really do make you want to take a nap afterwards. I likes the vibe of this place very much. The problem with our hunt for amazing tea places is that this is Paris, the bar is set too high. They are all amazing, I just have to find the one that is perfect for me.

March 17, 2006

Sirens and smashed glass


Late into the evening the sound of sirens whirred in the background of my quiet Paris courtyard. The protests have widened across the country and more and more they are turning violent. In Paris masked protestors threw things at the police and were rewarded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Meanwhile, time slips past as I try and get home every evening. The barracade at the end of my street has grown so high that I now cannot see over it. There are well over 100 Police on my street and for the first time in a week I am starting to get emails and calls from friends who have seen the news and know that I live in this area.

The area around Place de la Sorbonne is unrecognisable from a week ago. Windows are smashed, and a booskshop was torn apart. Shelves ripped up, whole sheets of glass yanked out of the way. In the midst of street cleaners mopping up the graffiti and sweeping away the leaflets, I took my first photo of the damage. The authorities seem to be determined to wash away all evidence as soon as the daylight hits.

March 15, 2006

Another day, another riot

(picture from www.bbc.co.uk)
Every night this week, there have been more protests in my area. Each time I have gone to pull out my camera and each time I have stopped, not really sure of why I won't allow myself to snap any shots of the police and their sheilds. I think that if I post a picture that I took it makes me part of what is going on. While I am just on my way home, passing by the protests, I can't be harmed by what is happening.

The fact is, I have true sympathy for those who have something to say. I can see that the police presence is both strong and threatening. But I also know that I am truly scared by this action by my home. It is not flashing pictures on the news, it is no milk on the way home because My mini-market has boarded itself up. It is smashed glass on the shop where K and N bought a new coat when they were here. It is a film of unpredicability over where I live.

Walking to the bus this morning, I passed Place de la Sorbonne. Some-one has sprayed over the word 'Sorbonne' so that the sign now reads 'Place de la precarite'. I think that says it all. With more protests and demonstrations planned across the country, I wonder who will get what they want in the end.

March 14, 2006

Tea stains and gold leaf


L and I have a new found mission to complete whilst living in Paris. Being perprtual tourists, we have located several salon de the that we are going to find in the city. We intend on becoming tea, tarte tatin and mille feuille experts. Last week the day was cold and rainy and we started our tea quest in Fauchon.

Hot pink and fabulous, Fauchon rests in the square that surrounds L'eglise de Madeleine. Inside are rows of food presented so beautifully that it looks like art. Good job, because it is priced like art is too. Still, within our budget was hot tea and a sneaky little cake. So warm and inviting was the place upstairs that we happily sat and watched the rain beat down on the windows for a while.

The mark of a good place to treat yourself after work is how happy you are just sat, draining the last few drops of tea from the pot and not being in a hurry to go anywhere. Cador is still my favourite, but I like the new places too. Fauchon was dim and smoky, Cador is bright and open with high windows. More and more and more to discover, places in Paris.

March 13, 2006

Mini Kissing


There is a level of hilarity to any parking activity in Paris. As a non car driving pedestrian, I see the most ridiculous nonchalonce about where one decides to park. If you can't fit in a space, don't worry, you can just bump the front and back cars until you make the little space big enough.

People park on crossings, corners, bus lanes, pavements and anywhere else there is a spare 4sqcm of space. I have yet to see a car without huge scrapes down the side or big gouges of paint missing on the bumper. Not since I travelled in Italy have a I seen such driving madness.

I love the fact that no-one cares. Not the people who have their way blocked by a stupidly parked car, and not those who stupidly park and get their bumper smacked. It seems to be so ingrained in daily driving behaviour that one almost feels left out if their car does not show the battle wounds of life in Paris.

"The less routine the more life"
Amos Bronson Alcott

Photos for Franje



As per my recent request, we have a picture of a lone man reading a French philosophy book, and the fountain in front of the Palais de Luxembourg.

March 11, 2006

Manifest Destiny

There must be 200 riot police on Boulevard St Michel at this very moment. Saturday shoppers are still wandering the streets wondering why their way up to Luxembourg is blocked. Buses are sent totally out of their way and police vans, cars and scooters line the bus lane.

There is another manifestation, another protest. Whispers among the crowds are that this one is an abortion protest by pro-life advocates. Whatever the manifestation is, it has created a cloud of uneasiness. I have seen these protests regularly, I must be up to double figures by now. This is the first time that I have ever felt uneasy in my area.

Near the Sorbonne, the shields are up and the helmet visors are down. The French love to protect the right to protest, it is an important part of French history and culture. Why does this feel so different? It so close, I had to take the long way round home. Maybe the threat is felt deeper when it is literally on your doortep.

In reality, there had been a student occupation of the Sorbonne, so close to home. I believe that police used tear gas to get the students out, which would explain the strong presence hours after the event. France loves to protect the right to protest, but this protest hit a nerve. Protesting the rights of the worker when you have just passed a law that reduces the rights of the workers must not be de rigeur.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4798034.stm
Have a read...

March 10, 2006

The grass is always greener


It has been a very long winter and I have been waiting for Spring for too many weeks now. Every Sunday in the Jardin du Luxembourg with L, I squint hopefully at the little brown buds and try and convince myself that they really are turning green. No such luck, the little glossy brown buds are still brown. I have had a couple of false starts in believing that the weather is getting milder. It was all a lie, things were just as cold as they were before. Maybe Spring really is on its way now, I noticed the light slowly creeping down the side of this building as the sun rose.

This weekend I am going out into the city to try and capture these tender beginnings of the next season. I am going to go and sit in the Jardin and close my eyes so that the strong light of the sun makes them go hot red behind my eyelids. I want to be outside, don't want to be hidden away in my apartment anymore. Today it was light when I left for work and the sky was already bright blue. All those months of leaving for work in the dark are gone for another year.

I have not missed blogging this week. Even now with my first post in over a week there is an undercurrent of what I will not say. There will be no talking about work, the thing that is unsettling me. There is no certainity here at all and I will be happy to think and write about next year when there is something to know. I had not realised how much a part of my daily routine writing my little posts had become. I want to see more of Paris, experience more of Paris and write about the moments I find myself in, can't write about the ones that may or may not be to come.

"You can cut all the flowers, but you can't keep Spring from coming"
Pablo Neruda

"No winter lasts forever; no spring skips it's turn."
Hal Borland

Montmatre and the Sacre Coeur


March 09, 2006

March 02, 2006

Follow in her footsteps.

I have decided to copy Kinuk and take a break from my blog. More and more I am struggling to find things that I want to write about. I am seeing and experiencing so many things in Paris that it should never be a case of forcing myself to come up with something. I only intend on a short break. A few days or couple of weeks until I get my mojo back.

"Too young to hold on,
too old to just break free and run"
Jeff Buckley

"Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing"
Sylvia Plath

March 01, 2006

Sunday morning market

With K and N here over the weekend, everything in my normal routine shifted around. Early and cold on Sunday morning I found myself up and dressed and ready to go and discover the two markets close to my apartment that I had never been to.

We walked behind the Pantheon and onto Rue Mouffetard. After slowly wandering down the cobbled streets, we came to a hive of activity based around a jazz band who had found the will to drag themselves out of bed to entertain the masses of french ladies with their shopping trolleys full of food for Sunday lunch. The colours and smells of food were amazing. I wanted to stop at each stall and buy something, but I contented myself with some green olives stuffed with almonds.

At the end of the street, we double back up towards the Pantheon, but this time took Rue Monge. We walked up to Place Monge to have a look at the market there. This time we bought bread and other stuff for lunch, but just enjoyed walking around and looking at everything. Each stall is laid out with such precision. Even though there was not a range of hundreds of things, you could tell that all produce was seasonal. There was a stall that had eight types of oranges.

I will make the effort to go every week and but fresh things that were grown in the country I live in. The only problem is that K and N are back in Poland, so there is no-one to drag me away from Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs on a Sunday morning.

"Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow