a massive rainstorm and dinner at Paul Bert

Where else but my favorite bistro to celebrate the end of lockdown, the end of wearing masks outdoors and the beginning of summer? I jumped on the metro at 5 pm yesterday and crossed town to my friend’s place.

We drank a glass of white wine and chatted while waiting for the spectactular rainstorm with thunder and lightning to end. Then we walked to Paul Bert bistro in the 11th arrondissement.

It was so pleasant to sit outside. The weather was warm and muggy, but fresh because of the rainstorm. Below: cheese gougères with a delicious red wine from the Languedoc region. I started with a simple tomato and anchovy salad, my friend daurade (sea bream) carpaccio.

A beef filet for my friend in a creamy pepper sauce served with fries, I had roast lamb with vegetables which I ended up sending back to the kitchen. The cut of lamb was gristly, but the roast vegetables were delicious. So I asked for a plate of roasted veggies as a replacement.

Dessert was Paris Brest and an île flottante (floating island).

Walking back through the streets at around 10 pm, the bars and café terraces were bustling with Parisians, happy to be outdoors again. I loved these two colors below (to respect his privacy, I cropped my friend’s head).

Macron slapped, Melenchon floured

The man who had the audacity to slap President Macron across the face last week was given a four-month prison sentence. Not enough, most people say. The prosecutors had asked for eighteen months. 28 years old and unemployed, he is close to the Gilets jaunes movement and harbors ultra-right political convictions.

There’s an old tradition in France to “flour” politicians. What does this mean? The act of covering someone with white flour sends the message “se faire rouler dans la farine” (to get rolled in flour). That’s the literal translation, but the real meaning is to dupe or lie to people. This is how many French citizens feel towards their politicians. The expression comes from the 19th century when actors used flour as makeup and would dupe people with their identities.

Oddly enough, no one seems to protest this strange French practice, including the target himself. We watch it on TV and everyone chuckles (myself included). Even the perpetrator below (wearing sunglasses) had his moment in the sun when reporters gathered round with microphones to ask what compelled him to buy a bag of white flour and throw it onto Jean-Luc Mélenchon (leader of a left-wing political party called La France Insoumise). Video below. Further below is another video showing other politicians getting floured in the past and worse – receiving cream pies in their face. Ha! Ha! Just had a thought … imagine a big creamy pie going into the face of Donald Trump (or Boris Johnson). Now that would be poetic justice.

President Sarkozy gets a pie in the face, as do others.

 

a beautiful Wednesday

The weather is perfect here: not too hot, strong cool breeze and fluffy clouds skudding across a cobalt-blue sky. Too nice to stay indoors, that’s for sure. I grabbed my camera and hopped onto the metro to Concorde then changed to the number 14 line. My destination was my favorite large park on the other side of the city: Bercy Park. Why do I like this green space so? Because it runs alongside the river Seine and there’s always a breeze. Because it’s full of interesting things like a beautiful rose garden, a maze, a duck pond and gorgeous trees and foliage. At the far end is Bercy Village, a cluster of shops and restaurants. It was so nice to see people eating outside in groups and enjoying themselves. Paris has officially re-opened!

Schoolkids running in the shrubbery maze:

When you live in a small apartment with no balcony, you’ll take any garden, green space, park or parkette. Coming back, I ended up in front of one of the world’s greatest museums before jumping back on the metro and heading home for ice cream.

missing London

Gosh, I miss London. I woke up thinking about it this morning. I was booked to go – this week, in fact – but then cancelled because travelling from the EU to the UK seemed Covid-complicated. Also, I lost over 400 euros on a website called Reedsy, so that took a dent out of my budget. What is Reedsy? An online author services firm which serves as a bridge uniting authors and publishing freelancers in the self publishing industry. (don’t use it, I got ripped off twice.)

London has got to be one of the greatest walking, shopping, eating and cultural cities in the world. Happily, I have all my blog posts from my prior visits that serve as archives. This one was written a few years ago (pre-Covid, of course, and pre-Brexit too) during the month of August –

LONDON. An undeniably world-class city of 7 million inhabitants. Pulsating with energy. Dynamic and thrillingly diverse. Inclusive of all cultures and nationalities. Constantly redefining itself while holding firm to its history and heritage. In comparison, Paris seems….small.

Where to begin? I took over 300 photographs and walked 8 hours a day. So much to see, so much to do! I’ll start with one of my favorite places: Borough Market located under the London Bridge. As I strode across the bridge in the brisk morning air, sunshine and wind in my face and the river traffic coursing by, I felt utterly exhilarated. London does that to you. Take the District & Circle tube line to Monument.  Stride across bridge.  The market is beside Southwark Cathedral.

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Old. Atmospheric. A setting and cast of characters straight out of a Dickens’ novel. Borough Market is one of London’s oldest food markets and sprawls under the brick railway viaducts. It’s a fabulous place.

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Here’s a famous cheese shop (Neal’s Yard Dairy) that sells a stunning array of British and Irish cheeses. And guess what? The vendor was a Frenchman. I said to him in French – How is it that a Frenchman is selling English cheeses in London?  “J’ai épousé une anglaise,” he replied. (I married an Englishwoman).

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MONMOUTH COFFEE SHOP. I have only one word to describe this place and its coffee and cakes: bliss. Look how polite the English are as they queue up. In France, you’d be elbowed and stepped on in a scrum.

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Borough Market consists of up to 70 stalls and stands. Producers from all over the country bring a range of fresh produce to the market, including fish, meats, vegetables, ciders, cheeses, breads, coffees, cakes and patisseries. Other stalls specialize in produce imported from abroad. Open Wednesday to Saturday.  Pubs and restaurants too.

To see ALL my London posts, click on LONDON up top.

why I won’t be getting a second Covid vaccine (for now)

Dizziness. And an itchy rash on the left side of my face. Since getting the first vaccine on May 7th, those are the side effects I’ve had. Not often, but enough to notice. The first  dizzy episode occurred on May 15th. I was sitting with the kids on the floor of the Gare du Nord train station eating a Five Guys cheeseburger when a weird sensation suddenly overcame me. It didn’t last long, but it involved dizzyness and an overall odd feeling that invaded my body. It went away as quickly as it had come. About ten days later, same thing. But last night coming home from work, I nearly fainted in the metro. That’s when I decided to stop, or at least postpone, the Covid shots. Because I’m convinced that they and the episodes are related.

It’s true that I was overloaded last night. It was warm and I was wearing a facemask. But I’m often overloaded with groceries when I go food shopping, it’s never been a problem before. I don’t own a car. All my groceries go into a knapsack on my back and I usually carry two bags, one in each hand, as well. So last night after work, I took the metro from the foodstore. I was wearing the heavy knapsack on my back and carrying two bags, one in each hand. My handbag was slung around my torso. It was warm in the train, but not hot. I felt good – great, actually – because I’m on vacation for a week. I got off at my stop and headed to the stairs amid a small crowd of other passengers (it was rush hour.) It was when I began climbing the steps that things got weird.

Suddenly they began wavering (the steps) and I felt an uncontrollable sensation of falling onto them. Then I realized that I was indeed falling, or maybe lurching is a better word. I completely lost my balance and fell forward onto my knees. Everything was spinning and swimming around me and I heard the thud of the two bags (filled with groceries) on the steps. I felt sure that I was going to black out. The feeling of having no control over your body – especially in a public place, especially on the stairs in a tunnel in the Paris metro! – is terrible. Suddenly a hand gripped my left arm and I heard a woman’s voice behind me. “Ça va, madame? Ça va?” Grasping my arm, she held me steady. The fainting feeling went away and I felt OK again. I managed to get up and continue walking up the stairs. The whole incident lasted just a few seconds. Naturally, I thanked the woman profusely. After that, I felt fine and walked home, feeling a little shaken but OK. My knees hurt.

The kindness of strangers! Throughout my life I have been the recipient of this, and I am deeply grateful.

I believe that these small infrequent episodes are a reaction from the Covid vaccine (Pfizer). Why do I think that? Because I’ve never had them before – ever. Why now? Oh, and as I also mentioned, I keep scratching my skin on the left side of my face. The occasional dizzy spell and itchy skin, I can handle. But near-fainting in the Paris metro? No way. That’s where I draw the line.

As an aside, the familiar term for “fainting” in French is “tomber dans les pommes” (to fall into the apples).

Codicil – I understand that some people might interpret the above as irresponsible (declaring that I won’t be taking a second Covid vaccine – for now.) From the minute I step out of my apartment to when I return at night, I wear an FFP2 mask. I practice social distancing. I wash my hands several times a day and clean all surfaces with antiseptic wipes. I’m the one at the office who wipes down the photocopy machines, coffee machine and all the door handles and regularly sprays antiseptic freshener into the air. The above is merely an account of my own personal experience. I will see a doctor and, no doubt, eventually get a second Covid shot.

***

So this morning I went to my local Town Hall to get fingerprinted and provide documents for my new French passport. Oddly enough, I’d never been to my Town Hall before. For newcomers to this blog, getting a French passport was never an intention of mine, I was perfectly happy with my British passport that granted me European citizenship and allowed me to happily live and work within the EU (European Union.) But Brexit brought an end to that privilege. Overnight, British passport-holders found themselves stripped of European citizenship. It took me two years to obtain French nationality and become European again.

So I was sitting in front of a civil servant this morning (at the Town Hall) handing her the required documents. When I gave her my photos, she looked at them and said, “These are no good.”

“What?” I said rudely. Quoi ? Why? What’s wrong with them?

“Your ears aren’t showing.”

I just stared at her while an inner voice warned me to keep my cool. After years and years of dealing with French civil servants and l’Administration française (the French bureaucracy system), I have developed a very short fuse.

“I have read very carefully the guidelines for passport photographs,” I said calmly. “And nowhere did I see any mention of the necessity of showing your ears.”

Si!” she replied jubilantly. Si means “yes” to a negative. She pounced on a document  pertaining to photographs and showed me two words that said “visage dégagé“. Mentally, I was trying to translate “dégagé” into English. Cleared. Unrestricted. Literally, a cleared or unrestricted face.

“So what does that mean?” I said defiantly. “To me, it means no glasses, no face covering, no hair in your face …”

Mais non!” she exalted, “It means your hair behind your ears!” I’m convinced that French civil servants revel in this stuff, I’ve seen it over and over again. Little Napoleons, all of them. You give them a shred of power and they milk it for all its worth.

By this time, two colleagues of hers came over and now we were four. I stood my ground. “Look!” I said, showing them my British passport, “Showing your ears for a British passport isn’t necessary!”

As if they cared. They barely glanced at the photo. “Madame,” the civil servant warned me sternly, “Either you go now and bring us back new photographs in which we can see your ears, or we will cancel your appointment and you’ll have to wait two to three months for a new rendezvous.”

“OK, OK …” I conceded. I know when I’m outnumbered. It was me against the French Republic. I stood up. “But just out of curiosity, why is it so important that one’s ears are visible in a passport photograph?” I was not given an answer. I limped to Monoprix up the road (my right knee hurt from last night) and got new photos done.