Monday, October 24, 2005

Those French know how to eat

The food here has been great. Filling and flavorful. I even figured out how to use my French phrasebook to order in English. I just pull it out and display prominently and the waiter says, "What would you like?" See? Awkward butchering of the French language averted. :-) Actually, that's only worked once. Usually I do order for us in French but some menu items are not in my dictionary. For instance: andouillette would seem to be close enough to the English 'andouille' to guess it's sausage, right? Well it is, but as our waiter pantomimed for us, it's sausage made with pig intestines. That's right: we nearly ordered chitlin' sausage. It might have been tasty, but since I don't even like regular chitlins, I'm guessing I would have been one unhappy, hungry camper.
The only other meal challenge we've had is that the meat cooking scale is different here. We ordered beef "medium well" and what came out on the platter was basically seared on the outside and still wondering what hit it on the inside. Note to self: use "bien cuit" next time (well done).

Café life

Jason and I at our new favorite pastime: checking out new street cafés. This is in the Marais district in Northeast Paris on the Right Bank of the Seine.

Me and the Tower

Le Tour Eiffel

This is one of my first views of the Eiffel Tower. It's just as impressive up close.

Late night dinner

This is me at dinner outside at a sidewalk table. It's chilly at night, but most places have overhead heaters and some even provide blankets for people at sidewalk tables. We generally opt for those because people smoke like chimneys here!

Coming from Seattle, where non-smoking crusades are practically a way of life, it's been interesting to adjust. Even non-smoking seats usually just mean people aren't smokin "at your table". :-)

Guess they haven't seen the research on the whole secondhand smoke issue. (Yeah right)  We've been eating dinner really late most nights: like 9-10:30pm, partly due to the wacky sleep schedule and partly because that's when people eat here. Most eateries open in the morning for a few hours, then close midday or just serve beverages or light food, then open for dinner at 7pm. The stores have equally interesting schedules, many of them opening from 9-12pm, closing, then re-opening 3-7pm. France has a 35 hour work week instead of the 40 (or more) in the U.S. Just a different way of life here.

Street scenes

One of the things we're loving about Paris is how vibrant it feels. This picture is a midday Sunday street scene in the neighborhood where we're staying.
As we walked to dinner last night at 10pm (!) and passed people speaking French, German, Italian and English, plus multiple eateries brimming with people inside and outside at tables on the sidewalk just in this small neighborhood in the 2nd arrondissement, Seattle paled in comparison. It seems more like a cowtown with delusions of grandeur.

THIS is what a real international city looks and feels like. Granted, they've had hundreds of years to get it to this point and it's by no means perfect, but they're at least a great example of true high density, urban living. I love this place.

Window full of goodness

No surprise given the French gastronomical reputation, but there are great looking food shops EVERYWHERE. We can barely walk from our apartment to the Metro (about 4-5 blocks) without being tempted by multiple bakeries, confectioneries, cafés, and more.

I can see why people talk about a French paradox: they eat rich, delicious food and wine at every meal and don't seem to gain an ounce. After just a few days, it's clear how they do it: the portions are normal, not supersized, and they walk A LOT more.

We've eaten well the whole time we've been here, but thanks to our sightseeing and treks to various neighborhoods on my never-ending quest for cool fountain pens and paper, we're racking up huge step counts each day:
Friday (1/2 day): 3,625 steps
Saturday: 11,468 steps/5.25 miles (this one was a bit much. We came back and slept for hours)
Sunday: 3,632 steps/1.7 miles
Monday: 10,871 steps/4.98 miles (due in large part to the Louvre. It's MASSIVE and we barely scratched the surface before our bodies said 'enough', followed by another later afternoon, multi-hour nap). It feels great though to get out and move.

Getting settled

I convinced Jason to take the Metro system from the airport, which was a great way of seeing some of the city. But once we made it to the right neighborhood, we had some trouble finding the place, which, along with the slight challenge of navigating the Metro, irked Jason to no end, but hey: it's an adventure, right?

So we just called the guy we're renting the apartment from and he met us nearby. He owns a flowershop not too far away.

We were both beat from the trip and time change so we took a long nap and are getting ready to get out and see more of the neighborhood we're in.

I also discovered I brought the right converter but not an adapter for the plug so we have to find a store nearby. Thank goodness for the internet: a site informed me that BHV, a big store here, is like 'Marshall Fields department store, Sears and Home Depot rolled into one.'

We'll check it out Saturday. The adventure continues! :-)

Paris Metro: a great way to get around

This is J. alongside the tracks in a Paris Metro station, The trains are our primary mode of transportation. Walking is the secondary mode. It's amazing how much we walk here! And it feels great. J. even said on Day 3: "I don't even miss driving." This from a self-described "car guy." Not when you can take train most places you need to go and the wait time is 4 minutes or less between trains.
This is the best argument ever for Monorail in Seattle, which will have similar average wait times. Vote yes on Prop. 1 and 2!
Once you see what it's like to have great mass transit, you wonder how you managed without it.
Paris is everything I hoped for and more. I'm filled with joy from this experience. More later!