Parisian holiday, part one

Author: fraise

Posted in Paris, Photography, Travel at 22:25

Tricyrtis formosana - toad lily

Like a typical salaried Frenchperson, every year I have about 7 weeks of vacation days to spend. Fridays here and there, a couple of weeks at Christmas, two or three weeks in July or August. This year, rather than return to my place in Nice for holidays, I stayed in Paris. I’ve lived in France for nearly 20 years now, and there were still quite a few things I hadn’t done; places I hadn’t seen. When you visit from the opposite side of the planet, you have to make clear choices, knowing there are places you’ll miss. I had seen all the main Parisian museums, climbed the stairs of the Arc de Triomphe, looked over Paris from Montmartre, read the headstones in famous cemeteries, been inside cathedrals, studied skeletons in the catacombs, shopped the Champs-Elysées, walked Versailles… and yet there was still more to see and do!

The nicest part about living here is that you can do things at a more relaxed pace. No dashing around the métro corridors – instead you can flâner dans les rues, wander the streets as you like. The city takes on a different character: no longer are places like Châtelet and Notre-Dame just names and sights imbued with the experiences of others. They become part of a living whole and inextricably tied to specific, personal memories and experiences.

One of my first trips was to the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, where I played with sine waves and fractals, then visited the wonderful geodesic dome called La Géode.

La Géode, panorama

On Monday I strolled La Coulée Verte, a garden atop le viaduc des arts near the Gare de Lyon. It also extends past the viaduct for several kilometers. For a shorter, pleasant round trip, walk the gardens one way, then come back via the lovely shops along le viaduc.

La Coulée Verte  Beautiful views from above the streets on La Coulée Verte

Then on Tuesday I explored the wonderful Jardin des plantes, where I’d hoped to also see the greenhouses, but the museum and grandes serres (greenhouses) are closed on Tuesdays. As it turned out, I was more than happy to look at the wide variety of plants. The gardens are large and diverse.

Solanum jasminoides - Morelle faux jasmin  Ipomoea lobata

Bee on lily

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Un jardin parisien

Author: fraise

Posted in Journal, La France at 23:28

New shovel

“Why is there a shovel on her tile balcony?” you may well be asking. Indeed, a shovel is one of the last things I thought I would be buying in Paris. More precisely, I did not even think about buying a shovel until today, when I went to my favorite furniture store for a fan. They had no fans, but they were having a blowout sale to empty the store for upcoming renovations. Among sale items were some fine heavy-duty steel rakes, hoes, and a single, lonely shovel.

I picked up said fine shovel, which shall no longer be lonely, because in just over a month, I’ll be moving into a new home in the Parisian suburbs! A 55sq.m (nearly 600sq.ft) one-bedroom apartment with a 25sq.m (270sq.ft) garden. Not a terrace nor a patio, though a small part of it is covered and could be considered one, but a genuine garden made of earth. It’s a long-term rental I found through what used to be called 1% logement, but is now ordained Participation des employeurs à l’effort de construction (PEEC). This is a tax paid by employers that funds rent-controlled housing as well as zero-interest loans for purchasing homes/apartments. It takes a bit of time to find a good rental, especially in Paris where housing is in high demand, and you have to go through a government-overseen commission for your application to be finalized.

I first applied in May, rejected three other apartments due to size and location considerations, then this one was offered at the end of June. I jumped at it before even knowing it had a garden. When I visited, it was something of a dream come true. Just one next-door neighbor, a retired woman who also has cats. The garden has a high fence and bushes that climb above it, and gives onto a low-traffic, dead-end street that only serves two apartment buildings. I plan to make sure the cats can’t get so adventurous they go into the street, but it’s reassuring to know that if ever they do, it’s not very dangerous.

The apartment is laid out like a rectangle, if you’ll allow for an old-school ASCII floor plan. Slashes are regular doors and brackets with tildes designate sliding French doors. There are three that give onto the garden, one from every main room:

 ---------------------------------------
|            garden                     |
|                                       |
|[ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ]-[ ~ ~ ]-[ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ]|
|                 |       |             |
|   living        |kitchen|   bedroom   |
|    room         |       |             |
|                 |       |             |
|                 |       |  / ---------|
|          |         /____   / _________|
|          | entry  |  WC |    bathroom |
 ------------  /  ----------------------

The commission that approved my application was held this Monday, so the news is recent! I feel a mix of emotions: relief at being able to live in a larger space, happiness at having a garden I’ll be able to work in (the owner lets renters take care of it), and excitement that the cats and I will be in a quiet, clean space near the Seine.

Because yes, on top of having a nice layout in a quiet area, I’m a hop, skip and a jump from the riverbank. I can hardly believe my luck. The only downsides – because every place has a downside, you just need to know what you’re willing to compromise on – are that the building isn’t terribly attractive, being a 2000s example of “concrete squares painted various shades of white” architecture and it’s a ten-minute walk to the nearest train station. But with the Seine so close by, I’ll also be able to ride my bike.

As for my Nice apartment, it still hasn’t sold. French people aren’t big fans of renovated spaces from more than about a decade ago, and my place isn’t in an area where non-French buyers look. It’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise, however. I’ve always been good at handling my budget, so have managed to keep my head above the water all this time (though occasionally just barely). I’m putting it up for a student rental now, and will fix it up as finances allow. Next summer it will likely be ready for holiday rentals, and I’ll probably put it up for another student rental afterwards. It’s perfect for a young couple, and near university facultés as well as the express bus to Sophia Antipolis for its technical colleges.

I was in Nice this last weekend to clean out more of it. Friends (who are also long-time readers! *waves*) kindly accompanied me to the beach so I could get in a bit of swimming. I hadn’t been in the Mediterranean for a year, so that was lovely.

Nice sunset panorama

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Sunny summer day

Author: fraise

Posted in Journal, La France, Paris, Photography at 17:32

Palais de Tokyo panorama

Last week I learned about Vincennes en Anciennes and their Traversée de Paris estivale, where vintage cars drive through the city, stopping at a few landmarks. Unfortunately they don’t have a set schedule, other than leaving from Vincennes at a certain time in the morning. I arrived too late at Charles de Gaulle – Étoile, which I found out by checking their Facebook page.

It was a beautiful day here, though, so I made the most of it. The walk from Étoile to Eiffel is short and pleasant, filled with architectural beauties and always a surprise or two.

Arc de Triomphe, top

The Arc de Triomphe was cleaned starting last year; you can see a lot more of the detail on it now.

Boat on the Seine

Houseboats from around Europe dock in Paris. This one was from Antwerp, Belgium.

Eiffel from Passerelle Debilly

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Bonne fête nationale !

Author: fraise

Posted in Journal, La France, Paris at 21:15

A short stint here

C’est le 14 juillet et il fait beau ! The photo above was actually taken a couple of weeks ago, when I had the opportunity to work in that very same EDF skyscraper.

As summer holidays approach, I’ll have more time to share my discoveries of Paris. A few days ago I saw the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit currently at the Grand Palais. I made a day out of it, walking to Concorde and the east edge of the Tuileries, then back up the Champs Elysées for window shopping and ice cream. At the Arc de Triomphe, tourists asked to take their photo with me, assuming I was a Frenchwoman. Which, technically, is correct, but nonetheless brings a smile to my originally-Oregonian face.

Now when I look at the Arc, a new memory is recalled. A colleague kindly drove me (and another colleague) around it. I do believe I’ve come full circle from driving McKenzie Pass to now having experienced the largest cobblestone roundabout in Europe. It was pretty wild… we’ll see if I ever achieve actually driving it myself someday.

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Mon petit marché

Author: fraise

Posted in La France, Paris at 20:45

Pain de campagne, cheeses and radishes

A few weeks ago, on my way home from work, I passed what looked like a miniature outdoor food market: a food truck selling cheeses, bread, fruit, and vegetables. They had a sign with a website address on it, so I checked when I got home. To my surprise, it was a sort of organic food collective that tours Paris and environs, selling local edibles. They drop by my area once a week in the evening. Best of all, you can order online, and when you request pickup at the truck, they’ll fill your order the day they’re in your area, with fresh goods!

I’ve since gotten in the habit of picking up mon panier parisien once a week. The vegetables are delicious, but best of all are the cheeses. I love Brie and buttery Camembert, as well as longer-aged, harder tomes, and hard cheeses such as Comté and Beaufort which can be aged for years. Le Panier Parisien has an absolutely incredible Camembert the likes of which I had never tasted before, and their crottins de chèvre (literally “goat droppings”, but actually soft goat cheese, you can see two above the Camembert) are also delicious. Together with authentic, freshly-baked pain de campagne, I am now a very spoiled Parisienne indeed.

Chat courbevoisien

For more local color, this is a relaxed tuxedo kitty I also spotted on my walk home.

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Your twice-yearly update

Author: fraise

Posted in Cats, Journal, Meta at 19:01

Kanoko and Susu together

Teasing with the title there. The pause hasn’t been intentional; more a collection of “later… later…” on my part. For nearly three months…!

The cats are doing great (the photo above was taken today), and I’ve been doing pretty well too. Paris holds more opportunities across the board, whether they be personal, interpersonal, career-related, cat-related. I’ve been making the most of it, so my blog has gone to the backburner in the meanwhile.

The biggest plus has definitely been for my career. I’ve finally been given long-requested promotions, ones for which work just wasn’t there in the southeast. The flip side is that, as a consultant with immediately-recognizable client companies, I’m not at liberty to talk about it in more than the most general terms. So, in the time I haven’t been writing here, I have been thinking about which direction to take my blog. I have some ideas, but they’re still fuzzy; my day job has been taking up most of my creative brainpower. Which is a wonderful thing! It’s great to have a job that asks creativity of me. I’ve always been an organic sort, so I know that when I say “we’ll see” for this blog, we actually will.

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Kitty on a chair

Author: Susu

Posted in Catnet at 23:31

Susu posing on a chair

Kanoko and I have been enjoying the sun lately. Spring has definitely arrived! Yesterday it was twenty degrees (cats use centigrade).

In the evenings I like to read blogs too. In my last post I shared our favorite music, but we also love art. One of my current favorites is Kitty In A Hut. If you like cats and have a darkly-quirky sense of humor, you’ll probably enjoy it too. My human says it’s drawn by one of her friends from when she was a kitten-human. The kitty looks just like hers! Kind of a grey version of Kanoko.

After music and reading, Kanoko and I have a nice rest together to get ready for plenty of jumpy-time fun just before sunrise.

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Cat music on the Catnet

Author: Susu

Posted in Catnet, Cats at 15:30

Susu selfie

I’ve been hanging out listening to music lately. Music for Cats, of course. My favorite there is “Spook’s Ditty.” On request of a commenter, I borrowed my human’s phone and took a selfie while pondering the meaning of life. As you can see, I am CLEARLY blue and black.

We’re all looking forward to the return of spring. A lot of humans have been tired this last month; mine says it’s a virus going around. I’ve never had a virus; I think it’s because I catch a lot of flies? Probably eating flies helps build resistance to that sort of thing. Humans should consider eating more of them. They are really crunchy.

Kanoko’s favorite song is still this one by Kraftwerk. He always purrs through the whole thing.

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Feline photog

Author: Susu

Posted in Catnet, Cats, Photography at 17:44

Susu the photographer

A chirpy hello to you! We had beautiful sunlight in Courbevoie today. After checking out the grass on our balcony and watching skylarks and crows, Kanoko and I came back inside to rest on the soft mattresses that our human also likes to use. I’ve been experimenting with photography thanks to our human. At first I thought she was just clicking a little black box with a big eye at us, but then I noticed it has pictures on a screen, like the other clicky-thing she uses to post these blog entries. She showed me that the small black box actually makes the photos on its screen!

For my first tries, I took a few shots of my best friend. This one is my favorite. Kanoko was paying a lot of attention to his fur, as usual, and the afternoon light was still nice.

Susu the photographer

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New contributor

Author: fraise

Posted in Catnet, Cats at 19:29

Susu Blogs

The end of 2014 marked my twentieth year blogging – as a human. Regular readers may also remember the Internet’s very first catblog: Malo’s, started back in 2002, with then-novel cat-captioned webcam pics. It is still around, just on a private server, because it got so many spam comments, and up until recently, blog spam filters were very hit and miss. Recently, another cat, Susu, has been telling me that she’d very much like to contribute. As if to give me a sign, today I learned that one of the early names of the Internet was “catenet“, pronounced “catnet” as a contraction of “concatenated network”. I had been looking for a category name to dub Susu’s contributions – now we have one!

Susu is a thoughtful, humorous, and expressive feline. As we all know, the Internet has contributed to the expansive growth of felis catus understanding, especially with the leaps and bounds made in cat-to-human translation. As such, I feel confident that Susu will be able to contribute a great deal here on her Catnet. For those of you wondering why Kanoko isn’t writing, he’s never much liked the spotlight. He does love watching Susu and helping her, though.

A brief look at Susu, full name Susuwatari Soot Sprite, and what she’ll be bringing us:
Birthdate: July 2011 (age 3 currently, nearing 4)
Notable personality trait as a kitten, according to her first human: “She’s a wild one!!! She never stops running around, I still haven’t been able to pick her up!”
Move-in date with Kanoko and fraise: 29 October 2011
Fun fact: It was the first time her original human had been able to pick her up.
First expression of interest in blogging: age 4 months
Tastes in wine: Susu prefers Fleurie
Design skills: A talented couturière, Susu often advises on pattern and fabric combinations.

Regarding the recent dinosaur controversy: Susu would like to state for the record that she is not, has never been, and will never be, a dinosaur. She was merely photographed at a sensitive time by a paparazzi at her vacation home on the French Riviera. While she is an obligate carnivore, she does not roar or go on rampages, and always sheaths her claws when swatting. She meows and dashes about while behaving responsibly: these are highly important distinctions that dinosaurs are incapable of making.

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