Friday, May 31, 2013

Do You Love Paris Street Signs?

Tell me.

Do you really love Paris street signs and French metal signs in general?

If you are like me and adore all of them -- not just the classic plaques émaillées with the street names, but also the house numbers, the Pietons signs, the Sens Interdit signs, well.  Have I got a treat for you.

On rue des Tournelles today I came across the Gallery Art Jingle and an exhibit of a fabulous artist, Fernando Costa, now know just as Costa.  If you haven't heard of him already (he is quite famous, at least in France), his medium is reclaimed metal, mostly signage.

All inspirational and on top of that, just perfect for any francophile.

To top it off, it turns out that he is also designing this year's Art Car for the 90th anniversary of the renowned Le Mans race, and the car will be unveiled tonight!

If all this creative art is too hi-falutin' for you, and if  you just want some street-sign memorabilia to take back home... well, let me see.  You can always, ummm, buy this men's shirt, seen shortly thereafter on rue de Turenne.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Menu translation du jour

Lunch today at l'Entracte de l'Opera, a pleasant and bustling café and brasserie. As I was finishing my delicious poulet fermier, a kindly older British couple was seated near me at a corner table.

Getting straight away to business, they ordered, in high-school French, a bouteille de rosé.  The waiter departed to fetch their wine, and they began to scan the food part of the menu.  They looked quizzically at the specialty of the day:  Souris d'agneau.

"Un souris? What's a souris? Isn't that a smile? A smile of lamb? Whatever could that be?"

"Just ask the waiter, dear."

The waiter returned with their rosé, ceremoniously had monsieur taste the wine.  Then retrieving his pad, "Vous avez décidé?"

The gent looked up through his glasses and asked, "C'est quoi un souris, s'il vous plait?"

"Euuhh, une souris, c'est un petit animal," replied the waited, scrambling his fingers across the tabletop to illustrate a little mouse running.  He searched for a translation.  "Euuh, a moose?"

"A mouse???"  They looked at each other with the-French-are-serving-WHAT? startled expressions.

Never able to mind my  own business, I intervened.

Une souris is indeed a mouse,  une souris d'agneau is a lamb shank.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Old French post cards

A favorite Paris pastime is browsing through the Marché aux timbres on avenue Gabriel.  In my mind, it is one of the best shopping places for authentic bits of France that are almost impossible to find outside of the Hexagon -- at least in terms of selection.  And which you can take home without weighing down the luggage.

For about an hour I took shelter (kind of) from the dripping rain under a number of tents of stamp and postcard merchants.  If my nice leather flat shoes hadn't been soaked, I would have stayed longer.  Yes, some of us must suffer: caught in the Paris downpour!

This postcard, from around 1910, caught my eye:  a manif!  "Place de la Concorde (Manifestation)."  With the Eiffel Tower in the background.

There are so many comments and complaints from expats and tourists about "oh those @#%*& demonstrations in Paris."  And I share the frustrations.  Kind of.  Because, as this points out, really, they are just a part of Paris tradition.  Well before 1910.

As regular as rain.

But I have no idea what the manifestation was about.  Any ideas to help solve the mystery?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Finding a rental apartment in Paris

My Paris rental apartment
I made plans a while ago to come to Paris for 10 days.  With the loftiest of intentions, I investigated apartment rentals early on.  There are so many excellent websites to choose from, and having lived here and not been in the position of looking for a rental, I was... a bit overwhelmed.  How to choose the right place?

Somehow, I have good apartment karma -- mostly.  This one is no exception.

My criteria:  the 7e arrondissement, if possible.  But I immediately dismissed any apartment ad that  boomed "near Eiffel Tower!" or "proximity to Champs-Elysees!"  I just wasn't interested in staying in (or paying for) a place that added a premium for being in a tourist area.

First stop:  VRBO and a few other websites of locally-driven apartment rentals.  I found that they were almost all over-priced, and more than one used bait-and-switch "That apartment isn't available but we have this really great one in the 18e."  Don't get me wrong -- I love the 18e -- but for this trip I really wanted a place in central Paris where I could get around with a quick bus ride or a brisk walk.

Next, I moved to my two other favorite sites, and  No middle-man, direct from the owner, and the prices are about what I would expect. It helps to speak or understand French in some cases.

(By the way, there are many 2-star hotels in Paris which I also really love, which end up being about the same budget -- but for 10 days, I wanted a place where I could fix my own coffee in the morning and relax in my jammies before heading out to embrace the adrenaline-laced Parisian hustle and bustle.)

So I found what seemed to be just the right place -- a studio near the Invalides, just my budget.  A few email exchanges with the owner and I was ready to roll. (An important step is making sure that if needed, there was an elevator.  Totally key when renting a Paris apartment.  In this case, the apartment is on the ground floor, so elevator wasn't an issue.)  The only early challenge was doing the wire transfer of funds -- it would have been so nice to have been able to use PayPal.

Then, the following email from the owner:

Dear Polly,
I am so delighted that you will be renting the apartment. Also, you will have a large modern bathroom with bathtub and shower, and a large modern kitchen which are all delightful to be in. Plus the beautiful Haussmannian building... and room to live.
You'll have something to eat upon arrival, and I offer you some fruit, ham, a baguette, butter, sugar, coffee, a bottle of good wine (do you want tea?) so that you don't have to do shopping when you first arrive. If you want something special, don't hesitate to ask me.
Your bed will be ready. All you'll have to do is to fall into it to recuperate from jet lag; and I won't bother you you too much the first day except for a few essential questions. I'll come back the next day to go over the details.
Vivement la semaine prochaine!

Is that a dream, or what?  And I arrived, and here is what I found:

The table set for me.  Wine, baguette, jambon.  Everything I could need for day one.  I felt so welcomed and in such a fabulous setting.    1000 channels of French TV (I may never leave!)  

I am happy happy happy in this little nest!  Happy in Paris.  Not much sleep -- too busy! -- but who said sleep was an important part of being in Paris?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Paris and the demonstrations

Only a few days in Paris, and life is never dull.  Today was filled with many incredible moments, but what stopped Paris in its tracks was the massive protest for "Le Mariage pour Tous."

It brought much of the city to a standstill.  No taxis, no buses.

Here, at the place de l'Alma, where one group in the parade began.  They were singing La Marseillaise:

The groups of protesters continued pouring from three different directions into the Esplanade des Invalides (where I am staying) until the early evening.  As far as I know, no major problems arose.  I arrived home a few minutes ago and the police were still out in full force, blocking the street:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Wow.  Have I really been writing this blog for seven years?  Did I really first arrive in Paris in 2006, that long ago?  The digi-world, the blogger world, was so different then.   Click here for the very first Polly-Vous Francais? post.

Seven??  I feel ancient.  I feel humbled by all the wonderful readers and their snarky comments enlightening feedback.

Thanks, everyone!

And I'm heading to Paris in 10 days, so please stay tuned for timely updates about planning for and returning to Paris.

Can you really go home again?  

We'll see.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Mystery Photo du Jour: French technology

Okay, well, this isn't a mystery photo for anyone who lives or has lived in France; and you know who you are.

So, no fair guessing in the comments section!

But I came across these two devices yesterday in my embarrassingly outdated, overflowing-with-ancient-bits "technology cords and accessories" bag, and they automatically struck fear in my expat heart.  I still can never figure out how they were supposed to work in France.

 Two or three coupled together at times. Maybe let's add more!?  Never, it seems with the desired results.

And I sure don't need them in the U.S.  Anyone want them?

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