We left the United States on the 15th of September and arrived in France the 16th. Every month on my anniversaire of arrival, I reflect on where I have been and where I am going. Kind of like New Year’s each month. Not always a fun to do, but like getting on a scale, it’s good to validate the reality. School ended for the term on the 16th and I spent the start of the 4th month in Paris by working very hard at Pierre’s with Gloria. So hard in fact, I was required to return the following day for more fun.
It was good for Gloria to see I can work hard and that I was willing to help. Also, I think it was a relief for her to see that I am not as stupid as I seem. It was exhausting and not what I planned for my vacation.
By Monday I was free to work on the holiday’s which were severely neglected. I managed to get very late gifts to the post office only finding that the postage was more expensive than the gifts and the tremendous number of forms needed to be filled out for each box would only encourage me more to buy stock in Amazon, since their services seem the only way to go from here forward.
Tuesday was back to Pierre’s, this time with Claude being that he had the day off. We worked quickly but the number of things that needed to be addressed where overwhelming for such a small apartment. The goal was not to come back till the day before the city would make a trash pick-up of everything we relocated to the curb.
The second of his days off was a special occasion as Joel our dear French friend that lives in Dana Point and worked at the Montage with us came home for a visit. His mother is getting old and he is committed to seeing her more and we spent the day with him at The Champs-Élysées Christmas Market. I was happy to have scouted it out ahead of time as I eagerly showed them the way to the best stands for Vin Chaud and Toulousean sausage. Joel is from Toulouse and it is next to Montauban, where Claude has a condo and spent many summers with his favorite uncle.
Having a friend in town was such a great treat, not just to speak English and feel genuine love that was not mandated by marriage. To hear the encouragement that I would be over the hump in a couple more months with the language was a relief, as Joel had moved twice to countries that were not speaking his native tongue.
When Claude retuned to work after his short and active weekend, I finally got to the The Marais, which is the Jewish Quartier of Paris. The goal was to get a menorah. I needed a bit of holiday and tradition in my life abroad after the Thanksgiving trauma. Happily, I turned left at Chanel and was put directly in front of a Jewish bookstore that was crowded with people and items where I found my little treasure along with a mezuzah.
Victoriously, I proceeded to waited in line at the famous La Boutique Jaune de Sacha Finkelsztajn for a Bulgarian Böreks since it looked amazing. I clearly haven’t learned European Jewish Deli since I couldn’t recognize half of the items they had, being that it was mostly eastern European food and I’m a west coast girl. I made it back the next day convinced the education was suffering and look forward to bringing Claude since he is a falafel lover and I hear the Jews do it best in Paris.
The last of my holiday to do list was to make my now world famous won tons. When I was in 3rd grade, my mom enrolled me in a couple summer clinics at Chapman College for kids. I took a cooking class and learned the won ton recipe and have been making them ever since. Pretty much the same recipe even, with small changes over time, but a classic in my kitchen.
In times when money was tight I had made them in small gift boxes for loved ones and was convinced that with the large number of family members locally, it was the only way I could show them that I appreciated their welcoming me. It took a couple days to get them all done. But first I needed to go to the Asian market.
China town in Paris is not recognizable like in San Francisco, NY and LA. Maybe I haven’t spent enough time there, but I had read reviews that this was the place to go. I had already tried a couple other stores and they left me sad. Persistence pays off since I hit the mother lode and excitedly juggled several bags onto the 2 different metros and wobbled toward home, victorious with eggroll skins and cans and jars to make my cupboards well stocked.
By Christmas eve I was ready for time with Claude and we caught up on some alone time before the big day with family. Gloria showed up and I had been suffering badly. I had not slept and been sick for a few hours, I thought maybe I had food poisoning. I forced myself to look presentable by the time she arrived and stood dutifully in the corner of the kitchen for the lesson I had always dreamed about. French Pastry Dough 101.
She asked for specific items and I looked for them quickly, making small talk as she would point out things I needed to write down for future use. By the end of the morning, we had successfully made 5 quiches and an apple tart. She made a pork roast, because it was clear that this was not a Jewish holiday and I was not getting out of eating various pig parts regardless of my preference.
After cleaning up the kitchen, and re wiring the house with extension cords since the mixer blew half the fused in the house, we set off for gift giving. Claude had shopped for some wines to give to members of the family and we went off to deliver them with won tons and good cheer.
At Pepe and Marie’s, I became fast friends with a 3-year-old that speak better than me. I wore a crown having almost eater the ceramic figure in the Kings cake and went to bed feeling happy having never spent a whole Christmas Day with Claude before.
The following day I was defiantly sick and decided to play it low key and went to see an animated film in French to test my sills. I figured that if I was in a theater there was less of a chance of me getting distracted and checking my email. I was not able to understand as much as I had hoped for, but I still understood enough to enjoy it.
We had wanted to spend a day in Champagne on Claude’s day off. The second of his days we were committed to Pierre’s apartment. Since I was still not feeling well enough it be far away from a bathroom, we had to give the trip up.
After several hours of work on Tuesday, we finally left Pierre’s with half of what we brought down reclaimed to new homes by others living in the building and making less work for the city. The recycler in me was happy to see people find treasures and relieved that Gloria stayed in the apartments figuring out way she would keep to sell, or she would have been charging each person for what they took.
With the biggest part of the move done, it left me with my opportunity to visit the museums. My loved friends at Opendoor sent me off with a 4-day museum pass and I was waiting for the right time to use it. I went to the office to retrieve the pass and was inform this was not the week to do it. Seems that with New Year’s approaching there were too many closures and I wouldn’t get my money’s worth. So, I opted to visit a museum not covered by the pass.
Musee Des Arts Et Metiers houses a huge collection of scientific instruments including energy, communications, construction and transportation. The Special exhibition featured an illustrator that seems to be well known in France coming future and past in a variety of comic books and another media. It was on the smaller side which was good, since I was still suffering from the cold I got on Christmas and there were plenty of benches that I could sit on and sketch a bit in my notebook.
Me and my sketch book traveled the next day to another unknown corner of Paris, to the Musee Jacquemart-Andre to see the Rembrandt in time show. I didn’t know much about the museum other than my school cultural pass allowed me to enter at a discount. I was delighted to find the enormous Champs Eleyse area home contained also the family’s private collection of Italian Renaissance art. Being my favorite era of paintings, I was delighted to discover several Botticelli paintings among other treasures.
I took my time wondering about listening to all the optional recordings offered with details about the time and the people that hunted the treasures. Learning more about the Dutch artist and examining in detail the magic he created with his brush. This was the day I wanted when I dreamt of Paris. I sat in the garden and ate the turkey sandwich I had brought from home and despite it being freezing and being alone. I was happy.
Again, not one of the larger museums so I could get to another French animated film before heading home for the day. New Year’s Eve I worked on things at home and managed to meet Claude for a midafternoon movie between his two shifts before I called family in the states and perfected my Smokey eyes for dinner with the cousins.
Plate after plate of wonderful traditional foods made their way to me, and despite my stomached issues, I indulged in foie gras, salmon, oysters, and a traditional Spanish salad. The fish gently flakes at my forks touch and the potatoes were creamy and as delicious as the wine. At 11:30 as we began on the salad and cheese I was surprised by my handsome husband who walked in the door, cut early from work to share another holiday first with me.
We laughed, drank, ate a variety of desserts and as each of the 12 chimes of midnight, we ate a green grape as customary in Spain and kissed and each other on both cheeks declaring Happy New Year in several languages. As we walked home, hand in hand, I thought about the road that had taken me here just three and a half months ago. Filled with much pain, loneliness, illness, obstacle’s and lessons.
Like the March proverb says in like a lion out like a lamb, my time in Paris has been much the same. I woke up on the first day of 2017, the anniversaire of the year, and it was snowing. The light fluffy white flakes gently covered the cracks in the streets, the imperfections in my view. Painting a picture, a beautiful allusion. Soft and new, beautiful and untouched begging for footprints to prove its reality. The year ended and is not missed, the year has started and is a fresh clean canvas ready for me to paint.