Movie time again

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Paris is a fantastic city if you like cinema. You can catch all the big new American movies here (in English with French subtitles) along with plenty of classics you’d be hard pressed to find playing in the theater anywhere in the States. Last night I took in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon from 1975.

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Lots of Kubrick offerings at La Filmothèque in the Latin Quarter right now.

I’m by no means a Kubrick junkie, but the best thing about his films is seeing them on the big screen. And for nine euros, why not? His movies are all epics, so at three hours, I was getting some good entertainment bang-for-the-euro (hmm, that doesn’t have quite the ring I was going for…). Especially compared to the mediocre cappuccino I had the other day that set me back 6€70–ugh!

La Filmothèque turned out to be a shoebox of a theater; perhaps 80 seats or so and a screen smaller than what you get at the multiplex. But it didn’t matter. It was a classic film, in English, on the screen, playing for a room full of cinephiles.

On Friday, Ridley Scott’s Alien will be screened at multiple theaters. Seriously: eight different theaters will be showing it! A tempting opportunity. Especially since I somehow missed it on the big screen when it originally came out. (Oh, that’s right, I was seven at the time.)

Cat sitting in Paris

When we spent a year in Paris, we missed our cat so much that we had to go to one of the cat cafés to get our feline fix. Now I’m cat-sitting for someone who’s traveling and I get plenty of time with a cat who absolutely is queen of the apartment.

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This lovely lady needed someone to look after her, I needed a place to stay: it’s a win-win. And it’s close to this nice view:

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And not far from l’Eclair, a place I enjoyed writing at a few times last year, and visited again this morning for my petit déjeuner and another pass through the hardcopy of one of my chapters. It’s one I proofed recently, but I still managed to discover a continuity error with the previous chapter. It’s amazing (and frustrating) how those crop up!

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Now: back to it.

Paris in spring

Last year, spring in Paris was a dreary affair: rain, rain, and more rain, clouds, rain, flooding, more rain… you get the idea.

(I wrote about last year here.) But this year we’re seeing the sun and blue sky… and cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms like we’ve never seen anywhere else in our lives.

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Strolling by the white cherry blossoms… but cherry blossom nirvana was still yet to come.

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On our way to the epicenter of pink cherry blossoms.

We met up with some friends who suggested a trip to Parc de Sceaux south of Paris, a park I’d never even heard of. (Paris has dozens of parks, so that’s not like a huge shock or anything.) When we were first making plans to get together, I figured we’d just meet for dinner and hang out; I’m so glad we took advantage of the beautiful weather and the chance to see the trees dripping with blossoms.

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Parc de Sceaux isn’t just cherry blossoms; there are big lawns–lawns that you can even walk on (not something to take for granted in Paris), as well as a fountain and huge reflecting pools.

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Once again, we could’ve never planned this on our own or likely ever found out about this park from a typical guidebook. It definitely pays to have friends in the know!

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Carolyn, cherry blossom princess

 

This city is… old

Nothing like buying tea from an establishment that’s been in business longer than your country has been a country.

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Since 1692? Yeah, they’ve been at this for a while.

We also had to wait for a military processional while trying to cross the street this morning.

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And took another stroll by Notre Dame…

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All in all, another great day.

Sights new and old

Just outside the Palais Royale is one of my favorite metro stops:

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One of the best parts about getting to know a place is finding things like that: the special places you love, not just the places that make the lists in a guide book. Just across the street from the Palais Royale is a Corsican restaurant we’ve loved since we found it in 2009 (after the Tour de France): Casa Luna. It’s another place that doesn’t make anyone’s top ten list of must-sees in Paris, but we go there every time we’re here.

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(This was last year when we went there with friends; no pictures from today’s visit.)

But even through we could fill this week with hitting all the places we love and have enjoyed before, we’re making time for new places as well. Today we went to a small museum that’s currently featuring the urban artwork of Invader, something Evelyn was excited to see. (I wrote about tracking down his work around Paris here.) And we also finally got to the Paris aquarium–which is only a short walk from where we lived when we lived here, but we never got to it.

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Evelyn liked the arch of streaming water that we passed through on the way into the aquarium. It was a great time–lots of sharks and seahorses, jellyfish and rays, huge lobsters bullying each other, and all kinds of fish we’d never seen before. We were there for a good two hours.

Then off to Bercy Park–another place we love–and now back to our apartment. Tomorrow: catching up with more friends. Goodnight!

Return to Paris

Bonjour, Paris! It’s our first return since moving back to the States. And what a welcome we got:

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Such a gorgeous day to walk around town, taking in some favorite places, like Luxembourg Gardens, the Left Bank, Île de la Cité, and the Marais.

It was especially welcome after so many days in Seattle that have looked more or less like this:

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Blah.

But even better than seeing the beauty of Paris was getting to catch up with some friends at our church that we attended during our year here. And looking forward to getting together with some more throughout the week. But for now, everyone is jet-lagged and ready to crash….

The getaway

I’ve seen plenty of car accidents. I’ve witnessed a mugging. But today I saw something I’d only ever seen on TV: thieves jumping into a waiting getaway car and speeding away.

I had just enjoyed coffee and conversation with a friend on Capitol Hill in Seattle and was making my way to the grocery store to pick up a few things. It’s not one I normally go to since it’s out of my neighborhood, so I was driving slowly down the narrow side streets; I didn’t want to miss the entrance to the garage. I was just coming up on the turn when two guys came flying down the sidewalk, their arms full of something, but I couldn’t tell what. Something wasn’t right. People don’t run like that without a reason. A moment later, another guy appeared in pursuit.

I stopped.

The guys got to a waiting car parked facing the wrong way just ahead of me and to the right. One threw his package into the passenger side window and fled on foot. The security guard chasing them managed to get the package from the other guy—I think. More on that in a moment. The guy got away from the guard—by going around the car… maybe? Then the car started pulling out—right toward me. The thief got in the car. The car sped by me—on my right—and got away, stopping only to let in the guy who had fled on foot. Meanwhile, the security guard made his way back to the store. I pulled into the garage and did my shopping.

I looked for the security guard while I was in the store, but I didn’t see him. I can’t even be sure the thieves had hit the grocery store, since the building has a number of other retail businesses. I mentioned to the checker what I’d seen, and she didn’t sound terribly surprised, saying something to the effect of, “Yeah, it sucks when that happens.”

It’s strange to witness a fast-moving incident, and I can certainly appreciate why witnesses can offer conflicting accounts. I first noticed the guys come running, then saw the car with the waiting driver, then the security guard. When he caught up to them is a blur as one fled while the other dodged around the car. The motion of all that is especially fuzzy. I think the guard recovered one of the items, but I’m not positive. I think one of the guys dodged around the car and then got in. I think they picked up the guy who fled after they passed me. I can’t even recall what kind of car it was.

While it was happening, I wasn’t sure whether to pull over, drive forward, back up—or just sit still and let whatever was going to happen, happen. I sat still. I kept wondering what the guard was going to do when he caught up to them. On TV he would’ve taken the guys to the ground, there would’ve been a glorious fistfight, people would’ve pulled guns, and cop cars would’ve come screaming in with lights flashing and sirens blaring.

None of that happened. The guard seemed content to get back what he could and get back to the store. I did my shopping. The guys got away.

And now life goes on.

Today’s sign that we’re back in America

Tomorrow it will be a month since we got back in the States after a year in France. We’ve been plenty busy getting re-acclimated to life in the USA and so far we haven’t had too much reverse culture-shock. And yet, it still can be hard to believe that we’re actually, really, truly back here to stay. But now I know for sure:

Yesterday the girls started back at their old schools. They saw old friends and had classes with far more students than any of their classes at the International School of Paris. And then they came home with piles of paperwork for us to sign. (That’s right, France does not have a monopoly on bureaucracy.)

Last night our waiter greeted us with a smile and said, “Hi, my name’s Jason and I’ll be taking care of you tonight.” Such a sentence has never been uttered in France.

And today I bought 48 rolls of toilet paper in one package from Costco. Yes, we are so back now.

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A very American minivan loaded up with good things from Costco.

More phone fun

We’re back in the USA, getting settled, and figuring out how to live here again. So far it’s been smooth enough. I pretty much remember how to find my way around in the car, although I keep looking for street signs and stoplights in the wrong places. And I’ve enjoyed drinking big American coffees and enjoying salsa that has an actual kick. Although our first baguette, from our favorite bakery here, did not measure up to what we’d grown accustomed to in Paris. No surprise there.

One of the biggest challenges when we went to France was dealing with the business of everyday life in a foreign language. Like dealing with unfamiliar appliances, a landlord that didn’t speak much English, going to the doctor, and figuring out phone service.

Oh yeah, phones–I thought getting phone service set up in France was hard. Well, let me say, if I’d had to go through there what I just went through here… I’d have been stuck with smoke signals.

It all started out so easily this morning: stop in at the Verizon store. Speak English with the nice guy working there. Explain our situation: we need to get two phones added to our account for our girls. We already owned the phones–they had been using them in France–now we just need to get new Verizon SIM cards and get them added to our account.

First phone? No problem. Ah, this is so much easier than waiting in line forever at the Orange store in Paris and muddling through the process in minimal French!

Then the next phone. Hmm. It’s taking longer. The SIM card is in, the phone recognizes it. But there’s a problem. The phone has been flagged on the lost/stolen list! What?

Merideth had bought the phone from one of those place that repairs cell phones and sells refurbished ones. She bought it last fall in Seattle (while the rest of us were in France) after it became clear that one of the girls’ phones was pretty well worthless. We’d gotten it working with some difficulty (yeah, here’s another link to that bizarre experience), but ultimately it got working just fine.

The Verizon guy tried his best, talking to multiple people up the food chain, but nothing could be done; I needed to go to the place we bought it from and solve the issue there. Thankfully, it was only a few blocks away. And finally, after three separate trips there, another trip to a Verizon store and about an hour on the phone with Verizon customer service, we got it handled. Oh, and it also meant we did have to trade the phone in to the store for a new one.

As far as we can tell, the phone must have been reported lost or stolen after we bought it and got it set up in France. Crazy. And getting it all handled definitely took more time than I would have ever guessed–but at least it’s working. And at least I didn’t have to deal with this in French!