Monday, January 26, 2009

"Once you go indian, you can never go back!" -Susanna the Italian professor

Location: Le beddy-by
Currently Listening: Love by Rosey (as corny as that sounds)
Weather: warm and cozy (okay, so I'm really talking about my bed)

Fun Finds in Montemarte
1) Spotted an African lady with Barbie Pink drawn on eyebrows (don't believe she had real ones...)
2)Discobitch - C'est beau bourgeoisie ..saw the music video playing in pizza place.
3) Crazy wig shop...

Amanda and I were walking around trying to find cheap opera tickets and word on street (Google) is that last minute tickets are sold half price at Place du Madeleine. .. Well we found ourselves on the square, but all we saw was a massive building that turned out to be a rather eerie Iglesis (church? home of Enrique Iglesias? who knows, really?). We found this nativity scene with super creepy mannequins..reminded me of Lars & the Real Girl, where this guy orders a customized sex doll that he takes around everywhere, and she becomes one of the townspeople. Going to go ahead and blame my sister Soniya for my having watched this. She also made me watch Eagle vs Shark. That was at least considerably better.

Friday is as far back as I can remember so I'll start there to recap.

Had my first french lesson. I like my's cute and only ten people giving me ample opportunity to ask questions my teacher can't understand and/or forgets in midst of explaining. Everyone back home seems to be concerned with how my french is coming along. I'll have you know I have learned a few things like "Je suis Americaine" and "J'mapelle Saloni." By the way, "marron" is not maroon, but chesnut. That's about it.........

For dinner I tried to make Vodka sauce, but it was complete and utter disaster. Too many parts vodka to the tomato. Oh did my tummy toss and turn! I used this this really cheap vodka I got for about ten euros...
At night I went to the Fins' place (I've got two way too cute Finnish friends, Paula and Martina)for a little get-together. They served up this Fisherman's Friend drink, which is a mentos-like mint and vodka (as if I needed any more). The mint is supposed to hide the taste of vodka and apparently leads to nights of unintentionally excessive consumption. We had ourselves a smashing good time before heading out to an ESCP hosted party at Les Planchets. On the way there, one our friends tried to find a "good place" to hide his bottle of vodka...ended up in Laura's magic boot that actually fit the same nasty vodka I had used in my spaghetti (At this point the mere mention of vodka was nauseating). The ESCP party was somewhat fun, but a large number of recent graduates (high school graduates) found their way in and spoiled the fun. We tried going else where, but ended up on a very wrong bus route, which wore us out and so we found ourselves taxis and split.


My great grandfather's sister's grandson's fiancee came to visit this weekend.
She's an MBA student studying for a semester at SDA Bocconi in Milan! (Her italian professor once had an Indian lover....hence the title) Meet Amanda! Isn't she beautiful?

Amanda and I started our afternoon walking around Le Marais.. that's my new neighborhood!! Picture Jewelry shops, up and coming designer boutiques, chocolate shops, brasseries, patisseries, shoe stores galore.

I skipped breakfast and was starving so we stopped at a falafel
shop. After standing in line at the window, we discovered the indoor order outdoor pick up method in practice. Unfortunately, we also discovered this man licked his thumb a few times whilst preparing pitas. We turned our heads the other way and gobbled down our rather delicious falafels (only 'cause we hoped the man that actually prepared ours had better hygiene).

Bodies pumping with new found falafel power, we made our way to Notre Dame. This time I wasn't wearing my silly hat that blocks all peripheral vision, so I found the cathedral a
little more breath-taking than the first time around. We waited in the cold for pretty much an hour to be able to climb to the top of the tower. Amanda really wanted to play amongst the gargoyles, which are kind of cute in an ugly duckling sort of way. I bet they made Quasimodo feel like hot stuff back in the day. Has anyone actually read that book? I debated buying it for a mere 3euro in the bookstore at the church, but I think I have quite a long list of suggested reading for brand management. .. Library please!?
One more trip down the cold, dark, never-ending spiral staircase and we hit broad daylight and solid ground. Worn out, we made our with home with my usual "scenic route" (I don't even try not to get lost anymore).

We stopped in this Whole-Foods-esque shop Naturalia on the way home. This is the shop for all the soy/almond/rice/hazelnut milk drinkers and organic chocolate lovers...relatively cheap,
too, for what you're getting! I picked up tofu and chocolate, of course. :) That Croque Tofou (a couple of days later) was actually rather delicious and made me feel a little less bad for avoiding the traditional meat-driven French cuisine.

For dinner, we delighted our bellies with some extravagant crepes. We actually tried to hit up Breizh Cafe for lunch, but much to our surprise this creperie requires reservations. The French take crepes seriously, and when you're not eating them curb-side expect the dining experience to be an ordeal that can include any but generally most of the following: appertif, amuse-crepe, savory dinner crepe (generally referred to as a galette) with cider, dessert crepe and I can't remember what else, but seriously it's quite normal to spend eating 2-2.5 hours eating several courses, though small and slowly.

I ordered one of the specials against the recommendation of the waitress (God gave us all individual minds for a reason) and it ended up being fabulous (You've got nothing to worry about, I will always be fabulous (That's an inside joke with J.K. Rowling in case she's reading this entry))
I ordered Crepes Vendangeur and split a carafe of the house specialty, cider, with Amanda. Cider we discovered is essentially sparkling beer. We were cold and expecting something warm, but it was decent. They had quite a selection of cider by the way, about 2 pages. We ordered something called Domaine de Mont Chevron described as "soft, acidulous and fresh" as if it made a difference to our American palettes.
Above is my Crepes Vendangeur..."fourme d'ambert, miel, pignons de pin, raisons, saladed." Blue cheese topped with mixed field greens, honey, grapes, and pine nuts. All for 12Euro50. My goodness, definitely one of the best meals I've consumed! I loved the dessert, too. We picked out a crepe with pears and chocolat. Oh Valrhona, how I love you so. I think at one point I kept my home page Valrhona's website... After dinner, I ventured up the windy stairs to the bathroom.. A tiny room for just the toilet and a sink stationed outside in a narrow supermodel fitting hallway. Anyway this French lady was convinced she had to go to the bathroom whilst I washed my hands and squeezed by me, and decided to top it off by leaving the door open so I had to uncomfortably listen to her relieve herself. She also came outside without her pants zipped and felt unmoved to wash her hands.


Another failed attempt at leaving the house early, and we found ourselves at Rose Bakery. It's not one bit French, but rather unbelievably British. To my surprise the place was not bustling with people in the morning hours. I think the place is mostly a lunch destination as the food was not entirely laid out by 10. Although, it was Sunday. Amanda got herself some sort of orange white chocolate chip muffin and I decided to come back another time and get lunch. I'm not a big fan of muffins or pound cake or anything in that related category.

One long metro ride got the two of us into Montmarte, a hill that houses the white Basilique du Sacré Cœur, which I found well worth the deviation from the city centre. I'm glad we came on Sunday to witness their very traditional mass. The organ playing and choir singing sent chills up my spine - the good kind - it was just so beautiful. I wish I lived closer because the whole place is so pleasant I'd love just hanging out on the green hill below in warmer weather.

We made our way down from the hill stopping in souvenir shops. One was run by an Indian man so we listened to some good Bollywood jams for a bit and bought postcards (Yes, that means some are coming your way).
Later we walked among the sex shops to find Moulin Rouge(really disappointing from the outside, and the Red Light district in Amsterdam is much more lively/interesting), not that either of us could afford the tickets to any of the shows. I have my doubts on how amazing the shows are and honestly, I'd rather spend my money on a ballet or opera. We actually visited the opera house later, Palais Garnier, but unfortunately there were no shows playing this weekend for Amanda to see. The guard was a little forthcoming and offered to take us to the opera anytime for free. ... Questionable!

Quickly walked out of that place and hurried to Musee D'orsay. Everyone (that's foreign, any how, I don't actually converse with French natives...except my French teacher, the rest of my professors are from european countries) raves about how this museum is far better than the Louvre. I enjoyed visiting this pastel exhibition: "Le mystère et l'éclat" or "The mystery and the glare."

To the right:
Nocturne au Parc Royal de Bruxelles
William Degouve de Nuncques (1867-1935)

We were in the midst of viewing the Picasso exhibit, very interesting.. a collection of paintings Picasso did in response to all the hoo-hah created by Manet's
"Le déjeuner sur l'herbe," which features a naked woman sitting among clothed men at a picnic in the park. Anyway, right in the middle of it, there was some sort of security breach and the entire museum was evacuated. I guess someone tried to run off with a painting? I don't think it could've been a terrorist threat because the museum workers stayed inside without any immediate desire to leave. Apparently, I can return and reuse my ticket....Doubt it. What-the-French!

It started raining as we left the museum. What luck! I really can't complain though because dinner turned out to be such a delight!!! And right in my neighborhood! We "dined" at Pink Flamingo Pizza, this small, eccentric restaurant serving up innovative pizzas California style. The place is owned by Americans, but hey, good food is good food. By dined I mean there were four tables all taken so we sat at the tiny bar and merrily ate our pizza.

Our Meal
La Gandhi: Sag Paneer (épinards cuisinés a l'indienne) et Baba Ganoush (le caviar de l'aubergine, crème de sésame, citron et ail) et parséme de mozzarella fondue
L'Aphrodite: Tranches d'aubergines grillées et marinées a l'ail, huile d'olive, pétales de piments rouges autour d'une louche de houmous maison....or eggplant pizza... fantastique!

Side note: I really don't eat Indian food.. I usually don't like it as a matter of rather I've mostly been too scared to try it - shocking I know. Any how. Sag Paneer is a pretty standard dish and my parents will be (REALLY) happy to know I ate Sag! It would take a pizza to get me to eat indian food, wouldn't it? Haha.

We boxed up our leftovers and left room for dessert :) We walked around my neighborhood (it's terrible having such good food walking distance from where I sleep. It's like having that mini-fridge/microwave next to your bed in college dorms) and found ourselves once more at Breizh Cafe.
They let us in without a reservation because we were just getting dessert and because they just knew we couldn't help ourselves. The dessert crepe itself was disappointing from the night before, but I know now to stick to my general rule of avoiding apple desserts in all restaurants unless it's one of two things: apple pie or apple crumble. I always find other apple desserts to be bland and unimpressive. This pomme crepe was boring indeed and infused intensely with an unpleasant liqueur. However, my strong recommendation to visit Breizh Cafe still stands.


As if the weekend couldn't get any better....
Fun Finds in Le Marais
1) cacao et chocolat Fun, little chocolate shop boasting impeccable chocolates for giving, cooking, snacking, and my personal favorite, eating in. I got myself a cup of their spicy hot cocoa, quite tasty. I love the French emphasis on chocolate rather than milk, as it always should be. Definitely not as spicy as Mexican hot cocoa though, which is how I like it in general.
This is a small shop you'll also find in the U.S. They stock an assortment of mediterranean oils and spreads that could tease your palette before any meal. I fully intend on ordering a few jars when I return home. You'll also find other cooking supplies and olive-based beauty products. On the right is a picture of their beautiful chandelier of jars of olive oil. What a marvelous idea!
3) This is a two-part find. Couldn't seem to walk out of this hot botique a couple of blocks from my apartment where French designer Sophie Albou's collections are sold under the brand of Paul & Joe of which you have heard. While Amanda was trying on a few things, I heard this remix of Daniel Bedingfield's "The One." Love it. My friend Munish complains about me staying up way past my bedtime because I get wired on techno.. He thinks everything is techno. Whatever! I'd love a 24-7 dance party life. Anyway, check it out.

4) Wouldn't dream of leaving out Breizh Cafe
5) or my new loove: Pink Flamingo Pizza

The rest of Monday was incredibly touristy. After visiting Arc de Triumphe (don't try to cross the street to get there - you'll pretty much get killed - Thank God for underground passageways) we shopped on Champs- Élysées & Avenue George V stopping in Cartier, Hermes, and Brioni (a few of Ritam's favorite places.. haha (Ritam is Amanda's fiancee). I wouldn't mind a Cartier watch.........whatever, my Fossil works just fine. Of course, it was soon snacktime and we made our way into tea-party-esque Laduree for their highly acclaimed macaroons. Picked up six varieties: Pistachio, Mango, Vanilla, Rose, Praline, and Citrus. I liked the Rose and Mango best, but also the Pistachio, but to be quite frank, I'm not much of macaroon girl. It's really just frosting-y to me. You know when it comes down to it, I really just want my chocolat.
From there we walked all the way down Champs- Élysées through the Jardin du Tuiliri (a lovely garden with ponds) till we hit the Louvre. Here's a little map to give you an idea of all the places I've been visiting and how far apart they are.

A few snaps outside the Louvre and we were starved for lunch. By that time it was well into the afternoon so we turned south toward St. Germain des Pres where found a small cafe still open! Amanda ordered a traditional Croque Monsieur (Mr. Crunch!), and I had a Croque au Chevre.

My toasted sandwich was a nice change from the weather outside... and you know I will always have a special place in my heart for cucumbers. The stages of my childhood(ending in April!) can be marked appropriately: 1) Chicken-nugget-chicken-nugget! 2) Cucumber sandwiches! 3) Broccoli Monster! 4) Choco-holic!

After an American lady sitting next to us gave a lecture on our need to have a career back-up plan and proficiency in multiple languages, we set "sail" for Tour Eiffel. We didn't get there in time to watch the sun set over Paris, but at night they light it up and the tower sparkles like a sixth grader coated in Bath & Body Works glitter lotion. Gorgeous!
Took this on the way there...
The typical "up your skirt" shot

We took an elevator to the top (don't judge) where I found the view to be less than impressive...Maybe at night the city looks kinda boring. Also it was just so far away. I'll go back during the day and compare...and I'll take the stairs. The view from the lower levels were much better as the buildings were easier to recognize. Either way I much prefer breath-taking views of nature to urban ones.

All that elevator riding worked up our appetite so we Metro-ed off to the Latin Quarter for dinner. It's a fun place to roam around at night although it was a little bit dead on Monday night. Sundays and Mondays are days of rest/store closures. This guy started following us for quite a while begging for my photo and claiming I was Penelope Cruz...He didn't seem drunk, but appeared convinced as he chased us down the street and into a store. I actually hid in one of the aisles and we waited for a bit till he appeared to have left.

After that little escapade, we continued down the street Rue descartes where I spotted Taverne Les Olympiades, an Athenian restaurant. I'd seen it before when Laura and I had walked around the Latin Quarter a few weeks ago. I kept staring at the menu. Nothing on their menu looked remotely vegetarian, but I just felt compelled to continue looking as though something might magically appear. I felt drawn to eat there for whatever reason. After a while of looking at the menu, this elderly man came outside and started talking to me in French excitedly. Soon a younger woman who spoke English came and translated for a very confused me. He was saying it's the best Greek restaurant in Paris and someday, I should eat there. Well, that pretty much "done me" (as Eliza Doolittle would say) and I pulled Amanda's elbow inside. The woman working there didn't know any English. We tried to ask if there was anything vegetarian and she had a woman at a table across the room help her. I ended up with something called "saganaki" and it was one of the best things I've ever eaten and needless to say the best Greek food I've had in my life, though that's not saying much. All in all, now that my stomach's on board, I really am looking forward to Greece this summer with my best friend.
Anyway as it turns out, saganaki is a square of fried Greek cheese. If your mind is veering toward mozzarella cheese sticks, don't let it, 'cause it's entirely different. The plate also had some other greek side dish that I really couldn't distinguish.. possibly some sort of eggplant caviar or.. gosh, I really couldn't figure out what it was, but the dressing was delicious.
It also came with salad and these seasoned potatoes. .. Best 8 Euros I've spent! Amanda had moussaka for about 11 euros. If it didn't have beef, I would've tried it. It really looked amazing.

After a pleasant meal in the cozy restaurant, we went home to sink into the old sofa in my living room and finish off the rest of the macaroons.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Seeing a french person smile is like catching a butterfly

Location: La salle de séjour
Currently listening: Yelle - Je veux te voir
Weather: The ache-y kinda cold

Fun Finds in Paris:
1) Electro French singer Yelle. I went out with my friends Jennie and Laura (Longhorns) to Club Mix for a party hosted by ERASMUS, international students organization. The place was massive and there were I-don't-know-how-many people from all over the world. Lots of French techno music with intermittent breaks of American rap or pop. Had so much fun, but very, very crowded. Sometimes smaller, less crowded clubs can be better 'cause you have a little more room to move. But God was it nice to see people from all over because that is one place where people are willing to make a little effort at broken English, or I mean dancing is it's own form of communication...This Italian guy asked me if I wanted to be Italian for the evening and handed me his Italian flag sticker haha. Speaking of Italians, all the girls are in love with my European Model professor. Class title quite fitting. He speaks Italian and French, but has been working in the UK so his English accent is a bit muddled which I find entertaining. Anyway, what a tangent! Bottom line: Listen to Yelle!

2) PAUL One word:Délicieux


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"It's bound to melt your heart" - Jenny Lewis

Location: The sofa that may or may not be the roof over the head of Francois the mouse.
Currently Listening: Melt your heart by Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins
Weather: It's warmed up a tad, still very much coat/glove weather.

Le Recap'
The second I got to my uncle's flat in Mumbai, I was whisked off to the salon to get a much needed haircut. Don't worry it's still long, but I have a heck of lot more layers and bangs. I think it kinda looks like Ashlee Simpson in her Pieces of Me days, which I find troublesome, but sometimes it falls nicely. After that, we all left for the hotel in Powai, ate a terribly late dinner, and crashed for the night.

The new hair.

Dance Practice. 
My aunt hired a choreographer to teach everyone a few dances to perform at the Sangeet that night. It's essentially a talent show for the bride. A few of the married couples performed a dance - OMG hilarious to watch them learn how their dance. All of the wives complained about how their husbands had two left feet - and then all of the cousins learned a dance that made fun of the groom. We all ended up forgetting the steps except for my cousin Divya, who can actually dance. 
Prabha Nani (My grandmother's sister) doesn't need dance lessons (or singing lessons for that matter). She busted out to a rather sultry song. It was pretty much fantastic. 

Got a tiny glimpse of India outside the hotel when Dad and I went shopping. Picked up a few presents for loved ones and a kurti (Short Indian top, which is long by American standards). Seriously, I needed about 10 outfits for the whole weekend 'cause weddings are like living in a Bollywood movie where you have a costume change every 5 seconds. 

Several quite talented ladies came to decorate the women's hands with mehndi (Henna). Meanwhile, the men kept themselves busy with poker. My hands look pretty awesome right now, but later confused the immigration officer into thinking I was just married. The food at the Mehndi was so so tasty. People were making papadi chat and aloo tikis right on the spot for the guests. Papadi chat is like these wheat chip/crackers covered in yoghurt, spices, sweet and hot sauces, tomatoes, onions, and variety of other toppings. Think of it like an Indian version of Nachos. Aloo tikis are like mashed potatoes patties fried until golden brown. They are salty, spicy, and an eensy bit sour because they put aamchur, which is mango powder. They also cover these in the same toppings as I mentioned before. I was happy that the open bar (which was available at every event- although quite surprisingly the drinking age is 21) served fresh coconuts to drink the water from. Refreshing! 
I was completely amazed by this guy making bangles at the Mehndi. He melted and shaped beeswax and swirled in colors from the blocks of solidified paint.

Later that night we attended the Sangeet. At the bar I found myself a kiwi margarita! This could be completely ordinary, but I've never heard of such before. The open bar led to a rather drunken night of dancing for the entire lot in the hall that literally was transformed into a discotheque with crazy lights and blasting techno-bhangra. Prior to this, my relatives all performed dances for Monika. 
I did a little number with my cousins Neha, Divya, Vibhu and Pranav. 
It was interesting to say the least...... 

We also had a little champagne-cake birthday celebration in there somewhere to celebrate Neha's 22nd birthday. Rule#1: Neha's birthday first, Monika and Ram's wedding anniversary second!

The next morning my cousins and I went to Monika's room where the bride and groom's sides exchanged gifts. I got a shnazzy gold evening purse! 

Traditionally, the groom arrives at the wedding on horseback. The groom's side leads him dancing all the way to the Mandap (the tent where the ceremony takes place). It's like a great big parade with a band and everything! Holy crap was it hot though! It must have been a hundred degrees and with all that dancing, oh boy. 

Just before we decorated his face with all of those flowers for the Bharat. Haha he couldn't see anything!!! The flowers are supposed to hide the bride from the groom's view.

The wedding ceremony was fun to watch. It's nice being related to the groom 'cause you automatically get a good seat in the mandap. I can't imagine how terribly hot Monika must've been under all those layers of fabric and jewelry!

After a shower and much needed nap, I made my way to the reception. Lots and lots of foood. Greek food, Thai food, lots of desserts, and of course Indian food. I think I am becoming more and more okay with Indian food which I've rejected for the greater part of my life. For whatever strange reason, Mumbai has a noise ordinance so the band had to stop playing at 10:30pm because we were outside. Rather unfortunate in terms of dancing, but later there was dancing inside the convention center. 

Left everyone more than tipsy at the reception at about 12:30 (the party did not stop apparently till several hours later) for a quick nap and left an hour later for the airport to catch my 4am flight to Paris(That was pretty much awful timing). Must comment on the complete disaster of the airport in Mumbai. They had 12 people manning the gate to keep boarding in order. What the heck! How unnecessary. Oh wait, this is India and no one follows any rules or understands the concept of a line. Oh did I mention they changed the gate of my flight and failed to announce it? Yeah, there's something called a screen. Get one so I can least figure it out on my own if you don't tell me! Also, I was really annoyed that they hired the equivalent of Indian "dumb blondes" to work the airports who just flirted with people via cell phone instead of answering my questions like "where the heck do I go?"

Anyway, I made it eventually to Paris so that's all that matters. I actually felt a bit of relief like I was returning home. 

Friday, January 16, 2009

Green Acres is the place to be!

Location: The Residence Hotel Mumbai, India
Currently Listening: Some african beats playing in the lobby

Just a few words. Made it safely to India and my Mama's (mom's brother) flat at Green Acres. I cannot express how thrilled I am to be here! I just met Nana Ji's (grandfather) brother and Nani Ji's (grandmother) baby sister for the very first time. I feel so blessed to have met them. :)

Right now I'm actually in the hotel where the wedding events will take place. Fun Fact: The Residence is a Zero Trans Fat Food Hotel. You know I approve!

Better catch some shut eye before the wedding events begin!

Fruits of the Sea and Apples of the Earth!

Location: Dubai International Airport
Currently Listening: Daily Routine by Animal Collective
Weather: 63F Partly Cloudy 

I'm sitting around in the airport....for a SEVEN HOUR LAYOVER. Oh God, not again! So that means I'm not really enjoying the warmer weather. I'm all cuddled up in my peacoat in the freezing airport. I will be in the sun soon enough. Apparently it's in the nineties in Mumbai. I am way too excited for the wedding. I have never been to a wedding in India!! I wish my sisters were coming.

Fun Finds in the United Arab Emirates

1) A Lindt chocolatier has a permanent stand where you can watch him make chocolates. I nearly drooled at the sight of churning the melted chocolate. If that wasn't heaven enough, I had a little taste of some of the dark chocolate. Cheered me up quite a bit!

2) Best hummus known to mankind. I got here at what 6:30AM? Thank you, Dad! And I'm here till 1:20pm. Good Lord! Anyway starved out of my mind, but of course the dollar sucks and every food item was like what the heck expensive. After walking around for a few hours I finally found some hummus and toasted italian bread for 13 Dirhams!!!! That's about $3.50. Boy, was it fantastic, and the paprika was the most beautiful red I've ever seen. I also walked by some Spanish saffron in a duty-free shop that was nearly intoxicating. 

3) Emirates Airlines has over 200 movies to choose from on their airplanes in Economy. What the heck? American Airlines, you need to step it upppp. 

4) In the airport bathrooms I found a little surprise near the toilet. A spray faucet. In case your bum is missing the comforts of Charmin, feel free to use the hand held spray faucet. I guess that's better than the water buckets they use in India. Good thing I packed Charmin-To-Go!

So I got my first ounce of being homesick. . France really isn't the place to be if you don't speak French. Don't expect any police officer, information desk worker, or really anyone to know English. It was a disaster trying to figure out if I had boarded the right train (the trains are much more confusing then the Metro - I can handle the Metro). Getting on the wrong train is no good 'cause you can't just get off and pick up another 2 seconds later going back to where you came from. The trains hit the suburbs and go off into the darkness outside the city. As far as struggling with no one knowing even a little bit of English, I have travelled to many countries and never encountered such difficulty. I know I shouldn't expect the public to, but really can't the Information desk in a main train station or airport know a word or two!? I guess when I go to India there are places where no one knows English, but I know plenty of Hindi to survive. Honestly, I wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country, but I didn't feel ready to take market coursework in spanish, which was they only option. I am practicing French every day now though. I hope I can stuff whatever I read in my phrasebook in my head well enough for recall. I am also trying to take an extra class in French on top of my regular schedule, which actually got changed up considerably. ESCP offers a lot of team and individual sports. I think I might pick up fencing, yoga or whatever "rock" dancing entails. .. 

Marketing Communication
Brand Management

International Business Management
Does the European construction lead to a European Model?

(Hopefully) French for Beginners

What-the-French! (I plan to make this a regular column like Fun Finds)
I was reading a menu the other day and was remarkably confused by the crepe selection. Tip: Fruits de la mer ... I interpreted this as fruits of the sea, but I'll have you know this is NOT tropical fruit. It's seafood! Haha, what a disaster. I also started to get confused because I noticed "pommes" was used interchangeably for both apples and potatoes. Fun fact: "Pommes" means apples, and to say potatoes, you say "pommes de la tierre." Apples of the Earth.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Put me in your suitcase...

Location: L'sofa? haha whatever.
Currently Listening: Devendra Banhart - At the hop
Weather: Cloudy 37F then I don't have to buy a ticket to any of the places I should be visiting but can't aaaaaffford. Everyone is making quite expensive plans for trips throughout Europe. I am holding off and trying to find good deals to places I have never been before, but I'm not really having much luck. On a far brighter note, I stuffed my belly with some yummy crepes yesterday. I met up with Brooke and Emily finally who are here to study French at their strangely numbered universities. Beats Me. We went out to a bar with some friends I met at ESCP to celebrate a friend's birthday. My stomach hasn't adjusted well to the cheeses here so as I have been in a constant state of cheese hangover, the sauvignon I ordered did not go down so well. I would blame my lactose intolerance, but Kristina's (She goes to THE Sorbonne) been here for several months now and she says even her stomach hurts from the cheeses here.

After leaving the bar we just walked up the street and found this cute little place that served crepes with chocolate of all different colors called Marche ou Crepe. I had a savory crepe... here they call them galettes..( I feel like the same word is used to describe this almond pastry I ate the other day) they are made of buckwheat and are a bit thicker. Mine was filled with chevre (goat cheese), epinard (spinach), and emmental(swiss cheese). Brooke and I split a dessert crepe, really quite too much, don't intend to attempt that again, filled with chocolate and caramel. Bit too chewy. I prefer lighter ones with berries. Regardless, definitely plan on returning again (under 5 euros each- heck yes). Can someone put a creperie on the Drag back home? Say yes!

Tomorrow morning I have to take a silly test over the seminars I've been attending. Basically a test over the European Union, French history and culture, and a couple of other things that I conveniently slept through. After class, I'll be off to Mumbai for the weekend YESSSSS! I fly from Paris to Dubai with a rather unfortunately long layover (I can shop I suppose) and then reach India Friday evening. My cousin Ram whom I affectionately call Dinky is getting hitched. I am so excited. Hopefully I will remember to take my camera, speaking of which I can't find the camera wire which is why my posts have been devoid of pictures.

Still have not gotten a cell phone aka social enabler. David and I checked out a few phone shops, but they were all out of the cheap phones. Fun fact: It costs more to buy a sim card by itself then to buy a phone with a sim card. France is strange.

Good bye, Paris, for now. I shall return Monday afternoon in time for class!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Days you spend wanting some of Michael Landon's grace" - Sondre Lerche

Location: Mon lit (I think that means my bed..)
Currently Listening: Sondre Lerche's Two Way Monologue
Weather: Still Foggy -3C (27F)

Fun finds on the Metro: 
1) Watched a guy roll a joint

2) An old lady was carrying a shopping bag for "D'Shop The Hip Hop Shop."

3) A man was jamming out to some really loud(like filled up the platform) Middle Eastern music off his cell phone... I kind of wanted to shout OH HOT DAMN, THIS IS MY JAM! (Yay, Flo Rida)

Metro advice: 
RATP (Paris transport) has a website: which has a trip-planner that will figure out the fastest way to get from one address to the other, or with the least transfers or shortest walking distances. Oh, and the RATP works can totally show up randomly and ask you for your ticket. They were checking them this evening and I almost couldn't find the one I was using. Word on the street is that there are some serious consequences for being caught without a ticket. Don't plan on finding out what that entails...

Spent a lovely afternoon in the Louvre today. I really do not care for the Pyramid. I think it just covers up the architecture of the main building, which is absolutely magnificent. I loved peeking out the windows on the higher floors to take a closer look at the carvings. We didn't have time to see too much but the sculpture gardens and the Italian and French paintings. I'm still amazed by the process of sculpting stone and working with such a large stone slab. One look at those statues will leave any person stumped. As my parents and I walked around we passed by several artists (one looked about 8 years old) sketching various pieces of art and felt a certain lack of skill within ourselves. I can't remember who my mother was quoting when she said to lack skill is a sin. I pretty much vary from terrible to mediocre in regard to all things creative (obviously not a question of level of appreciation, but simply of the task of doing such). I need to pick something I know how to do and learn to excel at it (I did not go to finishing school like my oldest sister). 

At night, we strolled down Champs Elysse. All the trees are beautifully lit this time of year. We actually stopped at....STARBUCKS. Yes, I understand it's a crime to go to Starbucks in Europe, but I have been desperate to find some soy milk (otherwise I have to live without my breakfast staple oatmeal). I am really worried about not getting enough protein since I can't find tofu or tempeh or bean sprouts or chickpeas or lentils. So far all I've got are hummus and dairy products. Anyway, I was actually able to order a soy hot chocolate! Yay. I overheard the cashier telling the barista to make a Soja Chocolat and was able to find out that Soja (soy milk) can be found at Mono Prix (that crazy huge grocery store). FTW! ( That was for you, Paddy). Guess what they sell at Starbucks. Yes, that's right for 2 Euro 50 you can get three mini pancakes. Apparently they eat them cold with caramel or chocolate syrup. Strange, but truly resemble American pancakes (except in size). Obviously everything is smaller here, especially the people. Sorry, but fat people are a rarity. C'mon America get with the program. Exercise. Eat smaller portions. Stop being so sedentary! I know they use cream a lot here in foods, but it's still much less in saturated fats than dairy in the U.S. Foods are just more natural and healthier overall, but really it's the small quantities that make such a big difference. 

For dinner, we went to Dragon Elysse a second down a cross street of Champs Elysse. It was like Circuit City meets Las Vegas meets aquarium. There were lots of flashing lights and red metal railings and staircases and the floors were glass atop pools of fish swimming around. This chinese/thai restaurant wasn't any different all of the other restaurants in Paris that just don't seem to be aware of  vegetarianism. The long menu had 2 dishes that appeared to be végétarien, one of which I ordered but ended up having shrimp despite the waiter's confirmation of no meat. Oh, and our spring rolls also ended up having, meat. Did I mention we still had to pay 9 Euros for the spring rolls we couldn't eat? Yay. The dish of chinese broccoli and green beans was quite tasty though! Another thing you'll find is that making substitutions is really American culture so don't bother trying especially if you barely speak French. And you won't find tofu on any Asian restaurant menu or fortune cookies. I honestly couldn't care less for fortune cookies. I only ever read the fortune. I think society is better off without them. No one needs the extra calories after finishing a meal. It's really a waste of paper and plastic! Okay, the tree-hugger is done talking. 

Trying to get home on the Metro was a disaster. Dad and I tried to take a train home, but when we got to the station all these strange French announcements were being played on the loudspeaker leaving us English-speakers worried. We tried to board the train, but every single person got off the Metro and they turned off the lights - we knew something must be really wrong. The sign still read another train coming in 7 minutes, but they made yet another announcement and slowly just about everyone was heading to the Sortie (exit). We found a RATP (Paris transport) worker and found out that our line was closed off for the next few stations (including the one next to my apt) and would have to walk home. Someone had fallen under the train... 

Walking home was difficult. We couldn't find a street map, and didn't know how to ask for directions since know one knew the small street I lived off of.. We found a few young girls who knew how to get to Saint-Sébastien - Froissart station (which I know how to get home from) and sent us down in the proper direction on Rue du Temple. Unfortunately, the streets in Paris are mostly confusing. Every block the streets fork and you have to keep checking to make sure you are still on the same street. Every passing minute the confusion mounted as the temperature dropped. Finally, we saw a cab that came to our rescue and took us home safely. So glad. Note to self: Never leave home without cab money, street map, and back-up plan!

"There's no words to describe it in French or in English" - Citizen Cope

Location: L'appartement
Currently Listening: Still Ghost Town soundtrack...Sideways by Citizen Cope
Weather: Foggy -8°C (18°F)

Got way lost in the subway today. Actually it wasn't bad at all. All the lines have two names. If you go say north, the name of the line is the last station you'll hit. If you go south, it's the last station you hit. Would've been nice to know that... haha. I also did not know how to open the subway door and missed my stop. Live and learn, right?! The metro stations are fun though. You get to hear really great music - sometimes an accordion player..I heard a violin rendition of "My heart will go on" as well, although I've obviously would've picked a better song. I had to sing that for choir in the 5th grade. Can you imagine having to practice Celine Dion daily for weeks? Torture. Oh P.S. There was definitely choreography..

Anyway, after getting off at one stop too far I had a long walk down Boulevard Voltaire to get to my parents' "oh-tel". That place has everything times two: salons, undistinguishable globs of meat, discount stores, brasseries (no that does not refer to bras), chocolat, electronics, and signs for Happy Phone. Definitely wouldn't pick up one of those, I have no desire to figure out who is at the other end of that line........

Met up with Mummy and Papa and sat down for "le petit déjeuner" (French breakfast, typically light) in a nearby patisserie. That's still the only French word I can say properly.

We headed first to Cathédrale Notre Dame, have a lot to pray about these days. The place, as one would imagine, is breath-taking with its intricate scenes of stained glass and peaceful aura. It's a strange feeling you get walking into a place like that..knowing important people who have done great things have been exactly where you're standing. I think I might have to go back there and audio-guide it to hear more of the history.

I ventured into the glam side of Paris that everyone knows and loves. Ah, mon cherie, mon Paris! Spent the afternoon shopping in Galeries Lafayette - 10 stories of shopping glory and wonder. Couldn't afford a single thing. Mom and I spent a bit ogling at the Swarovski nook. We both lost our earrings in Paris. All this taking clothes on and off, you're bound to lose something...

At night, my roommate Laura and I visited the Latin Quarter. It's lively, full of restaurants and brasseries and reminded me of Covent Garden in London. We had intended to meet up with some Longhorns also studying at ESCP, but somehow missed their happy hour at Cafe Delmas. By "somehow" I mean Laura and I left way late from the apartment and also had to go back because I left my gloves at home. After that setback, we perused the area browsing all the menus posted outside the restaurants. I hope I can find places to eat that actually serve something vegetarian besides Sandwich 4 Formagge (four cheeses and bread) and that is affordable. 17+ Euros my arse! I know these restaurants serve their purpose, but where do all the people eat on a regular basis? I guess back home I'm used to going to cheap/moderately priced eateries all the time.

We wandered somewhere outside the Latin Quarter and fell upon Crêpes à Gogo. HELL YEAH (Said that in the most Jeff Kramer voice possible). Got seated at a cozy table for two next to the heater. Tres awesome! There were so many crepes I almost started drooling at the menu. Laura ended up with Crepes Gourmande...laced with hot chocolate and toasted almonds and topped with ice cream. I kind of wanted something flambed but didn't really want apples, which I believe the waiter said was the only thing I could get as a filling with the various alcohols. What does cointreau taste like? Never tried it before. I ended up with crepes covered in Bailey's with a little scoop of Bailey's ice cream and sprinkled with coffee beans. De-lish, but seriously there was an entire shot of Bailey's poured over that crepe, totally drenched. Rachel(the bff) probably would have wet her pants over it. Anyway, Laura and I promised ourselves to go-go back and delight our bellies once more.

Our waiter sent us in the direction of Mono Prix, a 3-level grocery store where I picked up essentials: soy sauce, green beans, oatmeal, and risotto. I was really tempted to pick up a basil plant, but I tried to grow one in Edinburgh and that failed(It rains there incessantly). I also got mocked for eating leaves. Thank you, Monica, Lauren, and Karina! This cold weather = certain doom for that tiny plant.

Completely unrelated, but just got an email from my sister that I just had to share with you. LOVE YOU, SONIYA:)

"HI Saloni,

Be safe in Paris. Don't take any taxis with people you don't know (not to scare you but someone told me about how there are some people who get you to share a taxi with them, they find out where you live, and then they kidnap you for ransom later. Again, don't want to scare you, but I want you to be safe.


Well, it's time to make another attempt at getting rid of my jet lag so until next time, amigos.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

C'est la vie en rose

Location: L'appartement
Currently Listening: the soundtrack of Ghost Town

Paris! Paris! How long it has been since I saw you last! I am not used to kissing all these strangers. The lady who greeted me to give me the tour of the apartment laid two nice big ones on me, much to my discomfort. By tour I mean walked from room to room explaining in great, complex detail how to work all the really old appliances. I'm only somewhat frightened by the fact that I need to light the stove and oven with a match. After many breaks for food and exploring, I am finally settled in my lovely apartment in Le Marais("marshland") district in the heart of Paris. It's apparently home to a large Jewish Community (I miss Kevin and his latkas and RachelB). 
I am in Paris from now until mid-May to study at École supérieure de commerce de Paris–École européenne des affaires aka The European School of Management. Fun fact:  It is the oldest institution dedicated to business education in the world. I will be taking a total of four courses in marketing and European economics. More details on those once I make it through a rather painful, week-long orientation, or so my friend from ESCP tells me. I was lucky enough to have an exchange student from ESCP, who shared quite a bit of insight, in my marketing research class last semester. 

My first day here I essentially spent with my parents walking around aimlessly in the 3rd arrondisiment. Dad amused himself asking strangers questions simply to listen to the French he needless to say doesn't understand. I am working on my French....which basically means I hope to get to a point where I can enter a restaurant, order a meal, and pay without making a fool of myself. What I've seen of Paris so far looks much like NYC...lots of graffiti, busy strangers, and hobos- and the drive from the airport - so industrial. It's not as charming as I remembered, and definitely not as charming as Vienna. I can't wait to go exploring and find the less-tampered nitches full of character. Bit hard though. My body has not adjusted to the freezing weather. I'll be fine in a day or two and possibly will rack up the courage to use my 50 Walks in Paris flash card set Karina gave me for Christmas. We (my roommates Laura & Blair and I) did go out to a little supermarché, Franprix...small and cute as grocery stores should be. I felt like a kid set loose in a candy store wanting to buy everything to try at least once. I kept picking up the wrong things 'cause I didn't know what the labels said. Buttermilk or regular?Shampoo or conditioner? Tomato sauce or tomato soup!? It can get confusing pretty quickly. I feel like I was less confused in Austria...but maybe that's because Lauren was a fantastic guide, having visited there several times. Regardless, pictures for the silly Americans, si'l vous plait! I bought some random things like tortellini with aubergine (eggplant) and what Laura and I thought may or may not be butter. I thought I was buying frozen yellow tomatoes, but they ended up being yellow bell peppers. Oh and I saw COCONUT yogurt?? Très sketchy. I need to find an actual market. There must be a little farmer's market somewhere in this city. .

Thursday, January 8, 2009

All things go, all things go

Location: Dallas Love Field Airport
Currently Listening: Chicago by Sufjan Stevens

Days of travel are always filled with enough emotions to drive out any sane fibers inside the body. Upon arrival at Dallas Love, my suitcases seemed as though they’d been rigged to fall off the smartecarte. My new winter hat (Yes, Chris, the one I opened a credit card to purchase – haha long story!) blocked all peripheral vision so I’m not quite sure if Professor Quirrell was anywhere nearby muttering spells under his breath. This nice man (God, I’m going to miss Texas) seriously put them on the cart about 12 times as the police men just stared, probably in disappointment of today’s young generation and their inability to part with material belongings. So much for packing lightly and living with European simplicity! Thoreau would not be proud, but I will say this. I was under the check-in limit on both pieces of luggage. I blame my sudden fit of apathy whilst packing for not being more exact.

I don’t know what it is about this airport, but it seems like everyone here is looking for a little action. Is there something romantic about airports? Meeting strangers or perhaps it has something to do with the mindset of the traveler. I always feel as though I am in a dream-like state when I am on the go and let reality slip far back into the depths of my mind.

“Everytime I talk to a beautiful woman she’s going to college!” That was the rather disappointed airport security worker after discovering my plans to study rather than travel for business/pleasure. Not sure how to react to that one. It’s general consensus that I look about 16 so it was a bit pedophile-esque that he was trying to hit on me. Although really that was nothing after I walked by the shoe shining area and a 70-year-old man winked at me. I thought to myself, are you kidding me? He did not just do that. I looked back thinking that must've been a twitch, but no, the creeper smile was waiting for me. Needless to say I walked away quickly. About twenty minutes later, my elderly waiter at Chili's asked me if I wanted him to check me out. I'm just going to pretend that was related to some sort of language barrier. But really, it's incidents like these (and the essentially zero interaction I've had with my grandparents) that just augment my feelings of weariness and discomfort towards the elderly. I hope one day that will change. Anyway, this is starting to sound like Dr. Phil. I promise you much more exciting entries upon my departure of the U.S. to where the grass really is greener on the other side. Well, I'm off to Chicago for a bit of a layover where I will meet up with Mummy and Papa before jetting off to Paris! Kiss, kiss!