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...

What-the-French!
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 class..it'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.

Saturday

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.

Sunday

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)
1897

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 fact..er 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.

Monday

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.


12 comments:

Big Yos said...

passing by the sex shops, eh? :)

traveler's pen said...

Had to pick up a souvenir for you, of course

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