just another American bumbling around Paris.

Month: April, 2012

bonnes vivantes

Phwaahhhh, MEAT!

I was a ‘pescatarian’ for about a year of my life.  I say that here but generally I just said, “I try to avoid eating most meat” if provoked (I didn’t care to discuss it; I hate hearing about everyone’s dietary particularities and plus, as an adventurous eater, I have little tolerance for dietary particularities in general) but still ate fish, because it’s good for you and I love fish.  I became thoroughly depressed about it when I took a geology class about the oceans my last semester of college and learned exactly what overfishing does to the world, but it’s…well…I’m still torn up about it, to tell the truth.  But this isn’t a moral post.  Perhaps another day.

All of that said, my arrival in France was the end of my pescatarian stage.  I started last year by eating just a bit occasionally, and worked my way up to being a fairly regular meat eater. During my few months at home last summer, I ate meat probably between five and ten times.  I made it count, let me tell you (example:  delicious pork belly from my town’s most authentic Chinese restaurant.  Both the resto and the dish were introduced to me by my Taiwanese neighbor).

Because I really like traveling and I really like eating, any kind of dietary restriction is a pain in my butt.  To pass up meat in France seems crazy.  One of the reasons I “avoid eating it” at home is because it’s so difficult (and pricey) to find good quality, non-factory-farmed meat in the US.  In France, everything you put into your mouth is traced from its origin.  You know where all of your food comes from!!!  French people tell me factory farming is growing in France, and I’m sure it’s true, but in the meantime it is still possibly to find fresh, quality meat.  And I’m taking advantage while I can.

My mom and I had some of the very best of it for lunch today at Chez Robert et Louise, which makes an appearance on most lists of Paris’s best restaurants.  We had the côte de boeuf, which came from Austria and is one of their renowned dishes.  When we were seated my mom asked if I had a problem being right next to the open kitchen, what with all the smoke and the heat, but it was no problem at all!  It turned out we had the very best seats for watching the young chef stab into giant slabs of beef and throw them onto the open fire.  It was serious cooking.  Such a show, and such a meal!

Along with the rest of the world who visits and eats in Paris, highly recommend Chez Robert et Louise for the ambiance and the food.  Real rustic French cooking!  God, I love this country.

And so here is what Robert et Louise have to offer:

le chef


ze stove


ze feast


post feast:  ze fat from my meat


28 avril 2012


un français essaie un pantalon

A couple of weeks ago I visited a French friend doing Erasmus in Oxford.  I was lucky enough to come when her dad was there (I love her whole family so much, they’re wonderful people…I like to think of them as my French family).  Her dad is hilarious.  He tried on three pairs of these pants in various sizes and did a sort of a martial arts routine to test the fit…kicking one leg in the air, squatting, bending all over the place.  He also kept leaving the curtain open when he went in to change to different pants, prompting my friend to say repeatedly, “papa, le rideau!!!”  I took a picture so he could see the fit, since the camera doesn’t lie, and he seemed happy with them.  When he went to the counter to purchase them, he seemed sure that he was entitled to the discount because his daughter is a student at Oxford.  The manager politely said that they had no such discount but said that he would be happy to give him one as a gesture, to which her father responded, “ah, well then maybe I take the pullover as well, if there is a discount!  Sorry…French people are like that!”

I laughed for the next 30 minutes.

I love this man!  Monsieur H.B.:

monsieur h

Walters of Oxford, 21 avril 2012


London, baby!

londres rue

londres 2

londres underground

20 avril 2012

putaine carpette

I’m not happy today.

Last night I accompanied a friend to a dinner, because her ex-boyfriend was in town and had invited her to this dinner with his friends.  I was there to provide moral support, of course.

It was at a Thai restaurant.  The cheapest thing on the menu was 10 Euro soup, and I’m really poor since I’m working with limited funds until the end of May (which includes several vacations, which inevitably means restaurants and the like), and I don’t have a job lined up at home, so I’m trying to watch myself.  I’m doing an admittedly bad job, but I am trying.

So my friend and I both got soup, since I like soup anyway, as did the rest of the women, and the table split some little appetizer platter that had egg rolls and little shrimp guys and such.

One round guy at the table ordered this big dish with some lobster bits on top, and the other two guys both got some seafoody thing that cost substantially more than our soups.  One guy also got some mango dessert thing.  At the end of the night, this woman said, “so do we split the bill into 8 bits or do we each pay for what we got?”

Wtf?  You serious?  OBVIOUSLY PAY FOR WHAT WE GOT.  This is why I got a shitty little soup (it wasn’t even that good…).

I wasn’t really in my element, though.  It was 3 Lebanese people, a French guy, a Spanish woman, a French woman, and my friend that I was accompanying.  They were all at least 30 years old.  I’m 24; I’m not a kid, but for some reason, in the moment, I lost my tongue, and I couldn’t tell these older people who make more money than I do, “no, of course I don’t want to pay for that fat guy’s lobster.  I’m poor, this is why I ordered soup instead of lobster.”  They saw my face; I know they did.  The ringleader Lebanese girl said something to one of the guys in Arabic and he muttered something back, and the French guy piped up, “ahh, but I had a dessert…” but no one offered to pay more.  No one did anything.  We had even been talking to the ringleader earlier in the evening about how small our salaries are and how much we pay for rent, and she knew very well that we were both pretty broke and still had a month to go with no paycheck.

Afterward my friend and I felt sick.  “Ahhh,” she said, “that’s a new pair of pants!  20 Euros!!!”  I thought of all the nice French restaurants I never eat in.  How I could have spent that 20 Euros.  One little soup!  I was even hungry afterward.

We were kicking ourselves for the next hour, and I still am.  And reflecting more.

I feel gloomy and stupid.  I’m not a dumb person.  I don’t think I’m demanding or critical.  Even when my students were turds I was pretty damn nice, and on my last day, at my going-away party, I saw how much they had all liked me.  And I thought, “okay, people notice when you’re nice and give them respect even when they don’t necessarily treat you the same way.”  But they don’t always.  Sometimes they just take advantage.  And so I’m feeling pretty much like a doormat now.

This ex-boyfriend of my friend’s is a nice looking guy and all, but I’m sure he isn’t perfect.  I’m sure he has unlikable guy qualities.  I’m sure he farts and burps and eats a lot and thinks his opinions are facts.  Most guys do these things.  He’s alone now.  Just over 30 and alone.  Why did he leave my friend?  My friend is beautiful and smart and funny.  She’s such a good person.  I looked at her at dinner, and at him, and thought, who is he to reject her?  What the hell is he looking for if not her?  I wanted to ask him, “hey, what’s your problem?  You think you’re going to find someone better than that?  Who do you think you are?  What do you think is out there that’s better?  You were fucking lucky to have her.”

I’ll never understand the world, and I’m sorry to sound so defeatist, but I’d rather be taken advantage of than take advantage of someone, if these are my options.


Lunch with Maria on the corner of Boulevard de Sebastopol and Boulevard Saint-Denis.

9 avril 2012

This was the first restaurant I ever frequented in Paris, thanks to its handy location right around the corner from the first place I ever stayed and thanks to its free wifi.  It’s cute and cozy and reasonably priced, and the servers are warm and friendly, and I love it.

j’aimerais bien convaincre tout le monde de ça

Via:  source.

Not everyone believes this.  I wish they did.

I know I still do.


Happy Easter.

bunnies at Saint-Michel, 5 avril 2012

on y va

view through the fence from Rue de Saint-Pétersbourg, 20 mars 2012

ça fait une année


la plage, Essaouira, 25 avril 2011

I remember this day one year ago so well; it was sunny and warm and beautiful.  It was perfect spring!  My friend Claire’s birthday.  Claire was a teaching assistant last year in a suburb not far from mine.  We visited galleries, because Claire studied art in college and keeps me cultured.  We visited the catacombs, where I squealed in disgust when gross stuff dripped on me, and Claire announced nonchalantly that it was just the stalagmites (oh, of course.  Just the stalagmites.  “Have you never been spelunking?!”  No, I haven’t, Claire.  What is it with Missouri people and spelunking?).  We danced with our friends at El Toro, and then walked home to my apartment together when we realized that our white American dancing skills were not quite up to par with the club full of raging Spanish partiers.  We went to Morocco together with two other friends, where we shared the misguided affections of a desert boy named Rajid (poor Rajid, he’ll never have any success with that wet camel blanket) and watched our friend Nou, dubbed “the beast” by Claire, barter to the death with the Moroccan merchants.  So many adventures.  I feel a strong attachment to Claire.  Lots of people come and go, you lose touch, you outgrow each other, etc, but I feel like I will be able to count Claire as a good friend for a long time.  We just get each other, somehow.  We can talk about anything (sorry that sounds so cliché, but it is true).  I feel like any interruptions in life where we don’t see each other as much won’t have that great an impact.

Friends and friendships change as you get older.  I’ve lost touch with most (nearly all, wow) of my childhood friends.  Our friendships used to be so easy, they were really funny and immature and sure.  We always signed our notes “Lylas!”  (Love you like a sister!  You remember that?)  That type of thing.  I think we all knew no high school fights would actually last, or at least, I did.  Nothing was so serious, and I really liked my friends.  Don’t get me wrong, high school girls can be terrible, but I don’t think my group ever involved any malicious girls.  Just silly teenagers.  We had fun.  College put some distance between us, and throughout college I met new people and newer people, and, funnily enough, people that I didn’t find so appealing but who seemed to want to be my friend.  That’s always a weird feeling.  And my high school friends and I gradually lost what we had in common.  Last year in France I found some amazing friends in my fellow assistants.  I think ex-pats fall into friendships easily, but we really did have some exceptional people whom I loved so much.  That’s part of why leaving was so horrible.  It wasn’t just leaving Paris, it was knowing that I wouldn’t ever come back to this same group.  That we would never all be together again.  Because how can we?  They’re scattered around the UK and Ireland, Canada, all over the US…  It’s hard to assemble everyone.  Plus we’re all young and poor!  Who has money to travel?

This year has been great, too.  I’ve made some truly reliable friends who care so much about me, and about whom I care so much.  I was walking home with Melisa the other day and I said, “Melisa, tu me manqueras.  Qu’est-ce que je vais faire sans toi?”  And she said, “on ne va pas s’abandonner, Maja.”  So this is kind of what friendship is when you’re older.  Even if you aren’t together, if you’ve got the bond, you don’t abandon each other.

This makes me nervous about coming back to the US and deciding where I want to live and what I want to do.  I feel like I should take my social network into account.  I mean, I don’t want to move somewhere where I don’t know anyone; I want to have friends!  I want my friends.  New friends would be okay, but I don’t really feel the need to expand my circle.  Honestly sometimes I resist the idea of new friends.  “But my friends are the best!!  I don’t need any more!”  I know this is inevitable and you never know who you’ll meet, and I’m sure I’ll continue to meet amazing, likable people, but I really like the friends I’ve got.  And I don’t know if I can take loving more people who live far away.  Typing this is strange because I don’t behave at all in this fashion.  I’m really open to new people.  I love meeting new people!  I love connecting with them and finding out about their families and how their lives have changed in the past year (though here in France I meet a lot of foreigners, so there are always lots of current and constant developments in terms of location, job, friends, etc).  But everyone’s got a life.  Everyone is interesting.  Everyone is a character.

I visited Claire last summer at her house in the states and I felt this really heavy sadness when I left.  It is great having lots of friends who live lots of places, but it is so tiring having to miss them all the time.  When will I see Claire again?!  This summer, hopefully.  I wish I could see her every week.  Claire’s birthday last year was so fun.  She invited a bunch of us to her cute apartment in “Bonfriggindoufle,” and fed us home-made pizza (I never knew broccoli on pizza was so delicious) and cake and ice cream and regaled us with tales of her Friends-obsessed Spanish roommate and how many times a day she heard the theme song replaying from behind her closed door.  I had been at the park earlier that day with my massive picnic bag full of all my worldly possessions, and somehow I accidentally smashed her birthday gift (beautiful macarons), but she assured me they would taste just the same (even though we all know smashed macarons are one of the greatest frustrations in the world).  Such a classy woman.


Marrakech, 27 avril 2011

Enjoying lunch our last day in Marrakech.

I miss you, Claire!  Joyeux anniversaire!!!!!

mais ça, il m’a évité…?

I was having a small crisis a few months ago and my wise friend Kelly, who always seems to know just what to say, saved herself a few words and sent me the link to this letter written by John Steinbeck to his son in 1958.  He talks to his son about being in love, and what it means, and what he can tell him about it.  The advice he can offer.

“The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”

I printed this letter off in February and have had it in my room ever since.  I’ve read it a good number of times, and I can never get around that last line.  Sometimes I find it really comforting; sometimes it reduces me to a little ball of a person curled up on top of my comforter, trying to understand why John Steinbeck would tell me that.  Of course good things get away!  They get away all the time, Mr. Steinbeck!!!  How many failed relationships have you witnessed?  I know essentially no successful marriages.  I hear about them sometimes.  I have friends who tell me their parents are still very much in love and very content with each other.  But I don’t know these couples well.  I’ve maybe seen them in passing, at the grocery store or wherever, but who knows what happens when they stride through the automatic doors and out to their cars.  Maybe they start fighting instantly about the temperature of the air conditioner and how close the gauge can get to E before it’s time to put more gas in.  Or maybe they aren’t fighting about it, they’re just bickering.  Or maybe they aren’t in love at all, or even in like.  But this isn’t even what I’m talking about.

I’m not talking about failed marriages; those people had their shot.  I’m talking about Steinbeck’s son, and how Steinbeck is telling him nothing good gets away.  Like you’ll have your chance with someone if you’re meant to.  Like no legitimate prospect will slip through your fingers.  Like if Steinbeck’s son is in love with a girl, she’ll automatically reciprocate to the extent that they can figure out of it’s worth pursuing or not.  Has Steinbeck never had his heart broken, or is he just so supremely wise that he can see beyond such failure with some grander philosophical perspective, and know that, because he’s John Steinbeck, he’ll find someone else and life will go on?  Maybe if something good gets away, something better will come along?  But what if something perfect gets away?  I don’t get it.

I don’t want to argue with someone of Steinbeck’s caliber, but I’m worried that good things, even the best things, do get away, and more often than we’d like to admit.  Am I missing some important part here?  I don’t think so.  I think the sentiment is really pretty simple.  I wish he were right.  I would like him to be right.

dans le Marais, 25 mars 2012

This seems fairly accurate.  Cupid shooting fools with a real gun.  Some of them end up love-struck, but maybe some of them die.  It is a gun, after all.