Archive for January, 2009

Back in Seattle

Sunday, January 18th, 2009 by Paul

Airports sometimes seem to be worlds unto themselves: not quite a part of their worldly location, looking more like other airports than the cities or countries they inhabit. All duty free shops look the same, regardless of what language the signs are in.

In this way airports provide the liminal experience between vacation and work, or a life in one city to another. By the time we had sat down at Charles de Gaulle airport, I felt I had already left France. It would not be long before we would in the below-freezing temperatures of Chicago and then to the foggy, gray skies of Seattle.

So far, the culture shock has been minimal. US dollars looked a bit odd at first, and I still sometimes think I need to say “bonjour” when I enter a store or café, or say “au revoir, bon journée” when I leave.

While such things aren’t necessary here, I did have my reintroduction to the peculiar brand of Seattle politeness as I was waiting for the bus. The bus approached the stop and opened its door. No one was getting off the bus, but everyone waiting paused for moment, a couple feet away, wondering who would be the first to board.

I didn’t hesitate: I walked right in and was the first person on.

The Last Days

Sunday, January 11th, 2009 by Paul

It hasn’t entirely warmed up yet from the cold that seems to be on the minds of everyone in Paris. At least the sky is clear. On Friday, while we were leaving the Louvre just after dusk, Misty remarked that this was the first time she remembered seeing the moon during our time here.

In all the times that I’ve been here this is the first time I’ve been to the Louvre. I was dreading the crowds, but as it turns out going late on a Friday during a frigid January is a great time to visit the museum. The biggest crowds were around the Mona Lisa, of course, and it wasn’t very easy to get past the mass of camera phones to get a good look. Other than that, it was easy to move around, and quite peaceful if you had an interest in 18th century decorative arts and the like.

The night was beautiful, and eventually we found ourselves looking out the windows onto the Cour Carré or the Pyramide rather than at the artwork.

There are many things that I will miss about living here. I’ll miss the bakeries where we got our daily baguette. I’ll miss the boucheries where we bought meat for our dinners and the pâté for my lunch (I’ve developed quite a terrible addiction to the stuff, so I’ve resolved to start making pâté and rillettes at home. If it turns out well, I’m sure I’ll have plenty to share).

I’ll miss the new friends we’ve made here, although it’s never goodbye because we know we’ll be back to Paris someday.

I’ll miss the Metro. Living in Seattle, it’s easy to develop transit envy for practically any city that has even a modicum of fast and reliable public transportation. Even among larger cities, though, the Paris Metro is something entirely special. You are never more than a five minute walk from a Metro station, and in general it is easy to get from any part of the city to the other. Unless you are going from the 11th arronidissement to the 5th — then you might as well walk.

For the past couple weeks, we’ve been in that period at the end of any long journey where thoughts always turn toward returning home. While Paris would be an easy city to live in for us, we’re also looking forward to getting back to our home in Seattle. We’re looking forward to seeing our friends again, to our apartment on Capitol Hill, and our rabbits.

There’s a parting phrase in French, bonne continuation. I don’t think we have a good translation for it in English, but it can be taken to mean “all the best” or “good luck for the future.” It’s more of a permanent goodbye, though, and while we have to say au revoir to our life in Paris, I would prefer to also say à la prochaine. Until next time….

Paris Chicago Seattle

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009 by misty

We’re finally feeling the cold here, I mean, it’s not -30C like in Poland, but it’s -7. It’s -1 in Chicago, 10 degrees in Seattle. How I miss the days of 10 degrees – it’s been weeks! I thought Paris and Seattle had the same weather, I was very wrong. Tomorrow, we can look forward to highs in the -1s. So, I have been living below freezing for a month and yes, it’s unusual to see the Eiffel Tower covered in snow, but I’m ready for the tropical climate of good old Seattle. I want to wear only one pair of gloves! I want to not have to watch out for both black ice and doggie gifts. Maybe I’m just sad because our wine shop took the extended vacation (a second august) and our neighborhood is still just struggling back to life after la crise de foie of Christmas.

And yet, I can’t help wondering when is the soonest I can return to Paris?

French phases à propos

Friday, January 2nd, 2009 by Paul

You had a fantastic fin d’année, but you drank too much and the next day you had a terrible gueule de bois (a hangover, literally a “face of wood”). Or did you eat too much because you have les yeux plus gros que le ventre (“eyes bigger than your stomach”) and now you have une crise de foie (“liver crisis”)?

Luckily, when a holiday falls on a Thursday, many French take a pont (a bridge) and take the Friday off as well. Then it’s a good day to glander, to idle, perhaps catch up on episodes of “Heroes” or watch The Lord of the Rings. Careful that you don’t take too many idle days, or someone might accuse you of avoir un poil dans la main (to be a lazy person, literally “to have a hair in the hand”).

Or don’t worry about any of that and just have une bonne année!

Le fin d'année

Revelers on the Champs-Élysées

Le fin d'année

The Grand Palais on the Champs-Élysées