You can get into some seriously bad habits when you’re left to your own devices in a new city. It can start off innocently enough, perhaps even with a thoughtful gesture. A gesture like buying a packet of crepes, bananas and jar of Nutella from the supermarket, so that when your boyfriend arrives home from his away game you can whip up a treat. It’s not the intent that’s the problem, not at all. Too much alone time can make you do strange things; without fear of judgement you wear a cloak of anonymity in a foreign city. And so, one afternoon you find yourself in a quiet apartment, eating Nutella straight from the jar while starting out the window, knowing you’re being bad, but doing it anyway.
Hello, is it this post you’re looking for? Welcome back nice to see you again. Can I just say you’re looking really good today; seriously you are working it, well done you. We here at paristhethird (me, myself and I) are thrilled to have you back! In this post I have decided to share five of the trickier situations I’ve encountered so far with you, let’s call them Paris Problems? A Paris problem is a problem that is immediately halved, and then halved again purely on the basis that this so called problem is being experienced in Paris. No one feels sorry for you if you begin your whine with “so, I was in Paris and……”
PP ONE: Obviously the language barrier is something that can make life challenging. I attended a partner’s dinner two weeks ago organised by Hugh’s club and also a ‘make up soiree’ last night. At the dinner I sat next to the CEO’s wife, who was my translator and extremely kind, and opposite a partner who spoke limited English. Next to her was a South African who would switch between English and Afrikaans with the girl opposite her. Then there was Helen, my kiwi ally next to the South African. So at my end of the long table sat two French, two South African, two New Zealanders and three languages. English was used the least. My eyes hurt the day after and I am guessing it’s because I was using them to express myself as I didn’t have the words. Enthusiastic nodding and facial expressions were my go to. All of the partners were so lovely; and very accommodating to me in all my uncultured ‘anglais only’ glory. I had a soft spot for the woman opposite me who was the most glamorous woman I’ve ever seen with the most amazing skin. We managed to talk about our mutual love of crème brulee, churros and discussed Bondi and Manly all without speaking in the same language. She really made an effort to communicate with me, through interpretive movements and a few English words. She visits Bali once a year and loves Sydney, she demonstrated her husband’s passion for surfing and when I asked if she also surfed by pointing at her, and mimicking her surfing motion, she quickly shock her head and started make furious biting movements with her mouth. SHARKS! I exclaimed loudly, leaping from my chair, partly in acknowledgement of her fear, and partly due to the fact I felt as if I’d won a game of charades by guessing so quickly. I made the ‘jaws fin through the water’ motion with my hands and we both widened our eyes in terror and agreed that sharks are super scary… well that’s my take on it at least.
And as for the makeup soiree, it was such a great night even if I forgot the contouring technique two seconds after the makeup artist talked me through it. His name was Julian, and he is Picasso of the makeup world, no seriously, the things that man can do with a brush. He won the world body painting title, or something along those lines… I walked away with a lot of product and a card explaining the techniques used to transform me from drab to fab. Alas the instructions were all in French, so it’s back to youtube tutorials until I begin my french lessons in approximately 11 days.
PP TWO: I have to decide daily which pastry to purchase. I walk up to the glass cabinets, or press my nose to the window to look at the row of golden delights and decide just who’s coming home with me. And once I painstakingly narrow it down, choosing sweet over savoury, I enter another whole new world of confusion as my eyes dart from éclair, to pan au chocolat, to almond croissant… I would have ended this paragraph now, but thankfully this is one problem that I have found a solution too. Just this week at my local patisserie I stumbled upon something truly special. Could it be?? My heart fluttered as I honed in on what in formation looked like an almond croissant, but had the tell tale signs of a chocolat infused creation…. I had found it, the holy grail of pastry, an almond AND chocolat croissant. And.it.was.everything.
Segway, I’m trying to eat toasted baguette as I type this and I’m using my right hand to cross over to the left side to pick up the toast. I should have moved the plate, I’ve ended up with buttery drips splashed across my arm and now I’m going to need another shower. THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS I GO THROUGH PEOPLE!
PP THREE: Supermarket shopping, but not as you know it; unless you’re a super green trendy human you’ll struggle with selecting the right herbs due to the French labelling. And yes, you can do the old sniff test, but the problem arises when you can’t for the life of you find the freaking dill and then you have to ask the produce person who really just wants to get on with stacking the potatoes, and can’t understand English. This same issue also applies to canned tomatoes with herbs or dried/ground herb varieties. Imagine the shame of adding a can of Italian Tomato and basil into your Indian curry. It happened to me. Fruit and veges must also be weighed, by ‘the weigher’, a person who stands behind a set of scales with the one job weighing tying and sticking a label on your bag of veges or fruit. Thank you to Emilie Burgess who gave me this intel. If you take your bag of pommes/apples up to the checkout you will not be served and will most probably be moved along quickly.
PP FOUR: When buying bread you often can’t see the signs behind the bread server so you have to use an eeny meeny miney mo tactic, especially if you’re in unchartered waters (an unfamiliar supermarket). This strategy is has a low success rate, and you run the risk of arriving home and cutting into your bread hoping it’s the olive loaf to accompany your soup, and realising you have fruit bread. Trust me, raisins don’t go well with vegetable soup. And while I am on the subject of bread, I’ll let you in on a secret I learnt last week. French baguettes are made to be eaten on the day that you buy it, some would argue within the hour (I fall into the latter opinion). If you’re taking a baguette to a picnic, or dinner you must buy the baguette on your way, never the night before or morning of. Boulangeries bake in 2-3 hour rotations and it is true a little bit of savviness will see you walk away with the chewiest most delightful baguette of them all. If you do get stuck with a less than fresh baguette simply place a damp tea-towel over it and put it in the oven and Hey Presto! Or voila! Your baguette will now have a new lease of life. The French don’t use as many preservatives in their bread so it won’t last as long, but you can also look at it from the perspective that it’s a challenge set by the bakers, a ticking time bomb to consume the whole thing before it gets stale. Failing that you can make delightful breadcrumbs, although we are yet to do this.
PP FIVE: Moving countries involves trading loyalties. The GP you love, the hairdresser who gets that blow wave just right? FORGET ABOUT THEM! THEY ARE DEAD TO YOU! Ok sorry, carried away I blame too much Scandal watching.. What I’m trying to say is that starting from scratch in Paris I’ve had to work with the trial and error method. I’m a ‘half head of foils’ gal from way back so to place my tresses in the hands of another hairdresser without consulting my entire office as to whether they think I’ve made a good choice was nerve-wracking. Adding to the nerves of a first appointment which may as well be a first date is that I had to keep a very open mind as to the whole experience. In France I am often reminded of something that my dad said to me when I expected him to denounce his Crusaders loyalty; “You cannot come to Rome, and expect to convert the Romans”. So ‘open minded’ is exactly the phrase I repeated to myself as my hairdresser began applying bleach to my hair with a ‘cotton wool and glad wrap’ technique. And did it turn out ok? Yes! Sure I had my head in a basin for one hour and forty five minutes but who was counting! The hairdresser did a marvellous job, and without any ‘foil’ in sight.
Hugh and I were invited to a French apartment warming on Saturday night. We played it cool, and totally didn’t say to the host “thank you so much for inviting us this is the first French home that we have been invited to since we arrived!!” Yeah…. so we were those people. We had a very fun night and were taken on an apartment tour by the couple who owned it. They had just completed a renovation and I was taken by the attention to detail, the design, and care they put into making the one bedroom apartment their home. The French have a way of incorporating beauty into everything they do, from decorating homes, to decorating macrons and palaces…. Oh look what do you know, I have photos of Laudree and Le château de Versailles to share, isn’t that freaky?!
Quick mention to Rosie and Kate who prompted me to write another post. Thank you for sticking by me. I am sorry you weren’t invited to an exclusive Block cocktail party; I shouldn’t have made you believe you would be receiving an invite in the mail. And I’m sorry that the whole ‘lack of Block party invite thing’ came less than a year after I promised you that Anna wouldn’t win the Bachelor. I am not sure if the Boy who cried Wolf had many friends, but boy am I glad that I have you two.