Monday, December 24, 2007

paris to amsterdam (first part of trip home)

I set two alarms to make sure I wouldn’t oversleep; trekked to Gare du Nord with my big incredibly beat-up suitcase; bought a ticket to Charles de Gaulle airport and got on the RER. I was fortunate that the RER was direct to Aulnay-Sous-Bois, so we skipped several stations. The trip was, for the most part, uneventful with a couple of exceptions: 1) the escalator and elevator going down to the quais weren’t working 2) the train sat at the quai for several minutes (I don’t know what the delay was, as there was no announcement). A man, who had been sitting in the train waiting with us, got up and stood on the quai. After a couple of minutes, the conductor announced that the train was direct to A-S-B and we were ready to leave. The man continued to dawdle on the quai and when the buzzer rings, he sprinted to the doors blocking them from closing so he could squeeze his robust frame onto the train. Why he got off the train in the first place is still a mystery.

Fast forward to CDG: The escalators here aren’t working either. Perhaps the escalator maintenance men are on strike? I had already lugged my luggage down two flights of stairs (one in the apartment building and the other in Gare du Nord) so the though of then hauling it up a flight appealed even less than normal. I walked down the quai until I found the elevator and said a little prayer to the elevator and claustrophobia deities that the elevator was working and would keep working until I exited on the proper floor. It was and it did. So far things are ok. I proceeded to the departure monitors and my flight wasn’t listed. Hmm, not good. Even though I stood there several minutes, scanning the flight list and double checked my flight number, it still wasn’t there. Being a paranoid (and according to the boyfriend, somewhat OCD) individual, I had already verified the night before that KLM flights to the Dam leave from 2F. I looked for another KLM Amsterdam flight on the monitor just to verify the gate (2F) because it’s France – they might have changed something during the night.

Fast forward to check-in: There are weather problems in Amsterdam and flights are delayed. The friendly check-in agent (he must not be from Paris, since as we know Parisians are anything but friendly) put me on the 9:00 flight which was also delayed and confirmed my frequent flyer number since it wasn’t in the system for the transatlantic part of my journey.

Fast forward to the gate: Load up on the free magazines and an English language newspaper and settle in for the wait. Lucky me, I end up in the vicinity of two couples and their collective 4 children. The women were Dutch and I have no idea where the men are from (they spoke English with strong accents, not from North America, the UK or Australia. Maybe South Africa?) The mother of the two boys looked very tired and permanently annoyed, After two minutes around the kids, I could understand why. They kids were beautiful, the kind you’d see in Baby Gap ads. They were also rambunctious and seemed to feed off of each others’ energy. The parents called them back so many times when they ran off that I now know their names – Chase, Kane, Angie and Serena. Every time I’m around not-so-well behaved children like these four, I ask myself if I’m sure I want kids. Really sure? I mean, they aren’t like defective electronics that you can return (although some crazy diplomat has tried) and they aren’t cats so you can’t leave them home alone with a bowl of food. But I digress… As I wrote this I was on the plan waiting for take off. The pilot announces that the weather problems mean flights taking off from Schipol are delayed, which makes sense, but perhaps I should say a quick prayer to the flight connection deities, just in case…

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I'm off across the Atlantic to visit the boyfriend and surprise the parents for Xmas (they don't know I'm coming). So I may not post anything for a while. Talk to ya next year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I just finished Merde Happens, the sequel to A Year in the Merde and Merde Actually by Stephen Clarke. Like the first two merde books, Merde Happens is hilarious. The stereotypes of the French and English are joined by comical views of Americans. If you want an easy read that will make you laugh out loud, get a copy.

Friday, December 14, 2007


I was in Gare du Nord one morning, on my way to the Eurostar terminal when I passed some young guys horsing around with each other. One of them saw me and called out “t’es si belle, je te prend toute de suite!” wtf?! Does this ever work with girls? Who would actually go out with a guy who used a pick-up line like that??

Sunday, December 9, 2007


Parisian weekend delight – fresh croissants still warm from the bakery around the corner.

Parisian weekend annoyance – someone coming into the bakery and aggressively begging for money or restaurant tickets while you wait for your croissants.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

ce n’est pas possible…

I arrive home this evening and the roommate informs me that: 1) RATP is going on strike again next week; 2) EDF was on strike today and 3) a bomb exploded and killed one person in the same building as Sarkozy’s former law office. With everything going on this city recently combined with the happenings at work, I feel like I live in the twilight zone and Rod Sterling is just around the corner. I’m counting the days until I return home to some normalcy, although I suppose hurricane strength winds, flooding and a state of emergency aren’t exactly “normal”.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


If you want to avoid icier than usual treatment from the normally friendly kebab guys – don’t go in with your 2m (6’6”) boyfriend.

Monday, November 26, 2007

RER stabbing

Occasionally something happens in/around Paris that I hope my parents don’t hear about because it will make them worry (more than they already do). Yesterday a student named Anne-Lorraine was stabbed on RER D by a convicted rapist. She was still alive when she was discover but died soon after. The story doesn’t seem to have much news coverage, but there are a few links below where you can read about it. The nutcase who did this should be locked away in a dungeon for life with various creatures gnawing away at his appendages. And that’s being charitable…
Whom Will France Mourn? A Tale of an Accident and a Murder
Fait divers

Friday, November 23, 2007

smoking as weight management

Someone who has been a smoker for about 20 years claims she won’t quit because she’s afraid doing so will cause her to gain weight. Apparently the side effects of looking older than one’s age, stained fingernails, not too mention the damage to the lungs and cost aren’t important. What matters is not gaining a few kilos. I’m sure there’s a logic to this way of thinking, I just haven’t found it…

Monday, November 19, 2007

les grèves cont…

The strikes are still going on and the Parisians are getting irritable…ok, more irritable than usual. Even though the bus trip to the office this morning took 3x longer than normal, I had a seat and there was a passenger who made the rest of us laugh. He kept calling the driver and anyone else he spoke to “cousin”. “Vas-y cousin, avance!” “Tu descends cousin?” “C’est bon cousin, ferme la porte.”

The trip home this evening, however, was less than amusing. A colleague and I left early trying to try to beat the rush hour - an idea that didn’t quite work out as planned. We were able to squeeze onto the crowded bus and after 30 or so minutes of tortoise pace traffic, the driver encountered a car that wasn’t far enough to the left. He yelled out the window a few times and eventually the car moved over, but not enough for Mr. Chauffeur’s liking. The bus moves forward and we hear the unmistakable crunch of one vehicle hitting another. The crazy thing is that the driver seemed to have hit the car on purpose, to make a point.

Well that was it. With that little crunch, restraint went out the window. One passenger starts yelling at the driver about how they (RATP, SNCF etc.) are annoying us all with this ongoing strike. An elderly lady yells at this passenger that they have the right to strike. “C’est constitutionnelle!” The bus driver and the car driver are screaming at each other. And pretty soon many of the passengers are bellowing at I have no idea whom. The driver opens the doors to let people off and announces that he is obliged to wait for the police. So now not only has he pissed off the car driver and all of the passengers on board, but all of the bus drivers and passengers who are behind him, because he’s blocking the bus lane!

After this lovely voyage I walked home since I didn’t have the energy or patience to fight with aggressive Parisians to force my way onto the metro. It took me 40 minutes to get home, but the nice thing is that part of the walk was through picturesque Montmartre. The strikes are supposed to go through Wednesday…If today was any indication, people may soon become violent. Bienvenue à Paris and watch out for any irritated Parisians wielding baguettes!

Sunday, November 18, 2007


A crazy French woman walking down the street, holding a can of beer in one hand and a stuffed rabbit in the other, yelling at cars as they drive by.

Friday, November 16, 2007

ils n’arrêtent pas…

And this is a "good" strike day. Read about life with les grèves in Paris here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

les grèves

Anyone who’s lived in France for more than, oh…two weeks, could tell you that strikes (grèves) are as much a part of life here as baguette, wine, stinky cheese and cdc. During the past month there have been strikes by RATP and SNCF, the opera and Air France and it wouldn’t surprise me if there were others I didn’t hear about. Because we didn’t suffer enough during that last round, we’re now in the midst of yet another strike that started last night. I am typically Parisian in the sense that I don’t have a car and rely on my feet and public transportation, so I worked from home today. I’m all for trying to protect your pension scheme, but I’m also selfish. And I get annoyed when my convenient transportation is interrupted for more than a day or two. Let’s see how Sarko handles the situation. I expect that I’ll be working from home through the end of the week.

Monday, November 12, 2007

study time?

On the bus this morning a mother was helping her daughter with her English lesson. The person next to me was going through her Portuguese language workbook. All of the language study should have motivated me to review my sheets of Spanish verb conjugations that I so optimistically carry in my bag. Instead I decided to procrastinate and enjoy the city scenes.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

les crottes

Aside from finding it a bit cruel to keep a dog cooped up in an apartment all day, I have no issues with Parisians and their dogs. EXCEPT for the dog crap otherwise known as crotte de chien (cdc). Just today when I went for my Sunday pastry and baguette, I encountered a trail of cdc. Whenever I see a cdc I wonder - who are the people who let their dogs do their business in the middle of the sidewalk (or the inconsiderate connard who allows the dog to leave a cdc in a metro station) where some poor soul is likely to step it in?? Don’t these same people have to walk and navigate around the cdc? And how difficult is it to go a few feet to the gutter or the nearest tree? Maybe there’s a society of dog walkers who have secretly invented a transporter and they just beam outside when Fido has a nature call so they don’t actually have the joy of stepping around or hopping over the cdcs. A couple of years ago the city featured an ad campaign that showed cdcs in different home situations (e.g. next to the bathtub, in the living room). I think the text of the ad was “Not in your home? Paris is your home.” Even if that’s not an exact translation, you get the idea. The ads were clever, but they didn’t seem to change the cdc-leavers' behavior. Maybe they were too busy avoiding the cdc trails to see the ads….

Saturday, November 10, 2007

french flirting begins at a young age

Last week I had dinner with someone who was in town for a few days. We ate in a small restaurant in the latin quarter and there was a group of people finishing their meal. There was a little boy around 5 or 6 years old with the group and after they left they stood outside chatting. While the adults were talking the little boy came back into the restaurant and tugged on the server's sleeve to get her attention and said "au revoir". After saying goodbye, he went to the door turned and called out "a toute a l'heure". Apparently this wasn't enough of a farewell because he then stood on the outside of the glass door, looked in and waved at her. No wonder the French have a reputation for being flirts, they start at such a young age...

Friday, November 9, 2007


Someone tells you that she doesn't drink dark teas (only white tea for her) because they stain her teeth. Yet you've seen her drink coffee and red wine several times. Does this make sense??

Thursday, November 8, 2007

xmas cultural differences

Today, I had to explain the Rudolph the red nosed reindeer story to a designer in Prague AND stickers! The designer had only the baby Jesus story for xmas and didn't play with stickers as a child. I never gave any thought to either being particular to anglo cultures, but apparently they are. Colleagues from France and Singapore weren't familiar with Rudolph either. Who woulda thought that after several years of marketing experience and an MBA I would be reduced to explaining a children's holiday story for a colleague...

Follow up: the boyfriend sent me this link that explains the character of Rudolph was created by a department store in Chicago in 1939.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


I got back from London a couple of hours ago. No matter how many times I visit the city I still find it ugly and depressing. This time it was an overnight trip for work, but whether it's work or visiting friends (I still don't understand what possessed them to move there) the place is equally unappealing. As a colleague said, it's like entering a movie about Jack the Ripper... Once again, it's so nice to be back in Paris.