Impasse Mousset

Friday I had a bureaucratic errand to run in the 12th arrondissement.  It took less time than I’d foreseen (mostly because I wasn’t prepared enough to actually do anything…take 2!), so when I left the office I  felt like wandering around the neighborhood a little.  It was clear and sunny, although pretty cold.  I stumbled upon an charming looking alleyway, which I later researched and found to be called Impasse Mousset.  Some of the buildings were residences, some were printing or design firms.  Here are some highlights.

Berlin Berlin!

Just wanted to write a bit about our Christmas trip to Berlin last weekend.  We spent Friday through monday there and had a lovely room at the Hyatt at Potsdamer Platz.

The first night we flew in and arrived at the hotel around 9.  We walked around near the hotel, found the SONY center, which is this cool indoor/outdoor mall.  Had a very traditional German meal at a restaurant (sausages and kraut, of course), and went back to the hotel to crash.  Saturday was Christmas Eve, and we hadn’t realized that most of the city would be closed! D’oh!!! And it was raining.  But we made the most of it.  Walked through Tiergarten Park and THROUGH the Brandenburg Gate, which was pretty spectacular.  From there we headed toward Museum Island.  We stopped in at the Neue Wache monument to victims of atrocities.  That was one of my favorite sites during our visit.  The monument is very simple, with a single sculpture, a modern version of La Pieta.  The roof directly above it is open in a circle, and as it was lightly raining while we were there, the rain fell on and just around the sculpture in a really moving way.

That night we met up with JHO’s cousin and his girlfriend for turkish kababs and grilled veggies at a lowkey place in the Turkish area of Berlin, Kreuzberg.  It was very nice to meet the girlfriend and hear about their adventures traveling the world.  After dinner we popped into a bar for a cup of mulled wine.  Smoking is still allowed in bars there!  It was thick!  But the atmosphere was very convivial and relaxed.  Nice not to worry so much about appearances.  You could really feel how much more casual Berlin is than Paris.

The next day was Christmas!  We had a lovely HUGE breakfast at the hotel and got treated like royalty by the waitstaff.  JHO and I demolished waffles, sausages, more sausages, eggs, pastries, breads, MORE PASTRIES!  It was intense.  By the time we got moving it was pretty late in the day, but we made it to 2 really cool things: A huge artist squat with completely graffitied stairwells and a big sculpture garden; and the Pergamon Museum  (containing huge portions of Pergamon’s temple to Athena and the surrounding frieze).  After the museum we met up with the cousin and copaine again for dinner in a Russian restaurant.  What a great atmosphere!  Very vibrant, with a pianist playing old 50s showtunes.  Good food, although it was quite heavy and copious.  Afterwards we had drinks at a pretty, cozy little bar called Scotch & Sofa.  I had a non-alcoholic cocktail with pineapple juice, gingerale, o.j.  delicious!

Our last day we finally made it to the famous Christmas market, Gendarmenmarkt.  It was very full.  We downed a waffle with cherries and custard, some mulled wine, and bought some sugar-coated hazelnuts for the road.  The trip back to Paris was so easy.  When we arrived back at our apartment I could it felt like I had just been riding through the streets of Berlin.  Next time…clubbing for JHO;-)

The Upper Crust

Just a post to remind myself of a good meal in Boston.  John took me to The Upper Crust in Beacon Hill.  Next best pizza to Lucali’s for me.  Highly recommeded if you’re in the Boston area.  Apparently the owners are Williams alumns and they bought the rights to Hot Tomato’s recipe.  That’s a Williamstown pizza place.

 

The Prep Work

Something I’ve noticed recently about cooking, at least the type that I do, is that it’s not the actual cooking that takes so much time and energy.  It’s acquiring the ingredients that’s the hard part.  Especially here in Paris.  There’s no one-stop shopping.  You go to the boulangerie for your bread, the fromagerie for your cheese, one stall in the farmers market for your veggies, another stall for your meat.  It’s not easy, but I’m not really complaining.  When each vendor or store specializes in one thing, their product is more likely to be of high quality.  Don’t get me wrong…there are supermarkets here with pretty much everything you need in one place.  That’s just not the preferred method of buying groceries here.

My meals lately have been pretty simple, but focused on quality ingredients.  For instance, I made a roasted chicken with potatoes, carrots and onions.  My time in the kitchen was minimal.  I spent about 20 minutes peeling and chopping veggies.  The oven did the rest.  But buying those ingredients took more time and effort. I got those ingredients from 2 different stores and probably spent over an hour doing that.

This is similar to sewing in that the actual sewing on a sewing machine is not the time-consuming part of “sewing”.  Cutting out the pattern, cutting out the fabric, pressing seams, trimming seams – those are the things that take the most time. Realizing this distinction allows for better time management-more realistic expectations about what parts of the task (i.e. cooking or sewing) will need more time.  It also helps me be patient with the more time-consuming parts.  Maybe this is old news but I’m just discovering it.

Getting Settled

I haven’t posted in awhile because I’m not sure that what I’ve been doing is worth posting.  We moved to our new apartment last saturday and since then I’ve been unpacking and getting our household arranged.  Especially since I’m not currently working, but my husband is, the burden of arranging  utilities and deliveries is primarily mine now.  We’ve had some setbacks and some frustrations, but everything is starting to come together.

Last night we drug a queen size mattress up 4 flights of narrow stairs.  It was worth the pain. After sleeping on an air mattress for a week, we slept like logs on that “real” mattress we’d dragged to our apartment.  It felt like 5-star luxury.

Yves Saint Laurent retrospective

The Yves Saint Laurent retrospective is at the Petit Palais just off the Champs d’Elysee.  I went last tuesday and it was my first real outing by myself since we moved to Paris (if you don’t include shopping for groceries).

The afternoon was a treat.  The show features close to 300 looks in 15 rooms, mostly divided up by era.  One room is dedicated to Catherine Deneuve, whom Laurent dressed on and off the screen.  They were showing some clips from “Belle du Jour”, a film I was lucky enough to catch a few months ago in new york.  I remember thinking as I watched it, how perfectly mod-chic she was.

One of my favorite pieces was a simple navy blue polka dot dress in silk crepe.  I couldn’t find a picture of it online, but this Laura Ashley dress is reminiscent of it.  It was wonderfully styled with a red espadrille wedge sandal and a straw hat.  An outfit I would love to wear today.

In fact, about half of the looks in the retrospective would look chic and modern TODAY!  He created so many timeless looks – the safari jacket, the tuxedo pantsuit and sailor jackets styled for women.

There were a few not-so-timeless looks, especially in the 80’s era – a colorblocked evening gown with gigantic puffed sleeves, for example.

One of the hallways between rooms had 5 or 6 looks from Laurent’s final show. They were all chiffon gowns in solid colored silk. Each was a different beautiful color.  Absolutely COVERING the walls around these mannequins were notebook sheets of swatches from Laurent’s archives.  They were all organized by color. Apparently he had a file for pink, a file for purple, one for yellow, and so on. Thousands and thousands of swatches, and he was always looking for the perfect color.  The effect of the pallette on the wall was beautiful.  It was mind-blowing to think of  how much meticulous effort, research, and organization had gone into his career.

The last room in the retrospective was dedicated to the couture evening gown and “le smoking”.  The room was a big, high-ceilinged ballroom with a chandelier turned down low and opera music in the background.  On the far wall, 30 mannequins had been mounted on the wall in 3 rows.  They all were dressed in various versions of “le smoking”, which is what the french call a tuxedo.  Laurent throughout his career continually reinvented le smoking in various ways: a tuxedo dress, a tuxedo jumpsuit, classic tuxedo with tails….all for women.  In the middle of the room was a tiered stage with about 50 mannequins, wearing glamorous gowns.  The room was a monument to elegance, craft and style.

Over at the blog Katiedid, she has some wonderful photos of the looks that were in the show and a write up of the retrospective that took place in SF a few years ago.

Des Buttes

The weather this past weekend was bee-a-u-tiful so we walked all over the city. On Saturday we explored the northwest part of the city. There were some great vistas. We spent lots of time in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. The French are really good at lying around and picnicking in the parc. We’re trying to learn from them. I’m often reminded of Manet’s painting Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe when I come upon a meadow full of people.

Independent Errands

John started his intensive language class today, so it was my first day on my own in Paris.  I was nervous about it. I knew I needed to get out of the house in order to stay sane and I did want to buy some odds and ends.  It’s always good for me to have specific goals/errands in mind when getting acquainted with a city.  I can wander once I’m a little more comfortable.  One of the biggest challenges for me in Paris right now is total disorientation.  Forget the lovely grid system of manhattan and Park Slope.  Here, streets are rarely at right angles, boulevards change names, alleyways are streets, and I have no idea which way is up.  So I spent alot of today just trying to keep in mind where I was relative to my apartment.  And I made it back home without consulting the map at all!

Errands:
1) toiletries at monoprix.  The pharmacies here really seem to cater to women.  You walk in and you’re in a seafoam-green and white, calm environment with every kind of facial wash imaginable.
2) groceries at franprix.  not very exciting…cereal, yogurt, milk, wine.  I am still pretty excited about the yogurt here b/c it’s definitely richer than in the U.S.  Activia is everywhere here and every time I see it I think of this SNL sketch.  Needless to say, I do not buy Activia anywhere.
3) fresh 4-cheese gnocchi and parmesan at the italian pasta shop.  The woman who helped me gave me advice on preparation. 2-3 mins. in the water, then a little sauce of butter and parmesan, being careful not to burn the butter.  my first french cooking lesson.

Tomorrow I’m planning on going to a market to buy some fresh fish and veggies.  Today I was a little late for that.  The markets (like farmers markets…outdoors stands)  close arond 1:30 pm.  So I’ll have a reason to get out the door early tomorrow.

Carnival?

Today we ran into a group of young people dressed in strange costumes.  Here’s a video clip.  They were all wearing things that looked like clothing + bed sheets + quilts + other random STUFF.  who knows?!? we asked someone else who was taking pictures and they weren’t sure what the occasion was…a Carnival for one of the universities, perhaps.    Some really creative fun stuff.  It looked like a few girls had taken skirts and inserted a triangle of a quilt at the back to make it have a make-shift mermaid train.