3.14.15 – Pi Day!

The weeks are absolutely racing by now – I can’t believe we’re already in mid-March. Last weekend I finally had my opportunity to surprise the gang back home. Unfortunately, due to rising stress levels among certain third-year engineers, I was warned that I should probably alert some people to my impending arrival so as not to cause any dangerous reactions. So sadly my weekend was less of a surprise, but no less fun. After a long old slog at work on Friday, I positively skipped out of the office at 5pm heading straight to Gare du Nord. There with plenty of time to kill, it finally sunk in – I was going home!

I settled into my seat on the Eurostar with a clutch of magazines pinched from the rack, and immediately shut my eyes, hoping to catch some Zs before the busy weekend. But, as we pulled out of the station I flicked my eyes open to discover a seriously cute guy opposite. Obviously any hope of sleeping was dashed, there was no way I could risk mouth-open-and-sleeping photos. Karma got me good, though, when I tried to Snapchat a photo of this Parisian Adonis to Lucie, at which point my flash went off and my phone made an incriminating shutter noise. A very *very* small part of me is slightly relieved that though my life is infinitely more exciting living in a foreign country, I still haven’t lost any of my infamous skill when it comes to embarrassing myself. It might seem really cool that I live in Paris and I speak French and I live by myself in this incredible city (or at least I think it’s really cool…), but I’m still the same girl that managed to sprinkle cinnamon on her salmon thinking it was cayenne.

Embarrassing (endearing?) anecdotes aside, I was lucky enough to be met at the station on the other side of the Channel by Liberty, and we ventured to Covent Garden for dinner. It couldn’t have been a nicer welcome home. Next morning fairly early I hopped on my train northbound to university for the Caledonian Society White Tie Ball – my reason for going back. I won’t rehash the details other than say I could not have enjoyed myself more. I was lucky enough to have several of my best friends brought together in one room, and even some long-lost friends too. I didn’t take a single photo somehow, so see the video that Flo made here!

Bonus points if you can spot me, extra bonus points if you can identify what reel I’m doing. (Hint: it’s my favourite!)

After a delicious brunch at 12 East Atherton, hosted by the inimitable former Nevilledale Crew, it was sadly all too soon to leave, and I was back on the train after a grand total of 23 hours in Durham. Fortunately, I couldn’t be happier to be back in Paris.

I’ve spent the week recovering from the grand total of eight hours sleep I had over the weekend in England and catching up with folks over here. Tuesday Lauren was under the weather so I took over some miso soup and we gossiped, Wednesday I tried a new bistro with Pip and I finally saw American Sniper, and Thursday was – unsurprisingly – spent in another bistro with Soph. Then, I spent this morning showing Alice, who’s new in town, my favourite spots in Le Marais. Topped off with a stroll in the Tuileries, a cuddle with a wriggly baby dachshund, and even stroking some charming police horses, safe to say this week has been SUPERB.

Bisous, S.x.

Chanson du jour: Believe – Mumford & Sons

My Funny Valentine

Having lived away from home for the best part of the past ten years, I very rarely get homesick. Even now, I don’t miss the place, just the people. So when I was feeling a little low after the devastation of my Oreo Disaster, I put in a call to the folks.

Happily, Mama Morrell was more than keen for a visit, and on Thursday evening I returned from work to find her hanging out of her balcony at the hotel just a couple of doors down from my flat. Because it was a “school night”, we popped open a bottle of wine, I cobbled together a chilli con carne and we caught up over a delicious dinner.

Though I had work the next day, she was more than happy to entertain herself in BHV Marais, until the evening when I had planned a cinema trip and some cocktails. Except, of course, because I’m an unlucky idiot, when it came to locking up the office at the end of the day, I realised my keys were on my bedside table. All alone in the office, it meant I had to call in a favour from my mum: she came to pick up my house keys, return to Ranelagh, and then come back to the office. By that time, we were thirty minutes from the cinema, with five minutes to go before the film started. As major Jamie Dornan cinema fans, we couldn’t face missing part of the film, so picked a cafe for some pre-film dinner and happily tucked into duck magret before pitching up to the cinema stuffed full.

On Saturday I finally managed my bank meeting, meaning I’m almost officially a Parisienne. We walked off our pain aux raisins with a stroll up Rue du Passy to Trocadero, where we did in fact see a couple taking advantage of Saint-Valentin with a cringe-inducing proposal photo shoot. We walked along the river, before the rain forced us to shelter among the columns of the Grand Palais…

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The afternoon was spent strolling the Marais, naturally, and we dipped into Breizh Café for quality coffee and a restorative crêpe. We enjoyed an exquisite dinner, some lovingly-crafted cocktails, and fascinating people-watching at Pan, a restaurant I’d previously been to with Soph and her folks just a few weeks ago. Our romantic dinner for two was perfected by our night-time cab ride along Avenue President Kennedy, with an unobstructed view of the glittering Eiffel Tower.

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Today we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before hitting the streets again, as we strolled across the Seine to Les Invalides, wandered aimlessly through Saint Germain des Près and peered into private courtyards as the sun broke through the clouds. I took my mother to the peaceful Place Dauphine. I picked my dream house based on the ironwork at the windows and glimpses of decorative plastering on the ceilings.

Our destination for lunch was a recommendation from Sophie – Derrière. This restaurant is decorated like a private home, with large shared tables, an extensive CD collection, a ping-pong table and even a large, made-up bed. The brunch menu includes a starter, main, fresh juice, hot drink and an unlimited selection from the buffet. Sounds fairly conventional, but this place is anything but ordinary.

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We opted for apple, pear and strawberry juice, with a coffee for Mrs Morrell and a spiced chocolat chaud for me. Mains were picked from a range of roast meats, and we tucked into caramelised pork and delicious veal accompanied by a spectacular rainbow of legumes.

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For dessert, though, we really went to town, taking it in turns to sample the offerings at the impressive buffet spread. Tarte tatin, tarte aux poires, upside-down cake, gianduja tart, brownies, pistachio cakes, and fresh fruit. We had happily acknowledged that we were fairly full after our mains, but left after pudding unable to take another bite.

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Before leaving though, we had to take a peek into the smoking area: through a mirrored armoire at the end of a corridor, the doors conceal a vast, study-like room. Furnished with taxidermy and quirky heirlooms mounted on the walls, the room offers smokers a clubby, homely suite in which to enjoy a cigarette: some people were stretched out on the leather sofas, while others took on the challenge of table football.

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All too soon, it was time to head home where we discovered unfortunately that Mama Morrell’s train was not at 8pm, but 18.00, and after a perfect leisurely weekend it was sad to rush out of the house and back into the Metro. I’ve taken the opportunity to relax at home after a weekend of walking all over the city. Unwinding with a tea (Mariage Frères, naturally) and listening to Bruce Springsteen as I write my recent blog posts.

I might dread Monday and the rest of the working week, but I make enough wonderful memories each weekend to keep me going until the next one. Not bad, eh?

Bisous,

S. X

Chanson du jour: I’m on Fire – Bruce Springsteen

The Weeknd

Work has been great for my French, horrible for my social life. Sounds superficial, just means I live for the weekend.

Unfortunately, last Friday at around 6.10pm, one of my bosses called down to reception asking me to go see her for a bit. I headed up, and in about five minutes I headed back down about ready to die of shame. Turns out I made a bit of a blunder doing a complex spreadsheet and had to redo it urgently. All. Of. It. Lines A1-J78.

So it was that I didn’t leave work last week until 8.00pm. In a horrible mood, I headed straight to the metro, and feeling sorry for myself, opted to treat myself to a packet of Oreos from the platform vending machine. Murphy’s Law: they got stuck. I actually hit the machine and can confirm that swearing loudly in your second language is even more satisfying than in your first. So it was that I found myself crying over confectionary in front of a considerable number of people on the station platform. Classy.

After eating Pringles in bed for dinner and napping in front of CSI: New York, I got a text from Lauren who was eagerly awaiting my arrival at our French friend Boris’s. To prevent myself moping around and feeling sorry for myself, I prepped some Journey Juice, put something other than my PJs on, and made my way out. Boris was hosting a number of visitors to Paris, and purely coincidentally he lives with a Durham graduate – after spending hours swapping stories of mutual friends, we headed to La Villa, a cavernous club just metres from the Arc du Triomphe. Standing on a table and waving sparklers until the early hours of the morning is one way to forget the woes of the weekday, that’s for sure.

After sleeping late, I met Sophie and Camilla for brunch and walkabout on the most beautiful, bright, bitterly cold day. We had hoped to get in at Holybelly, my favourite brunch spot, but an hour and a half wait was a bit excessive even though I know how good their dippy eggs are. Instead we went for bowls of warming soup and delicious open sandwiches at Poilâne, before Soph and I strolled through the Marais to Ile Saint-Louis. The perfect lazy Saturday, we then wandered down the Faubourg St Honoré past Colette, the incredible couturiers and some of the most gorgeous hotels in the city.

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I finished up my fantastic day with a stunning sunset walk among the Pyramids of the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens. Views like this make living and working in this city worth it.

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Bisous,

S.X

Chanson du Jour: Often – The Weeknd

Date Night(s).

Moving to Paris has undoubtedly been less daunting and less stressful than moving to Barcelona was last year. Here, at least, I understand the language almost fluently. What is a daunting prospect, though, is the First Official Girl Date between new friends. Moving in with Lucie in January blessed me with a handful of her friends, and I have spent the past week cementing those friendships with hilarious and often slightly inebriated suppers.

My first was with Pip, delightful Aussie friend of Iso, who put us in touch over our shared love of food architecture. We had met briefly after my first brunch at Chez Alain, but we stayed in touch and last week, finally made dinner plans. Pip suggested Bouillon Chartier, an old former worker’s hall turned cavernous traditional French bistro. Coincidentally, as soon as I arrived I spotted Pete and Jordan (on a Bro Date) who, also, are new friends courtesy of Lucie. The restaurant was big, but boasted a vibrant atmosphere to match, and we spent much of our time people-watching and spying on what other people had ordered, rather than paying attention to the menu. In fact, we got so distracted and excited to see each other that the poor waiter had to come back three times before we were ready to order. The best part about Chartier, unquestionably, is the fact that you sit on shared tables of six people – as a couple of girls, we happily sat on the end next to a sweet Dutch couple who enjoyed their meal in relative silence.

Then, just as we were tucking into our mains, the Dutch couple were replaced by two French gentlemen who politely smiled as we shuffled to make room for them, before studying the menu intensely. As Pip and I simultaneously expressed our satisfaction with our meal (steak for her, perch fillets – Dorning family, I’m thinking of you! – for me) they politely enquired as to our choices before we both returned to our respective conversations. After some delightful and hilarious chatter washed down with our little carafe of wine, Pip and I looked longingly at their desserts – a little too longingly, it seemed. Without hesitation, they pushed over their pineapple platter and ice-cream profiterole before ordering the waiter to bring us more spoons for us to share. Safe to say, that was the beginning of the end. Another two whole bottles of wine, an internship organised for Pip by our new friend Sam, and an offer to fly over Paris for me (that I fully intend to capitalise on) from Serge the pilot, and mine and Pip’s First Official Girl Date was undoubtedly a resounding success. We even took photos.

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My second, last Thursday, was with Michi, a Durham-ite I hardly knew before Nick introduced us. We opted for Cambodian food (rogue but delicious) and ventured to Le Petit Cambodge for a bite to eat. Other than the fact that I was forty minutes late, the rest of our date passed without a hitch. It transpires Cambodian food is amazing – fresh veg, warming noodles with rich broth and marinaded meat – but we decided to top it off with a bottle of wine between the two of us (my John’s College Formal credentials are failing me, it seems I am no longer fit for wine consumption), and so anything would have seemed pretty amazing that night. Including the idea to go for cocktails afterwards. Unwilling to walk particularly far because of the tundra-like conditions outside and bitter gale-force winds, we discovered a heated patio opposite the restaurant that promised us 5€ caipirinhas. Anyone who knows my family knows we are all incapable of refusing a caipirinha if it’s on the menu and so we ensconced ourselves in the warmest corner and started the rounds – alco-blankets are a thing, no?

So, two incredibly successful First Official Girl Dates down, I deemed it officially time for the real deal. Tuesday night, Lauren and I went on a blind “Smeeting” date, with Julien and Elliott, two fun, charming Frenchmen. We enjoyed a couple of cocktails before moving on to something much, much more serious: table football. Let’s just say that in the future, I will never reveal competitive edge on the bébé foot table on a first date again…

Bisous,

S. X

Chanson du jour: So Lost – Ady Suleiman

Ranelagh.

Well, I’ve managed it. Somehow, I’ve landed myself with the most beautiful studio apartment in Paris’s 16th. I have my very own little piece of Parisian real estate. I’m neighbouring embassies and international schools, and there’s a Maserati with diplomatic plates parked outside my building 24/7. A little ridiculous for student living, but it’s ten minutes from work. Can you blame me?

This came in extra useful on Thursday morning, when I managed to wake up an hour and a half late for work. Up at 8.22, in the office by 8.47. Impressive, no? Other than that, though, living here has been a dream. I have an enormous fridge (permanently empty, as if I can afford food at the moment) a dishwasher (ha!) and my very own washing machine. It already feels like home.

The only minor downside is that I can’t actually work out how to pronounce my street name like a true Parisian. The Londoner in me wants to say “Ran-lee”, a strange part of me wants to say “Ran-uh-luh”, and the man on the metro says “RAN-LAG”, which sounds like an aggressive German expletive.

Work has finally “settled” into an only mildly hectic routine which is a relative improvement. It’s not quite the riotous good time I was spoiled with in Barcelona, but it’s been amazing for my French already. The best bit of living here, though, is without doubt the food the people. This past week I’ve really made the most of my evenings – Wednesday, Cressida and I intended to visit the European Museum of Photography but on the discovery that it was closed we made our way to Breizh Café for an incredible galette… Or two. Thursday, Lauren and I shared some quality time over dinner and a stroll down the Champs-Élysées, pinching ourselves at the fact that we live in the most beautiful city in the world. And yesterday evening, Lauren, Anna and I crossed town to Belleville for a Greek send off for Alex, who is off to Salamanca for the rest of her year abroad. Lauren and I finished the evening at drinks on Avenue de la Grande Armée, walking home in the early hours of this morning past the Arc de Triomphe and the glinting lights of the Eiffel Tower. It’s just ridiculous that people travel the world to visit these monuments and for us, they’re just on the high street.

I’ve spent the morning in bed, enjoying a lie-in and binge-watching J’ai dit oui à la robe. And if I’m honest, living in this city really is the dream.

Chanson du Jour: Home – Johnnyswim

Goodbyes :(

I can’t believe I’m at the end of my third week here in Paris. The time has just flown by, and sadly that has come to mean saying goodbye to some of my new friends.

On Tuesday night we celebrated the lovely Iso, who returned to Australia on Wednesday. I have so much to be grateful for thanks to this amazing girl, who I know will not be able to stay away from Paris for long. We started at dinner at Paris’s equivalent of Yo! Sushi, where we were repeatedly told to quieten down by the management as we giggled like little kids over exchanging naughty words in French and English.

Naturally, after dinner it seemed like an excellent idea to go for a drink, so our French friends Simon, Rémy and Raphael showed us to a dingy student bar in the 15th: it was ideal. Cracking out all kinds of music including Top 40, classic Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and some crazy swing tunes, it was the perfect send off to our little Aussie. Please take the following photos with a healthy sense of irony.

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The rest of the week passed fairly uneventfully, as I suffered the nightmare of house hunting and Lucie began to prepare to return home to England. That was, of course, until Friday, when, after a shockingly shit day at work, and the added disappointment of finding I’d lost out on my dream apartment, I returned home rather despondently with a packet of veg crisps to eat in bed when I opened the door to discover Lucie was in a similar mood, having received a delivery of photos from the printers. We proceeded to open a bottle of port – to wash down the veg crisps – in the most middle class example of student binge drinking I’ve ever encountered. Lucie was determined to hit a dance floor, so in an effort to be on top form for throwing some shapes, I hopped into bed for a pre-game nap, only to sleep through my alarm and wake at 2.30 the next morning. I’m a hopeless excuse for a student.

Yesterday was spent packing up the apartment at 99 rue Monge and moving my stuff to my next temporary home, as I’m crashing at Lauren’s for the next couple of days while she is back in England. I’m hoping my apartment will be finalised by Tuesday. Safe to say, my folks aren’t particularly impressed that once again, I’ve found myself homeless in a foreign city. Ah, well – all part of the experience, really. Perhaps the next post will be from my own, permanent home. Perhaps it’ll be from Starbucks, as I sneak in to steal their Wi-Fi. Who knows? What I do know is that I wouldn’t change any part of this time I’ve had the chance to spend living with Lucie at our flat – it’s been three weeks, and we could have known each other for three years. It’s been a blast.

Bisous. X

Chanson du Jour: Hold Back the River – James Bay

Deuxième Semaine

Since then, though, life in Paris has slowly begun to resume it’s normal, 100-mile-an-hour pace. I’m still working the early shift, though my work-life balance is restored and I’m now able to enjoy my evenings too (just don’t keep me up past 10.30…). So much so, I’ve been too busy to update this, hence the delay.

A short while back, I managed to organise a drink with Cressida in Le Marais (where I spend 80% of my time when I’m not at work or asleep). We were calmly enjoying a glass of rather flat but no-less-delicious prosecco, whenwho should walk past but Nick, a fellow Durham-ite turned Parisian. He kindly invited me to supper at his place on Ile Saint-Louis – where I met his flatmate Jean. It turned out that Jean was a rare book vendor and art collector, and so I spent much of the evening picking his brains over books (shared love for The Goldfinch!) and the best exhibitions in the city at the moment. When we ran out of wine, I decided to call it a night – and struggled through work the next day.

Fortunately, though, Friday meant Nick’s leaving party, so it was back to his magnificent and in no way realistic student accommodation for a send off. This lovely, civilised evening somehow wound up with us first drinking wine by the Seine, then simultaneously enjoying profound conversations and watching ice hockey in a Canadian bar. Why? No one knows.

So it was, though, that I wound up in search of the greatest brunch food I could find, and Lucie’s friend Iso promised me a sandwich that would change my life. She emphasised that we had to get there for midday, otherwise the queue is too long and they run out of bread, and we did not want that. We headed to Le Marché aux enfants rouges, where Chez Alain Miam Miam truly did make me a sandwich that will never be surpassed. Ciabatta, soaked in olive oil and stuffed with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, mushrooms, Parma ham, Cantal cheese and then whacked on the galette pan to warm up and melt the cheese. Unreal. I promise I will take anyone who wants to go. It was so good that yesterday Lucie and I ran to the market to get a sandwich. We thought we could justify it more if we burned it off beforehand, you know?

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Anyway, I spent much of that day eating, as Iso also introduced me to Popelini, a patisserie specialising in choux pastry stuffed with flavoured crème patissiere. I went for orange blossom with rhubarb compote, and it did not disappoint.

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That evening we chose to celebrate Lucie’s imminent departure with a house party before heading out to the infamous “Favela Chic” nightclub. Safe to say, we had fun. I would share more, but I can’t. Rest assured that Lucie’s internship at an alcohol distribution company was not under-appreciated that night.

Sunday I finally met up with Lottie and Anna, and we ventured to Basilique Sacre-Coeur in Montmartre. It was truly spectacular, but given the freezing cold we were fairly hasty in snapping some typical shots before moving on to – you guessed it – food. This time, I took them to my neck of the woods, to Au P’tit Grec on Rue Mouffetard for giant stuffed galettes.

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The afternoon went slightly pear-shaped as I discovered I was locked out, and due for a Skype with one of my potential future flatmates. I ended up Skyping from outside my front door, occasionally plunged into darkness as the light sensor in the corridor gave out every five minutes.

Obviously, after a Skype it had to be time for more food – so I headed off to meet Lucie, Lauren, Pete and Iso, as well as two of Lucie’s friends from home, at Paris / NY, a burger joint in the 11th. I couldn’t believe I was going to try eating again after I didn’t finish my enormous galette, but as my hangover peaked, nothing was going to stop me polishing off an incredible avo-bacon cheeseburger.

Safe to say, writing this in retrospect, it’s kind of understandable why I’m currently on pennies and soup from a carton until the end of the month… I should probably spend less on food… But then, I think – Paris!

Chanson du Jour: I – Kendrick Lamar