Chez Soi

Adventures of a Year Abroad

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In August of 2014, one of my company colleagues told me about a Saturday running group that meets in Bois de Boulogne.  A week or two later I met the group at the appointed time and place.  My colleague wasn’t there, but no matter…  We took off about 9h30, winding around the park, then surprise! we’re on a footbridge over a big river (uh, the Seine?). Then residential streets for a bit, and BAM! a new park, hillier than the Bois. Finally, winded, a pause at a high point with killer view.  Wheezing, I asked (in English) where we were. Answer sounded like “Sahn Kloo”.  Sans Clue?  Clueless?  Oh yeah, “clou” is French for “nail!”  So… “nail free!”  Or not.  Clueless felt about right.

After 10 miles, we wound up back where started and I got a lift home. Google Maps told me that we’d run to Saint Cloud, which in French sounds like “sans clue” to the American.April 17 run mapI’ve worked that route into my regular routine, though I start from our apartment and don’t run quite so far through Parc de St Cloud. The image above is from Runkeeper for a run a couple of weeks ago. Sure, I feel pretty good about the run, starting at the green marker on the right… though I kinda lost steam at the end (red marker near green one). The group meet up point is by the lake between markers 3 and 4 on my route.  Footbridge is by marker 6.  The far point of the run, just past marker 7, is a good view point.  I paused during my run and took the photo below.  zoomed Eiffel and Sacre from St CloudYou’ll recognize the pointy thing on the right, about 3 miles away.  From this angle, our apartment is a mile past Tour Eiffel, and just to the right.  The tiny faint spires silhouetted on the horizon just left of center are the Sacre Coeur, a good “short” running destination (2.5 miles from chez nous).  Below Sacre Coeur is greenery of the Bois de Boulogne.

Oh, and that part on my run, near marker 12, where I charge up the middle of the Seine? It’s actually a long thin man-made island called l’Ile aux Cygnes.  At one end of the island is a “small” replica of the Statue of Liberty, positioned such that she is (supposedly, anyway) facing toward the larger Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York Harbor.

It seems so familiar now.  I’ve picked up a few clues in the last 2 years… Glad to capture the thoughts and images here, as some of the clues may drift away in the next few years…



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I’m cooking in sunshine…

TScaled Cooking in Sunlighthis post just captures a wonderful feeling I had while making dinner the other day.  It was maybe 5:30pm, and after we had set our clocks forward, so the sun was still high enough in the sky that sunlight angled onto the counter where I was cutting vegetables.  There was something very uplifting about that.  This never happens at our home in California, where there are not enough big windows, especially in the kitchen area.  In addition, the kitchen is on the northwest of the house, with no west-facing windows at all…  sigh.

Nilofer and I have been talking about a remodel for years, and our “plans” have been firming up as we approach relocation back to Silicon Valley.

I had never previously thought about sunlight on the kitchen counter as a desired feature… but I do now!  And so this is one more thing I may bring home from Paris.

The same Paris window that allows the sun in also offers a sometime view of the Eiffel Tower… through now-leafless branches of a ginormous tree across the way.  Thus we can see Tour Eiffel in winter and especially at night when the tower is lit up.  We don’t see how our remodel is going to deliver an epic view though… Instead we will constrain the budget and spend the savings on occasional penthouse views in Paris.  That is something that we won’t try to bring home…

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Talking Different

Cropped orange homelessThis post is about how talking is different in Paris…  Well, sure, sometimes it’s in French, but that’s not what I mean.  The picture at the left captures two aspects of what I mean (and a third comes farther down).  First, the Orange store…  Second, the homeless couple sitting on the sidewalk.  (This is on Rue de Sèvres… if you know the area, you might notice that Le Bon Marche is in the background.)

This was earlier today, and Kiddo and I had just left the Orange store.  It was our second visit there recently because we needed to get a new SIM card for him, um, twice.  First time was a mugging, by high school kids who he recognizes but don’t go to his school. (We have not filed a police report yet because we had to track down the phone’s IMEI…  But now we have it and will file tomorrow.  Not sure what will happen but feels like civic duty and maybe, just maybe, they will bust these guys.)  Second time was maybe a loss, but feels like a “prank” (not a theft?) in part because the screen was SERIOUSLY damaged (so who would steal it) but came so close after mugging, and was in the company of many schoolmates who were aware of the mugging and “pranks” are common.  But no one has returned the phone, so…  Both the mugging and the likely prank are ways in which talking is different for us in Paris.  [Note to future self… this was around the same time my S4 started “losing” its SIM card, requiring frequent reboots and leading to replacement with SE (no relation).]

The homeless folks enter the picture because I’m amazed at how often I see Parisians engaged in conversation with homeless people.  Maybe this is not so much a Parisian thing as a big-city thing? That is, maybe it happens in New York City and I’m just unaware?  Why does that idea seem so unlikely?  Anyway, I have seen these conversations at least half a dozen times, and I’m sure it’s slipped my notice as often as not.  But when I do notice, it strikes me, as it did today, and this time it prompted a photo, which increases the odds I will write a blog post. And voila!

But while we were out and about, I thought, hey, let’s go have lunch in a new place.  I remembered a place that had previously intrigued me, though I couldn’t recall why, just where it was.  And since this place was a mere kilometer away (not far when you’re used to walking, as we are in Paris), off we went.  When we got there, it was obvious why I remembered it…

Scaled Menhir

The name of the restaurant is “menhir”, which I have only ever heard of in Asterix and Obelix comics (or “graphic novels”).  Menhirs are really large stones that Obelix quarries as his livelihood or maybe just a hobby (hard to tell… Obelix has superhuman strength but somewhat childlike mentality). These books were a major part of my learning and practicing German (though a menhir is a “hinkelstein” in German), and later French.  Kiddo has numerous A & O books, mostly in French and German, but with one or two in English and (recently) Spanish.  So, yet another connection to talking different.

Unfortunately, we didn’t actually eat there, as the resto was closed.  Walked down the road a short way to the Pasteur metro stop, where we found the aptly named “Au Métro.” Randomly, the place offered Oldarki , a Basque beer that I’d never had before.  Lunch was predictably good, and the beer was tasty, yet lower in alcohol than my go-to Leffe. But I have not doubt that if you drink enough it’ll make you talk different.