Sunday, October 30, 2005

Not surprisingly...

I totally forgot about the time change until I overheard some chick talking about it on the bus on the way into town this morning. So now I'm at work an hour earlier than I need to be and none of the shops are open yet, so I have an hour to kill...

Tomorrow is the Dublin marathon and a holiday here. If I had known this earlier than, say, Thursday, I would not have signed up for instrument time today and could have taken off for the long weekend. Damn.

And now for something mildly disturbing: I usually keep the cat indoors on Halloween, New Year's, July 4th- pretty much any time when there are likely to be fireworks, 'cause I don't want her near kids setting them off or getting too curious about what that shiny sparkly thing is (she is my cat, after all), so I thought nothing of it when people warned me to keep the cat indoors this weekend. What I did think was strange was that, after this warning, they would go on to say something along the lines of "Oh, cats go missing a lot on Halloween, you know...people do awful things to animals then...." The first time this happened, I was like, Uh-huh, a little paranoid, are we? And then when other people kept telling me this, I just started wondering what the hell kind of people live in this country. Seriously, do people torture cats here or what?

Reading: Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Very good. Excellent read. It's part fantasy, part history, part fairy tale, part ghost story and part good old-fashioned "what happens next?!" novel. Clarke's got some imagination on her, I tell ya.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Dammit, I'm sick again! How does this happen? In the 13 months I've been here, I've been sick more often than in the last five years put together. What the hell? I've gone through packets and packets of Sudafed. This is ridiculous.

But anyway, Paris trip. We took Ryanair into Beauvais airport. Ryanair is cheap, but infamous for flying into teeny regional airports that are miles and miles from the cities that they claim to serve. This keeps their airport fees down, but the tickets are never as cheap as they seem because, for instance, to get into Paris proper from Beauvais, you have to hand over €13 for their shuttle bus. Which takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r. I find it hard to believe that French drivers actually obey the speed limits, so I can't think why this bus did a steady 40 mph all the way into Paris. An hour and a half later (mind you, the flight to Beauvais from Dublin only took an hour and 25 minutes), we're at the Port Maillot metro station, where, after some confusion as to how to actually cross the street against streams of neverending oncoming traffic, we meet the friends we're staying with. We take the metro back to their place (god, I love subways- so efficient, so simple, so fast). We're starving, so we buy bread, cheese, pastries and other foodstuffs on our short walk from the metro station to the flat and stuff ourselves while the guys catch up with each other and the girlfriend and I roll our eyes at their jokes.

So we spent nearly four days in Paris and here's some of what we saw:

Notre Dame: really cool and lit up at night, but that meant we didn't get to see the stained glass window in all its glory. That's okay, it's unlikely we'd have wanted to wait in line and pay to go in anyway.

We strolled along the Seine and looked at the bridges and buildings. The Pont Neuf has all sorts of gargoyles along the sides, which are awesome.

And despite all the Amelie hoopla, we went to Montmartre:
Montmartre was the most "touristy" of the places we saw, I think. There were lots of people selling postcards and trying to draw pictures of tourists to sell and lots of shops filled with random tourist tat. Yeech. But the side streets are nice and winding and eventually we found our way down to another neighborhood, where we bought some pastries.

The Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower and stuff were cool. We didn't go up to the top of either, though. We didn't feel like waiting in line and paying and anyway, we got a great view of the city from the hill at Montmartre.

So on to the important things: what we ate. Breakfasts (or lunch, really, considering how late we managed to leave the flat every day) mostly consisted of bread, cheese and other pastries we bought in the shops around the flat. We'd take the stuff to a park or somewhere to eat. The food was all awesome. Once we went to a creperie for lunch, and couldn't decide whether we wanted savoury (made with a savoury, heavier wheat batter) or sweet crepes (made with lighter, sweeter batter), so we got both. Ha. They were awesome. I had a mushroom and cheese one and then we shared a citrousy creme one. Everyone at the tables around us also had two crepe courses, so at least it's pretty common to eat your lunch crepe and then get a dessert crepe. They apparently also drink cider with them, but we couldn't face that at 11 in the morning, so we passed.

The restaurant we went to for dinner the first night was pretty good, but I can't remember the name. It's right on the Seine and the waiter guy was really nice and funny. I had trout. I really like trout.

Dinner the second night was at La Cave de l'Os a Moelle, which was really cool. Get this: it's an all-you-can-eat French restaurant. How cool is that? They've only got three tables set up, so you have to share with whoever else is there. The starters are all set on the table, along with gherkins and other little nibbley bits. On our night, they consisted of a beetroot salad, marinated mushrooms, a pork pate loaf thingy, cauliflower or vinegary cucumbers. The soup and main course are kept heated on a teeny old stove at the back and the desserts and cheese (and there were dozens of both to try) were on a long table at the side. The main course on the night we went was a beef stew, so I couldn't eat it, but damn everything else was good. The soup was pumpkin. We stuffed ourselves, and, though we managed to try a good half-dozen of the dessert offerings, had to pass on the cheese, 'cause then we wouldn't have been able to walk out of there. The bottle of wine was €9 and the dinner was €20 per person. We got off the metro a few stops before ours so that we could walk off some the food.

Dinner the last night was at Chez Papa, in the neighborhood. It's part of a small chain of restaurants, and was packed. They also didn't take reservations, so we had to wait a bit, but they gave us little garlicky bread things to nibble one. I had the fish soup and a salad with warm potatoes. They were both HUGE. I couldn't finish. The others had goat cheese salads and duck in pepper sauce. I tried some of the duck- it tasted meatier than I remember but it was really really good. I think the whole bill was €70 for the four of us and wine, which was way cheap.

There were lots of other restaurants that we had been given recommendations for and didn't have time to try. Dammit. Will have to go back and forget about the sightseeing and just eat.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I love Paris in the springtime...I love Paris in the fall

Tower, schower...look, a bee!

You will all be very happy to know that I actually took my camera to Paris! It even left my bag! Pictures were taken with it! Not by me, no, but still.

I spent four days in Paris a few days ago and it was awesome. I ate so much I frequently couldn't move enough afterwards to order the cheese plate for dessert. If I ever go back, I'm totally eating dessert first. We stayed with friends of the Boy, who live in the 14th arrondissement, near the Tour Montparnasse. They lived right off the Rue Daguerre, which had shops galore. The many epiceries, fromageries, boulangeries and patisseries brought out their wares and set them under umbrellas and canopies along the pedestrianised street. Most days we didn't manage to leave the flat before noon, so mostly we picked up bread, pastries, cheeses and such on the way to the Metro station, then had a picnic at a park somewhere, thus integrating sightseeing with stuffing ourselves.

More details later...