Au revoir!

Well, it’s time to say good bye to the “City of Lights” and what most people term – the most romantic city in the world!

It’s been a good four weeks spent doing some significant fulfilling work which also involved a lot of learning. But more importantly, it has been time spent working at a relaxed pace… well atleast till the last week (that’s when my work from back home caught up with me!) . Paris has been all that was promised and more – with romance in the air and history along it’s every lane, it’s a tourist’s delight. I would say my month’s work-stay and 3 weekends thrown in didn’t allow me to do enough justice to the place as a tourist, but that’s precisely reason enough for me to want to visit it again.

Work-wise as I already mentioned it has been relaxed, but efficient work with colleagues who made us feel right at home – especially the guy we worked with being an absolute dear! 😀 The stay, the commute and the experience of working away from home were as comfortable as could be desired. The sight-seeing trips were very insightful and enjoyable, although I found that my stamina for weekend sight-seeing walkathons isn’t what it used to be 😦 Overall I think it was a wonderful stint, and the joy of meeting-up with a close friend all the way here – away from my and her place of stay – was the icing on the cake! Neither of us had imagined, even in our wildest dreams that we would meet here, of all places! Well, that’s life I suppose! 🙂

Tomorrow I formally say goodbye to the city and take my flight back home. All said and done, the heart does yearn for home and the warmth of loved ones – well, this time the hubby has been missing me quite a bit too 😀 (now why does that make me grin with glee – my heart melts but the mind says – see, this is what I feel everytime you leave me alone and go off on your official trips! :)) But, the city has tempted and tantalised me enough to hope for a second visit and that time with the hubby in tow. So hopefully our paths will cross again and may be I should say – Au revoir à bientôt! 🙂

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My encounters with French-2 – where I got ‘Oui’-fied!

I was kinda racking my brains about what best to buy for my little nephew, niece and cousin (yeah when you have the (mis)fortune of being the first-born in the family on the paternal and maternal sides, you end up having cousins who’re as old (young) as your nephews/ nieces!) . Yeah, so I wanted to buy something nice for the li’l ones, at the same time I didn’t want to splurge on something which they would soon outgrow and would thus get wasted. So I thought I’d buy some stuff which could be really useful (atleast for a year or two) and which we wouldn’t normally spend on, back home. Well, this was at the back of mind all the time I went into any shop here.

So my eyes scoured for this something when I was at one of the touristy places last weekend and was taking a walk around the neighbourhood – there were a lot of small shops with ‘SALE’ written across them and that made me happy! 😀 I found one shop which seemed to have some stuff for the infants and kids, I went in to take a look. It was a sale alright – there were heaps of all kinds of clothes, jackets and other wearables and people were pulling at it, obviously wanting what someone else had in hand. I spotted these cute little winter jackets – complete with a hood, mittens for hands and feet and I thought – this is perfect! I’ll buy three of these and my gift’s ready! Little did I realize, it wasn’t going to be as simple as that.

Firstly, it really was a heap and there was no separate heap for the jackets. And since it was for kids, I had to check the sizes before choosing them – the tiny little tag which says – 6 months, 9 months, 12 months etc. and which is not very easy to spot. Now two of these kids are nearly a year old and the girlie is 6 months. Apart from the different sizes, I had to be careful about the colours I chose – I couldn’t end up with pretty pinks for the boys and dull browns for the girl! So my task became all the more complicated. Well, let’s say, after 45 minutes of non-stop scouring and pulling out tiny hands and legs (of clothes, of course!), I ended up with 3 jackets – I partly lost patience after that and partly decided – a gift is a gift, what they do with it later is surely left to the parents!

So then, with my arms loaded with these three heavy jackets, I walked deeper into the store between aisles filled with clothes of all kinds – for women mainly. That’s when I realized how big the shop actually was and how many people it held! I picked my way amongst them and finally managed to reach the billing counter. A woman of African origin, said ‘Oui‘ with a question-mark writ all over her face. I pointed to my armload and pointed to her machine and said bill. She again said ‘Oui‘ and pointed towards something behind my back. I turned my head and saw – a serpentine queue whose end seemed to be lost somewhere in the other corner of the store – all women waiting with basket-loads of clothes they’d bought to be billed on that Saturday afternoon! They were snaking up to the counter in a round-about fashion, which I’d failed to notice. I caught my jaw from hitting the ground and quickly went past atleast thirty ladies to stand in the queue.

And then started the ordeal of waiting.  It being a ladies queue there were a few cat-fights here and there, about people forming invalid sub-queues in the wrong directions – but nothing which wasn’t settled amicably in a few minutes. As I stood between that throng of French women who were chattering away in a language which I couldn’t remotely understand, I felt lost! I did contemplate leaving behind the jackets and coming away, but then thought the better of it – having invested nearly an hour of my time, I wanted to buy it that day. Standing in that queue I realized why men tend to get annoyed when they shop with us. Those ladies, even as they stood waiting, wouldn’t let a piece of cloth alone – they checked each and every piece of clothing in every counter of every aisle – irrespective of the colour or size or pattern or anything. They wanted to take it in their hands and see it for themselves! There were times when I wanted to scream – aunty! please move on! I want to get these 3 damn things billed and get away, can you please let me go?! But I did nothing of the sort, you don’t go to a foreign country and voice your strong opinion amongst a group of people whose language you don’t understand! I grit my teeth and counted sheep as the line woefully slowly moved on. It was a good half hour before my turn came, I paid the cash and rushed out.

Phew! It really had been years since I’d shopped for anything like this by standing in such a long queue! For all the trouble I took, those babies better coo and be nice about their jackets! 😉

Restaurants Vegetariens in Paris

On one of our sight-seeing trips around Paris, when we visited Notre Dame and it’s surroundings we bumped into this – Le Grenier de Notre-Dame – a vegetarian restaurant bang in the middle of Paris! Come on! Who would’ve expected to find something like that in the heart of this city? Needless to say, my colleague was overjoyed, especially since it was past lunchtime and the stomach had started doing the talking. As we walked in, I wasn’t too interested – I had my packed lunch anyway and would just take a coffee or juice I thought. 
 
As we entered I knew immediately that I’d love it. It was a small area set with quaint little tables to seat two persons each. As we took our seats I started noticing the other things that only piqued my interest some more. Each table had an arrangement of a small little glass – set with flowers and was lit by the soft glow of light, which deceptively looked like candle-light! I also noticed that there were plants of different kinds adding a touch of green to the various nooks. They had an open kitchen with a counter which too was adorned with some more fresh flowers and greens. I saw that at a corner by the entrance was a spiral staircase which led to a similar area in the floor above and that also brought into view the lovely hanging vines of the money-plant. Also set-up next to the staircase was a counter-top with the day’s menu handwritten on a blackboard in chalk, in the midst of a lamp shade suffusing warm light around another pot-ful of beautiful roses. Needless to say I absolutley fell in love with the ambience of the place and the final icing on the cake was the way in which our bill was presented to us. Why don’t you take a look at it yourself?! 🙂

Disclaimer – I cannot however vouch for the quality of food at the place because I didn’t eat anything. My colleague ordered lasagne which he said was OK, but nothing great. The staff however was very courteous and mindful of our needs. Do check them out if you are in their neighbourhood in Paris – they have 2 restaurants located closeby – one in Notre Dame (Saint-Michel metro) and the other in Saint Louis ( Pont-Marie metro).

My encounters with French – 1

Two days ago I had my first near encounter of the French kind. Having returned from our sight-seeing jaunt earlier than expected,  I had time on my hands. I decided that I might as well use the time to sort and upload the pics taken on the day, after putting in my clothes for a wash. I’d done it once in the week earlier and had figured out a few essential things about the all-in-French washing machine contraption. Accordingly I dumped in the clothes, scooped in some washing powder and turned the thing on.

Ten minutes later I sauntered into the kitched to get something and that’s when I noticed there was no soap water in the drum! I pulled out the soap-powder inlet and fair enough, all the soap that I had scooped in earlier was merrily sitting there staring back at me! Head-slap! It was the wrong inlet dumbo! There were three (no less!) partitions and I’d put in the soap in the wrong one. Voila! I scooped out and scooped it in again into the right compartment and happily turned the selection-knob to some number from where I was sure it would re-start washing, by letting in a fresh whoosh of water.

5 minutes and no whoosh! I got a trifle worried and turned the knob a little bit more. This time I was successful in hearing the whoosh and felt a little relieved. After fiddling around with the knob a few more times (so that my clothes didn’t get over-washed!) I returned to my laptop and forgot about the machine. About half an hour later I remembered and went to check, sure enough the machine had stopped tossing and turning my clothes inside and seemed to have come to a steady not-gonna-do-anything-more kinda stop. Was the drier on at any point in time? I wondered… the selection-knob seemed to be almost at the last point, though not exactly there… I then stopped wondering, thinking that it must have… I anyway hadn’t been paying much attention.

And then, I pulled the door open. WHOOSH!! a mini-waterfall happened and there was a slight flood-like-situation in the kitchen! Luckily I recovered my wits quickly enough and banged the door shut. I then stood for a full 2 mins thinking how I should handle the situation. Was there any button to drain the water? No. Was there a spin/ dry kinda small picture anywhere on the damn machine? Nope.

Then, I did what any self-respecting IT professional and software engineer would do while in trouble! I googled-up to decipher the French options on the machine! That’s how I found out – Essorage is wring-out/ spin-dry and Vidange is empty/drain in French. I prompty turned the knob to Essorage and switched on the machine again and cleaned up the mess. 5 more minutes and I was done, my clothes were ready to be hung out to dry!

Hurrah for Google! I shudder to think… what would’ve been life without you?!! 🙂

An evening in Paris

And it turned out to be a pretty interesting one at that… Well, I am here on a month-long work assignment with a colleague and the experience has been good so far. It’s been the first time that I’ve ever been staying all by myself in an apartment in a foreign country, not counting the difficult first week I spent in London. But the experience has been made easier with the help of some really kind individuals out here – especially the admin lady at our client place. She had literally taken us under her wing the first day and went to great lengths just to make us feel at home. She says – ‘I like you and it’s my pleasure to do all this for you!’ Well, what can one say in reply to such sweet behaviour?! Merci! a thousand times over?! 🙂

The people in general seem to be of helping nature and not hostile to foreigners, especially the dark skinned ones like us. But one aspect that I found a little annoying was the obsession with the language – well, they almost seem to believe that there is no need for any other language while there is French! With everything right from the labels on the home appliances to all the TV channels to the un-pronounceable street names, it does get inconvenient and tedious for outsiders who don’t happen to know French. As one Parisian colleague was heard saying – some French guys can be really snotty and obnoxious in their behaviour towards tourists, considering that Paris is such a favourite and most sought after tourist destination in the world. I guess it doesn’t help that they get all the attention and the tourist influx without having to really work hard for it.

On that note, I leave you with some pics from my first actual evening out in Paris – spent watching the spectacle of the breath-taking lighting display at the magnifique Eiffel tower! 🙂

The Eiffel Tower spectacle

The Eiffel Tower spectacle