Saturday, February 25, 2012

Several Days Later

NB: this was written on Wednesday, 22 Feb, and I only just got to a wifi spot today.

There's nothing on tv except a Doctor Who episode that isn't making any sense to me. Reading is making me feel sleepy and I already had a big sleep this morning... I have no internet, but if I write a blog post then I can just copy it on next time I connect. I was going to visit the bibliotech (library, which has free wifi! And is very close to home) when we were out earlier, but Louis was past it and I took pity. He'd been in the pushchair for too long, I guess.

Got lots done though: ticked a few more things off the shopping list (matches, lemon squeezer, serviettes), found the obstetric radiology secretary in the hospital and made an appointment, found the laboratory where I'll do my blood test on saturday, got groceries (bread, stewed apples in a big jar, lasagne pasta, and peanut butter! Score!) and had a fantastic lunch at Cafe de la Gare.

Louis had his standard home-made jam sammies, which he enjoyed with the same gusto I did my croque, which I'm sad to say I forgot to take a photo of. It's basically ham and cheese grilled on bread, but this one had roast capsicum, feta, and possibly brie grilled on top – all well cooked enough that I went right ahead, pregnant and all. Came with delish salad and these chip things – thin sliced potatoes cooked beautifully, but not really crunchy. Hard to describe but yum yum yum.

Will definitely be going back there. Louis played in the playground again – after yesterday's success I couldn't resist a return. There were a bunch of other kids there both days and he had as much fun watching them as playing.

He more-than-happily stands against the side of the sandpit and picks up handfuls of sand, dropping them into my palm... even cries a little when it's time to leave. The park is so close I can see it from the veranda.

That's the park, right there, smack bang in the middle. (Looking left from the end of our veranda.)

 Looking out from our veranda to the right.

Looking down our street. That's right - cobbles!

This really is such a great neighbourhood. The buildings and streets are so picturesque, and everything is uncannily convenient: a whole selection of patisseries, a dangerous number of choclateries, supermarkets, train station, pharmacies, banks (ours and a bunch of others), restaurants... last night, on the way back from the homewares shop, I counted 6 pizza places. Luuk passes all of them on his way home every evening. Hm...

The homewares shop – that was fun. We have this monster list of things we want/need as we're still setting up here.

Our first furniture purchases – IKEA chairs! Assembled successfully by Luuk.

Lots of our list is bigger furniture, but there were plenty of little things and we made significant process last night. Fortunately some of the big shops are open till 8 or later on a regular basis. I am reluctant to make generalisations about the french, but they do seem to keep later hours. Anyway, it meant we could go together (Luuk and me) after work. Shame the place didn't have trolleys with baby/child seats... made it a bit less fun. But we picked out some beautiful and functional things. Colour-wise, we're going for a bright light blue, a lime green, and a deep purple. Once all the packaging has gone, and the last few purchases have been made, I'll take some photos, attempting the style of a home décor magazine...

[The Daleks are about to kill everyone. Although, I suspect, if I'd watched any real amount of Dr Who before, I'd know there was nothing to worry about.]

Should probably sweep the floors but would have to tidy away the toys first and really both activities would require more energy than I have right now.

Louis enjoying the chaos.

Failed to buy meat on my mission today (the boucherie was closed after I'd been to the supermarket – it's common to close for an hour or two over lunch) so I guess we're doing vegetarian, or something with salami, for dinner. Feeling quite overwhelmed at even that prospect... and curious about the lebanese place down the way. I suppose Luuk could get pizza on the way home... Seems very lazy, but would make it more likely that we'd do a french lesson this evening.

[Or maybe there was something to worry about: only one person seemed to survive the Dalek's attack. And the doctor/companions, but they were not in imminent danger. Yet.]

Had the organised-frenchman's take-aways last night after our shopping trip. I'd stopped by the very-nearby-traiteur on the way back from my walk/wi-fi search, and picked up some of this amazing potato dish, a giant meatball each, and a cheese pastry thing. Just had to heat them up when we got home: voila!

Dinner in the comfort of your living room, ready when you are, requiring only reheating per the instructions of the traiteur. Threw a few green beans on the side so it wasn't entirely naughty. But I'll tell you, it was entirely delicieux! Luuk had picked up a bottle of wine a couple of days ago but only got a corkscrew at the homewares store, so, since we could open it, we thought we'd better have some. Perfect.

Have definitely been enjoying the food here. Mightn't have been near the eiffel tower, or even seen the arc de triumph, but I have definitely been enjoying the food. Mostly the bread, actually.

First night in new house – first time with an oven since we've got here... roast veg and baked chicken. Day-old baguette = cheesy garlic bread.

3 fromage ravioli with chicken, spinach and garlicky-good sausages, in a crème fraiche sauce.

Also enjoying our light and airy apartment.

It's gorgeous when the sun is shining in. Had to stay in most of the day on Monday cause the phone guys were coming, but Louis enjoyed lunch on the veranda, in the sun.

[Oh the poor doctor, all alone again. But someone, or quite a few people, will think of him every time they look up at the sky.]

Louis is stirring and Friends is on next. Might to a quick tidy-up before that.

Will try to get this up online soon.

PS. 1 year today since the february quake/s. It's nice, and odd, and difficult all at once, being on the other side of the world, where no one else would have even given it a thought today, but I did. A few times. I hope the anniversary passed uneventfully, but internet-less I have no clue what's going on. I suppose if anything major happened it'd be on the french news.

PPS. 2 days later I'm finally getting to post. Have to sit outside the building with the free wi-fi, which is easier when it's not raining. Louis is miraculously asleep in the pushchair, which is entirely going to bungle the routine but on the other hand INTERNET! YAY!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chez moi

We got the key on Friday and went over all together in the evening. Luuk and I pottered around, unpacking a few of the things Luuk's colleagues organised for us, as well as our own boxes... a definite highlight for Louis...

Look who I found!
(yes, that is a giant mr. potato head... in which 4 smaller potato heads reside)

The storage space in the basement... appropriately named.

Stopped at 'Hippopotamus' restaurant and grill on the way back to Les Ulis. Very family friendly but average food. Although Luuk may have just ordered better.
Perks of Paris: the free bread at restaurants is so very very delicious.

We started bright and early on Saturday because the furniture/appliance deliveries were coming anytime from 8am. In fact, it was dark when we got home on Friday, and dark when we left on Saturday...

I kept unpacking and pottering about. Luuk built Louis' cot so that he could have his morning nap.
Louis helped. Loosely speaking.

The entrance to our building, on a cobbled street! So very cool. We actually, for real, live on a cobbled street.

The appliances arrived first but there were a couple of issues so Luuk's colleague came to help sort them out (wrong washing machine was delivered and the oven didn't have a plug on the end of the wires...) Meanwhile the furniture showed up and we watched in awe as it was assembled before our eyes. When they say 'slap-together', they mean it. But it was impressive, and actually quite sturdy looking. Well-designed perhaps.

I went for a wander down the road for an afternoon tea treat, and thank you for Luuk's colleague, and her husband whose technical skills rendered our oven usable!

That's the patisserie/boulingerie/choclatier on the right - the black shop-front.

Score. Pizza place right there. And a lebanese restaurant as well. How very convenient. All about 100 meters from our stoop.

The church and the square. Such a romantic environment.

And that is how you do an eclair. Afternoon tea of awesome.

Louis eating his lunch or afternoon tea or something... sitting on our new dining table. He well-and-truly christened it - jam and bread crumbs everywhere. Aside: the crustless bread I found at the supermarket - roaring success. He eats the lot! No more jammy crusts all over the floor.

That guy on the right built the table, sideboard, and chairs... all in just over an hour.

Louis on our new sofa, watching our new TV. He was all wrapped up, ready to go, but then we discovered another part of the process for building his chest of drawers.
The living room and patio.

Luuk screwing the draws into the runners. (Louis and his little sister's bedroom)

Our bedroom. Storage solution still in the making...

Quick trip to IKEA? Yeah, right. No such thing. But we did get that chair for Louis, and slightly different ones for us (more comfy and with black cushions.

It was a long but satisfying day. And today we move. Luuk's already gone with the first car load. I'm staying here to pack and so Louis can have a nap. Better get on with it! We have no phone or internet at the new place, so will be off the radar for a while.

Past it

How many times have I heard someone longing for the good old days, when the shops were shut on Sundays? What it actually means is a mad rush on a Saturday evening. Partly our own fault for squeezing in a trip to IKEA in between sorting out our new apartment and buying groceries... But, success at IKEA: three chairs (including a tiny one for Louis), two light shades, a gorgeous-smelling candle and a road-map  floor rug for Louis' new bedroom.

The apartment is fantastic. But I'm too tired to post pictures or write more, so will do it tomorrow. Domain matin.

And then we'll be in our new place, which doesn't have internet yet. But we'll find a wireless hotspot and I'll have a cell phone really soon. Fingers crossed. Very glad to be moving in tomorrow, to be settling down. Louis coping very well despite having his dinner at 9.30 and going to bed closer to 10. Seems to have gotten over his cold. I'm struggling to shake the cough, but otherwise feeling good. Baby kicking and all that jazz.

Hoping for a good night sleep, back-ache free. Tomorrow night we'll be in our own bed. Yay!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Today's the day...

... we get the key! In fact Luuk has already got the key, and he's probably on his 2nd or 3rd load of stuff: our boxes which we freighted over from the other side of the world, as well as all the stuff Luuk's work organised for us.

... we get an OB! I sent a couple of emails last week, to obstetricians I found recommended on 'Message' (great website for english-speaking parents/tobe in Paris). I finally got a reply and he could see us today at 10am... bit of a panic trying to get in touch with Luuk, but managed to. He picked Louis and me up and we were on time to our first obstetrics appointment. The doctor speaks great english and has a sense of humour, though I'm not sure he'll be encouraging me to use gas for pain during labour - or 'gas hilariant' as it's called here. French system is famous for going straight to the epidural... which sounds rather tempting actually, but I managed without last time, in part because of that sweet sweet gas, and in part because my active labour was short (relative, very relative... felt long).

... strawberries are on special! Small fries compared to other events, but I like sets of 3, and finding pleasure  in the small things...

 C'est bonne?
Oui, maman. Vraiment!
Mmm, afternoon tea. Balanced diet - equal parts fruit and chocolate?

Also found a new nappybagthing. I refuse to buy an actual nappy bag because they tend to be made of fabrics that make me shudder, look like saturday morning cartoons, and cost an inordinate amount of money. Really, a big bag with a few different pockets does the trick. My other one was perfect, but the handle broke recently. So... voila! The replacement:
Yes, it is very (tres!) similar but feels a bit more solid. Also has no silly tassles, and more firmly-secured straps. Bit boring and black, but goes with everything. Possibly should have forked out the extra 10E for the Italian leather one further down the mall, but then it'd last for ages and I'd have no excuse to get a new bag in a year or two. Pardon me for being a hopeless consumer.

I'm very excited about going to see our apartment later this afternoon, and starting to move in! Furniture/appliances are being delivered tomorrow and then we can stay there. It's going to feel huge after this little apartment/hotel suite we've had since we arrived in France. Louis is having a good long nap, so no hurry, but really want Luuk to come and get me so I can see it already! Will post photos later/tomorrow.

Cherry on the top: dinner out in Antony tonight! Must do our research on our new locale, after all. Essential.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

banque-ing and sketching

We have a bank account! Hurrah. Steps in the right direction have been taken! Went to the first 'orange' (biggest cell network around here) shop we found after opening our banque account... but still lack one of the necessary bits/bobs to get a phone contract... no bank card yet. They're posting it to us. It'll arrive in a week.

And then I'll get a phone.

It's a good thing I'm not overly in love with gadgets and constant connection.

Louis and the lovely ladies from Luuk's work who've been helping us get all set up. At the banque.

So that's the good news. In fact, that's the fantastic news. Bank account is sorted. Yippee!

The bad news: Louis seems to have got my cold. Poor wee trooper is sneezy and snotty, and kept waking up in the night. 

So it'll be an at-home-where-it's-warm day today. I'm not ashamed to say I'll be relying on the tv for some sanity - I know, that just doesn't sound right does it? But hopefully Louis sleeps lots and I can plod on with some writing, or maybe I'll just read. I've already done my bit of something artistic for art-thursday: a sketch of how I'd like to spend my day...

And now I might just go do that.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

time goes by

Had a lovely Valentines. Dinner turned out delish, if not very restaurant-looking...

So delish, in fact, that I forgot to take a picture until I was half-finished.

And I got this lovely present...

A gorgeous thick glass vase for our new apartment, filled with some of my favourites.

Louis ate his dessert happily while we had our dinner. No candlelight or romantic music, and these orange plastic chairs aren't fabulous for ambiance, but at least there was no screaming baby or food-throwing.

After a french lesson, we watched an episode of Castle, with the french subtitles on (it all helps, right?) and then had a lovely early-ish night.

Keep thinking about how we celebrated last valentines. Mum and Dad babysat Louis. Luuk and I went to Simo's - this gorgeous moroccan restaurant in Christchurch - in the Grand Chancellor hotel. The food was incredible, and there was a belly-dancer! I wore my ridiculously high-heeled polka-dot shoes (why do i remember that?) and tottered through the atrium of that hotel one last time.

8 days later it was closed, the building crumbling after several significant earthquakes.

So, I'm experiencing a strange sense of time passing. It's nearly a year since those quakes, and back home in Christchurch it's the topic on everyone's minds, and all over the media. Here, on the other side of the world, it's easier not to think about it. But it's there, in the back of our minds. I notice cracks in walls in a way I imagine civil engineers usually would. I'm on alert every time a building vibrates. And I hate to think what would happen if there was a quake here, because they'd be totally unprepared. These buildings probably aren't required to meet much of a code for earthquake safety. And we're 4 floors up.

So I really try not to think about it. In part because I don't really need to. It's highly, highly, unlikely. But it's hard to believe in safety.

irrepressible cabin fever

So much for doing nothing... Louis had been awake for an hour when I got tired of playing with his toys... and he wasn't far behind. He'd already had lunch and I wasn't hungry yet. The washing cycle was about to finish... so we put the load in the dryer and off we went to explore Rue des Causses. We've been living on the corner of this mysterious little street for a couple of weeks now. Time to see what's at the end of it.

We found a park! Not a park with a playground, but I saw a slide on my walk down to Les Ulis town centre last week, so I was hopeful. Did a bit of a loop-de-loop, but found it!

I'd taken a towel to wipe it down (bit drizzly today) but he still stuck to it a bit. Ah well, he had fun!

Then we went on to the mall. I was short change for the dryer and one of the staff loaned me the 2E for it, so I needed to get some change. Plus, I was on a roll. I'd found one fun thing for Louis to do; I hoped for another.

Plus, the walk was refreshing.

I bought my lunch and then wandered up to the merry-go-round. We've passed this numerous times and watched briefly. Louis is pretty small for it, but I noticed belts on some of the seats... narrowed down our choice to the creepy mouse, but c'est la vie!

There were a couple of other kids riding the merry-go-round. Louis was so busy watching the girl in the teacup and the woman running the thing, that it was difficult getting a photo of him looking at me.

It goes rather quickly, but Louis wasn't scared at all. Loved it in fact!

I finally got his attention, but he was too busy having fun to smile for the camera. 

He was fascinated by the lights on the side of the ride. And the girl running the thing was great. The mouse Louis is sitting in goes up and down - it flies, hence the cape. All very cool. Will have to go again some time.

Ate my lunch then we walked back to the apartment. The weather is really very dreary, but the temperature is much higher - 6 whole degrees! It's nice not to need a heavy coat and hat just to step outside.

Now, while the video loads, I'm off to find a steak marinade I can make with very limited pantry resources... I have olive oil, but no vinegar. I do have oranges and pasta sauce... probably don't need both. Could be interesting. 

The result:

A huge amount of meat for 5Euro, I think, and it doesn't look tough or fatty. It's called 'tende de tranche', but that just means topside from what I can find out online... and there's a lot of variation of quality within that category.

Now I should probably do the dishes, but I think I'll just rest a while first. Might do a little writing, watch a little tv, put my feet up...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

R&R (reading and relaxation)

I have found it hard to rest, to relax and enjoy a break, since we arrived in Paris... because we're in Paris! So much to see, so much to do, and so much pressure to make the most of our short time here.

But then I got sick. And then I tried to do a bit much, a bit too soon.

Yesterday, somehow, I managed to give myself permission to waste time. I put Louis to bed in the morning, made myself a coffee and nibbled through a Pain au Chocolat (still enjoying some perks of locale), and read the day away.

Was lovely.

When Louis was up, in the middle of the day, we went and got bread, some treats for Valentines, and a few other groceries, then came straight home to play. A little while later, Louis went down for his afternoon nap and I... read. Yep. That's it. Was great.

Have a ginormous hunk of steak for dinner and I think I'll do simple buttery potatoes and a salad to go with - wouldn't want to distract from the main event. Although, a little blue cheese stuffed mushroom would be pretty good as far as distractions go. Also have Haagen dazs and chocolate, so it won't be anything flashy, despite our proximity to the Eiffel tower, but we will enjoy a little Valentines repast this evening.

Today I think I'll continue in my vegetable-like state. But I might do a french lesson first. It is writing-tuesday... but maybe this afternoon. My week plan really got blown out of the water last week. Not sure if feeling unmotivated right now is a good thing (helps me to rest and recoup from cold/cough) or is the beginning of a downward spiral. Haven't been doing my journal, which is usually motivating, but more importantly is good for self-knowledge... ie. would keep me from that downward spiral or at least reveal the pattern, equipping me to do something about it.

So, the plan:
- journal
- french lesson
- coffee and pastry
- reading and relaxing

when Louis is up:
- lunch
- laundry

when Louis goes back to sleep:
- read
- or write.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Leisurely we go

A very leisurely day - without being cooped up inside the whole time.!

We did stay home for most of the day (watched two Star Wars movies back-to-back and did laundry) but in the afternoon we went to see the Carnival of Colour in Ville d'Antony. This was a kids event really, and all of it pitched at kids older than Louis, but we will soon be living in Antony and I thought it'd be nice to go along to a community event. There were lots of craft activities for kids to do, and a costume contest, bouncy castle, face-painting, etc. I think it might be school holidays - mid term break possibly, not sure - and what a cool thing for the community to put on.

But not really pitched at us, or Louis (too little for the bouncy castle), so we continued exploring Antony. We parked right outside the apartment we move into (in just one week!) and walked down the street, past a few little shops, then had a wee nosey in a very cool little church. Would have taken a photo, but hadn't taken the camera. Anyway, very cool old stone building... and all of 200m from our front door. Continued on down the cobbled street to find a boulangerie, patisserie and choclaterie! Hallelujah. Also a little Lebanese restaurant which we'll have to try some time. Continued on to wander past the train station and then all around the neighbourhood shops. I am so excited to live in this area. It is cute and village-y, but convenient to everything. Perfect.

We had tentative plans to go to a church service this evening, but found a place to eat dinner instead. Man may not live by bread alone, but add chicken, cheese, chips and salad... hm.

Then we walked back to the car and, thanks to GPS, didn't get lost, just slightly de-toured. Which happened to take us past a park with a playground! Less than 50m from our apartment, but I wouldn't have seen it if we'd taken the most direct route.

Over 2 kms of walking. Then we went and ate fries.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


We did it! Successfully visited a tourist site. And an excellent choice for a bitterly cold day: inside a palace.

It's amazing how much better I feel. Having a friend to visit probably makes a big difference. Paula arrived last night and we went out for dinner for the first time (for us, not Paula) since arriving. And what brilliant parisian meal did we eat? Japanese food.

Most of it was as expected, sweet sauces and succulent meat, spring-rolls and normal sushi-train type fare. But Luuk's final dish was beouf aux fromage... a kebab of cheese wrapped in beef. Is this french-japanese fusion?

Louis ate dumplings and samosa-like things. He's developing quite the palette.

Anyway, on to Versailles... (Warning: lots of photos.)

On the way to Versailles... is that lake frozen? I wouldn't skate on it. But I wouldn't swim in it either. In good news (or weather) the forecast just told us it'll get up to 1 degree C tomorrow! And 4 on monday. 
But it'll be snowing.

After driving around in a circle or two in the Versailles township, we found the entrance and a place to park the car, then gave the push-chair wheels a real test of their mettle on the cobblestones.

Little Louis looking on at a statue of quite another Louis. Versailles in the background.

 It was so cold. Yep, that's ice. The wind was killer. Don't be fooled by the blue sky; it was really cold.

Approaching the palace.

Through the gates, and push-chair free... not allowed it inside. Not allowed metal-framed carry packs either. And Luuk was told to take Louis off his shoulders almost as soon as we got inside. Hmm... Considering all this Louis (and Luuk) coped brilliantly!

First stop on the audio-tour: the chapel. I'll just say: they know how to do a ceiling.

Tagging on the stone wall. Strangely beautiful.

Louis listening to the audio-tour. I think he thought we were letting him play with a cell phone. He loved it. (In the background: a couple of Louis XIV's possible successors to the throne.)

C'est moi. In the background is apparently the most beautiful painting of Louis XIV, according to the audio-tour. (He is looking prettier than me, but 'tis often the case.)

One of the ceiling paintings I really liked.

The gardens/grounds were closed to the public due to the snow and frosts. Not that we felt like we were missing much. 

It was too cold to be outside and enjoy anything really. Looking out the windows was by far the best way to see the gardens of Versailles today.

We'll have to go back in spring. It'll be a whole 'nother kind of beautiful. And touring the palace was enough for one day. Works out rather well, I think, to do the palace in winter and save the gardens for the spring (if we're really smart we'll get in there before the crazy tourist-rush of summer).

In the hall of mirrors.

Another fantastic ceiling. They're also rather good at chandeliers.
Having a wee rest - for Luuk a rest from carrying Louis, for me, from carrying my cold-sick, pregnant self.

Luuk being a rebel: Louis on his shoulders. In the background: Napoleon at war.

Bad news Louis: the dauphin's bed... it's about the same size as your new bedroom.

The Dauphin's study. It's about five times the size of the Dauphine's study... a comment on educating girls? But the good news: New Zealand was on the globe! Right in the middle at the front.

Resisted buying anything in the gift shop, but Louis did try on this little crown. Or he was forced into it three times before I managed to snap a photo. This particular Louis was pretty keen to lose the crown. 

Paula successfully getting Louis to walk... briefly.
All finished, wrapped up for the cold, and on our way...

Popped into a hardware store on our way home - bricorama, which from the outside looks like a playground or something - and were thoroughly disappointed. Hopefully will require very little to assemble our furniture next saturday. Only a week and we'll be in our own apartment! Yay!

Spent an interminable amount of time in Carrefour again, but managed to stock up on essentials (including Croissants and Pain au chocolat. Hm...). Got socks for Louis and cough lozenges for me... my poor immune system is getting a real trial-by-fire (or ice?) at the moment. Also got last couple of necessary ingredients for yummy home-cooked dinner: chicken, courgette and mushroom penne, with a blue cheese and cream fraiche sauce. Rich, but delish. And Louis ate several pieces of pasta. Soon he'll be eating the same food as us, with any luck.