22 October 2005

Bizarre bazars, Impressionism impresses, and the odds of stealing the Obelisk

It looks like it will be another week before we have internet service at home again. Muriel is going to help me get it set up on Tuesday, after which I will be able to blog and post pictures to my heart’s content. (After all, this internet café thing gets pricey pretty quick!)

For those of you who know me well – especially if you have worked with me – you know that I am a bit of a neat freak. OK, I am obsessed with organization to the point that I’ve thought about working at Office Depot just so that I can be around all of the nifty little containers. Just kidding … or am I?

Regardless of the appropriate way to express my desire for order, I can definitely say that I hit my threshold of tolerance with our kitchen this week. Even if you haven’t seen pictures, you can probably guess that it’s not that big to begin with. On Thursday, somewhere between the point that I realized we already owned carpet cleaner (which I bought last week) but before the point that I realized that we had six bottles/boxes of laundry detergent, I decided that enough was enough. The kitchen was not arranged in a logical or practical manner, and it was making me crazy. First things first – I pulled everything out of the cabinets. Unfortunately, there isn’t nearly enough counter space in the kitchen to hold the contents of our cabinets, so before I knew it, the kitchen had exploded all over the apartment. Among my discoveries:

***As previously mentioned, we already had carpet cleaner. This would have been good to know at 4 am on Monday, when Didge decided to let us know what the contents of his stomach were. (In case you’re wondering, dogs cannot digest pieces of tennis balls, no matter how small.)

***We had TONS of bathroom cleaner – in the kitchen. Even after I consolidated things, I had a huge, full container of Comet-like scrub.

***We have two giant bottles of olive oil. Until we moved to France, I think I had used olive oil once in my life.

***We have two boxes of brown sugar – or should I say, two boxes of cassonade sucre brun. (Thank goodness for the unabridged French-English dictionary!) Next question: why is there a picture of bananas on the boxes of brown sugar? That doesn’t really help the non-native speaker interpret!

Once I had a good handle on the contents of our kitchen, I set out to buy a few things to get the cabinets in order. We have a lot of storage space in the kitchen, but the cabinets are really deep and high up. My solution was going to be the purchase of several lazy susans (turntables), since we already have stepstools to deal with the height problem. Ironically, to find organizational materials, my shopping excursion took me to the most cluttery, ramshackle stores in existence: the “bazars” (yep, only two “a”s in that word, despite what Word’s autocorrect function wants to do). These stores make me crazy! Basically, they are regular stores along the street that are crammed full of the oddest assortment of products you can imagine. Only at a bazar would you find a bin of bras next to a bin of specialty light bulbs, which in turn is next to shower caps. Plus, you can hardly move through the tiny “aisles” to see what they have, and you’re constantly tripping over other customers. In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t too bright to take Didge along, but I couldn’t very well leave him loose in an apartment that had an exploded kitchen.

Four bazars later, I hadn’t found any sign of lazy susans, and I was getting tired of telling Didge to heel. I settled for four long plastic baskets and headed back to the apartment to put things back together. Things are much more to my liking now, and Colin can’t really tell the difference, so everyone won.

Aside from the lazy susans, here is an abbreviated list of things that I cannot find anywhere:

***Lysol spray (though you can buy the nasty scented sprays that cover up bathroom odors with a different, yet also horribly offensive smelling odor)

***Cleaning spray with bleach (in fact, I can’t find anything in a spray bottle that kills mold)

***Empty plastic spray bottles (I am shocked that none of the bazars have had this)

***Blistex (though I found a decent substitute at a pharmacy)

***A decent cut of beef (no surprise there)

Lest you worry that I have become a housewife who sits in the apartment all day and rearranges her spices, I should probably get on with some of the sites I’ve seen in the last day or two. I know I’ve already expounded on the American Library in Paris, so I’ll forgo that except to say that I enjoyed Thelma and Louise and The Sixth Sense a lot. (It’s just too bad that I already knew how both of them ended.)

Today, Colin and I bought some opera tickets because he really wants to see a couple of shows while we’re here. In case I haven’t mentioned it, I am definitely supportive of this expense because it gives me a perfectly good excuse to buy a fancy dress to wear! I often complained in the states that after prom, you don’t really have any more events that give you an excuse to get dressed to the nines, which is a real shame. Colin pointed out that I was dressed up for our wedding – which is a good point – but it’s not quite the same as buying a normal formal gown. Well, I am pleased to say that I found the most gorgeous dress today, just down the street. (OK, so the one I REALLY wanted is still in the window of the shop, but it didn’t fit as well and cost 400 euros…) It’s a beautiful burgundy dress with spaghetti straps that trail down into a lace-up bodice in the back. Ohhh, it is so wonderful!! I got my first chance to practice my French manners when the saleswoman told me I looked “très jolie” in it (you can’t say “thank you” for compliments because it makes you sound vain). I said a lot of “Vous êtes très gentile” (“You are so kind”) and “Vraiment? Je ne sais pas” (“Really? I don’t know”) today! AND, as if the flattery wasn’t enough, she complimented me early on for my excellent French! Holy cow, it’s a Christmas miracle! (I had a brilliant epiphany yesterday: my French won’t get any better if I don’t start using it. Wow, Amy, how profound. Well, it was at the time!) So, my confidence level is up quite a bit, and the sales lady definitely helped me to try more out. She had been “all over” the US on vacations, so she was curious to hear where we were from and wanted to tell us where she had been.

Now all I need is jewelry and shoes. For some reason, Colin wouldn’t let me buy anything in the Swarovski crystal store today. I tried to explain to him that we had saved a lot of money by not buying the 400 euro dress, and that as such, we could afford a 200 euro necklace, but he wasn’t going for it. (That’s what I get for letting him control the finances this month.)

In other news, I finally “get” impressionist paintings. We went to the Musée Marmottan-Monet and saw some of Claude Monet’s paintings. Ooh, I liked them a lot! You don’t really get a sense of the layers and textures in prints of his work, which is what was so interesting. I was dying to touch one of them, just to feel the relief of the surface. There was a really lovely painting of a weeping willow that I really liked, but alas, cameras were prohibited so I don’t have a picture. I don’t think I’ll ever get prints or calendars of impressionist paintings, but if they had close-up snapshots of the layers, that would be cool. I’m really glad we went there.

After the museum, I was really hungry, so we decided to walk down to the Champs-Elysees and have the quintessential tourist-required experience of getting overpriced crepes. On the way, we walked down one of the French equivalents to Rodeo Drive, Avenue Montaigne. All of THE hot designers have stores on this street: Calvin Klein, Coco Chanel, Gucci … you name it. There was also a gorgeous four-star hotel on this street, and as we walked by, the valet drove up a black Ferrari. Despite my absolute hatred for wasteful spending, I could definitely understand the desire to walk into one of those fancy stores and just buy whatever I wanted. I told Colin that I wanted to walk into one of those stores just to see what would happen, and he told me to wait and come back when I’m wearing jeans and a wife beater. Can’t you just picture me? “Yo, yo, yo! Where all my peeps at?!” I wonder how far in I would get before security whisked me away?

We did a little bit of touristy stuff after our pricey crepes, since we needed to work off the sugar (I’ve lost 1 kilo so far, Colin has lost 5). We saw the tunnel where Princess Diana was killed in a car accident, which was somewhat profound. The picture on the left is the tunnel. (It was too scary to walk down and stand on the median for a better picture – that’s a really fast road!)

There was already a memorial on that bridge: a replica of the flame on the Statue of Liberty, placed in there in ’87 to commemorate 100 years of the International Herald Tribune. (That is pictured to the right.) Now, there is graffiti all over it and the bridge that leaves messages for the princess. Someone had left single roses on the flame, too. I’m not sure I would have made a special trip to see this, but it was interesting to look down there and see the spot that we saw on the news so much.

We also went up to the obelisk at Place de la Concorde and took some pictures, and then had dinner in the food court of the shopping mall Caroussel du Louvre (which, by the way, was terrible – the food, not the mall). You can see me in the photo at the left at the fountain next to the obelisk, wearing the scarf I bought most recently. (Don’t I look über-French?)

We had a good laugh while waiting for our bus there when two guys on one bicycle came peddling by in the midst of cars and buses flying down the street in front of the Pyramid at the Louvre. The guy in front definitely knew that he was taking his life into his own hands, and seemed to find the whole things rather amusing. I applauded their aplomb for doing it (literally, I clapped for them), even though I think they were nuts for doing it.

The other good laugh was the security trip wire for the Obelisk. Look folks, the French stole it fair and square. There will be no stealing it back. (Now, try to picture me stuffing the giant obelisk under my coat and casually walking away from the site.) I guess the mayor's office is still a little upset with the people who put the giant pink condom on it a few years back.

If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, we’re headed for one of the forests at the edge of the city. It’s starting to get colder and rainier around here, so you don’t always know what you’re in for. Otherwise, I’m not totally sure what we’ll do. Maybe go to the Museè d’Orsay, which has works from Monet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh, Seurat, Matisse, and Cézanne, just to name a few. Ah, just another boring day in France, n’est-ce pas?

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