Monday, February 28, 2005


Neuschwanstein, or as I knew it previously, King Ludwig's castle. The night before we were scheduled to leave our ski trip, my husband suggested a little detour on the way home. Let's go see Neuschwanstein!

So we left early on Saturday morning and headed to Neuschwanstein (on the border of Austria and Germany). On the way there we stopped in Innsbruck, a city I've been wanting to visit. As we drove into Innsbruck, the first thing you wee is the 1976 Olympic Ski Jump -- very impressive. We parked the car and walked though the old town... very charming and very quaint. We also visited the Swarovski crystal show room. The kids bought their teachers pencils with red and pink crystals at the top. We really liked Innsbruck, but would have enjoyed walking around more if it wasn't freezing out.

We got back in the car and drove to Neuschwanstein. It took a lot longer than we expected because it was a two lane road to get there and there were many cars on the road, probably leaving their ski resorts like we were. We finally arrived at 3pm and quickly bought the tickets to the castle. We took a horse drawn carriage to the castle. It's about a 20 minute walk up to the castle, but since it was freezing, we decided on the carriage.

The only way to see King Ludwig's Castle is by guided tour. That means that about 80 people are let in every 5 minutes to listen to an audio phone guide. There were probably 5 different languages on the phone. The guard unlocks a room, lets you enter, tells you to press play on your phone and then waits for all the phones to stop talking... then unlocks the next room and herds you in and you do the same thing. The tour was one of the worst I've ever been on. In one room you'll be told about the room and then you'll be told something like..."You'll be passing 5 rooms on the way to the dining room. In the third bedroom that you pass, look on the dresser under the left window for the ancient family vase made of rose marble." You can't even remember what you are supposed to look at because the herd is pushing you along so fast.

Having said that the tour isn't great, the inside of the castle is really a feast for the eyes. I don't know much about King Ludwig, but boy did he like ornate and colorful things. Most of the chandeliers look like big gold crowns with beautiful gems around the side. The walls were all brightly colored and he loved to have his artisans paint on fabric to mount on the walls.... to give a tapestry effect. It really was, as the guide says, a fairy tale castle. Well worth a visit. Too bad it's in the middle of nowhere.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:04 PM



Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Ski Trip

I'll try to provide a summary of our ski trip. We left Friday night and drove about half way. We arrived at a military base (where we have connections *wink*) 10 minutes before the commissary closed. I ran into the grocery store and in true supermarket sweep fashion, I am running down each aisle pulling items off the shelf. I was waiting on line 12 minutes later with boxes of Bisquick, cake mixes, hot sauce, children's tylenol, cheerios, sunmaid raisins, Goldfish, yoohoo chocolate drink, Pam, brown sugar, molasses and a few other items. I've never shopped so fast, so efficiently in my life. It was a beautiful 10 minutes and everything is now happily on my Parisian shelves.

Arrived at the hotel on Saturday afternoon and we rented our skis. Then the whole family headed to the pool. About that time I'm starting to feel really sick. I eat dinner with my birthday girl daughter and am in bed by 8pm shivering. The kids head out to ski school on Sunday and I stay in bed the whole day. Monday I get myself out of bed to head to the town doctor. He prescribes some medicine. I walk back to my hotel room and spend the rest of the day in bed with a high fever.

That night, Monday night, my son and husband at the spur of the moment (and brought on by only a little! pleading by my son) go tobogganning -- although I believe it is a luge, rather than a toboggan. This is one of those activities that would never be allowed in the US because it is way too dangerous. Well maybe that is an exaggeration. At 8:30pm in total darkness, you take two ski lifts up a mountain (around 700 meters up). There is a grooved area in the snow, kind of like a long half pipe, for you to toboggan down the side of a mountain. There is very little ability to control the tobaggan -- you can't turn it and unless you jump off it, you can't stop the sled -- at least at the speed you are flying down the mountain. It's basically an accident waiting to happen. It didn't happen the first time. The first time, by some luck and the thought that it really can't be as dangerous as it seems, the two boys went careening down the mountain without a care. My son jumps up at the end and says it's the best thing he's ever done in his life (probably a similiar reaction to those who parachute jump out of an airplane and survive -- you know you've come close to death). The second time, the sled flipped over and they both got bruised, but my husband twisted his already bad knee. They were soaking wet and still had to get down to the bottom of the mountain. They didn't take a third trip.

My husband limped around the rest of the week and didn't ski at all since he was waiting for me to recuperate. I woke up the next morning feeling like the plague had been lifted from my body. I went out skiing by myself and it felt great. My husband sat at the top of the mountain and read a book and I joined him for lunch. It was nice, but not how we expected to spend our vacation. We aren't big skiiers, my husband even less so because of his bad knees, but we do enjoy a day or two of skiing together. My husband will have to head to the orthopedist this week.

My friend and I (in blue) at the top of one of the mountains.

The kids had a great time skiing. They both stayed in ski school for the week and learned a lot. My son likes his group lessons, but he likes skiing straight down the mountain best. In his mind, learning to turn only slows you down. We're going to have to watch him. But he did come in third in place during the ski school ski races and got to stand on the podium. My daughter really did well this time. By the end of the week she was skiing down hills that I never would have thought possible last week. I'm so proud of them.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
5:04 PM



Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Just a little update. We took two days and drove to Austria (it takes about 9 hours). We arrived at this very family friendly hotel we´ve been coming to for a few years and I promptly felt ill. Really sick. The kids would go out skiing every day and I would stay in bed and sleep. On Monday, I got up the energy to go to the doctor´s office in town. I had a sinus infection. After antibiotics for a day, I finally emerged from the hotel room.

On the day I started taking my medicine, my husband took my son out for a night of toboganning. My husband ended up flipping over and his knee, already bad, got twisted. So I finally got well and now my husband can´t ski. I hit the slopes yesterday and it felt great to be outside. The ski conditions are wonderful here. Lots of snow. Not too cold. I´m sorry you can´t be here too. My daughter is even skiing this year.

I will give a full report with pictures when I´m back.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:57 PM



Saturday, February 19, 2005

Happy Birthday

Today is my daughter's 5th birthday. We woke up at a military base and had a quick breakfast at Burger King. They gave my daughter a crown to wear for her birthday. Then we drove for a few hours and ate at McDonald's on the way. We finally arrived in Austria around 4 hours after leaving the German base.

That night I wasn't feeling well, so my husband went to the store to pick out a birthday cake. A group of friends, also on the ski trip, gathered around while we sang happy birthday.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:00 PM



Friday, February 18, 2005


When we first arrived in Paris, a new book had been published about an expat living here. Adam Gopnik's, Paris To The Moon, was one of my first reads and I took it all very seriously. I visited most of the places he talked about in the book, Deyrolle, L'Oiseau du Paradis and rue de Seine my first year. One place he wrote about a lot... Balzar's Brasserie.... but I never found the time to eat there.

A few months ago my husband and I had dinner there on our date night. After a build up of four years, I was very disappointed with my meal. It was fine, but there are so many more places serving really good food in Paris. I know the owners changed since the time he used to eat there, but could the food have degraded that much? Just one of those things I should have kept pretty in my mind and not actually experienced.

I passed by the Balzar Brasserie, in all it's bright lights and glory, yesterday.

We are off on our ski week today. I will try to post occasionally, but I'm not sure how that will work out. Hope you have a nice week without me. I'll catch up on your blogs when I get back.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:12 AM



Thursday, February 17, 2005


You are entering the home of Honoré de Balzac. He rented a few rooms in this home, in the 16th arrondissement, for some 7 years in the 1840s. Our walking tour of Balzac's home, a place where he rented some rooms, took about an hour. You can see a walking cane he used, the desk he used to write on in his writing room, and paintings that he owned, like the one of his second wife, Eveline Hanska. Ms Hanska, a rich woman from Poland, sent Balzac a letter telling him how much she loved his work. A correspondence was started, one that lasted 15 years and outlasted her spouse. In 1849, Balzac visited the widowed Ms Hanska in Poland and there were married in 1850. Three months later he died.

Balzac might best be know for his Human Comedy /La Comédie Humaine, which spanned more than 90 novels encompassing over 2,000 named characters written in 20 years. There are about three hundred printing press stamps of various characters that are displayed in one full room of the museum. The Human Comdey stories are a chronicle of life, especially bourgeois life, in France during the Restoration and reign of Louis-Philippe.

I think I liked this tour mostly because our tour guide, Claude Rocca, clearly loved Balzac's various works. He obviously read a lot of Balzac in his French high school. Later in the day I found myself near an English-language bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, and asked if they carried the Human Comedy. They didn't. I'll try again at a different store because now my interest is piqued.

At the museum there is a sculpture of Balzac by Rodin. Rodin was commissioned to create a monument to Balzac, nearly 40 years after his death. Rodin worked for 7 years on this project and created many studies, especially of Balzac's head. Rodin's finished work was met with outrage and ridicule and to this day, according to Claude, is still not accepted by the French public. The full statute is somewhere hard to find in the 14th. I thought this head was fascinating.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:43 PM



Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Bicycle Race

Well big news was released today.... the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team's Lance Armstrong announced that he will be competing in the 2005 Tour de France (TdF). He will be seeking his seventh straight victory in the famous bicycle race. In 2004, Armstrong made history by becoming the first cyclist to win six Tours de France and we were there to see it happen.

We've been watching the TdF for three years straight. The first year we didn't know where to position ourselves and waited for about 3 hours for a 10 second glimpse of the riders. Two years ago was a lot of fun because it was the 100th anniversary of the bike race, and to celebrate, the TdF race started in Paris for the first time since 1950 with a traditional finish on the Champs Elysées. We walked about 5 minutes from our home, sat on the hill by the statute of Benjamin Franklin and watched Lance speed by to at the start of the race. We also watched him win, about three weeks later, on the Champs Elysees. It was very exciting.

Last year was very fun too. First, the TdF course went right past my sister's front door in the south of france. Of course, when she found out about this, she invited us down. See the picture below with my son on my sister's balcony. You can imagine our GO USA didn't go over too well. In fact, my sister's neighbors quickly put up a sign of their favorite... Richard Virenque.

A couple of weeks after that we rode our bikes to the Champes Elysees to watch the competitors cross the finish line. At that point, everyone knew Lance had won an historic 6th time and there were a number of Texas and American flags on the famous avenue. They played the American national anthem and all these Americans were walking down the Champs Elysees singing out loud and waving their flags. Then, because he's dating Sheryl Crow they played "All I want to do is have some fun."

I'm really looking forward to the TdF this year even though there is no major anniversary or record to break. I'm not even sure I want Lance to win this year, but I'm sure he will. Have you ever read his books, e.g., It's Not About The Bike? The man is driven. Anyway, it's lucky 7 for him.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:39 PM



Tuesday, February 15, 2005

My Private Class

Today was another cold, light snow/light hail, blustery kind of day. A little sun would go a long way for me.

At my afternoon French class, a small class to start with, no one else showed up today. I had the teacher all to myself. She told me I'm getting improving my pronunciation and my comprehension is ever better. My pronunciation? She's just being kind. However, I must agree, I do understand a lot more now when I'm spoken to. It really helps make me feel more comfortable in my life here. My newest "thing" is to look straight at those folks carrying maps or just looking lost ... with my go ahead, ask melook. Today, someone almost had me stumped because the street they were looking for is closer to the next metro stop, they clearly got off too early, but I gave them directions anyway. It's just one of my strange little tests that helps me practice my French and hear how French people pronounce some of the street names.

So today I could ask my French teacher all sorts of questions that have been bothering me. In the end, we focused on three subjects over the 90 minutes:

1. Review of a New Year's Wishes cartoon, Le Regard de Cabu that I found in the Paris Mairie/Town Hall Magazine. That cartoon link gives an example of Cabu's work on page 5. This is all I could find in English about Cabu, a very popular French comic creator. I really enjoyed going through each cartoon box as the teacher explained the social or political intent behind the pictures and words. Very interesting. Made me feel a little closer to understanding what some of the major issues are in France.

2. The Present Subjunctive. What?? It was her choice. Basically, I learned about its use... when?.. after a verb that expresses some kind of insistence and after a verb that expresses doubt or fear or some other emotion. For example: Je doute qu'il vienne/I doubt that he is coming/. Honestly, I don't think I'll need it much in my normal conversation, but my teacher swears it will be very useful for me.

3. I am forever perplexed by the certain grammatical uses of "en." I've had many other basic things to worry about, like speaking in the past, e.g., I went out last night... glad to be able to say that now, but the "en" thing was a mystery to me. I think I understand it a bit better now. Hope she goes over it again when the whole class is there. Sometimes I really need to hear things twice or thrice.. At least she thinks I'm improving.

Here is a picture I took yesterday as I was getting on the metro at Edgar Quinet in Montparnasse. Sometimes I think there is art and beauty everywhere you look (except down, bien sur) in Paris.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:48 PM



Monday, February 14, 2005

Les Années Folles

I woke up feeling much better today. Not that I had much choice with my husband out of town and two kids that needed to be walked to school. The mother of my son's friend offered to walk my kids to school, but I felt well enough to do it. However, I wasn't prepared for the cold and wind! It actually hailed here yesterday, but I never left the apartment. I was in for a shock of winter this morning.

Another motivation to get up and going was a special breakfast with my walking tour group. Our tour guide Jacques gave a little talk on Les Années Folles -- the famous Americans in Paris and the famous French in the United States during the Crazy Years (roughly 1919-1929)-- over croissant and café.

After WWI, Paris became an intellectual and artistic center. The Montmartre and Montparnasse areas were magnets for new, 20th century creations of surrealism, art deco and jazz. Young, often impoverished American writers including Hemingway and Fitzgerald would socialize with the intellectual community at four literary cafés on the boulevard Montparnasse -- la Coupole, le Select, la Rotonde, and le Dôme. We met at Le Select for breakfast today.

At the breakfast we heard about the many famous Americans in France in the 20s but one person stood out for me... Josephine Baker. Ms Baker was amazing! According to Jacques, Ms Baker was the first woman to get on a popular Parisian stage (as opposed to the seedy places) and perform bare breasted. Who knew that this bare breasted stuff was started by an American in Paris??

More importantly, Ms Baker was an intelligence informant for the French Resistance. She would perform on stage for the Germans, find out secret information, and pass it on to the Americans with invisible ink on her sheet music. As a result of this work, she was awarded the highest honors the French can bestow: the Croix de Guerre, Rosette de la Resistance and the Legion d'Honneur. Upon her death, at age 68, she was accorded a full-scale, 21-gun salute State Funeral at the Church of the Madeleine in Paris, the first woman of American birth ever to be so honored in France. There were 20,000 people in attendance. On February 2, 2001, the city of Paris paid tribute to Josephine Baker by dedicating "place Josephine Baker" in the Montparnasse area.

Le Select.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
2:57 PM



Sunday, February 13, 2005


My husband took my daughter across town to play with her cousin for the afternoon. He'll be back in the next 15 minutes because he has to leave town tonight for a work trip to Switzerland. He'll be gone for most of the week.

My son has just been picked up by his friend's mother who knows I'm sick. She is so kind to pick him up. So I have a few precious minutes to myself before the commotion of family life begins again.

I am still pretty sick. It feels like an electric shock every time I try to swallow. The good news is that I will feel better in a day or two....because the February vacation begins on Saturday.. better sick now than on vacation. Many people go skiing during this two week break. We will too, for one week. But I can't think about snow and skiing right now. I'm thinking only about returning to my warm bed while it is quiet.

Thank you all for your kind notes to me and my family while we've been sick. I do appreciate it.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
3:11 PM



Saturday, February 12, 2005

Me too..

These are the way things usually work, and it was no different this time around. The facts: husband sick Tuesday night, Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday afternoon, daughter leaves school early and is sick on Friday. See where this is going? Last night I notice my throat is killing me. Wake this morning and have "the cold." Good news is that with the antibiotics for her ear infection, my daughter is feeling better. Bad news could be... that my daughter's 5th birthday party was scheduled for today -- at 11:30am! I'm moved slowly trying to get everything ready for all the kids. We actually hired an entertainer (very typical here) for the party. That made it easier, but we still had 14 kids. Three didn't show up because they are contagious. One French mother... "qu'est que c'est le mot en Anglais pour conjuntivitus?" Glad that one stayed away!

Add to the mix that my son had Louvre tickets for the afternoon and my husband was taking him and two friends to see another performance of Les Fables de Fontaine and it turned out it was the same group of performers as the show we saw at the Opera.

Finally, after the last guest left the party at 4pm (my sister was in town and stayed longer, but she doesn't count) I pretty much fell apart. I realized I feel REALLY sick. Soon my husband was back and encouraged me to take some medicine and rest since.... we have our babysitter tonight because we have a dinner to go to! I almost didn't make it out of bed, but I thought, and this is the real me you're seeing here, I wouldn't want someone to cancel out on me at the last minute. So I took more medicine and headed out at 8:30pm. Shortly after we arrived we got a call from my son.... his throat hurts. Looks like tomorrow isn't going to be much fun for this family.

I won't bore you too much with the dinner party timing, except to say two things. We were the first to arrive for the dinner party at 8:50pm and that at shortly before midnight, after the cheese plate I said I felt woozy and had to leave. I meant this to be a short post, but what can I say.... Off to take my Theraflu!

Here is a picture of my daughter dressed up in her Hello Kitty stuff courtesy of her godfather in Tokyo.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:42 PM



Friday, February 11, 2005

Moving Out

Even though I had a scheduled walking tour today to go visit the Cognac-Jay Musuem, I didn't go. My daughter did not get better last night and awoke this morning with her ears still hurting. She told my husband that she thought she had spider webs in her ears. *digdigdig* "That's ok daddy, I got it out!" Not sure what that meant, but don't think it was good.

We called the pediatrician first thing in the morning and found out her first appointment was for 3:30pm. So my daughter and I spent our day sitting next to each other on the couch while she would periodically scream in pain. At one point, we notice something outside our window, the sole excitment of the day... someone was moving into our apartment.

These old Parisian apartments were created for the haves and the have nots. Those on the first 5 floors of our building have access to the elevator and the main stairwell. Those on the first 5 floors, in the past at least, had 'help.' The help lived on the 6th floor, where they would have a studio apartment and share a hall bathroom. They have a stairwell, but it is smaller. It's practically impossible to move items of any large size up the small stairwell. As a result, they have to use this portable elevator to move, or in the case today, move in. (Actually, using the portable elevator is quite common, especially on upper floors. Everything goes in and out through the windows.)

The first picture is the view of the move-in from our window. On the elevator is a bed. The second picture is the elevator from the street.

By the way, my walking tour friend did go to the museum today and did not give it a great review. The collection was bequethed by Ernest Cognacq and his wife Louise Jay. Although the original collection was very impressive, the couple stipulated in the will that some relative was allowed to take about $5 million worth of paintings from the collection. Needless to say, this relative took the best pictures, so the lesser paintings are in this collection and it's not that big. Doesn't sound like I need to make a trip there when there are so many other museums in this city.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:15 AM



Thursday, February 10, 2005


While over in the 7th arrondissement today I headed to one of my favorite boulangerie's in Paris, Poujauran. It has many delicious things to offer, including their well-known and well-loved canelé cakes. However, my favorite item to order is the sable a l'orange et raisin -- these absolutely simple and delicious flat cookies. If you go to the store, sacs of these wonderful cookies are always located right next to register. If you are walking around rue Cler, you most definitely need to head over to this bakery.

My husband and daughter were both home sick today. Although my husband is on the mend, my daughter was complaining that her ear hurt. She had a number of ear infections before the age of two, but it's been a while since she's had one. I hope she doesn't have a new infection, but if it hurts in the morning, we'll head over to the doctor.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:54 PM




Today I had a meeting about the March 15 Bloom Where You're Planted program. This is the bi-annual orientation program that is held at the American Church in Paris (ACP). The program helps newly arrived English speakers, preparing them for life in France. There are speakers who talk about raising children in Paris, the history of France, health care options, how to shop, how to bake with the different ingredients here... you get the idea. Additionally, many of the English speaking groups around town come to display their organizational information.

The conference also provides you an opportunity to meet other people in your same situation. I can't say enough good things about the program. For those of you working in France, there is also a Bloom While You Work program on March 19. If you are interested in either program, click the Bloom button on the left margin.

The ACP has two windows designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, "Faith" and "Hope." Apparently, these window are the only works by the Tiffany studios installed in a religious setting in France.

Here is a picture of "Hope."

-- said Auntie M in Paris
8:28 PM


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Mister Cauchemar

Today I took my son and his best friend to the Bastille Opera to see Mister Cauchemar/Mister Nightmare. My friend had bought the tickets for her son and my son expecting to take them both. Unfortunately, at the last minute she was called out of town. I had to find someone to watch my daughter. As it turned out my husband came down with some flu virus last night and stayed home sick today, so my daughter stayed with him.

Mister Nightmare is part of the kids series of shows at the Opera. It lasted about 75 minutes and it was packed with lots of action. I think there were about 40 kids in the show, from the ages of 12 until 18. It was kind of a musical and the kids seemed to enjoy it. There wasn't as much fidgeting as I expected from my son, so he must have been entertained. I just hope some of the images, which were scary, don't frighten him tonight. He has a very low threshold for this stuff as I do did when I was young.

In the end, Mister Cauchemar says "There are no monsters to be scared of. Sleep well tonight." I didn't follow everything, but all the children in the audience, and there were probably at least 400, jumped up and applauded. My son said it was good, although I'm not sure how many more times I'm going to get him to the Opera, especially with the weather warming up here. He'd much rather be outside. It was another pleasant day here -- mild, no rain -- considering it's mid-February.

Here is a picture of Place Bastille, where the prison once stood. To remember not the surrender of the prison Bastille, which had only a few prisoners in 1789, but the 1830 July Revolution, which replaced the autocratic Charles X with the "Citizen King" Louis-Philippe, a column was erected. The column is topped by the 'Spirit of Liberty' statue.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
6:44 PM



Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Mardi Gras

Today was Mardi Gras and those in the maternelle/pre-k section of the school celebrated the holiday. The children dressed in the fashion of the those of Brittany past. That means the girls wore aprons decorated with lace tops. The boys wore black pants and black wide-brimmed hats. After lunch, to celebrate Brittany and Mardi Gras, crepes were prepared for the children by a woman dressed in traditional Breton clothing (I'm told -- obviously, I wasn't there!).

After the gouter/snack of crepes they ate candy, drank juice and threw lots of confetti around the play area at school. Who said they don't have fun at school? Ok, so I did. Well, today the maternelle children had a lot of fun and were pretty much on a sugar high when the parents got to the school for pick up.

To run off some of the sugar and because it was a wonderful spring day here, some of us took our kids to the park. While my son was playing soccer in the fenced off grassy area (just for show, not for play!), my daughter goofed around with her friend. This friend goes to another school, an international school. At that school, they celebrated Chinese New Year today. Don't the girls look cute together?

-- said Auntie M in Paris
6:30 PM



Monday, February 07, 2005

Valentine's Day Gathering

To create some fun Valentine's Day crafts at home, each child invited a friend over yesterday. A few days earlier I made the salt dough that you roll out and I cut heart shapes. These heart ornaments took a few days to dry. The kids painted the hearts at the party. Then they glossed them and put magnets on the back. I think they came out great.

Also, I made heart shaped cookies and had the kids spread pink icing on them and then sprinkled all sorts of fun sugar shaped candies.

Here is a picture of the magnets and one of the big pink cookies. It was hard keeping track of which hearts were edible!

Also, I've finally added an 'about me' section. Philip asked me to tell why I'm here is Paris. If you are interested, just press the "Qui est Auntie M?" button on the left side.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:50 PM





It just kind of popped out. It was involuntary, a nervous reaction really, kind of like I had Tourette's or something. And it certainly came out louder than I would have hoped, since there had been a loud action scene that had gone suddenly quiet. The guy in front stirred and my husband looked at me in slight horror and turned an interesting shade of red that shone through the dark.

We were in the middle of watching Aviator the biopic about Howard Hughes that was just released in France. Like all good expats, we scan the listings for the movies "en VO" or in the original version which means they are shown in the original language and subtitled in French. This is a much more pleasant way to watch a movie even though we can basically understand the French. While there may be nuances "Lost in Translation," there is more that is lost in dubbing. The movie has a dead feeling, the mouths aren't in sync with the words and George Clooney just does not sound like that.

Plus there are many side benefits to sub-titles. If you are a good reader you can figure out what is going to happen even before it is said. "And the murderer is" pause pause pause "the Butler!" On the screen it is written "And the murderer is... the Butler." You hear the idiom in English and you can see it on the screen. You get to learn phrases, like as coquette noted, that feeling blue is "avoir le cafard" or to have the cockroach. And it is always the same feeling. The light goes on in your head and that internal voice says, "OOOooooh, the slang word for eating, is bouffe! Hahahaha!"

So, I had one of those little moments the other night. The light went off, but perhaps it was a little too shocking or maybe funny, and the little internal voice went unfortunately external.

When the movie was over and I wanted to engage in the thumbs up thumbs down post mortem*, my husband was busy scanning the people sitting near us. As we were walking out, he turned to me and said, "Geez, you sounded like a thirteen year old boy screaming out the word 'tits' with such glee."

For what it is worth, I didn't scream.

* Aviator: Thumbs up, It was beautifully filmed but it didn't match the hype. While playing a guy who slips into madness is Oscars bait, Leo DiCaprio just looked like he was trying too hard. And does Scorcese know an editing man?

-- said Auntie M in Paris
4:08 PM



Sunday, February 06, 2005

Mirror, Mirror

Yesterday the family took a trip to a museum we've never been to before... Palais de la Decouverte. A friend told us about a special exhibit going on there... Jeux de Miroirs/Game of Mirrors. My kids love the fun house type mirrors at the Jardin D'Acclimatation...where they walk in front of the different mirrors.. concave, convex, wavy... and see themselves stretched or shortened, thinner or thicker. Since they love the mirrors, we knew they'd have a good time at this special exhibit.

Before I left I called another friend to see if her family would like to come with us, but she had birthday parties to go to. However, she said it was a nice museum and that we really should call ahead to make sure we catch "l'ecole des rats"/the school of rats. So we called and found out that the "school" started at 3pm. That motivated us pretty quick since it was only an hour away.

The rat school was pretty cool. The scientist does a little spiel and he is great with the kids. It's a very interactive show. The rats are then put through the maze.. pushing buttons to open doors, climbing up stairs and stretching across holes in the floor to reach the final destination, pull a hoop and receive food. The kids were all fascinated. If you are ever in Paris with kids, this is a wonderful museum with many interactive science exhibits. There is also a planetarium show that we didn't have time for, so we will have to go back another day.

After the museum we walked a bit down the Champs-Elysees. I was thinking we hadn't taken the kids there, but they reminded me we take them there to watch Le Tour de France every year. We ended up at PSG (Paris St Germain) the Paris soccer team store and bought my son an overpriced shirt.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:36 PM



Saturday, February 05, 2005

I'm in Trouble with the Law

DJ Wren sent me this link.
Apparently, it is illegal to publish pictures of the Eiffel Tower when it is lit up unless you have the necessary permission. According to the article, the lighting display used at night by the company maintaining the tower is under copyright. Unbelievable!

The beautiful Eiffel Tower:
____________Legal________________Not So Legal_____________Not Legal?

-- said Auntie M in Paris
1:35 PM



Friday, February 04, 2005

The Break-Up

It was just one of those things, something that had been building over time. It was nice while it lasted, really. He was the ultimate gentleman, witty in his own way, and always genuinely warm, truly happy to see me -- but ultimately I didn't think I was getting out of the relationship what I was putting in. So it was time to break it off. I know, I know it is awkward what with him outside the door everyday except Sundays and I considered that in my decision to go my own way. This was two years ago and everything now seemed fine. He'd gone through all the stages of the break-up. Incomprehension, bitter, hopeful, stalking, resentful, pretend to ignore me and finally, I thought, acceptance. I even detected a new person in his life a while back. Then last week, as I was crossing the street, I had the distinct impression that he was trying to run me down. Had he not moved on? Was he still harboring feelings for me? I subconsciously noticed that the new person didn't seem to be around anymore. Was he taking out the new rejection on me?

I caught out of the corner of my eye his familiar little white camionette half way down the one way street one day. Of course if it wasn't for the construction on my side of the street that has been going on for ages I would not have been walking in the middle of the block. The streets of Paris are filled with little obstacle courses that force you to step aside, change you path or block you all together. This construction is particularly bad because either I risk my life by walking in the middle of the street along the fence of the "chantier"/work site or I have to walk on the other side of the street and right by *him.* His vehicle seemed to speed up and pass me just a little too close for comfort, although I could have been imagining it. Maybe he didn't see me? I looked back as he parked his car, but he just jumped out and never looked my way. Phew.

When we first moved to Paris, we were thrilled with the little boutiques, specialty shops, small grocery stores and service personnel who were all within short walking distance. We have a wonderful cheese store run by people who adore our children and always have a little candy at the ready. We used to have a dry cleaner kitty corner to us who would melt when the kids would hang out the window screaming good bye to daddy on his way to work. While the standard waiting time for clothes was four days, she could, with a little twinkle in the eye, have them done in two if we needed. We have achieved standing at the boulangerie. While very formal and somewhat humorless, the owner carefully selects the fresh warm baguettes for us passing over other older ones that are given to less privileged customers.

Finally, at the boucherie we frequent and where we single-handedly keep them in business by buying many poulet-roties, we achieved legend status by buying a turkey out of season (during Thanksgiving) and then telling our American friends about it. We always get a hearty welcome there. But they weren't always our butcher..

See we have one much closer -- right across the street -- and we, well, we had to break up with him. He is just a one-person operation. The store was handed down from father to son -- apparently many years ago. He still has the same awning from when it was still "et fils" (and son) and in those first few days we thought this was so quaint, so useful, so Paris. This was the experience you were supposed to have. He watched us move in and in those first few days when we were taking the baby steps of our French experience, he was one of the first to welcome us to the quartier. Naturally when we needed a roast or a cut of meat we went straight to him. Admittedly going to him was painful, we knew that right from the start. Being a small store, he doesn't need much traffic to make a go of it and the few customers seem to be prized for breaking up the monotony of the day. He loves to talk. You couldn't get out of there in under twenty minutes and we, the expats with a bad accent and a limited vocabulary, were a special project, an opportunity to teach French and indoctrinate in the ways of the world.

The steep price we paid for the meat, we reasoned, was just the price you pay for the personal attention and the *experience *. But beyond the steep prices, we started to question the quality of the meat. One particular roast lead us to cheat on him. At first we felt bad. We would hide the bag as we fumbled for the keys to open the door. And we would go back to him from time to time -- we did like his steak hache (hamburger) after all. But we soon found our needs and wallets being taken care of better elsewhere. Our relationship was over for good during one of my father's visits. We bought one more roast from him and my father confirmed what we knew in our heart of hearts -- the meat wasn't very good and it was ridiculously over priced. (My father also wondered if the guy was running numbers, but that is another story.)

We have friends who buy their baguettes from one place and their patisseries from another, because the baguettes from the good patisserie taste like communion wafers, but the crusts of the tartelettes at the baguette store are always soggy. They have to hide the pastries when entering the baguette store, lest their patisserie people get insulted. If I ever buy cheese from the grocery store and then pass the fromagerie/cheese store, I never look in to the store, lest they realize that since I haven't been to their store, we must be cheating on them. Just today I was in line at our local supermarche that is a few doors down from the cheese shop and, horrors, the cheese shop owner was in line just ahead of me. (Quick! Rearrange the basket, hide the milk, slide the babybel cheese out of the way.) So, living and shopping together is a bit of a double edged sword. French society runs on strong relationships and neighborhood commerce, it seems, is the same way. Yes you are allowed to shop around at the beginning, but at some point you have to invest a little time and effort into the relationship especially if you want the little extras that are denied the outsiders. At the same, since it is a little more intimate, breaking up is truly hard to do. But let me tell you, a warm baguette outweighs maniacal butchers with big knives any day.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
1:23 AM



Thursday, February 03, 2005

Next it'll be Amway

I always thought I was immune to certain things while living in France. One is telephone requests. On the rare occasions when I do get a call, I simply state I only speak English and they usually hang up pretty quick.

So I was surprised today. About a week ago I got a call from someone who had met me on a walking tour. Apparently, she had met me at the Bloom program in October and she was happy to see me on the walking tour. I wasn't sure why at the time. Now I know.

So anyway, she called and asked me to her house for an afternoon coffee. Now, she isn't American or French or a native English speaker for that matter, so I wasn't exactly sure what the address was or some of the other details when she told me them over the phone. I knew I wouldn't know anyone there, so I kept putting off my decision on whether to go. I realized this morning I never called to say 'no,' so now I was going to have to go. I called her this morning and asked her to spell out the details. Anyway, I arrived and found myself in a tupperware-like party! It was, in fact, a party for magnetic bracelets. You put on the bracelets and they are supposed to help with all sorts of aliments. I had actually spent my last bit of money on macaroons to give as a gift. I had no money even if I had wanted to buy the bracelets. So I stayed and listened to the sell. I left early and the woman said "you know a lot of people. Please share this information." Then she handed me some brochures.

At school the other day the English teacher asked me if I had any songs about diversity and everyone getting along. My husband suggested Three Dog Night's "Black and White" song. We don't have a copy of that and I'm not sure it's an easy song for the young kids to sing. I was reviewing all of the songs on our computer and found Marlo Thomas' Free To Be You and Me album. So I burned a copy of the lead song for the English teacher. I was so happy I found a good song that seemed to fit the requirements I played it for my husband on the phone at work. He's like... "I've never heard that song before." I had to watch this movie in elementary school a couple of times. Has anyone else heard of this song? At the end of the day the English teacher said she had played the song for a board of other teachers who wanted to know if it was some patriotic song. What??

For our date night tonight we went to a movie, the Aviator, on the Champs Elysees. It's one of my favorite dates because we always head to Hagen Daas after the movie. Tonight it was pretty chilly for ice cream, but that didn't stop us.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:59 PM



Wednesday, February 02, 2005


I've never considered myself an 'artsy' type of person. Aside from the tracing stage I went through when I was 8 -- when I thought I had some talent -- I really don't have an artistic bone in my body. I wish I were more of an art connoisseur.

Although I didn't like the book, one story in Almost French stunned me....when she told of her husband's disdain for most hotel art. His displeasure was at such a level that he would take the picture off the wall and place it on the floor so he wouldn't have to look at the repugnant art. Wow. I thought... imagine having such good taste you can't even look at something ugly without it making you ill!

Getting back to my day... today my son's best friend and his mother, and the two kids and I went to a "spectacle jeune public," a young children's event at the Louvre.

The 'spectacle' was a movie, Chang, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1929. Chang was supposedly the prototype for a later movie by the same producers, King Kong. Chang is a silent movie, with some written words to bring the viewer along on the ride. For our viewing pleasure, the Louvre had a band of three playing kind of a jazzy beat along the movie's storyline. There was a piano player, flutist and drummer. It was an impressive combination. It was kind of an 'artsy' movie and I really enjoyed it. Maybe there is hope for me!

Chang was created by two producers who stayed in the Thailand (Siam) jungle for two years filming a farming family (including their pet Bimbo the monkey) and the savage animals that threatened their existence. When my son was asked about the movie, he said, "it was about people killing animals." Yes, well that was a large part of it. The final scene was particularly powerful... a stampede of elephants... probably 150 or so. I just kept wondering, throughout the movie, how did they ever film this scene or that scene? It just seemed that the producers must have gotten really close to these animals... panthers, snakes, lions, and elephants.. and most of the time the animals weren't happy.

Taking the kids to a workshop at the Louvre has been on my list of things to do for some time and I was glad to finally get there. After the movie, the kids had a great time running around under the pyramid and walking up and down the grand staircase. Considering it was an overcast day, this trip to the Louvre worked out well.

Remember my picture last week? Well my son and his friend insisted I take pictures of their little stuffed animals while at the Louvre. Maybe Dan Brown could incorporate this into his DaVinci Code II book...

-- said Auntie M in Paris
11:45 PM



Tuesday, February 01, 2005

This is not the US

Today was the final straw. Those of you who know me well may wonder why it took so long for a smart person to stay in the game when it was a lose-lose situation. I have no answers. Today after 4 1/2 years, I'm officially breaking free of my American love of holidays self, and my volunteer in school to enrich the learning process self, and will not make any more offers to the teachers at school (if they ever ask, that is a different story).

Today after school:

Me: Over the next two weeks before the February holiday I'd like to bring in a craft project. I'd make clay hearts for the class and they could paint them and put magnets on the back.
Teacher: I make all the projects for the class. The last time when you brought in a project I misunderstood what you were saying (she told me to speak in English that time -- never again has she done that!).
Me: Ok. Fine. I understand. I just thought I'd ask.
Teacher: Yes, well thank you for the offer. It was very kind.
Me: Well, it was just a normal offer in the US.
Teacher: This is not the same as the US.
Me: Yes, I do understand that. Thank you.

(This from the teacher who told me this morning to bring our daughter on time in the future, because "we have a lot of work to do over the next few weeks." Yes, my daughter is FOUR.)

It was actually a fine conversation, but that was it! I know, it takes me a long time to learn an easy lesson. Just FYI... I am still going to send the kids into school with Valentine's Day cards for all the kids. I'm allowed, right?

Tomorrow is a holiday here... Le Chandeleur. Jerome and Amerloque reminded me that this is a February holiday for the kids in France. So thanks to them and to my French teacher who gave me an article on the holiday today. What is Le Chandeleur? It's a charming day where your family gathers around and makes crepes. You hold a euro in your left hand (it used to be a gold piece) and in your right hand you flip your crepe. If it lands properly, a year of prosperity is yours. I went out and bought a box of crepe mix tonight (I know I should make it from scratch but we are addicted to our mixes!) and we will be celebrating tomorrow. Here's to a successful flip...

-- said Auntie M in Paris
9:39 PM