Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lucky for me the Austrians like cats!

Look what I found for my sister for Christmas!!  It is a cat version of Gustav Klimt's The Kiss.
Who knew the Austrians were cat people? 
I do hope #3 likes it.
But really, who doesn't like cat versions of art?

Monday, November 28, 2011


France:  the country where lunch is melted cheese. 

This should be their slogan. 

A long and unfunny post about going postal

My sister describes me as the opposite of a Francophile
But you see, it is simple.  I’m about things being functional and France is all about form.
And this week was a "non functional" lesson in going postal.

Monday night – we came back from Vienna.  Our plane is 35 minutes late.  We have not checked any luggage so we walk right off of the plane.  There is a sign that says “RER B replaced by a bus.  Take replacement bus from CDG 3.  Last bus 23h”
It is 5 minutes to 23h. We are in CDG 2.  
Downstairs we go to see what happens when we try to buy tickets.  It is possible the buses are late or it is their last run. I look around.  The buses are nowhere.  We check the regular city buses that go into the center of Paris, but they are also finished for the night.  We check the “cars” buses run by other companies but they cost 20 euros each, one way, and also stop at 23h. 
Taxi’s are 45euros.  So since there are two of us, it is roughly the same price.  So we take a taxi. 
The freeway  around Paris at our exit is closed.  We have to drive 15 extra minutes through a city outside of Paris to get into Paris to our place.  The taxi driver doesn’t take credit cards so we have to stop at a bank. 
Tuesday – I take metro line 13 (nightmare) to line 14.  Line 14 is my dream – completely automated and always functioning.  Except today.  When the metro suddenly stops. I watch the poor woman across from me (50ish, well-dressed), catapult across the floor, high heels fly off.  (similar to my experience in the bus, except as a good French woman, she is not eating  - so less tomato on the floor). We get stuck in the dark in between two stops for 10 minutes.  
Friday – I go in the early morning (this means 9) to the American shops to pick up cranberry sauce and pie crusts.  As previously indicated – to do this I wait for 2 sardine-style packed metros before I finally forcibly back into the person who, 10 seconds earlier, was smashed up against the window.  And now I pray - that the door will shut behind me, with me smashed up against the window, but in the metro. 
I have only 4 stops to go.  We stop 3 additional times to regulate traffic flow.
Friday Evening – I must leave for our train 3 hours early so I can go back to the store (45 minutes from our place) that I was at early in the morning that no longer sells cranberry sauce, but does sell fresh cranberries – and unlike the previous year – is the only place in town to do so (after checking 6 other stores along the way home). I buy my cranberries, turn around and go right to the train station. I arrive 40 minutes early.  It is Friday at 6pm and a mad house.  The train departing at 18h48 is on the flipboard with no quai but listed as “on time”.  The quai number lights up 10 minutes before departure(normally it is 20 minutes before).  We get on a completely dark train – the doors are open, but there are no lights and no personel to say why there are no lights on.  We wait nervously. (There is no connecting train if we are late). I send B out to check.  At 19h our train is “deleted” on the board (no explanation, no announcement). There is another train in 5 minutes.   He has to get back to me, load our stuff up, go up the quai and then back down another quai onto an already full train.  We are RUNNING with 2 rolling bags, 2 backpacks and a shopping bag full of cooking supplies and cranberries.  This is not comical.  This is not Home Alone.  This is almost missing a train and running at full speed in order to spoon people on the bus like I get to on the metro because the people for 2 trains are now on 1 train.  + baggage.  This is the road to going postal. 
And then after 45 minutes of standing in the aisles with our bags – no excuses or apologies, but the automated “We hope you have had an agreeable voyage” announcement. 
I want a gun. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

2 reasons Parisians are so cranky

Cranky is actually a nice word for the general attitude of Parisians.  But from this type of "humeur" I have learned some things.

1.  If you have to literally try to glue yourself onto the outermost ring of the 150 people stuffed (like sardines - no exagerration) in one metro car, all the while praying the door closes behind you without leaving scratches and that your bag gets to go with you, in order  to get yourself  to work in the morning - it might make you "cranky".

2.  And then when you leave work at 7:30p.m. , like most Parisians) for 35-45 minutes of spooning those same 150 people in the metro (who are not as fresh as they were in the morning) to come home to your walk-in closet of an apartment where you can cook and go to the bathroom at the same time.  Yes again, this might leave you "cranky".

But "cranky" has it's advantages.  "Cranky" gives you leverage.  If the store that delivered your desk 6 months late thinks you are fine because you calmly speak to them when you come in to complain -  they are not very motivated to give you something for your suffering.  However if you come in indignantly shouting  about how this was the only thing you really wanted and what kind of a company makes people wait like that - they might give you a gift certificate for the full amount you paid for that desk and then some. 

See how that works?   "Cranky" can be useful.

Now if I could just get over the stress of being a bitch all the time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dusk in Irancy

More from our weekend in Burgundy.  These are from a little wine village called Irancy.  Population:332

A whole new level of unpleasant...

I thought I might wax myself at home.
What sort of temporary insanity entered my brain that made me think this was a good idea, I really can't tell you.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Night View

This was our arrival to the renovated farmhouse we rented for the weekend in Burgundy.  All full of fog and mystery. 
Fire burned the whole weekend. 
And, as expected, B + his friends had the usual food marathon.  I am happy to say  there was more green and red this time (i.e. veg and fruits) and about the usual amount of yellow and blue (moldy cheese). and by that I mean - everyone probably ate their weight in stinky cheese.
Friday was a holiday and we luckily found an open grocery store, though there was a minor crisis when there was not a crumb of bread to be found. 
But quick thinking Frenchmen meant that we ordered some be brought by our friends en route from Geneva.    Whatever would we have done without bread.  Perish the thought!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Parc Monceau

Parc Monceau is a beautifully designed, old park in a very nice part of Paris.

It is good for....

waiting for your buddies,


taking the baby out for a well-dressed stroll and then sitting quietly next to the carousel

 random modern art

and pony rides with real live ponies!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Feeling young

Last time I nicked my ankle while shaving and it bled like it did today, I was 14 and it was my first shave.

Feeling young and fresh today!

Apparently we are the clean ones

Seen on a Paris tour bus: 

French:  Thank you for not throwing anything on the floor
German:  Please do not throw anything on the floor
Spanish:  Please do not leave anything on the floor of the bus
English:  Please do not leave anything behind on the bus

Shall we talk service frustration?

Today we received a desk that we ordered 6 months ago.

scratchity scratch scratch
6 months ago, we had a discount and got excited and bought a desk we had been pining over for 3 years. Plus a chair and some other miscellaneous items.  Our chair was delivered 2 weeks later and had large claw scratches on the back side. Punishing myself for not unwrapping the chair while the delivery guys were here before I signed the stupid paper, I immediately called to report the problem and was redirected to the internet where I needed to write a complaint complete with photos, etc.  Which I did.  And low and behold I got an immediate response complete with claim number,Yay!                                          
And then nothing.  After a week I called the store. They said they would give us a 200 euro credit and get the chair picked up and replaced within a week.  I got a call on Friday to schedule the delivery and when I asked if it was for the chair or for the desk, she said she would call me back. 
Which she kindly did
and then said she didn't know. 
And then on the day of delivery, no one came. 
I wrote a complaint.  I went into the store where they were very nice and took copies of all my paper work.  I was given a contact she said she would get everything arranged.  And then nothing happened. Again. 
I went into the store again and threatened with "it won't be good if she doesn't contact me" (I really really really wanted the desk.  really really. for 3 years). And I find out my contact has gone on vacation.  (and of course no one else can do it.  And she is on French vacation i.e. 2-4 weeks).  5 weeks later without warning they call to deliver the unclawed chair.  THE CHAIR!  Seriously!?  

During the summer (otherwise known as the dead period when 75% of Paris empties out, and so service is nearly non existent.)  I refuse to visit the store again, feeling like they clearly saw that I wouldn't cancel the order and thus I have nothing to threaten).  3 months after our original order and 1 month after the delivery of our unscratched chair, B sends in a ridiculously long complaint letter (like only the French know how to do) detailing (like 3 pages of detailing): conversations by phone, email and in store, including the promised 200 euro credit.  No response.

5 months from our original shopping trip I go to the store again indignant and ready to yell.  They are abnormally polite.  They say they changed manufacturers and the earliest delivery is at the end of the month. 

And that was it.  Call and delivery right on schedule 2 weeks later. Chair delivered right on schedule at the end of the month.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Disturbing advertising

The oddly popular French soda Orangina has the most disturbing advertising.

And by disturbing I mean animals made to look like strippers drinking orange soda. 

More disturbing and to be avoided at all costs: the television commercials.

creepy and gross

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fun in the metro

This is Place de Clichy at 18h30.

When people are tired from the day (or even crankily on their way to work at the early crack of dawn time of 8h30) it looks like this. All these people want to get on an already full metro and they aren't particularly patient or nice about it, as you might guess

Place de Clichy has a particularly interesting mix of 50% rough young people 25% regular locals and 25% tourists, with a nice sprinkling of homeless sleeping on benches.  
And this is the only metro in the 74 stops that plays classical music all day every day.