Thursday, February 18, 2010

Watch your step.

As any casual observer will have noted: there is a ton of dog crap on the streets of Paris. To borrow a device from one of my favorite authors, Chuck Palahniuk: dégôutant isn't quite the right word, but it's the only one that comes to mind (oh but wait! revolting and disgusting are close seconds). Our street is particularly prone to poop; it's less busy car-wise, so makes for a nice street to take your pooch. Take your pooch-to-poop, that is.

Ever since reading Stephen Clarke's amusing A Year in the Merde, I've been pretty smug about never having stepped in any. I've even taught Camille to avoid it, generally by instilling the same hysteria and throwing a near conniption, shouting, "WATCH OUT FOR THE CA-CAAAAA!!" whenever she is within a 5 feet radius of it (which as I've stated, is often). I'm trying to train Roman, too, but at 19 months old, he is less hyper vigilante.

But my day of reckoning came about a week ago while walking to a friend's place in Neuilly when spppplattt!... I stepped in the merde. It's days like that when I miss the upstanding, dog-owning, pay-it-forward citizens of NYC who dutifully clean up after their dog's... um... duty. Pooper-scooper type fines exist for offenders here in Paris, but are seldom enforced.

While I concede that there are a herd of green-suited street cleaners in Paris, they are severely out-numbered by the piles of pooh. Generally, the grand boulevards shimmer, while the smaller, quainter streets- the ones you most like to meander through- are riddle with it. I implore you: never, ever walk between two parked cars. Just don't do it.

I'm told that a mayoral candidate ran on the campaign of cleaning up the streets of Paris. Not a bad idea, especially as some blame Paris losing the 2012 Olympics to London because of it's soiled streets. They might want to resurrect that campaign, I've got the perfect video for them.

Epilogue: I told myself I wouldn't do this, it's too gross... too scatological, but as if to underscore my point, this is what I saw on my walk home the day after I wrote the original post:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Vevelty Undergrowth

My French can use a lot of work. Its a painful topic for me, as I'm not nearly at the level of fluency I would've hoped or expected to be by now. I shamelessly blame my children: "Alas, I must sacrifice my learning French for their learning English..." (This is kinda true.)

Still, I persist. Friend Dana from high school, who has lived here for 15+ years and had a supporting role in Michael Moore's Sicko (she was one of the Americans in the focus group), once reminded me of a time when our French high school teacher asked us on an exam, completely out of the blue:
"Comment dit-on (how does one say): Rome wasn't built in a day?" He wasn't predicting a Morcheeba smash hit, but it turns out he simply wanted the French equivalent of this expression, not the literal translation.

So while we were all struggling over how to conjugate the verb for "to build", the correct answer was simply and un-obviously:
"petit-à-petit, l'oiseau fait son nid." (To me, that sounds more like: "little by little, the bird makes his nest," but I quibble. I guess the French don't think too much about Romans, having an ancient related civilization of their own called the Gauls.)

That was an early lesson, and I while my French slowly improves I continue to learn that translations mustn't always be literal. You wouldn't want to say, for example, upon meeting your future in-laws for the first time and after eating a wonderful meal together,
"Je suis pleine" (I am full).

Unless, of course, you really were pregnant and felt like that would be an opportune time to mention it.

So I'm always a little surprised, given how many English speakers you can find around here, that folks who wish to translate a pretty fine menu from French into English, wouldn't ask one of their English-speaking buddies to do a quick QA.

This menu is from a lovely-looking place in Montmartre (my all time favorite 'hood) called Le Moulin de la Galette. Check out their site for a great overiew of the history of the restaurant and the area (for example, I learned that Renoir painted Bal du Moulin de la Galette here.) The site is in French and English (sort of).

The menu in French sounds delicious. In English, it sounds adorable.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bal du Moulin de la Galette, 1876

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Some metro stops are better than others.

Chatêlet is a messy metro exchange, always under construction and furiously footed with people trying to make a connection. But on a recent metro trip home with Camille from a play-date near Porte de Vincennes (the exact opposite side of Paris for us), we ran across this great performance which stopped us in our tracks.

Pun intended.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Try tying a yellow ribbon around this one.

This stunning old oak is called Le Chêne-Chapelle (the Oak Chapel), and can be found in a small, sleepy farming town in Normandie called Allouville-Bellefosse.

The tree was already 500 years old (give or take a score), when in 1669 the Abbot du Détroit and his dad decided to spend some father/son quality time together and re-purpose it as a chapel. A bolt of lightning had already gutted it. The priest built a small, and by small I mean itty-bitty, altar to the Virgin Mary. Years later, a second chapel and a staircase were added. Its one of the oldest trees (and the only chapel-in-a-tree) in France.

I dragged Franck and Camille there about two weeks before Roman was born. I suppose I was nesting. (heh, heh, nesting, get it?) I managed to fit into the chapel with my Buddha-belly, but barely. I've since taken my mom there with Roman after he was born. It's really fascinating. I bet even Tony Orlando would enjoy it.

It's a veritable witness to history, and barely survived the French Revolution. Today, parts of the tree have died and it's supported by wooden beams. Shingles serve as patches for missing bark.

Sadly, for this Old Grey Oak, she ain't what she used to be.

A view looking into the chapel, and a view looking out.

Before: exiting chapel with Camille (Roman in belly) After: Roman in stroller, age 2 months, in front of Le Chêne. He slept through the whole thing.