Archive | May, 2011

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the World

28 May

Yesterday, I was inspired to write a little something about nuclear power and how it effects my life both in France and in the world. I was invited to post those ruminations on my friend’s blog, Think Green Tank, an online sustainability think tank.

If you feel  inspired to read my thoughts and/or to be part of creative conversation on sustainable energy , please check it out at:

http://thinkgreentank.com/permaculture/2011/05/28/how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-world/

Until next time…

Sra. Blanc

Dear Friends…#1 (Pedestrian Woes)

26 May

Dear Friends,

I’m having a blast in Paris. The weather is fantastic and the sights are spectacular. You would love it here! But there is one little thing that has caught me by surprise. The driving. It’s madness. As I walked to my office today, I saw 3 almost accidents…and my office is only 10 minutes away! As a pedestrian, I fear for my life. You would think that a country so progressive and first-worldy would have the whole driving thing down. But alas, such is not the case. At least in England, they have the foresight and decency to write on the ground which way you should look. Here, no such luck. Although, I guess if they did write something, it would probably be, “F#*k it. You’re on your own.”

Happy Summer!

Love,
Sra. Blanc

This is NOT a parking lot!

Le Bon Corn Syrup

25 May

A couple of days ago I was enjoying a lovely day with one of my fabulous new-found friends when we came across something so funny and disturbing that I just had to share it…

I had met up with my friend for some tea and jaunt through the park very happy to reconnect and catch up with her after my two month hiatus to the States. We strolled through some of her most favorites spots enjoying the sun and the much needed girl-time. Then, my friend asked if I had been to Le Bon Marché yet. I had heard tales of the famed Le Bon Marché, but being that I would probably never be able to afford anything in that incredibly lavish, beautifully designed department store (consider it as if Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdale’s had a baby, and then that baby married Saks Fifth Avenue), I answered “no”. This was quickly answered with a “I have to take you! You’ll love it!”  Trusting the infallible instincts of my Paris-savvy friend, I followed.

And off we went to Le Bon Marché …

Shopping in Style

…and it was everything my broke self imagined it would be. I could feel my wallet tremble the moment we walked in. I mean, every square meter (and since this measurement is neither in inches nor feet, I can’t really tell you exactly how much this is, but trust me, it’s huge) was covered with name brands, the kinds of brands mostly seen either on catwalks or in Architectural Digest. Marc Jabocs canoodled with Dianne Von Furstenburg while Calvin Klein lazily napped on a James Eames chair. Even if I had wanted to buy something, I wouldn’t have been able to afford so much as the pen with which to sign the credit card receipt. But, at least it was free to look. (Thank goodness for window shopping!)

Le Grand Epicerie...where does one begin???


Then my friend suggested 
we head downstairs to the epicerie (translation: high end grocery store.)  As one would expect, the grocery section was equally as fabulous and well designed as the rest of the store, only the brands here were a bit more in my price range. My mouth watered as I saw all the perfectly stacked, well packaged goodies this floor had to offer. That is, until I hit the “Amerique” section, also known as stuff from the good ole US of A. There, standing in front of the Asian section and behind the TexMex/Espanol section (first off, the French love TexMex but have absolutely no idea exactly what that means, and second, apparently a country as close as Spain can’t get enough of their goodies across the border to merit an entire section) was a section completely dedicated to all those edible comforts from home that American expats would crave. Or, was it? 

I was shocked to see exactly what the French thought Americans love to eat. Let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. Here’s a bit of the “American” shopping list:

* Three different varieties of marshmallows (unless you through in some graham crackers, a Hershey’s bar, and a campfire, not sure why we would need these in such abundance)

* Jars of fluff (do people still eat that stuff?)

* Jars of generic peanut butter (come on, not even Skippy!)

* Generic brand Thousand Island and Ranch dressing (uhm…?)

* Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette (okay, you got one right)

* and Corn Syrup. Wait…what? Corn syrup? 

A spoonful of syrup makes the truth go down

There, sandwiched between the tried and true Thanksgiving accoutrements of Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberries and Libby’s Pumpkin Pie mix, sat the piece de resistence…Corn Syrup… both the light and dark variations.

Corn syrup? Really? Of all the things they could have imported 6,000 miles away for us creature comfort craving expats, they import corn syrup? Seriously, I could have easily given them a list of at least five hundred other products I would way prefer other than corn syrup. And who’s buying that? I’d like to see that person to give ‘em old fashioned smack in the face. I mean, the world makes fun of Americans for being so fat, and we all know that one of the main reasons that America is so fat is because of the corn syrup. So, to import the stuff that causes the fat is just a plain cruel joke. It’s as if France took on the role of drug dealer, selling corn crack to all us chalky, wide-eyed, emaciated junkies calling it the latest designer drug…only that wouldn’t happen because since we’re freebasing corn syrup, we wouldn’t be emaciated. We’d be fat.

Not to mention we are in a country that makes some of the best pastries and desserts in the world sans corn syrup. Couldn’t we find a much more flavorful, healthier, French alternative to meet our corn syrup needs?  Apparently not…

Both intrigued and saddened at this sight, I had a bit of an epiphany…you can take the corn syrup out of the person, and you can take the person out of the country, but you just can’t take the corn syrup out of the culture.

I beg…Jamie Oliver…let your revolution reign!

Long live the Revolution!

(featured image courtesy of Chrisrobin.com)

Hot Granny

24 May

I was wandering down the busy streets of the Bastille neighborhood with my hubby when we both came across one very dolled up mature lady. I mean, this lady was out on the town and ready to show it. She was wearing pink lacy stiletto granny boots (pun intended), short jean shorts with tights underneath, and a pink bra with a see-through lacy white blouse on top of it.  Totally curious to see what this person looked like from the front, Pierre and I scurried past the tons of people keeping us from a solid vantage point and pulled out right in front of her. I did a slight, nonchalant glance backwards and noticed a very well put together woman who must have been in her mid-70s. I was shocked. No woman of that certain age would be caught dead going out like that in the States, except of course for those ladies who enjoy the comforts of mobile home living.

I asked Pierre if he knew anything about that. He shrugged and said, “C’est la classe.” Ah, la classe. I should have known. That little phrase explains every little nuance of French culture that involves all things considered to be particularly French, including rude waiters, bureaucratic nightmares, and now, scantily clad grandmothers.

Well, happy to have learned yet something else about the French culture, I decided to teach Pierre something about the American culture, you know, as an earnest cultural exchange. So yesterday Pierre learned what a GILF was. Although, he was quick to point out that it actually should be called a GmILF.

For the love of GILFs

I’ll Fly Away

24 May

The other day I was sitting at my favorite Starbucks (yes, even in France I go to Starbucks. Nobody in the world does a chai latte better, except for, I would imagine, India.) Happy to have copped a squat in my favorite spot, I engaged in one of my favorite pastimes, people watching or rather, as I like to call it, life watching. I watched as very fabulously dressed people hurried about with cigarettes, Coke Lights, or baguette sandwiches in hand moving under the bright Spring sun to one fabulous location or another. As some time passed, I found myself in utter amazement that I had somehow, in all the grand graces of the universe, found my way to this place. This romance-inducing, art-loving, haute couture of a city, spared from the destruction of war thanks to Hitler’s love of the aforementioned traits, had become my new home…much to my blissful surprise. Never in a million years would I have pictured myself living in this city (Barcelona, yes, but not Paris), much less living in this city because I am married to an awesome man who lives in this city. And all of this was especially poignant because this day marked exactly one week that I had officially moved here.

So I sat there sipping my cup of warm goodness, feeling oh-so-blessed and settling into the familiar comfort that Starbucks upholstery affords, when suddenly the song I’ll Fly Away played quietly on the speakers above me. Hearing it completely caught me off guard. You’d think that a Starbucks in France would play something a bit more, well, French, but apparently that’s not the case. Instead, the Starbucks in Bastille was happy to play the melodious old gospel tune brought to us by one Albert E. Brumley and made famous by the very cool Coen Brothers vehicle, O’Brother Where Art Thou?.

At first, the whole thing made me giggle thinking that if the French had any idea that this tune was the early predecessor to modern country, they might have banned it from their musak selection finding it as passe as Budweiser and Chevy trucks. But then, I found myself surprisingly really happy to hear that song, a song that I have loved since my early Catholic school days, a song that always made sing along to its catchy, warm lyrics, a song not only so very familiar but, also, so particularly…American. A huge wave of nostalgia…and a dash of homesickness…swept over me instantly.

A strange thing happens when you are far away from the place you call home (and for me, I have a few of those places). All those little things that were once looked upon as trite or taken for granted start creating nostalgic little chords that play in the heart in the least expected of tunes. This one came in the gospel variety.

Don’t get me wrong. I love being in Paris and am genuinely excited for what’s to come, not to mention that I do have the convenient ability to build a home nest wherever the twigs may fall. But there as I sat in Starbucks listening to I’ll Fly Away and gazing out over the quintessentially Parisian Haussmannian rooftops, I found myself at the intersection of my old life and my new one, nostalgic for all things that resemble one part of me, curious to encounter the others.  I realized that although I may fly far away from all those places I call home, I always carry with me little relics of each experience building an internal alter of comfort and peace.

And here I am now, having flown away yet again… this time, all the way to Paris. It’s a bit far from my the other places I hold close to my heart, but I’m ready to build another nest and call it ma maison.

(Oh, by the way, the very cool piece of art featured at the top of this post can be found at http://www.lovethatart.com)

Decalage…The New Jet Lag

23 May

It’s 5:45am and here I am sitting on the bathroom floor of my husband’s tres cute, centrally located, yet tiny Parisian studio apartment typing away at my computer. It appears that I am suffering from an acute case of decalage…the oh-so-fancy French term for jet lag. (Being that I just returned to Paris, this lag comes with the territory.) In an unsuccessful attempt to not wake my slumbering hubby, I figured I’d make the most of this newly afforded extra time and steal away into the only private spot in this place, the bathroom aka the after-hours office. The result of these actions is what you are reading now.

So, how did I come to find myself cuddled up computer in hand on a cold bathroom floor of a tres cute, centrally located yet tiny Parisian studio apartment at 5:45am? Let me tell you a little story…

 It all started in March of 2009. (Actually, it all started when I was born, but that is a whole other blog.) I was working a conference in San Francisco when a dashing, handsome man approached my booth interested in getting some information. In my ever present state of professionalism, I happily obliged his request…all the while secretly undressing him in my mind. As we exchanged niceties, I noticed his that this tall drink of water in front of me had a very sexy French accent. (And I am a sucker for accents…oui, oui!) I glanced down at his badge to find out that he came from the far away land of France. Ah, the land of wine and unpasteurized cheese where the croissants are fresh and the men are Grade A lovers. Or, so I had heard.
 

Me and My man...oh la la!

Three days of conference passed, and I bid farewell to my new French acquaintance sure I would never see him again. Such is the way of large, international conferences. But, what would appear one week later in my LinkedIn inbox? None other than a message from…Pierre. (I will take a moment to explain that Pierre is not really his name, rather I have changed his name to protect the innocent. And well, Pierre is as French of a name as one can get short of calling him baguette.) Pierre had returned home to his far off land of berets and brie only to realize that his baguette had been piqued at the site of a petite yet fiery Latina girl that apparently spoke way too fast for his rudimentary English comprehension level.

 
And so this began the beginning of a beautiful friendship.Over the next few months and across multiple technological platforms, thanks mostly in part to the wise folks over in Silicon Valley, Pierre and I got to know each other. Long hours were spent pouring out our hearts and souls, dreams and fears through online channels such as FB, LinkedIn, MSN chat, Gmail chat, Skype…you name it, we tried it. We gave online dating a whole new definition. (Seriously, we almost made Mark Zuckerberg Best Man at our wedding.)

Then we took our relationship to the next level…  in person dating. American, Continental, Delta, United, and Air France (my personal favorite being that they offer complimentary alcoholic beverages the entire flight!!) would become our personal (and economical) chariots as we forged across our respective continents in order to build what would eventually become our engagement. (I digress a moment here to mention that the engagement proposal itself was one of the most romantic engagement gestures known to human-kind, definitely fitting for a solid rank amongst the top ten list in the Best Proposals Ever book..should there ever be a book like this written.)

Ain't it grand!


Six months after our engagement, after the hundreds if not thousands of late night hours spent on computers and on inter-continental flights, we got married. Married! December 11, 2010 marked my first day as Mrs. Gorgeous-Man-From-Paris otherwise known as Mrs. Blanc (Madame Blanc to the Frenchies). It was a beautiful wedding celebrated in two of the most beautiful towns of France surrounded by those whom we love dearly. I couldn’t have written it better myself. Trust me, as a fine connaisseur of romantic comedies (anyone who knows me knows I heart rom-coms even if I deny to death it in person), this was the perfect Nora Ephron wedding ending a girl could ask for.
 
Finally, we were ready and legally permitted  to settle down…on one continent; and being that the French were far more willing to give me a visa, that is after the numerous visits to the consulate, the multitude of forms that were filled out, and the general bureaucratic hoops we jumped through, we chose Paris as our home… for now.
 
And voila, (yes, the French actually do say “voila”) here I am at 5:45am sitting on the cold floor of my new tiny Parisian studio as my new hubby sleeps sharing with you how it all came to be. You see, right at this particular moment in time life couldn’t get any better than this…although it would be really nice if I could actually sleep, too.
My new home

Paris...my new home!