Monday, May 28, 2007

Pumpernickel in Paris

Imagine my surprise. One day I'm doing my weekly shopping in the local Chinese supermarket. It's really great because they not only sell Chinese specialties such as fresh tofu, but most foods you could imagine in a regular supermarket. I was buying my soymilk that I drink for breakfast and which is placed at the end of the aisle on the lowest shelf. I suddenly realized that just next to the soymilk, also hidden away on the bottom shelf where you can't really see it, was a pile of pumpernickel bread. REAL German pumpernickel bread – actually made in Germany!

Don’t' get me wrong. I love French bread. Sometimes I even stand in line at the best bakery in our neighborhood, behind at least 15 other Parisians (if I'm idiot enough to shop in Saturday). But this is different. I remember when I was a kid in New Jersey that my Mom bought real dark pumpernickel bread at the deli counter of the supermarket. It was almost black, moist, with a sort of sourdough taste. I suppose it reminded her of HER childhood since she grew up in Vienna, Austria and ate German bread while she was growing up.

I'm still trying to figure out why they put it there. Because, the next week, all 5 loaves disappeared! (Are there other pumpernickel lovers in the neighborhood? Would love to meet them!) It was replaced by German brown bread, ALMOST as good as pumpernickel, but not quite. So far those loaves are still there. Which proves that I am probably the only person in Paris who has discovered the German bread hidden on the lowest shelf where you can't see if of the Chinese supermarket, next to the soymilk.

Life continues to be amazing in Paris.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Public Service

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Hey, what's that?"

It's 4:30 in the morning, and my telephone is making a funny beep. I reach over to switch on the light to see what's going on.

It was at that point I discovered there was no electricity in the entire apartment! We had had outages in the past, quickly repaired. But this was different. No lights in the hallway, no elevator. The whole building was down

"Oh brother, why does this always happen on the weekend!"

I finally managed to get back to sleep, but when I woke up, still no electricity. It was at that point that it hit me how much we rely on electricity in our daily lives. It's like an invisible thread woven everywhere. We simply don't notice it until it disappears! What this means in reality was that I couldn't take a bath (no hot water). Couldn't listen to the radio. Couldn’t drink tea or coffee for breakfast (no stove). Couldn't go into my bathroom without a flashlight (no windows or outside source of light in the bathroom and you can't see worth diddly squat even if it's bright and sunny outside). Couldn't use the telephone (the cordless phone bases didn't work). Couldn't check my emails on the computer. Plus, insult added to injury, I ended up leaving a flashlight on in the bathroom and burned out both double D batteries. Goodbye flashlight.

At 8:30 that morning (at least my battery operated watches were still telling time), I went down (i.e. climbed down the stairs) to check out what was going on with the couple who are the "guardians" or building managers. Just as I arrived, they were phoning EDF (Electricité de France) which manages all the electricity for private residences. It seems that some major cable somewhere had blown out. Not only was our building down, but the entire block was without electricity! At 9 am I had my breakfast, or what you can call assembled room temperature items. I tried not to open the fridge door.

"Don’t even think about what's in the freezer."

I was real glad that I'm a regular swimmer at the local neighborhood pool where at least I could take a shower and wash my hair. And get away from the complete and utter silence of my apartment. "Ugh."

Just as I returned from the swimming pool, EDF arrived in force. An entire team disembarked with their trucks and tools and then proceeded literally to rip open the sidewalk to get to the cable. And they fixed it. Right there on Sunday morning they repaired a cable five feet underground in front of our building. When they left, they even had to leave a few team members behind to act as guards to make sure nobody fell into the hole or jumped in and sabotaged the repairs. But they did it. Electricity back on. Modern life back to normal.

That, my friends, is public service. How it's going to be affected by our new President Nicholas Sarkozy, I don’t' know. But at least we've got it now. Vive EDF!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I can't believe it!

I can't believe it! Yesterday I went down to empty the trash - I took the elevator down to the basement as usual. Down in the basement, to the left of the elevator are two garbage bins and to the right are two recycle bins. I lifted the lid of one of the garbage bins. To my astonishment I saw – a pile of women's clothing – I mean the whole garbage bin was stuffed with skirts, blouses, a coat and pants. How do I know this list? I was so astonished that I pulled it all out. And it was all in perfect condition. Incredible! In the NOT to be recycled bin meant for rotten bananas I found fabulous French women's clothes. All in my size. Fortunately there are two garbage bins. The one to the left gets filled up right away. The one to the right, where the clothing was, does not. They weren't even dirty! So I pulled all the clothing out and took it back up to my apartment. I kept two 100% wool skirts (!) and bagged the rest which I took to the Emmaüs bin. (Emmaüs is the French equivalent of the Salvation Army.) Then I took the two skirts to the Cambodian dry cleaners. When I got the skirts back, I had to admit that one really didn't look good on me, so I took that to the bin as well. But the one I kept is adorable. Totally.