April 19, 2012
35 hour work week – time for gazing at the Seine - Christophe Hue
Many associate French working life with 35-hour weeks, strikes, long long lunch breaks and even longer holidays. This is certainly the image that I’d carefully conjured in my idealistic head before setting foot in France.
The big question: does reality live up to this delightful worker-friendly dream?
Well, I can confirm that the 35-hour week does exist (at least for a privileged minority), strikes do take place on a not-infrequent basis, lunch breaks remain sacred, and holidays are considered to be an untouchable national right (right up there alongside liberté, egalité, fraternité).
However, beneath the shiny and appealing veneer, day-to-day work has its fair share of up and downs.
Continue Reading »
Posted in Parisian Living | 4 Comments »
March 9, 2012
To celebrate Valentine’s Day four years ago, I dined at Le Grand Colbert, the restaurant made famous by Diane Keaton and her roast chicken in the film Something’s Gotta Give. For me, it will forever be famous for far different reasons. Over clangorous dining room voices and crumb-laden plates, my husband proposed to me.
The American couple seated next to us gushed as I beamed with joy and threw my arms around my new fiancé. The fullness of the moment was heightened by the Belle Epoque backdrop and the tuxedoed waiters who dashed back and forth with alacrity between the kitchen and the dining room, forging the surreal sensation of being the stars on a Hollywood film set. Unbearably prosaic but perfectly appropriate for the moment.
Since then, we’ve maintained the tradition of dining out on Valentine’s Day. Some of our choices have been memorable, some not even worth mentioning. We flirted with the idea of returning to Le Grand Colbert last month to relive our engagement but given the caliber of restaurants that have opened over the last four years, we couldn’t be bothered with average food and contrived theatrics, no matter how emotionally significant.
Continue Reading »
Posted in Food, Restaurant Reviews | 7 Comments »
October 20, 2011
I don’t think anyone would dispute that the French are the masters of leisure and purveyors of refined hedonism. Meals, apéros, discussions, and strolls are all to be conducted tranquillement – without haste and with an utmost respect for life’s little pleasures. With a vast selection of renowned terraces, parks, shops, secret passageways and charming cobblestone streets, it’s no wonder their capital city ranks highly for a laid-back kind of lifestyle.
But for Paris neophytes, particularly those accustomed to a far more hurried pace, this leisurely style is a bit of a head scratcher and is my most vivid first memory of the city. When I first arrived in Paris, my legs only functioned on two speeds – fast and faster – and this immediately perplexed my husband on our first date.
Was I in a rush? Trying to escape him? Neither, really. I was simply conditioned to stride with purpose, leaving aimless wandering for rare occasions or to aid in digestion after a heavy meal.
Couple strolling on rue Montorgueil (Lost in Cheeseland)
My feckless attempts at regulating my speed made us both chuckle and helped to abate all visible signs of first-date butterflies. With a winsome smile and blushed cheeks, he reached for my hand and pulled me back toward him to match his gait.
“Where’s the fire? We’re enjoying ourselves”, he reminded me. And that set the course for the rest of our 8-hour date. As we walked from our rendez-vous point at Odéon, through Luxembourg Gardens, and eventually winded our way through the 2nd to rue Montorgueil for a cheese plate, I began to understand why the French have a word to describe the very act of strolling. Continue Reading »
Posted in Parisian Living | 22 Comments »
May 9, 2011
Having lived in Paris for five years, I have experienced a full spectrum of highs (euphoria) and lows (disillusionment) of expat life. And throughout those emotional dips I’ve observed the local evolutions – the highs and lows – of the city itself.
Kedgeree – typical British dish
Perhaps the most noticeable evolution has been in food and drink with the warmly welcomed arrival of foreign talent. Ethnic fare and American diners and burger joints aside, the Anglo food curve has largely been dominated by the reigning hipster brunch institution, Rose Bakery, which opened back in 2002. But Rose is no longer the only canteen on the Paris food scene cooking up high-quality, authentic English dishes, as evidenced by the recent spate of Anglo-inspired eateries. Continue Reading »
Posted in Food, Restaurant Reviews | 6 Comments »