mercredi, décembre 27, 2006

Grey Paris

The sky is grey and not a single sun ray manages to peep through the thick cloud. It is like the sun is turning its face away from this place and we are enveloped in a blanket of marshmallow. The whole Paris is grey. Without looking at the clock on the computer, I have no sense of time. From the moment I woke up until now in office and I’m knocking off in an hour's time, the sky remains unchanged. It is as though everything is in a standstill. Other than 4 of us in the office and some slow traffic along the road just outside the window, I can imagine myself in the plot of Stephen King’s The Langoliers. It is kinda eerie.

I can hardly wait to leave office and be at home to light up my Christmas tree. That will make my day a little brighter and warmer.

samedi, décembre 23, 2006

Year end festive season

We wish you a merry christmas,
We wish you a merry christmas,
We wish you a merry christmas and a happy new year.

Seb and I are in Chartres to spend our Christmas with our family. The images on the left are what I took today in the uptown of Chartres and in my parents-in-law's place. It is colder here than in Paris and there is a constant fire dancing in the fireplace. The big pumpkin on the garden table is still shining orange since October. There were birds feeding from the bird seeds that we supplied.
In the streets, vendors were selling their fresh oysters from number 0 to number 5 (size of oysters), smoked salmons and foie gras; the essential food for christmas. People were doing their last min shopping for gifts. The most crowded shops were perfume shops and bookstores. I was glad that we had already done our shopping so it was a stroll in the uptown for me today while Seb went swimming. The festive atmosphere was high and bright. There was even a mini carnival with marching band, clowns and pretty little girls on ponies. Everybody was in high spirits.

Tomorrow is christmas eve. We will roast some chestnuts over the fireplace after dinner like what we did today. Life is so peaceful here. It is so pleasant. We are away from the stress of Paris. Je vais profiter de mes journées ici.

I will write again after I receive my christmas gifts. Do click on the image to enlarge it for a better viewing.

samedi, décembre 16, 2006

Winter 2006

Winter is here. Technically speaking, winter starts on 21 December but it has been rainy and cold in Paris.

In my balcony, I replaced my summer flowers with winter ones (left and right). I have no idea what is their name. I am a novice in gardening and I do not bother to get to know the names of my plants. I do know that the one in the middle is a bruyère and it flowers in winter as you can see. Still, I must say that the greens are growing well under my loving care.

As Christmas is around the corner, we spent last Saturday and today looking for gifts. It was really easy for the kids as a quick stop at Toys 'R Us completed their wishes. For the other half of the family, we went to FNAC to get books and BD (french comic books).

There were so many people at Opera area that while crossing the road from Galleries Lafayette Maison to Printemps, Seb commented that it was like at Orchard Road. That was so true. I was not even able to appreciate the windows displays that Galleries Lafayette and Printemps put up each year for children with toys animations.

I have forgotten how winter is like. This is my fourth winter in France and yet each time, I have to relearn about the cold and get use to it. And with the train strike still going on, we have to walk 15 minutes in the cold to reach the nearest Metro station. I hope that the strike ends soon. I am glad that there is Christmas to warm up winter.

Afternote: the flowers are cyclamen.

mercredi, décembre 13, 2006

Strike strike strike

Yesterday, SNCF went on strike. I depend on SNCF train to bring me from Becon to Saint Lazare. From Saint Lazare, I will take the Metro train to my work place. As notice was given a day in advance, I made arrangement with my manager to come pick me up. All was beautiful. The return home trip was a little bit unpleasant as I had to take the Metro line 3 until the end and walked 15 mins in the cold back to Becon. Still it was not as bad as 3 weeks ago when there was a similar strike and I had to walk in the rain and cold. With strong wind, umbrellas are not of much use here.

This morning, the radio announced that things were more or less back in normal. 3 out of 4 trains were in operations. My foot! I reached Becon train station at 8.15am. There was a train at Quai A at 8.18am. Following that, two trains were cancelled. And the next one would be at 8.53am. At Becon, I had a choice of taking the direct train that stopped at Saint Lazare or a train that stopped at 3 stations before reaching Saint Lazare. For the direct train at Quai C, two trains were cancelled and things were no better than at Quai A. I managed to squeeze my way up on the train of 8.18am. We were really packed sardines. Once reaching Saint Lazare, there were a lot of people. Just imagine the narrow streets in Chinatown on the eve of Chinese New Year. You really had to be patient and take one step forward at a time. But in this case, everyone was just in a hurry to get to their offices.

I would say that SNCF strike is not as bad as a Metro strike. If the Metro goes on strike, it would be impossible for me to reach office. We little people depend on the public transport. Buy a car and drive to work? With traffic jams everywhere, this is not a good solution as well. Car is meant for weekend getaways. Not for driving in Paris.

I can only hope that tomorrow, everything will be beautiful. Smooth journey, I pray.

mercredi, décembre 06, 2006

Anime craze

I may have never mentionned this in my blog but Seb and I are consistent anime viewers. Seb follows more anime than me. For me, I am just following on Naruto and Rurouni Kenshin.

Naruto was a ninja boy in training. In the beginning, the story line was more interesting as one of Naruto's classmate, Sasuke, had been abducted by the bad guys to be trained to be evil. But now, the story is slower and we are at episode 211. Each episode now is on Naruto's training in the ninja school and the assignments he has to do with his teammates. I am just waiting for the final showdown when Sasuke will return to face Naruto.

As for Kenshin, he was a super swordman turned vagabond. He got to know some friends along the way and some times, his past came back and haunt him. It is interesting as the story line followed the period of the Meiji era in Japan.

Of the few anime I had completed, the most impressive one is Elfen Lied with beautiful music. It is short, bloody and full of body pieces. I also liked Fullmetal Alchemist. The Japanese have such great talent and imagination in coming up with the scenarios and story lines. And at the end of each story, there is always something to reflect on and to learn. It is always simple, humane and meaningful.

lundi, décembre 04, 2006

Visitors from India

Vincent and Lobke came and visited us for 5 days. Vincent was in Paris to apply for his India visa. We enjoyed their presence at home.

I did a steamboat for them on Tuesday night and they totally adored the idea of cooking vegetables in a pot of soup while dining. They told us about their stay in India and their activites. Laurent came and joined us for the first night on Monday and he showed us photos of India which he took when he was there in July. We really would like to visit it one day since we will have great local guides.

Vincent is french and Lobke is belgian. They met in India. They love India so much that they make it their home. Like Seb, they are vegetarians. Lobke loved my green beans soup. I made it once in 2003 and she still remembered that. I tried to make red beans soup this time as the weather is cooler and red beans are more heaty than green beans. However, I was not able to find pandan leaves this time. It is not always available in Chinatown. I guess this time it was not as good. Pandan leaves do make the difference.

Now, they are back in Belgium. In a week's time, they will be flying back to India. It may be another year before we will meet them again.