December 31, 2007

Before I move on, to catch-up…

We had a lovely christmas. Jo & Dirk are well set up in a lovely part of The Hague. A beautiful apartment, big enough to hold us & them and another couple Mad & Dave + their 6 month bundle of joy Lilian, sitting atop a pancake house – who could ask for more? We did the oyster thing, the champagne, and the turkey along with some Scottish specialties like bread sauce(!), mashed carrots and root veges, baked parsnips, then home-made lemon sorbet, plus chocolates, and more champagne and more food, then more chocolate. But the icing, so to speak, was their scale. We’d weighed ourselves before leaving… and because their scale was at least 2kg lighter than ours at home, after all that food and drink we left still under our starting weight, just….

Apart from getting a welcome dose of BBC over the holidays with a couple of christmas specials, I managed to ride a bike after at least 12 years without seriously hurting myself…. except my ass that is. I missed a couple of lights, they went green, orange, red, orange, green etc. a couple of times before I managed to push myself off into a big intersection of cars and trams and bikes. But Michelle was very proud, and I was secretly proud. Much thanks to Jo who ambled along at a snails pace to make sure I was ok. (In my defence the bike was very tall… I couldn’t even touch the ground with my tippy toes). And we also made it to the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery ostensibly to see ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earing’ but also the exhibition of Dutch portraits which was brilliant. We both loved it. It was a great size gallery, the audio guide was free and excellent, and there wasn’t too many pushy people there….

Despite both Mad & Dave getting sick and probably feeling terrible, we had a lovely christmas together. From The Hague we continued on alone to Amsterdam. We stayed at the Chic & Basic Hotel supposedly in the Jordaan but really it was in the Grachtengordel West area. The hotel was more basic than chic, with a tiny room, a toilet that converted into a shower when you really couldn’t wait any longer, and a ceiling that was only a few inches taller than us. We heard entire conversations from the hallway at all hours of the day and night, but the staff were generally very kind, the breakfast was great and free, and the coffee & tea machine downstairs let us have a nice cup of tea every night before bed…. I wouldn’t return because I though it was too expensive for what it was (at €125 a night!!) but perhaps if you got a better room, you might rave about the hotel…. sadly we didn’t.

Our time however in Amsterdam was fantastic. We walked up and down the streets of the Jordaan, each and every corner almost every day. We visited thousands of small, local art galleries, and really got an eye for the Dutch artists exhibiting in the area. It was great, a couple of names we want to keep our eyes and ears open for – like Barbara Wichers Hoeth, Andrea Letterie (my favorite) and perhaps even return for an exhibition of Marie Godest (Michelle’s favorite) in April at the Artacasa Gallery. This definitely was our favorite gallery, and the first we stumbled on, we had to restrain ourselves from going back and buying up all the art we could afford. Instead, we picked up their cookbook in Dutch so that we could have a listing of the artists (Jo if you’re interested…) and I’ve just discovered going on to their site, that they have a b&b, so there you go, our next trip to Amsterdam is pretty well settled.

In addition to the small independent galleries, we made it to FOAM where we saw a great photo exhibition by Ryan McGinley as well as the Weegee exhibition that we missed while it was in Paris. We also made it to the Hermitage Amsterdam where we saw a small exhibition on loan by the Hermitage in St Petersburg of Art Nouveau objects which was very interesting. Essentially as far back as the late 19th century France has been trying to persuade Russia to side with her by gifting some exquisite vases, and crafted jewellery by some of the most amazing artists of the period like Faberge & Lalique. Next stop was the Huis Marseille Foundation for Photography where we saw a very interesting exhibition by Jacqueline Hassink called ‘The Power Show’ her Arab Domains pictures were fabulous. A series of photos of female arab business leaders boardrooms, and their dining rooms at home – side by side. It was genius, and very interesting, the styles mostly were quite similar and the supplementary personal information provided rounded it out. Very very interesting.

In amongst all the art, we managed to fit in a few markets (successfully I might add), lots of good restaurants – the highlights of which were ‘Salle du Jour‘ a seafood restaurant where I had the best lobster ever! and ‘Envy‘ which was a great bar come resto with a tasting menu, which we tasted, lots of… and the wine bar Vyne which was truly superb. If I was ever to open a wine bar in my life, it would have to be like this. The only thing I’d change would be the height of the tables, and that’s only because the Dutch people are on average about 25cm taller than us… which meant that we were sometimes seated almost under the table… definitely couldn’t put your elbows on the table, they didn’t reach!

So that was it. A most successful little holiday to the Netherlands over christmas. We’d love to go back, mostly to see Jo & Dirk, probably in the spring or summer time, but also because Amsterdam is such a cool and happening city. It’s quiet, it’s pretty and the food & art scene is so good, I’m surprised we haven’t been back sooner.

Tonight it’s new years eve!! Bonne Annee!!

filles at 5:24 pm

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December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

We’re knee deep in cleaning, getting ready for our big trek across Europe to The Hague & Amsterdam. Our neighbour is borrowing our apartment for his parents who are coming down from Brittany to spend christmas in Paris, which suits us because there will be someone here all the time but it means we have to clean up before leaving… which is not so fun. On the agenda today is the local market to place our big order of oysters & prawns for New Years Eve, stop for a coffee on the street (our coffee machine is on the blink) then cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. If we’re lucky we’ll get a break when Di comes to pick up some chairs she’s borrowing to seat all her guests for christmas lunch, and luckier still if we get to the Louvre for Michelle to see the Miniatures exhibition that finishes in early January. Dinner out at our friends JD & Mathilde who have just finished renovating the apartment they bought this summer and then bags packed we take the train for the Glasgow reunion.

Merry Christmas, and we’ll see you in the New Year.

filles at 10:41 am

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December 19, 2007

Christmas staples

We’re back from London. Came home Sunday night loaded up with english language books, UK music, UK newspapers, trashy magazines and a box full of rooibus tea. Lovely weekend, we did the christmassy thing, setting up the tree, drinking lots, fossicking at the UP Market, opening gifts, eating well, and we managed to fit in a pub, a couple of (important) games of football and a short wander around Hampstead. It was a bit sad to be happy christmassing so early, since we’ve spent the last 2 christmases there, but there you go… there’s still some talk (however muted) about the family possibly coming over here for New Years. We’ve got our fingers crossed.

In the meantime, it’s FREEZING over here. I’m back at my French lessons, visited the Quebec christmas markets yesterday where I picked up some dried cranberries (impossible to find over here) and did a HUGE shop at Le Bon Marche food hall – all the foreign treats for christmas, Prince Charles’ organic stem ginger biscuits, some curry sauces, galangal, mint essence and japanese novelties, French food is great, but it’s always nice to alternate once in awhile….

filles at 10:50 am

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December 13, 2007


Here we come! Christmas has come early, egg nog, pressies, dressing the tree, Milene’s cooking, true British pubs and cosy evenings in Hampstead. I’m taking the new fast Eurostar to St Pancreas, two and a half hours and I’ll be there, in English speaking land…

filles at 8:52 pm

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December 12, 2007

Calendar time

I’m being terrorised by calendar selling people. They buzz from downstairs, demand to be let in, then ring our doorbell waiting for me to open the front door before they start their pitch. And if I don’t buzz them in, then I answer the door, but don’t buy, and if I do buzz them in, I hide when they get upstairs and pretend I’m not here… and don’t buy. Whichever way I act, I don’t buy. Not this year.

But they’re playing with my head now.

What would a mad fireman do if I didn’t buy a calendar? Not respond to a call for a fire? No, they wouldn’t do that…
What would a mad postman do if I didn’t buy a calendar? Not deliver my Christmas cards? or, steal my parcels? No, they wouldn’t do that….

They wouldn’t, would they???

Note: If there are any firemen reading this, please know that Michelle gave one of your colleagues €10 last year for your pathetic little calendar (it was barely worth €2, but apparently the extra €8 was because he was cute!) so I think we should be exempt at least until 2009!

filles at 4:12 pm

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December 8, 2007


Last Thursday I stopped into the Georges Pompidou Centre for a couple of exhibitions I’ve been meaning to catch. The first was “L’Atelier d’Alberto Giacometti” which was brilliant. A retrospective of his art, with hundreds of works (the publicity says over 600) taking over Gallery 3. His heads and lithe, long, thin, gaunt bodies are the sculptures that are instantly recognisable. The style, sculpture in the form of an impressionist painting, brush strokes of plaster with a rough finish are original and breathtaking in their simplicity. They remind me of trees, and contented Buddhas in their poses and some even appear to resemble the shape and detail of gaudy christian crosses. I was lucky. Our neighbour has been trying to get into the exhibition for some time, but the queues are always out the door, down the stairs and around the corner. Thursday at 11am, I walked straight in. He was not impressed, the quote this morning was “some of us have to work… “

The other exhibition I stopped into see, that I’ve been meaning to see for some time, was the “Photographies, Nouvelles Acquisitions 2003 – 2007” exhibition that exhibits 80 or so of the 1750 prints added to the Musee national d’art moderne collection over the last 5 years. There were some very interesting pieces, like the prints from the Atlas Group (Walid Raad) depicting scenes from his homeland Lebanon, as well as a series by the Danish artist Olafur Eliasson which for some reason reminded me a lot of the work done by a friend of ours from Glasgow, Amanda Thomson. They also had some prints from Dora Maar, Picaso’s muse and partner, I never even knew she was a photographer, and some great works by Patrick Faigenbaum, Zwelethu Mthelwa and Isabelle Waternaux. I really enjoyed it.

It was wet and miserable, same as today, what better way to spend an afternoon but in an art gallery, and not just any art gallery…

filles at 5:42 pm

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December 7, 2007

Christmas Cards

For the first time in my life, I’ve got a cool system to hang christmas cards. What a shame we haven’t received any…..

filles at 9:16 am

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December 5, 2007

Winter Sales

The winter sale dates have been released. For us here in Paris the sale starts 8am January 9th until February 16th, 2008.

At 50% off, it’s worth the wait if you know what you need. If you don’t, it’s worth looking anyway!

filles at 11:30 am

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December 3, 2007

Wet weather weekend

This was the first weekend we’ve stayed home to do nothing for a very long time – and the weather was perfect for it. No guests to entertain, no exhibitions that were closing that we had to dash out to see, no friends to catch up with, no place in particular we had to be. It was nice. We stayed home and Michelle caught up on some work – producing millions more slides (she is in fact just a slide presentation producing factory – you always wanted to know what she really did for a living didn’t you?), and I did my devoir, for the first time ever. A dissertation on whether I was for or against the new law regarding DNA testing on new immigrants, a summary of a news article – the new non-smoking law coming in January 1st, studying for a beginners chapter 3 control test, and 3 pages of my beginners grammar exercise book. Not bad for a lazy student huh!

Every time we peered out the window just to check, the rain, the wind, and the temperature gauge in the flower pot ensured we stayed in our PJs and socks and shuffled around the house drinking tea and eating chocolate biscuits.

In addition to all of that, we managed a movie on Canal Plus Saturday night which is free the whole month of December (watch out NY’s eve Michelle is likely to want to stay in and watch back to back shows of Taratata), and tonight a movie out at the cinema (yes gasp! we went outside! for 98 minutes!) and then drinks at our neighbours, and a quick thai meal courtesy of the world’s best neighbour Michel at our favorite thai restaurant, 2 minutes walk from the apartment.

It was the perfect weekend. Not only because I’ve come down with a flu, and my newly x-rayed heel shows a new bone growing (heel spur) causing me to hobble most everywhere, but because we needed to just hang out. Write christmas cards, watch telly, get some stuff done. It’s been an amazing year, and it’s almost over, and we need some time to take stock before the festivities begin.

Bring on the silly season…. we’re rested and ready and raring to go!

filles at 1:33 am

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