Saturday, March 26, 2011

Birthday Dinner atop the Eiffel Tower

To celebrate my birthday, DH took me out to dinner at the Jules Verne restaurant atop la tour Eiffel. He reserved our table six months in advance (as one must do)and we had an awesome, intimate table for two right next to the window! The meal cost a small fortune but c'est la vie, n'est ce pas? Merci to all my friends who took the time to send me birthday wishes, no matter what time zone they were in~Santé!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mariage Frères

Mariage Frères has been selling tea in Paris since 1854. They have several locations in the city. I prefer the one near my apartment in the 8th. I am a huge fan of tea and when I discovered that they had over four hundred different kinds, I decided I would try every single one before I left. I'm currently up to 234. My favorites are Caramel and Pistachio, but if you must choose one, go with their signature blend, Marco Polo. It has a hint of sweetness which subdues the bitterness of the black tea, and the bouquet of exotic fruits and flowers is complex, yet well balanced. I would, however, avoid the Jasmine Monkey King because it does smell like a monkey. Really.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Un-Vitation

The other day we got a thick white invitation type note in our mailbox. It was from the owner of our building and it said the following:

This Saturday I will be hosting a dinner party in apartment 5A.
The festivities begin at 8 pm. I kindly ask your forgiveness
in advance for any disturbance or inconvenience this may cause.

Then, below the barely legible signature, he added this line : This is not an invitation. Well, if it wasn’t an invitation, what the heck was it? I called my French friend Sabine to ask her why someone would send us an UN-vitation. “He had to send you that,” she explained, “or else it would be considered rude.” I then had to explain to her that where I come from it is considered rude to send an invitation to your neighbors telling them you are having a party and that they are NOT invited. We have since discovered that proper Parisian etiquette dictates that you invite your neighbors to all your loud parties. The theory being that if they attend the party (if only for a short while) they can’t really call you up later to complain about the noise. Very shrewd I’ll admit. But this jerk didn’t even follow the correct procedure. He wanted to have his cake and eat it, too. Or I should say have his party and enjoy it, too. Luckily, things didn't get too out of hand, although the fete did go on for EIGHT hours.

Friday, March 11, 2011

La Madeleine Apartment

Each military person who takes a post at the Embassy is entitled to a rent free apartment. Before we moved here the Embassy housing office sent us the dimensions of the apartment we would be moving into in order to know what we could/should bring with us.We knew nothing about the neighborhood or even on which floor our apartment was located. Because I speak the language, I have since designated myself the official 'apartment inspector'. Once a family is assigned to move here, I go to the Embassy and liase with the housing office on their behalf. I check out the apartment that is proposed and report back to the family. This week I was asked to go and check out a lovely little apartment just down the street from ours. It was on the top floor of a building that is located right next to the Madeleine church. I called my friend Julie and asked her if she'd like to come along on 'an adventure' and help me wrangle Carole during the visit. But it turns out I didn't need much help. Carole had a blast exploring the empty apartment. Sadly, the family decided against this particular apartment because, even though the location was awesome, the apartment is located on a main street which made it quite noisy--even 5 floors up!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Great Scots!

A week or so ago, we were out and about and ended up in Montmartre where we ran into a bunch of Scotsmen dressed in full regalia and playing bagpipes! Apparently some sort of Scottish convention was in town. They were the nicest bunch of lads ever and gladly posed for photos with the girls. Must be my Scottish ancestry kicking in because I loved listening to them talk!

Friday, March 4, 2011

To Tip or Not to Tip?

People who come to visit us usually ask just two questions before heading out for a day of sightseeing: #1 Where is the nearest ATM? and #2: Should we leave a tip?
To tip or not to tip is a source of real anxiety for Americans. Parisians never tip. Ever. Even if the service was impecable. Probably because they know that a portion of their bill goes to pay the waiter's salary (which is why it costs thirteen bucks for two croissants and two espressos). I usually leave a Euro or two after enjoying my daily grand crème and croissant aux amandes because I frequent the very same café, day after day. I know the people that work there and they know me. However, in a city where you are a stranger, no need to tip. Act like a Parisian and stiff 'em, right? WRONG! I tell all Americans who visit us to leave a token tip on every bill because while Parsians are known for stiffing the help, Americans are known for tipping, and over tipping at that. Unless you can pass as a Parisian, you better leave something for the waiter because he's undoubtedly already identified you as an American and is looking forward to that euro coin on the table. So, unless you want him to spit in your café crème next time you come by (nobody calls it café au lait anymore) you better pony up the cash!