Thursday, 3 February 2011

Lunar bunnies

Despite flying solo in Paris, I thought I would theme up this Thursday given it is New Year in all those far Eastern countries who follow the lunar calendar. Every self-respecting Western city has itself an Asian quarter so a couple of google hits later and I had chosen the lucky venue that would be my host to toast in the year of the rabbit.

When I first arrived 2 weeks back, I was really amazed by how well connected the city was and how there were so many Metro stations - you can easily walk 3 stops in heels no problems. Now I have fully embraced the French culture and took the Metro a short distance to get to Rue Sainte Anne. The evening looked promising as the entrance to the street is presided over by a large Asian supermarket generating a good quantity of local trade.

At 7pm, it was still pretty early by French eating standards but these canteens open all day and I walked past a few which looked quite busy to get to Higuma - a well reviewed Japanese noodle bar. On entry, there is a large open kitchen bar where the noodles are made where there was one Japanese business man having a glass of beer - waiting for his food, still dressed in his camel coat but with his trilby hat on the bar top. The waiters and the chef were however Chinese and there were distinct Chinese influences around the restaurant. The food arrived in Chinese blue willow decorate bowls and there was a greasy jar of chilly oil on the table. There are days I crave Chinese food but today I had wanted something Japanese - simple and clear. 2 more couples came in whilst I was there but really, it was fusion in the worst sense and I have no intention of going back there.

However, I am still excited about the year ahead. I like that the year of the rabbit follows that of the tiger - 2 such complete opposites. Hopefully we will be able to notice the change in pace of life as we apply gentle persuasion to mould this year's destiny as opposed to the fierce force we had to apply last year.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


It's bitingly cold in Paris at the moment - to the extent that I seriously have to much a deliberate effort to make myself leave the office to buy lunch or even go home! Suffice to say, I haven't packed the appropriate clothes for this kind of weather...

There are some amazing restaurants here but they are absurdly overbooked. Largely helped by restaurant owners manipulating demand by only opening from Tuesday to Saturday and only for dinner. Many websites will not give tight opening windows but actually state a time you can call to make reservations and even then you have to be sufficiently understandable in French to a waitress who also has to serve the people who have managed to get into the restaurant! Where do all these people come from? It's not tourist season and I'm pretty sure it's not fashion week...

Another quaint French crazy is their Metro system. The signs are beautiful and point you to another era when Paris was full of music and feather boas but they have also kept an archaic ticketing system. Weekly tickets last for the week beginning Monday so if you are coming for a week starting on Wednesday you pay the full weekly price for a ticket that is valid only until Sunday. Similar thing for monthly tickets which only run from the 1st of each month and are the same price no matter how many days there are left in the month. This is ridiculous in itself, but even more amusing are the queues of French people on the first day of the month queuing to buy their new monthly Metro ticket when you can pre-buy it up to 10 days before the start of the month. Were they taken by surprise by the sudden arrival of month end or is there a silent protest against this crazy and inefficient system which we foreigners are not privvy to?

Anyway, I had a pretty smug smile this morning going to work with my pre-paid ticket...