Monday, December 31, 2007

Chats Means Cats

In case you didn't know...

Chats means cats, too/two... so I named my blog for my cats. I liked the word play of "chat" meaning "talk" in English--especially on-line, and "cat" in French. And then there's "quatre"--"four" in French, but it's pronounced like cat... especially if you have trouble with the elusive French "R" I do! But I only have two, cats that is... for now!

Here's a little video of them in a rare affectionate moment... "sharing" the space heater. I guess a minute and a half is all we can ask of Sophia!

By the way, the French "chats" is pronounced a bit like "sha" with an almost "ch" pronunciation of the "sh," and a sharp emphasis on the A for the missing T--the same A as in "as" and "cat," but sharper. The French are famous for "swallowing" letters... and you never pronounce the plural S... ugh.

Enough with the quotation marks... apart from getting a handle on the language, probably the most difficult thing about relocating to Paris was getting my two ten-year-old cats here, and it was well anticipated, what with all the vet visits and documentation it required... Being an expat, even an expat cat, requires lots of documentation. You've probably heard that the French are famous for their endless red-tape. Vive la bureaucracy! But more on that later! ;)

I wish I had a picture of the three of us standing at the curb at the airport where my friend Merryl dropped us off last month, but the moment was too stressful, or so I thought, to stop for pictures. Buddy--my cowardly lion--was howling, and I was dreading the eleven hour flight with him next to me in the cabin. A reservations agent had told me that he would travel in the cabin due to winter weather conditions in Paris. Fortunately, after all, this turned out to be yet another dose of misinformation, and he ended up having to be "checked" to travel in cargo. I can't know how happy or unhappy he was. I only know he didn't eat or relieve himself for about fifteen hours... door to door travel time.

Sophia, on the other hand, was small enough to travel in the cabin, and she DID relieve herself, twice. I think the turbulence we experienced during the second half of the flight over the frigid north Atlantic put her over the edge. And the second time, I couldn't even leave my seat to take her to the lavatory. Ewww... If I had it to do over, I would probably check them both.

We arrived in the evening at Charles De Gaulle... I found the first restroom, even before customs, and cleaned-up Sophia's cramped cage. When the customs agent asked for her passport, he thought he was being funny. I was confused... after all, I had a file full of documents that no one ever asked for, and European pets DO have passports... my Belgian Filou has one... and instead of a photo, he has a barcode for his electronic ID chip. Buddy was waiting for us in baggage claim with the skis and other awkward items... silent as a mouse... that is until he saw and heard me! He screamed all the way to the car, and then some.

We were happy to be home... sort of! Here's Buddy in relocation denial...

But he was very tired and had no problem falling fast asleep in my place...

To escape any commotion in our old apartment, Buddy would simply go upstairs to the quietude of my bedroom... I certainly did the same often enough! I'd show you a picture, but the only one I have is from my predigital days, and the prints are back in Long Beach... :(

Here is where he hides from the vacuum now!

Sophia, too, has found her safe spots... she likes the window ledges, of course, and the bar that separates the kitchen from the living area... She loves to be in the kitchen...

"Safe from what?" you ask?

... Filou, of course!

When I got him, I didn't even realize how much he looked like my sweet, furry girl...

No one has officially claimed the flea market bed, yet... but I'm still hopeful... we put it by the heater...

... and the first night after we moved it, Buddy slept in it. That was also the last time. Sometimes, he and Filou "share" our bed, but he prefers the sofa since Filou can't reach...

Apart from the occasional bouts of cabin fever, he is settling in quite well. He misses his yard, and Auntie Merryl, of course! He and Soph have both tried to escape out the front door, but the first of four flights of stairs is usually enough to turn them around. Who knows what's down there? Plus, it's cold! When summer comes, we will have to find a solution for the screenless windows... otherwise, we will certainly end up with a cat or two on a hot, tin raingutter... a circumstance that could turn quickly ugly if a pigeon comes along and scares them off balance. I don't know that cats are guaranteed to land on their feet from five stories high.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Au Marchée

It's Sunday in Paris and we woke up unusually early, (8 am ;) so we headed off to our favorite market... our favorite mostly because it's the one in our old neighborhood where we met three years ago. We took Metro line 1 (from Châtelet, bien sûr) to Concord and transfered to line 8 to Ecole Militaire so we could have coffee and walk past the Tour Eiffel and my old apartment on Avenue de la Motte Piquet. People were out jogging and walking their dogs, but we left Filou at home.

When you go, take either line 6, 8, or 10. The market stretches all the way between two stations on line 6... La Motte Piquet and Bir Hakim. The view from Bir Hakim is worth a stop on the stairs...

There are markets all over Paris on Sundays, and on every other day also. This one is also open on Wednesdays. You can find just about everything you need here.

... shopping baskets and bags, quilts, tablecloths and linens, rugs, furniture--old and new, scarves, gloves, clothing, jewelery, handbags, shoes, souveniers, kitchenware, wine, milk, fresh eggs, cheeses...

...we bought my favorite camembert, La Vache Normande, and some fresh chèvre--goat cheese, which I like to put in omelettes with shallots and fines herbs. He loves my omelettes.

... fois gras, dried fruit, tarts and cookies, bread, spices--dried and fresh...

... garlic...

... fish...
we bought two hands full of scallops--at least I think that's what the giant Noix St Jacques are called in English--that I will attempt to cook for New Years...

... roasted pig, cow's tongue, whole chickens, roasted and raw, rabbit, duck, organs and body parts of all sorts... I'll spare you the visuals!

... paella and potatoes ready to eat... fruits and vegetables, of course!

... cherries from Chili,

and mushrooms...

... litchis must be in season... they're everywhere! A screen saver for Eric... thinking of you! xOO!

Some of the merchants will let you select your own produce, but many prefer that you let them pick it for you... a sort of hands off policy. We've been scolded more than once!

And you can see why...

... this vendor even took the time to line up his haricots verts... so French!

The displays are very often artistic, especially first thing in the morning. There's nothing like arriving before dawn to see them all arrive and set up their stands in the dark...

... some provide samples or cut their goods open so you can see what's inside...

Two, please... s'il vous plait!

The flowers are always tempting, but he bought me a lovely bouquet of red tulips and lillies the other night on his way home from work... it has been a trying week. ;)

When we got home, the streets were still fairly empty...

... and the cats were very happy to see us!

So what exactly do we do with all these vegetables?!?!

Couscous, of course!

... which reminds me, my poem "Couscous" is due out in the spring in Pearl ... for a copy, go to Pearl Magazine and send in an order for issue number 39.

In the meantime, here's a poem I wrote this past May while I was visiting Paris to study with Cecilia Woloch... I read it at Shakespeare and Company. It may be a bit sentimental, but it's a very telling way to top off a very expat day... untitled because it is, perhaps, forever unfinished.

I love him for his
mother’s paprika—smokey
like his lips, spicy as a spanking.
His smart derrière is softly firm
like camembert. I love his big
ears, how they hear further
than sound, even across the
Atlantic and North America.
His eyes—demanding blue—
can sing the notes missing
from his broken English.
His teeth—the imperfect
tiles of an ancient mosaic—
embellish his smile like
a picket fence on a country
hillside. His kisses— meticulously
messy, relentless—are too many
too early in the morning, and his
faithful beard—too prickly.
He has the hands of a carpenter
of love, smooth as purple,
hospitable as ladyfingers with tea
under the bending birch trees
that are his arms. He reprograms
my hardrive when he eats
his words, never too proud
to dance naked.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bistro des Lavandieres

The day we moved into our new apartment, we ate lunch at this bistro just a few doors down from our building... well, I ate lunch. He was "celebrating" Ramadan, so he couldn't even have a glass of water! At the server's recommendation, I ordered the Estouffade, the house specialty, a dish very much like pot roast, my favorite! I soon became a regular here and passed many delicious afternoons chatting with Beatrice, the server/owner, about the guests, her life and mine, and the challenges of owning a restaurant in Paris... she had been in advertising until the birth of her first child, and her husband was a pastry chef...

Mmmmmmm... steak frites! I never orderd this here, but everything I tasted was de-lish...

Unfortunately, they had to commute from the west outskirts of Paris for several years because the rent for an apartment above the restaurant was too high, and the geographically opposed responsibilities of parenting and running a business had proved too taxing... now they were in the process of closing the restaurant. Her husband would return to his pastry cheffing, and she was looking forward to where life would take her next.

At the end of October, her kids were on vacation and accompanying them to work. Their daughter Eponine wants to be a vet, so I promised to stop by with Filou.

Cute, no? I love her tie! The American couple sitting behind her gave her and her brother dollar bills and took several pictures of the two, inspiring me to do the same... take pictures, that is. Aren't you glad they did? It's always an out-of-the-moment experience to get behind the camera...

... Oh, and of Napoleon, their "chat de garde."

I wonder who's fending off the mice now... that the windows are all painted white, and the dishes and wine glasses and kitchenwares have all been taken away.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Dear Beauregard,

Meet Filou... his name means swindler or clever thief... a name we chose from the dictionary because it sounded cute... a name he is living up to, snatching and hiding everything from the cats's toys to socks and snacks... he even pretends to "go potty" to get a treat! "Filou" sounds very similar to the French word for blurry... he IS rather hard to photograph!

We got him on October 2nd, his three-month birthday...

Our apartment is just a block from the pet stores that line the Quai de la Megisserie... "megisserie" implies that this used to be where the leather tannery was located... a dark thought, no?

We found this old iron doll bed at a flea market in Montmartre. He took a nap in it... once!

He's very well traveled... He's from Belgium and has the passport to prove it... no passport photo though. Just a microchip and his rabies vaccination. And last month he went to California.

Road trip to Santa Barbara!

A vacation with a dog is an all together different kind of vacation...

A video for you...

This happened just like this a couple of mornings ago... to this very song, so I recreated the moment for you! It's nothing you haven't seen before, but I think it's hilarious! The music makes it... doesn't it always? It's by Nouvelle Vague...