Halloween in France


A window at a bar in Paris that you wouldn’t have seen years ago.

They really don’t get Halloween in France, from what I can see. Americans have made this holiday, like Thanksgiving, completely their own. I’ve been asked by several French people exactly what we do on Halloween and what makes it so great. I tell of the excitement of picking out a costume as a child, filling bags with candy as we go trick or treating and the French seem a little puzzled by it all. They do now get little costumes for their children but even if they went door to door yelling, “Trick or Treat”, I doubt that they would get much in the way of candy. They are starting to have parties where everyone dresses up and in the Marais you can usually find people walking around in costumes and celebrating, although not with candy. The shops have discovered that it can be another way to make money, so now sell cute ceramic pumpkins, and the like, and there is Halloween style candy now seen in windows.
What the French do, and I’m sure most other Catholic countries, is celebrate All Saints Day on November 1st. In fact, florists sell more flowers on this day than any other. It is the custom to take flowers to the graves of departed friends and relatives on that day. May families even make it a sort of party and you can see little picnics going on in various cemetaries. I went with Maurice one year to clean his mother’s grave and leave the usual mums. I like to visit a few cemetaries around Paris just to see all of the flowers left.


A view of some great stairs I saw the other day.


I took a photo of this paste up grafitti because it looks like my cat, Elliot.

Autumn in Paris

One of my favorite things to see in Paris are the leaves changing colors and the floral arrangements done by the many florists using the hues of Autumn.


Here is a lamp post on the way up a hill in Montmartre. I especially love these red leaves.


Some more great leaves in front of an old shutter. This is in a private courtyard off of Cour St Andres in the 6th.


Some yellow flowers with autumn vegetables at a florist on Rue du Buci.

Rue des Martyrs

There was recently an article in the New York Times on a walk in a neighborhood and the street that runs through it, Rue des Martyrs. It is an area usually skipped by tourists and one usually walked and shopped on by locals. The blog, Chocolate and Zuchinni-http://www.chocolateandzuchinni.com also wrote a little about a few shops found there. One of these is the Rose Bakery. It is owned by a married couple, one of which is English, so the whole shop has an English ambience and sells English products.


This is their sign on the side of the building. I would have walked right passed the place as the sign is very discrete. There are a few little metal tables outside for days with sunshine.


Cans of English baked beans for sale. I remember people often ate these on toast in England. Another one of those cultural things.

The shop has a nice selection of baked goods. I tried one of their scones which was really good but I was disappointed that they didn’t sell that famous, artery clogging clotted cream that the English do so well to go with it. The next time I go, I am going closer to 1 PM when they sell really good looking small pizzas. The little quiche looked good as well. There was a really long line of people waiting to buy lunch as I left. It’s a very small place and many were waiting for an available table.
By the way, while the street is fairly interesting with some boulangeries along the way, I enjoy other streets more as far as having places to eat and an open market “feel”. I think the nearby Rue Lepic (of Amelie’s cafe fame) is much more interesting and lively as is Rue des Abesses taken to reach it from Abbesses metro in Montmartre.

Apartment Living in Paris


A view of the column with Napoleon at the top on Place Vendome. Napoleon had this column made of the melted down cannon balls and cannons that he captured during his military victories.

Ah, The Joys of Apartment Living

We own our apartment, which is what they call them here in France. I suppose it would be called a condiminium in the States but there isn’t any separation between units. I think this is one of the reasons I never bought a condiminium when I lived in the States-I just couldn’t see paying all that money and then hearing my neighbors through the walls or walking on the floor above my head. Well, that isn’t an option here-no free standing houses for sale in Paris. We are on the 3rd floor-4th if you are an American-and we have neighbors.
We share a wall with only one person, but she isn’t very happy with us. It isn’t that we are having wild parties until all hours, playing loud music until the sun comes up. We just don’t have that exciting a social life and we go to bed fairly early. The problem is that we occasionally rent our apartment, let friends use it, and an occasional relative will sleep in our apartment when we aren’t in Paris. When over neighbor lady moved in, we endured a week of what sounded like jack hammering as she did renovation. Then I heard days of work with a hammer and chisel. It turned out-somehow-that she was turning the bathroom into her bedroom and was getting all of the tile off of her wall. There was such work going on, that I took a framed photo off of the wall so it wouldn’t come crashing to the floor with all of the vibation.
So, it isn’t our fault that her bed is up against the wall of our bathroom. This isn’t usually a problem. We aren’t in there very early and don’t take showers at night. However, this hasn’t proved to be the case with others who have stayed here. One guy is a real music lover and goes to clubs very late, as in at 2 AM or so, and he takes a shower before he goes out. We have heard about this each time from our neighbor. At first I thought we should ask him to take showers earlier, but come on, its his life too. She also reported that one night someone was having sex in the shower-she could clearly hear this in her bed. I have no idea who this was. All I know for certain is that it wasn’t me. The days when it might have been me are long past. I’m old enough that it seems like a real good chance you could seriously hurt yourself trying this. After all don’t most accidents in the home happen in the bathroom? Anyway, we hear about each shower taking place at such an hour as it awakens her.
In the apartment above us, lives a cranky little girl with her parents. I hear her whining and crying as the mother tries to coax her up the stairs. The little girl wants to be carried but the mother usually can’t and is trying to teach her to do it all on her own. I have never exchanged more than “Bonjour” with this lady, but this is what I think is going on. In any case, this little girl is one of those kids who whines and cries when she wakes up. And, God forbid, if she is awakened in the middle of the night, she screams and not for just a short time, either. I hear one of her parents get up, walk across the floor into her room and try and calm her. It doesn’t help that the father works until 2 AM every night. How do I know this? Because he drops his shoes into his closet when he get home. Thud, Thud. I hear it each night. Many times he wakes up the little girl when he comes home. Sometimes, when he wakes me up closing doors, dropping shoes, etc., I turn on my TV to try and get to sleep again. A couple of times, the noise from my TV, wafts its way through my ceiling into the little girl’s room and wakes her up. Once she is up in the mornings and through crying, she is extremely active doing her renditition of a pony running back and forth across the floor for what seems like ages.
Incredibly, at five in the morning, I can hear the RER-a metro train that goes outside Paris into the suburbs-go roaring on its way deep underground from the station as the first train of the day. It isn’t extremely loud, just a distant rumble.
In the summer, I have an electric fan going in the bedroom and don’t hear as much noise. It is when I put the fan away, that I become an unknown listner of the goings on of my neighbors. I hear people clumping down the stairs in the morning on the way to work and the reverse in the evenings. I hear water trickling down pipes as showers are taken. I smell what our neighbors are cooking for dinner. I don’t smell cigarettes in our apartment but do get that strong smell at the bottom of the stairs where the apartment owner does his smoking. The whole area outside his door reeks of cigarettes. This is the same guy who has put plants all over the interior courtyard where the residents all go to put their garbage in the green containers. He even had an aquarium out there for a while but I think it was too cold for the fish and it has been removed. His window opens right out onto the courtyard and I think he likes it to look like his own private garden.
I do occasionally wear earplugs but I can’t when I have my clock set for an early morning wakeup. Maurice usually sleeps through everything. I guess I should look at it all as a sort of social experiement, a look into the lives of a group of Parisians living in an apartment building in the 12th arrondissement. I don’t find people friendly here. We all say “Bonjour” when we pass on the stairs but no one goes out of their way to speak to each other that I can see. All of my information has been gathered by my ears alone.

The Louvre

We are back in Paris and, on a busy Sunday afternoon, I dropped in at the Louvre to take a few photos. There is always something of interest there, even if you have seen something a dozen times. I kept trying to get a photo of the Pyramid Inversee-of the Da Vinci Code fame-but there were so many people that it was difficult. I finally managed to get rid of any people nearby by using photoshop.


See, no people! The magic of photo shop.


The Louvre has finally realized that tourists, especially Americans, are really interested in anything having to do with the Da Vinci Code. This display was in the window of a gift shop at the Louvre.


This is what you get if you stick your digital camera under the apex of the inverted pyrmid and shoot up. I rather like it.

A House in Provence Chapter 12


Flowers in market in Aix.

This Chapter was written about a year ago. Problems still loom.

Chapter 12

Brown Water and Backs

Maurice continued to have very bad back pain for months. It was so bad and he had so much trouble sleeping that the doctor put him on a prescription of morphine tablets. Now Maurice doesn’t react to medication the way that most people do. Sleeping pills that will knock me out for ten hours don’t phase him. Antibiotics seem to be the only medication that work on him as they should. The morphine turned out to be one medication that affected Maurice. The first night he took a tablet he slept like a baby for eight hours, something that hadn’t happened in several weeks. Of course, morphine isn’t something that you can take indefinitely and the time came when he had to stop. By this time he had been having some physical therapy and, what seemed to help the most, an injection of local anesthetic and cortisone in his spine at the point of injury. We had also been to a spinal neurosurgeon who told Maurice that his back would slowly return to normal if he kept up the physical therapy and didn’t overdo it with physical activity. Surgery, thank God, wasn’t going to be necessary.
The problem was getting off the effect of the morphine. Maurice tapered down taking less each day and then went through months of disturbed sleep. The morphine seemed to have affected his system and he couldn’t get to sleep without it. Most nights he could sleep an hour or two, if he was lucky, but then spent the rest of the night tossing and turning, finally falling asleep around 8 AM and sleeping until 10 or so. Some nights he would get up and watch TV for several hours. I had nights where I would go and sleep upstairs in the guest bedroom because his thrashing about in bed gave me sleepless nights as well. We had several very bad months for a while there. Eventually Maurice returned to his usual sleeping paterns. Some of his sleepless nights, of course, was due to the stress and worry of the plumbing.
Our shower finally ended up being pulled up three times before, and we still aren’t sure about this, the problem seemed to be taken care of. Luckily, the expensive shower covering survived being removed so many times and all of the tile that had been damaged was replaced. We could now use either toilet or bathtub. Maurice is puzzled why I remain negative about the plumbing, very suspicious anytime the toilet doesn’t flush with vigor. It may be years before I don’t think twice before flushing one of them.
One day I filled the tub with water and used some new bubble bath. I got into the water and then noticed that the water seemed reddish brown. For a minute I thought that perhaps the color was due to the bubble bath. It was lavender in color and I thought perhaps the formula dissapated into a brownish color when it dissolved. Just then Maurice came in and said the water in the toilet was brown. I had an awful feeling that the color could be due to some plumbing problem and wondered what I was sitting in. When I let out the water, a red-brown ring remained in the tub. It looked and felt like dirt. This was when I resolved to start drinking bottled water while in Provence. I could almost hear my poor kidneys making grinding noises trying to work all of the grit through the delicate little tubes as they did their cleansing thing. It turned out that it was due to the water and old pipes in the area, not our plumbing.