Thursday, 4 September 2014

Observations from the wagon: day 8

So sobriety is finding my a little less irritable overall, my mood has gone from “extremely murderous” to merely "very murderous” - practically zen for a New Yorker - in just 8 short days, as proved by my subway ride this morning where I did not have the urge to kill ANYONE, not even the man who decided he could not possibly go one stop without reading his free Metro paper, which he held about an inch from my face, putting me at serious risk of a paper cut. Tsk!!! Admittedly I did passive aggressively get out my Kindle and reclaim my personal space, but still….I did not have the urge to push him violently from the car!!  Success!!  Just imagine how mellow I will be in 3 more weeks.*

*Probably so desperate for wine I’ll be snatching glasses of Chardonnay out of the hands of customers seated at outdoor restaurant tables.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

On the wagon

After a particularly boozy couple of weeks while my parents were visiting from England I've decided to give my liver and kidneys a bit of a break and abstain from alcohol for the next 4 weeks.  Today is day 7, not that I'm counting you understand.  Ahem!!
I was talking to my friend Melissa at dinner on Friday - where I consumed nothing more potent than a San Pellegrino with my tasty upscale tacos - and mentioned that by my calculation I've probably been drinking more than I probably should for about 6 years now, having slowly fallen into the habit of having a glass or two - occasionally 3 - every night with dinner.

"I feel the same way," she said, "it's probably been about 6 years for me too.  Somehow its become much more socially acceptable to drink, I can't tell you the number of times I've seen that photo of the woman with the massive glass of wine posted on Facebook."

Now we New Yorkers generally seem to like our booze quite a bit, so when you tell people that you've decided to give up drinking for a month the typical response tends to be "but...but...why would you do that?"

Me: Because I feel I've been drinking too much and I want to break myself of the habit

Them: But you don't drink too much, you drink the same as me!!

Which says it all really.

Not that I'm judging my heavier drinking friends if they are fine with their habits,  I don't feel that things are so bad that I need to stage an intervention for any of them, but my personal drinking habits don't sit so well with me, so I'm making an effort to do something about it.  So far it's not been as bad as I anticipated, I have not been tempted to snatch up a glass of Chardonnay from someone's table at an outdoor cafe and glug it down, so in my book I'm doing pretty well, even though life has tested my resolve a few times this week by:

  • Giving me the gift of persistent insomnia.  Joy!!
  • Having my laptop crash and die while I was working from home on Labor Day, resulting in the loss of about 12 hours worth of weekend work (aaaaiiiieeeeeeeee!!!) 
  • The agency where I work coming close, but ultimately losing yet another new business pitch (NB: must update resume) 
  • A favorite work colleague resigning
  • Having to walk through Times Square to get to my Pilates class

Admittedly there have been times when I've reached for chocolate - don't tell me I don't know how to eat my feelings - but so far I've resisted opening any of the wine I have at home, so big pat on the back for me.  

Only 21 days to go!!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Jellyfish Alert

I'm at home drinking wine this fine Saturday evening, feeling a little blue after having brunch with a friend that I haven't seen in about 8months.  

She turned up in a figure hugging cocktail dress and about 20lbs lighter than the last time I'd seen her - super skinny with tiny twig arms, since she wasn't what you'd call even slightly overweight before - and said to me....

"Oh you look great, have you put on weight?  It really suits you."


What the fuck!! Who says that to someone?  

For the record I have NOT put on weight!!  

I was reminded of the scene in Bridget Jones where she says of someone "Talking to her is like swimming in a sea and being stung repeatedly by an enormous jellyfish."

Ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh.  I think it will be another 8months before we brunch again!!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

A Fool & Her Money: Cronut Edition

I frequently read in the media that New York is in the grip of a Cronut frenzy, seemingly the bastard offspring of a croissant and a doughnut; a concoction dreamed up in the twisted brain of pastry mastermind Dominique Ansel.

Lines form before 5am at his Spring St bakery which opens at 8am.  Recently Huffington Post blogger, Andy Campbell, posted this photo of the Cronut queue to his Twitter.

Demand has been so high that cronuts have been limited to 2 per person.  I find all of this to be completely mind boggling, but then I hate doughnuts, so as far as I'm concerned the cronut is a good croissant ruined.

Anywayyyyy this afternoon I was chatting with one of our Account Planners and she told me that yesterday one of the Asst. Account Execs lined up for cronuts to bring them in for a client meeting.  At 5am she was the 10th person in line and said that the first 3 people in the queue looked as if they were homeless.  As it got close to opening time there were at least 200 people waiting. The homeless guys went to the back of the line in turn and sold their places for $300 a piece.  Apparently one woman bought all 3 spots, which netted her a total 6 cronuts for $900!!


I'm told Dominique Ansel charges $5 per cronut!!

Fair play to the homeless guys!!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Blurred Lines With Puppets

Much as I enjoy the song - at least when I don't pay too much attention to those spurious lyrics, "You know you want it?", I don't thanks, get the f**k away from me - the video is just tired. I mean seriously, using naked women to promote your product. How original. Pht!! This version below, which a friend sent to me today, is soooooo much better!!!

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Paris: A Few More Photos From Day 2

I woke up at 5.30am on my second day in Paris, which surprised me, because usually when I am in the UK visiting family the time difference makes it hard to get up before 10am.  Melissa was awake about an hour later and we readied ourselves to head for breakfast at Bread & Roses at 7 Rue De Fleurus/62 Rue Madame.
After sating ourselves with coffee and croissants we walked the 2.5miles to the St Paul Metro station to join with a Paris Walks tour of the Marais.

We arrived about half an hour too early for the tour so we killed time by pottering around the Place Des Vosges - the oldest planned square in Paris, built by Henri IV between 1605-1612 on the site of the Hôtel des Tournelles, a former royal estate - and the Carnavalet Museum; a free museum dedicated to the history of Paris.

Place Des Vosges

At 10am on Saturday morning the square was very peaceful, but when we returned at the end of the tour, around noon, it was full of French families enjoying picnics with many an open bottle of champagne.  "I like how the French picnic," said Melissa.

The picnics explained the proliferation of hugely fat pigeons, like these two enjoying a morning shower in one of the fountains.

As pigeons go they were quite photogenic in the Place Des Vosges

One of the first stops on the tour was the Hôtel de Beauvais former home of Catherine Bellier, wife of Pierre de Beauvais, who was a lady in waiting to Anne of Austria.  Apparently Catherine and Anne were very close with Catherine administering the Queen Mother her colonics.  Yikes!!!  A 38-year old Catherine was also rumored to have shown Anne's son, the 14 year old Louis XIV, a very good time - at Anne's request - by providing him with a practical demonstration of the facts of life.  Louis and Anne were lovers for 2-years after which time she was awarded an estate and a pension by the dowager Queen Anne, using the money to commission architect Antoine Le Pautre to design and build the Hôtel de Beauvais in 1657.  Today the building is used as an administrative court. 
Hotel de Beauvais, 68 rue Francois-Miron, Paris

One of the benefits of the Paris Walks tour, led by Oriel, is that we got to go inside the courtyard.  The home was built on the site of a 13th Century mansion, which Catherine had knocked down, although she left the cellars intact for the servants. Nice of her eh!!  The facade of the building is in the French Baroque style, the name given to French architecture during the reigns of Louis XIII, Louis XIV and Louis XV (1610-1774).

Despite not being blessed in the looks department Catherine was purportedly not short of lovers, it being fashionable at the time to imitate the king, and she was very much in demand in the bedroom department, counting the Archbishop de Sens, Henri-Louis de Gondrin, among her lovers.  This carved stone figure, or grotesque, in the courtyard of the Hôtel de Beauvais is supposedly of Catherine.

According to Leonard Pitt in "Walks Through Lost Paris:A journey into the heart of historic Paris," Catherine grew ugly and heavy as she aged, although never lost her strong sexual appetite but was reduced to paying for sexual favors.  When her husband died in 1674 she was saddled with huge debts and became a pauper.  In the end she lived destitute at the Hôtel de Beauvais as merely a renter. 

Catherine wasn't the only notable resident of the townhouse.  In 1763, when the building was in the possession of the Bavarian Ambassador he was visited by Mr. Leopold Mozart and family, including a 7-year old Wolfgang.  During his stay the young prodigy performed for the royal family at Versailles.

Further along the Rue Francois-Miron at the corner of the tiny, pedestrian only, Rue Cloche Percé stand wood framed houses whose construction dates back to the 14th Century.  The pitched roofs allow rainwater to drain down the sides of the buildings. The wooden frames of these buildings meant they were a serious fire risk with fires jumping quickly from building to building and in 1607 Henri IV ordered the buildings to be covered with plaster of Paris to prevent the spread of fire.

11 & 13, rue Francois Miron
"I'm told it's now a swingers club" said our guide, Oriel.  A quick look at Google confirms that the building at number 13 does indeed now house the Au Pluriel Club, which describes itself as "Adult swingers Club in the 4th district of Paris."  Enter at your own risk. 

After a quick tour around a Saturday market we made our way to the Church of St Gervais et St Protais, one of the oldest churches in Paris whose existence in this location is mentioned as early as the 4th century.  The present church building is in the Gothic style and was begun in 1474 and completed in 1578.  Since 1975 the church has been the headquarters of the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem, who are devoted to monastic life within an urban context with most of it's members working part-time jobs.

The Church of St Gervais et St Protais

At the back of the church are a number of misericords, also known as a mercy seat, a small wooden shelf used for support when having to stand for long periods, since prayers in the early medieval church were said standing with uplifted hands. The old or infirm could use crutches or, as time went on, a misericordia, which literally means "act of mercy". According to our guide, Oriel, the seats in St Gervais et St Protais were used by the priests and would typically be shielded from the view of the standing parishioners by a rood screen, an ornate partition between the chancel and the nave, so that they wouldn't be able to see the priests having a break.  The seats could be turned up to  expose a small shelf underneath which could be leaned against.  They were often beautifully carved with detailed scenes, despite being hidden underneath the seats.

Misericords in the church of St Gervais et St Protais
The church at St Gervais et St Protais has 21 mid-16th century misericords (dating from 1556) and 21 from the early 17th century.  Most Parisian churches had their carvings removed and burnt during the fuel shortage that resulted from the siege of Paris (1870-1871).

A woman cavorts with a fool. Supposedly a damning indictment of women, but women more often than not cavort with men so....I'm just saying!!

The next stop on the tour was the Shoah Memorial.  According to TripAdvisor the memorial "opened in 2005 as a bridge between contemporaries of the Holocaust and those who have not experienced it" and also houses the Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation (YSC) founded during the Second World War to gather documentary evidence of the destruction of European Jews.   

Outside the museum is "le mur des justes", a wall of names of those who helped the Jews in France during World War II.  Apparently the wall is featured in the fictional film Sarah's Key, an adaptation of the book by Tatiana de Rosnay, which follows an American journalist's present-day investigation into the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of Jews in German-occupied Paris in 1942. Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise also tells a story of being a Jew in Nazi occupied France. 

I'm going to end this here as I feel it's getting lengthy, but I'll continue reporting on the tour in a day or two, but below is the tour route so far, beginning on the far right at the St Paul Metro station.

Tour of Le Marais, Paris

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Paris: A few photos from Day 1

One of my favorite things about my recent trip to Paris was the way the street cafes make absolutely no pretense about blatantly facilitating people watching.  I wish New York cafes would take note.

On our first day we covered about 6 miles as the crow flies.  I felt as if we walked much further, but all in all not bad considering we were sleep deprived after taking the red eye from New York. 

I suspect we realistically walked a couple of miles more than that as we got lost once - took a wrong turn out of Jardin Du Luxembourg and ended up back in the vicinity of our Montparnasse hotel instead of by the Seine - and retrod our ground a few times.  We didn't really have a destination in mind, beyond our curiosity concerning the Paris Plages, or beaches, and my curiosity about a public pool on a barge in the Seine named for Josephine Baker.

Photo by Alexandrealari

It wasn't the most picturesque route, although initially it did take us past Notre Dame.

Before all that though we headed for Montparnasse Tower, which is a great spot for taking in an amazing view of Paris that includes the Eiffel Tower.

During our walk we saw this amazing public art on the quai d'austerlitz.  Apparently it's the work of street artist IDEM who was looking to give the impression of a giant over flowing paint pot.

After crossing the Pont de Bercy we walked up the Qual de la Rapee to Avenue Ledru Rollin and headed to Le Bistrot du Peintre for an early dinner, which I'd read about in Eloisa James's Paris In Love.  I think I ordered badly. I was a bit over faced by the circular cake of salmon in fromage frais topped with layers of smoked salmon served with a side salad.  Not that it was bad, not in the least; it was just too much salmon for me, but Melissa loved her dish of roast chicken on a bed of ratatouille.

We took the metro back to the hotel after dinner and I was snoozing by 8pm, 2pm New York time.  Come to think of it we never did see Paris Plages!!