Friday, June 26, 2009

Housekeeping, and some questions for you

Let me begin by saying: The Blog Will Not Die, Long Live the Blog.

Yes, I know that I'm supposedly moving, but not for two months, and anyway I see no reason to kill the blog. I still have so much to tell you all - about my civic training day, the kamikaze pigeon that hit me on the head, the melon we've been eating, and the way Parisian women wear scarves in the summer time. Plus, if my prayers to Saint Genevieve (patron saint and protector of Paris and former resident of our very own `hood) are working, she is interceding on our behalf with some of MCM's potential employers. He has 2 interviews next week. In Paris. Both for fabulous jobs. Aieee!

So favoritise me, bookmark me, follow me, send me virtual thoughts and flowers... I'm not going anywhere!

Except on a little vacation. Next week the Accidental Parisian will turn vingt-huit ans and the week after MCM turns 3. Three-and-0, that is. Three days later, we'll be celebrating our first wedding anniversary. For these milestone events, MCM and I are hopping down to the south of France for a few days of sunshine, sea and seafood.

This is where I need your help, dear readers! I am looking for recommendations for restaurants in or near Antibes. Ideally, I'd like some place somewhat with outdoor seating, yummy and traditional food, romantic vibe, not outrageously expensive. (I've been reading southern French food blogs and found one about a retired couple who likes to go out for 300 euro lunches. Hello!)

We're also accepting recommendations for my birthday meal in Paris. Current ideas are Bistro Paul Bert (12th arrondissement), Je The Me (15th), Le Violon d'Ingres (7th). Thoughts?

Monday, June 15, 2009

A moving condundrum

Here we go again....

So, I'm moving to England at the end of the summer. What else is new? I've moved house - and often country - every single summer since 1992. I'm an old hand at it now. I should just be glad that the body of water between me and the new location is relatively small. And that pain au chocolat are just a one-hour flight away.

The question remains, still, about whether MCM will be joining me or not. He had a great interview today for a job in Paris; unfortunately, it turns out to be only a short-term position to cover someone's maternity leave. "That's okay," he said over the phone, calling to report after the interview, "I could stay in Paris for a few more months and join you after." Right, that's true. But consider these facts:

1. My new employer is paying for my move. Thank goddess!
2. We have furniture which we don't want to sell or give away (along with enough books to open our own school or bookshop).
3. Apartments in the UK can be furnished, unfurnished or semi-furnished.
4. Apartments in Paris are rarely furnished.
5. If MCM were to get this job, he could end up finding another job in Paris after. Or not.
6. If we moved all our stuff to England, MCM could rent a vacation or short-term furnished apartment in Paris for a little while. But if he ended up staying in Paris after, we'd have to get new furniture for a new apartment for him.
7. If MCM stayed in Paris with all of our stuff and then didn't get a job after, we'd have missed out on the chance for my new employer to pay for our (expensive) move.
8. MCM might not get this job. He might get another, permanent job in Paris instead. Or not. Or both. Or whatever.
9. I can't remember if I took my vitamin or not this morning. Maybe I should switch to the gingko biloba formula.

I know that I am making wild hypotheses based on lots of what-ifs and maybe-who-knowses. It just goes to show that a little bit of logic and analytical research methods can be a dangerous thing.

Or maybe it's France rubbing off on me... I recently went to attend my *mandatory* French Civic Training day - required of all resident permit holders. I showed up at 9am on the appointed day to find that I had been given the wrong date. There was no course that day, the confused (but very kind) staff told me; my letter was wrong, and it was not my mistake. Okay, I understand. I wrote to the office in charge of scheduling to explain the mix up. They have now replied to me, warning me that I was not present at the training day, reminding me that it is obligatory, and assigning me another date. I'm now writing to them to explain that I was not trained because there was no training. I'm tempted to write that, out of respect for French culture and traditions, I actually was present through my absence, or that I attended what Baudrillard might call a simulacra of a training day (an exact replica for which the original no longer exists), or that I was on holiday, or that I was on strike, or that hell is other people. C'est normale. C'est tout a fait normale. What do you think?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Wine Post #3

Wine, wine, wine... My baby sister recently came to visit and, as she is not really a baby at all, but a new college graduate, we decided to take a trip to the Loire and sample the region's finest offerings: the beautiful Abbaye de Fontevraud, the chateau of Chenonceau, and, of course, the Loire wine. Very grown-up stuff befitting a woman in possession of a Bachelors of Science degree, I say.

We had brought along the Hachette wine guide, an annual bible of wine produced in France, rated and described. (I was reading this before bed for a while, but I was having really weird dreams. Fruity ones, with cherry noses, great legs and full bouquets.) Anyway, the plan was to just phone some vineyards in the book and ask if we could stop by for a taste. Eagle-eyed MCM was rereading the Loire guidebook before breakfast (while waiting for Baby and I to dry our hair - serious stuff, you know) and realised that, by marvellous coincidence, our trip coincided with the Vouvray wine festival. We decided that we would check it out on Sunday morning before proceeding to visit a chateau in the afternoon.

That's right. In the morning. This was either brilliance or madness: who goes to a wine festival at 10.30am? It must have been brilliance because we had an absolutely fantastic day, completely forgot about the chateau, and left at 4pm.

Vouvray is located near Tours, in a region known for its troglodyte dwellings: houses, garages and wine caves that are built into the local rock. The festival was held in a huge cave that snaked through the rock, and there were 19 winemakers exhibiting, offering tastes and selling their wine. Entrance was free but you paid 3 euro for a wine glass, which you used to taste the wines and then took home with you; nearly all the wines cost 5-8 euro for a bottle. Definitely a bargain.

Baby, like me, is an expert list-taker and noted down the name, style and year of each wine we tasted. And we tasted... weeeeel... about thirty-five wines. It was fabulous! I loved being able to ask the winemaker questions and the atmosphere was very friendly and not at all snobby. We told the winemakers that we had come to learn and discover new things, and they were all very happy to answer our questions. Baby was initially hesistant: "I don't know anything about wines! I won't be able to tell the difference!" Let me tell you, by noon she was musing about the merits of the 2006 over the 2007 vintage. It goes to show that you learn about wine by tasting it and it's really easy to learn to distinguish both quality and your own personal preferences.

Vouvray makes exclusively white wines from the Chenin grape. There are 4 styles: sec (dry, i.e. not sweet), demi-sec (sweeter), moelleux (quite sweet), and what is variously called petillant, cremant or fines bulles (sparkling). The dominant taste in the dryer wines was fresh green apple; the more mature and the sweeter wines are more floral (like honeysuckle) and honeyed. (Think that's all wine jargon hooohaa? Try one of these next to an oaky chardonnay or lemony sauvignon blanc, and you'll taste the difference). You serve them all quite chilled - say 8-10C/46-52F. Most of the wines have a sweet, inviting aroma, taste fruity but fresh, and pair well with food - not too complicated that they overpower the food, not so light that they taste watery. They're lovely as a pre-dinner drink (aperitif), with fish or shellfish, with light east Asian foods, or with poultry with light creamy sauces. The moelleux wines could be drunk with dessert.

All the wines we tasted were good; of the 35, there were only 1 or 2 that I didn't enjoy. But here were our favourites:

In general - 2008 - A better year than 2007. Vouvray grapes are picked really late - in October - and need a nice warm September in order to fully ripen. The weather was lousy in 2007 but 2008 was just right.

Fabrice and Laurent Maillet - these guys have won lots of praise from Hachette and they deserve it. Their sparkling brut wine, at 8 euro a bottle, was great and would be a perfect Champagne substitute for those on a budget, provided you like fruitier (rather than dry or citrusy) Champagnes.

Alain and Christophe Le Capitaine - Ahoy! We really liked their demi-sec - very balanced. They import to the US under the name L'Aumone. They are still recovering from a trip to Boston to meet their importer, where they went to Au Bon Pain. "Normally this name is very comforting and reassuring to us French, but we were very mistaken," Le Capitaine told me sadly.

La Grande Taille - As well as producing a lovely and very food-friendly demi-sec, Messieurs Bonzon and Boitelle cheerfully answered my inane questions for about twenty minutes. Lovely people, lovely wine.

The moral of the story is, go to a wine festival if you're visiting France. It's a fantastic cultural experience and a lot of fun. The Vouvray fest happens three times a year and is highly recommended. Sante, mes amis!

Au revoir, Paris!?

Big news here: I'm leaving Paris in two months.

After spending a few years playing that fool's game known as searching for an academic job in the humanities, I've done it. I've got a lectureship in the south of England (in the US, this would be called an assistant professorship). I've dealt with job rejection for so long that I'd actually forgotten that getting that job was a possible outcome. I'm still slightly in shock!

This actually happened two weeks ago but right after I had my dad visiting, then my sister visiting, and then a visit from a very nasty stomach virus. Plus, there's been work to be done immediately, designing syllabi to get my courses listed for the autumn semester and making preliminary enquiries about moving. I've been swamped.

I have mixed feelings about all of this. Professionally, it's fabulous. I've finally found what I have been looking for. I'll be taking a huge step up the career ladder. I'll be putting my degrees and talents to work. I'll be moving closer to many friends who I miss dearly. I'll be moving back to an English-speaking country, and in some ways that feels like going back to an even playing field.

But... but what? After ten months of struggle, I feel like I am finally getting the hang of Paris and I have the satisfaction of knowing that I've done it mostly by myself. So where's my prize? It's as if I've been allowed to look but not touch: I've been so consumed with bureacracy, trying to publish and research independently, applying for jobs all over the place, and worrying about money that I haven't been living it up. Now I'm ready to, and it's time to go. It's a bit like climbing a mountain, getting almost to the top, and then being told that you have to descend before you can see the amazing view.

In other words: I'm sad to leave Paris.

There is a small catch, though. We don't know yet if MCM will be joining me or not. He's freelance at the moment and will probably come - although, for his professional prospects, the new city is terrible. But there is a small chance that he is going to get his dream job in Paris. It's all very hush-hush and I'm almost afraid to think about it, as it brings up so much vulnerability and emotion; we just can't take much more drama.

If MCM stays in Paris then we would try to see each other most weekends (there are direct flights), and I would spend much of my (very generous) summer break writing in Paris. It would be tough but it would be temporary, and I'd rather we both have wonderful jobs than he be lonely and miserable in a new city. After all, I know just what that's like. And we've spent time apart before: I calculated that one year when we were both doing a lot of research and family travel, we spent nearly five months apart. We can do it.

There's also the fact that Paris will always be here and I'll always feel, I think, that I have staked my claim: that now, I've got some kind of knowledge of this city that no one can take away from me. (That sounds dangerously like I might break into song...)

So, final point: the fate of the blog. I'd like to continue, but as you can see I'm not able to post as much as I'd like to. We'll see. If I end up spending weekends in Paris there will be many more tales to tell and things to taste, and I'll keep sharing it here.