Sunday, 8 February 2009

Au revoir Londres, Bienvenue Paris!

Tuesday 3rd February 2009 was a significant day for me. It was the day that I crossed La Manche to start a new life in Paris. What had started off as a distant dream last Easter has finally arrived but for some reason, I was not overly excited on the day about my move. After quitting the rat race at the end of last year, I spent some time with my family and catching up with old friends during the month of January, which was lovely but at the same time, the nerves were starting to jangle big time. These appeared in the guise of not being able to sleep well and constant butterflies in the stomach. Certain questions were consuming my brain and dampening my fragile self-confidence: Was I really doing the right thing leaving a “stable” and “respectable” banking job to pursue an interest/hobby in baking? When was the euro going to weaken against sterling? (as if my course wasn’t expensive enough!) How was I going to cope with daily life in France with French learnt over a decade ago? (unfortunately, they don’t teach you how to open a bank account at school) What if the whole experience went completely pear-shaped and what little savings I had would also have gone down the drain? Naturally, I wasn’t the easiest person to live with during January and I have to say a big thank you to JD for keeping my spirits up and providing never-ending support. Its going to be tough being away from my loved ones but I guess its for less than a year, which should fly by. Just before leaving, a close friend had sent me an email wishing me well and to remember that if I had any doubts, to just think about my old job and how unhappy I was there, which would provide me with the motivation I would need to succeed – wise words from T! J
Lady Luck has definitely been looking out for me since Tuesday. My original plan had been to take the Eurostar on Monday but when the time came for me to book my ticket, it was more expensive than I wanted to pay so I opted for Tuesday instead. Turns out that this was a blessing in disguise as London was paralysed by heavy snowfall on Monday, which would’ve meant an unpleasant and delay-ridden trip. There was still snow on Tuesday but the sun was shining and most Eurostar trains were running on schedule. My journey went as smoothly as I could’ve hoped for, including navigating the many flights of stairs on the metro with heavy luggage (thanks for the metro tips, Jools!). My first night in Paris was filled with mixed emotions – happy to be here but also a little sad thinking back to all the goodbyes said in London, this feels 10 times worse than leaving home to go to boarding school. 
Despite these feelings, my first few days in Paris have been good – with my basic French, I have managed to get a pass Navigo, sort out a mobile phone and open a bank account. Parisians have an unjust reputation for being rude, the people I have met and dealt with to date have been nothing but kind, helpful and extraordinarily patient – I can pretty much guarantee that this type of customer service does not exist in London! I think the secret is to try and converse in French as much as possible and be prepared to carry all your personal documents around with you for a few days in order to sort things out. 

The weekend was then spent enjoying Paris, especially some of the culinary delights it has to offer. I had asked Mum for a copy of Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris for Christmas so ventured out with it in hand and it didn’t disappoint. Had a yummy Vietnamese sandwich from Saigon Sandwich in Belleville (8 rue de la Présentation, 11th) – a lovely concoction of grilled chicken, cucumber, carrot, chillis, coriander, lemongrass and mayonnaise in a crisp, fresh baguette. I did have a little trouble finding it at first - if you are coming by metro, take the exit for rue Louis Bonnet, come up to street level, walk down rue Louis Bonnet and turn right at the first junction. 

Another great recommendation from Clotilde was Jean-Paul Hévin (3 rue Vavin, 6th). My original plan was to wander in and do some window shopping but the heavenly chocolate aroma was too much and I walked out later armed with a couple of small bags of assorted chocolates and a tablette for JD. The chocolates were not cheap but are seriously delish and chocolatey yet light as a feather, dangerous!

While I was doing some research on cookery courses on the net last year, I came across Joan Pan’s blog, where she writes about her time spent at ESCF, as well as some recommendations on where to eat out in Paris. One of these places was Zen Zoo (13 rue Chabonais, 2nd), a small Taiwanese eaterie (see photo) which is renowned for its “bubble tea”. I’m not a big fan of the beverage myself but I did make the trip across town on possibly the coldest and most miserable day in Paris (think howling cold wind and constant snow fall, brr!) so far for lunch. The place was jammers and I was lucky enough to nab a table on arrival (they were busy the whole time I was there so be prepared for a wait, at least on a Saturday). Went for the “Formule Zoo” which includes a main, 2 sides and a dessert for 16 yoyos. I chose the “samedi spécial” of 5 spice beef noodles which was nice, not very 5-spicey but it did have a bit of a kick which helped warm me up. The highlight of the meal though was dessert, a piece of heavenly cake. There were 3 layers (2 of green tea, 1 of vanilla, I think) sandwiched together with red bean paste and cream and topped with a thin layer of raspberry coulis (mmm….hén hao chí!). Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera to take photos but I will definitely be going back again and maybe try and practise my ropey Mandarin with the staff next time!
I’m looking forward to starting my course on Monday and continuing to eat my way around the city. So far, things are coming up Millhouse, and I feel that I have definitely made the right decision. 

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