“Have you noticed that everyone is taking a cake to work today?” asked Emmanuelle on the way to school. “And everyone is taking a cake home, too?” It turned out to be the Fête de la Galette, a time in January when everyone eats these flakey round cakes and the person who gets the piece with a bean hidden in it is King or Queen for a day. The Fête de La Galette seems to go on and on. I was sweeping crumbs off the kitchen floor for a month.
No trip to Paris is complete without a “balade” through the flea markets, or the Marchés des Puces as they call them. But I have to say we’ve been pretty underwhelmed so far. Finally, last weekend, we figured out the Paris flea market secret.
One of the biggest issues during last week’s presidential election was unemployment, which has been hovering around 10% for quite some time in France. With corporate taxes at up to 75%, there’s a strong incentive not to start a business here. Or as the French tennis players and actor Gerard Depardieu have done, move to Monaco, Switzerland or Russia. More than a few expat couples told us they wanted to move to Paris but couldn’t figure out a way to make money here. So they ended up in Africa, Germany or England.
Our apartment building is relatively small, but there’s always lots of activity. We see the gardienne coming and going from her loge a few times a day. There are the lawyers who work on the third floor, with a constant stream of clients and couriers.
Every time I turn on the news or open my Twitter account I am reminded of just how volatile life is, not just in Europe, but everywhere. France has been in a state of emergency since the terror attacks just over a year ago. But there is a strong sense of solidarity among Parisians, who have taken back the streets. When Parisians were asked in a survey their favourite thing to do, the most popular answer was “walking in the streets.” Even more than sex. Apparently Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast has become a bestseller since the attacks.
“Mommy! They put fish in the mashed potatoes!” cries Charlotte, incredulous, at the school gate. I explain to her gently that it’s called cod brandade, and it’s quite delicious.
Charlotte, 7, is still getting used to her canteen lunches, which, according to the menu posted on the gate last Thursday, can include roasted lamb with puréed celeriac followed by a cheese course.
We live in a building with a gardienne; sort of like a concierge, except that our building has 12 apartments, not 120. We sometimes wonder what she does all day. She lives in a dimly lit room off the lobby and sometimes pokes her head out, shivers, and then goes back inside. At first, assuming she was like a concierge, I rang her bell and asked her to take our keys so that a repairman could get in. She refused, and only after a lengthy debate reluctantly took them. Paris-style, the repairman was a no-show anyway.