Cultural Exchange / Food. / Good Times

The best weekend I’ve had in a while.

Salut mes amis!

Wrapping up a surprisingly peaceful Monday, as I only taught twice today given that several of my classes in their last year of BAC (GED equivalent) studies are all preparing for exams next week. Both of my classes went fairly well, and in the second I managed to squeeze in some vocabulary including “cat lady” into a memorable Valentine’s Day lesson. Excuse me while I applaud myself.

Ahem. Anyway, the days leading up to this Monday were quite lovely so I thought I’d give a report. Friday was filled with excessive exercise at my Crossfit gym–frankly in part just because I had the time–which just in general made me quite happy, and I met up with a friend later for a visit to Shakespeare & Co., which I have visited in the past. (If you’re out of the loop, famous old bookstore. Carries pretty much English books, amazing atmosphere inside, and if you’re lucky you can be a live-in worker for a few months at a time.) There we met the store’s local zoo–aka the live-in cat and dog, the latter of which I befriended quickly and to whom I spent a good 20 minutes giving out a tummy rub.

Saturday was meant to be a quiet day, and it somewhat was, though not as much as predicted. Once again I spent aaaages at Crossfit since my time was open for the day, and I left making progress in several exercise at which I have failed miserably in the past. (I know, I know, Crossfitters never shut up about Crossfit. Trying to avoid it, but at the same time…my blog, my rules.) Afterwards I popped over to visit a couple of friends at their apartment–the idea was for me to hangout with one while the other played video games with another visitor, but in the end we just sat around playing games for hours, had a fantastic dinner of pasta carbonara, and eventually stayed up a good chunk of the night laughing and talking. A lovely evening in.

And now for the adventures of Sunday!

I set off with the Spanish assistant from my school and one of her friends who does the same at another school-both are from Spain, and so we spent the day chatting in Spanish for the most part, with a hair of French and a touch of English thrown in here and there. (Both are far more proficient in French than I am. Dooooh.) I’m definitely rusty at the old Español, but I got along well enough–it really made me miss being able to speak better though, as Spanish is what I’m best at of my foreign languages and it’s mildly depressing to have lost that communicative ability in the one language in which I had it.

…Anyway, griping aside, we started at a Sunday market located in Daumesnil (line 8 on the metro) which was filled with amazing fresh produce, meats, fish, cheeses, spices…everything that makes you want to stop and smell and taste. There was also quite a lot of reasonably priced clothing, and I am tempted to return for all. In any case, our purpose there was because one of France’s cooking associations is offering free cooking classes in rotating markets each Sunday. One signs up online, and the first 8 people (who are also present) are accepted into the class. We unfortunately didn’t get “in” per say, but we stuck around and watched the whole process, and frankly the people who were participating were really only cutting up ingredients anyway. They did get to eat the food after–but then, so did we, because we were standing next to the world’s most precious old lady from Vietnam/Laos who said she had lived in France for 30 years and who was critiquing the chef for us, as he was cooking an Asian dish. She bugged his assistant for a plate for us to taste and even tried to feed us herself. She was just a bucket of fun and although I struggled to understand her French through the accent for a few minutes, I completely enjoyed chatting to her.

Cooking class in the market at Daumesnil.

Cooking class in the market at Daumesnil.

Next up on our list was a European Culture fest in the middle of Le Marais, described as offering food, music, and history information and samples. Turns out it was really only Eastern Europe, but since none of us were from there we found it quite interesting. A large gymnasium had been set up with different booths for each country, all of which had food and natives from each country, informational packets, and thereout varied from music (The Czech Republic had an opera singer) to art pieces by artists from those respective countries. We practically got a full meal from samples, with Poland taking the lead for most delicious foods offered in my book. There was a heavy use of poppy seeds throughout most dishes (trying to figure out what those were from the French description took some serious doing) which made my friends a bit nervous, but having been throwing them into muffins and quick breads for years (admittedly in much smaller quantities) I didn’t think much of it. All of the foods were fantastic, and while yes I obviously read the information at each booth, let’s be honest–I was in it for the edible representations.

A sort of Mushroom-y tart from the Polish stand, which tasted phenomenal with their (honey, I think?) mustard spread on top. Well done, Poland.

A sort of Mushroom-y tart from the Polish stand, which tasted phenomenal with their (honey, I think?) mustard spread on top. Well done, Poland.

Food for purchase from the Polish traiteur "Chez Chelsea". We sampled one of those little cake squares--tasted like a light cheesecake with a solid layer of poppyseeds at the bottom.

Food for purchase from the Polish traiteur “Chez Chelsea”. We sampled one of those little cake squares–tasted like a light cheesecake with a solid layer of poppy seeds at the bottom.

Our third adventure for the day, after a reasonable stroll around Le Marais, was really just the hunt for Chinese New Year celebrations. There was word floating about of parades taking place in various parts of the city (and I really wanted to catch one, I love the Chinese New Year) but we apparently missed their passing in the area. However, in front of the Hôtel de Ville, the square was still decorated with tons of Chinese lanterns, which we followed up a nearby street only to find…

...People aren't supposed to be able to do that, bro.

…People aren’t supposed to be able to do that, bro.

Capoeira dancers. In the middle of the street, just…having a go at it.

He forgot gravity exists. Well, that, or he temporarily turned it off in the area immediately surrounding his body.

He forgot gravity exists. Well, that, or he temporarily turned it off in the area immediately surrounding his body.

Wait, what?

Yeah, really. We had no idea exactly where they had come from, but honestly I think they were just street performers who knew a big crowed would be in the area for the day (they were indeed collecting tips) and had come to show off. They were pretty cool, I have to say. They didn’t go into a full on battle with each other, but they did take turns doing cool stunts and flips. One of them had some wicked awesome tattoos.

Annnd here's the square in front of Hôtel de Ville, which is appropriately decked out for the Chinese New Year.

Annnd here’s the square in front of Hôtel de Ville, which is appropriately decked out for the Chinese New Year.

We finally decided to head to one last event–a Chinese New Year party of some sort (the details were fuzzy) at a place called the Pop Up Store. It took a bit to locate the place, but when we did it was pretty cool. I actually just had to do a bit of research to figure out what was really going on there–turns out the place IS a pop-up store–that is to say, a venue where different businesses can set up temporary sales or events,  and then they clear out for someone else to use the space. So, the space that we encountered will probably be quite different if ever we were to return.

A few items that I THINK were for sale in the pop up store.

A few items that I THINK were for sale in the pop up store.

The sign in the café...looked too funky to ignore!

The sign in the café…looked too funky to ignore!

 

For the day it had some live music, a café (which I suspect might actually be a permanent part of the space and clients work around it in their event plans) an upstairs area for childrens’ face-painting and photos, and of course lots of Asian-inspired/artistic objects for sale. It wasn’t exactly what any of us had imagined, but then, the place was really interested to just wander in and enjoy the ambience and music.  I wouldn’t be mad if I happened to find another event being held there in the future! (If you’re curious and want to pop by someday, the space can be found at 15 Rue des Blancs Manteaux, 74004 Paris.)

Photos dead ahead up the stairs!

Photos dead ahead up the stairs!

Lanterns decorating the entrance where some artisan (and Asian-inspired) bags and trinkets were for sale. I was more interested in the décor than objects for sale, honestly.

Lanterns decorating the entrance where some artisan (and Asian-inspired) bags and trinkets were for sale. I was more interested in the décor than objects for sale, honestly.

We ended our day with a quick coffee (or in my case, Chocolat Viennois) at a nearby Starbucks, and then parted ways. All in all it was an exciting day filled with surprises, good company, languages, and some pretty tasty food…when matched up with the rest of the weekend it served to put me over the moon in terms of mood. Here’s to many more weekends of such high caliber!

Later days kiddos!

-B

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