Regular readers of Paris Parfait will recall I studied Spanish last fall in Seville, Spain. At the time I bought a copy of Isabel Allende's just-released novel Ines del Alma Mia. I am a big fan of Isabel Allende's magical realism. Since reading Tales of Eva Luna in 1992, I've read every book Allende's written. So I tried to read her latest book in Spanish, but I am impatient and my Spanish isn't up to it. Hence the subsequent purchase of the English version of Ines of my Soul.
If you know a native Spanish speaker in Paris - who gives lessons and speaks English, please email me. But he or she must speak English; I can't face being instructed in Spanish by someone speaking French, then having to translate both languages in my head to English.
Today is market day and walking down the street, I noticed several French women obviously have spent long weekends at the beach (usually they wait until August), as their skin is tan, but their faces and hands are looking disturbingly leathery. One woman who's probably ten years younger than I looked 20 years older, because of the deep lines on her face. A reminder that nothing is more aging than the sun - please use sunscreen, people and wear hats to protect already over-bleached hair from looking like straw!
Speaking of skincare, isn't it annoying when a product you've come to rely on is suddenly discontinued? My skin is sensitive and I've been using the Body Shop's Cucumber Water since 1983. Now they've stopped producing it and are pushing what sales clerks in Paris and London insist is "the same thing," Jojoba Hydrating Toner. But it's not the same thing, as the new product is very oily (it contains "organic jojoba oil" and "peach kernel oil)." Maybe this is fine for someone with very dry skin, but it doesn't work for combination skin like mine.
The French are remarkably relaxed when it comes to getting things fixed quickly or construction projects completed. They've been renovating the building across the courtyard for months, as many rental apartments are now up for sale. Yet the building maintenance staff hasn't bothered to trim the hedges or maintain the courtyard's appearance.
Two weeks ago I asked the gardien for our building to take a look at the hot water tank in our apartment, as it is seeping water into the carpet in the hallway. He climbed on a ladder and looked at the tank, then said he'd phone a plumber. We've heard nothing since and must now write a letter to the building owner to request a plumber, as well as a letter to our insurance company in anticipation of a claim to replace the carpet.
It took workers six weeks to "modernise" the elevator, during which time the lift was unavailable and everyone - including a heavily pregnant woman - had to walk up and down the stairs carrying groceries, bicycles, etc. I shudder to think if anyone had to move in or out of the building during that time. When the elevator was finally back in service, the only thing that seemed different was the elevator call button.
Meanwhile, for nearly three months I've been boycotting the local Shopi supermarket. After shopping there for six years, one day I walked in with my little cart on wheels. Practically every Parisienne resident has such a cart, to carry around groceries and heavy things. The security guard stopped me and asked to look inside the cart. I showed him that it was empty, but he insisted I leave the cart by the doorway. I argued with him that it was too heavy to lift bottles of water, etc. in the little handbasket they provided - their aisles are too narrow for regular shopping baskets to manuever easily - and that I'd been shopping there for six years using my cart, so why should I stop now? But he ignored my questions - he was only the messenger, after all - and ushered me towards the entranceway.
This incensed me, as yet another example of French bureaucracy with the manager having nothing better to do than make up new rules. So I shook my head and said, "No!" and grabbed my cart and stormed out of the store. And I haven't been back. Now I have to walk further to the next supermarket - which is not as nice as the Shopi I'm boycotting - but it's a matter of principle. After all this time here, I cannot understand French "logic."
Mais oui, the French press is not supposed to talk about politicians' private lives. The new president Nicolas Sarkozy created an uproar when trying to suppress reports that his wife Cecilia did not bother to vote in the second round of the presidential election. When he was interior minister, Sarkozy had the editor of Paris Match fired for writing about his wife living in New York with another man. But Sarkozy and his wife have reconciled. Madame Sarkozy is often photographed at her husband's side; indeed she accompanied him to the G8 Summit in Germany.
On Monday French newspaper headlines were screaming about "le rupture" of Sarkozy's Socialist challenger Segelene Royal and her partner Francois Hollande, after 27 years and four children together. It is alleged that Madame Royal asked Hollande to leave their home, due to his relationship with a young blonde journalist. During the presidential campaign, Hollande often undermined Royal's statements and there were widespread rumours of a rift between the couple. Madame Royal has conveyed her version of events in a book to be released Wednesday. She also has announced her intention to challenge Hollande's leadership of the Socialist party.
On a brighter note, today I received a letter from the dean of my daughter's university, congratulating Jordana for making the Dean's List with a 4.00 gpa. She also earned kudos for a school project for Betsey Johnson. So please indulge a mother's pride, as Jordana really has had to do all this on her own, with us being so far away. She hasn't been able to come home for weekends or every holiday, like most of her classmates. She's had to be independent and I'm so proud of her. Am hoping her senior year will go equally well.