Fun in the sun

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Since last Friday, the sun has been shining as bright as it ever has in Paris, and Gui and I have been taking full advantage of the beautiful weather all weekend.  Our friend, Juliet had the foresight to plan a barbecue on the most perfect day we’ve had all year, around which we gladly planned our weekend.  Our first stop on Saturday was at my favorite local marché (on Avenue Président Wilson).  Although Gui doesn’t agree with me, it totally beats out the Avenue Versailles marché which is held on Sundays and is about 15 minutes closer to our apartment.  It’s not like it’s really a “better” marché, but to me, it just seems more authentic…more “French.”  And, besides being fooled by fake farm-fresh eggs, the products just seem nicer – and the people do, too.

It was a perfect morning for some marché shopping, though, and after gathering all the necessities (and a few luxuries in the form of 50€/kg cheese), we hopped on a metro back home where I worked-up a batch of my mom’s version of my Aunt Mary’s potato salad.  We headed over to the barbecue as early as possible to take full advantage of the glorious sunshine and fresh green grass, which can be really hard to come by ‘round these parts.  Everyone was all laughter and smiles, and as delectable as the assortment of grilled burgers and American goodies was, the best part of the barbeque was easily the company.  Give us an imported barbecue grill, a plush, green yard, and lots of sunshine, and nothing can stop us from being the happiest people in Paris.

Yay sun!

Sunday gave us a few more clouds than Saturday, but Gui and I didn’t let them stop us from going through with our plans for a bike-ride to the Eiffel Tower.  It's been a long time since we've been bike-riding, and I've always wanted to see how long it would take to get to the Champs de Mars from our place, so Gui hopped on his bike (generously given to him by our friend Justin who returned to the States) and I rented a velib', and off we went! All I can say is, man, do I need to work out more!  The half-hour bike ride there tired me out a bit, but the crazy uphill ride back to our apartment is what really got me.  We took our time, though and enjoyed the spectacular views along the way.  There really is a magic in the Paris air during Spring, and it somehow just wipes the slate clean from the grim memories of a bitter winter.  Vive le soleil!

Vente privée

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

One of the many perks (and quite possibly the best one) of my job includes priority access to many vente privées throughout the year.  A vente privée literally translates to "private sale," but saying it in English doesn't quite give off the same meaning as when I hear it in French.  I'd compare it more to a special few days when guests can shop a brand name at their leisure and pay for their items at a very generous employee discount.  Sometimes, this means that the sale will be full of past seasons' collections or off-colored and blemished items, but that is not usually the norm.

Last year, I attended my first vente privée in Paris, and it was such an adrenaline rush. Usually, a huge line forms before the sale begins, and depending on the brand's popularity, it could continue throughout the day.  Most sales are held in spaces or warehouses specifically designed and purposed for such, which means they are professionally staffed with people who run these kinds of private sales for a living.  Nothing but wallets and cell phones are permitted on the selling floor, so a mandatory coat and purse check is the first place to visit after showing your invitation and ID to the security guard at the door (once you've finally made it there).  Then, you grab a massive plastic bag and fill it with as many shoes, purses, wallets, and clothes your heart desires before finally sorting it out into "keep" and "sadly leave behind" piles.

There are no dressing rooms to try your clothes on, so oftentimes, you'll catch a glimpse at someone's undies or see people posing with their hangered treasures in front of the few mirrors available.  Most bags, shoes and haute couture items are placed on shelved walls guarded by staff members who stand in front of the shelves and behind a table of display bags.  You can usually grab what you want from the table, but if you notice something sparkling on the shelf, you can simply ask for it from the staff member.

As much as it all sounds like such a privileged and organized event, it can get pretty ugly.  I went to a sale a few weeks ago on its third day of opening (vente privées can last anywhere from one to five or more days), and could not believe the chaos that normally respectable ladies were causing ... for fabric bags, no less!  The staff can only stock so much on display, so the rest is left hidden "backstage" in cardboard boxes that don't give any indication as to what's in them. For deal-desperate shoppers, this means that as the day goes on, there will be more stock with possibly newer items available for sale, so, someone's dream bag could be trapped in a cardboard box and not come out until the end of the sale.  And, that's what these "ladies" were hoping would happen for them if they waited and pushed long enough.  Despite there being limits on how many bags and shoes can be purchased, these women had gobs of handbags well over the limit and had invited every friend, neighbor and cousin to come with them so they could amass the most stock possible.  I could barely stand the insanity, so I left empty-handed from that sale and swore to never again wait to come when the invitation is extended beyond the employees of the company (it's usually open to anyone with an invite after the first day).

There are a few "big" brands that everyone looks forward to but are really strict on the amounts of items you can buy and whether or not you can bring a guest (you usually can't for the popular brands).  And, as for the prices, well, they're quite good considering the brand that's being sold and the retail prices that the items would normally sell for.  But, these are expensive goods we're talking about here, so it's kind of just relative.

My job has definitely fed my desire for fancy purses and logoed shoes that I never really had so much before. Women at my office are often dressed head to toe in recognizable designer threads, so walking around in my Zara dress, H&M heels and Gap handbag doesn't turn many heads for the right reason.  And, mostly I'm OK with that.  I never buy everything I want, but I often rationalize my rare vente privée splurges by reminding myself that every Parisienne needs a nice handbag (or four) and that I won't have access to the sales once my work contract is up.  Now, rationalizing my need for three more handbags to Gui, well that's another story, and obviously, he's no longer sensitive to my so-called "need" to fit in.

My latest splurge.

My latest sacrifice. (So sad.)


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

As I went to toss out what I thought was an empty Nerds box left on our foot rest/ottoman/coffee table, I discovered that the little box was not empty at all.  I pulled out the contents, at first thinking that there were maybe some clumped-up Nerds left to be eaten (after all, they did come from my sister's leftover Halloween stash), but soon realized that hidden inside the closed-up little box of apple-watermelon Nerds were three inconspicuously-folded candy wrappers (two chocolate squares and one Almond Joy).

Of course, there's nothing wrong with Gui eating all the candy he wants (except for maybe our dentist bill), but this comes after I kind of, sort of made him feel bad for eating one of the prized chocolate-covered Peeps I brought back for the Ks to try.  (Now, they'll just have to share one smushed, chocolate-covered Peep between themselves - which, I have a feeling Katia might be fine with).  I didn't mean to guilt-trip him when I told him that he ate someone else's Peep, but I guess he must have felt bad about it enough to want to hide anymore evidence of his indulgences.

Since I've been back, we (but mostly Gui) have polished off a large bag of almond M&Ms, all 5 or 6 boxes of Nerds, half a pack of 3 Musketeers and a bag of Ghiradelli raspberry-filled squares.  To say that Gui has a sweet-tooth is an understatement, but I have to admit that my crazy Target sprees contribute.  Maybe it's just because I know how his big, blue eyes will be all a-glimmer when I reveal my stash of sweets that's the real reason I bring so much back with me.  Does that make me a good wife?  Or am I just your run-of-the-mill sweets pusher?

The evidence.

Our stash.

Auntie to the rescue gets rescued

Sunday, April 11, 2010

So, my spontaneous trip back to the good ol' US of A seems to have pushed me back to the side of sanity, which is precisely what I had hoped it would do for me. I can't even explain how much of a difference it's made to my nerves to have a few consecutive days of real life family - drama and all - back in my life. Even pulling an all-nighter on the plane-ride back and going to work for 5 hours just after couldn't bring me back to the funk I was feeling before I left.

Besides soaking up the giggles and snuggles and cries and shouts of my loveable nephews, I also got a little "I-just-need-to-be-an-American-and-do-American-things" in while I was visiting my sister in midwest America. It ain't Texas, but I still managed to find a delicious plate of enchiladas, tacos, rice and beans to grub on pretty much as soon as my plane slid onto the tarmac. I made a few Target runs, browsed through the local Banana Republic, J.Crew and Nordstrom stores, grabbed a couple of Starbucks cinnamon dolce lattes (which haven't made it onto the Paris menus, yet), stopped by Michael's and an LYS to check out the yarn scene, ran through the Taco Bell drive-thru, and had breakfast and three lunches at Chick-fil-a. Oh, how I missed thee, Land of Liberty!

I'll admit that it felt a little awkward being back at first - it's so much easier to be somewhere that doesn't require a bit of reflection about how to phrase a sentence before speaking. But, the awkwardness didn't last long and I fell back in the sadle in no time. The weather was pretty cooperative, save for the couple of nights of violent winds and rain that kept me awake. Luckily, it cleared up before Easter and I got to watch the boys hunt for eggs and fly kites.

I even got in a bear surgery while I was there. It's tradition for my dad to give his grandsons a bear when they're born, and they've become the boys' doudous, which of course means they take quite a beating after the years of being dragged around everywhere. Well, my nearly 6-year-old nephew asked me if I could stitch-up his bear (of the same age) in a couple of places because he'd had a bit of wear-and-tear. So, Dr. Auntie held a surgery and made Mr. Bear (as he's named) as good as new! I could tell my nephew was so honestly happy afterwards to see his Mr. Bear all fixed up.  But, he had no idea how truly grateful I was to be there to do that for him.  My last-minute planning couldn't have been better timed!

Doctor, patient and loved-one after the bear surgery.

My new, sweet nephew!

 Love him!


Banana splits!

Being good boys at church.

Egg hunt!

Showing off their loot.

At Target with the gang - my sister is Super-Woman.  Love her!
TEXAS SARAH. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.