Paris, I miss you

Monday, May 30, 2011

I was browsing through some blogs and came across this adorable, artsy and inspirational blog written by a San Franciscan in Paris. Her photos of Canal Saint Martin, pastries and bread from her local boulangerie and the marché all made me nostalgic for my former home. I browsed through some of my blog archives to relive a little bit of springtime in Paris, but it only made me long even more to be back in our old quartier.

I do love being back in Austin, but my heart is starting to understand the concept of being torn in two. I spent the past weekend relishing in family time - attending barbecue after barbecue with aunts and uncles and cousins and family. It's what I remember longing so much for when I was living in Paris and I felt so lucky to be here for all the fun this time. I've also been so happy to bounce around town, soaking up the Texas rays at the pool, catching up with friends over a margarita or Negra Modelo, knitting and learning so many new crafts with my über creative girl friends.

But, then there's Paris. In all it's gorgeous springtime glory. And, oh how I miss bike rides to the Eiffel Tower and picnics by the Seine and strolling from café to café and walking home from work with a perfect view on La Grande Dame de Paris! Of course, I miss my friends and family there, too and knitting nights and les happy hours. I wish I could be here and there all at once.

Did I mention that I turned 30 a couple of weeks ago? Perhaps that has something to do with all this nostalgic banter. I celebrated with fancy drinks, a lovely dinner and then crazy karaoke. I had so much fun and then woke up at noon the next day wondering how on earth I got through more than half of my twenties doing that same routine every weekend. I guess getting older is a lot about reflecting back and looking ahead at the same time, and I think that's the process I'm going through right now. I'm so excited about all the adventure of making a life and home here, and although I do find myself checking the rear-view every once in a while, I'm so happy to be living in the moment, bracing for what's next.

Some snippets from my birthday.

This time last pictures.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

So, as previously mentioned, Gui and I spent a few days in Portland last week with a couple of friends from Normandy who'd been traveling around the West Coast for the past few weeks. We'd never been to the city some say is Austin's twin sister from the north, so we decided to take advantage of the timing and squat on our friends' vacation just a little.

I have to say, the city is pretty brilliant. We were infinitely grateful for the lovely, sunny weather we had the first day and the seldom showers we had the second and third days. Apparently, it had been raining for 30 days straight before we arrived, and I've got to admit, I don't think I would have been as enamored with the city if it had been so rainy. Still, during the times that it was a little grey and misty, I couldn't help but still feel happy to be there. I think the lush, green surroundings suit the cold, wetness very well - so much so that I found myself still ooing and awing when the sun was shaded by the clouds and the windshield wipers came on. Unlike Paris, which is made to be seen in the brilliant sunlight or clear, dark night, Portland is just made for the dreariness.

We hadn't planned anything for our time there, so we spent our days going where our hearts pulled us, and for the most part, our hearts stayed in the center and east-side of town. I loved the vibe and charm of the residents, and the mélange of old and new, rustic and modern that reverberated throughout the streets. Portland has a much more "old-town" feel to it than Austin does, but I still found myself sighting similarities between the two cities. And, I definitely felt at home there.

We rarely visit places that require a stay in a hotel (we usually spend our vacation time visiting friends), but we stayed at the Jupiter Hotel this time around and quickly realized we'd made a great choice. The rooms are nice, but the best part about the hotel/motel is that it's right in the middle of all the action. I think its closest Austin counterpart would be San Jose Hotel on Congress, just a little more rough around the edges.

All-in-all, the trip was a major success - we ate, we drank and were certainly merry. We caught some amazing views from the Japanese garden which is tucked into the side of a mountain, and Gui and I took a trip to the coast where I fell in love with the lovely, quaint seaside town of Cannon Beach. We even visited a cheese factory in Tillamook and tasted some amazing cheddar before continuing down the Oregon Coast Highway and heading back to Portland. Of course, there was the obligatory trip to Powell's bookstore (we went twice) and lunch stops at the famous food carts downtown. My favorite places were the little local craft shops filled with beautiful handmade treasures and plenty of inspiration.

I admittedly visited Portland with high expectations, but I was no where near disappointed. I do wish that some of the shops stayed open past 6pm, but the fact that there is no State sales tax in Oregon totally makes up for that.

Cute shops everywhere.

Feeling a little robbed by this one.

Gui getting ready to devour his maple syrup + bacon Voodoo doughnut.

Heading to the food carts!

Food cart food (I'd already eaten the kimchi).

Food cart burrito.

Tillamook cheese factory. Yum.

View of Mount Hood and Portland proper from the Japanese Gardens.

Tranquility is the Japanese Gardens.

The drive out to Cannon Beach.

Cannon Beach

Lovely food and ambiance at The Farm Café

Last hot chocolate of the trip.

Good night, Portland.

My maintenant

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Man, have we've been busy these past few weeks! Our shipment finally made it from Paris to our apartment in Austin - all 350 kilos of it! We spent an entire, exhausting day sorting through it all, deciding what needed to be unpacked and what needed to stay boxed up until we get more permanent digs. In the end, only a measly 2 boxes were completely emptied out and the rest was left boxed up until we have our own space and enough room to unload it all.

We've also been spending quite a bit of our time polishing up our resumes and scouring the web for job openings and career opportunities. Job-searching is a full-time job in and of itself and as the days go by, it doesn't get any less intimidating. It's still very early on in our search, yet, so we're still confident about the market and the leads we've encountered so far.

But, the most interesting way we've been spending our time is exploring our new, old city. We've been having a blast getting to know the community around us, discovering new places and revisiting old favorites. This past Saturday, we spent the day with friends celebrating Eeyore's Birthday which has been an Austin tradition for as long as I can remember. I hadn't been to any sort of American-style festival in such a long time that I didn't even know what to expect. This was the perfect way to spend one of our first Saturdays back in Austin, though - with fun-loving people on a sunny day eating local food, drinking local beer, just having a good time in the hot Texas sun. I remember now how much I love celebrating for the sake of celebration; how much I love being outside in the sun; how much I love turkey legs!

Saturday was also the first time Gui and I got out to ride our bikes out together. His bike came in on the shipment from Paris, so we'd been waiting for its arrival to hit the hilly neighborhood ensemble. Riding in Austin is nothing like riding in Paris - the cars are so much bigger and so much faster here, that it really pays off to search out the most bike-friendly routes before hitting the street on two wheels. We didn't ride very far, but it was a good taste of what we should expect from city biking around here.

And, tomorrow morning we're heading to another bike-friendly city - Portland! We're taking advantage of the few free days we have while we have them and are meeting some French friends in Portland before they make their way to Austin on Thursday. It'll be a short trip, but I'm seriously stoked about finally meeting a city I've heard so much about! I've no doubt there will be much to report back on.

Our stuff!

Drum circle.

Unicycle football.

Potato sack races!

Costume contest (featuring Thing One and Thing Two).
TEXAS SARAH. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.