Un coup de chance

A stroke of luck/a lucky break

I’ve finally got myself a stage (work experience) for the summer – something which came up completely by chance, which just goes to show that, more often than not, success often begins with a mere lucky break.  A couple of weeks ago, the dad of one of the families I tutor for mentioned that one of friends was looking for an Anglophone to do some translation work for his company, and that he had thought of me right away.  When asked if I was at all interested, there was only one answer: ‘Bah oui, bien sûr!’ After having trolled through site after site online and having sent email after email pleading for work, this seemed to be somewhat of a miracle.  Whilst I didn’t get my hopes up too much, here I am two weeks later all sorted for staying in France over the summer.  I’ll be doing translation and promotion work for an events company that organizes Erasmus nights out in Paris and more exclusive ‘soirées’ in Dubai – I may even get sent out there on a cheeky business trip if I’m lucky! Things have moved pretty quickly after a meeting with the head of the company last Thursday – at the end I was asked ‘so when can you start?’ and I’ve already been introduced to the team via Skype.  It’s a small team which seemed to operate on a rather chilled but hardworking basis – I’ve already been helping out a bit when texted last night with a translation question!  I’m being thrown in straight away and going to Duplex (a club around Champs-Elysées) tonight to see how everything works and chat with fellow Erasmus students at the door.  Being a club I have been to myself several times for Erasmus nights, I’m already a step ahead.  Whilst still at the Sorbonne until mid-May, I am going to start part-time from next week and spend each Tuesday evening welcoming Erasmus students at the door – can’t wait!

The opera hall
The opera hall
Pretty fancy
Pretty fancy

Last weekend started in style with a visit to L’Opéra Garnier, just one example of the exquisite architecture resulting from Haussmann’s reconstruction of Paris initiated by Napoleon during the Second Empire.  Whilst far from the first thing that springs to mind when envisaging the French capital, this opulent opera house is known as the embodiment of Parisian Beaux-Arts architecture and also as the setting of The Phantom of the Opera.  It may be pretty impressive from the outside, yet it is definitely its elaborate interior that attracts so many visitors.  Upon entering, one meets a network of interweaving corridors, stairwells and landings surrounded by a lavishly luxurious interior adorned with marble columns, rich velvet drapes and statues of Greek mythology characteristic of Baroque sumptuousness.  Thanks to our tour guide who cheekily sunk our group in for a little behind the scenes peek, I can now stay that I have taken a pew in the opera hall itself!

First taste of American pancakes
First taste of American pancakes

Dimanche de Pâques was spent rather unusually with brunch in an American diner called ‘Breakfast in America’ in the 5th – so not an Easter egg or a hot-cross bun in sight!  After enduring a painfully hour and a half long queue in the biting cold (we did joke how we couldn’t understand the massive attraction of American food…), we warmed ourselves up with refillable mugs of coffee and stacks of American pancakes.  Despite the ridiculous wait, my first experience of an American diner was a good one – though I still think I prefer crêpes!  As you’ll see later on, a group of my international friends have decided to make a weekend brunch a tradition, trying a new nationality each week.

I think breakfast has become my favourite meal...
I think breakfast has become my favourite meal…
Christian Bale pose at Le Mur des je t'aime
Christian Bale pose at Le Mur des je t’aime

After a nice three-day long Easter weekend, it was back to uni and work.  The imminent arrival of my mum and brother also prompted a much needed spring clean of my apartment. When asking Gregory about what he wanted to do whilst here, ‘the Zidane statue’ was the only answer I got.  Never mind all the monuments, architecture, culture and stuff, everything revolves around football for him.  Whilst the Zidane statue seems to have mysteriously disappeared, we did spend a considerable amount of time in the PSG shop along Champs-Elysées to make up for it!  From his arrival, Gregory Sykes was typical Englishman abroad – whilst ordering during our first meal out he gave up speaking French in about two seconds after forgetting how to say ‘Je voudrais’.  The waiter found it very entertaining and jumped at the chance to practice his English – which actually turned out to be very good.  The ‘English charm’ must of worked anyway, as we were given tasters of wine and treated to a café gourmand to round off the meal!

Macarons et chocolat chaud chez Angelina
Macarons et chocolat chaud chez Angelina

So considering the lack of suggestions from my guests, I whacked out my usual touristy routes which hit most of the big sites – considering my family were only here for two days, I’m impressed with what we got done (a long list that I will spare you from reading!)  Seeing as the Sykes family do like their food, la bouffe also featured rather frequently.  Both mornings we went to a favourite little breakfast place of mine called Coquelicot (poppy) which I’ve already mentioned – the almond croissants there are to die for!  With fellow Belgian chocoholics, gourmandise stop no.2 had to Angelina’s of course.  The hot chocolate got the Belgian seal of approval – definitely still the best hot chocolate I’ve had, though its richness is what I call ‘sickeningly satisfying’- it’s definitely not something to slurp down in one go.  The highlight food-wise had to be our meal out at Café Noir – a charming little restaurant just down the road from mine which I have already sung the praises of in a previous blog entry.  For the apéritif we of course had to have a kir – white wine mixed with a choice of fruity liquor –something I always enjoy when in Belgium.  Whilst a change in menu was initially a disappointment, the new dishes were just as delicious.  We all opted for the same main – king prawns with quinoa, lemon relish and salad – miam miam!  Yes, my vegetarianism has caved in slightly here when eating out – I’ve got a bit fed up of pasta and not being able to take advantage of set menus (which often don’t include a veggie option).  We all opted for different dishes for afters – a pain perdu for myself, a majorly chocolaty dessert for Gregory and a selection of cheese for my mum.  Definitely just as good a meal the second time round!  Before we knew it, we were rushing back to mind to pick up suitcases and to say goodbyes – a flying visit is definitely the word.

Main course
Main course
And dessert of course!
And dessert of course!
Gregory with Becks and Ibra
Gregory with Becks and Ibra

Last Saturday myself and the international girls had our second brunch of the month at the Rose Bakery, an English bistort in the 9th arrondissement which has become rather a hit with the French.  Described in an article I read as ‘très bristish (no, I have not done a typo or forgotten how to spell, that’s how it was written), the place serves typical English nosh with what I thought as a slight French twist.  I don’t think somehow the French would go for bacon butties or full-fat fry ups, so the menu modifications are definitely a must.  I was happy to that I could have a latte here, something of a rarity in French cafes – an espresso or a cappuccino is the norm.  Being the Anglophone of the group (though thankfully Emma and Celia were there as well to help me out), I was quizzed on each dish and asked for recommendations.  This is where I shamefully had to admit that I’d never had a scone, I hate marmite and that I don’t get the hype over a Sunday roast.  Pretty ironic how I had my first taste of an apple and rhubarb crumble with custard in France!  We found it pretty funny that eggy soldiers had been translated as ‘œufs à la coque’ – and we got some rather puzzled faces when we told everyone what we say across the Channel.  Overall, the British brunch seemed to go down well with my international friends, so that’s the stereotype of revolting English cuisine broken for now.  Funny how even whilst abroad I constantly learn and discover new things about even my own nationality.

Vous avez faim?

Breakfast in America: 17 rue des Ecoles 75005 Paris

4 rue Malher 75004 Paris

Coquelicot: 24 rue des Abbesses  75018 Paris

Angelina’s: 226 rue de Rivoli 75001 Paris

Café Noir: 15 rue saint blaise 75020

Rose Bakery: 46, rue des Martyrs 75009 Paris

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