Monday 30 April 2007

La Defense Paris

The Giant
Originally uploaded by malias.

If there was a vote for the most ugly building in Europe I'm sure that the Montpanasse Tower would come very high up on the list (London's Centre Point would be in the top three too but that's another story).

It was built between 1969 and 1972 a monolithic mostrosity in the heart of Paris which so traumatised Parisians that skyscrappers were banned from the city soon afterwards and from then on Paris' business district was concentrated in La Defense a few kilometres west of the city.

La Defense is Europe's biggest purpose built business zone. Last week I decided to pay it a visit - the first time I've been there during working hours. It was a surprisingly pleasant place with its vast concourse without any cars surrounded by a clump of shiny skyscrappers piercing the skyline.

The day I went there seemed to be a great number of young Italian tourists at La Defense. However, If you're only in Paris for a few days, frankly, I wouldn't bother going. You're better off hanging around the left bank or wandering around the Marais but if you do find yourself in Paris for several months then go and have a look.

You might be pleasantly surprised.

Friday 27 April 2007

My Abacus

When people visit my Paris apartment for the first time one of the things they notice, after the empty wine bottles, dirty coffee cups and old newspapers strewn across the place is my abacus. Why have you got an abacus? They always ask. What a dumb question, to add things up of course.

Why else would I keep an abacus?

Monday 23 April 2007

The French Elections Round One

So the first round of elections is over and Sego and Sarko will battle it out for the presidency in two weeks' time. I was happy to see that the vote of the National Front was significantly down on last time. Elsewhere, the Communist Party who covered my neighbourhood of Paris with about a million posters got around 1% of the vote. José Bové has his HQ just across the road from me. His slogan is "Osez Bové?" (dare you go for Bové?) well, actually, no they didn't dare. He got about 1% too.

Sunday 22 April 2007

France, The Big Question

Originally uploaded by malias.

Everyone in France is talking about it. In the streets of Paris and in its bars and restaurants they discuss it in hushed murmurs. The left and the right, the young and the old alike. Way beyond the shores of this nation there are so many who want to know. Today and for some time the same big, big question has been on everybody's lips.

Why do the leave boiled eggs on the counters in French cafes?

Saturday 21 April 2007

Election Fever in Paris

French electionSo tomorrow the French go to the polls to cast their votes. Great swathes of rouge cover my quartier - this is certainly Royal territory they have even set up some tents in the street, with music playing, nibbles and flowers for sympathetic passers by. They are in an ebullient mode. But will they win?

Not so sure.

Thursday 19 April 2007

Paris Bicycle Tattoing

bikeThe other day, outside the Mairie of the 3rd arrondissement in Paris I spotted a long queue of bikes. At first I thought they were signing up for some kind of road race but as I got closer I could see that this was the latest campaign aimed against bike-theft in Paris. For the next few days you can come here and get your bike 'tattooed' for free. It then forms part of a national register making it easier to trace if stolen.

Bike theft is rife in Paris virtually all the cyclists I know have had a bike stolen at one time or another so I hope this helps.

Happy cycling.

Tuesday 17 April 2007

The Lutetia Hotel Paris

The Lutetia

This is La Lutetia at 45 Boulevard Raspail (in the 6th arrondissement of Paris) the first Art deco hotel in Paris. It was built in 1910 by the founders of the Bon Marché department (which lies opposite) and as of last Friday it is officially a historically monument as designated by the Ministry of Culture. Its splendid art deco interiors were restored in the 1980s.

If you fancy staying there you won't get much change from €400 a room or you could try out its 2 restaurants and a bar. Anyone want to invite me to lunch?

Sunday 15 April 2007

Free Hugs campaign reaches Paris

Free Hugs
Originally uploaded by malias.

It was a splendid sunny afternoon in Paris and as I was walking by Notre Dame a stocky French man ran through the throngs of tourists and flung his arms around me. I didn't know him and at first I was somewhat suprised to say the least but after gathering my equilibrium it all became clear. This was a 'demonstration' staged by the free hugs campaign. There was a large group of them offering hugs, or calins as they say in French, to passers by.

How hugging complete strangers is going to make the world a better place I'm not quite sure but it's a bit of fun and it can't do any harm.

Or can it?

Friday 13 April 2007

Paris, Vegetarians and the Homeless

Originally uploaded by malias.

Recently there was a controversal case in Paris when a right wing organisation started handiing out free meals to the homeless which contained pork. As Paris has large Muslim and Jewish populations it was deemed racist and the group was take to court. As reported in the Guardian.

Even though the judge threw out the case the debate still rages on. Other groups that provide food for the homeless of Paris do indeed offer meals without pork. Now the vegetarians are up in arms, if they can yield to the dietary demands of religous groups then surely, the vegetarian homeless should also be catered for.

Wouldn't it be simpler to make all the meals vegetarian then everybody will be happy? Especially the animals.

Monday 9 April 2007

Losing Touch

chavette 2
A college friend of mine who has lived in Italy for many years recently visited me in Paris, he told me that on a recent trip to London he didn't understand a lot of things that (the kids) were saying. Words like Chav and Chavette (pictured above) and bling were unknown to him. It took me ten minutes to explain what a hoodie was, he didn't know that pants referred to anything but the undergarments worn by men and thought that a wag was something a dog's tail did.

I'm frequently in the UK but even I was confused on hearing that gay had taken on the meaning of worthless or of poor quality as in "your mobile phone is so gay". And when I had to phone my local bank I was redirected to a call centre far away. It had been bangalored!

Saturday 7 April 2007

Bureaucracy in France

One of the shocks for an Englishman moving to Paris is amount of everyday paperwork and bureaucracy you have to face. from popping into the post office or trying to open a business it's a real burden.

Whereas opening a bank account is relatively straightforward in the UK here it can take months. I've been turned for a bank account several time in Paris because:
"You are out of our geographical zone" I lived 5 minutes away by Metro.
"We only accept, applications from people invited by other customers" why?
"We are going on holiday, please could you come back in September" This was in July.
Even when they say yes, it's not that simple. The amount of paperwork you have to produce is really annoying. And there seems to be some unwritten law that whatever, information you provide for them there is always one bit of paper that is missing.
"Did you bring your passport", "yes"
"recent electriciy bill","yes"
"recent telephone bill", "yes"
"letter from landlord", "yes"
"contract from employer", "yes"
"Astrological chart of your ancestors stretching back to the 17th Century", "huh?"
"Oh dear, I'm afraid......"

And then the fees that they charge.........but that's another story.

Thursday 5 April 2007

Habitaquo yes Habitaquo

Yellow Building Blue Sky
Originally uploaded by malias.

The word of the week is habitaquo. What does it mean? Absolutely nothing but it's part of an online competition launched by habitaquo. Whoever's website is number one when the habitaquo competion closes at midday on May 23rd wins a Power Mac.

Interest in the habitaquo competition has been phenomenal it's the number one search on habitaquo and a search on google for habitaquo shows how seriously people are taking it.

No matter how many times I repeat habitaquo in this posting I'm not going to win (I probably won't even get into the top million (habitaquo searches) but it's interesting to see what techniques web designers users to get a high placement for hatitaquo.

I might learn something and that would be more useful than a Power Mac.

Not Boring

Autumn at my Feet
Originally uploaded by malias.

The talk this week is of a website that has attracted over 850,000 since it's inception in January 2007. What's so interesting about this site? I hear you ask. Is it a webcam of Paris Hilton and Anna Sharapova in the shower together? No such luck.

It is in fact which, as its name suggests, is a website about cheddar cheese. In fact its nothing but a webcam of a truckle of cheddar maturing slowly (very slowly). Once in a while the cheese is turned and the other day a label fell off (causing gasps of amazement from its many viewers). Otherwise it's the cheese and nothing but the cheese.

I was sceptical at first and thought watching cheese mature would be about as interesting as watching paint dry but I was surprised to find the spectacle rather soothing. What better way can you think of to end your evening than looking at a lovely big cheddar on your computer screen?

Don't answer that question

Sunday 1 April 2007

I Like London But

An umbrella for Two
Originally uploaded by malias.

I'm exasperated. It happens again and again here in Paris. Whenever I say I'm from London they reply with one of these three things.

1. London is so expensive
2. It's always raining in London
3. The food is terrible.

I have to fight my corner and try to refute these indefatigable truths in the best way I can (though I fear I fight a losing battle)

1. London is expensive though it depends what you do. Transport and housing are move expensive but I regularly pay 6 or 7 Euros for a pint of lager in Paris up to double what I pay in London. Also the museums are free, the parks are free then prices in restaurants are about the same.

2. It actually rains more over the year in Paris than in London - not that anyone will believe me but here are the stats.

3. The people who say this are usually the ones that have either never been to London or when they do they rarely stray from the fast food places and chain restaurants in the West End.

I guess I should calm down and not take it so personally. I need to relax more. I think I'll go for a walk. Now where did I put my umbrella.....?