Friday 25 May 2007

Parler in the Park

A splash of colour
Originally uploaded by malias.

I'm helping to organise a free event in Paris for people who are learning a foreign language and would like the opportunity to practise with native speakers.

It's aimed mainly at the anglo community learning French and Parisians learning English but everyone is welcome. It's called Parler in the Park and it's taking place in the Square du Temple in the 3éme on the 10th June. Full details are on the website.

I got the idea because after 4 years in Paris my French is still pretty bad mainly due to the fact that I really speak it. I found out that so many others are in the same boat as me including my students learning English.

Hoping that this will help a little and, who knows, it might be fun.

Thursday 24 May 2007

The Paris Ex-pat Press

You've been framed
Originally uploaded by malias.

My current stint in Paris is not the first time I have lived abroad. At the beginning of the '90s I was in Madrid for a while. In those days, in order to keep up with current affairs either we read the local press in Spanish or, when we wanted some news from England, we would by a copy of the Guardian often a day or two old. On Saturday evenings me and my flatmate would huddle around his pocket sized radio and, if its carpricous reception fell in our favour, we'd listen to the football results on the BBC World Service.

Oh how things change! Not only do we have all the joys of the internet and cable television but Paris itself is replete with its own expat newspapers, websites and blogs.

This is a mixed blessing. Certainly my French isn't as good as it should be because I'm forever reading in English. On the other hand we have so much choice now (both good and bad).

Amongst the good: The excellent Paris Times has a print and an internet version. David Lebovitz's food blog is informative and very entertaining and Paris Daily Photo for its stunning photography of Paris.

There is so much more good stuff but I just don't have time to read them all.

Tuesday 22 May 2007

I'm No Orson Welles

Malias and The Orange Drink
Originally uploaded by malias.

I remember back in 1985 a small headline in The Sun newspaper read Sherry Man Dies The so called Sherry Man in question was none other than Orson Welles who had been appearing on TV adverts for Domecq Sherry in the UK for several years until his death. Sad that one of the greatest directors of all time finally became best known for his cheesy commercials for fortified wine.

One rainy afternoon in Paris a few months ago I was looking for inspiration for a small promotional film for a paris website I'm involved in. Searching YouTube I typed in the name of Orson Welles I found this video with Orson Welles ruthlessly laying in to the British directors of a commercial for frozen peas that he was doing. It's simply hilarious but oh the poor old Sherry Man! You couldn't help thinking that his talent was being wasted.

Incidentally I finally used Bob Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues for the starting point of our promotional films. Which were filmed at Square du Temple outisde the Mairie of the 3éme arrondissement in Paris

LetThemTalk - Promo 1

LetThemTalk Promo video 2

LetThemTalk Promo video 3 outtake

Completely unoriginal, I know, but what do you expect? I'm no Orson Welles.

Friday 18 May 2007

Cafe Satan

Cafe Satan
Originally uploaded by malias.

They are everywhere in Paris now. Every time I leave my apartment another Starbucks (or as they have affectionately become known, Cafe Satan) has sprung up. I'm not blaming them - they are just another multi-national corporation trying to make money but it's a shame that high streets in all the major cities of Europe are fast becoming clones of one another with the same shops, the same fast-food joints and the same cafés.

I guess that most people prefer familiarity to actually making a choice or trying something new.

Shame that.

Thursday 17 May 2007

Paris catacombs

Beneath the streets of Paris lurk a labyrinth of some 300 kilometres of tunnels and chambers. These are the catacombs originally limestone quarries dating back as far as the Roman era. In the 18th century when Paris’ graveyards where filling up an already overcrowded city they moved many of the bones underground. You can take the official tour at the entrance at Denfert Rochereau the more daring amongst you might like to try the unofficial tour.

There are entrances usually hidden away on the outskirts of the city next to old railway lines, behind bushes or abandoned buildings. You’ll crawl down a narrow dark hole into the subterraneum wilderness but before embarking on the expedition bring a torch, wellington boots and a map. You’ll trudge for hours through tunnels often the water comes up to you waist. If you’re lucky you’ll reach, ‘La Plage’, Le Chateau or the ‘Circle of Death’ you might even see the German bunker from the war located somewhere beneath the Luxembourg Gardens.

It’s not permitted to go down the catacombs and if the cataflic (the police that patrol the catacombs) catch you’ll get a 60 Euros fine.

But that could be the least of your worries.

Tuesday 8 May 2007

London, The Seventh Largest French City

Guess where I am?
Originally uploaded by malias.

Here is a picture of the seventh largest French city. That's right it's London. The French have crossed the channel in their droves to take advantage of Britain's great climate and wonderful cuisine. That's my opinion although everybody else seems to think that it is low taxation and full employment that has brought an estimated 300,000 Frenchies to London.

Now Sarkozy has been elected will our European cousins gather up their fine wines and smelly cheeses and take a one way ticket on the Eurostar back to Paris? Not just yet.

Meanwhile whenever I get depressed about my poor French and bad accent I have now found a new source of comfort; Tony Blair's message to the French people in French following Nicolas Sarkozy's election.

Surely I can't sound that bad in French. Can I?

Saturday 5 May 2007

Wong Kei London

Wong Kei
Originally uploaded by malias.

Some people tell me how rude waiters in Paris are I tell them that's nothing they should try Wong Kei's in London's Wardour Street.

It's become a London institution not for its food but rather for the abusive staff to such an extent that people go there just to experience the rudeness of the waiters. It's one of the must-do things to tick off the list on your trip to the capital; visit the British Museum, have your photo taken in Trafalgar Square and get insulted by the watiers at Wong Kei's.

The last time I went there was a few years ago with a group of friends. As soon as we entered and before uttering a word the waiter pointed skywards and said abruptly "upstairs!". We reached the first floor the waiter there looked us up and down disparagingly for a second and then pointed to the corner "you sit there". We didn't argue.

Friends of mine have got off far worse. Someone once complained that the food they had ordered was taking rather a long time to arrive. "If you want fast food go to McDonald's". No arguing with that. And I heard the story of an elderly woman finding it hard to walk asked to sit downstairs rather than upstairs the waiter replied. "This is a restaurant not a hospital".

I'm told that what they say about the customers in Cantonese is far worse. I don't speak Cantonese. Probably just as well.

Friday 4 May 2007

Antony Gormley Exhibition London

Nude Horizons
Originally uploaded by malias.

I arrived in London on the Eurostar on Tuesday afternoon from Paris and as it was a beautiful day I decided to walk into central London. On crossing Waterloo bridge I came across the erection of a statue right in the middle of the bridge. I got chatting to a woman passing by and she pointed out other identical statues strategically placed on top of building on the London skyline and all visible from the Hayward Gallery.

It's part of an exhibition by Antony Gormley which will take place for the next three months.

It's quite striking and if you are in London I'd recommend that you go and have a look. Even if you don't want to look be assured that they'll be looking at you.

Thursday 3 May 2007

A Pub Quiz in Paris

Although I'm an étranger living in Paris I do try to integrate myself with the French community as much as possible. Once in a while, however, I do rub shoulders with the ex-pat community. One such occassion is when I take part at that most English of traditions the pub quiz.

On Monday nights in The Auld Alliance pub in the Marais gather a great number of Brits to drink large quantities of ale, eat Walker's crisps and do battle to find out who is the best at general knowledge. 12 or so teams took part, 4 US presidents were assisinated in office, Vincent Van Gogh cut off his left ear and Sri Lanka were runners up in the cricket world cup.

Our team came second losing by just 1 point. Next time we plan to win. If you knew the answers to those questions you may wish to join our team. We could do with some extra help.

Wednesday 2 May 2007

French Election Posters or Are They?

Election Posters
Originally uploaded by malias.

I spotted this collage of election posters on rue Oberkampf (75011 Paris) . From a distance it looks just like a jumbled up bunch of images but if you look closer you see that the posters have been subtly doctored to create grotesque characatures of the candidates. It's very funny. The artist is Gil Bensmana.

It really makes the candidates look ridiculous. But then again don't they anyway?