Tuesday, September 29, 2009


It wasn't the first time she saw him. But this was the first time she really noticed him and his spaniel.

She glanced back. Yes, he was there, still smiling, a tall, brown haired man, wearing sunglasses in this weather. She could see his green turtle neck from under his beige Mac. The dog looked wet and a bit sad, maybe he wanted home already. She felt her own dog jerking the leash to turn around. The guy's dog must be male.

How bizarre, she thought, there, on the bank of the Seine, under the pouring rain, these two strangers decided to walk their dogs. There was no one else around, no passerbys. Was he following her? She knew she'd seen him somewhere else but where? Maybe in the park,but now she really saw him : tall, taller thant her but just the perfect size. Where did that thought come from? He was quite good looking, square chin, brown hair, but she chouldn't see his eyes.

He was comming towards her, she could hear his footspteps on the wet pavement. And there was no one else under the rain. She was intrigued. Strangely enough it didn't even cross her mind to be afraid, she was actually fascinated by this guy and his dog.

The man's smile didn't falter as she half turned towards him. She started walking towards him then. He stopped. He was now looking at her with his brown, soft eyes, still that smile on his lips as if he knew her. She wanted to ask "Where? Who? Why?" but she found herself smiling as well.

She was now looking straight at him. She did know him, she'd known him for a while now. He also lived on the Rive Gauche, perhaps somewhere on the other side of the square from where her flat was(why it was called a square when it was round, she didn't know).

She'd seen him in the street, probably going to work, always fashionable, sometimes in a hurry. She knew he was French, but she never knew his name. How many times did they cross eachother in bakeries and tailor shops? How many times did they walk the dogs in the same park, sat on the same bench, at different hours, different days. How many times did they almost meet?


"Bonjour, vous"

"On se connait?"

"Maintenant, si"

*Samaritaine is the name of a famous Parisian Department store, bigger than La Fayette and Le Printemps, it was the place for fashionable and expensive shopping before it was closed for "rebuilding" in 2005. Actually it was a move to restructure the personnel and transform it into office and apartment building so this fashionistas' paradise never reopened. These pictures were in the window of the shop in summer of 2006.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Czech Living - Jedno Pivo, Dvě Piva, Pět Piv

Today we are starting a new section, Czech living, where I am going to talk about my own observations of life in the Czech Republic. And what better way to start such a topic, than by talking about the Czech favourite and most famous product: beer. And of course, if it's beer, then it's pub talk, so let's see some phrases as well, in Czech.

Beer comes in all shapes, sizes and colors in the Czech Republic, but especially it comes in big pint glasses, it's "velké pivo", large beer. If you're not a real man but a winny, you'll have to specifically ask for "malé pivo", a small beer, else you'll get the pint which is a norm here. But be careful, with a half measure in front of you, people will give you strange looks. Czech girls will for sure feel less attracted.

Czechs are some of the biggest producers and consumers of beer in the world, and they have some of the cheapest and best beers available. (Around 1.17 euros for a pint)So you don't even have to ask "kolik to stojí" how much does it cost, but you should rather say "Jedno pivo, prosím" A beer please.

Czechs have a really strong bar culture, as demonstrated by the local heroe, the good soldier Švejk. They enjoy going out with friends in hospoda, bar/restaurants where they food is designed to match the favorite drink, beer. They even have wedding parties in bars. The food is for another story, just keep in mind this when going to a restaurant here: gulaš. Ok, you'll say this is Hungarian, maybe. Some Czechs will agree with you, but the truth remains, this is what will usually accompany a beer here. (And don't tell Czechs about it not being their invention, please, the local variant is a bit different from the rest and they might not take well to such news).

Everyone drinks beer. Pretty, delicate girls and chubby, beer-bellied guys, they all have a pint in front at all times while chatting away with friends. And when they finish it, the waiter will hurry up to bring a fresh one. They way to serve the beer may also seem peculiar to us, Romanians at least: a big collar of foam is a must in every glass. Beer has been an important part of Czech economical and social life, since the 12th century, when the first towns obtained a license to brew. Wars have been fought over it and any Czech you meet will be quick to tell you how much they love their drink and how lager beer is derived from Pilsner beer, a standard based on Czech hop and Czech brewing methods.

Fact: The Czech Republic has the largest beer consumption per capita. For a country with a population of 10 million, that's not peanuts. The most famous beers are of course Pilsner and Budvar, well Budweiser for you yanks (Everyone say: "Co se děje?", What's up?) But there are other very good ones. Basically every important town in Bohemia and some Moravian ones, have a beer of their own: Staropramen and Braník in Prague, Krušovice in Rakovník, Velké Popovický, East of Prague, Starobrno, from Brno.

There are so many types of beers here that you can't get tired of them, nor can you try them all out in a year, even if you drink a different brand every day. This is an urban legend but it's true that the diversity of beers here is quite impressive, 470 brands (says so here). From the very light colored, or golden "Světly" to "Černé", the very dark one, you have all the rainbow of beers. One interesting fact is that every bar, restaurant, and so on is specialized in one or two brands of beer only.

Bar etiquette is simple here. Beer. And food. And a good chat. Mix and repeat. They are proud of their beer. Other types of beer, like Belgian Krieks, or mixes such as the Monaco are not well looked upon, so don't try that if you want to be respectful and not cause a stir. For one of the most atheistic countries of Europe, the Czech Republic's religion is the Beer, with the god of beer being Gambrinus (the name of another famous Pilsner brew).

These gates are famous: the gates of the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, the original source of the golden beer, in Plzen. Countless of trucks of beer have passed these gates since the late XIXth century when the brewer started exporting to France, Germany, Austria and even as far away as the United States. It is said that after the Prohibition, Pilsner sent many barrels of beer over the Ocean, as a gift.

My personal favorite is of course the dark beer, with a taste of burnt sugar, best served cold with some honey coated ribs and garlic bread, another local specialty.

Before I go, just remember that the best way to drink a beer is to follow it with another, with friends : Jedno Pivo, Dvě Piva, Pět Piv (One beer, Two beers, Five beers). And when you've finished your glass, just ask for a refill: Ještě jednou, prosím.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

These shoes were made for walking

I was going to let this one pass, I'm not a contest buff (Ok, the summer I spent collecting my parents' Monte Carlo cigarette packages and won several watches, ash trays and so on does not, I repeat, does not count) . But this morning, I had enough. Sorry. (The idea came from my favourite shoe addict)

This morning, I had a revelation. As I walked out of my front door, my little heel got caught in a hole in the garden pavement. And then it hit me: This country is not made for walking with heel shoes. Don't get me wrong, I don't have 12 cm stilettos, just small, kitten heel pumps. I'm going to work by bike, remember, I'm not going to be extravagant, but a little bit of fashion never hurt anyone, right?

I got my foot out of the hole and walked on; pass the gate, into the gravel road, up the hill to where my bike is parked. I scraped my heel and almost broke my legs. Really, is living in the country side compatible with having heels?

Last week I went to Prague. I rushed from home to catch my bus in my very comfy grey boots from pimkie. The same gravel road, the same hill with boulders, scraped heels once more. And once in Prague, I managed to walk on the cobbled roads without a problem, until, very late at night when we were wandering around Kampa at 2 o'clock, and then it was too much, my boyfriend almost had to carry me to the car (mind you, I don't think he would have minded).

This city is not made for walking with high heels. And now it's the whole country. My heels are scraped, bruised, a real disaster. I hope to have a car this fall so I won't be walking or riding my bike to work and so shoes shouldn't be a problem. Ok, I'm cheating here, but the best way to work a pair of shoes is to get your feet out of a car in a very Hollywood style. So a preview of my wish list (OMG, I don't believe I'm putting up pictures of shoes here).

You see, for me buying a shoe is not just about the shoe itself, it's about the image I want it to give me, this boots, and the way the girl is dressed match my style, and for sure I see myself having a romantic, candlelight dinner by a fireplace.

And to go to work, I think these would be perfect with my office pants, a real corporate gal, 9 to 5, here I come.

No, no flats on my wish list, I am decreeing, flats are boring. I'll probably get a pair for when my feet hurt from the heels, but I will not let the pavement tell me what to wear. I don't care about all the setbacks; I will make it, God damn it. My shoes for this fall will be low, I will wear boots, I'll still wear my converses, but by all that is good and true in this world, I will wear heels, you cannot stop me.

The Trespasser

As I’ve told you, and you have also seen from my photos, I have here quite a large garden. And in it live a lot of animals. I’ve seen gopher holes in the back yard, bird nests. Lots of spiders and flies (there is a little river in the back yard). Fish in the front ponds and ducks in the larger one. My landlady’s dog. I’ve seen a huge frog.

And now, a new resident, let’s give a big round of applause to Sonic, the hedgehog. Pictured in two mug shots from this evening, when he approached me while I was chatting by the pond (better wifi reception there). I think we both were startled. He was quite sweet, attracted by the light, most likely, he just sat there, behind me.

At least he’s not meat on the road.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

SkyEurope : Bratislava Strikes Back

First weekend in September was to be fabulous: a trip to Brussels with my one and only sweetheart. But fate wanted otherwise and so, at the last minute, our flight got cancelled.

I’m outraged, plans were made, very nice people were waiting for us, and beer was in the fridge. And SkyEurope cancelled all that. If you didn’t already know, they filled for, what in the States would be Chapter 11 and promised no flights would be affected. Well every flight we’ve had with them has been delayed and this is too much. At least if they had the decency not to sell tickets for the last month so people would not get scammed into buying them and then get their plans turned upside-down.

Here’s what they say on the website :

Those of you who have purchased flights with a credit card, please turn to your credit card issuing bank to seek refunds for unused portions of SkyEurope's flights.
If you are already at the destination or have rented a car through SkyEurope's business partner, you may stay at the hotel and use the vehicle during the period originally agreed. You must, however, order a return flight from some other airline at your own expense.

I am completely appalled. Everyone should be informed about this, not to get to the airport for nothing. And if you're wondering what the relation to Bratislava is...well it's the curse again, remember, SkyEurope is/was partly Slovak owned, q.e.d.

We’re changing our plans, of course, we’ll surely have a great time, and trying to get our money back, but still it’s sucks big time.

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