Monday, 26 May 2014

The Half Birthday

Now, most people who know me know that I like a good party. Any excuse for a party and I’m there. Most reasons for a party I find acceptable. But a party for your 8 ½ birthday? Even I find that a little bit extravagant. But nevertheless I found myself in a situation where I had to attend a birthday party for an eight and a half year old this weekend. I wasn’t invited to J’s party as a guest per se, more as someone to dump 13 screaming eight year olds on and someone to corral them into playing games.
The programme of events was meant to go something like –
1.       Welcome screaming children
2.       Take screaming children to the park to play games
3.       Come back and do their make-up/costumes
4.       Do arts and crafts
5.       Eat some food
6.       Quietly recover in a corner as they danced to Disney songs
7.       Cake and presents
What it actually turned out to be was a lot more harrowing. As I have already tweeted, there should be white wine on hand after every small child’s party. (At this point I’d like to make a public apology to my dear Mum for putting her through this pain).
Admittedly it started by going to plan, but when my boss decided that the roundabout was a good place for L and me to set up base it started spiralling slowly downhill. The games we had on offer were p├ętanque, skittles, hoopla and something where you had to catapult balls at a frog – maybe they don’t like their international stereotype all that much…. This was all fine until the kids started running up the statue in the middle of said roundabout. I did my best angry shouting but realised that I was mostly shouting in English and that half of them couldn’t understand me. I then employed my mean Parisian stare which seemed to work a treat. Six of the children then proceeded to explain how to play the game moules-frites to me, which is an awful lot like stuck-in-the-mud but a little more gastronomic.
When we went back to the flat I was put on make-up duty. I was handed my tools of hideous eyeshadow and glitter with which I had to turn each child into something slightly different but still keeping a slightly princessy theme to the overall look. I emerged from the bathroom what seemed like an eternity later covered head-to-toe in glitter and a broken woman (no hyperbole there).
Next in store for us was food, thank goodness. Pizza and little balls of potato, which I swear L and me ate more of than any of children combined – applying blue eyeshadow is hard work and requires a lot of sustenance. Whilst they were eating someone thought it was a good idea to play a game of “Guess The Disney Song”, which I could have been quite good at if they weren’t all in French…..This seemed to go on for eons until we finally arrived at a change in the programme. We were to have a dance off instead of arts and crafts, which was lucky for me as I think I may have turned a little Lady Macbeth with a cry of “Is this a dagger I see before me?” (Thank you to Pip for sending in this handy little quotation). One child rather enjoyed dancing to a song from the well-known musical Cats but all I could hear was T.S.Eliot rolling in his grave.
Eventually we got to cake and presents time, which I must admit was rather good as L and I were expressly told that the kids couldn’t have more than two different flavours of ice cream but that these restrictions were not imposed on us. In true teenage fashion, we rather went to town on the frozen delicacy. J then had a blindfold tied around her eyes so that she had to guess which friend was giving her the present by feeling their face. This perplexed me ever so slightly. I’m not sure whether it is some weird French tradition as no one else seemed to find it bizarre but I don’t really want to go to another child’s party to find out this nugget of information about French culture.

In the end I was so glad to get back to my flat. I poured myself a large glass of vino blanco and thus sat in silence to stop the ringing in my ears. Overall it was an interesting Saturday night which I’m still not sure whether I enjoyed or not but I was glad of some quiet yoga and the company of people my own age the next day. 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Watering Holes

Watering Holes
One dark night in February my dear self and another member of the ULIP Student population were meant to be working on our Dragons’ Den project but we got a little distracted by several bottles of wine and the Time Out website with its vast list of bars, clubs and other vendors of inebriating spirits. I cannot take full credit for finding all of the establishments I am about to describe but I most definitely have drunk in all of them so I think that’s just as good. Isn’t it?
Dirty Dick
This unusually named bar on rue Frochot looks rather bizarre with its wooden exterior amongst all of the sex shops in everyone’s favourite trendy area SoPi. When we made our first trip the delightful bouncer (said with no sarcasm at all) asked us for our ID because he didn’t believe we were as young as we said we were – a new experience for me as I recently got asked if I was a friend of the 13 year old I look after not the person who was in charge of her safety. But I digress. With their Tiki themed interior including puffer fish for lampshades and fishbowls which arrived in conch shells containing floating halves of passion fruit on fire, I can’t deny the strangeness but brilliance of it. It isn’t massively cheap but they do a rather interesting coconut concoction for 6€ for lovers of all things a little bit Malibu. Overall a triumph of a find.
Le Cristal  
A personal favourite of mine not only because it is a 2 minute walk from my flat but because I’ve never had a bad night there. Found at 163 Avenue de Suffren it looks rather unsuspecting during the day but is usually rammed most nights of the week. Despite it often very hard to sit down in the cramped conditions especially when it’s raining and all of the people from the smoking area cram themselves in to. With Kronenbourg sold in plastic cups, it isn’t the classiest of places but it has a certain charm. The bar staff ring a bell each time the get a tip which causes more and more people to cheer the more time passes and the more alcohol gets consumed. The atmosphere is very friendly and if you want to go and talk to French people in a non-forced environment like a speed-dating type thing then I’d recommend it. I must finally add a disclaimer though if anyone does decide to go. The loos are horrific but it definitely has character.
Now before I write about here I must admit that I’ve only ever had an actual drink here once because each other time we’ve been there has been nowhere to sit. A sure sign of a quality establishment I think you will agree. The one time I did manage to grab a pew there I had a cocktail called an Aretha (insert pun about giving them RESPECT etc), so it can’t be bad at all in my book. Hidden away at the end of Rue Saint-Andre-des-Arts it is very handy for a cheeky kebab from Gyros on the way home. Need I sell this place to you anymore?

Whether these three haunts of mine are unknown to you or your regular drinking dens – I hope they give you as much pleasure as they have given me but hopefully it is in the form of a stiff drink after a hard day picking up children/despairing about French bureaucracy/celebrating the arrival of your student loan in your bank account.