Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


The worst apartments in Paris!

My Parisian apartment hunting adventures continue! First, we had places to murder unsuspecting women. Then we had places where you could practice all those skills you learned watching “This Old House” and “New Yankee Workshop” (two shows I actually loved as a kid because I am big weirdo). Today we’ve got the worst apartments that somehow made it into my inbox.

See that thing in the corner? That's the WHOLE KITCHEN for this 1-Bedroom, asking 1250€

See that thing in the corner? That’s the WHOLE KITCHEN for this 1-Bedroom, asking 1250€ (!!!)

The combo bathtub-shower-sink-bidet. What a space-saver!

The combo bathtub-shower-sink-bidet. What a space-saver!



This, minus a shower and toilet space, is the ENTIRE apartment.

This is the ENTIRE apartment. Bathroom is communal (shudder).

This place looks nice until you realize that it's a studio and that little cupboard is the kitchen area. Without space for a fridge. Or burner. Or a toaster. Or, well, anything.

This place looks nice until you realize that it’s a studio and the little cupboard is the kitchen area. Without space for a fridge. Or a couple burners. Or a toaster. Or, well, anything.


French Housekeeping

A collection of random things I want to share with you.

→ A gallery of color photos of Paris in the early 1900s.

→ Cool video with great graphics illustrating the neighborhoods of Paris. It’s funny that my favorite spots don’t come off particularly well.

→ Ever since I read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as a kid, I’ve thought about how cool it would be to be alone in a museum. If the museum were the Louvre, the experience might be like this.

→ The screenshot I took for the post about CHARADE was featured in an article about Audrey Hepburn’s cinematic Paris. I told the editor to credit Stanley Donen and Universal since I don’t own the rights to the image, but it’s still my screenshot!

→ A joke poster from CollegeHumor for the Oscar-nominated AMOUR which is funny but inaccurate. Michael Haneke, the writer/director, is German. Reminds me of “the most French French film” ever made.

Amour alternate poster


A Day at the Opéra

I don’t care much for the Marx brothers, but sun glinting off gold can charm even me.Opera 1

This is the older of the two opera houses in Paris, known as L’Opéra Garnier (or Palais Garnier) after its architect, Charles Garnier. He is not, as far as I can tell, related in any way to the hair care line which shares his name (now owned by French company L’Oréal).Opera 2

The building, located in the 9th district, was partially opened in 1867 for the International Exposition. It officially opened in 1875 and stands as one of the great examples of Haussmannian architecture.


Fun French Facts, Vol. II

So, the Seven Years’ War was a conflict too complicated for me to understand, but something I do understand came from it: mayonnaise!

The basics of the conflict, which took place between 1756 and 1763, pitted Britain against Spain & France. The latter two were unified by the Bourbon family, members of whom currently sit on the thrones of Spain and Luxembourg.

The story behind mayonnaise may be apocryphal, but as I learned in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, then the Duke of Richelieu, led the French troops against the British in 1756 in Minorca, one of the Balearic Islands off the coast of Catalunya. (The others are Menorca and Ibiza.) The Brits eventually surrendered and Richelieu, it is said, was hungry and ordered food. The chef didn’t have any cream on hand (the island had been besieged by one force or another for a long time), so he substituted olive oil when making a sauce and Richelieu loved it. He dubbed the creation mahonnais [of Mahon, the capital city of Minorca].

Try it yourself

Real mayo is super easy to make at home and has a flavor that’s very unlike the jarred variety. Alton Brown‘s is pretty basic and can be mixed up in lots of ways by adding just about anything you want. I stopped eating mayo after I made it once because, while it tasted delicious, I was severely grossed out by what it actually was (olive oil + raw egg).

Americans swear by the taste of Hellmann’s, even fancy chefs. I also insisted on it for every turkey sandwich I ate for probably 20 years. It’s one of those things where I’m not sure if we love it because we all grew up with it or because it’s actually, empirically better than others.


Secret Parisian spaces

There are the passages in Paris, arcaded walkways between buildings or blocks that house a host of businesses. There are also the weird little spaces that are shortcuts to places only the locals know.

One of the beauties of being really curious and a foreigner is that if I see an open door to a cool-looking place, I’ll walk right through it and see where it leads. Sometimes I startle people and have to play the “silly me, I’m so lost” card, but usually, these places are totally devoid of people and are really glorious.

Here’s a series of outdoor hallways I found off the Rue de Belleville one day, near the Jourdain métro stop. Leave it to the French to have grapes growing like weeds in the middle of the city!

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