Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Moving day plus 5 and then some

The handful of days following delivery of our household goods to Providence saw us focused almost singlemindedly on unpacking, arranging, rearranging, repacking, unpacking, re-rearranging, re-moving our stuff down into the basement storage and then moving some of back up again, back and forth, up and down, here and there, over and under. Well you get the idea I'm sure. And if not, you can get a sense of the chaos by clicking here to see some of the photos of what it was like here five days after moving in to the old Prata funeral home.

But plenty has happened along the way, too.

The good news is that it looks like we have a buyer for our sofa bed -- and have at least one person seriously interested in the hutch. Also Susie had a job interview and a baking audtion that went extremely well (that's her above prepping for the baking session) -- we'll keep you posted on how that turns out.

Of course, we've sampled some of the local food: Gracies downtown, La Hacienda in Olneyville Square, Don Jose Tequila on Atwell's Avenue, and naturally started cooking and baking at home after we set up the kitchen (a duanting task in and of itself but one that Susie took on with gusto). New furniture was ordered, using our gift certificate at Cardi's, and some of it has actually been delivered. The weather has largely been cooperative, in fact it's been unseasonably mild of late.

So, within the space of less than two months three of the ten units in our building have been sold. We seem to be settling in OK so far, and little by little finding the rhythm of our home. Oh, and no ghosts -- yet. But frankly I'm looking forward to meething them.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Moving day

The movers came from Vermont on Monday, 19 November. They arrived early afternoon and worked until dark, returning the next morning to finish. (For photos click here.)

The day began overcast and seemed to darken as the morning wore on. By the time the moving truck pulled up in front of the building it had started to snow and pretty much snowed off and on for several hours afterward, although the flakes melted as soon as they hit the ground.

It was, all-in-all, a fairly uneventful experience, with the singular exception that two pieces of furniture could not be brought up our stairs. A corner hutch and our sofa bed were simply too bulky to make the turns necessary to go up two flights. Here's where the Europeans have it figured out: on several occasions in Italy we watched trucks with specially designed with conveyors on the back hoisting large pieces of furniture up maybe six floors on the outside of the building, and then simply going in through the windows. Of course our windows are too small anyway, but still it's the principle of the thing.

Fortunately one of the other flats in the building was empty so we arranged with the builder (that's Bob the builder in the photo below) to place the two pieces there until we could sell them. Another bit of good fortune, at closing the builder gave us a sizeable gift certificate to one of the larger furniture stores in the area, so one door closes and another one opens. . .

Susie and I spent the rest of Monday and early Tuesday unpacking as much as we could so the movers could take the boxes and paper with them.

Overall we saw little damage to our furniture: one piece, the corner hutch in fact, had a loosened base and there were a few scratches here and there but certainly nothing significant. And so far noting seemed to be missing; in fact, we are amazed at what we did keep. "Hey! I didn't know we had this!" I would say. But the more we unpacked the more we kept asking ourselves: "Why did we keep this?" Why indeed. A question that would reverberate through our flat for the next days to come.

Soon after the movers left Monday late afternoon Rosemary -- from Gerrish fame -- showed up passing through town on her way back to the Boston area. We chatted for a while, catching up on all the news. After a glass of wine amidst the packing debris, the three of us drove to a nearby Mexican restaurant, La Hacienda, to meet up with Dick and Dorothy for dinner. They showed up soon after we pulled into the parking lot, driving by us once in the dark -- not surprising since this particular part of western Providence known as Olneyville Square, is a maze of twists of turns. Anyway we were all chagrined to find the place closed. So the five of us convoyed over to Atwell's avenue where we found a Mexican restaurant, Don Jose Tequila, with great food and tasty Margaritas.

After dinner we all headed back to our place. Susie and Dick and Dorothy stayed at the flat while I took Rosemary and her bike to the train station, where I said au revoir. I'm sure we'll be seeing her again before too long. Dick and Dorothy said good night soon after I returned home, and the two of us found ourselves alone with a home full of "our stuff."

That night Susie and I slept on the floor on our mattress, that wonderful memory foam mattress, which had been unloaded but without the bed frame that had not.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Closing, moving and a few bugs

This past Thursday we closed on our flat, apartment, condo, what-have-you, in Providence, RI. We are now officially Rhode Islanders, and in typical American fashion, back in debt. The carefree world of the vagabond traveler is now behind us -- the future beckoned and we heeded its call at last.

The closing went off without a hitch; Susie brought a few sweets to pass around the table, and after an hour of nonestop paper signing, we had ourselves a home.

By now most of you know that our new condo is in an old funeral home in west Providence. The builder, who, it turns out is also a licensed funeral director no less, completely gutted the main structure and rebuilt everything inside, but keeping the original wooden floors and wooden arches in our unit. He then added several brand new townhome units at the rear of the "home," in what was at one time an eight-bay garage. Our unit is on the top, or third floor (second for you Europeans), and was originally the living quarters for the family that once operated the funeral home. (The morgue I'm told was in not in the basement as you might think, but in fact in what is now unit 4.)

We borrowed one of Dick and Dorothy's cars, loaded it and the Mini with some of our stuff in their basement and drov ein the spitting rain to the condo, where we left the cars while we went to closing with Seth, our realtor. Seth brought us back to the condo, we thanked him for all his great work and said good-bye. I'm sure we'll be seeing him again; Providence is a small city and he's actively involved in the local arts community as well as plugged into the food scene. He and a friend work to promote the city through their iloveprovidence.org website.

Thursday was rainy for much, if not most of the day, but after Seth left us at the condo we turned to unloading the cars. Using the portico on the side of the condo building (the "hearse door" I call it although I'm informed that was not in fact the door where the hearse loaded the remains) we backed each car up and unloaded, an in relays schlepping everything upstairs; the wine we carried down to our storage room in the basement. We then drove back to D & D's house, cleaned the last of our Paris stuff out their basement, and drove back to Providence. By the time we finished our second trip it was dark and getting late. So back to Massachusetts for the night.

On Friday we returned to the condo clean the condo, getting the space ready for the movers on Monday afternoon. Along the way we discovered a few problems in the flat.

One problem concerned the front door entry system. The (brand-new) "Talk-Listen-Door" box in our flat didn't seem to work at all; moreover, we had no idea which buzzer on the box at the outside entrance was ours (only Unit 2 was labeled), even after testing every button.

Second, the phones don't work -- and this after the Verizon guy came out to get us online. After hooking us up in the basement, he checke dvery phone jack in the flat and exclaimed that the electrician had apparently not spliced the jacks together. As we understood it, although the service was on at the main junction box in the basement, there was no communication among the jacks in the flat. Another electrician issue.

Third, we discovered by accident that the garbage disposal does not work -- and the electrician who came out to check out our problems informed us that the disposal had never been connected to the circuit breaker box!

Lastly, for the moment at any rate, our hot water is, well, not so hot. The thermostat on the brand-new hot water heating system reads 120 degrees (F) but that produced very weak heat at the faucet.

But the builder responded promptly and the electrician who came out to try and fix our problems spent three hours working out the various solutions -- all to no avail sad to say. But he persevered nonetheless and we certainly appreciated that. He said someone would come out on Monday -- although it seemed odd to us that it wouldn't be him. Sounds like it was just that sort of lack of continuity that problem produced the problems int he first place.

So, today, Saturday, we pick up some new blinds that we ordered the other day, and finish getting the flat ready to move into on Monday. Sunday we'll probably just hang out in Massachusetts.

Wish you were here (maybe you'd know how to fix our problems)

Steve

Monday, November 12, 2007

Update from Susan

Bon jour, everyone!

Well, Steve and I have been back in the USA now for almost 2 weeks. While we have certainly adjusted to the time difference, it's a little more difficult to adjust to being away from Paris. How I love that city! The experiences we've had over the past 2 years or so have been wonderful, to say the least. For me it has been a much needed and much sought after change from what I had been doing for so many years. I can say with certainty that I love baking and pastry, and I love this new career!

My recent second stage (internship) at Patisserie Pascal Pinaud was again a challenging experience, but I felt much more at home and at ease with the flow of the place. I was able to function as part of the team and was given more responsibility, since I didn't have to be supervised as much as I was last winter. Communication was still dicey at times, since I am far from fluent in French, but I did feel that my comprehension was much better and I could at least communicate verbally in my very basic French. And let's not forget the importance of gestures and sign language to get a point across! Chef Pascal speaks English as well, so when push came to shove, we could comprehend one another.

I was able to do and experience a large number of things at Pascal's, assembling various layered creation, doing more with the bread and brioche dough, using the "rolling machine" for the puff pastry and just generally getting more experience in the basics of pastry making. I even dabbled a bit in the final decor for the entremets, the cool cake creations that go in the front window so the passers-by can drool over them. It was a hectic work place and often pretty messy with chocolate and creams flying through the air, and I was always amazed at how good the placed looked nettoyage or cleaning process was finished at the end of the day.

I hope to return to Paris some day, although I suspect my work days at Pascal's are over. He told me I could come back again next year, and perhaps I will, but I think it's time to move on to new experiences in the pastry world. We'll see. As I look forward to the next adventure I'll look back at Paris with great satisfaction and hold the memories and experiences close to my heart.

Now we anticipate the closing on our condo this Thursday morning after which we will start moving boxes from Dick and Dorothy's basement into that new space. The majority of our goods will arrive from Vermont next Monday, 19 November, and we'll being settling in with a vengeance. We are so fortunate to have family close by who are willing to lend us a hand and give us a roof over our heads as we make this transition.

The big news is the prospective job on my horizon. This morning I had an interview with Joe Hafner, the chef at Gracie's, a well established restaurant in downtown Providence. I would be THE pastry person, doing all the prep for the desserts and pastry end of the menu, working primarily in the mornings so I could then get out of the way of the savory chefs as they get cranking up for the evening service. Joe is very interested in the French approach and is looking for someone who is dedicated, organized, wants to grow with the job and has interest in new ideas as well. The next step will be a day of baking for me at the restaurant, doing a number of dishes, some standards that he wants to keep on the menu (creme brulee and something chocolate to name two), as well as things that I would like to make. This will occur in two weeks, the Monday after Thanksgiving, and, if both of us are happy, I will have a job! It's something that sounds very appealing and intriguing to me and would be great experience at this very early stage of my career. Piano, piano!

So there you have it, in a somewhat large nutshell. Life is good, and we all have to keep remembering just that!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Susan

Armistice Day

Yesterday, Sunday 11 November, was of course, Armistice Day, also known as Veterans' Day in the US. The weather here in southeastern Massachusetts was fine, with clear blue skies and chilly temps, clearly fall is sliding toward winter to be sure. (photo above: Grave of John Felton of Company K, 3rd Michigan Infantry; killed at the Wilderness, Virginia, May 6, 1864, buried in Hill cemetery, Allegan County, Michigan.)

Armistice Day recalls the end of the "Great War," as World War One was known before we started numbering our conflicts. (Ah yes, the romanticism of naming wars, like "War of the Roses," "Hundred Years' War" has given way to the more pedestrian numbering -- World Wars One and Two -- and now we name the wars solely on their geography: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq.)

Although we didn't observe the two minutes of silence at 11:00 a.m. like they do in some parts of the world, Susie and I, along with Dick and Dorothy did nonetheless celebrate the holiday in a typically American fashion: we watched a movie. In fact we watched a Dutch film, Paul Verhoeven's The Black Book. In all fairness it was a war movie that focused on the story of frailty reflected in the lives of several Dutch and German men and women caught up in the events surrounding end of World War Two in Holland. It is a powerful story largely well-told, but not for all viewers. The director, Paul Verhoeven is known for his graphic violence and language, two elements that are in over-abundance in this film.

Our week has been good, since we returned from visiting family in Maine. Susan and I have tried to quash our (my) getting too caught up in the (very small) details of closing on our new flat in Providence, an event that takes place this Thursday morning in fact. And a week from today, next Monday 19 November, we will, after almost two years, get our things out of storage in Vermont. Then we begin the process of sorting through all the things we have, what we have room for and what we really want to keep. It should be exciting. . .

And speaking of exciting news Susan has a job interview this morning in Providence. I'll say no more at present but it's a small upscale restaurant that is looking for someone with just her skills, techniques and, most importantly, temperment. Today she meets the chef-owner and gets a tour of the facility and if they hit it off then she'll come back in a couple of days and bake for the staff.

As for me I am still waiting to hear from one place regarding a position teaching English as a second language to adults, as well as a couple of part-time writing and digital graphics jobs.

So it's off to Providence this morning.

We'll keep you posted.

Wish you were here,

Steve

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Morning a the Arc de Triomphe

Here's a short, and I mean short, video I put together from an October morning I spent at the Arc de Triomphe. Hey, at least the music is pretty good!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Susie's final day at Pascal's in Paris

Here's a very short video I took of Susie during her final day of work at Pascal's on Friday, 26 October. Pascal was tired, recovering from a bit of the flu and relaxing. Susie was working on a lemon creme filling for lemon tarts.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Air France, Rain and two extra hours of life

It's a beautiful Sunday morning in Douglas, Massachusetts. The storm that struck most of the New England coastline on Saturday has gone and left us with gorgeous sunshine rubbing up against chilly temperatures.

Our departure from Paris and Charles de Gaulle airport went smoothly, if a bit awkwardly.

Drea came by the apartment a little after nine in the morning Wednesday, and we handed her the keys to our home, said au revoir, and carried our bags downstairs.

The shuttle van was right on time, in fact a bit early I think, and we pulled away from rue General Renault just at 9:30. Traffic was appallingly slow and we crawled our way through the city streets, the driver making his way eventually to Montmartre where he picked up another couple, Canadians, also going to the airport.

Once out of the city proper we made good time and before long found ourselves at terminal 2E. We unloaded our bags and walked inside. No sooner had we relocated our bags on a handcart than Susan discovered her carryon was missing – she had inadvertently left it on the van. After a series of aborted phone calls I finally got through to the shuttle dispatcher. Susan went back outside to wait for the driver while I was standing in line waiting to check in. Twenty minutes later Susie joined me with bag in hand.

And speaking of bags, it soon became clear that the Air France check-in procedures had been designed by the Marx Brothers and executed by the Keystone Cops. In fact everyone seemed to be hovering just at the edge of anarchy and utter chaos. Anyway, by the time we got to the agent’s counter seating on our flight was at a premium. Fortunately we still had seats together but they happened to be in the middle of a four-seat center row.

After dropping our bags off we passed through security, quickly and without having any body cavities explored. By the time we got to the departure gate there was very little wait time, so I suppose there is always a silver lining. At the departure gate we discovered that the Keystone Cops were in complete control of coordinating several hundred people getting from inside the terminal onto the waiting busses that took us out to the tarmac where our plane was, a 747-400. There we waited and waited and waited to be offloaded like cattle, and be led up the one stairway into the plane.

Well after what seemed like two hours we were loaded, the doors were shut and we were taxiing down the runway and then full throttle and we were airborne.

The flight went surprisingly smoothly and quickly. Sitting in the middle was not really bad at all, the food was OK, and in typical French style they kindly offered champagne as an aperitif. Nice touch. The multimedia was quite antiquated, limited to a handful of overhead monitors in the aisles no less – so I kept to my iPod and loads of podcasts to catch up on.

Upon arriving in Boston, a bit early I might add, we whisked through passport control (there’s a switch we thought), waited for our bags and then headed outside to the shuttle bus to Framingham. Traffic leaving Boston was even more sluggish than the traffic leaving Paris earlier in the morning and we crawled mile after mile until at last we pulled into the bus depot where Susan’s brother Dick was waiting for us.

Less than an hour later we were unpacked and relaxing in Dick and Dorothy’s home, and after a wonderful dinner we went to bed still reeling from the fact that we were no longer in Paris.

Thursday we just caught our breath and relaxed around the house, spending a little time out shopping for groceries.

Friday morning we headed into Providence, met with our realtor and checked out our new flat: the closet organizers are installed and things are moving along. We close in less than two weeks now and the movers bring our household goods from Vermont four days later. Then it’s a new life in a new place.

Saturday New England was hit by the tail end of Hurricane Noel and we just stayed inside, read, cooked and planned our future. Saturday night all the clocks in the US "fell back" by one hour. Well we had already gotten an hour back the previous weekend in Paris, and here we were to get a second free hour. I doubt that will happen again.

Wish you were here,

Steve