So today we finally went to the big supermarché (think Freddy’s if you’re from the Pacific Northwest). After almost 2 weeks of pretty rustic home cooking (lots of eggs, potatoes, cabbage, cheese, bread) finding this place definitely resulted in some binge shopping. I loaded up the stroller with such random things as Nutella, capers, frozen pizza, premade crepes with caramel and salt (oh come on, like you wouldn’t!), a decadent chocolate cake mix, fish sticks (can’t take the 3 out of a 3-yr-old), and ingredients for vin chaud. I think I speak for us all when I say it’s so nice to have options.
And that right there, I think, gets to the heart of a lot of the differences between living in the states and living elsewhere. We have so, so many options at home that it’s often hard to make a choice. Here the options are far fewer in general (cheese notwithstanding). Take laundry for example. Those who know me know that I am no laundry wimp. We chose to use cloth diapers with Anna and, through trial and error, to wash them ourselves. Moreover, I frequently don’t dry my own clothing, hanging it instead on the lovely Ikea racks we have in our laundry room, where it’s a balmy 68 degrees.
Here in Rouen (and in much of Europe I gather) we have a tiny washing machine, but no dryer. To run a single load of laundry takes 2.5 hours to complete, and then everything needs to be hung up on a line outside. I’m sure this is delightful in the summertime, but in December it’s hideous. By the time I’ve hung everything (maybe 10-12 minutes) I can barely feel my fingers and need to go rub myself all over the wall radiators in order to properly thaw. The laundry then hangs on the line for 2 days where it gets almost dry. We gather it all up and spread it all over the house, focusing mainly on the aforementioned wall radiators (which have become my best friends). One more day like this and our clothing is dry, crunchy, and ready to be worn.
Of course, there’s a flip side to everything. As I write this (at roughly 2 p.m.), I am drinking a glass of vin chaud, which I just made while the chocolate cake was baking. This is not how I usually do things. First of all, drinking wine before 5 p.m. is usually either due to a celebration (a special brunch, for example) or because if I don’t I will surely hurt someone soon (more desperation than relaxation). Here it’s just the way things are done. Walking home from the grocery store today we passed a restaurant window and I happened to look inside. Every person, at every table, had 4 wine glasses in front of them. At lunch time. Surely this is the way things are supposed to be.
And a completely random note: French people, especially French people in Paris, seem to think I’m French. They ask me for directions, talk to me in French (as opposed to David, whom they always address in English), etc. I take this as a high compliment. I can’t even attribute it to my fancy new red lipstick Tasia made me buy for Paris, since I wasn’t wearing it at the time (sorry Tas!).