Thursday, January 20, 2005

Gee, it was close that I wouldn’t have this story to tell. I was supposed to spend the weekend in Paris with a couple of friends, and meet them on the Midi train station in Brussels where the Paris train departs. Each of us had taken the metro to get there, but we had landed on three different subway trains, not even separate cars. Suddenly the traffic slowed down. We would stay ages on each station, and even though there should have been plenty of time to get there, it seemed that there was no way we would make it. To make things worse, I was the one carrying all the tickets, so even though one of us would catch the train, she wouldn’t have the ticket. Like all the Finns do, we were in constant contact with each other, sending text messages and speaking on our GSMs. I was in the middle train, which was taken out of circulation, so we had to step down at one station. I had just been on the phone, when a man – black as the African sky at night – approached me and asked whether I was Finnish. And he did this in Finnish as well, which isn’t one of the widely spoken world languages, only some 5 million people speak it. I was hardly in a position to deny it, because I’d kept babbling on the phone so that the whole train could have heard me. He wanted to know exactly where I was from – he had spent 10 years in Tampere… which is incidentally my home town. It’s a small world after all, but even this small talk couldn’t make me forget my fear of missing our train. When the next subway train came, I happened to jump into the same car where my friend was standing, so I had to leave this gentleman without knowing further details of his stay in Tampere. Should anyone know him, please send my regards

We arrived in the train station and started running like crazy. Or at least it was crazy to run in the condition we are. In short: all of us made it to the train, but our physical condition is so terrible, that we were panting and coughing for a long time. One of us said that it’s like being on a field trip with some patients who have run away from a sanatorium where they’re seeking cure for their tuberculosis. And we don’t even smoke! Fortunately we had one hour and 26 minutes to recover, then we arrived in Paris and it was time to walk to the hotel, no matter how the lungs were still wheezing. That was about all we did on Friday night, except for just one drink at a local bar where they serve one of the best mojitos in Europe, and after that I still wanted to visit a Virgin megastore which is open til midnight. They had to carry me out screaming and kicking because there wasn’t enough time to see all I wanted. I managed to grab this cross stitch book, and I’m really happy with it because those patterns can be used in knitting as well.

The cover

Contents 1

Contents 2

Contents 3

On Saturday we all went our separate ways. The sales had begun only a couple of days earlier, so it was bound to get crowded in the large department stores. I had made a plan to stick with yarn shops, partly because on my previous trip to Paris I had a small accident: a gust of wind was nasty enough to spill some fruit salad syrup onto my skirt, and the more I tried to clean it, the more it looked like I’d been working in the White House. So, I’d spent most of that day waiting for the skirt to dry and then taking the metro to the hotel and back. – But at this stage I’m a bit annoyed that I didn’t join my friend to the department store, because she had seen John Kerry there! He was shopping with a younger lady (probably/hopefully his daughter). Oh my! Big city and all those celebrities! Oh well. I probably wouldn’t have had my camera ready then. I should have at least tried to take a photo of a Parisienne, a lady who was bicycling amongst the heavy traffic, dressed very smartly, and wearing a velvet riding helmet instead of an ugly bicycle helmet. Eh voilà! What a style!

Instead of entering the great department stores I headed for a Phildar yarn shop which was supposed to be just behind them. Didn’t see it at all – the French aren’t that big on street numbers, or on the other hand, it was still rather early in the morning, so the entrance may have been covered with a metal net which are rather common over there. I wasn’t too traumatised by this setback, since there are Phildar shops in Brussels as well, I had only wanted to visit this one because it was supposed to be rather near our hotel. So, I was left thinking whether I should walk just a bit further and visit the ”Mode et Travaux” shop by which I was a bit disappointed last time, or should I continue somewhere else.Hmm. Why should I go and feel disappointed again? After coming to this bright conclusion, I decided to take the subway (and was immediately approached by ticket controllers) to Les Halles to La Droguerie , a real paradise . Last time I tried to visit this shop, I was there too early in the morning and couldn’t be bothered to wait but continued somewhere else. Now I was on a mission. Kati was looking for bat-shaped buttons, and I’m always willing to search for more buttons to my storytelling jacket. And I found both!

After this very successful start for a shopping day I sat down for a cup of coffee and created a strategy for the rest of Saturday. Of course I’d been searching for yarn shops in beforehand, using both the internet and phone book, and I had visited some during earlier trips to Paris. The plan A was to see as many new shops as possible, but should I fail to locate them or find anything worth buying, plan B would be go and see the “oldies goldies”. This shop was in the neighbourhood, so I walked past the Pompidou Center and found the shope easily. Came out without any yarn, though. Why? Basically I’m still forbidden to buy any more yarn before the old ones are sorted out. Besides, the prices weren’t that low after all, and there was plenty of time to come back and have another look, should I not find anything else even later that day. Didn’t come out empty-handed, though.. Basic knitting terms in French, clear pictures, relatively cheap and a picture of a cat in the cover. What more can you want?

Anny Blatt shop

Tips and tricks for knitting

I walked a bit in this neighbourhood, looking for a nice place for lunch, but none of them qualified. So, I took the first metro I saw and drove to the “left side” of the river Seine. There was a message on a knitting forum where someone said that they’d encountered Plassard yarn shop in that area. Plassard yarns are hard to find, so you can imagine my enthusiasm at this point. The text went: ”I found a Plassard shop on Rue Monge near Metro Place Monge and Rue Mouffetard in the 5th.” There was no direct address, and I must say that it was a bit difficult to understand how it mentioning the streets Monge and Mouffetard would help finding it, because they are parallel. The number 5 refers only to the post code/area. So, I was walking along Monge, up and down, until I’d seen both the previous and next subway stations of Place Monge. I even asked a couple of elderly ladies whether they knew anyting about it, as well as walked in another textile shop with the same question. All the answers were the same: they knew a Phildar shop but no Plassard. Phildar it was for me, then. Found some Onde yarn which is going out of production (or has already gone), so I had to have some of that. I also asked the lady in that shop whether she knew of a rival shop in the area, and she convinced me they were the only ones. And I believed her, even though she might have just wanted to boost her own sale. So, I guess that the person who had added the original message had somehow mixed Phildar and Plassard, especially there’s no commercial Plassard in Paris phone book either. At least I’ve done my best to find it.

At this stage I was becoming very hungry, and it wasn’t helped by a visit to Rue Mouffetard where there are all kinds of delicacies: cheese, wine, vegetables.. you name it.
Rue Mouffetard – or in the neighbourhood


Passing this jun… antiques shop window I saw a glimpse of a knitting magazine, although it was well hidden under some cross stitch magazines. And in I went, although my French is far from perfect. Some sort of Frenglish.. How do you do, me want see something on the your window, it be knitted. Or something to that effect. No, said the salesperson, we don’t have any knitting magazines, only cross stitch. Oh, me see, tank yoo very much, god bye. And out I went, feeling ashamed for my poor conversation skills, but determined to check whether I was really that wrong. Nope, it was some sort of knitting instructions, and I wanted it! Went back in, managed to persuade the lady to pick this magazine for me – which didn’t make her too happy. She even pointed out that the cover mentions crocheting, not knitting but I was stubborn. Wanted it anyway. And knitting it was! You won’t fool me, even in French!

Ouvrages crochet

The window

Does anyone know what this is?

Now I was really hungry. Entered the nearest restaurant which happened to be Italian. Ordered something to eat and drink, and the waiter seemed just hopeless. Everybody else got a small bowl of salty crackers and their drink – not me. Two other waiters came to my table, lifted the tablecloth and checked the order without saying a word. I got a bit worried as well and checked it too; seemed ok. Didn’t get anything to drink – only after my food arrived did I get my glass. And why all this? I hadn’t even finished eating when the waiter boy approached the table: where are you from, miss, and is everything ok and would you like to join me for a sightseeing tour at night, I’m totally at your service. I was just trying to swallow my food and be polite, no matter how annoyed I felt. I seem to have this strange magnet turned on, and it draws attention from all kinds of nutcases. I managed to get rid of him because a friend just “happened” to call me and we were just agreeing on the details of our Saturday night together. So, I got out of there and left the waiter chatting some other tourists – I’m sure he was as charmed by them as he was by me. I may be interested in knitting, but you still can’t pull wool over my eyes.

The clock had ticked on and I was still on the other side of the river than where our hotel was. I wasn’t carrying as many bags as I had feared, so felt obliged to go and check out the yarn department of Le Bon Marché. Unfortunately shopping is made so difficult there. There are separate stalls for each yarn manufacturer, and after choosing what you’d like to buy, you have to chase down a salesperson. She will then write down the type and amount of each yarn you want and calculate the total price. The same procedure is repeated at each stall – Noro, Rowan, Colinette, Phildar, Plassard, Anny Blatt…. Then you’ll have to queue and pay for them and again, go back and show your receipt in order to get your items. So, that dampens the buying spirit somewhat. Or so I thought. There was some more Phildar Onde and in several shades. It’s not in production any more, so I simply had to buy the rest. Then there was some Plassard – finally - and the best of all was that I found something which matches the wishes of my Secret Nordic Friend (at least 50 % of them, don’t know about the colour though). I never thought it can be so difficult to find yarn FOR somebody.

Phildar Onde

After this little lapse I had more bags than I’d bargained for, so I thought it was best to go back to the hotel and maybe rest a bit before it was time to join my friends for an evening meal. We were so hungry that it was really easy to choose a restaurant that evening. South-American dishes, plenty of wine, last mad dash to the bookstore and then we hit the hay.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved reading your Paris report, and I enjoyed looking at the Anne Blatt website. Mon français, c'est très mauvais. I am so jealous of you multi-lingual people. Some days I have enough trouble with English :-).