Paris

Gastronomic Milestones

 

J’ai les goûts les plus simples du monde, je me contente du meilleur

I have the simplest taste in the world, I am satisfied with the best

Oscar Wilde

(1856-1900)

 

He was so close to the truth, so close to the secret way to live life – at least in Paris, that is, when in search of the ultimate in pastry glory and the taste to make your mouth water a thousand lifetimes.

 

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My gastronomic tour of Paris Patisseries began my very first day in Paris as I took that initial glorious bight into a warm, flaky buttery croissant from a local boulangerie.

 

It was that captivating bite which sent me on a rollercoaster like journey through dessert brilliance and boredom, satisfaction and disappointment.

 

Corner family run patisseries and world famous institutions, I have been to them all, and tasted both their gourmet glory and their frustrating fiascos.

 

Sometimes the random cravings lead to the best possible rewards – unforgettable pastries to make even the sceptical cry from pure sugary bliss.

 

More often though, rather than random brilliance, our journey took the form of planned outings with clear goals, touring the city sometimes visiting up to three patisseries in just one afternoon.

 

All the walking from arrondissement to arrondissement across all of Paris you would hope that we began working off the tip of the mountain of calories we were ingesting, and not too infrequently the mention of prophylactic Lipitor, a cholesterol lowering agent, was rightfully brought up by those of us with concerns for our health.

 

Everything in moderation should be enjoyed, as my incredible grandmother would have said, and although we tried to listen to her trusted advice we may have passed the point of excess more than a handful of times.

 

My partners in these rapturous crimes of gluttony, most often other pastry and cuisine students, but on the rare occasion it would be family or friends visiting from overseas.

 

Joined by these fellow intrepid travellers, together we discovered and tested our might against these strongholds of French Pastry gold.

 

Name it, we have ventured into the famed tourist traps and also the local hidden treasure troves, and so I am here to be your guide to my Grand Tour de Goût.

 

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And so, welcome to the new age of Le Cooking Bible, moving on from my education to a new focus – hunting and gathering. The pleasurable spotlight of efforts, gastronomic research and development, all for the purpose of growing and learning even more, so that eventually I can make even my wildest pastry dreams a reality.

 

By now I have completed 8 months of work and study in the field of French Pastry, graduating from both Le Cordon Bleu and Ecole Ritz Escoffier as well as completing my internship in the Pastry kitchens of the Ritz Hotel in Paris.

 

Now visiting patisseries has taken on a completely new dimension. I have training and knowledge from school and insight and experience from the pastry kitchen. 

 

I’m developing a new way of thinking and appreciating the business, products and service of the patisserie industry.

 

I can already tell you in good conscience what is in store for me – months of gorging myself and encouraging others, just one more cake, another viennoiserie, all in the name of research. I couldn’t help myself, my time was limited, and in this city of gold, I too must make sacrifices for the greater good.

 

So take care as I share some of my greatest finds, take heed, catch your breath and just imagine the possibilities.

 

 

Welcome to the Gastronomic Milestones of Le Grand Tour de Goût!

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Rachel Khoo Rocks – The Little Paris Kitchen

 

In the far far away land of dreary old England, an expeditious and intrepid art and design major left her high powered job to pursue her passion for pastry in Paris.

 

Like me she attended the famed bastion of Le Cordon Bleu Paris only she has managed to fashion her way into a very bright and promising future.

 

A mere four years after completing Pastry school she is capturing hearts and minds, as well as businesses, across the world with her creativity and design instincts paired perfectly with her sense of taste and cooking skills.

 

Describing herself as a Food Creative she is that and so much more.

 

But as I find myself walking towards her tiny apartment for lunch one Wednesday afternoon after months of trying to secure a booking in her unique lunchtime locale I am simply excited and it didn’t take long for my expectations to be exceeded.


 

Rachel Khoo Rocks – some people just have the great ideas, the skills to pull them off, and the personality that sets them far apart from the rest.


Rachel has all that and more … Guts -and not just in regards to bravery but the inner sense that guides her and makes things work.


I was so lucky to secure a spot at her tiny apartment come invite only restaurant, sharing with another lucky someone a table for three with Rachel Khoo herself – who had lovingly prepared a three course meal for us. Working on her new cookbook she was in need of test subjects and I will always willingly volunteer.

 

It is a brilliant venture to obtain live and practical feedback, meet new people and make people exceedingly happy whilst drumming up huge amount of buzz and word of mouth – the best type of advertising.

 

First off, a moreish Autumn Salad with lardon, figs, fresh chestnuts, walnuts and beetroot to tempt even the saddest tastebuds into a celebration.


Second on the line freshly oven roasted Coq au Vin with roasted vegetables and beans to make your heart smile.


Sitting at the small table in her lounge/bedroom/office the day seemed to speed by as we enjoyed mouthfuls of delicious food and the most fascinating conversations not only about food but all the world has to offer.


And finally a long pepper crème brulee with raspberries the perfect way to end an amazing meal.


This city seems to attract these unique individuals here to live the life in this fabled city. Watching her at work in the kitchen was such a pleasure. Using all fresh organic produce, together with a technical eye, the flavours were perfect.

 

But like everything, even good things must come to an end, and the busy Rachel had literally a mountain of tasks to get done before yet another project in her busy schedule and I hope it stays that way as a measure of her ever evolving success.


I personally can’t wait till one day I receive a special present in the mail post-marked PARIS – a signed copy of her latest cookbook!

 

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Rachel Khoo’s Links:

The Little Paris Kitchen

http://www.thelittlepariskitchen.com/

Her Consulting and Food Styling Business

http://www.rachelkhoo.com/


L’Entrecôte

There once was a tale of two sisters and a brother who each owned a restaurant in Paris. They fought and they fought until their businesses were highly successful with multiple locations throughout Paris and the world. All their successes hinged on a secret sauce and a very simple concept.

No real menu, no choice at all – you would think it was doomed to fail, how could a restaurant that provides no choice to a paying customer really be successful – well you would be incredibly wrong to discount these siblings – they absolutely rake in the profits!

L’Entrecôte is the contre-filet cut of sirloin, a cut I was completely unfamiliar with in Australia, given like everything else in France they do things slightly differently and have unique trade-marked uninfringeable names for the way that only they can produce them. Besides it’s particular naming rights, we know it better as the basis of the classical bistro meal of steak-frites which is quite literally butchered by most cafés in Paris.

I have tried desperately to keep up my red-meet intake in Paris and yet at almost every turn it has been trying very hard to disappoint me.

The meat here is nothing compared to a juicy melt in your mouth huge cut of grass fed beef from Argentina, or a wagyu beef cheek from Japan that has been massaged on a daily basis and fed beer, or a perfectly aged piece of Australian Beef fillet. More often than not it is tough, chewy, full of gristle and overly rare for even those of us that like their meat rare.

Yet there are a few hidden gems, these one’s being overtly famous and well known, which try their best to provide a real piece of meat to the cheers of the public.

Getting back to the siblings, who have each tried to stand out on their own two feet and create enviable empires, well they have done themselves very proud, been extremely successful along the way, but I can assure you they have not strayed far from their father’s footsteps. In fact, until I found out the true history of their family and the businesses I was entirely confused as to why their menus looked as if they came out of the same printer.

The formula is strict, FIRST, WAIT IN LINE FOR A VERY LONG TIME, this place is popular people and with a no-reservations policy you will usually have to wait half-an-hour to an hour on the pavement outside, but do not fear this place is a factory and moves through the tables at a rapid rate as the cash register rings in the profits.

SECOND, the waitress, always female, wearing a black uniform with a white apron, with or without a smile and friendly face, this is optional of course, will come and take your order – Bleu, Saignant, À point, Cuit, Bien Cuit. Just remember in case you don’t want your steak to have questionable origins and treatment do not at all costs order bien cuit, or well cooked, it is cardboard. In France rare, medium-rare and medium have no common meaning to what you are used to in countries other than France. Remember Bleu or blue, is quite literally blue, and cool in the centre, uncooked except for a seared crust; Saignant is what we would consider quite rare, À point is slightly more cooked than medium-rare, and the rest shall go unmentioned for they are an unmentionable curse in the kitchen. She will scrawl your order on the white paper which covers your table.

THIRD, after expediently taking your simplified food and drink orders she will masterfully bring plates of a moreish lettuce and walnut salad with a spicy Dijon vinaigrette served with baguette, and from experience I can tell you that inevitably you cannot control your bread intake as you salivate waiting for the meat.


FOURTH, your metal tray passes the table carrying the salacious secret sauce, and the meat, and the other tray literally piled high with gloriously crispy French fries, or pomme frites. It is served onto your plates with silver service spoon and fork just like the good-old-days and placed into reaching distance of your already raised cutlery.


FIFTH, you eat your steak served with that perfect, luscious, rich sauce and mounds of the most unimaginably perfect crisp potatoes and when you feel like you just cannot go on any longer, yet crave even more, both your worst nightmare and your unrequited fantasies, do in fact come true as an entire second helping is heaped in front of your greedy mouth and eyes.


SIXTH, sadly your now completely empty and wiped clean plate, yes you not so surreptitiously soaked up the last skerrick of sauce with the left over bread, is removed from the table by your waitress as you ponder if there is any room left in your engorged stomach for dessert.

SEVENTH, your dessert, if you were game enough to order one, arrives and sadly usually disappoints after your sublime meal but you finish it off anyway.


EIGHTH, you pay the bill, which although not unreasonable given the servings, you would have had no idea up until then just how much your meal would cost. Although, most of us would have eaten there way to many times not to have a vague recollection of the last bill.

NINTH, you walk away from this institution completely satisfied and having a heated discussion about which one of the competing outlets has the best pomme frites or the juiciest steak, or most importantly the most authentic sauce.

TENTH, this is of course optional, for us cuisine aficionados, otherwise known as food nerds/snobs, argue into the night about how exactly you imagine they make that miraculous sauce!

There are many theories and much conjecture behind this institutional sauce – after way too many dinners at a few incarnations of the L’Entrecôte restaurants, with a variety of friends and family, we have together come up with a pretty good idea – chicken livers, fresh thyme, cream, butter, Dijon mustard, butter and salt and pepper.

On a Sunday night when you just can’t decide where to go for dinner and you’re really hungry, you’ll know where to find me, and a large proportion of Parisian’s.

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Le Relais de Venise – Porte-Maillot

271 Boulevard Pereire, Porte-Maillot

+33 1 45 74 27 97

http://www.relaisdevenise.com/

Le Relais de L’Entrecôte – Saint Germain

20, rue Saint-Benoît
+33 1 45 49 16 00

http://www.relaisentrecote.fr/

L’Entrecôte

4 Cours 30 Juillet, 33000 Bordeaux, France

+33 5 56 81 76 10

http://www.entrecote.fr/


Spoiling Ourselves

 

As if we hadn’t been spoilt enough with an inspirational tour of the Opera Garnier and an unforgettable degustation lunch at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, we then ventured out into the pouring rain looking for further excitement and fulfilment.

 

Well, we were drawn towards my favourite cultural hearth, the beauty and serenity of the Orangerie in the Tuillerie gardens – and it was made all the more incredible by the weather outside and the impending arrival of closing time. As such, we were able to make a decisive and surreptitious move to be the last three people in the museum as they began to usher out the last few devotees.

 

We managed to make it happen and with a sweet smile even asked the guard to take our photo in the empty vaulted room able to enjoy these masterpieces entirely alone – a gift that never happens.




Seldom are we so honoured as to be spoilt in such a way, but the indulgence only continued as we walked to our final destination….

 

The Ritz Hotel Paris

… Where for only the second time I was a patron, rather than an employee working down in the basement. And so, after walking around the marbled hallways surrounded by art, jewels and gold, I was ushered into the famed Hemingway Bar for an evening of cocktails with the high society of Paris.

The Hemingway Bar

As soon as we entered the door it was as if we walked into another world and another time – this small wood panelled room, with old world leather furniture, its walls studded with hunting trophies as well as black and white family photographs, it was such that the ambiance was almost palpable.


The service was attentive without being intrusive, so personal and helpful, the waiters were clearly experienced and they were beyond brilliant at their jobs – they took pride and an interest in making our experience as unforgettable as possible. We were constantly provided with glasses of cucumber infused water and small plates of delectable spiced nuts, moreish freshly made potato crisps and marinated olives.


The cocktail menu was captivating but we made our choices and we were each taken in different directions – a Raspberry Martini made with house made raspberry-infused vodka, it was like drinking a silky smooth raspberry rocket, mine their house specialty, a Serendipity, Colin Field’s signature combination of calvados, mint, apple juice and champagne. However, the clear highlight, the true serendipitous event, was provided at the hands of one of the talented mixologists, Aurèlie, behind the bar. Our distinguished compatriot has a love for the classic French aperitif Lillet Blanc, and so, as a VIP in this five-star establishment, a new cocktail was invented in his honour – to be known in perpetuity as Le Lillet Simon.


We were so happy with our service that we were not, as usual, unwilling to fill in the feedback forms, and in fact gave them excellent in every category. With the courage and conviction to make the night even more special I approached the man himself, two time world champion mixologist, Mr Colin Field, and after a light-hearted conversation about life in the kitchens, I now have in my sentimental possession a signed copy of his tome to the art and life of cocktails at Bar Hemingway with my personalised inscription – “I hope that you don’t loose to much weight whilst you work in the kitchens!”

Standing in front of the front entrance to the Ritz Hotel on Place Vendome I was so proud to have brought two friends into my home of 4 months and shared this wonderful experience with them.


 


L’Atelier de Rêves D’Or

 

Our experiences at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon were like a hazy dream – quite literally we were living in a euphoric fantasy.

 

Fanciful would be an understatement and would suggest an element of the irrational was involved in our experiences.

 

I wouldn’t put it past me given it is said sometimes I exaggerate, but I had corroborating witnesses, two food obsessed friends from Melbourne who were currently on a gastronomic tour of Europe.


And so after managing the impossible and securing us a reservation at the number 14 restaurant in the world… we finally sat down at this beautiful restaurant on a lazy Saturday afternoon for our highly anticipated meal.

 

Envisage, if you will, a slick modern bar surrounding an open kitchen where much of the magic happens. Only 40 people per service are able to sit stunned and truly satisfied.



 

Joël Robuchon is a master chef, a worldwide phenomenon with establishments all over the globe delivering fantastic food, innovation and quality, and consummate service.


We not so secretively peered over our shoulders at the plates of the adjoining couple who seemed to be receiving some particular attention from the chef himself and we were not only definitely interested in the dessert served but even more so excited by our meal to come.


 

We were reading through the a la carte menu and either fortunately or unfortunately, the former of course more outstanding and fun, we decided as a trio to order the not so inexpensive degustation menu at 160 euros.

 

I left the wine ordering to a master with a great palate and so we were presented with a gorgeous bottle of white wine from the appelation d’origine controlee, a premier cru from Burgundy.


 

L’Amuse Bouche: To begin this rollercoaster ride of pleasure and taste we were served an amuse-bouche of fresh crab with a shellish gelee and a cauliflower cream.


 

Le Premier Assiette: Lobster carpaccio with fine aromatic herbs and oils, subtle, soft, flavours of tomato and nicoise olives and poppy seeds, the raw lobster was


 

La Soupe: a Fava bean and green pea veloute served with a perfect dollop of fresh crème fraiche – it was smooth, light and creamy, full of flavour and every mouthful a pleasure.


 

Le Deuxième Assiette: perfectly seared foie gras with warm black cherries, hibiscus sauce and fresh almonds and tart granny smith apple – honestly, the BEST foie gras I have ever ever conceived let alone eaten.


 

Les Oeuf: a perfectly cooked organic yolk just set, hidden below a foam of light cream with rich earthy sautéed girolles, paired with a peppery herb sauce and a sprinkling of an intense spice powder.


 

By this stage I was quickly running out of superlatives, both in French and English, and I was overcome with simple facial expressions and sounds of absolutely joy between mouthfuls.

 

Working my magic with the amazing waitress, we managed to switch one of the courses, the Turbot, for another fish course, something which appealed to us all…

 

Le Poisson: langoustine ravioli in an almost invisible layer of egg pasta with a creamy truffle sauce and stewed green cabbage.


 

It was after the ravioli that our individual taste journeys finally diverged as we each indepentently chose a different main course.

 

Le Plat Principal – Le Viande:

 

The first option, L’Angneau – the milk-fed lamb
racks glazed with shallots and thyme.


The second choice, Le Veau – the glazed veal roasted to obtain a caramelised finish with potato and spring onion salad, chanterelles and jus.


The final choice, my personal pleasure to consume, La Caille – Quail, expertly deboned and stuffed with a farce of foie gras, caramelised supremely, and served with a potato puree and black truffles.


And to accompany our meats we each had a small dish of the signature mashed potato of Joël Robuchon, 50:50 butter to potato, not surprisingly we each had only a small spoonful as we were already reaching capacity and still had dessert to follow.


 

Unparalleled though were our final courses – the desserts…

 

Le Premier Dessert: La Fraise – strawberries marinated in olive oil and vanilla, above an acidulous soft biscuit, paired with the refreshingly floral jasmine and fleur d’orange sorbet pierced by a shard of sugar.


 

Le Deuxième Dessert: Le Café – coffee sabayon, a tart lemon greek yoghurt, and a strong coffee ice-cream crowned by a fine coffee sugar tuille


 

Now here comes the ultimate surprise and victory, feeling high on the absolute gratification of a blissful meal, and knowing that when it comes to dessert there is always just a little more room, I made a special request – nothing ventured, nothing gained we always make the most of a situation – could we please have one more dessert…

 

… MORE, MORE – another dessert, there was no hesitation, no wavering, they had experienced this request before, undoubtedly – and so the chef was asked on our behalf by our incredible waitress to prepare one more plate, to share, of the chocolate creation we had first seen on entering this palace of food.

 

Only, later, as the doors to the pastry kitchen opened, we were faced with not one but three plates. It seems that my appreciation and praise had indeed been passed onto the pastry chef, as had the fact that I was a pastry graduating student, and feeling extremely generous he had sent us not just one dessert each, but three tasting plates and so we were caught by total surprise and had three more courses to go in our marathon meal.

 

Le Surprise Assiette de Dessert:


  1. Le Chocolat Tendance: a verrine of four layers and textures of chocolate

     

  2. Le Tarte aux Chocolat: a yielding rich chocolate and macadamia nut tart

     

  3. La Fraise de Bois: strawberries macerated in vanilla with balsamic and port with basil sorbet, wild strawberries, a meringue and a halo of white chocolate

 

Les Boisson Chaudes: coffee and teas were accompanied by fresh madeleine aux citron and caramel aux buerre salé


 

Just look at the smug satisfied faces of the three Australian gentlemen … L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon has three big fans!


 

Lets just emphasise the gravity of this sorbet – the jasmine and basil sorbets were perfection, heavenly, light, fresh, with a balanced intensity of natural flavour, they were an absolute triumph and highlight of the meal – so much so that my compatriots requested that I work at L’Atelier to try and learn the secret to their brilliance.

 

Envisage if you will our meal, visualise the plating, delight in their smell, pleasure in their textures, marvel in their taste – it is not a hallucination if you come to Paris and eat there for yourselves – only there is one requirement invite me to join you or at least take photos for me!

 

Joël Robuchon and his organisation are aspirational, and it is my ambition to one day achieve even one hundredth of their breadth of brilliance!

 

THANK YOU to everyone at L’Aterlier de Joël Robuchon – St Germain, especially our South Korean French Waitress Dami and the chefs behind the closed doors the incredible pastry team!

 

 

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon – St Germain

5 rue de Montalembert

Paris, 75007, France

Tel: +33(0)1.42.22.56.56

http://www.joel-robuchon.net/


 


L’Opera Garnier

 

 

I shouldn’t really need to say anything more, after seeing the roof of this truly grand establishment you should already realise its impact on the history and culture of French society, let alone, three eager travellers from Australia.

 

But probably even more outstanding than the grandeur and opulence of this palace is the story of what went on behind the closed doors of our guided tour.

 


 

Waking up later than expected, I literally ran to find that the tour had already started, only I was shocked to find that we had enthusiastically joined the FRENCH guided tour – yes, I am being entirely serious, two cultured Australians with barely a single word of French, and an unworthy Parisian resident with non-food related French bordering on the embarrassing, were faced with a 2 hour tour entirely in complicated, sub-specialised FRENCH!

 


 

Don’t rush to judge, it was not as terrible or unfortunate as it may seem at first glance. I managed to translate quite a bit, although, I have no reference to check my abilities…

 

We all agree that despite understanding superficially at best a mere 10-15% of the tour it was quite possibly the best guided tour we had ever joined – the tour guide an instantaneous legend we will never forget – I never did catch her name – coming late and all – and so in perpetuity she shall forever be named “La Reine de la Opera”.

 

Animated and passionate, captivating in every gesture, with her melodic emphatic voice, she recounted for us the entire history of L’Opera Garnier in what has to be considered a milestone performance fit for the stage as she herself provided heated renditions of the most famous of Operas as well as describing their impact on the politics and society of the times.

 

It seems that this masterpiece of the second empire, and also the famed setting of The Phantom of the Opera, has another player to be proud of… OUR GUIDE – 5.5 stars out of 5!

 

After starting in the main theatre and marvelling at the gilt wood carvings and plush red velvet, the perfect acoustics and letting our minds wander to those glorious times when the theatre was packed with decadent individuals – both in the past and in current times – we considered whom would sit in each location and realised that everyone had perfect views of the stage and a first hand view of one of the greatest buildings of all time!



Although, admittedly, a little out of place with the rest of the décor, our guides enthusiasm for the Chagall ceiling seemed to rub off on everyone and the story it told seemed fitting to say the least – it exemplified one man’s love for the arts and seemed to enliven the space.


 

Moving out into the rest of the building the space instantly opened up into a vast interior of corridors, halls and landings emblazoned with gold and multi-coloured friezes, marble columns and classical statues.

 


 

The main staircase, formerly the hive of the various classes, each were kept separated and conspired to change history, of course after enjoying some unforgettable entertainment.


 

The sumptuous halls especially that of the Grand Foyer, tell a story of Greek mythology and the muses that inspire poetry, music, drama and opera.

 



Emperor Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann and Charles Garnier managed with millions of Francs and true inspiration to create something special to last the ages… and now with the help of the ultimate tour guide we manage to traverse language barriers to get a real feeling for just how inspirational this place has been for over 130 years!


Chaos Theory 3: A Change is in the Air

 


 

French Bureaucracy will be the death of me.

 

I am its tragic and undeserving victim once more. Only this time it is for the same reason and a rough second blow to the left cheek.

 

After waiting patiently for three months for an appointment time or any further instruction at all… Time was drawing near to a difficult impasse.

 

I wanted to leave France for a short break away from the intensity of life in Paris. I wanted a holiday from the French.

 

But sadly thanks to the legality of their international laws I had no chance of re-entering the country after I left as I was yet to receive part 2 of my yearlong visa – the famed Carte de Sejour.

 

So I was forced to make a decisive move. I employed the services of my cousin once again as a crucial intermediary between myself and French customer service!

 

They are notoriously difficult to contact and deal with and by no means will ever speak even a word of English even if they are of professor of English literature.

 

So she tried her hardest to call the office of immigrations contact phone number – they never answered.

 

Finally I gave up the battle for any logical support and went into their offices personally. I waited 45 minutes to be told by the lovely receptionist, who spoke some english, that why was I turning up now! There is record of two appointments being sent to my one month after the first letter had arrived confirming they had received my documentation. I had been given two appointments and failed to attend. I calmly and respectfully apologised for having not received any letters from OFII and that all I need is my interview and to be given my carte as I have already had my medical examination in Australia as advised by the consulate and as accepted by their own letter!!

 

She looked shocked as if she had never heard of such a thing and looked over the original copies of what was clearly their departments own forms. She looked confused and said she would have to have a discussion with her colleagues.

 

Five separate individuals weighed in on the discussion as in all French governmental issues. Triplicate does not exist here; everything must have five copies and be signed by two parties.

 

They finally agreed thirty minutes later that my French medical examination by the Australian French consulates official doctor written in French on their own medical examination documentation with a signed attestation was insufficient and I should come back next week for another medical appointment and further chest x-ray as it was on the forms with the old letterhead on the top from OFII with the name OMI. Paper is very important.

 

So, clearly distressed, I made my case with the receptionist and I negotiated for an appointment the next morning and had to call work to change my shift.

 

I was downhearted but there was finally some light at the end of the tunnel or so I thought… Maybe instead of glow of sweet freedom it was the pearly gates awaiting me after what was to come the next morning!

 

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Turning up at 9am as requested I walked straight up the stairs to be faced by the gatekeepers of the underworld. That of the top socialised fresh medical system where I was about to receive life-changing mind altering preventative health medical advice that would improve my life and visa application status overwhelmingly.

 

Only they didn’t speak a word of English what so ever despite being supposedly welcoming.

 

This lady was a wolverine that would eat her own progeny. She was frightening. She was intimidating and she didn’t like my smile or my existence clearly. So I sat down and waited forty five minutes for my name to be called. 

 

When she saw my dossier included a French medical examination already she scoffed, intimated I didn’t need to be here, was about to give me my carte de sejour but then hesitated and hurried off looking very pissed.

 

She came back five minutes later to tell me nothing about the medical and continued on her previous rant in French. Why I gathered was that firstly how could I not have two photocopies of my rental agreement for her, something not mentioned by her colleagues just yesterday, and then told in my limited French that I needed 340 euros worth of stamps not 55 as I was told yesterday and so diligently I ran to the tabac to buy a further 285 euros worth of worthless and pointless stamps!!


On my speedy return I again had to wait for her pleasurable company and after so lovingly and kindly photocopying my only copy of my rental agreement for herself (I believe she had reached her limit of frustration so saved herself the effort and just did it for me unlike the person before ho was told to leave, make to copies and return another day) she handed me my dossier and told me to attend my examination down the corridor.

 

I waited once again for fifteen minutes and finally my named was called.

 

The doctor was a gorgeous short four foot five older woman with really funky glasses and a lovely bedside manner not to mention the fact that she so kindly spoke to me in English. All the doctors appeared so sweet and kind and I felt drawn to their energy. I miss my colleagues in Australia terribly and I miss medicine.

 

So after measuring my weight, 83kg and my height 190cm, yes I am in the healthy weight range and have lost 6 kilos since starting pastry training and moving to France, she asked about my health insurance coverage, and checked my ailing eyesight.

 

After attending to yet another chest x-ray, a good thirty minutes later again, I was cleared by the shortest and most superficial medical I have ever had.

 

I returned to the first reception desk and waited calmly for the dragon whose cool style and multiple earrings disguised her clearly right wing conservative attitudes.


She finally handed me my carte de sejour and I was no longer illegal, the weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I could finally look forward to the relaxation and joy of my short Greek getaway.

 

Only now that I can actually book my flights they are twice as expensive!! The price you have to pay!!

 

I watched as all the Asian women with French husbands were whisked off for counselling.

 

Two and a half hours later I was back in front of the twins and the word complicated and bourdelle were mentioned a couple of times. This medical examination was good they said.

 

And so my carte de sejour, my license to be welcome and free was finally in my possession. I still felt like an unwelcome alien but at least I was no longer a semi-illegal one.

 

I was free to leave their country and then return… A luxury that was hard fought for.

 

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The next bit of chaos lies within my troubled mind. Yet again I am at a crossroads.

 

But for now I am heading to visit an old friend and then off to a little old place named Greece!