Goat Lawn Mowers

Goats in the Tuileries

Goats in the Tuileries

Goats in the Tuileries

Goats in the Tuileries

In case you were curious as to how they keep the grass in the Tuileries so expertly trimmed and free of weeds, allow me to introduce you to Berenice and Gaston, Official Goat Lawn Mowers of the City of Paris. Okay, full disclosure, I made up their names and titles. I don’t know whether they were male or female goats, or whether there is such a thing as the Official Goat Lawn Mowers of Paris, but just go with it, because when you stumble upon two goats eating in the middle of the most tourist’ed park in the city, your brain kind of runs amok with glee. I was minding my own business one gray afternoon, cutting through the jardins on my way to Pont Royal to cross into Saint-Germain, when I heard a strange baa’ing noise. The Tuileries, as you’ll remember, have a certain magic when it comes to animals, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d see goats (GOATS!) on leashes. The best part was that since they were off to one side, away from the main pathway leading to the Louvre, hardly anyone else was around to witness this fantastic agrarian marvel.

Berenice, the white goat, kept baaing that weird throaty rattle goats have, until a handler came over and fed her a nice long dandelion weed. In between her baaing I kept hearing a crazed, childlike giggle, and only when I looked around did I realize the sound was coming from me. Oh, city kids. We are delighted by the simplest things. Who knew I loved goats?

Well played, Paris. Well played.

Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg

Love in the Jardin du Luxembourg

Today marks a special occasion: there are only 100 days left until the wedding! The weeks leading up to my departure for Paris were a mad rush of finalizing wedding-related details, stuffing invitations, securing a DJ, etc., so that Jamal didn’t have to deal with them in my absence. Once I return home in July, all that’s left to do is have my dress fitted (really sorry to my seamstress in advance for all the croissant-weight I’m carrying) and, well, pay the final balance on everything. Weddings are so sneaky, you pay a deposit to every vendor and then two weeks before the big day, boom. So expensive! So unnecessary! I have a post I need to write about why I am a dead-beat bride, but I’ll save that for another time. Here’s a sneak peek: I’m not excited about the wedding. I’m excited about the marriage. I don’t want to be a bride. I want to be a wife.

Anyway, needless to say, I am excited to be marrying Jamal, who, I might add, arrives in Paris next weekend. Finally! Six weeks is a long time to go without seeing your fiancé, but I’ve been managing. Okay, no offense, Jamal, but I’ve been doing just fine keeping myself occupied and distracted. Ladurée! The Eiffel Tower! Butter! CHEESE! But last week, I had lunch in the Jardin du Luxembourg by the Fountain de Medicis (for the second time in as many days, I might add) and I saw this wonderful elderly couple on my way out. They were holding hands and just sitting there, not a care in the world, not an itinerary to stick to, and it made me really, really miss him. I thought, “That is what I want.” I want to be 80 years old and in Paris with Jamal and just sitting there, soaking it all in. Promise me we can do that? (You know, unless when we’re 80 we can’t afford to come to Paris because we’re still paying off this wedding because somebody just had to have short ribs on the menu.)

Peonies on Rue Cler

Peonies on Rue Cler

Peonies on Rue Cler

Peonies on Rue Cler

Peonies, Rue Cler

Rule #7 dictated that I should “Buy fresh flowers for your apartment, a fresh baked croissant on your morning walk, and a glass of rosé at any café you stumble upon. Parisians understand how to live a really beautiful, decadent life. Take note.” While I haven’t been stopping and having a glass of rosé too frequently, and I’ve calmed down a bit on the croissants (we’re at one or two a week, now), I have been taking the first part very seriously; I’ve bought myself peonies every week that I’ve been here. On Saturday mornings (and one Friday morning, when Annie was here, instead) I’ve taken the metro to the École Militaire/Invalides neighborhood in the 7eme, had breakfast at a sweet little café and enjoyed a big cup of tea and a good book, and then picked up a bunch of 20 or so peonies. They make the apartment smell divine and add so much color to the space. They are truly magnificent flowers, and I’m so happy I’m getting to indulge in them during their short timeframe.

On my last Saturday morning adventure I went to Rue Cler, a market street near the Eiffel Tower, with tons of cafés with outdoor seating, vendors selling fresh produce and rotisseries, and even a knife sharpener, who wheels his cart up and down the street, sharpening knives while you wait. And then, of course, there are the stacks and stacks of peonies at the flower shop. I’ve gone back since just to wander, and the table was full of dark red, pale pink, and magenta peony buds, stacked a foot high. I wish I’d gotten a picture.

Other Paris Details of Note: You know what’s really in here? Scooters! Two-wheel push-scooters, everyone has them. Grown women, young kinds, college boys. They bring them on the bus, into bookstores, and they zip around you on the sidewalk. It’s wild. They were popular at home about 10-15 years ago but have since become seriously uncool. Not here! I gave mine to my nieces, I might have to steal it back.

Paris at Night

Eiffel Tower and the Seine, 9pm

Île Saint-Louis

Île Saint-Louis at night

Eiffel Tower sparkling, 10pm

The Seine, 10:30pm

Eiffel Tower, 10:30pm

A few weekends ago I did something I haven’t done yet here: I went out at night by myself. I know, how scandalous. It stays light here until 10pm these days, so there is no fear of me wandering the city in the dark. Well, there was, it was a real fear I had, that I would be on deserted streets alone and oh my god, what would happen?? My cousin Stacy, an experienced solo world traveler gave me some invaluable advice before I left: Find your comfort zone first, and then go beyond it. My comfort zone was being back in my apartment by 8pm for the first few weeks. I was getting everything done that I needed to during the day, and spending the evenings listening to the crowds of people heading into the Moulin Rouge (for an 11pm show!) or one of the bars around here, thinking, “It’s okay. Not yet.”

And then, one lazy Saturday where I spent the entire day inside, I decided I was ready to go outside my comfort zone. So at 9pm I headed to the bus and got off at the Louvre, before walking down the Quai François Mitterand to the Île Saint-Louis and back to the Pont Royal to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle in all its magical, enchanting glory at 10pm. That sight is otherworldly; as if the cityscape weren’t gorgeous enough with the lights reflecting in the water and La Tour triumphing over it all in the background, she literally starts sparkling every hour, on the hour for five or ten minutes once the sun goes down. And yes, I cried.

I walked around taking photos in the blue night, laughing at myself for being concerned about being out alone at that hour. 10:30 and the sky is still inky blue (in fact, some of those photos don’t even look like they were taking so late at night!) there are still throngs of tourists in the courtyard of the Louvre where I waited for my bus back home, taking photos, having picnics on the steps, laughing and enjoying the evening –including a family with two young children under the age of two, both of whom were still wide awake. If they can do it, so could I!

And I think that living in Philadelphia my entire life –and spending the last four in a gentrifying neighborhood– makes it impossible for me not to compare the two cities while I’m living in Paris. In Philly, waiting for a bus as a single female at that hour wouldn’t be the safest thing to do, and the bus would maybe have one or two other people on it, depending on the route. The bus I took home that night? Standing room only, full of old couples dressed up coming back from dinner, young kids starting their night, and tourists aplenty. The public transit system here is so much more advanced and people are so dependent on it because it works and is convenient and thorough (three things our own transit system back home is not). What had I been so afraid of? The unknown, of course. And when I got home at around 11:15 I still had to fight through the crowds of tourists to get to my front door. Abandoned, empty streets and scary muggers lurking in doorways? Where do I think I live?

Anyway, the fruits of my nocturnal bravery were worth the anxiety I had before taking the plunge. Those photos are some of my favorite ones that I’ve taken in the past month that I’ve been here.