I wasn’t kidding when I said I have countless photographs from Paris that I hadn’t shared with you yet. Nor was I being facetious when I made mention previously that flowers are an integral part of every day life in Paris. They are everywhere; there is a fleuriste on every corner, bouquets in shop windows, in people’s arms on the metro, wrapped in brown paper, and –most happily– on the mantle in my Paris apartment. My Saturday tradition to bring home a fresh bunch of peonies (and stop for breakfast at my favorite café) was one of the highlights of my time there. Any culture that makes a conscious effort to add flowers to the day-to-day simply because they’re pretty? Well, that’s something I can get behind.
I’m back to relying on my $4 bouquets from Trader Joe’s, and while I love how they brighten up my home, and that they are just a fraction of what I was spending at Monceau Fleurs or Cler Fleurs (€20 a pop!), there is something decidedly lacking in the experience now. Break out the tiny violins!
Table for one, s’il vous plaît.
Of all the endless charms Paris has on display on every unassuming corner, the omnipresent rattan bistro chairs might be my favorite. They come in a variety of colors, will leave a waffle-weave imprint on the backs of your thighs in the warmer months, and creak just so when you sit in them. They are as iconically Parisian as La Tour itself, but unlike the monument, no one rushes you out of your seat at the café. You’re almost always guaranteed to find an outdoor seat, due in no small part to the sheer number of brasseries that dot the city. And don’t be put off by les fumeurs puffing away like chimneys; I hate smelling like cigarette smoke, but never once noticed it lingering on my clothes or hair while I was there. Either French cigarettes aren’t pumped up with as many harsh additives as they are here, or I was so in love with Paris I went nose-blind.
But anyway, chairs! Or les chaises, en Français.
I made mention in this post about the ways in which my dad, unsurprisingly, showed up around Paris while I was there. His love of the city (and all things French) was something we had very much in common –along with turtlenecks, neutral colored clothing, quiet time, and stinky cheese. Finding photos from his trip in the 90s was one of the greatest joys of my life to date; reliving the city through his eyes was the next best thing to getting to go there with him one day, something that we never got to share and will forever break my heart.
But he still had his ways of letting me know he was there with me on this trip. Here are stories behind just two: Read more
I forget where I first came across illustrator Tom Gauld, but I do remember being instantly charmed by his adorably witty and topical (to me) work. His cartoons appear weekly in The Guardian, but it’s his spot-on drawings of problems faced by writers and book-lovers that really get me. “Pauses, Tea Breaks and Naps” and “Advanced Workspace Rearrangement” are two classes I am sadly well-qualified to teach.
I haven’t written anything in the month that I’ve been back from Paris. I just haven’t had the time, which I’ve learned means I haven’t cared enough to make the time, which makes me sad. What are your best “get back on that horse” words of wisdom, kiddos?
Here’s a fun fact about me: my license expired in December and I haven’t gotten it renewed. Now, before you think I’m breaking any laws, I cannot tell you the last time I was behind the wheel. Maybe three years ago? Four? As a perpetual city-dweller, I’ve never owned –nor felt a need for– a car. In fact, I was 20 when I finally cracked and got my license; I paid for driving lessons and went through a red light on my first one, prompting the instructor to say, “Um, okay, that was a red light. We stop at those.” I can’t drive fast, I keep my hands in the 10-and-2 position, and I get the sweats at the thought of merging. But parallel parking? I am an excellent parallel parker. At least, I was three years ago.
I’ve relied on my two legs and public transit for the majority of my life, and have never seen the appeal of paying a car payment, insurance, gas, parking, or any of the other costs that come with it. Sports cars do nothing for me. I honestly hadn’t given any thought to anything remotely vehicular since I was six, and my parents got me a bright red Ferrari for my Barbies.
And then I went to Paris. Where, while everyone relies on the metro or the buses, Parisians who have cars choose to have tiny, adorable cars. Vintage mini coopers; old, small Fiats; shiny, teensy Smart cars. No giant SUVs here, or oversized sedans people trade in every three years, no sir. Just wonderful, and wonderfully photogenic, little rides that startled me every time I saw someone emerge from one. For one of these pint-sized sets of wheels, I would happily abandon my permanent pedestrian status.
I know Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald have already sung the praises of this particular season, but there really is something to be said about Paris in the spring time. Everything is lush and green, and it’s as if the city is taking cues from the opening pages of Ludwig Bemelmans’ “Madeline”; buildings and archways are covered in vines. The last two photos are from a contender for my Favorite Street in Paris, Rue de Seine, just across from the Square Gabriel Pierné, a small park with a fountain and benches shaped like open books. I sat there one afternoon for a few hours, reading Colette and eating macarons from the Ladurée around the corner on Rue Bonaparte, and even though it was drizzling on and off, it was hands-down one of those moments that makes my Top Ten list. Though now that I say that, I’m pretty sure the other nine moments would all be memories from Paris, too.
Five Paris photos to wrap up this week:
1. A darling bicycle, double-parked in Saint-Germain:
I didn’t have the confidence to tackle the Velib bike-sharing program while I was there –my last two experiences on a bicycle ended in paralyzing muscle pain and sunburn, and giving my father two broken ribs on Father’s Day twenty years ago– but while I might have been trepidatious, Parisians certainly aren’t.
2. A Winsor-Newton travel paint-set, spotted at Magasin Sennelier:
My dad always carried this exact set! I walked by the window of this famous art supply store on the Quai Voltaire and stopped in my tracks. My dad had a way of popping up throughout my time there in subtle, sweet ways.
3. The view of Sacré Cœur from the balcony of the Musée d’Orsay:
You can’t take photographs inside the Impressionist wing at the Musée d’Orsay, but the balcony on that floor affords some striking opportunities. I could almost see my apartment!
4. Pretty roses in the Musée Rodin gardens:
Annie said these gardens reminded her of “Alice in Wonderland” and I can absolutely see why. “We’re painting the roses red!”
5. The moody light in Montmartre one evening:
Jamal and I left La Bascule one evening while he was visiting and were both struck silent upon seeing how the sunset was blanketing the neighborhood. I miss this street, and Montmartre, and Paris, so much.
I’m telling you, the best investment I made during my time in Paris was a membership to the Louvre. I made sure to visit the Musée Rodin frequently, as well, but the Louvre is unlike any other museum in the world, and I had free access to it whenever I wanted. I might even feel a bit smug about how familiar I became with the mammoth layout and the art; most people visiting Paris spend only a few hours here at most, running to the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo and Winged Victory, now that she’s back in her rightful spot. I don’t begrudge a quick visit –it’s still a visit, and it warms my heart that people are going to museums at all– but it’s a shame that more tourists don’t have excessive amounts of time to devote to wandering the museum without a schedule. There are some real gems to be found in wings hardly anyone visits, and even the architecture of the building itself is worth exploring and appreciating. At sunset, the light bounces off the domed marble rooms in magnificent, blinding ways. Being able to watch (lurk) on someone sketching in an empty stairwell was, simply, magical.
My membership card has an expiration date of May 6, 2015, which means I have nine months to get back to Paris and use it. Don’t worry, I have some tricks up my sleeve. Unrelated question: do I know anyone with a private jet? Asking for a friend.
I have a thing for Parisian doors. Some are solid wood, one story tall and painted vibrant colors, and others are smaller and have glass panes protected by intricate iron designs. I kept my eyes peeled on all my daily walks, becoming fascinated by the level of detail given to something as pedestrian as a door. It all goes back to the grand architectural efforts under Haussmann; every building needed a door, but they didn’t just slap any old door on there. Thought and care went into every detail, and there was a real desire to make things beautiful, not just useful.
Today marks three weeks since I’ve been back. Oh the tears of unbearable sadness!
I love French pharmacies. There is a pharmacy on virtually every street in Paris, identifiable by the ubiquitous neon green crosses that flash the temperature and time. The pharmacists are not just high school kids working a register; French pharmacists are trained and knowledgable, and you can find beauty brands like Darphin, Nuxe, Caudalie, L’Occitane, Roger & Gallet, Bioderma, and all the other French names you’ve heard celebrities and bloggers rave about for years.
I went to pharmacies frequently in Paris. Some days, my main activity was walking down to Saint-Germain to City Pharma, the discount, two-story pharmacy on Rue de Four. Bury my ashes at City Pharma, oui? There may be a pharmacy on every corner in Paris, but if you’re looking to pay €3, €5, or even €10 less per item, it’s worth the trek to this particular store. Don’t be alarmed if you can barely fit in the aisles and don’t be put off by the insane line. There’s also a pharmacy on Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin, right next to Galeries Lafayette, where the prices were equally as competitive.
I want to preface this by saying all of these products are grossly more expensive in the states than they are in France. By almost double, in some cases. Cheaper than a flight to Paris, but less fun. Süsk, I might be taking you up on your offer for a refill shipment at some point!
Herewith, my five favorite picks… Read more