La Tour

Eiffel Tower

Pont de la Concorde

La Tour Eiffel

La Tour Eiffel

Just because. Because yesterday a coworker asked me how it was being back, and without thinking I heard myself say, “I miss Paris like hell.” Because I guess I hadn’t realized it until I said it, but now it’s all I can think about. Because I don’t care how many times you see La Tour Eiffel, it never ceases to make me want to burst into tears. It’s so beautiful and overwhelming. It’s hard to fathom that, when it was first constructed, there were complaints from neighbors that it was an eyesore and concerns it would fall on their houses, and the solution was to make the Tower a temporary structure, set to be demolished 10 years later. Can you even imagine? This book was a great read, if you’re interested in Gustav’s iron namesake and the 1889 World’s Fair.

It’s been pouring and storming here this week, and it has to be the tortured writer inside of me that is pining for the rainstorms in Paris, when I could leave the windows open and the skies were so gray they almost looked solid. Moody skies or blue, Paris is always perfect.

Architecture

Rue Saint-Lazare

Sunset

Rue Moncey

Rue de Sèvres

Rue Saint-Lazare

Rue Réaumur

I’ve read a few books on the history of the reconstruction of Paris under Haussmann and Napoleon III, but nothing compares to actually walking the city and admiring all of their handiwork. Sure, Baron Haussmann borrowed more money than would ever be allowed today to finance the entire effort (even borrowing against the city’s future finances), but to see the results of his labor –the wide avenues, the symmetrical, white-stone buildings with wrought-iron railings, the zinc-domed roofs– firsthand, fully justifies the expense. The architecture is staggeringly beautiful. The buildings were designed in response to poor, cramped living conditions, without proper ventilation or plumbing and sewers, so the entire city-planning reconstruction –the major avenues were made as wide as they are so that there was easy access for military troops– met a real need. Almost all of the iconic Haussmann style buildings open into interior courtyards for better airflow, and the six floors of apartments came at different price points, (originally) making them financially feasible for not just the super-wealthy.

But what gets me is that while they had to be functional, the buildings didn’t have to be pretty, but they are. They didn’t have to include the ornate, expensive details, but they did. And you can’t help but crane your neck at every block to take in the gorgeous architecture. Paris got it so right, and in terms of visually stunning cities, I don’t think there is one better in the world. At least not one as cohesive and thoughtful.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering: the Bachelorette party was a total success! There was a platter of IHOP pancakes, a party at one of my bridesmaid’s house, and dancing until 1:30am to New Kids on the Block at a dueling piano bar. No sashes, no blinking phallic necklaces! The real surprise, however, came on Sunday. Remember when I mentioned an “un-brial bridal shower” on Friday? The one I thought would just be my mom, a few aunts and cousins, and my grandmother? Surprise! My maid of honor and my mom were in on it behind my back, planning for months in secret. It was perhaps the most bridal-y of bridal showers, complete with tiered cupcake stands, mimosas, presents I had to open in front of everyone –and I didn’t even register for anything, just to avoid this exact scenario!– and friends who came from near and far. Including Lauren, who made the trek from Virginia! Even friends who were at the Bachelorette on Friday, who all did an amazing job of keeping the real secret from me! Even my grandmother lied to me! I spoke to her last week and when I said I was looking forward to seeing her this weekend, she seemed to have only the vaguest idea what I was talking about. Worried she was getting senile –she is 89, after all–I told my mom someone had better remind her there was a “casual, small lunch” for the family on Sunday. Turns out, my 89 year grandmother was throwing me off the scent.

I might want to be the champion for anti-brides everywhere, but when you give me multi-tiered arrangements of macarons and an afternoon of crêpes with all my favorite people, it’s really hard to be a grump. Photos coming soon!)

Friday Five

If you’re in Philadelphia tonight, be on the lookout for a group of 20something ladies galavanting around town, ostensibly loud and tipsy and definitely well-dressed: it’s my Bachelorette Party this evening! I don’t know any of the details, as my bridesmaids and friends have been frustratingly silent on specifics; I was told to be ready at 6pm, but not where I’m going or what I’m doing or whether or not there will be penis-shaped decorations involved. I’m pretty uninterested in all the usual fanfare that comes with being a bride, but this one of those necessary rites of passage and I know that being surrounded by my best friends for the epitome of a Girl’s Night I’m guaranteed to have a good time. I trust them! Except when they make jokes about wearing matching bedazzled Juicy Couture sweatsuits and buying a game called “Pin the Junk on the Hunk.” I’ve threatened ex-communication if one of them even comes at me with a sash that says “BRIDE 2 BE” on it. Hashtag pray for me.

For my first Friday Five since before I left for Paris, I decided to round-up five miscellaneous happy photographs from the trip that didn’t really fit with any other posts. On y va!

1. A rainbow over Montmartre:
Rainbow over Montmartre

Not that I mind the rain (what’s the quote from “Midnight in Paris?”, she asks as if she doesn’t have the entire movie memorized: “Actually, Paris is most beautiful in the rain.” And it’s SO TRUE) but a rainbow at the end of the storm, and right over my apartment, isn’t half bad, either.

2. A bright pink couch & birdie in a Saint-Germain shop window:
Pink Couch & Petit Oiseau

Because we know how much I love birds in Saint-Germain shop windows.

3. This interesting makeup-removal moment:
What price, beauty?

Maybe I’m weird for taking my makeup off one night in May and upon seeing the cotton round immediately running to take a photo instead of, you know, finishing washing my face, but this was really neat looking. And it reminds me that I have to write a post on my favorite French pharmacy products, including the amazing makeup remover that made this moment happen. One dab, and everything comes off.

4. An intricate (and delicious!) stack of baguettes at Les Philosophes:
Baguettes, Les Philosophes

Because BREAD, that’s why. What I wouldn’t give for some alone time with that pile of baguettes…

5. A lazy cat in the Montmartre cemetery:
Montmartre cemetery

I know Père Lachaise cemetery in the 19eme gets the most tourist traffic, being home to Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Édith Piaf, and Frédéric Chopin’s graves, but the Montmartre cemetery has its own charms, too. For a cemetery. It’s eerily quiet in there, despite being bisected by Rue Caulaincourt overhead, and feels like it goes on forever. And there are cats! I spent a long morning walking around and exploring, but this was the only photo I captured. There were a few tombstones with Jewish stars on them, with birth dates in the 1910s and 20s, and deaths in the 70s and 80s. Which means that, as French Jews, they lived through WWII. There was something very powerful about seeing that. There was another, that I meant to write down to look up later but didn’t, where a mother died the same day as her young son in the military in the late 1800s. Suicide from grief? Eerie coincidence? I wish I knew the story there. Next time I visit, I’ll go back and find out.

What are you guys up to this weekend? Saturday we’re participating in our third annual scavenger hunt organized by one of Jamal’s best friends (and groomsman!), and Sunday my mom is throwing me an un-bridal bridal shower. No gifts, no hats made out of bows and ribbons, nada. I did mention I’m anti-bride, right? Have a good one, kiddos!

Newspapers

Parisian man, newspaper

Parisian man, newspaper

Le Comptoir des Saints-Peres

Lux Bar

Café de Flore

Overwhelmingly, Parisians are readers. You’re more likely to see someone on the bus reading a paperback than you are thumbing through their phones. (On the metro, it’s a different story, but that makes sense given that it’s underground, and there isn’t Paris outside the bus windows.) It’s usually the same line of paperbacks, too; Folio prints a wide range of titles in simple white covers, and their small size, affordable price, and the fact that they are readily available in all 8000 of the bookshops in Paris, make them a popular choice. But when they aren’t reading books, in parks and bars and boulangeries, Parisians like les journaux. It’s a stark contrast to America, where the newspaper industry has been dying a slow and tormented death for years (let me tell you, majoring in Journalism was pretty bleak near the end). It was refreshing to see a young couple at breakfast, each absorbed in a newspaper, rather than on their phones. A different, better kind of distraction. I didn’t realize the trend immediately, it was only as I was sorting through the thousand+ photographs that I noticed I had a lot of similar shots. And I know this selection makes it seem as though over older Parisians read the newspapers, and that might be true. Next time I’m in Paris (OH WHEN WILL THAT BE? I’ve been home for one week and two days and I am suffering hard from PPD: Post Paris Depression) I plan on doing a series of young people reading paperbacks.

At the Musée Rodin

Musée Rodin

Musée Rodin

Musée Rodin

Musée Rodin

Musée Rodin

The Musée Rodin might be my favorite museum in Paris. That’s a big statement, I know, and I’m probably not prepared to defend that assertion even against myself, with all of the other incredible museums to pick from. But for sentimental reasons —we got engaged at the Rodin last year, it was one of my dad’s favorites, we have the sister museum in Philadelphia, etc.– and taking into consideration the incredible sculpture garden and the fact that Rodin actually lived there, it’s a pretty solid contender. Admission for just the gardens is €2, and there are countless sculptures dotting the wide lawn and leafy, shaded sides, as well as a café and multiple benches and deck chairs for lounging. I went several times after breakfast around the corner just to see the gardens, and to relax and read in the back, past the arched hedges and tucked away from the rest of the world (it felt). On my last visit, there was a couple napping on two wooden chaise lounges, holding hands; a woman doing yoga in a sunny patch of grass; two little kids playing in a sandbox; all within feet of bronze studies for “The Burghers of Calais.” It feels magical, especially because you can see the Eiffel Tower from “The Three Shades.”

Of course, for €9 you can visit the temporary exhibition as well as the rest of the house and the art inside, and the gardens are included. I was pleasently surprised by the Mapplethorpe exhibit currently on view; it was one of the most well curated and cohesive exhibits I’ve seen. The juxtaposition of Mapplethorpe’s black and white photography, all of nude male and female figures, with the white marble and dark bronze of Rodin’s sculptures dotted throughout the exhibit was so, so striking and incredibly successful. In parts it left me speechless, it was that powerful, and I am still kicking myself for not buying the exhibition guidebook. Because, as my father always said, “Every good cultural experience must end in a retail experience.”

rodinmapple

If you’re in Paris before September 21st, I cannot recommend it enough. Anytime you’re in the city though, this is one museum I would urge you to see. It’s never nearly as crowded as the Louve or the Musée d’Orsay, and its size makes it a manageable afternoon visit.

Musée Rodin, 79 Rue de Varenne, 75007 / metro M13 Varenne / Closed Mondays

Le Boulanger des Invalides Jocteur

Le Boulanger des Invalides Jocteur

Le Boulanger des Invalides Jocteur

Le Boulanger des Invalides Jocteur

Le Boulanger des Invalides Jocteur

Le Boulanger des Invalides Jocteur

Le Boulanger des Invalides Jocteur

One of my favorite spots in Paris was this darling boulangerie, Le Boulanger des Invalides Jocteur. I stumbled upon by chance my third day (a Saturday) in the city, as I was going to buy peonies, and it quickly became my Saturday morning go-to. I took my Saturday traditions in Paris very seriously. Located in the 7eme, a block from the Musée Rodin and directly across the street from the Saint François-Xavier metro station on the M13 line (which left from my metro stop, making it was a straight shot), this little bakery and café is without a doubt the cheeriest, most delightful place I found in Paris. Painted bubblegum pink and staffed by a stable of beautiful French men, it was the perfect spot to grab a table and read in the mornings over a big cup of Mariage Frères tea and a brioche tartine or an eclair praline. Pralines in Paris are always candied with pink sugar, so even the food matched the decor of Le Boulander des Invalides Jocteur. They make all of their pains et patisseries on-site, and I’m not being hyperbolic when I say their brioche is the best I’ve ever eaten. The ceiling is painted with a fresco of angels and clouds, there’s always sweet music playing, and it felt truly local; people would stop in to say hello to the waiters, shake hands, kiss both cheeks, ask how things were going. I like to think I became somewhat of a regular, too.

They do a good take-away business for lunch, since there is a high school across the street (side note: Parisian high school girls dress better than I do!), and while I only ate there for breakfast (if you can call an eclair at 10:30am ‘breakfast’), their pizza slices and quiches looked delicious. Next time!

Le Boulanger des Invalides Jocteur, 14 Avenue de Villars, 75007 / metro M13 Saint-François-Xavier

So About That Novel…

My desk

I have been writing this novel now since somewhere around August of 2012. (Pause here for wide-eyed disbelief that time moves so terrifyingly quickly.) To recap: a private sales representative steals 14 paintings from Sotheby’s in Paris, and the story unfolds around each painting, focusing on the relationship between four main characters. (I think. Fourteen is proving to be a lot of paintings). Between August of 2012 and April 2014, before I left for Paris, I had managed to write roughly 44k words, making slow but steady progress, mostly on Sundays, the only day of the week I really had to devote to the task. 87 weeks, 44k. In the eight weeks I spent in Paris, where I had every day of the week at my disposal –every day was Sunday!–I wrote another 30k. My goal going into this trip was to double my word count, and I might well have, had I not slacked off near the end of June. There were certain days that were devoted entirely to doing anything and everything except writing, like walking and eating and reading and museum-hopping, a fact for which I will not feel guilty, I will not feel guilty, I will not feel guilty. A combination of PERFECT weather and the siren call of those charming Parisian streets and the smell of delicious bread products wafting from literally every direction everywhere I went all the time ohmygodgivemeabaguette, made it nearly impossible to sit inside at my desk. So I’d take my notebook and head out, and often I never pulled it out of my bag. “I’ll write tomorrow!” turned into “I’ll write when it’s rainy and I don’t mind staying in!” which meant that the three straight weeks of glorious, mid-60s temperatures and clear blue skies Paris had in June saw little to no pen-to-paper or fingers-to-keyboard action.

One more time, with feeling: I will not feel guilty.

Could I have pushed myself to write more? Of course. I could’ve locked myself in my apartment and not gone to Ladurée, like, fifteen times. But sometimes finding a balance doesn’t mean that everything gets an equal share. The balance that worked for me towards the end skewed less in favor or writing, and more in favor of soaking up Paris. And while I might not have been as diligent as I was for the first half of the trip with writing substantial amounts every single day, I know for a fact that Paris worked its magic on me and that the trip was (of course) a success. Seeing the street where my main character lives, attending auctions at Sotheby’s, absorbing the specific sounds and rhythms of daily life in Paris –what the call button on the bus sounds like, the rip of paper at the fromagerie as they wrap up a block of cheese, the throaty way they pronounce their ‘r’s–and playing Anthropologist and observing Parisians in their natural habitat was integral to the writing process. I wasn’t just eating all of the buttery carbs the city had to offer, I was eating all of the buttery carbs the city had to offer in the name of book research.

But in all seriousness, the novel is taking shape; a new shape, in some parts, but it’s all making sense and I think I am in a really good spot now going forward. The entire process is so beautiful, was even more beautiful in, and because of, Paris. I’ve relaxed into the story in much the same way I relaxed into Paris. I’m excited to keep writing with those eight weeks under my belt, because I know that experience isn’t even close to done giving me inspiration and direction yet.

Mostly, I want to give myself a little pat on the back for writing 75k words. I’ve never written that much on the same project or story, and it feels momentous. It feels real.

Je Reviens

La Tour Eiffel

La Tour Eiffel

I.
I’m not good with goodbyes, so let’s just say, “I’ll see you soon, Paris.” Maybe again this year, but definitely next year either way, and hopefully one day forever.

II.
I have a list of things to write about: the ways in which this trip changed me, the things I learned, the things I would do differently, the things I wouldn’t change for all the money in the world; hundreds more photos to share with you from two completely full 32gb memory cards; and two suitcases packed to the brim with things I swore fit on the way over here (omg why did I pack six black turtlenecks and thirteen dresses?).

III.
I have a list of things I am going to miss desperately about Paris. But in trying to focus on the positive, a list of things I am excited to return to in America: 1. DONUTS (Donuts here, when you can find them, are €2/ea and I’m sorry, are not actually donuts like the ones you get at Dunkin. My taste is so high class). 2. Absorbent paper towels. 3. Drawstring trash bags. 4. People who know how to share a sidewalk properly. 5. Obviously Jamal and Fitz. 6. But seriously, donuts.

IV.
I might never have two months alone in Paris again, but I’ll always have these two months in Paris alone. That counts for something.

V.
I don’t want to talk about it.

Top of the Arc

From the top of the Arc de Triomphe

Montmartre on the hill, from the top of the Arc de Triomphe

Shadow of the Arc

From the top of the Arc de Triomphe

Cotton candy clouds

From the top of the Arc de Triomphe

The night before Jamal arrived, I decided it was too beautiful a night to stay inside, but, having already eaten, I was sort of at a loss for what to do. I know that sounds crazy, given that I’m in Paris and therefore have a million different options when it comes to how to fill my time, chief amongst them is just walking around. I usually walk down to the Pont du Carrousel, between the Louvre and Saint-Germain, or up to Sacré Cœur and around Montmartre in the evenings if my legs are feeling twitchy for a good amble. But on this night, I realized the spectacular sunset we were no doubt in store for would be best seen from the Arc. For €9,50 and two hundred and eighty four winding stairs, you get to experience the breathtaking view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.

You might be wondering, “Why didn’t you wait until Jamal got there so he could experience it too, you heartless wench?” Well, fun fact about Jamal: he is terrified of heights! A story: when we came to Paris in 2012, we drunkenly decided to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower after dinner one night, not taking into account my fear of elevators and his fear of heights. It could not have been more ridiculous. “Get me off this elevator, get me off this elevator, open the doors, open the doors, ohmygodokay I’M OUT SWEET FREEDOM.” “I want to get back on the elevator, I want to get back on the elevator, ohmygod DON’T GO NEAR THE ERIN WHAT ARE YOU DOING.” So I thought, in the interest of not traumatizing my dear sweet fiancé, this was an adventure I could best take on solo. So I went, and I got to the top after 9pm (9pm!! That is how bright it was!) and stayed there, gawking from all sides, for close to two hours. It is surprisingly chilly up there, and while there were of course a bunch of tourists, there were a lot less than I expected, and only once or twice did I have to awkwardly duck as someone was selfie-ing with one of those retractable monopods kids these days use to get A Premium Selfie Angle. I left at around 10:45 and took the bus back home, and I regretted not staying until 11 to watch La Tour sparkle (I made up for that on the summer solstice, though).

La Bascule

La Bascule

La Bascule

La Bascule

La Bascule

La Bascule

La Bascule

La Bascule

I realized the only other restaurant I’ve written about so far on this trip was Le Bonaparte, and that was only to share how disappointing (though pretty!) it was. I hesitate to do a “Paris Guide” since the internet is saturated with them at this point, but if you ever find yourself in Montmartre around 5pm in need of a drink, you need (repeat: vous avez besoin!) to go to La Bascule. A small, corner bar with a tapas menu and walls of wine bottles, Jamal and I found ourselves here three nights in a row for their killer happy hour specials. The bartenders are exceedingly nice, there is always decent music, the ambiance is perfect, and it is somehow never too crowded to grab a stool and hang out for an hour or two. Jamal fell in love with the curry green olives they bring you to snack on, and I fell hard for their perfect piña colada. I know, a piña colada in Paris? Trust me on this one. We’ve also had their fresh margaritas and mojitos, for which they hand-crush ice and muddle fresh mint and strawberries.

How cute is that cheeky rosé poster? The slogan of the French republic is “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité,” but I much prefer this version. The original tile floors and chandelier are such sumptuous details you’d never find in a bar in the states.

The vibe of La Bascule is hip without being pretentious, and is so local that we saw the same cast of characters every night we went. I’ve even stopped in for a €3 glass of rosé on my own just to sit by the open windows and write. On our first trip, a girl at the (teensy) bar next to us handed the bartender her credit card to pay, and Jamal and I noticed it was from the same bank we both use. Turns out, she was a fellow Pennsylvanian! What are the odds? You heard it here first: Pennsylvanians love La Bascule.

La Bascule, 24 Rue Durantin, Montmartre 75018 / Happy Hour 5-8pm daily / Wine €3, Beer €4, Cocktails €5