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Bonjour! I’m Erin.
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Yearly Archives: 2015
What a year. In years past, I’ve shared highlights, my top five favorite things that happened, and provided a general recap of notable events (you guessed it: lots and lots of Paris). This year was kind of a rollercoaster: in March I sent out an SOS at one of the lowest points in my life; in May we went to Italy and Paris, and spent two glorious weeks eating our weight in gelato and pasta; in July I left my job of five and a half years for a new opportunity; in September we celebrated one year of marriage; and at the end of November and beginning of December, I went back to Paris. And, oh yeah! There was that little novel I’d been working on in fits and spurts, that finally this year felt like it was coming together the way I wanted it to. I’d be hard pressed to complain about this year as a whole, and frankly, spending a combined three weeks in Europe precludes me from anything approaching discontent.
But if I’d written this post just two days ago, the tone would have been drastically different. On Monday night, I inadvertently got sucked into a marathon of Parks and Rec. It was the 7th season, and April, the show’s resident malcontent, all grown up in the three year time jump between seasons, was struggling with being 29 and having no idea what she wanted to do with her life.
April: I feel totally lost.
Donna: Saturn’s Return.
Donna: Saturn’s orbit around the sun takes roughly 29 years. And when it gets back to where it was when you were born…lots of turmoil, self discovery.
Eleven days ago, I turned 29. I didn’t feel any of the previous excitement that accompanied birthdays, because 29 is scary. The last year of my 20s? How!? I barely have my shit together, and still get the impulse to call my mother when I have to do anything vaguely adult-y, like roll over my 401k into an IRA, or even schedule my own doctor’s appointments. And the universe let me creep another year closer to 30?
Anyway, I watched that episode (and several after it) without giving that particular exchange too much thought. That was Monday. On Tuesday, I was let go from my job due to budget cuts, the job that swept in out of nowhere earlier this year and plucked me out of the depths of a depression so deep I thought I would never get out. But get out I did, and it was due in large part to getting to do something creative and using my brain at work for the first time in years. While I’m obviously upset and a little bruised (and more than a little concerned about, you know, not having an income), I am extremely grateful I got to have this experience for the last six months, because now I know not to settle for anything less.
So I’m entering 2016 on less stable footing than I anticipated (Saturn’s Return!), but part of me is just going to surrender to it, and see where it takes me. Maybe this is what I finally need to finish my novel after all? Maybe I need to get comfortable with my discomfort and panic to find out what I really want to do. I have no idea what 2016 will bring me (besides a trip to Paris in March and Spain in April) but I hope you’ll stick around for the ride. I’m so lucky to have you kiddos, and I promise to be more attentive around here!
Have a wonderful New Year.
December 31, 2015 / life / dog /
My year in books:
Book Goal: 25
Books Read: 32 (well, 31, but I’ll finish “The Woman in the Photograph” by Thursday)
Books Set in/About Paris: 16 (one more than last year!)
Books Borrowed from the Library: 14!
Favorite Book(s): “The President’s Hat” by Antoine Laurain, and “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery
Least Favorite(s): “Headhunters” by Jo Nesbø was just terrible. I borrowed it from the library because it involves a series of art heists, but what a disappointment. It read like a shorthand synopsis of a film script Nesbø was pitching to someone else to write in full. At one point, the protagonist hid in an outhouse toilet. Also “My Paris Dream” by Kate Betts. I didn’t think it was possible to write a bad memoir about Paris, but boy was I wrong. Entitled, miserable drivel.
Longest Book: “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, 784 pages (again.) Having now read this twice, I can safely say I won’t read it a third time.
Shortest Book: “Flore: A Short Story” at 27 pages. I received this as a free download from the author (who also wrote “Paris, Rue des Martyrs,” Adria Cimino).
Funniest: “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster, though perhaps it’s more clever than laugh-out-loud funny
Saddest: “Luncheon of the Boating Party” by Susan Vreeland, a touching (fictionalized) account of Renoir’s famous painting and the stories of each of the models. For non-fiction: “The Hotel on Place Vendôme” and “In The Garden of Beasts” by Erik Larson, both of which focus on Nazi Germany’s rise to power and are just seriously depressing.
Books Bought in European bookshops: Just 1 :(
Prettiest Covers: Hard to pick, as none of them are knock-outs, but I know for sure it wasn’t “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier. It may look like a cheesy grocery store checkout romance paperback, but I promise it wasn’t!
Most Overrated: “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Guys, did you know we like, shouldn’t be afraid of our creativity? Groundbreaking stuff here. And “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George. To summarize my Goodreads review: “The Little Paris Bookshop” was neither little, in Paris, nor a bookshop, DISCUSS.”
What did you guys read this year that stood out for you? I’m always taking suggestions for next year!
December 29, 2015 / read / watch /
And that last photo might be my favorite I’ve ever taken. That pigeon photobombed me as I was taking it, but I knew immediately it was for the best. I just love it. What do you think, should I add it to the Print Shop? I might even print one for myself!
There is nothing like the light in Paris. There were long stretches of gray for the first few days of my trip, and then, almost as if someone flipped a switch, the skies lit up in blue and gold in that classically Paris way. Winter light is different, sharper and clearer, than hazy summer and spring sunlight. I marveled at it like a silly tourist, standing on street corners just staring up at the sky. I also tried to be less precious this trip about not photographing people, rather than waiting for passerby to exit my frame.
There are places in the world where you immediately feel happier, more alive and complete, just by setting foot there. For some people, it’s the beach or a childhood home or a private island, I don’t know. For me, it’s Paris, but even more specifically, it’s the gardens of the Musée Rodin. There is no where, and nothing, I love more than this place. And happily, the main house reopened in early November after nearly two years of construction, though it was hard to go inside and leave the gardens when the weather was as glorious as it was that day.
People sometimes complain that Paris can be over-glorified with so many twee, Pinterest-y images flooding our collective conscious, and that’s true to a certain extent. The city isn’t just macarons and carrousels and accordion players under the Eiffel Tower. However, after spending the morning with my favorite artist, I can confirm: it really is all rainbows and bunnies. How lucky was I to spot both?
A Paris highlight: attending (yet another) auction at Sotheby’s, this time an African art and sculpture collection that was delightfully outside of my normal interests (read: Impressionism or bust). I stood in the back corner, along with several gallery girls, diligently taking notes on every lot and paddle number. I love that place, which sounds strange, given all the monuments and museums in the city, but I do. If you’ve ever been curious about auctions, go! They’re open to the public, endlessly entertaining (where else can you see millions of dollars spent so freely and openly?), and informative, if you’re an aspiring novelist or art enthusiast.
I’m trying to edit these down, but it looks like I’m going to inundate you with at least another two weeks worth of photos. How did I take nearly 400 photos in a week? (That’s rhetorical, of course I know how. Have you seen this city?).
I went a few places this trip I hadn’t before: exploring Le Marais, visiting the Musée Carnavalet (and getting to see two Louis Béroud paintings in person finally!), and stopping in to the Palais Royal. I am so embarrassed it took me this long to visit this gorgeous, meticulously designed garden, but I fully intend on making it my first destination when I’m back in the city in March (96 days!). If it looked this beautiful barren, I imagine I’ll be overwhelmed in early spring.
What can I say about Paris that I haven’t already said? Are you sick of hearing me sing its praises? (I don’t blame you!) I will say that I expected Paris to be many things last week: cold, dark, rainy, still reeling from the terror attacks a few weeks ago, scared, on edge, different. It wasn’t any of those things. It drizzled exactly once, a quick shower not even worthy of digging out my umbrella. I found the same Paris I’d left in May: unseasonably warm and bright, welcoming, insouciant, defiant, alive. I noticed more tricolores hanging from balconies and hung in shop windows, more signs declaring “Fluctant Nec Mergitur,” and yes, more French soldiers with large guns, pacing in front of monuments, standing sentry in front of synagogues in le Marais, and more security guards requesting to check my bag entering shops and museums. But Paris itself? Paris was the same, if not quieter and calmer, for the off-season lack of tourist and crowds. It was beautiful, and I loved every second of it, as I always have and I always will.
I hung out with Süsk, ate my weight in baguettes and butter, went to three museums (the Louvre, Rodin, and Carnavalet), wrote my ass off and finished a chapter that had been giving me a headache for weeks, explored new neighborhoods, walked an average of 25k steps (roughly 15km) each day, and only cried in public three times (all happy occasions, I promise, like seeing the Eiffel Tower again). I have so many photos to share with you! I’ll go easy on the words, because really, you’ve heard me say it all before. En bref, Paris is perfect.
A big thank you to my darling Santa for alerting me to the above image’s (taken along the Rue des Abbesses in March 2013) popularity on Pinterest. Apparently, her pin of the photo has been repinned well over 100 times, and she sweetly suggested capitalizing on its ‘fame’ by making it available in the Print Shop! It’s funny, I never know which photographs will grow legs and take off online; photographers are notoriously bad at guessing which prints people will like the most. Even after I saw the repin count, I still asked myself, “That one? Really?” But I took Santa’s advice and added an 8×12 print for sale! Thanks again, lovely!
And speaking of sale, I wouldn’t be living up to my requirements as an American unless I added an element of consumerism to this week of giving thanks. Therefore: From now until November 29th, use the coupon code LWNBLACKFRIDAY at checkout for 25% off and free shipping on all orders in the Print Shop! No limit to how many prints you can buy! (Though I should note that because I’ll be in Paris after Saturday, all orders placed after Friday will ship out when I get back. You’ll still have them in plenty of time for the holidays!)
Happy shopping, kiddos! Thank you for your continued support with the Print Shop!
November 24, 2015 / art / photo /
In August, to honor the 9th anniversary of my dad’s death, I booked a flight to Paris for just after Thanksgiving, to give me something to look forward to, a bright spot on an otherwise bleak day. To buoy me the way Paris always does, in its ineluctable magnetism. It would be my second trip this year, coming just six months after a quick stop in May, and though it might seem excessive to some, to me, Paris has long felt as necessary as breathing. It’s a required part of my life.
I’ve had a suitcase packed since the first day in November. I’ve had an itinerary drafted for each day I’m there for weeks; tentatively, of course, and allowing for ample time to wander and stop in a café or deviate from the plan. I’ve made sure to pack my empty Mariage Frères tea tins to refill at the boutique. A new umbrella for the inevitable winter rain. Gloves. An extra memory card for my camera. Everything I thought I’d need.
And then Friday happened. Attends, this isn’t about me. I wasn’t there, I don’t live there (yet), and despite my best efforts to the contrary, I’m not actually French. My platitudes will seem empty and weak, but I need to voice them anyway, because, as my friend Lyndsey told me early Saturday morning –after I’d woken up and had felt, for those first thirty seconds of confused consciousness, that everything had been a nightmare– “You are in love with Paris. And you need to stand by it.” I am in love with Paris, and I need to stand by it. I suppose, then, that I could be forgiven, in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy Friday night, for briefly considering not going at the end of the month. For canceling my flight, eating the cost of everything, in the name of panic. Love allows for momentary lapses in faith and judgement, I hope. Because as I watched the coverage deep into the evening, crying and stricken with a sense of helplessness and fear, I thought, “Of course I can’t go now.” Simultaneously, I knew, “Of course I must.”
In January, after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, “Paris will recover, has shown it is capable of overcoming the darkness in the days since the attack. For a city so filled with light, how could it not?” It seemed a given, and the city and its inhabitants banded together in the most beautiful show off strength and solidarity. And when I was there in May, the city was back to normal, or whatever the new normal was. It was easy to feel safe then. But in 12 days, when I go back, I don’t think I’ll have the same (false?) sense of security.
There’s been so much said in the endless media coverage the last few days that the targets were ‘random’ and rather than being specific artists at a satirical newspaper, it was everday people out on a Friday night after a long work week. The attacks on Friday were not random. The target on Friday wasn’t a specific person for exercising their freedom of speech, but rather an entire way of life. But that doesn’t make it any less deliberate than what happened in January. The targets were centralized around one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Paris, where people of all races and ethnicities live and work. They were places people could mix freely, drink alcohol, watch an international sporting event, listen to American music, dance in public, laugh, kiss, smoke, be outside without fear, in clothing they chose. The very things the terrorists abhor. The attacks were not random, the attackers just didn’t care about first and last names this time.
Does that mean everyone changes their lives in response to this horror? It could happen here tomorrow, and I wouldn’t consider staying indoors in Philadelphia for the rest of my life. So of course I’m going to Paris. I’m going to Paris in 12 days, and I’m going again in March. I’ll probably try to go again at the end of next year, because I can’t –and won’t– stay away. There’s something to be said about “not letting the terrorists win,” that oft repeated line we hear whenever something like this happens.
I wonder what sort of mood I’ll find in Paris this time. It’s changed the entire atmosphere of my trip, tinged it with a surreal, nervous edge. But I don’t get to complain, because I’m alive, and everyone I know in Paris is alive and safe, too. I’m going back, because I am in love with Paris.
November 17, 2015 / Travel /