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Bonjour! I’m Erin.
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Category Archives: Travel
Look! Photos of people! This trip I grew more comfortable taking photos of people, rather than waiting for everyone to leave my shot, and also not taking photos, rather than walking around with my camera glued to my face. This was my tenth trip, and I felt noticeably more relaxed about capturing the city; in ten trips, I think I’ve taken every cliché photo you can take of Paris, how many more shots of the Eiffel Tower or Haussmann buildings do I really need? I still ended up shooting plenty, but was also contented to simply look at things and experience them without immediately reaching for my camera. There’s an oversaturation of blogs and Instagram accounts and communities that highlight Paris, and with them, an unnecessary pressure to keep up and compete and feel included (at least for me). It was nice to break that reflex this time and not worry about missing the perfect shot of light hitting the dome of a grand building (if only because I already have hundreds).
And can we talk about those leaves? My daily trek through the Jardin du Luxembourg allowed me to watch the change of the season and the foliage on an ever-changing basis, and my god. I’ve now been in Paris in March, May, June, August, September, November, and December, and I used to think late May-early June was my favorite time of year here, but September swooped in and proved me wrong. Those colors!
To quote a little Doris Day: I love Paris in the springtime. And now I can safely confirm that I love Paris in the fall. I’ve been to Paris now in every season, this being my first trip during the arrival of autumn, though it certainly won’t be my last. It’s impossible to pick a favorite season; even dark, cold winter has its charms. The weather while I was there was beyond glorious: chilly in the morning and blue skies almost every single day, with the afternoon turning slightly warm. I slept with my apartment windows open, and would peel off my scarf by lunchtime, wandering with my coat open and basking in the incredible sunlight that seems to be somehow exclusive to the city. I didn’t think I could love Paris any more than I did, and then I went in the fall.
The French class I took at the Alliance Française added a structure to the trip that has been otherwise absent, unless you count self-imposed writing deadlines or my very strict macaron-consumption schedule. I was in class Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays for three hours every afternoon, and my route to class on the 85 bus took me through the city from Pigalle, past Les Halles, across Île de la Cité, and ended next to the Luxembourg gardens, where I would cross straight through and pop out on the western side of the park on Rue de Fleurus, where the class was. Not a terrible commute. I fell in love with that jardin, watching the foliage change from green to gold to orange in the two weeks I was there. And while the class was challenging, and left my brain exhausted juggling le mise en relief (level B2!), I absolutely loved it, and am already considering another longer stint there. The class I take at the Alliance Française in Philadelphia is only one night a week for two hours, while the Alliance there offers far more intensive options that I know would get me to my certification faster. That’s my ultimate goal: native fluency.
More photos to come (including lots of leaves, and a weekend trip to the coast).
I’ve always said I’d be a really good rich person. When the Powerball lottery was over $700 million this past weekend, I (like everyone else, I’m sure) considered all the things I would spend the winnings on–roughly $400 million after taxes, assuming you took the lump sum, which you absolutely should because the annuity option is a scam. I don’t consider myself an overly greedy person, despite the name (and, well, overall tone) of this blog, and my wishlist isn’t huge. I wouldn’t buy cars, or fancy clothes, or multiple McMansions. I would immediately purchase a reasonably sized apartment in Paris, and roll the rest of the money into savings. It doesn’t even have to be an ~especially luxurious~ apartment in Paris, though I’ve done plenty of drooling over those around here. No, I wouldn’t buy a huge mansion with Eiffel Tower views, that would be wasteful. (Never mind the fact that I can’t fathom how you even keep a place with 20 rooms clean all the time, I can barely manage in my current two bedroom. How do you even know how much toilet paper to buy for 10 bathrooms?) Just something modest but not a hole. It wouldn’t even have to have a hidden bookshelf door into a secret room, the ultimate Rich Person House Accessory and something I used to fantasize about as a kid. Maybe it’s the maturity that comes with old age (I am just five months away from 31, after all), but the idea of suddenly having $400 million dollars didn’t fill my eyes with dollar signs a la Scrooge McDuck. I don’t want or need things to fill a space so obscenely large I could leave multiple rooms empty forever. I’d just like to be able to buy a place to rest my head in my favorite city in the world, and enough money to go back and forth six or seven times a year, IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK?
Alas, I didn’t even play the lottery. And the woman that won took the annuity option and promptly quit her job, two decisions I find both stupid and stereotypical. Ugh. She doesn’t even deserve it. I love my job, and I wouldn’t quit just because overnight I became a multimultimulti-millionaire, but you can bet I’d at least stop packing a lunch for myself in an effort to be financially savvy. Give me ALL the avocado toast!
But of course, I couldn’t resist looking at apartments I would’ve snapped up. And, surprisingly, most of them seemed too big or too lavish. Out of the options I settled on, the most expensive one is just over a million euros. I don’t even know who I am anymore!
Herewith, a few contenders. Half are two bedrooms, so I could have guests stay with me. I told you, I’d be a really thoughtful millionaire.
Option 1: Modern Neutrals in the 6eme
A two bedroom duplex in the heart of Saint-Germain, with a small balcony and interesting architectural details. Price: 780,000€
Option 2: Chic Classical near the Luxembourg Gardens
A two bedroom stunner near Boulevard Raspail, with herringbone parquet and tons of natural light. Price: 877,000€
Option 3: Quirky and Artsy near Rue Saint-Honoré
If my dad were ever to have an apartment in Paris, this is it. Filled with books and sunlight, this one bedroom has a lofted area (can you say ‘writing nook’?) and a terrace with a view of the Eiffel tower across the rooftops and Tuileries. Price: 630,000€
Option 4: Updated Character on the Île Saint-Louis
Another one bedroom, this one on the tiny island behind Notre Dame, but there’s plenty of space in the living room to inflate an air mattress. Those beams! That light! Price: 1,150,000€
August 30, 2017 / Travel /
Two weeks ago, I went to New York for a work trip to see & photograph & write about the Patek Philippe Grand Exhibition of Watches near Grand Central. (I know, I know, my job is still the coolest.) I took the train up and back, which felt luxurious (and was also faster) compared to the Bolt Bus. I had a few hours in the afternoon to myself, and I immediately headed to the Upper East Side to hit what I like to refer to as the “Erin Trifecta”: macarons at Ladurée on Madison Avenue, a pop into Albertine Bookstore at the French Embassy on Fifth Avenue, and a stroll around the European Paintings wing at The Met. I couldn’t have scheduled a more magical day for myself if I tried; it wasn’t even that hot and muggy, which, for mid-July in Manhattan, was pretty thrilling. It was a long day–caught a 9am train up and got home a little after 7pm–but a reminder that life is good, and my job is good, and carrying my camera around again is good.
Also macarons. Macarons are so good.
PS. I didn’t plan on taking the month of July off from writing here (2017 has not been my best blogging year, let’s just say that), and it felt like old times getting this post together. I’m writing offline like never before, for work and for my novel. I’m about a month-and-a-half out from my next Paris trip, so I’m also mentally packing and making lists and counting down the days. My day in New York is a precursor for things to come in Paris: macarons, a museum, bookstores. Pas mal.
Hi! I’m alive! I’m so sorry. I never intended to be gone from here for over a month, but there was always something else that felt more pressing in the rare times I found to sit at my desk–writing, chief among them. I’ve missed you! Tell me, what’s been going on? Besides work, the things that are occupying my time are mostly listed above. Oh, and writing. So, so much writing.
Three years ago today, I landed in Paris for a two-month stint to work on my novel and, as cliché as it sounds, “find myself.” (The jury is still out on whether I should have come home.) It’s crazy to think how long ago that was; of all my Paris trips since (there have been five), that one still feels the most vivid and still with me. The weeks that I was there were transformative beyond words–literally. I wrote and wrote and wrote while I was there, and that still wasn’t the most important part of my experience. It was one of the happiest stretches of time in my life before or since, and my frequent trips back are, on some level, desperate attempts to repeat that magic, to find that feeling of absolute calm and certitude. It’s hard to explain to people the feeling that every day, you should be somewhere else, that your life is happening somewhere else without you, but it’s even harder to live it. That’s why I bounce back and forth so frequently.
(Also the butter.)
These photos are a bit belated (I’ve been back for over a month!) but about two weeks after I took them, I booked another flight back to Paris. I leave in 139 days. I’m going alone, again, and planning on taking a round of French class at the Alliance Française there and ducking out of town for the weekend and heading to La Ciotat, along the southern coast by Marseille. A large portion of my book takes place in that tiny town, and it would be nice to see it in person.
Until then, I’ll be reminiscing about the beautiful weeks I spent in Paris in the spring and early summer of 2014, about the gorgeous light, the view from the top, and the wonderful, unexpected moments that all feel like it was just yesterday.
My mom and I went to the Grand Palais one morning to see the Rodin centennial exhibit, only to find the line an unbearable two hours long. I’m not an over-planner on vacation, but I should’ve realized this exhibit would be popular enough to warrant advance tickets. I went on to my phone and purchased us timed-entry tickets for a few days later, and as we stood in front of the massive building wondering, “Well, what now?” my mom pointed across the street to the Petit Palais and said, “What’s in there?” In one of those classic happy-accidents, the Petit Palais ended up being a delightful (and free!) experience. The building itself was gorgeous, with a lush, newly-blooming round garden and café in the middle, and more intricate tile and skylights inside than I could handle. The permanent collection includes paintings and sculptures from the Renaissance through the 1900s, including Courbet, Pissarro, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Cézanne, among others. I deeply regret not purchasing a little notebook with Georges Clarin’s portrait of Sarah Bernhardt on it in the gift shop (next time).
After we left, we headed down the Champs-Élysées to Concorde, and then walked the whole length of the Tuileries. The blue skies were out in abundance again, and neither of us felt much like doing anything other than soaking them in. We were eventually coaxed inside by the prospect of lunch at Angelina, though we were quickly back outside and en route to the Palais Royal for another sun-soaked stroll. The bright pink magnolia trees were in full bloom, and everyone seemed to have the same idea we did; the gardens are so photogenic, especially in the spring.
What is there to say that I haven’t already repeated ad nauseum by now? This was my ninth trip to Paris, and I’ve been blogging long enough now (six years! I failed to adequately celebrate, or even mention, this anniversary back in February) that I’ve shared every trip with you guys, going back to my second, way back in May of 2012. Hell, I’ve even shared photos from my very first trip, back in 2001, when I wasn’t even aware blogging was a thing. I’m sure in the intervening half dozen trips, I’ve exhausted you all with my endless praise of the city, the teary-eyed love songs I’ve penned to the love of my life (can a city be the love of your life?).
So for today I’ll just say that I adore the Île Saint-Louis, and that the Marais is creeping up my list as well. I always thought that arrondissement was over-hyped and over-touristy, but I’m starting to come around. This trip, for only the second time, I ate at Café de Flore. I know, I know: talk about over-hyped and over-touristy, but don’t judge me until you’ve had the Jockey au Chester, a croque monsieur drowning in melty cheese. Sit upstairs, if you go. That’s where the locals eat.
Oh, Montmartre. My beautiful quartier. I’ve sung its praises at every turn (here, here, and here, to name a few) and it always feels like home. The Franprix on Rue Caulaincourt where I bought groceries, the crêperie at the bottom of Rue Lepic that makes the best crêpes in the city (a strong assertion, I know), the fromagerie on Abbessess, every precariously steep street and adorably winding alley. I hate to play favorites in a city that boasts so many wonders, but Montmartre is it for me.
My mom and I took the 80 bus from École Militaire our second morning, and wandered up Rue Caulaincourt to the Musée de Montmartre, a gem of a museum nestled on Rue Cortot that I had walked by hundreds of times but had never actually visited. Home to a number of artists over the years, the Suzanne Valadon studio and Renoir gardens alone make it worth the price of admission. It overlooks the Montmartre vineyards on one side, and has views of the top of Sacré-Cœur on the other, and was filled to the brim with old posters by Toulouse-Lautrec and menus and playbills for Le Chat Noir and Le Lapin Agile and the other cabarets that dotted the area in the 1880s. It was a delight, and I highly recommend it. We were the only people there for the majority of our visit, which blows my mind (though maybe I should keep it a secret? Too late).
Afterwards, we stopped at Sacré-Cœur and wound our way down the steps to Rue Yvonne Le Tac, eventually snaking our way to Abbesses, where we popped into Kusmi tea. A lot of people rave about their tea, so I figured it was worth expanding my horizons beyond Mariage Frères, where we’d already stopped the day before to refill our tea tins. Try new things, they said! It’s great, they said! Guys, the lemon verbana mint tea I bought tastes like feet. Non merci. The store itself was cute, but I have learned to stick to my Rouge Metis bubble. Afterwards, we had lunch at Le Nazir: two salades bergères, with runny eggs and the tangiest vinaigrette, over which we marveled at the leisurely French lunch break. Eating a sad yogurt at your desk while you continue working (my life)? Not here.
I had a sugar crêpe for dessert as we walked to visit my old apartment, and then we hopped on the bus back to the left bank, but not before stopping to shop around Madeleine and have tea and macarons at Ladurée. I had the loveliest conversation with an older French woman at the table next to ours, who told me I speak French very well. Several French people said the same this trip. Not to toot my own horn, but LE TOOT TOOT.
Apologies for the delay; I landed back in Philadelphia last week and immediately went to work, where I stayed for the next 10 straight days, including one 12 hour day and a full weekend. I’m not complaining, I knew what I signed up for (#auctionhouselife), but it definitely impede my ability to edit Paris photos from my trip. My mom and I landed on the 21st of March, the second day of Spring, and oh, oh Paris had turned it on full-strength. The majority of our stay we enjoyed blue skies and 65 degree temps; perfect Paris weather for flâneuring. Our first day, though, we got reacquainted with our neighborhood, the swanky 7eme. I was just there in December (and actually stayed around the corner from our hotel) but I am sure I’m preaching to the choir and sounding like a broken record when I say that Paris feels new every single time I’m there.
We got smacked head-on by jetlag by the late afternoon, and though it was glorious outside and we felt guilty, we bought an entire pallet of strawberries from Rue Cler and a rhubarb tart and ate them in bed before falling asleep at the ungodly hour of 8pm. We woke up refreshed the next morning and ready to take on Montmartre (my sweet, sweet old neighborhood).