At the Louvre

At the Louvre

At the Louvre

At the Louvre

At the Louvre

At the Louvre

My favorite thing to do on a Friday night here is the same thing I like to do at home: go to the museum. Most people go out, go drinking, don a cute outfit. Me? I grab my Louvre membership and walk over at around 7:30. On Wednesdays and Fridays the museum stays open until close to 10pm. Aside from the neat feeling that I am being sneaky being allowed in there so late, the crowds are virtually non-existent, and it’s amazing. I headed (of course) to the Richelieu wing on this particular trip, and stumbled upon a room of Rubens, 24 giant canvases in an enormous, domed room, with! with! people from an art class (unconfirmed if this was an École du Louvre class or not) sitting all around and sketching. It was enchanting to watch them work.

And that giant hall of statues with multiple levels and trees inside and the pitched roof? There is another one mirroring it directly across from it. The scale of this place is overwhelming.

JAMAL arrives this Friday afternoon (!!!), and our activity for that evening includes…going to the Louvre, where I get to bring a free guest after 6pm. I’ve mentioned already that this membership was an economical purchase as well as a necessary one, and it is: it’s paid for itself twice over already.

June 10, 2014 / art / photo / At the Museum / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 24

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.

June 9, 2014 / art / photo / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 22

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.)

June 5, 2014 / art / photo / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 21

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.

June 4, 2014 / art / photo / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 24

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.

June 2, 2014 / art / photo / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 28

Wandering the Île Saint-Louis

Île Saint-Louis

Île Saint-Louis

Île Saint-Louis

Door detail, Île Saint-Louis

Île Saint-Louis

Île Saint-Louis

Oh, the Île Saint-Louis. The tiny island in the middle of Paris, so small there isn’t even a metro stop on it (there is, however, one on the  larger Île de la Cité just up the Seine, where Notre Dame and Place Dauphine are). I adore its narrow streets, crooked houses, and the feeling of being in an oasis…where everything happens to be more expensive (relative to the rest of Paris) because crossing bridges is involved. It’s fairly touristy, or at least it feels more touristy than other parts of the city, probably because everything is condensed into just a few short blocks, with only one street down the middle. And while there is some staggering architecture, most of the island remains unchanged from how it looked in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was redeveloped from a cattle pasture to housing for wealthy Parisians of the day under King Louis XIII. Today it’s mostly famous for the Berthillon ice cream shop on Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, and the lines are always down the block.

Other Paris Details of Note: Well, it happened yesterday: I passed the one month mark, which means my time here on this adventure is officially half over. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t terrify and depress me all at once. Where did the last 30 days go? How did they slip away so quickly?? How do I slow down the next 30?

May 30, 2014 / art / photo / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 8

Montmartre at Sunset

Montmartre at sunset

Montmartre at sunset

Montmartre at sunset

When Annie was here last week, we were wandering around the Montmartre one evening after dinner, delaying going back to my apartment because the night was just so pretty, and as we crossed Rue des Abbesses, we looked back towards Rue Caulaincourt and were both blinded from the sun. The light in this town is unreal, even (or especially) at close to 10 at night. You can make a case that Paris is more beautiful in the rain (and it was overcast and gray here for days, which my moody, writers-block-suffering self secretly loved) but then moments like this occur, and it’s hard to deny how magical and glorious that golden light is. This morning it finally seems like the city has shed the gray, and the sun is pouring into my apartment.

Other Paris Details of Note: Yeah, I said writer’s block. Up until yesterday, when I broke through 60k words, I was having a hell of a time with it. Rule #1: Write every day seemed to be an optional guideline for a while there. I’m certainly still getting out and walking every day, averaging 6 kilometers (oh my god, look at me, thinking in metric) a day, which I am promptly undoing with all the bread products and desserts (hello, Mont Blancs at Angelina) and Camembert. And I’m practicing my French with the locals! And taking a million photos! But when I came back to my apartment and sat at my desk, it was like I’d left the story on a bus stop somewhere; it just wasn’t there. I hadn’t written anything substantial in a week. A week! And then yesterday I somehow got 1500 words down in an afternoon without even trying. My mom reminded me of something my dad always said: “It’s the rests between notes that make the music.” Trying to remember that.

May 29, 2014 / art / photo / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 19

Le Bonaparte

Le Bonaparte

When Jamal and I were in Paris last year, we stopped for lunch at Le Bonaparte in Saint-Germain, not knowing or realizing how trendy or even photogenic the café was as we tucked inside. It was freezing that day, and we were grateful for a warm place to eat. I saved the receipt and found it packing for this trip back in April: €6 for a small Orangina, €13 for onion soup. One of those meals you don’t repeat too often, except for when I did with Annie last week (oops). And wouldn’t you know it, the onion soup was bland and tasteless, they don’t have frites on the menu, and a bottle of water is €6. Thankfully, both times I’ve gone I’ve had amazing company, or I’d be too easily distracted from how lackluster the place is overall. I shouldn’t be surprised: in a city with so many restaurants, you’re bound to get a bad one every so often. You’re pretty from the outside, Le Bonaparte, but I’ll take my tastebuds (and wallet) elsewhere.

May 27, 2014 / art / photo / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 14

Bird Lady

Bird Lady, Jardin des Tuileries

Bird Lady, Jardin des Tuileries

Bird Lady, Jardin des Tuileries

Bird Lady, Jardin des Tuileries

Cute Oiseau

Continuing my streak of having people in photos, last week I went to the Tuileries (yes, again) to read and this lovely little old lady sat down next to me. She pulled out a bag of stale baguette and I thought, “Oh great, here come the swarms of birds.” You’re not supposed to feed the birds in the parks here, there are signs around the jardin saying as much, but she didn’t seem to care. And maybe it’s Parisian birds specifically, but the nuisance swarms I was expected never showed up; they were all well mannered and didn’t get greedy. I watched her for close to half an hour, eventually giving up on my book entirely and taking photos. She had some sort of bird magic, the little sparrows swooping right to her hand to take a piece of bread. It was one of those little Paris moments that was unexpected and delightful but that you won’t find in a guide book or on anyone’s itinerary.

And then a spider flew from no where and landed on my lap, so I decided that was enough nature for one day.

Other Paris Details of Note: I’d like to formally request that Rule #4 (Cheese) be amended to add BUTTER. Even the €1 grocery-store butter is out of this world, with thick flakes of salt sprinkled throughout, and I’m already figuring out how many blocks I can bring back in my suitcase. Speaking of being fat, I had my first eclair the other day (you may be wondering how it’s possible that I’ve gone 27 years and four trips to Paris without ever having had an eclair. So am I.) and I’m worried for my waistline now. I was happier not knowing how delicious they are.

Happy Memorial Day to all my American friend and family!

May 26, 2014 / art / photo / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 21

Le Bar du Caveau

Place Dauphine

My brother asked me what I’d done with all the people in Paris; I’ve been intentionally leaving them out of as many photos as I can. But I couldn’t help but snap this photo the other night: just a quiet evening in Place Dauphine. The man in the trench coat was riding his bicycle and stopped to greet his friends, who convinced him to stay and have a drink. I love the lady in the window right above the awning, giving me a dirty look.

Earlier this week, I met my friend Ted from French class for lunch at Place Dauphine. He’s in town on a trip organized by the school and we took the opportunity to meet and gossip about our French class (kidding). They were filming an elaborate commercial of some sort at Le Bar du Caveau, which we got to watch from across the courtyard while we ate. I’ve been to Place Dauphine three times now (stopping by accidentally for visit #3 yesterday with Annie) but haven’t yet eaten there. Fourth time’s a charm, no?

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May 23, 2014 / art / photo / Paris / travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 19