A Parisian Visit, part 4.

We had originally planned to take the train out to Versailles on Saturday morning, but the weather forecast called for more rain and I did not feel like wandering around those grounds for hours in a downpour! So instead we stayed in the city and decided to check out the Catacombs. Creepy tour of the skeleton-ridden sewers of Paris? Yes please! However, we took the metro, got in line under a forboding sky, and just…stood there for a long time. The line was really slow going. So after about 40 minutes (and a big ‘ol rainstorm, the skies opening up and pouring down on us) we decided to ditch that line and move along with our Saturday. Oh well, there’s always another time to visit some macabre Parisian historical site.

The rain didn’t seem like it would let up anytime soon, so we headed to the Musee Rodin. Rodin was known for his sculpture (The Thinker being his most well-known work, as far as I know), and the museum itself is in fact his own former property, the Hôtel Biron. The exhibition is really well done and is undergoing renovations right now to bring it up to date. Rodin himself lobbied the French government to turn his home into a museum, although he didn’t live to see this become a reality, with the museum opening in 1919, two years after his death in 1917. He had formerly lodged at the Hôtel Biron in his younger days, then as he became more successful gradually bought up the rooms of the place until he owned it all, inviting his artist friends to stay and join him. A separate spaces houses his marble sculptures, his later painting and multiple busts are in the rooms of the Hotel, along with some of the work of his friends (Van Gogh!) and the spacious gardens are interspersed with his large bronze works, including the Thinker. Even though it kept spitting rain while we were in the gardens, it was still an exceptionally beautiful place. The hotel is so old! I can’t wait to see what it’s like with some renovations. On a side note, Rodin loved himself some vagina. Seriously, there are so many extremely, extremely pornographic works of high art. Made me giggle! Oh Rodin, you old pervy perv. You just loved the “feminine lines”, I’m sure.

He’s thinkin’!

After the museum we headed to a bistro across the street. It was still chilly, but not raining as much. And the maitre’d was so rude and hilarious. He didn’t speak English, and didn’t not give two shits about anyone, even though it was a really busy place. He would hustle up to each table and yell “I’m listening” with his little pad out. The food was nice though. I indulged in a croque monsieur (fancy French ham and cheese) , while Jon got one of the specials, a beef lasagne.

It seemed to have stopped raining by the time we finished eating, so we metro’d over to the Champs Elysee for a little stroll down the road (Jon kept singing the song). Also, Arc du Triomphe, ici.

Ladurée. There was no way we were waiting in line to pay 40 Euros for a small box of artisinal macarons. The French love their treats, apparently. But the shop is so pretty, not surprisingly.

We went in the Renault show room and they had the TINIEST CARS EVER. The new electric ones! And I want one, I really do now. You can seriously buy them for 50 pounds a month, plus insurance. We can legitimately afford that. And you can park anywhere! And they’re SO TINY.

On the left bank there is a bookstore called Shakespeare and Company that was opened by an American expat after the war. It’s an amazing place where great literary artists of the past century have gathered and worked, including Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzegerald, and Getrude Stein. And artists can still come and stay there, free of charge! It’s sort of a bohemian epicenter. I fan-girled a little bit, and was so glad we finally found it (we’d searched and missed it when Lindsey was still there).

After buying a copy of “A Moveable Feast” (seemed fitting) and bilingual poems by E.E. Cummings, who I love, we sat and drank some kick ass artisanal beers next door. The sun had come out. It was warm and the breeze was blowing. It was perfect in every way.

Okay, we may have sat in front of Notre-Dame for awhile again too. I told you, I love it. With all my heart.

Happy tourist folk!

We wanted to make another attempt at finding an intimate little place for our last dinner. Jon had read something somewhere (super specific!) that led us to a little place on a perfect side street. Seriously, we were smitten. It was just hidden enough that it was tourist free-I mean, besides us, ha-and quiet with tiny shops dotting the lane, and church bells ringing out into the evening.

The restaurant was unassuming and simple, adorned with tiny chairs on the walls, which I believe is an Alice in Wonderland reference. It was called L’Auberge de la Reine Blanche (Inn of the White Queen), after all.

We ate all the goat cheese and Jon’s lamb stew came in a tiny stew pot to the table. Swoon. Afterwards we decided to buy some cheap beers from a corner shop and spend our last night watching the sunset and drinking with the crowds that gather along the banks of the Seine. Fabulous idea.

Makin’ friends! There we are!

After the sun set and it started to get a little cold we rambled off to find a metro station and eventually, our hotel. On the way we passed the Hôtel de Ville and stopped to take a night time photo or two. That place is gorgeous, and the government still meets there now.

The next morning we woke to the most perfect, hot day. I was so sad to be leaving! We just had time to take the metro to the Pere-Lachaise cemetery, which was a slightly macabre but gorgeous way to spend our last morning-wandering amongst the mausoleums in the largest cemetery in France, where some great minds now rest. I wish we’d had more time, but we had to make our train back to England at a little past noon.

And that was it. Our little Parisian vacation, 2012. I applaud anyone who read all of these posts, but I’m glad I recorded these memories for myself. It was nice to practice my French and be pleasantly surprised that I still have that ability. On our last night we talked about how wonderful it would be if we could make a visit to Paris a yearly thing that Jon and I do together. I think that as long as we’re residents of the UK, it’s really something that could happen annually-can’t really argue with a nominally priced 2 hour train ride, and there will never be a time that Paris is boring or lacking in things to amuse oneself. And with nearly guaranteed visits to the USA for us as long as we’re living in England, that means we’ll continue to accumulate air miles (and hopefully be able to do it all on the cheap). One can dream, right? Au revoir,  Paris. Je t’aime toujours!

A Parisian visit, part 3.

Friday morning Monsieur Norris and I were all by our lonesome, and with not-superb weather predicted, we decided to have a museum day. We wanted to do the Louvre, then have a long French-style lunch (read: booze and and baguettes at a tiny round table on the street whilst people watching), then cross the Seine and go to the Musee d’Orsay. Solid plan!

I love the Louvre. I don’t care how popular and crowded it is. It’s wonderful in every possible way. My favorite sections are the sculpture on the 1st and ground floors and the Renaissance paintings on the second floor, in the Richelieu wing. Not the Dutch or Flemish painters though-crazy boring and religious and so, so dark (in my completely uneducated opinion, that is, I am no art critic). Also, Napoleon’s recreated apartments are beyond decadent and amazing. So worth the visit, all on their own.

Napoleon’s chambers. We saw bunny slippers. Made of bunnies. WHAT. Napoleon, you crazy.

I love this hall. I believe these are all Flemish paintings, and they’re so huge and interesting. I could sit in there for hours. (We did sit in there for…a long time)

We also went into the worst room in the whole place, with the Mona Lisa and its ensuing crazy crowd. The painting has to be in a room almost by itself, on a wall in the middle, behind plate glass. And still, people crowd around to take pictures of it/in front of it. Jon took this picture to illustrate that silliness. La Jaconde, indeed. You can’t see anything!

By this time we’d been in the museum for many hours and were ready to get a move on. Outdoors, picture, baguette, wine, yes, yes yes.

Charming, I know.

Let me just say, I would prefer a brie baguette to an orange sauccison any day. Truth. That red wine was great though. We sat for a few hours, sipping our wine and enjoying the people watching. And dog watching. Because there are a ton of great dogs in Paris. And everywhere in the world. Dogs are the best.

The Musee d’Orsay is another of my favorite museums. It boasts some amazing architecture, as it used to be a train station and has only been a museum since the 1970s. It holds impressionist and post-impressionist works-Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Manet, Monet, and on and on. Strangely enough, and in contrast to the Louvre, they forbid photos inside. Which is nice, because even though I’d rather be focusing on looking around, I can’t help but take pictures if I’m allowed, because I’m dumb. So this is a nice way of fixing that problem. Thanks Musee d’Orsay!

The fabulous giant clock on the top floor, leftover from its days as a station.

So by the time we finished at d’Orsay, we’d been on our feet for what seemed like infinite hours. I was maybe dying a little inside. And no lie, at some point I’d picked up a crazy swollen left foot from two and a half days of walking in flats (I will never go the tourist in tennis shoes route, in any country, ever. Mark my words!) It was time to go back to the hotel. We sat in the Tuileries Gardens for a few minutes for a chill chat and that was just… nice.

I could hang out in the Tuileries every day. Can you imagine going for a run and having this be your backdrop? Lucky ducks.

Dinner was not that impressive, in my opinion. We ended up at an Alsacian place, which meant it was a sort of French/German fusion. Not my favorite-too heavy. Also, fusion is probably not the best word for food from a region of the world that had border issues between the countries for decades, therefore causing the melding of cuisines. Anyway. I loved my starter, which was a yummy pastry with seasonal veggies. Jon had duck pate, which he loves, always. And the mains were forgettable. But dessert! Oh, dessert. Creme brulee for me, puff pastry with whipped cream for Jon. Delicious.

Please notice the terribly ugly wine glasses. What is going on there?

 

Alright! Only one more post about Paris left. Which could be good for anyone getting tired of this trip down recent-holiday lane for me:) Rodin, La Seine at night,  my favorite cult bookstore in Paris, and the Pere-Lachaise cemetery.

A Parisian visit, part 2

On Thursday night Jon and I tagged along once again with Lindsey’s tour group for a boat ride down the Seine. I took a lot of pictures and most of them were terrible, so shame on me. Better to be in the moment anyway, right? The tour guide on the boat peppered the ride with bits of information as we leisurely made our way down and back, in both French and English. She was lovely! It’s pretty great that so much of the best bits of architecture in the city are all concentrated along the river. The same can be said for all the boats, most of which are incredibly ugly, but serve the purpose of lugging people up and down the river-some for fancy private parties, some for a dinner cruise, and some for sightseeing.

After the tour we made our way to Montparnasse, another ugly building (there really aren’t that many, that’s why it stands out so much!) whose sole redeeming quality is that when one goes to the top viewing room one has an amazing view of Paris. And that’s why we went-to watch the sunset at dusk, and watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle away They turn on the sparkle every night at 10 pm for 5 minutes and it’s pretty impressive, not to mention magical.

Sparkle sparkle!

I was kind of dreading leaving Montparnasse because we’d have to bid Lindsey adieu. Her group’s tour guide was such a nice guy, and he offered to let Jon and I ride around on a little night time drive around Paris, dropping us off at a place that would be closer to our hotel before they made their way back to their hotel outside of the city to catch an early flight the next morning. The bus stopped a few times to allow the kids time to take some nighttime photos of things-the Place de la Conchord, the Eiffel Tower, etc.

(This next picture took a million shots to get all three of us in there!)

When the bus pulled up to drop us off, I found myself getting unexpectedly choked up. Lindsey’s kids all chimed in with “awwwwww” while we hugged and said our goodbyes. And then they drove away and Jon and I started walking and I cried, a lot, on the streets of Paris. And it was pathetic.

But at least on the walk home we saw a kimchi truck, and that made me laugh. What’s a kimchi truck, you ask? I assume it has been commissioned on a world tour to sell the wonders of kimchi to the west, but I could be wrong.

Kimchi baguette, anyone? I seriously don’t see the French people in general taking to kimchi, delicious as it may be.

(Next time-Museums of the Louvre, d’Orsay, and Rodin variety, and a lot of food, so come back if you’re into any of that. And no more Eiffel Tower pictures, I promise).

A Parisian Visit, Part 1.

The train ride from London Victoria to Paris’ Gare du Nord is only 2 and a half hours long, so when we woke up on Wednesday morning to beautiful blue skies in Brighton-a far cry from the past few days of dreary rain-I was hoping the weather would be equally beautiful in Paris. And the ride was lovely, all blue skies and fluffy clouds. That is, up until we were 20 minutes outside of Paris, at which point the rain began coming down. Sigh….no escaping the lackluster weather for us! It didn’t matter though. It was still warmer in Paris than Brighton and c’mon! We were on vacation! In Paris! And after finding our hotel on the Place de la Republique, we quickly left again to find Lindsey and her group of students at the Sacre-Coeur (our whole reason for scheduling this holiday in the first place). We climbed to the top of the hill that the old church sits atop of, avoiding all the lecherous tourist-trapping dudes on our way and checked out the view of the city while keeping an eye out for my favorite blonde lady friend. My little heart skipped a beat when I saw her running towards me on the steps-there was definite squealing involved on my side of things while hugging. Reunion are the best thing.

Sacre-CoeurThis was the first time I’d seen anyone from home since I officially moved to the UK 6 months ago, but it immediately seemed like a completely normal occurence to stroll around Paris with Lindsey and Jon. That’s how it goes though, right? We made our way from the Sacre-Coeur to a side street and a tiny, tiny bar that Lindsey’s friend used to go to when she lived in Paris. It was ridiculous-the bartender made the most complex drinks ever, mixing an infinite number of far-flung ingredients, chilling them with dry ice and garnishing them with tiny treats and chocolates, each made with the utmost care and precision. Jon’s mojito even had a hint of wasabi in it! Lindsey and I shared some freshly made pina-colada ice cream with the barmaid, at her behest. It was delicious and a great first night in the city.

After that fancy drink we headed back to pick up Lindsey’s students at the Sacre-Coeur, attempted to take some blurry pictures, and basically called it a night. No shame in that game! Jon and I took a long, quiet walk back to our arrondisement and our hotel, looking for and somehow missing the Moulin Rouge, soaking in the night. Jon was already in love with the city, it being his first ever trip (oh, the English…). Thank goodness! I can’t have my Parisian love affair be a thing only for me and not my partner. That would suck.

Our hotel was lovely and quiet, with weirdly plush walls, windows that opened onto the street outside, and a free croissant-and-nutella heavy breakfast every morning. It was all made better due to the fact that our air miles had paid for it-believe me, we were grateful.

Thursday morning was the only full day that we had to spend with Lindsey, due to her groups’ departure from zee gay Paree on an early Friday morning flight. However, it was a really big day-one of those that seems to last forever because it’s so chock full. We met her group at the Trocadero on Thursday morning, in view of the Eiffel Tower. The sun had come out that day, and though I was bummed to see my plans for a picnic with my dude under la Tour Eiffel dashed due to a crapload of construction around the area, and more construction to the Tower itself, it wasn’t much of a big deal. More time for exploring rather than waiting in line to go up!

Photo opping on our morning walk sur la Seine

okay, and one more with the dude.

Do you know what it’s like to see a dear friend do their job? It’s so interesting and surreal. Seeing Lindsey interact with her students and seeing how they adore and respect her…it was cool. I felt so proud and happy for her. That girl-she’s good at her profession.

After sending L’s students on their very fashionable way, we headed to the Marais, the Jewish neighborhood in Paris. We had crazy good falafel at a place with a million boasting photos of Lenny Kravitz on the walls (apparently he goes there every time he’s in town, and they are incredibly proud of this fact) then did some vintage shopping and general wandering (there’s a theme here….eat, look at things/shop, walk, eat, look at things, repeat).

L'as du falafel ParisBig ol’ falafel pita and Orangina!

Walkin’ round, doin’ stuff, bein’ happy.

Post-Marais and in the late afternoon, we were due to meet Lindsey’s group again at my number one favorite place in the world, Notre Dame. It is one of those places that quiets my heart and provokes a visceral reaction in me. I love it. The first time I went there I cried. This year it’s 850 years old. Can you imagine?

Blood orange sorbet-amazing.

And there she is…

Notre Dame interior

I just love it. Every inch of stone in that cathedral tells a story.

So after that we found a nearby place to chat and split a bottle of wine. It was nice to just chill and talk with my friend, something I have dearly missed.

On a side note, it was nice to have Lindsey take some actual pictures of Jon and I looking happy, instead of the general camera phone pictures that have made up our photographic existence in the recent past. Thanks Linz, you’re the best!

Love that lady.

And that’s enough story telling for now. More to come tomorrow, or sometime thereafter.

 

 

We’re back!

We are back in the UK. Gray skies abound. It’s chilly. And we are already missing our amazing vacation/holiday in Paris. It seemed like so much more than a week! So now you can expect a week of pictures while I record it all for posterity. Get ready! I’m off to watch some Sunday night tv and dread a full five day work week that will greet me far too early tomorrow morning.

A little taste, as recorded by my phone.

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Musee d'Orsay

Jon and Ashley + Eiffel Tower

7 years ago

Eiffel Tower, 2005

The last time I went to France was the summer of 2005. It was the first time I’d left the country, and was something I’d dreamt of since I was a child. And I’m not exaggerating, I first start talking about going to France when I was a little girl. I wanted to see the castles and the sparkling Eiffel Tower, I wanted to speak French and eat crepes, and be fashionable and experience the world outside of America. And so between my sophomore and junior years at Ohio State, I took out a big ‘ol student loan-because that was the only way ever that this would happen- and signed up for the program and went (I still may have been ultra poor in terms of spending money and called the parents for help a few times, thanks guys). I lived on baguettes and cheese and occasionally croissants dipped in mayonnaise (disgusting, yes).  And I’m still paying off those student loans, although it’s mostly for grad school, now, and I still don’t regret it a single bit. Studying abroad was the start of something for me. It was a chance to do the most superficial and yet most life-changing part of college life that I could get. I was dumb, and drunk, and silly, and a complete American tourist. But I learned so much about myself and what I was capable of and what it was like to go out into the world “alone”. And I was inspired. If I hadn’t taken that leap and studied in Dijon that summer, I don’t know if i would have had the same experiences that led me to apply for World Teach after graduating, which led to me going to the Marshall Islands, then South Korea, and now England (with so many places in between). The privilege of being able to join the masses of ignorant college kids, coming from a background where travel out of Ohio was barely an option, and travel out of the country that’s not on a cruise ship?, uh no. It was a big deal. And I know that study abroad as a program has its own issues and is not in reach of  many, many kids, but if I could pay for everyone to do it, I would. It changes how you see things, how you view and participate in the world, and how you recognize that you are a tiny speck in a big big world, and everything that you have known is not the way that everything is.

 

Parisian Karaoke

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Anyway, this turned much longer than I meant it to. What a rambling screed, eh? What I’m saying is that 7 years ago I went to France, and it was a big deal for me then, and today I’m taking a train from my home in England with my English husband that I met when I was living in South Korea, to visit one of my best friends in Paris, and hot damn if 7 years ago Ashley had known that someday this would be her life?? You could have knocked her over with a feather. (Or maybe not, that Ashley was pretty overly optimistic as a person).