Sunday, August 17, 2008
Paris, Day Six
Should have checked Rick Steves before we left--it was about 9 and it didn't open until 11. We admired the fountain art and then moved on, deciding to come back later.
The doll museum was also closed, regretfully. That's DOLL museum, not POOPY museum as Alex kept calling it.
Then, we totally by accident stumbled across the National Archives! Hurrah!
I'm sure in your studies of archives (hahahaha) you learned that the French National Archives were the first intentionally created national institution to document history, so it is pivotal to the history of archives. Other countries kept tax rolls, death registers, etc. for centuries, but always for administrative purposes. After the French Revolution, the French basically said, "We're important! Save things so future generations can understand us."
Of course, in typical French style, they housed it in a palace.
Uncanny! Looks just like my office.
After we left the archives, we headed to the Picasso Museum. I had never been to a museum dedicated to just one artist, and it was really fascinating to see his style develop and change.
Here we are, post-museum, with one-euro espressos. C'est bon!
The Marais neighborhood is the traditional Jewish area, but in recent years appears to have become also a hip, boutique-y kind of place. We passed a store that had these adorable mittens:
It was closed. A lot of shopkeepers close up for August or at least part of the month. Very civilized, but too bad some of the neatest-looking places were closed while we were there.
For lunch, we stopped at one of the famed falafel restaurants and each had a platter of delight.
Ooooh, so good. There used to be an Israeli deli by my college that I loved. I love Middle Eastern food, so this was a treat.
After lunch, we went back to the modern art museum. I know I sound like a hick, but modern art makes me feel sort of stupid. I find it interesting and thought-provoking, but I have a hard time understanding the intent or meaning behind a lot of the art.
This is a piano covered in felt. It's fascinating . . . but I have no idea what it means. Maybe that's okay. Maybe modern art is intended to raise more questions than it is intended to make statements? My feet hurt at the time, so I probably wasn't in the best frame of mind.
After I had my brain twisted, we walked back to our neighborhood in the Latin Quarter and visited the Pantheon, a Greek-style French building that has been the site of important political and cultural events.
More stairs, of course, and another gorgeous view, this one extra special because the day was so lovely.
The Pantheon is also the place that Foucault conducted his famous pendulum demonstration.
Confession: I always rather idiodically thought that Michel Foucault was the pendulum Foucault. In retrospect, why a postmodern theorist would get into pendulums is a mystery beyond reason. I guess I assumed that the panopticon and the rotation of pendulums were both . . . round. Oh, liberal arts college! Essentially Foucault University.
After a stop back home to regroup, it was early evening and time for dinner. We went to Le Reminet, a restaurant just a few blocks from us recommended by our friend Katherine. It was very, very good.
My first-ever amuse-bouche, a courgette (zucchini) soup in a shot glass.
Then, delectable oysters.
And then . . . fish and pasta. I really cannot remember exactly what it was, but I will verify it was delicious.
After dinner, Alex needed to run up to our apartment to get something, and I waited downstairs on the street, next to the park. A Frenchman struck up a conversation with me (yeah . . . no.) and we somehow began to discuss American politics. He was fairly convinced that Americans would just vote the way "the Jews" wanted them to, since they "own everything." I don't want to get into a long essay on the history of European anti-Semitism or the fact that in Paris alone 200,000 Jews died during the Holocaust, but it was profoundly disappointing to meet someone who so casually and honestly believed these things. I, and Alex when he returned, debated that point and discussed the many issues that factor into U.S. elections. All's well that ends well, I guess: we concluded with a bizarre group hug.
Yikes. To shake off the weirdness, we went to visit some sweet weirdness: a south Tunisian bakery I had been admiring, which sold these amazing cookies? Pastries?
It's a pastry "tube" circle soaked in honey. It was unlike anything else I've ever eaten and I will no doubt be craving it until I come upon my next south Tunisian bakery.
Ah, a long day. Time to go home.
Those damn stairs!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Paris, Day Five
WRONG. We don't have a picture of my panic, but it was the monthly "Free First Sunday" and there were (seemingly) hundreds of tour buses, long lines, and galleries as noisy as street fairs. It was so crowded that certain galleries became one way only and my creeping (seems to be getting worse every year!) claustrophobia told me it was time to GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT.
So we got out, and there was luckily a museum right next to the Louvre that we really wanted to visit: the Museum of Decorative Arts. There was a fantastic Valentino exhibit, a jaw dropping jewelry exhibit, and lots of toys.
Jean who laughs, Jean who cries. And I guess you shoot them? Toy creator, I hate it when people laugh at me, too. And crybabies--who needs 'em?
After a couple of hours looking at inflatable pool toys and other fun things, we got a bit museum-ed out, and decided to get some fresh air. There was a ferris wheel nearby, and I couldn't resist!
Our recurring theme in Paris seemed to be looking at the city from high up, and this was a nice, not too high view of central Paris. After the ride, we ate a bit of lunch, I got humiliated in a public bathroom by not understanding it was a pay toilet (such things!), found a free public bathroom with pink toilet paper (yeessssss!) and we decided to stroll down the Champs-Elysee like fancy pants people. If you didn't take French in high school, this is the tree-lined boulevard where lovely people stroll on lovely Sundays. Even cretins like me 'n' the Cupcakes-Man.
I never would have thought to make a special trip to the numerous car dealerships along the way, but they turned out to be more like art exbitions. It was so fun! The Citroen "exhibit" was wild.
Individual cars were stacked up on spinning platforms, and the viewers ascended the stairs to view them. They went from newest (bottom) to oldest (top).
Peugeot had a totally different approach--super artsy and concept cars. Look at this one!
It has hardwood floors and upholstered Louis XIV chairs. Insane. FABULOUS!
At the end of the Champs-Elysee stands the Arc de Triomphe. We climbed the stairs.
Due to what I would consider peer pressure, we climbed all 200 (250?) stairs at once, since there was no place to rest and stopping would have stopped everyone. We got to the top and felt like the awesomest people ever.
Note to selves: GO TO GYM once in a while.
The view was (as always) fantastic.
I don't think I'm ready to drive in Paris. I'm barely ready to place a phone call.
To get home, we walked a significant length back to the Eiffel Tower Batobus stop. We had an issue with a Russian party of 14 teenagers who had one person holding their spot while they retrieved hot dogs and ice cream. I had not codified this in my mind beforehand, but I sincerely believe that holding a spot should require a one-to-one ratio, i.e. 7 people should have stood in line, rather than single bratty girl shoving me over right before we boarded. The unruly group was still taking pictures, jamming hot dogs in one another's mouths, when two of them boarded followed by the Cupcakes. They stopped the boarding immediately after us because the boat was full. "NO!" shouted bossy Russian who pushed me aside to try to convince the Batobus person to let her party of 14 board with her. Oh no you di-ent! BOARDING DENIED. But the Cupcakes were allowed on! Hurrah! Triumph! Seriously, I think if we hadn't already walked something like six miles that day, we wouldn't have been so pissed, but we were super annoyed with them. It was a sweet victory.
We were really tired by the time we got home, and decided to have a night in. Alex took the sexiest picture of Camembert ever. Are you ready? You sure? Well....okay.
It makes me blush just to look!
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Paris, Day Four
First, we decided to buy tickets for the Batobus, which is like one of those big buses tourists ride in New York or London, where you can hop on and hop off, except it's A BOAT which makes it cool and not lame-o. Our own personal little Bateaux Mouches! It was a cloudy day but still really fun to cruise the Seine. I noticed that some people had what I think are houseboats on the river!
I immediately began fantasizing about living on a houseboat in Paris, having a little boat-top garden, and generally being fabulous. If not for money, job, cats, family, and the fact that I think there's some gross stuff having to do with bathrooms on boats, I would totally get me a houseboat!
We got out at our stop and began to climb. Can you guess where we were?
Oui! Le Tour Eiffel. The time between when the two photos above were taken involved climbing seven hundred steps, waiting in a long line for the elevator up, and taking a long elevator ride to the top. Don't take the steps if you want instant(ish) gratification.
This is one of those places that everyone needs to visit when they go to Paris, like you have to go to the Empire State Building in New York. Yes, it's touristy, but WOW. Amazing views.
After we descended the stairs, we decided to take the Batobus back to the Musee D'Orsay so we could get a couple of things from the gift shop, then walked across the river to the Jardin des Tuileries which is a very pretty, well manicured park where tons of people congregate. Since all we had eaten was a sandwich at the Tower (a good sandwich, but still), we got some ice cream!
We discovered the most delightful flavor at two different ice cream shops: salted butter caramel. YUM!
After walking around a bit, we sat down in an outdoor park cafe, had a pichet of wine, and wrote postcards.
If you got a wine splattered postcard, this is why!
We then Batobus-ed back to our Notre Dame spot, and for reasons I don't entirely understand, rather than collapsing we instead walked to Ile St. Louis, the island next to Ile de la Cite (where Notre Dame is), and bought cheese.
The feet of the angels. So delicious. If I could import one concept from France to be instituted throughout the United States, it would be the fromagerie. Also: a democratic society.
Anyhoo, we also stopped and bought a baguette, headed back home, and bizarrely ventured back out just a couple of hours later for dinner, returning to Ile St. Louis and eating at a lovely restaurant, Cafe Med. It was a prix fixe meal (appetizer, entree, and dessert) for 19 euros, which is about as good as it gets there. They even had 12 euro options for a three course prix fixe meal. I wanted to kiss them. Mwah! I had a tomato mozzerella salad, then this amazing crepe:
It has smoked salmon in the center, sour cream (or maybe creme fraiche) in the corner and a little lemon on the side. Holy cow. A square crepe! And for dessert:
A chocolate thing-a-ma-jig (sort of like a lava cake) in creme anglaise with slivered almonds on top. It was okay.
Kidding! It was FANTASTIC. And we finally called it a day. Vive la Paris!
Monday, August 11, 2008
Paris, Day Three
So much humor and detail, and the tapestries! Oh friends, the tapestries. I became totally obsessed with "The Lady and the Unicorn," a series of six tapestries about the senses, filled with animals and plants and cheeky references to sensuality. So weird and unexpected.
This towel holder was pretty awesome too.
Following the museum visit, we walked down the Rue St. Germain, window shopping and people watching. We stopped at a cafe for lunch where, if I'm not mistaken, I spent around $14 for a glass of bubbly water. C'est tragique. The euro hurts, my friends.
To soothe our wounds, we went to Musee d'Orsay, which is filled with impressionist and other mid- to late-19th century art. There was a really cool exhibit of daguerrotypes, and some art nouveau furniture.
I don't know what that little cubby was intended for, but wouldn't it be a good place for knitting projects? In my house it would contain a cat within minutes of arriving, but for less catty places, it would be perfect.
After the museum, we walked back home, stopping at a grocery store, where I happened to spy these:
Single-serving (10 cl) real glass glasses of wine! No Capri Sun pouches here. These are a classy people.
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Paris, Day Two
This cappuccino cost around $7. For all the lovely things about Paris, it is TOO EXPENSIVE. This was the last cappuccino I had, except for one from a machine that cost 1 euro. The spendy one was better, but the ability to afford rent has rewards of its own.
Following breakfast, we bought some fruit at an outdoor market and some cheese at a fromagerie. Fromageries are fabulous. Cheese heaven. Then we set off on a seriously insane day of museum-ing. Notre Dame first:
Even the doors are crazy fancy. Following that we went to the Archaeological Museum, Sainte-Chapelle, the Conciergerie, and the Louvre. Pictures of all of these can be found on Alex's Flickr set (everything I'm using for these Paris blog posts is from that. I took about four pictures on my own camera. It's hard to want to take many photos when your hubs does them so much better.)
Sainte-Chapelle is near Notre Dame but much smaller. The stained glass windows are incredibly beautiful and ornate.
After all those museums, we were pretty tired. Luckily, the Parisian government has created this genius faux beach called Paris Plage on the right bank of the Seine. They have everything from misting sprinklers to run under to mini-golf to petanque games to a swimming pool. It runs for several kilometers and it's totally FREE.
I hope to see a Middletown Plage on the banks of the Connecticut River soon, although it would probably be difficult to work around the various industrial waste that washes up on shore. Ah, my sweet homeland.
Anyhoo, we also stopped for lunch at a cafe, where I ordered a most unusual gazpacho.
What I thought was some type of dumpling turned out to be a foamy balsamic vinegar sorbet ball floating in the soup. I don't even know how you would make that, but it was pretty tasty.
That evening (after a restful afternoon nap of three hours), we went out for dinner at an Italian restaurant and had some really good pizza and tiramisu for dessert.
It had a lovely little caramelized sugar "veil" on top. Pretty pretty pretty!
Friday, August 08, 2008
Paris, Day One
The building was probably 17th or 18th century! The apartment itself was adorable. Everything so tiny but perfectly suited to us on our trip. Even the door was tiny. (I'm 5'6", for perspective.)
And the view. Oh, the view.
This is our view when we looked out the window to the left. C'est magnifique! When we arrived and got checked into our apartment (the owners gave us bottles of wine and champagne as a welcome!), we were pretty exhausted. It was only noon but we had been traveling all night. A good nap and we were ready to have a nice dinner.
Ah, our first cafe. I really love the French affinity for sitting around and drinking coffee or wine, just watching passersby and chatting. I read that Paris is extremely dense--20 times more people per square kilometer than New York, so it seems natural that people would become more social . . . .or else go crazy trying to get away from one another.
So that was our first day. Good night, Notre Dame!