Ask me something
Today, our last full day in Paris. We started the day with huge espressos at a cafe in the Marais, the only area seeming to have places open on Sunday. We went back to our favorite boulangerie because we could not get enough of their macarons and had to have some more one last time. We got the last of the reglisse, and a hot baguette to snack on while walking. We walked passed the George Pompidou Centre and the Mongolians were there again, so we listened a bit. Then we made our way to the Seine river, to go to the bird market. It was so lovely. All week its a flower market, but on Sundays it’s a bird market. So we spent some time there cooing with the birds. There were many finches like I used to have! And so many decent priced cages, it’s a shame we don’t have room to bring them home. After, we ate our macarons on the banks of the Seine river.
We then went back to the Arts et Metiers museum (the steampunk one) because at 2, 3, and 4 PM they were doing a demonstration of the old toys and music boxes that are all kept behind glass. It was so great, I love old toys. The small theatre was pretty packed, a short documentary played on a screen, and a man with white gloves operated all the toys. One was a doll dressed in theatre garb with an umbrella; after wound, he spun his umbrella and music played. Another was a black boy with a banjo; it was the presenter’s favorite because the doll strummed, tapped his foot, and his torso even raised and fell like he was sighing. It was very cute. It’s easiest to understand Parisians when they’re talking to children, that’s why I like the museums, so many children are around and I can understand every word they say or that their parents say to them. There was one music box in a rectangle, you wind it, and a bird pops out to sing, and then goes back inside. The one I wanted to see was a doll playing a dulcimer on top of a very ornate table. She wasn’t working today though :[ There were also “paintings” that moved, of people rowing and working and clouds moving, the back of them all machine-like with gears. When the presentation was over, the presenter said that in the chapel part of the building they were doing a demonstration of the pendulum that hangs from the ceiling. This was harder to understand because the girl spoke very quickly and it was all science and physics vocabulary, past my level. We spent most of our evening there. From the gift shop we bought a new bag for Steven and gradschool that says “Musee Arts et Metiers” on it :] Also, a compass because he’s wanted one. And admission to the museum was free so we had all this extra euro in our wallets.
From there we walked around the Marais, making our way back to the Georges Pompidou Centre because it’s so close to our apartment. We bought and ate our last crepes, butter and sugar ones of course. We ate and watched the various performance artists. There was a magician, who was pretty good, but had a short show. Then we saw a guy setting up who looked like Philip Petit, the tightrope walker. We ended up sitting to watch his show, and alas, his name was Filip, bien sur. We watched him mock the crowd and people walking by. And then he started asking for people to come up, trying to get someone from each country. He got a Belgian guy, a Norwegian guy, and then Steven! He introduced all the guys to each other, and made them kiss each others cheeks, and I got photos of this. And photos of Filip giving Steven his weapon which were nun-chucks. I don’t have anymore photos after that because then I was called up too. I was pretty much the lady of the story. He had us act out and directed us one by one. He must not have realized that Steven & I were sitting together because he had Steven pretend to kiss me but Steven really did and he was shocked. Only later did he realize we were together. It was fun, and funny. A good way to end the trip.
From here we clean the apartment, pack away everything, and leave tomorrow morning bright & early. I am worried about my precious gifts in my suitcase :[ I can’t say what they are because we are bringing them back for ourselves and a few others, but basically, it’s VERY unlikely that the airline would allow them in my carry-on, let alone on the plane period. C: I love the things I bought though. Can’t wait to get back to my apartment with my bed and my movies and television in English. :p
Today we had a late start. We first made our way to Monoprix. They are closed on Sundays so we needed to stock up on food and wine that we want to bring back home. After that, we went to Place Bourg-Tibourg for some more delicious macarons from the same place we always go to. We got mostly “reglisse”, the blue ones, our favorite. We also got pain au chocolate, had to since we’re in Paris. We searched for a while for a cafe to have some espresso, but they were all full outside because it was such a beautiful day. We finally found one near Georges Pompidou Centre. We had espressos, watched kids play soccer, relaxed, until we took the metro to the Rodin museum. It was quite a beautiful museum, better than I expected. It was mostly gardens, and some of his sculptures were kept inside an old hotel turned museum. The wooden floors were creaky, and all the walls had ornate wooden carvings and moulding, I loved it! It made the experience that much better. It was a relaxing evening. We ate the rest of our macarons there, under the Gates of Hell, a truly amazing bronze caste.
We had plans to go to Chateau Vaux le Vicomte tonight, because on Saturday nights this lavish Versaille-esque palace is open from 8 to midnight and lights the forest with 2000 candles like it used to be lit up for old fetes. Unfortunately, in May, the shuttle doesn’t operate past 7 PM from the train station to the Chateau so we would have to get a taxi. No big deal, but, we don’t have phones to call a taxi. Sooo, we are a little disappointed, but instead we took the Batobus around the Seine river. The Batobus is a riverboat that takes you along the river stopping at all the big to-dos like Louvre, Notre Dame, Hotel de Ville, etc. We took the whole trip, just relaxing in the back of the boat. We saw couples on the banks of the islands/iles, relaxing, eating, drinking. Wish we had thought of that, they picked a perfect spot. We’ll have to do that tomorrow if the weather permits.
For dinner we just snacked on leftover food here, trying to get rid of as much as we can for our departure in two days. We had butter, brie, jam, and mustard on bread, and it was very filling, and quite delicious. We buy a lot of groceries here, but it always end up being cheaper here than back home. A good sized pack of toilet paper or paper towels here is no more than 3 euro. Back home, I never pay less than 6 dollars. And the cheese, forget it, so ridiculously cheap here I can’t stand the thought of going home and paying 8 dollars for what would be 4 euro here. And the wine, you can’t find good wine back home for any less that 10 dollars, but a bottle here around 3 euro is reliably decent. I will miss the cheapness and availability of all our vices; cheese, wine, ultra soft toilet paper…
Two nights ago, after I wrote the last entry, Steven and I went to Rue Quincampoix to get some beers. We first went to L’imprevu (Art Brut was once again packed). We got two Stella Artois’ on tap, which is a lot better than in the bottle. L’imprevu is a little cafe/bar with four different rooms, each room decorated differently. We sat in the cinema-ish room with old, red movie theater chairs, and one painting including a three-dimensional butt on the wall. Upon further inspection… the workers were gay, the other customers were gay… perhaps it was known to be a gay bar? Regardless, it was the most chill cafe/bar that we’ve found, and we’ve tried five that were our-style now. After L’imprevu, we wanted to try the cafe/brasserie down the street called La Comedie, so we went there too. We had a plate of cheese and bread with our beers. Roquefort, brie, goat, and some butter. For the amount that we got, it was a good deal. Our server at La Comedie was German girl who was extremely nice.
Yesterday, Friday, we decided to revisit some places before we leave and before they close for the weekend. We got sandwiches at the Jewish deli next to Arts et Metiers, we had espressos at a random cafe, we went to the Louvre Antiques, and we finally bought some Parisian chocolats! The area we explored had a lot of covered passageways, it was the Palais Royal area, Rue Montpensier, and Rue Vivienne. We stumbled upon Truskel Pub, a place we wanted to try before we left. We also went to the Julien Arouze Exterminator to take photos of it while it was actually open. And came across Rue Danielle Cassanova haha. We revisited Deyrolle taxidermy, and the Abby Bookshop to say goodbye to the Canadian owner who was always very nice. It was a long day of a lot of walking. The time seems to fly when you’re just walking from place to place.
For dinner, we took the metro to the 11th arrondissement. We were waiting for a restaurant called Ave’ Maria to open for dinner. Steven wanted to go there because one of our favorite bands (Beirut) performed at the restaurant, you can see the video of the restaurant here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYwmDJigB1o. It’s not a venue or anything, just a restaurant. While waiting, we had some espresso’s in a cafe’ up the block. It was a real zinc bar, one of the many still around in Paris. I wrote in my moleskine while Steven drew. It was kind of perfect because the cafe we chose, played Beirut while we waited. We then went to eat at Ave’ Maria. The interior is dim with green walls. And the tables are pretty much all picnic tables. We sat against the wall with two other couples to our other side. It was quite lively for being so early for dinner (not even 8 pm yet). The menu was hardly French, which was great! The place smelled like spices and home cooked meals. The menu consisted of Indian, Brasilian, Thai, African, and more. Steven got the Indian dish, and I ordered the Himalayan dish. It was our best meal in Paris. They even gave us Ave’ Maria stickers, which I promptly added to my moleskine.
In this area was also Cantada II, the place where Anthony Bourdain got absinthe. We had every intention of getting absinthe, but the place seemed kind of… sketchy. So we didn’t go in. Instead we went to the Motel Bar, where our friend Jordan said she went. It was cute inside, loungey, but completely packed. There was no where to sit. So we decided to go try Truskel Pub which was a lot closer to us. It was a completely different atmosphere there. It wasn’t so much a bar, as it was more like a club. It had the stand-up, cluttered, smokey feel of a Ybor club, or Downtown Orlando club. Not what we were looking for when it’s only two of us. So, we went back to trusty L’imprevu. We had 4 Stella Artois’ on tap and enjoyed the good music they played.
Today we did a lot of unintentional shopping. We walked everywhere today, no metro, so we saw a lot of stores and had to go in. We started at the creperie for me, where I ate a nutella and banana crepe :] and Steven wanted another sandwich so we got one for him instead of a crepe. From there we walked toward the Seine river, past the Georges Pompidou center, and outside of it there were Mongolian dressed in full garb and making music with instruments resembling violins. Steven loved it so he bought a CD. I have a video that I’ll upload. We made our way to Notre Dame but first we stopped at the Flower and Bird Market. Only on Sundays are there birds, so today we just walked through the flowers. We found one tree for sale with the name listed of a branch I took from the Parc des Buttes Chaumont when we visited. I pressed it and hope to label it with Genus and Species Epithet and frame it when I get home now that I have the common name. It smelled so wonderful at the flower market. There we bought a little music box that plays “Champs - Elysees”. From there we went to Notre Dame to go inside. For some reason or another there was the “Fete de pain” going on outside Notre Dame, which is a “Party of bread”. So all these bakers came and set up tents to sell their bread. It was pretty much a bread-fest. We went into Notre Dame and there was actually a mass going on. Architecturally, it is my favorite Paris tourist destination so far. I like how we can be simply walking from one place in Paris to another, and we’ll see it in the distance. To me, it’s very beautiful, because I love gargoyles. After, we went to get Berthillon ice cream again, and this time there was no line! It was colder today. But, they didn’t have the flavors I wanted like “noisette” and coffee and gingerbread. So instead I got cacao, vanilla, and pistachio. Steven had cacao, caramel & ginger, and raspberry. We were more impressed with our first visit. They must have not stocked up on flavors because of how cold it’s been here. We ate our ice cream on the Seine river again. When we were done, there was one point on a bridge where we were looking at Notre Dame and a man was playing accordion at the end of the bridge. It was nice, I’ll miss the random accordion sessions here. Accordion is one of the hardest instruments to play, and yet so many Parisians can play it. After that we went back to Shakespeare & Co bookstore. I wanted to buy a tote, but the one they’re currently selling doesn’t even have their name on it. Instead we hung around shop, me writing in my moleskine, and Steven reading books on ancient Rome. Upstairs there’s a typewriter for people to use, but it was out of tape. It’s different than mine so I didn’t want to mess with it. Also, that one was in French so all the parts were labeled a little differently. Upstairs is the library, where books are not for sale, so people hang out and read up there. There’s a piano, and beds, for writers who need a place to sleep. They trade tidying up the bookstore for a small bed that is surrounded by bookshelves. It’s quite lovely actually.
We hung around there for a while, until we got hungry and ate at some random gyro place playing Indian music. After that, we just walked around, popping into any shop that looked interesting. A shop full of masks and puppets. A comic book store where Steven bought the Walking Dead in French! I’m excited to reread it, but in French now. We passed the Julien Arouze exterminator shop, the one with the dead rats, their necks caught, hanging in the windows. The shop front is actually in the Disney animated movie Ratatouille, where the protagonist rat, Remy first comes to Paris and his father shows him how humans should not be trusted. Alas, it was closed today. So we’ll have to go back tomorrow.
These past two days have been alright, one better than the other. But all the cool places we find make us wish that our family and friends were here with us to enjoy them. Especially because we found a cool bar called Art Brut, it would have been nice to hang out there with all our friends back home.
Tuesday we went to the Catacombs. We waited in a long line in the rain, dodging loud Norwegian teens that kept appearing and basically standing on top of us. They ate and talked loudly munching on candy, Subway, and Mcdonalds. Not to mention the boys thought it would be cute to sport matching pink berets. I smoked some French cigarettes hoping to suffocate them but it didn’t work. Down under the ground, we ended up letting them pass us because we couldn’t enjoy the serenity of millions of people’s bones with Norwegian teens trampling each other running to get to the mass piles. At first you walk a little in what seems like just an underground cave, and then you get to a sign above a doorway that translates to, “Stop! It is here the empire of the dead.” Steven reckons that Marat is down there somewhere. So I guess you could say we visited Man Ray’s grave, Oscar Wilde’s, Serge Gainsbourg’s, and Marat’s. We walked through, and could hear sometimes a crackling that sounded like millions of bones pressing down on each other and cracking over time. After looking at bones we were hungry and had lunch at another’s Chez. We had soup and lamb. Perfect for a rainy day. After eating, we walked back to Bourg-Tibourg to buy more macarons at the same place. The best were the blue ones, so we bought mostly these, “reglisse” flavor which translates to “licorice”. It doesn’t taste like licorice at all really, it taste like a delightful sugar cookie. With maybe a hint of licorice. At night we went to Le Capitole, the place we went to in the morning for 2 espressos and 2 croissants. At night we had two Leffe beers. Our server was super nice in the way he mocked my French. I would say, “Merci Monsieur,” and he would insist, “De rien, Mademoiselle, de rien.” I enjoyed it.
Yesterday, Wednesday, we got crepes in the morning from the very first place we got crepes in Paris. A man near the Georges Pompidou center. Sugar and banana this time. After we went into the Georges Pompidou center to see the Lucian Freud gallery, which was a really lovely gallery. There was a lot of his paintings, portraits and landscapes, and videos of him in progress as well. Also some photography of his studio and him working. The Georges Pompidou center is known for it’s modern art, so after Lucian Freud we made our way around quickly passing through to see Man Ray’s work, Marcel Duchamp, and even Rrose Selavy :]. Duchamp’s toilet was there, but we don’t think it’s the original. After that, we went to grab some sandwiches at a Jewish deli we stumbled upon. And they really did make the best sandwiches that we have had yet. They pressed it for us and there was more than just meat and cheese on it. We ate them, and then went to the “Arts et Metiers Museum”, which is loosely, “Art of Scientific Instruments Museum,” and it was pretty much Paris’ Steampunk Museum. I loved it! There was a lot of old bikes and old cars and how they evolved. And then there were the machines sections of the printing press and then the cotton mill, and a lot of in between like gears and pressure machines that didn’t catch on. The best, is when you walk up this grand staircase and above you is a flying contraption modeled after a bat! I especially enjoyed this museum because it was quiet, not a lot of people around. The children were well behaved there, and the teenagers were probably architecture students or engineer students. Everyone there by choice, not forced. There was one room of elaborate toys and music boxes. Some they worked, but some were just behind glass. This Sunday we’re going to go back because they are doing a demonstration of all the toys. In the gift shop, there were tiny music boxes that you continuously wind, and they had a song from the movie Amelie, and Vivaldi too. Both were sold out :[ After two museums, we went back to The Abbey Bookstore, the one owned by the Canadian. There was a n American writer who was talking that night about her historical fiction book that took place in France and was recently translated and published in French. She is currently in Paris doing research on her next fiction book about the French poison trials that were covered up by the king. That sounded interesting. In the bookshop, Steven and I found a lonely book downstairs. It was a book of illustrations of different Parisian cafes. And all of the cafes are listed where they are and their names. We bought it, and stayed for the author. It was cold out, so the owner served hot red wine, which smelled so delicious like gingerbread. The author, and owner, and workers at the bookshop all dressed up in the time period of the novel. And after that, we grabbed some beers again at the Irish pub, but there was a soccer game going on so it was kind of crazy. After a pint we left to go to the cozier, McDonalds. We had to get burgers and see how they were. Two Big Macs, two fries, two drinks. The fries were really good, quit possibly better than America’s. But the burger was just a fast food burger. And Macdo is always packed in Paris. Even at 11 PM, when we were there.
Another quiet day, but they don’t bother me. We went back to Montparnasse today, mostly to walk around. We visited the remains of a Roman Arena. It was quiet there, no tourists, only locals playing soccer. After, we walked to Rue Mouffetard, a place known for it’s over priced market. However, we found a nice and casual cafe/restaurant. We sat outside like Parisians. We actually ordered large meals because we hadn’t had breakfast. I ordered duck confit, a true French dish, and Steven had the special of the day, a beef dish. We ate leisurely, ordered a chocolate mousse for dessert to share. And two espressos after, with 2 cigarettes (a French brand, bien sur). We walked around after and made our way to the Irish pub on the Seine river that we came upon our first day in Paris. The Irish guy we talked to wasn’t there, but the atmosphere was nice nonetheless. Steven had a pint of Guinness and I had a Kilkenney, some Irish red beer which was pretty good.
After another leisurely stop, we went walking around the little streets near the Seine river and found a tiny bookstore tucked away and crammed with lots of books floor to ceiling, even piled on top of each other in the center. Turns out, most of the books were English. I almost bought some Asterisque et Obelisque comics (a French cartoon), but then I saw the Henry Miller collection, which I also bypassed for the David Sedaris collection. I ended up buying Naked by David Sedaris because I have already finished Me Talk Pretty One Day by Sedaris which was on my Kindle, and you can’t buy Kindle books electronically in Europe, so I need something for the flight home. I brought the book up to the owner at the cash register and it must have been the way I said, “Voila, c’est tout,” that he assumed I was a Parisian and started talking to me in French about a particular author coming to his shop. I couldn’t understand, and I had heard him speak perfect English to the previous customer so I asked that he speak English. He seemed surprised and gave me the best compliment of my entire life, it was that he assumed I was a native :] ! Turns out, he’s from Toronto and he asked where Steven & I were from. I told him NY originally but now Florida. He said his parents recently moved to a small town and have we heard of it? Dunedin. Steven mentioned that I used to work in the downtown Dunedin area at Sea Sea Riders, and that the restaurant Kelly’s is good there too. The owner of the shop, Bryan, said that on his first visit to Dunedin they had been looking for Sea Sea Riders but couldn’t find it so they ate at Kelly’s instead. What a small world to find someone in Paris who has family where we have family.
Anyway, after that we called it a day and came back to the apartment. We’ve spent over our budget today, but that’s okay because most days we spend half our budget. These next few days are primarily going to be us sitting at cafes and smoking French cigarettes because we’ve completed our list of tourist things to do. Now we complete our list of expensive places to eat, and random things to stumble upon. Voila, c’est tout. Bonsoir.
Today was kind of quiet, but good nonetheless. We started the day with a sugar and butter crepe. And then took the metro south all the way just outside of Paris to a veterinary school. The school also has a museum of medical oddities in it, called Museum Fragonard. We got in for free too because we’re under 26! Anyway, the room begins with animal skulls in cases, a full crocodile body handing in glass, a skull separated in pieces on a brass mount (it even describes how this process is done, by filling the skull with rice until it expands and cracks the skull perfectly in the already perforated lines!). The glasses cases are all separated into different medical oddities. My favorite, the section of medical abnormalities and monstrosities. There were two headed goats, cows, lamb. And animals with additional limbs. And also animals with limbs growing the wrong way! Some were taxidermy, and some were skeleton - a nice mixture of both to really get the idea. We had the audio guide too so it would tell you exactly how some of the animals, and humans died. There were three different skulls, a european, an african, and an asian, and you could clearly see the differences. There was one cow skull with a bullet hole in it, and the bullet on the other side. My favorite was the goat with 8 legs, 4 smaller ones hanging from it’s abdomen. It looks like a drawing that one of my favorite illustrators would do, Keith Thompson. There was also a small section showcasing some things surgically removed from animals intestines that they had mistakenly swallowed like rocks, forks, knives, a scissor, a metal grate. There was one section in the middle of the museum that was open and just had tons and tons of skeletons all next to each other. The coolest was the ostrich skeleton. There were some less severe abnormalities such as a dog skeleton with arthritis, which showed how his lower limbs were sort of calcified and rigid.
And in the last room, there was a showcase of Monsieur Fragonard’s favorite artform. He would sort of mummify bodies, but in an artistic way. The skin would be splayed ever so, exposing their veins, arteries, muscles, all while the figure was posing. There was one of a man on a horse, all life size, all real bodies.
The cool thing about the museum is that is was on a veterinary school’s campus. So some of the odd animal births were done right there. Some were really old too. When we left there was a little girl leaving with her family and she had just finished horseback riding! We went through a little passageway and found the animal hospital for the horses, they were sick :[
Anyway, to lighten to the mood: something even more morbid = The Champs Elysee! We walked down it today. It was crazy. Probably the only part of Paris that alive on a Sunday. There were a lot of franchise stores like Virgin, Louis Vuitton, Disney, so nothing particularly interesting. The crowd was even worse. We got to the Arc de Triomphe, shot photos, and left. After that, we walked around the Marais for little, and then made it back here. We pretty much just ate bread and butter and cheese and crackers for dinner because it’s sooo good. And most of the restaurants that I want to go to are closed tonight. Voila, c’est tout! Au revoir!
Today was one of the best days here yet. Today, and the day we went to Deyrolle (the taxidermy shop) and our time at Parc des Buttes Chaumont. We started the day with butter on a baguette. And then made sandwiches for our trip to Montparnasse. We took the metro south, got off at near Henry Miller’s apartment where he wrote Tropic of Cancer (one of my favorite novels). We went to stand outside his apartment. And then made our way to Man Ray’s old art studio a few blocks away. Across from that was the Cimetiere du Montparnasse, so we visited Man Ray’s grave (the artist who photographed Kiki de Montparnasse, with the tattoo that I have), and Serge Gainsbourg’s grave. There were so many flowers at his grave, the French love him.
From there we went to the Jardin des Plantes, a botanical garden. They have a greenhouse! But not for the public. Instead we walked around the garden, and went inside to the Museum of Natural History. We saw the dinosaurs and the mock animals. It was mostly a children’s museum. But the whale skeleton replicas were incredible with their broom-like teeth. There was a marine section with replicas of a huge squid! But not comparable to Manhattan’s squid and the whale <3. The Manhattan museum of Natural History will always be first in my book. At that garden there was a “labyrinth” for the kids. It was a winding path up a hill with bushes on either side of you. In the bushes were holes cut out for the kids to duck in and explore and claim territories. It would have been fun, if I was half my height.
From there we walked north again to the most famous ice cream parlor in Paris, Berthillon glacier. We waited in line for 30 minutes, but it was so worth it. I had a waffle cone with coffee flavor, and Steven had a waffle cone with three scoops of three different flavors: cacao (which was very rich like brownie batter), an orange/chocolate one, and gingerbread (which was so delicious, it’s worth another trip). We ate our ice cream on the Seine river. There was a saxophonist under the bridge that we listened to for a little. And when we went above to cross the river to the right bank, there was a guitar and accordion duo who we listened to for a bit also.
That’s when we made our way back to our apartment in the 2nd arrondissement, not too far from the Seine. But somehow we found ourselves in the Place Bourg-Tibourg, a little area clustered with cafes, restaurants, brasseries, and boulangeries. We saw macarons in a window! So we went in and in my best excited-and-slang French I said that I wanted one of each flavor. And that’s what I got, for 15 euro. Which isn’t bad at all. I already ate the blue and white creme one. I don’t know what it is because I didn’t recognize the French name for the flavor, but it was delicious! I’m going to have to go back and get more of that one. So in all, a successful day.