A Travellerspoint blog

"You have cork pull out?"...Um, excuse me, What?

Day 31-33

semi-overcast 0 °C

So, I have been a very very bad blogger. As you may have guessed, my journey in France has been over for a week now, and I have written nothing about it! My excuse is that after the three days of illness, I was bound and determined not to waste ANY MORE TIME. I kept myself extremely busy (as you will see) in order to make the most out of what little time I had left.

Let's rewind to Wednesday, August 25th, an key day in recent French history as it is the day commemorating the anniversary of the Liberation of Paris from German occupation during World War II. There were several events around Paris to celebrate the 65th anniversary of this historic date, and I decided to attend the one at the Hotel de Ville since it was the closest to my appartment. Since I was near Chatelet, I planned to go a little earlier and have lunch at this little Trappistes bar that I had seen the week before. I had a serious hankering for Mussels and boy did this place deliver. The bar was called Au Trappiste (4 Rue Saint Denis, 75001) and even at 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon, this place was BUZZING- young professionals, couples, older folks, families, and, of course, the single traveler. :) It became quickly evident that everyone here came to have a fun afternoon (and how can you not when the soundtrack to your lunch swings from Muse to Rhianna to Lady Antebellum). The waiters were laughing and joking (mine made fun of me for ordering a second beer at 3:00 in the afternoon...something about drinking alone and he would not let any strange men come near my table) and I still couldn't get over how packed this place was. I was lucky enough to score a table inside (it looked like rain) but near the windows so it was like I was outside. I ordered a Leffe Blonde (a lighter beer from Belgium) and a plate of Moules a la Creme with frites. Well, see for yourself...
Moules Frites

Moules Frites


So very tastey! This definitely satisfied my craving for mussels and, as you can see, the portions were ample. I swear that pile of mussels kept growing.

After lunch, I headed to the Hotel de Ville to secure a spot in the front. I was anticipating a huge crowd, but was a little disappointed that the majority of people around me were tourists; maybe this day isn't as big a deal for Parisians as it is for people like me who study history and look for interesting/new things to do and see in Paris.
Hotel de Ville

Hotel de Ville


The band played the Marseillaise to kick off the ceremony and I completely forgot the fact that the French do not sing their national anthem. I guess I'm disallusioned by the overt display of patriotism by the French who escaped to Morocco in the film Casablanca; you know the scene at Rick's where those nasty German SS officers are singing their German songs of hatred; Viktor Lazlo goes up to the band and commands them to play La Marseillaise and every stands and sings at the top of their lungs with ears in their eyes. It gets to me every time. This is not how French people react to their national anthem and to this American girl, it's just weird. I'll never understand it. Morgane was the first to alert me to this phenomenon a few years ago during Fete de la Musique (the Music Festival) in Dijon. A band started to play the Marseillaise, and I went all Ingrid Bergman and sang my little heart out. Morgane just stared at me like I'd just pulled down my pants and did a little dance. "You know, we don't sing the Marseillaise. No one does," she said. "Um...Why?" "It's just not done." Ok- it's just not done... I still sing it anyway.

Several men and women were honored for their service to the Resistance, both in France and abroad, during the war. Fred Moore (picture below) really touched me; he spoke about not hearing the call by Charles de Gaulle to resist the collaboration with the Nazis, but he heard Marechal Petain's words that basically resigned France to defeat and angered him and his brother. There and then, they decided to fight for a Free France and to never give up. He named several of his friends who fought with him that didn't make it to see the Free France they all dreamed of.
Commemoration de la Liberation

Commemoration de la Liberation


This young lady below won the Concours de la Liberation and read her winning speech to the crowd of Big-Wig politicians. I can't imagine being in high school and doing that...
Commemoration de la Liberation

Commemoration de la Liberation


The ceremony was very moving and appropriate; I appreciated all of the personal reflection on history by those survivors we have left (which are, sadly. few and far between). This is why I love doing what I do and studying what I study. It feels so very relevant and important to try and save, preserve, and understand this time in history. Needless to say, attending this ceremony was meaningful to me...that's why I am extremely angry by the behaviors of a few people around me. Imagine if you will the rudest, most distasteful thing you could do at a ceremony honoring those who pledged their lives to freeing France from the clutches of Nazi German (save, of course, saluting Hitler). Next to me against the fench seperating the "commoners" from the "dignitaries" were three German tourists. Now, I don't understand German at all, so I have no idea what they were saying. I am, however, more than qualified to comment on their behavior. What NOT to do while a war survivor is talking: Laugh and scream at the top of your lungs, shout things in German at each other, climb on the fence to block the view of those behind you, and pull sausages out of your backpack and eat. Yep, that's what these three did. Oh, and they were girls (not that that should matter- girls can be just as big of A-holes as guys, but you know what I mean). These soldiers were talking about the fallen bretheren and they were giggling and commenting IN GERMAN like they were at a comedy show or something. I was grossed out. But, the sausage did look kind of good...

As evening approached, I gathered up some goodies to prepare for a picnic on the Champs de Mars by the Eiffel Tower I figured I had better soak up my favorite scenery since my time here is waning... :( Thanks to Joey's wonderful anniversary gift, I had the beverage part taken care of.
Champagne from Joey at the Eiffel Tower

Champagne from Joey at the Eiffel Tower


Not that Diana isn't good company, but I would rather have been sharing it with him... I must say, it was awfully good (as were the Godiva chocolates). During our meal, we were interrupted regularly by the Arab entrepreneurs selling "Fresh Beer, wine, cigarettes..." (as opposed to stale beer, wine, and cigarettes...) or those selling those metal Eiffel Towers for "One Euro, Uno Euro, Ein Euro". Their knowledge of the number one in several languages is impressive. I remember the days when you could sit at the park here, eat, drink, and just relax. Now, you are approached every two minutes (and I am NOT joking) by these guys. I appreciate that you are trying to make a living, but I wish that when you entered the park that you could "opt-in" or "opt-out" of these offers...like the Do Not Call list. At one point in time, we were surrounded by three guys, all selling crap. Next time, I swear I'm going to make a sign, get me a stick, and put it up at their eye level that just says, Non, merci.

The interruptions that I do like having when I'm siting there are the lost tourists who came all the way down there wth their wine but didn't bring a bottle opener. I must look like a nice and knowledgeable person, because no fewer than five people came up to me to ask for the "Cork pull out" (as one Asian guy described it in English. I taught him the word tire bouchon i French. I also taught him how to actually tire the bouchon because he basically just tried to beat the side of the wine bottle with it and hope it popped out.). Besides bottle openers, I've also got a lot of requests for directions this trip in Paris. I must look like I know what I'm doing and where I'm going, because even French people have stopped me and asked for streets, monuments, and information. I'm very proud of myself that I always knew the answer as well :)

The business men and women that I do like to see at the Eiffel Tower are the performers. These guys put on a very entertaining beat-boy/comedy routine that I was more than happy to pull out a euro and put it in their hat.
100_1183_1_.jpg

On Thursday, I spent the majority of my day at the Memorial de la Shoah in the Marais, a place I've never been before, but one that I've been so excited to see. It is tucked back on a side street and you would never know it was there unless you were looking for it (17 Rue Geoffroy l'Asnier in the 4th Arrondissement). Even if you are not an expert in the Holocaust, this museum is well worth a visit, especially since it is FREE. Unbelievable. Thursday night is also the museum's late night and it is open until 8pm instead of 6pm. When you enter the museum, you do have to go through a bit of security, which got me thinking about what sort of hate must still exist that you have to buzz the door, be let in, go through a metal detector and X-ray maching, and then be buzzed through a second door in order to even enter this museum. It also speaks to the preciousness of what is contained within, but there is less security at the Louvre. It made me wonder if they've had issues in the past with people trying to harm the memorial. When you do actually get in, you walk through the Wall of Rememberance, with names of French Jews who were deported and killed. I made sure to find the name Berek Kofman, the father of Sarah Kofman, who was a rabbi in Paris and was deported and killed in Auschwitz. I wrote my Master's thesis on the works of Sarah Kofman, who was a French philosopher and the author of a very important autobiography about her experience during the war as a Jewish child who had to be hidden. Tragically, Ms. Kofman commited suicide shortly after it's pubilcation. I feel a kinship with her, and wanted to pay homage to her father.
Berek Kofman, killed 1942, Auschwitz

Berek Kofman, killed 1942, Auschwitz


You are not supposed to take photos inside of the museum, but I did sneak a couple for you, my readers.
Crypte at the Memorial de la Shoah

Crypte at the Memorial de la Shoah

Paris Police records 1940-1944

Paris Police records 1940-1944


The incredible amount of artifacts that this museum has collected is so impressive and it is all curated perfectly. I could've spent all day there; well, I kind of did... I thought that I would list some of the things that struck me as I was walking through and taking notes (yes, I took notes; I was the loser with the notepad stopping every two feet to jot down my thoughts...):
- A 1934, first edition of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kamp
- A prisoner's bracelet from the concentration camp Mauthausen (1938)
- An armband worn in the Warsaw Ghetto (1940-1943)
- Moulds for making the Etoiles Jaunes (Yellow Stars) worn by the Jews in France during the occupation; the company Charles Wauters et Fils made the moulds and the fabric was from Barbet, Massin et Papelin
- Clothing worn by detainees, including a Beret and a Jacket; samples of cloth made from female prisoners' hair
- Cans that contained Zyclon B gas which was used in the gas chambers
- Many videos of testimony from survivors including married couple Madeleine et Israel-Jacques Goldsztein who, along with their daughter, were deported to serperate camps; they survived and found each other again in France at the Hotel Lutetia during the "repatriation" of Concentration Camp survivors. Madeleine was not interested in giving her testimony and a friend of Israel's encouraged her to do so because, "Si tu ne parles pas, tu ne merites pas de renter." ("If you don't speak, you did not deserve to return.") This is something that I think about often in what I study- the need, the desire, to speak and testify to what happened in the camps and how this is often manifested in the literature of the 20th century.
Entrance to the Memorial de la Shoah

Entrance to the Memorial de la Shoah

Notable French men and women

Notable French men and women


Pour les enfants

Pour les enfants


This plaque was on the side of the school next to the Memorial, reminding everyone that Jewish children were deported from this very school during the Roundups. It was a very powerful visit for me and I think it is important that I do things like this as often as possible. I spend so much time in the "literature" of what happened, trying to critically analyze and evaluate; I think this is one moment in history and literature that you can't and shouldn't take emotion, feeling, and gravity out of it. To do so, would disrespect those that experienced it.

I will continue to catch you all up with the last few days of my trip. For now, here's a closing shot of some of the amazing pasteries I've been enjoying in Paris (and missing since I've been back in Chicago :))
Sugar high

Sugar high

Posted by ashleemae 11:34 Archived in France Comments (0)

Wait, they had taxidermy in early 19th-Century France?

Day 28-30

overcast 20 °C

I have to apologize for the delay in updating you all as to my activities- I have been ill! Yesterday I was completely horizontal all day, but thankfully today I was able to at least get myself together to go out and walk around for about an hour and a half. I do believe it was the stomach flu; I will spare you the details, but I will just say that I had two sleepless nights spent voyaging from bed to bathroom.

So, I now have to rewind 6 days (!) to catch you all up to speed. I'll gloss over some of the boring days, like last Sunday, which was unfortunately spent mostly on the phone with Directv (yes, I'm still in Paris). Joe and I had several increasingly frustrating phone calls with Directv because our receiver just "failed"...at least that's what they said. I, being slightly stubborn and extremely ticked that I lost everything on my DVR (hello! Mad Men started while I was gone and they don't replay that), refused to pay the $21.90 charge they were claiming I was contractually obligated to pay to have a new one shipped to me. After two days they gave in. I feel VICTORIOUS! Although, I still will have no Mad Men when I get home... :( To cheer myself up, I got Berthillon ice cream. I'm a simple lady and it doesn't take much to make me happy.

Speaking of being a "lady"...an almost imperceptible change has happened in my life. One of those changes that you don't notice when you look at yourself in the mirror every morning (ok, maybe I'm starting to notice it when I don't have on any makeup in bright, flourescent lighting). One of those changes that no one can tell you when it started- not your mom, not your boyfriend, not even your dog (and she knows EVERYTHING). It has happened, my friends. I am officially a MADAME, which one could liken closely to Ma'am in the Southern states of our dear USofA, but that in France, indicates a woman of a certain age or one that is married. It has happened. I am no longer getting the excusez-moi, Mademoiselle, mais... (excuse me Miss, but...). Oh, no, no, no. I am a full-fledged, grown-up, adult woman in France. I guess it had to happen sometime, but I didn't expect to happen before the age of 30. A few weeks ago when I got that word thrown in my face by a waiter at a cafe, I downed my Chardonnay and ran straight for the nearest Pharmacie to explore my options in under-eye cream. After deciding that I saw no new facial lines and my hair is sufficiently devoid of gray, I bravely ventured back out into society hoping it was nothing but a fluke. Those hopes were quickly dashed. Everywhere I turn, I'm a Madame. I didn't think it would actually mean that much to me when I made this right of passage, but it kind of did. It's like the end of an era... So what if I enjoy sitting on my couch, popping popcorn, and watching the Golden Girls? Does it mean I'm getting old that if I get a call to go out and I'm already in my sweats, that 9 times out of 10 I won't go? Who cares that my right hip hurts when it's cold and damp! I'm only 28...DON'T CALL ME MA'AM! However, with this newfound maturity that I've acquired, I thought at least young men would start giving up their seats to me on the subway...no such luck.

On Monday, this Madame (wait...that makes me sound like I run a brothel in the Wild West...) took herself out shopping to what I like to call "Disneyland for Grown-Ups with Money"- Rue Saint-Honoré. Now, since I'm neither convinced I'm really a grown-up nor blessed with an indispensable income, I am not able to go on "all the rides" here on this famed street of extravagant shopping. I am only tall enough to enter one store (well, 2 if you count the store where the Arab guy sells purses that look like they fell off the back of a delivery truck)...
Longchamp on Rue Saint-Honore

Longchamp on Rue Saint-Honore


Oh, Longchamp, how pretty you are! I went in with one aim- get a purse for mom, get a purse for myself. The same purse, actually, just two different colors. For this special occasion, I put on a sensible dress, cardigan, simple black flats, my big Jackie-O sunglasses and tried to act like I belonged. I entered, "Bonjour, Madame, Bienvenue à Longchamp" (Good day, Madame, welcome to Longchamp). There's that word again. I wandered through the gorgeous displays of purses by Kate Spade, leather wallets that smelled so good I wanted to bathe in them, and trench coats that cost as much as my monthly rent. I finally arrived at the purses I wanted, picked them out, but continued to browse. I finally drew the attention of a saleswoman who must have decided I was here to spend money...or steal something...because she followed me around for the next twenty minutes holding my future purchases. I can't blame her. I'm sure next to the guy from Saudi Arabia shopping with his harem I must've looked like I was on welfare. Doesn't matter- I got what I came for and they are perfectly gift-wrapped and ready for transport back to the USA.

I was unfarely reminded that summer was quickly coming to a close during my trek back up the Rue de Rivoli, next to the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre, where I witnessed the dismantling of the Ferris Wheel that Morgane and I went on my first official night in Paris...
End of Summer

End of Summer


I guess all good things must come to an end.

Tuesday was a busy and also extremely important day in my life. August 24th is Joe and I's anniversary and it has now been three years since we started dating. Dating sounds weird to describe someone you've been living with for quite a long time... Ok, so it's been three years since we've been partnering? (like in ice skating?)...committed? (now it sounds like we met in the Psych ward)... oh whatever. You know what I mean. The first thing I did was email Joe when I got up to tell him I love him and that I miss him...blah blah blah. I thought I did pretty well. I mean, the first thing he'll see when he wakes up and checks his Blackberry is a lovely, sentimental email from me. Sweet, right? I know, I thought so too.

Minutes after hitting send, my cell phone rings. "Madame Ashlee Mae Cummings? Vous avez un chronoposte à chercher à la Poste rue Ledru-Rollin" (You have a package to pick up at the post office on Ledru-Rollin street). I do? I asked the lady if she was sure and if she knew what it was. "Oui, Madame, je suis sure. Je crois que c'est une bouteille"" (Yes, Madame, I'm sure. I believe it is a bottle). A bottle? A bottle of what? Thankfully the Poste is only minutes away from my apartment...
Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary


Guess whose boyfriend totally showed her up on their anniversary? That's right- this lady's! Joe sent Champagne and chocolates to Paris and somehow timed it just right so that they arrived on our anniversary. And I sent an email...

Joey was also very concerned about what I was going to do in Paris to celebrate our anniversary, so I didn't want to let him down. Even though I would've preferred to be here with him celebrating, I had to go out and do it on my own. I started out with a stroll through Saint-Germain-des-Près and a stop at the most beautiful cafe in all of Paris- Les Deux Magots.
Les Deux Magots

Les Deux Magots


Les Deux Magots and I have a touching back story. In 2002, during my first summer study in Dijon, France, one of my best friends Ryan, and I took a group of our fellow students up to Paris and lead them around for the day. He and I have a common problem- we love Paris, know Paris by heart, and always end up here with first-timers so we go into tour-guide mode. We vowed that we would do something for us in between running from the Bastille to La Defense- eat here, at this famous cafe where Jean-Paul Sartre and Ernest Hemmingway sat and wrote- and we did. Yes, we only ate from the à la carte lunch menu and yes, it was damaging for our student budgets...but it is one of the best memories I have :) This was our first and only trip to France together and he has not been here for quite a few years. He sadly posted a comment to my blog last week about the fact that he no longer feels French. Well, my dear friend, this one's for you.
Appero at Deux Magots

Appero at Deux Magots


Because, I vow, we will one day go back together! You've not lost your French-ness...it's just buried a bit and if anyone can help you uncover it, it's me. I had to efface your distressing post with a trip here... A lot like shopping at Longchamp, you wonder if the people around you know that you ate pasta for three nights before this so you'd have enough money for a glass of wine. The couple next to me had shopping bags from Chanel and Hermès.

Next, I headed over to Les Invalides, which was once a hospital for injured soldiers and now houses the French National War Museums, to see an exhibit that I've been dying to see for weeks (and one that I should've left more time for...). In honor of the 65th anniversary of the Liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany, The Musée de l'Armée was featuring an exhibit on the political and military life of Charles de Gaulle. I am a big fan of this museum, however I have one gripe. It is so overpriced- 9 euros! 9! That's the same as the Louvre. There is no way that should be the case. However, I am fascinated with Wars, so I paid it. (Side note, it is only 7 euros on Tuesday evenings after 6, but 75% of the collections are closed...again, RIP OFF!)
Entrance to les Invalides

Entrance to les Invalides


Courtyard of Les Invalides

Courtyard of Les Invalides


The thing I love about this museum is that you are not stuck inside the entire time; however, this does mean that everything is really spread out, and you have to navigate from one end of the complex to the other, which can be confusing. Thankfully, I had a plan, although it turned out not to be a very good one because I left virtually no time for myself to visit the World War II collections, which was one of the reason I wanted to go here in the first place.
Chapel at Les Invalides

Chapel at Les Invalides


Moccasin given to Comte de Noailles 1780

Moccasin given to Comte de Noailles 1780


I was pretty much fascinated with this moccasin, which is located in the room dedicated to those who fought in our War of Independence.
Tomb of Emporer Napoleon I

Tomb of Emporer Napoleon I


While seeing Napoleon's tomb is awfully impressive (there are 6 coffins in there), I was most struck by an odd artifact from his life in the museum itself. While scanning room after room of armory and uniforms, I saw, tucked away in a dark passageway a...wait, no that can't be...a HORSE? A stuffed, taxidermy horse? Yes, my friends, it was Le Vizir, Napoleon's beloved stallion on display in all his glory, grossing out anyone who walks by. It was even branded with Napo's seal... and I thought I'd seen just about everything there is to see in Paris. Much like photographing Marie-Antoinette's hair, I thought a photo of this would just be too distasteful.

I must've spent too much time gawking at the dead horse because by the time I made it to the WWII area, I had to run through the exhibits. The historical on Charles de Gaulle was highly informative, and if you like that sort of this, check it out. It was a little too "multi-media" for me; many videos and interactive screens and such. I am old-school, I like a good ol' artifact and an actual print photo. (Says the girl writing the blog...but hey, this is a museum!) I was impressed with this WWII US Navy uniform from the Pacific:
US Navy Uniform from WWII

US Navy Uniform from WWII


It caught my attention mainly because my Grandfather Richard Jones was fought with the Navy in the Pacific. It was in beautiful condition and it made me proud to be able to stand there and think about him and what he did for our country. My paternal Grandfather, Paul Cummings, who just passed away ten months ago, was a Marine and was at both Iwo Jima and Okinawa. My next stop was the displays of both of these battles when I heard, "Madame! Vous devez sortir. On va fermer cette salle." (Madame! You must leave. We are shutting this room.) Remember I told you that after six only 75% of the rooms stay open for the late night... this is how I found out. I was more than bummed. Even more so when I found out that Napo's tomb is open later and I could've gone there last and been just fine! I guess this gives me a good reason for going back another time...

I really did need to get going anyway because I was supposed to meet Diana...but I took time for a few more photos along the way.
Les Invalides

Les Invalides

Pont Alexandre III

Pont Alexandre III

Following Joe's recommendation, we headed up near Butte Montmartre to find a restaurant that he had been talking about for weeks- le Cul de Poule (translation- the Chicken's Ass) at 53 Rue des Martyrs in the 9th. Now, I know this sounds like I lead in for some sort of scenario where all they serve is, well, Chicken Asses, but it's not. This place was AMAZING, which I discovered everyone else in Paris must already know because getting a table was not going to happen. The waitress said that we could eat upstairs if we wanted. Sure, why not? I don't need a table outside. I just want food. "You'd better go up and look at it first," she said. Uh-oh. That doesn't sound promising. We ventured upstairs with two other people in the same boat as us to find a little loft space with built in bench seats, almost like big comfy couches. Instead of tables, there were TV trays. It was adorable.
Upstaire at Cul de Poule

Upstaire at Cul de Poule

I almost preferred this to being at a cramped table surrounded by strangers. If there had been a tv, I might've moved in. The menu was short (which I like- the fewer choices, the better) and incredibly priced (22 euros for 2 courses, 26 euros for 3). Cul de Poule uses fresh, local ingredients and even thanks their suppliers in the menu, which is printed on colored copier paper and put in a plastic sleeve from the Office supply store. This place is not fancy nor super upscale, but it almost feels like the type of place you walk into and immediately think to yourself, "I'm soooo not cool enough to be in here." Thankfully the staff doesn't make you feel like that at all.

So, now for the important stuff; a rundown of my food. I opted for the 3-course meal and why not for only 26 euros? For starters, I had the plate of Charcuterie, which was Jambon de Bayonne this evening, and a glass of Santenay 2008. As I mentioned earlier, the menu was small but changes daily depending on what meats, fish, cheeses, etc. are provided by the farms that they work with. I think this is genius since the menu is always fresh and new, and it allows the chef to play with the ingredients.
Jambon de Bayonne

Jambon de Bayonne


This ham was so flavorful. I loved starting out with a simple dish like this of ham and grainy bread. It came with a jar of cornichons, which I know are just pickles and mini-pearl onions in a jar, but they taste so good when you're in France. I ate the whole jar...and I'm not kidding.

Next up, I went with the fish of the day, a filet of Bass served with rissotto. There was just a simple, light sauce that Diana thought had cinnamon in it; I though cardamom, maybe.
Poisson du Jour

Poisson du Jour


The flavors were very well-balanced and the rissotto was a greet accompaniment to the Bass, which was cooked just right (but they cut the head off before they brought it out, which disappointed Joe when I told him). Often times when a chef is trying to do "new" and "original" French cooking, and he/she starts throwing weird ingredients in for the sake of being different; the result, in my opinion, is usualy less than stellar. I like my food to taste like what it is. Here, you could definitely taste that it was a good piece of fish and the spices went well with it.

And now- the dessert... Oh My God, the dessert.
Tapiocarambaaaa

Tapiocarambaaaa


This was HEAVEN in a jar. The bottom layer was war Tapioca with caramel and WHISKEY (Oh yeah.....), then it was topped with cold, freshly whipped Chantilly. I've never tasted anything like it. It almost tasted like an Irish Coffee with caramel...only better. The consistency was interesting, but I love Tapioca pudding so I thought it was a hit. The whipped cream with so light and fluffy...oh my...I wanted to dive into the jar and eat my way out of it. I don't even know what else to say... Diana had the "Faux Tiramisu" which was not Tiramisu but almost like a Nutella Mousse. It was also delicious.

On the wall behind me was a giant word search where people not only searched for words, but also wrote messages about who they were and when they were there. I added my own contribution...
Ashlee loves Joey

Ashlee loves Joey


All in all, an amazing dinner and I'm so glad we decided to make the treck up there for dinner. It's really convenient if you're heading up to Montmartre anyway and much better than any of the restaurants that you'll find trying to pull in tourists. But make reservations if you don't want to sit in the reject attic!
Le Cul de Poule

Le Cul de Poule

Ok- I think that's enough for now! I've got to get out and enjoy my day since I feel a little better. I was finally able to have coffee this morning, which I had not been able to tolerate for days! Baby steps, I guess :)

Posted by ashleemae 04:06 Archived in France Comments (0)

Super-"excitée" about this Pistachio-Raspberry Macaron!

Day 25-27

overcast

The best thing that could have happened has happened. Any guesses as to what event has rocked my little French world over here? I found Days of Our Lives on YOU TUBE. Of course it is on YouTube! Everything is on YouTube...I can't believe that I could've been watching this every night and talking about it with mom (it is getting REALLY good) or at least on those cold, rainy days when I didn't feel like getting out of the apartment. I've watched up until 8/10/2010, so I'm catching up! Yes, it might seem a little odd that admist all this amazing culture, my craving for American daytime tv is taking the top honors as the most exciting discovery of the week...but I am, and always will be an American girl and proud of it. Studying French and being in France has changed me and made me sort of a hybrid Nationality in a way. I love French literature, but also reality tv; French wine (of course), but also Diet Coke; Creme Brulee, but also Funnel Cakes...

My hybrid structure also helps me in identifying where our two nations cross paths in language and in society. I'm not just talking about the thousands of billboards for McDonalds (which, in France, are currently featuring the killer in the mask from the Scream movies, maybe in anticipation of the release of Scream 4 this next year!) or the fact that 9 in 10 shows on French tv is Friends, New York Police Judiciaire (Law and Order), Les Experts (CSI), or Les Desperètes (Desperate Housewives) all dubbed into French, no less. And let me digress for just a second in order to tell you all that the jokes (especially from Friends) that we are all so fond of and that, well, made the show successful for ten years are not translated all that well here in the French reruns. A family favorite episode in my house was an episode from season 5 involving Chandler and Monica in a bathtub with champagne, still trying to hide their relationship, when Joey barges in and Mon has to duck under the water and bubbles. Joey won't stop asking about chicken... if you know the episode then you know what's coming; if not- WATCH it. Anyway, in France the classic line of "Ah! Ah! Ah! Diet Coke." becomes "Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Without Sugar." NOT funny. It's any wonder that French people find any humor in it at all.

Anyway, after spending so much time here and especially around Morgane, who is thankfully a wealth of cultural material wrapped up in one cute little package, I've noticed how much of American English is altering spoken French much to the dismay of the Academie Francaise, I'm sure. Spending so much time around people speaking actual, everyday French (and not that snooty academic French we have to produce at Northwestern) has made me very aware of these changes. Thankfully, I have a great example of this around me at least a few days a week. Mlle Morgane happened to extend me an invitation to a slumber party Thursday night at her place out in Parisian suburbia. Inevitably after dinner we ended up watching television (while drinking some kind of cocktail Morgane created using only vodka and a blended up melon...it was, um...the consistency of applesauce. Enough said). Anyway, a "French" show came on called l'Inside (pronounce it like eeeeeeensiiiiiiiiide) that bore a striking ressemblance to Inside Edition. The first words out of the host's mouth was, "Oh My God! Nous avons le Big Scoop ce soir. Le super-sexy-cool Angelina Jolie est à Paris et nous sommes excités!" ("Oh My God! We have the Big Scoop tonight. The super-sexy-cool Angelina Jolie is in Paris and we are excited!") Ok, so the non-obvious problem with this sentence for non-speakers of French: back in the day, when I was learning French... excité did not mean excited[/]...well, it did or does still, I guess, but excited in a very (cough, cough) [i]sexual way. You had to be very cautious and you "I am enthousiastic about..." or "I am happy about..." so as not to give the wrong impression when someone asked you if you wanted to go grab a coffee. Otherwise people might just think you REALLY like that coffee. Now, I suppose that with the overusage in American English of the word, it has filtered over the Atlantic Ocean and modified spoken French. I've heard it other places as well: in the street, in stores, at restaurants...and I know it's France, but I have a hard time believing that there are that many people in Paris um, "excited" about everyday objects. At least I hope not... And don't even get me started about "super-sexy-cool" and "le Big Scoop". Those need no explanation.

Spending Thursday evening at Morgane's place bled into an all-day Morgane fest on Friday because she (Yay!) had the day off of work. We went to a Parc de Loisirs near her village to enjoy the extremely sunny and sweltering Parisian weather. It really is all about extremes in Paris right now- Friday I was sweating to death in a tank top. Today, I'm wearing a sweater. Anyway, this park had it all; it would've been so fun to be a little kid there. There was a lake with paddle boats and canoes, blow-up bouncy things, a train, tons of rides, ponies, the works! Morgane and I did the grown up thing and took a stroll around the lake and then just layed in the sunshine.
La Seine at the Parc Loirsirs de Draveil

La Seine at the Parc Loirsirs de Draveil


Lake at Parc Loisirs in Draveil

Lake at Parc Loisirs in Draveil


I had the brilliant idea that Morgane should come back with me to Paris to continue to enjoy the sunshine for an evening picnic, so that's just what we did. But first, we stopped off at the pastry shop next to Morgane's place for what I swear is the best macaron I've ever had IN MY LIFE.
The best Macaron ever!

The best Macaron ever!


Pistachio macaron filled with cream and raspberries. Oh My God. Ok, maybe I could be excitée about this...

Our usual picnic spot was a little crowded since it was Friday night and beautiful weather, so we ended up having our picnic on the quai next to the Pont des Arts.
View during the Picnic 1

View during the Picnic 1

View during the pinic 2

View during the pinic 2


This is the life; there is nothing better than sitting on the side of the Seine just absorbing Paris (and absorbing some cheap wine) and having a great conversation with one of your best friends. Man, I'm sure going to miss Momo...I hope it's not another 3 years before I see her again.
Momo et Moi

Momo et Moi


However, we have decided to plan a romantic weekend get-away to Champagne this coming Saturday, so that should be fun ;)

Saturday night, Diana and I headed to the Latin Quarter for some traditional French cuisine. There is a plethora of "traditional" French bistrots up and down every side street behind Place Saint-Michel, so finding one that is better than decent is often a challenge. Also, if you're looking for Indian, Greek, "Mexican", or Thai food, they're also all over the place too. The good news is, they are usually dirt-cheap and you can get 3 courses for between 12-20 euros. We settled on Bistrot 30, which was ok; the 3 courses I had were hit and miss. I started out with my favorite, escargots, which were much better than the last time I had them up in Montmartre. I give them a A-.
Monsieur Escargot!

Monsieur Escargot!


Then came the Boeuf Bourgignon- not bad. The meat was good, not fatty, tender; but there were not enough vegetables. I had one piece of cooked carrot (and I hate cooked carrots); no mushrooms, no onions, nada. I'll give it a B-. Finally, dessert! Creme Brulée! It was neither cream nor very brulée-ed. It had the consitency of flan. It was edible, but that's about it. C for effort.

After dinner, a nice little walk was in order. I also found some souvenirs for people who are still left on my list.
Quartier Latin

Quartier Latin

Notre Dame at Night

Notre Dame at Night

Lights of Paris reflecting in the Seine

Lights of Paris reflecting in the Seine


All in all, a nice weekend in the City of Lights. I'll continue to try and catch up with my days on my blog and my Days on YouTube. :)

One last shout out to my amazing boyfriend Joey- Happy 3-year Anniversary (yesterday) and Thankyou Thankyou for holding down the fort in my absence. Love you!

Posted by ashleemae 02:53 Comments (0)

The warden threw a party in the county jail...

Day 22-24

sunny

Bonjour tous! I have so many things to tell you about these last few days that I'll probably have to split it up into a couple of posts. I've been noticing that my rants are getting longer and longer, so I hope that I'm not boring you all to death. On Monday, I voyaged to the Champs-Elysees specifically to go to the Nike store to hunt for an Arsenal sweatshirt for Joe (this is the gift that I actually was able to get, but only by following specific directions from him). Since I'd made the trip up there, I considered going to the top of the Arc de Triomphe since I'd never done it before, but after finding out it costs 9 euros (!?!?!?!?!?) to do so, I passed and decided a little stroll was more in my price range...
Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe


Wow- I'm getting better at taking pictures of myself!

Wow- I'm getting better at taking pictures of myself!


A big thanks to the guy working on the basement floor of the Nike store for answering my millions of questions about the sweatshirt (specifically, which ones are for the Arsenal team...I had no idea). Joe is very excited about his present.

I have been holding out for weeks, trying to find the perect day to make the voyage out of Paris to Versailles to see the chateau. I figured, I'm in Paris for 5 weeks; I can wait for the day with the most perfect weather, when it is sunny and a bit cooler and ideal for a stroll through the massive gardens. I waited and waited...and then waited some more. Finally, I decided that Tuesday was the day. I'd been studying the weather for weeks, and Tuesday was to be partly cloudy with a high of 22. I woke up very early on Tuesday to check the weather again- partly cloudy, high of 22. I took a shower and then checked again...no change. Yes! I am victorious! The last time I was at Versailles, it was cold and rainy, and everytime that I took a step, the mud that had caked on my flipflops splattered up on the backside of my black capri pants. I got back to the hotel looking like I had literally rolled around in the mud. But not this time...it was going to be perfect.

Being the ever cautious traveler, I packed my bag with a light coat, a scarf, and an umbrella just in case. If I bring them I won't need them, right? We stepped outside, there were more clouds than not, but I thought, "hey, it's early. This could burn off." Diana was in need of making another one of her famous videos, so we stopped at a bakery on our way, grabbed some breakfast, and filmed the morning Parisians picking up their bread for the day. These videos really are adorable. After we'd been well-caffeinated, we hopped on the train to Versailles, which is a short 30 minute or so ride outside of Paris. The train was crowded with tourists, people from the tourist office trying to get travlers to buy their tickets ahead of time (a good plan, but they also up the price if you do this...), and one very ambitious accordion player, setting the mood for Paris with a lively version of Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock".

Arriving in Versailles, we were herded like cattle through the village to the chateau, which never ceases to amaze me. I've never gone to Versaille independently like this; I've always gone in a tour group on a bus...and now I know why.
Versailles

Versailles


As we approached the palace, the immense line for the tickets appeared before us. It felt like Disney World but without the mouse shaped balloons and awesome ice cream treats. We took our places and began the wait...and we waited 30 minutes (is it getting colder, or is it just me?)...one hour (I feel rain drops)...an hour and a half (man I've got to go to the bathroom, shoot- another line...)...two hours, when we finally reached the coveted ticket windows (of which there were only four). We had a mini-celebration with the French family in front of us, bought our 25 euros day-passes, and proceeded to the entrance where there was, of course, ANOTHER LINE. And there was an added bonus- those weren't just rain drops (no, not bird poop); they were an indication of the rain shower that was coming. A half an hour after that and were were in.

I love visiting Versailles, mostly because I love the history that goes along with this massive palace. I'm the nerd who just keep repeating "Marie-Antoinette slept here. Marie-Antoinette walked through these gardens. Marie-Antoinette was dragged FROM THIS SPOT by a mob of angry peasants back to Paris where she lost her head."
Me in the Galerie des Glaces

Me in the Galerie des Glaces

Le lit de Marie-Antoinette

Le lit de Marie-Antoinette


I was incredibly impressed that the bedspread on her bed was actually the one she used and not a reproduction like many of the things in Versailles. Since most objects belonging to the royal family were sold or destroyed during the Revolution, having something original is just extraordinary.

However, I do have some gripes about just how much of a tourist trap Versailles is becoming. There are no longer well-detailed maps handed out when you buy your overly priced ticket. When I've gone before, there were nice descriptions of each room, what it was used for, who lived there, etc. along with placards along the way explaining the art and decorations. This is all gone. They want you to spend another 6 euros on the audio guide or buy a book to carry around with you from the gift shop. That would be a no, but tons of people were doing this. So, instead of actually looking at the rooms, furniture and art, they had their heads buried in books or their hands full with a portable radio and headphones (having headphones on, consequently, does not allow you to hear other people who may be asking you to move aside or alerting you to the fact that you stepped on their toe). You are shuffled through tiny passages as quickly as possible, again, like cattle.

The highlight of the castle tour came while I was admiring the aforementioned bedspread on Marie-Antoinette's bed. I patiently waited for my turn to get up to the front of the room so I could take a picture and admire the relic of history we are so lucky to have. I was up against the railing, being pushed from behind like I was in the front row of a rock concert and about to get trampled when all of a sudden here comes one of the famed independent tour guides (happened to be a group of Asian tourists, but I'm not trying to support the stereotype) screaming "AVANCEZ! AVANCEZ!" (Move on!), but only to me. One of the things about these tour guides is that they are not supposed to stop and give their tours in the tiny, crowded rooms like this one. She did not seem to care; she pushed her group up there, leading the way with her umbrella raised into the air. I politely, and in french, asked Madame where she would like to "avancez" to, seeing as how no one could move an inch. I suspect that the only word of french she knew was "avancez", because her response was to hit me in the face with her umbrella, probably with the hopes that if she could knock me down (I, at 5'4'' towered over her by at least a foot), she could get her group to stand on me and thus have a better view. The umbrella swat was not a good plan for her, because I let out a rant about five minutes long that went something along the lines of, "Oh yeah; that's just great. Whack me in the face with your umbrella and then climb over the railing to escape from me (oh yeah, I forgot to tell you she did that) so I can't hit you back. That's the problem with Asian tourists. They think they have a right more than anyone else (I was once pushed over by an Asian man at the Louvre when I was 17; I was trying to take a picture of the Venus de Milo and he literally shoved me out the way so he could take his own picture.)... you 'putain de' tour guides (sorry, no good translation...but it's not a nice word) just make it worse for everyone." And then I stared her down and let two people who were behing me (Germans, I think) take my place at the front instead of people from her group.

Once I explained to Diana what had happened, her first question was "Did you get a picture for your blog?" Oh shoot-that would've been the best! If I'd have turned to leave and just stuck my camera in her face and snapped a picture!

The back of the Chateau de Versailles

The back of the Chateau de Versailles


We eventually escaped the inside of the palace, had a mediocre lunch in the gardens, under an umbrella since it was still raining, and then made the trek out to the Domaine de Marie-Antoinette, which includes two smaller palaces I've never visited and le Hameau, a small replica Austrian village that M-A had constructed along with a working farm.
From the gardens of the Grand Trianon

From the gardens of the Grand Trianon

Petit Trianon

Petit Trianon

Inside the Petit Trianon

Inside the Petit Trianon


The Hameau is unarguably my favorite part of visiting Versailles. I love being out in the fields of flowers, along the little lake, and amongst all the farm animals. I can see why the Queen and her entourage wanted to escape the actual castle for something "simpler". It also makes you think about the little girl of 13 who was ripped from her country and basically sold to France to solidify an alliance and be married at 14 years old. When she left Austria, she never went back and never saw her mother again. I think one can understand Marie-Antoinette's longing for the country she lost and the childhood she never had.
Me at Marie-Antoinette's Hameau

Me at Marie-Antoinette's Hameau

Gorgeous flowers at le Hameau

Gorgeous flowers at le Hameau

Passage of Ivy

Passage of Ivy

Chicken, Chicken, Bunny

Chicken, Chicken, Bunny

Can I help you?

Can I help you?

So cute!

So cute!


One thing that was disappointing was the actual state of the interiors of the buildings. You cannot enter the actual buildings, but you can attempt to sneak a peek through the windows (if you're lucky enough to find a window that is not caked with centuries of dirt). I was able to look inside one or two of them: the walls were crumbling, the stairs were bowing, and one room just had trash in it. Really, France? One of the most treasured places from the 18th century is falling apart and you're doing nothing to conserve it? The exteriors are gorgeous (except for one staircase I saw that the wood was completely rotted through) with immaculate gardens and clean pathways. The building have been painted and kept clean; so why the neglect on the interiors? I would love to know what is going on, because it is a travesty. This would be like keeping the grounds of Mt. Vernon pristine and perfect, but shutting up the interior and letting Time destroy one of our treasured American landmarks. Wake Up Sarko!

My last stop at Versailles was to visit M-A's theater that she had built right next to her Petit Trianon; she adored the theater, singing, and ballet and often put on performances for the King and the court here. I'd never seen it before, and even though they said no pictures, I took one anyway (for you, my adoring readers).
Marie-Antoinette's Theater

Marie-Antoinette's Theater


By the end of the day, the sun finally poked it's head out and said hello, so I guess that meteo.fr was 100% lying about the sunshine; they were just off by a few hours ;) We returned to Paris a bit exhausted, but definitely glad to have made the trip.

Wednesday was one of the late-nights at the Louvre, and this time I was determined not to miss it. Much like the evening at Musee d'Orsay, the Louvre was not crowded and there were no long lines (althought it is still the Louvre, so there were a lot of people). I made myself visit areas of the Louvre that I had never been before, since I'm notorious for wanting to see and do the same things over and over again. I started in the fortress area underneath the museum in Sully wing, and while this is an area I have visited it leads to others I haven't.
View of La Defense from the Louvre

View of La Defense from the Louvre

Face of the Venus de Milo

Face of the Venus de Milo

Sully wing at the Musee du Louvre

Sully wing at the Musee du Louvre


18th century French painting was my next stop; I wanted to see some of the works that Bernadette Fort talked about in the class I took this Spring.
Sketching at the Louvre

Sketching at the Louvre

Vigee Le Brun

Vigee Le Brun


This is a close up of one of the Vigee le Brun's that I love. I also spent some time with Georges de la Tour and Greuze.
View from one fo the windows in the Louvre

View from one fo the windows in the Louvre


Fountain next to the Pyramids

Fountain next to the Pyramids


In the Richelieu wing, I visited Napoleon IIIs apartments that, decoratively speaking, put Versailles to shame. There is an impressive collection of objet d'art from every century known to man in this wing as well. I wandered around for a good two hours there.
Napoleon III's apartments at the Louvre

Napoleon III's apartments at the Louvre

Napoleon III's dining room at the Louvre

Napoleon III's dining room at the Louvre

Napoleon III's Salon in the Louvre

Napoleon III's Salon in the Louvre


After over two hours of Restoration splendour, I was ready to leave; but, against my better judgement, I braved the last of the crowds to run and see the Mona Lisa...that really zapped my energy. I got there, however, and here is my proof. There's no major change to her...
La Jaconde

La Jaconde


Louvre at Night

Louvre at Night


As nighttime arrived and the lights of the city came on, I headed back to the apartment. I will say again that visiting the major museums during their late nights is the best way to save some cash and save a lot of your sanity.

I'll update the rest of the week later on! Thanks for reading :)

Posted by ashleemae 08:47 Comments (1)

Maybe Mom would like this Eiffel Tower pencil sharpener...

Day 19-21

semi-overcast 17 °C

Good morning everyone! It is a sunny but chilly morning here in the city of love. I've got my coffee in hand, ready to start my day and my roommate is...still snoring. This is not unusual though... After making it through half of the trip, I decided I needed to kick my tourist activities into high gear and get stuff done before the nex two weeks fly by. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans and she's been serving up day after day of cold, rainy weather that makes you just want to put on your sweatpants, stick in Season 3 of Sex and the City, and cuddle on the couch with your Chihuahua. But, if you don't have those things with you in Paris...you stay inside and work on your paper (no it's not done...stop asking me!).

I did get out and about a little bit. On Friday, I hoped to repeat the wonderful experience I had had the day before at Musee d'Orsay by hitting up the Louvre's late night opening. I took a nice long stroll down to the Rue de Rivoli (which only takes about 45 minutes from my apartment and is a scenic walk) to do some shopping for my loved ones back home before the museum reduced its price at 6:00pm. Souvenir shopping this trip has been the biggest monkey on my back. Everyone in my family has received presents from Paris: from the fun cool stuff that no one else will ever get them (shirts from Roland Garros, purses from Longchamp) to the kitchy stuff found on most gift shop shelves (I heart Paris mugs, berets). This trip, I really wanted to outdo myself. "I know Paris; I know where to shop; this is my town! I'm going to find the best presents they've ever seen!"...I thought to myself. And....nothing, nada, goose egg. I have set such a high expectation for gifts this trip that nothing I find is living up to it in reality. Yesterday I was actually considering buying my dad a shot glass with a poodle on it winking. (I didn't, don't worry. Just a moment of weakness.) The only gift I've gotten, besides ones for myself, is for Joe, and I would be really proud of finding it except he told me exactly where to go and what to buy DOWN TO THE COLOR. Sigh... 14 more days of shopping left until Christmas...

Needless to say, after several hours of disgruntled shopping, fighting my way through the mass of stollers, Segways, and rental bikes, I called it quits for the day. I couldn't even garner the strength to walk around the Louvre. There is always next week, right? So instead of going home and going to bed, since it was Friday night, I decided to go out and find this restaurant I'd heard pretty good things about in the area. When life gets you down, go out to eat I guess. The restaurant is called Bistrot Victoires (6 rue de Vrillieres) and is in the 1st arrondissement not far from the Louvre, behind the Palais Royal. I read that this place is low-key, with lots of locals, and cheap.
Bistro Victoires

Bistro Victoires


So, I passed by a few times, checked out the menu, checked out the other diners and bravely entered for date night Friday by myself. "Combien?" ("How many?") the waitress asked me. "Une personne," ("One person"). "Une?"...oui, une. She sat me at a very nice little table by the bar where I was able to witness all the comings and goings of the restaurant and the first thing I noticed was the lack of locals. Everyone in there was an Asian, German, or...no wait, just more Asian, tourist. The staff working on the floor was all women, which was funny to listen because in between customers, they gossiped at the bar about their common aquaintances. I started off with a little pichet of red wine. Normally a pichet is about the size of a small teapot, enough for about 2.5 glasses or so (ok, I pour big glasses). But this one...
Pot de vin chez Bitrot Victoires

Pot de vin chez Bitrot Victoires


...was MASSIVE. Maybe they felt bad for me because I was the only one in there that spoke French besides them. The only thing wrong with this red wine was that is was COLD...I don't get it. I tasted good (Bourgogne Pinot Noir) but it tasted better once it reached room temperature. They must keep the bottles somewhere cold.
Bar at Bistrot Victoires

Bar at Bistrot Victoires


As I was enjoying my first glass, I noticed the poor German couple having trouble with their steaks (Entrecote, or Rib-eye to most of you, which I heard was their specialty). They ordered them à point (medium), but I don't think they were aware that medium in France is not like medium everywhere else; so they sent them back for a little more fire. I think the chef was a little taken aback, because he actually came out of the kitchen to see what in the world was going on. He walked up to their table, said something I didn't catch, threw his hands up and walked back into the kitchen (presumably when he realised they didn't speak any French). Oh good, here comes my salad!
Salade Chevre Chaud

Salade Chevre Chaud


I started with a Salade Chevre Chaud which is one of my favorite things in the world. I love goat cheese, but warm it up on little garlic toasts and stick it on a salad...genius! This one did not disappoint; granted, I think it's really difficult to mess up a simple, traditional salad like this, but I've seen it done. One thing they added that I'd never seen before is Pine Nuts which added a nice little crunch in there. It was so big that I could've just eaten that - a good idea for lunch if you're in the area. I also liked that it wasn't soaked in vinaigrette so you could actually taste the salad and the cheese.

It was now about 8:00pm and low and behold, here came the regulars. Like clock work this place filled up. I'm acutally pretty lucky I got there when I did because I wouldn't have gotten a table right away. There was a variety of local Frenchies: people dressed up for parties, people in jeans just hanging out, parents with their children...but I was happy to see them all arrive. Ooooh my steak! Wait, is it on fire?
Entrecote with flaming Oregano

Entrecote with flaming Oregano


Yes, they set the oregano on fire. I inhaled some flaming herb smoke, coughed a little, and cut into it. I too ordered my Entrecote à point and I now see what the Germans were complaining about. It was rare...very very rare. I would've posted a picture of it, but I don't want to gross out my mom. It was good, don't get me wrong, but it was the rarest piece of meat I have ever eaten. It was also a bit too fatty for my taste, so I say it was worth a try, but if I ever go back I think I'll try something else on the menu. The restaurant boasts of their hand-cut french fries which were fantastic, but I think they need help in selecting their cuts of meat. All in all, this was worth the stop and was definitely a great price (28 euros for all that), so I would go back. Just a word of warning, if you're not happy with your Entrecote and you don't speak French, expect to infuriate the chef.

On Saturday, the weather was gross...again. So I went in search of this Vintage shop that I'd heard great things about hoping to find some amazing gifts and...it was closed. It was also closed on Monday. Maybe they are on vacation, but there is no sign posted. So, I went back to the apartment, made a vegetable tart and read one of the books I needed to read.
Tarte aux legumes

Tarte aux legumes


I guess this is going to be the "food-photo" edition of my blog. But it was tastey and it only took 45 minutes in the combo-oven to bake. (On the back of the dough package it says bake for 20 minutes.)

The highlight of the weekend was dinner at Swann et Vincent (7 rue Saint Nicolas, in the 11th arrondissement), a restaurant I've been walking by and smelling for two weeks. Diana and I finally decided to go to dinner there and it was the best food I've had since I arrived. It has the vibe of a French bistro, smells like a Italian restaurant, and the food is a fusion of the two . We started with the fresh mozerella and tomatos which was served with these little herbed, toasted, bread chunks. I then had the Seafood pasta special:
Mmmmm....pasta!

Mmmmm....pasta!


Life-changing! Fresh mussels, calamari, white fish all in a white wine sauce over pasta and the plate was never-ending. I've never seen a portion like this is France. Diana got the rigatoni with duck and mushrooms which was also very good. It was served in a cream sauce and the duck was well cooked. It was the flavors of France with an Italian twist and it all worked well.

Well, the rain continued through the rest of the weekend, all day Monday and most of Tuesday, but I'll detail those days in the next blog post. Thank you all for continuing to follow me through all my adventures!

Posted by ashleemae 02:45 Comments (1)

Half way there already?!?!

Day 16-18

storm 18 °C

Well, it's hard to imagine, but I'm half-way through my 36 days in Paris. While I'm so very thankful to have this time in France (as I am thankful everytime I get to be here), I'm always ready to return home when the time comes. I thought I'd make a little list of things that I'm never going to take for granted again after being without them for 36 days:


  1. Diet Coke: Yes, it's number one on my list and here is why...it's the nectar of my life in the US and no matter how many times people try to convince me that "Coca Light", the French equivalent to Diet Coke, is the same or better than Diet Coke, I will remain true to myself. Let me tell you- it's NOT the same and it's definitely NOT better.

  2. My dryer: As happy as I am to have a washing machine in our little apartment, I can't quite understand how people on Paris dry their bed clothes without an actual dryer or a clothes line in the backyard. Case in point, today I decided to wash the sheets on the bed. And this is how I'm drying them:Drying the bed sheets

    Drying the bed sheets

    That's right, they are currently my curtains. Couple this with the fact that it is pouring down rain today and about 55 degrees outside, I'd say the chances of them drying fully before bedtime are slim to none. I may be using my bath towel to cover up with tonight.

  3. My blackberry: I know, I know, this is a very materialistic list, however those of you who know me are well aware of the fact that I am chained to my BB. And yes, this is something that is readily available in France, however the only cell phone I have access to is a slider phone circa 2006 that might as well be a rotary dial phone on a party line... With only having a temporary number, I get text messages from random people and sometimes it just rings...for no reason. When I get off the plane in Chicago on Aug. 31st, expect me to cry a little when I can turn on my BB and text you all!

If you're ever in Paris for an extended period of time, like I am, and get a hankering for some good ol' American junk food, I found just the place for you. This store called "Thanksgiving" seems to able to satisfy any craving (20 Rue Saint Paul, www.thanksgivingparis.com).
American producs

American producs

Thanksgiving Store, near Saint Paul, Paris

Thanksgiving Store, near Saint Paul, Paris


That's right- salsa, margarita mix and Lucky Charms. Sounds like what you have for dinner when you don't feel like going to the store and the cupboards are empty.

Now, I must supplement the list of things I miss with a list of things I love and can't get enough of while I'm in France:


  1. Baguette: While French bread might be an obvious choice here, anyone who has had the pleasure of eating a freshly prepared baguette knows what I'm talking about. There's something magical about what those bread makers can do with flour, yeast, and water. I love going down to the boulangerie and picking up bread everyday. So good!

  2. Cafes: I could sit at a cafe all day long and sip cafe creme if they didn't cost 4 euro a pop; I'm getting very used to being by myself, so it no longer bothers me to sit at a cafe and read and be alone, (Ok, it bothers me a little...give me a break), but a warm cafe creme sure does ease the pain. Well, that and wine.Cafe Creme

    Cafe Creme


  3. Religieuses: For those of you who don't know, religieuses are nuns. Well, they are also these little pasteries that are supposed to look like little nuns. Filled with chocolate creme, two little puff pasteries are stacked upon each other and "glued" together with even more creme. To die for. I've only let myself have two...so far.

As I mentioned, I'm growing accustomed to the idea of going out and doing things by myself. I've had several meals all by my lonesome this week starting with lunch on Tuesday. I went back to the Marais to do some shopping and stopped at a cafe for lunch. While I was enjoying my croque monsieur, thinking about how much I'd love to have Joey or Mom or Peanut here with me, I noticed that I was not the only "single" in the cafe. This gave me a boost to embrace my title as Solo Traveler, and not let it get me down that 90% of the time while I'm here, I'll have to do things by myself. After my epiphany, I took a very long walk down to the Hotel de Ville...Hotel de Ville

Hotel de Ville


Crossed the river to browse at the bouquinistes (used book sellers)...
Bouquinistes

Bouquinistes


And then returned to the apartment, taking the long way through the old Village de Saint-Paul (where I found the store Thanksgiving).

On Wednesday I went to the Petit Palais to see an exhibit that I've been waiting to see ever since it was announced last winter: The Yves Saint Laurent retrospective. Yves Saint Laurent is my favorite designer, and while I own none of his clothes I hope to one day. (But I do have the perfume! Thank you Mom!!!) More than just a clothes designer, YSL is, in my opinion, an artist who successfully was able to translate the culture of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, into his medium, reflecting not only the tensions of each decades, but also the joys. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it did not disappoint.
Yves Saint Laurent exhibit Petit Palais

Yves Saint Laurent exhibit Petit Palais

Le Petit Palais

Le Petit Palais


I really appreciated the fact that the majority of the clothes were not behind glass; you could get right up to each garment and observe the intricate details of the deigns. You couldn't touch them, of course, but no one blinked if you stuck your nose right up to a dress (which I did several times) in order to see the stitching of an haute couture dress done by the hand of YSL himself. You couldn't take photos, so I bought the catalogue of the exhibition so that I could remember them all. I was also very inspired by one particular collection that I have read about many times and had seen photos of. YSL's collection of autumn/winter 71' collection brought back the asthetic of the 1940s/WWII/Occuptaion of France and was instatly hailed as a failure. For those of you who don't know, I'm fascinated by this time in history and I feel like this says something about the cultural mind-set of France in the 70s vis-a-vis their collaboration with the Nazis during WWII...anyway, I won't bore you with all that. Let's just say I had an amazing time!

After the Petit Palais, I had some time to kill before meeting Morgane and her mother, who was visiting from Bretagne (NW France) for a drink and then dinner. I took my time strolling up to the Place de la Concorde...
Place de la Concorde

Place de la Concorde

Fontaine- la Place de la Concorde

Fontaine- la Place de la Concorde

Tour Eiffel de la Place de la Concorde

Tour Eiffel de la Place de la Concorde

Me at the Place de la Concorde

Me at the Place de la Concorde


I have a lot of awkward photos of myself...

I love meeting my friend's families for the first time; I think it gives such an interesting glance into why peopl are who thay are. I'm sure my friends have thought that about me a time or two after seeing my Dad, my Mom, Brent, and myself together in the same room. They probably have that "Ah ha! I get it now..." moment when Dad and I make complimentary snarky side comments, or when Brent and Mom give us disaproving glances. Morgane's mother Elise is adorable and was very interested in talking to both Diana and myself about everything in the US: from education, to BP, to Obama, to Lady Gaga, she wanted to talk about it all. (Ok, I made the Lady Gaga part up!) We went near Place Saint Michel for dinner and walked around for about an hour trying to decide on a restaurant...and Morgane made the executive decision that Indian Food was the best choice. Sigh...ok, so I love Indian Food, but again, most food that has its flavor based in Spice (see my comments on Mexican Food last week) are notoriously bland in France. I reminded her that she would be held responsible if this food tastes as bad as the Mexican food last week. Upon entering, the waiter brought us a complimentary cocktail (Ok, not a bad start...); upon returning to take our order, I kindly explained that I was American, not French and that they could make my food spicy because it won't kill me. Well, at least they listened. It' wasn't overly spicy, but it was around a "medium" in the US. It was good, so Morgane lived to dine another day. If anyone is interested, the restaurant is Old Kashmir, 13 rue Gregoire de Tours, near the Metro stop Odeon.
Spicy Indian FOod!

Spicy Indian FOod!

Diana et Maman Elise

Diana et Maman Elise

We decided to walk back to the apartment, which took us to the Ile-Saint-Louis and offered us some beautiful sunset views of Notre Dame and the surrounding areas.
Notre Dame de Paris en nuit

Notre Dame de Paris en nuit

La Belle Seine

La Belle Seine


I don't know how it happened, but all of a sudden we were right beside my favorite Ice Cream place in Paris, the sinfully good Berthillon (29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Ile). I must've taken a wrong turn because I swear I was headed straight home...oh well, as long as we're here... :)
Berthillon!!!

Berthillon!!!


3 boules de pamplemousse, mangue, et framboise! (3 scoops- grapefruit, mango, and raspberry) I know that the grapefruit sounds a little weird, but trust me- it's fantastic.

Thursday night we decided to check out a museum...
Metro Palais Royal

Metro Palais Royal


Most of the larger museums in Paris have one night a week where they stay open until around 10pm and the best part about this is from 6-10 it's usually about 3 euros cheaper. Musee d'Orsay conveniently was having their late night on Thursday.
Diana and I outside near the Musee d'Orsay

Diana and I outside near the Musee d'Orsay


Ashlee at the Musee d'Orsay

Ashlee at the Musee d'Orsay


The second best part about museum night is that the crowds of tourists ARE NOT THERE! Now, I know very well that I am, in fact, a tourist. But as someone who has traveled A LOT, I like to do my best to avoid long lines and throngs of people with large backpacks and screaming children. When most people are searching for a restaurant at 6:00pm, we arrived at the museum to find that there were about 6 people in line. On a normal nice summer day, in the morning or afternoon, the line would be hours long, wrapped around the building. I was able to wander around at my leisure, stop and look at paintings without being pushed and shoved, and not feel overwhelmed by people. It was the most pleasant experience I had ever had at Musee d'Orsay. Even though two of the floors were closed for construction (I later found out they are preparing to move all their Monet's for a huge exhibition this fall) the temporary rooms were well organized and you could hardly tell they were in the midst of a revamp.

After our museum tour, Diana spoke with one of the women at the information desk about doing a video for her French class this fall. She's made a couple so far, but Madame Isabelle was so sweet that I thought she deserved a shout out on the blog!
Diana doing her interview

Diana doing her interview


Thank you Isabelle for being so sweet and helping us out!

It was such a beautiful evening that a walk was necessary. Like I've said a million times, the sunset in Paris is unlike any other; the lights of the city start to come on and the sky turns a a hundred different colors.
From the Jardin des Tuileries: Place de la Concorde, Arc de Triomphe

From the Jardin des Tuileries: Place de la Concorde, Arc de Triomphe


Place de la Concorde

Place de la Concorde


Well, I think that's about all for today. Just so you know, I checked on my sheets and they are in fact drying...so I'm hopeful :) The last photo of the day is a shout out to my Joey...don't think I've forgotten about the promise you made me two years ago...one day we will stay at the Hotel Crillon. Maybe for our 40th birthdays???
Hotel Crillon- the hotel of my dreams

Hotel Crillon- the hotel of my dreams


I walked by and gazed in the lovely lobby...Siiiiggghhhh... Could Uncle Tom get us a good rate? ;)

Posted by ashleemae 10:30 Archived in France Comments (2)

Falafel, Salsa, and a bunch of stairs

Day 13-15

Good morning everyone! It's a beautiful day here in Paris. I just got back from the Marche Aligre, a huge market that is about three blocks from my apartment. I got some beautiful peaches and a few green peppers. It's amazing how much cheaper produce is at the outdoor markets when compared to the grocery stores. This market is so fun to walk through. I'll have to take some pictures and show you just how massive and lively it is. Even in the middle of a work day, it was packed.

So, I haven't even told you about my weekend yet! Saturday afternoon I went to Le Marais which used to be a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Paris; it still has a large prescence, but it's also become kind of a chic place for young designers to set up boutiques. There are tons of great little shops and such- I bought a cute purse that I am very excited about. However, one of the reasons, in my opinion, to go to the Marais is for the Falafel. On the Rue des Rosiers there are a ton of little take-out windows that sell falafel, but three are in major competition with each other: Chez H'anna, Chez Marianne, and L'As du Fallafel. I am partial to L'As du Fallafel...and when I say partial, I DO NOT eat at the others. So, I woke up Saturday morning with nothing but falafel on my mind. It's all I talked about, it's all I thought about. I was so happy when I reached the street...approached the large green building that houses L'As du Falafel and.....they were closed. No sign, no note, no explanation. I just stood there and stared wondering what I was going to do with myself. I wandered up and down the street for about twenty minutes (secretly hoping the workers had just popped out for a cigarette and would be back tout de suite. Sadly, that was not the case. I resigned myself to the fact that if I was going to satisfy the falafel monster living in my stomach, I was going to have to go to one of the enemies. The line for Chez H'anna was ridiculous, so I opted for Chez Marianne. I placed my order inside, approached the window and...a woman butted in front of me. I said, "Madame, excusez-moi, mais j’étais ici avant vous." ("Excuse me, ma'am, but I was here first.") Her reply? I bet you think she said she was sorry and moved aside...well, you would be wrong. "Mademoiselle, j'ai trop faim d'attendre." ("Miss, I'm too hungry to wait.") And then she hit me with her shopping bag (not like, across the face or anything, but in a "get out of my way little American girl" way). Sigh....what can you do?

After Madame Hungry was served, it was my turn and FINALLY, I got my falafel...and you know what? It was fantastic. I'm not sure if it is as good as L'As du Fallafel, but it was well worth the calories- perfectly tangy vegetable-cole-slaw stuff, roasted eggplant, crispy falafel balls, and garlicky tzatziki...Ok, I'm ready for another.
Mmmm Falafel

Mmmm Falafel


(Update: Monday I was in the neighborhood again and L'As du Fallafel was open. I didn't have falafel again, but I will return and get it before I leave! Maybe they are just closed on Saturday for Sabbath...that would make sense.)

After lunch, I spent the rest of the afternoon at the Musée Carnavalet, a free museum about the history of Paris. This has got to be the best deal museum wise, because they have an amazing collection and you can easily spend a few hours wandering around inside and outside, because the gardens are incredible as well.
Garden of the Musee Carnavalet

Garden of the Musee Carnavalet

Musee Carnavalet

Musee Carnavalet


My favorite part of the museum was the entire floor dedicated to the French Revolution. They had locks of Marie Antoinette's hair, and I'm sure you're think "That is kind of gross," and yes, well, it is. But you all know how fascinated I am with this woman, so I spent about 20 minutes just staring at her hair clump. I didn't take a photo though...that would just be creepy.

Saturday night brought the return of my energetic French friend Morgane! We had planned to go up to Parc la Villette, where they have the astronomy center, to see the shooting stars and picnic, but alas- it rained cats and dogs (or as the French say, comme une vache qui pisse (like a cow pees)). So, we moved our dinner indoors to my apartment and then decided to go salsa dancing. There is a huge club called Barrio Latino around the corner from my apartment with five floors of dancing and lounges.
Barrio Latino

Barrio Latino


That is a view frm the third floor. The place was packed, you could hardly move, but somehow every was able to dance. It was a lot of fun, although I'm not sure it is worth the price tag...a fun one-time experience, but I'm not sure I'd go back unless someone else was footing the bill. The funniest thing about the night is this woman we met from California. Her name is Lynn, she just turned 50, and for a birthday present she gave herself a three month trip to Europe...without her husband. Lynn was definitely the life of the party. When the club closed, she wanted to know where the next party was and she was very disappointed that I wanted to go home and go to bed...sorry Lynn. You can enjoy your mid-life crisis...I'll enjoy my sleep.
Morgane, Lynn from California, and I at Barrio Latino

Morgane, Lynn from California, and I at Barrio Latino

Monday night I convinced Diana to come with me to Montmartre, which is a neighborhood to the north of Paris, up on a hill- a hill that requires climbing a massive amount of stairs or paying over 2 euros to take the tram. We opted for the stairs and Diana climbed them all in high heals...crazy woman.
Montmartre Stairs

Montmartre Stairs


My favorite church in all of Paris is in Montmartre: the Basilica of Sacre Coeur.
Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur


In front of the church, one of the most beautiful views of Paris unfolds, artists perform on the stairs, and people hang out and listen to music.
View of Paris from Butte Montmartre

View of Paris from Butte Montmartre

Eiffel Tower from Montmartre

Eiffel Tower from Montmartre

Diana and I in Montmartre

Diana and I in Montmartre


Diana does not like her picture being taken.
Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur


The first time I visited Montmartre in 1999, it was starting to get touristy, but there were still many actual painters working on the street and selling their work. In fact, if you're ever in my home, the painting in my living room was bought here on that trip. Now, it is a bit overrun with people trying to sell you funny caricatures of yourself...and Barack Obama. It is still a lovely part of Paris, once you get off the main drag and onto the side streets. We had dinner at a little cafe, but what sold the meal was the view. We watched the sun set and the lights of Paris all come on and had a great view of the church. It was pretty romantic...so romantic a man asked me if I wanted to buy my wife a rose. Why did he assume I'm the man in the relationship? We had a great night, the weather was perfect and I had Diana home by midnight. I'm a courteous date, I guess.

Happy Belated anniversary to my Mom and Dad who are celebrating 35 years up in Michigan this week! Love you guys!

Posted by ashleemae 04:26 Comments (0)

Americans for sale!

Day 11-12

semi-overcast

Oh, where do I start? I've had a busy two days and, no, my paper is not finished so don't even ask. The weather has been a little temperamental lately; you never know if the sun is here to stay or if the clouds in the distance are going to unload a storm on you at any moment. I swear, every day it has been hot and cold, blindingly sunny and rainy all in one day.

Thursday morning I braved the clouds and the threat of rain to explore the Promenade Plantée, a unique garden walk in my neighborhood that was constructed on an old viaduct that ran east out of the city of Paris, but had long been shut down. Instead of demolishing the structure, the city built a wonderful path where people jog and walk elevated above the street; you don't have to worry about cars, bikes, or stepping in dog poop (the French let their dogs "plop-plop" wherever and rarely pick it up; when walking about in Paris it's a good idea to occassionally glance down to make sure you don't take an extra little present back to your hotel) because dogs are not allowed on the path.
Promenade Plantée

Promenade Plantée


As you can see, you don't notice that you are three stories above the street when you're on the path; all you see are the beautiful flowers and tree tops. However, there are moments when you can glance over the edge and look down at where you are. The entire path runs about 4.5 km to the east, out to the Bois de Vincennes, but I only went about 2 km of the route and back. At the Reuilly Gardens, the path connects back with ground level.
Jardin de Reuilly

Jardin de Reuilly


I went out on the Promenade during the lunch hours, and that seems to be the Nouveau Chic thing to do for business people right now; instead of taking your two-hour break from lunch and going home, as is tradition, they go work out or they go to the gardens and lay on a bench and sleep. Literally, I saw men in business suits with their briefcases dead asleep...and I don't think they were homeless.
Me after running at the Promenade Plantée

Me after running at the Promenade Plantée


Looking down from the Promenade Plantée

Looking down from the Promenade Plantée


Above, you can see the Gare de Lyon, the train station that I use more often than any other in France, and you can see how high up you are on the Promenade. Below is what the viaduct looks like from street level. There are many artists' shops and galleries in the building underneath the Promenade and sometimes you can see them at work.
The Viaduct from street view

The Viaduct from street view

Thursday evening, fed up with reading and being in my apartment, I took my dinner down to the Eiffel Tower, one of my favorite things to do. It doesn't matter how many times I'm in Paris, this never gets old. I know many of my colleagues, "serious philosophes" who probably think I'm ridiculous for loving a monument that is probably the most touristy, most over replicated landmark in the world, but I don't care. One of the things that always strikes me is that everyone there is happy, whether it's tourists seeing it for the first time, Parisiens hanging out with their friends, people strolling on their paths...everyone who comes to the Eiffel Tower does so to have a good time.
An awkward picture of myself

An awkward picture of myself

Eiffel Tower and Fountain

Eiffel Tower and Fountain

Crowd under the Eiffel Tower

Crowd under the Eiffel Tower


I packed myself a nice little dinner and had a pretty comfortable set-up on the towel I borrowed from the apartment on the Champs de Mars, which is the grassy area you can see in one of the pictures above, behind the Eiffel Tower. I always like to include food pictures, so it's like you were there with me!
My dinner

My dinner


Chin Chin!

Chin Chin!


Here's to you my friends! I was enjoying a tranquil evening of people wathcing, when I was rudely interrupted by the ever-present 20-something French male "out on the prowl"; they catch the scent of an American girl, especially one who is by herself and thus more likely to give them the time of day, and they come running like bees to honey. This particular gentleman's name is Soufian, born in Algeria, a cook in a restaurant in the 13th arrondissement, and apparently desperate for a wife. But, not just any wife- an American wife. I learned this rather quickly after he found out where I was from. I swear, I'm going to start saying I'm Canadian. No one's harrassing Canadian girls for their rights to citizenship. Anyway, Soufian asked if I was married because (and I quote), "My parents have many money. They pay for you. 10,000 euros." Sensing my hesitation, or maybe the fact that I laughed in his face, he upped the ante. "Ok, ok 15,000 euros. And you can have whatever kind of wedding you want! But, you have to become Muslim." AH HA! Here was my out. "You know, Soufian," I replied. "Your offer is mighty tempting, and although I'm sure my boyfriend wouldn't mind the extra cash, I don't think they let American girls bring back Muslim boys from foreign country. It's against the law now...you know, because of George Bush." I don't think he got my joke because he added, "Well, if you no can, you have friend? I give you money for a friend? Any girl will be fine..." This guy was starting to make me wish I'd stayed home. After offering to buy my some champagne ("Non, merci.") he took up the topic of American movies, specifically his love for Leonardo DiCaprio. After I offended him with my statement that the Godfather was a better movie than the Departed, he finally left me alone. Victory! Ok, now back to pictures of the Eiffel Tower...
From the Pilier Nord

From the Pilier Nord

Friday night Diana and I explored this street near us that is nothing but Sushi restaurants and Korean barbecues. We picked one that was busy, not with tourists, but with actual Asians. Always a good sign!
Yum Yum

Yum Yum


The prices were fantastic. For 11,50 euros you got Miso soup, a salad, and two rolls- a virtual steal for dinner in Paris.
Sushi Friday

Sushi Friday


However, sushi is not the most filling and around 12:00am Diana turns to me and says, "We should order pizza." I tried to explain that late-night pizza delivery in France is almost unheard of, but she insisted so I started researching online. I found a fantastic resource for restaurants (www.restoexpress.fr) that allows you to enter what you are hungry for, where you live, and whether or not you want delivery...and low and behold, there was a late night pizza place open in our neighborhood. Twenty minutes later, the pizza arrived.
Late Night Pizza

Late Night Pizza


Never thought I'd see the day in France where something you want is not a huge hassle to get. I was only able to finish 2 slices, but Diana did some damage and was extremely happy.

Well, that's all for now. I do have a few more stories in my arsenal for you for the next post, including Morgane's overnight stay sleeping on my floor and going Salsa dancing! :)

Posted by ashleemae 15:24 Archived in France Comments (0)

My apartment

Day 9-10

semi-overcast

Hello friends! I've just a few anecdotes to share with you today, but honestly I've been a little boring these last couple of days. I'm trying my hardest to get a paper done before the week is up and I truly hope I succeed. It's hard to stay focused when Paris is, well...right outside my door. First off, as promised, my temporary Parisien home...

As I've previously said, we're in the 11th arrondissement (neighborhood) in Paris, very close to the Bastille and the Gare de Lyon. From this point in the city, it's exrtemely convenient to get anywhere we want, as we're right on 2 Metro lines (lines 1 and 8). I'm sharing this studio with my colleague Diana, so things are tight, but I'm happy to be where I am in the city. So now, for the tour:

We'll start out in the kitchen.
Apartment Kitchen

Apartment Kitchen


You'll notice that it has come fully furnished with all the essentials: Plates, Utensils, towels, etc. My favorite part has got to be the hidden dishwasher, which was a nice surprise. My least favorite is the combination Microwave-Convection Oven-Grill, which I cannot get to work efficiently for the life of me. I've never understood the "combo" appliance. Yes, It's a small kitchen; yes, you're trying to be innovative; but, what's the point if none of it works?!? It took me 5 minutes in microwave mode yesterday to heat up one little roll.
Couch/Bed

Couch/Bed


Moving clockwise through the apartment, we arrive at the living room/bedroom. This couch pulls out into a rather large bed, which was shocking. It's also pretty comfortable; the only thing that isn't, is that we have to share this bed. A little awkward, because I have space issues and Diana likes to spread out as she sleeps, but I guess it's a lesson in compromise. Kim H-F. and Mom, who I know are both reading this, when we come here, we could easily share a place like this and it is MUCH cheaper than a hotel. You can rent by the week or by the month.
Dining Room/Living Room

Dining Room/Living Room


There is a little table where I drink my coffee and watch people every morning, work during the day, and eat dinner at night. As you can see, everything seems to have been furnished by Ikea. I feel like I'm living in one of those open showrooms!
Bathroom

Bathroom


Finally, the bathroom, and yes, that is the world's smallest washing maching under the sink. What? You want to wash more than one pair of pants and 2 shirts? Well, you can't. It kind of makes me laugh.

I'm very pleased that I was able to find this place. It's in a safe neighborhood with a lot to do, it's clean, and it has everything I need. The realtor that helped me with all the legalities manages properties all over Paris for individuals who wish to rent out their homes while they're on vacation or for those who buy/rent as another form of income. He made everything very simple and has checked on us several time already this week.

As you are all well aware, I love Paris. But there is one thing that I will never understand and that is the French obsession with "Tex-Mex" restaurants. I hope this in quotes, because it's not really tex-mex. There's no spice, no flavor, no...taste. And it all has odd flavor of French food just stuffed in a tortilla. Sure, it might be in the shape of a taco, but it's not. Sure, it might say taco salad on the menu, but really it's Chicken Caesar. I had to throw this in there because I was talked into going to one of these places Tuesday night with Morgane. The restaurant was called the Indiana (I know, right?), the decor was country western, the food was "mexican", nothing was good. Just a word of warning to all future visitors to France: If you happen to make some French friends, and they want to go to this super Mexican restaurant, run in the other direction because anywhere else will be better. I'm definitely going to talk to the El Azteca/La Charreada people when I get back to Ohio and let them know there's a need for good Mexican in France...my mexican rice had green beans in it, for goodness sake.

Ok, everyone. I promise I'll get out and about today so I'll have more interesting stories for you next time. Wish me luck on the paper. I figure, Northwestern's paying me to be here, so I should probably do some work. :)

Posted by ashleemae 02:00 Comments (0)

It's not a trip to Paris until I break a shoe...

Day 5-8

sunny

Salut tous! I'm very happy to report that I'm in Paris, set up in my apartment and enjoying beautiful, sunny weather. Before we get to that, I have to tell you about my last few days with Morgane in Yerres...

Friday was rather uneventful, although I got caught in a rainstorm during my tour of the village, which I should know can happen anytime in France, and thus, I should carry my umbrella with me at all times. That evening, I made my famous "Bonnes Pates" for Miss Morgane, which I we hadn't been able to enjoy together for three years.
Les bonnes pates

Les bonnes pates


When we were in Dijon, France in 2007, the Good Pasta was a staple as it was cheap to make and was loaded with cheese and garlic...nothing wrong with that. We revisted our Miami Univerity in France days with fondness...

Saturday night was a tad more lively. Poor Morgane's job requires her to work on Saturdays, so our fun couldn't begin until the evening when we headed into Paris for a little party on the bank of the Seine that Morgane's friends were having. Ivan, our host, directed us to the Quai de Tournelle, behind and across the river from Notre Dame, which provided us with fantastic views of the sun setting behind the island.View of Notre Dame from Quai de Tournelle

View of Notre Dame from Quai de Tournelle


I had a good time being l’américaine that everyone was interested in talking to. Thankfully, I received many compliments on my French and even had a lively political discussion with Francois (see below) about Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy.
Moi avec les amis francais

Moi avec les amis francais


The above picture is of me (of course) Medhi, Asya, and Francois.

I am always impressed in Paris with how everyone, tourists and Parisiens alike, use their public, outdoor space and how proud they are to show if off to non-natives like myself. Saturday night, I received several history and architecture lessons from various people at the party but mostly they just said to me, "Ahhh c'est trop belle cette ville, non?" ("Ahhhh, this city is just too beautiful, is it not?") I guess I'm not the only one in love with this city. Anyway, everyone and their brother came out Saturday night to enjoy the perfect weather and picnic on the Seine, and experience everyone should have at least once in their lives.
Ashlee et Morgane Quai de Tournelle

Ashlee et Morgane Quai de Tournelle

Sunday was a travel and move-in day for me, and I'm extremely happy to report that the apartment I rented for the month is working out splendedly. I will definitely take pictures and put them up with my next post; I am in the neighborhood of Bastille (11th arrondissement), on a quiet little street off of Rue de Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Within a block, there is everything I need: open air market, post office, bank, Metro stop, restaurants, grocery, and lots and lots of shopping. Even though I've been in France for a week, I had not yet had one of my favorite food items, a Croque Monsieur, so I had to remedy that.
Croque Monsieur

Croque Monsieur


Yes, I know that this is nothing fancy or haute cuisine, but there is nothing wrong with good bread, creamy sauce, ham, and cheese all melted together. It is something I've rarely seen recreated well in the US; our versions always end up ressembling Grilled Cheese with Ham. There's nothing wrong with Grilled Cheese, but it's not the same this as this yummy slab of cheesy goodness...

To celebrate our arrival, my colleague Diana and I, took our dinner to the Pont des Arts that night to enjoy the sights of the city. One phenomenon that I failed to tell you about my last visit to the bridge is the lovely tradition of lovers putting padlocks on the bridge to symbolize their hearts being locked together. Pont des Arts is the bridge of lovers, and as you walk along you'll notice thousands of locks on the bridge with names and intials carved in to them.
Lover's Lock on Pont des Arts

Lover's Lock on Pont des Arts


I wonder where this started...maybe wikipedia can tell me.

As is tradition for me in Paris, I broke a pair of shoes that I dearly loved. This happens to me EVERY TIME I'M HERE. I kid you not. In 2008, it was this adorable pair of silver sandals that I was just obsessed with. While walking near the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day, an inebriated gentleman stepped on the back of one of them and they ripped. I actually cried. This time, I have no idea how or when it happened, I just know that when I got up to leave he Pont des Arts on Sunday, they were broken.
Broken Sandals

Broken Sandals


Oh well, prend la vie comme elle vient (take life as it comes); I was able to fashion it back together with a hair tie so I could at least walk in them for a bit, albeit uncomfortably. I was going to say that maybe me breaking a shoe is a sign of good luck... I guess we'll see. Although, immediately after this incident, another inebriated gentlemen got a little too close to me for comfort (so close he grabbed me) and I, in perfectly unplanned French, told him off. The look on Diana's face was priceless as I yelled at the man. I don't think she realized that I was able to put together a string of well-chosen bad words that quickly (thank you Morgane for all the vocabulary lessons). The funniest part was, as I was yelling at the guy, an elderly french woman ran up to us and she also started screaming at the guy, "ne touches pas la mademoiselle!!!!!!!!" ("Do NOT touch this girl!") So maybe breaking my shoe means, "Watch out for drunk guys"...

Yesterday was a rainy mess for most of the afternoon. I spent most of the day at Galeries Lafayette and other stores on Boulevard Haussman...huge crowds and not much fun. Poor Diana got lost in Galeries Lafayette (understandable, it's massive) while trying to find the bathroom and I ended up spending an hour trying to locate her. I really thought I was going to have to report her MIA. But, she eventually showed up, a little worse for wear. However, the day ended spledidly, because my favorite French TV show, Secret Story, was on... I am a reality TV junky in the US, so of course I'm one in France as well. It also gives me the opportunity to learn new "colorful" words to use when accosted by overly eager males. Speaking of reality tv, way to go Ali on picking Roberto on the Bachelorette!

A plus! (Until later!)

Posted by ashleemae 04:22 Comments (1)

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