Monday, February 28, 2011

This last week has probably been the most productive vacation week I've had since I've been here (although, really, "productive" is relative).  Let's see, where did I leave off...

Day 55: 2-24-11 - The Freedom, 8 rue de Berri, 75008
Thursday I meant to continue my whirlwind tour of the famous musées  of Paris (i.e., the 2 or 3 hours of one rainy evening I spent in the ancient Egypt section of the Louvre and eye flirting with some backpacker in the ticket line) by going to the Musée d'Orsay, an old train station across the river known for its collection of impressionist paintings and for being a much more manageable feat for non-art afficianados like myself than the Louvre.  So I went for a run and took a shower, but then got distracted by a nap (I told you productivity is relative) and ended up sleeping much longer than I intended and being late for my rendez-vous with Nicholas, who has popped back into my life momentarily for tips and ideas for his 2 week trip to Florida.  On the bright side, we did discover a cute little English pub not far from me off the Champs Elysees.  Drinks were standard for Paris (read: expensive), the music a little loud, and the nachos were decent at best (typical bar food) but there were beaucoup d'attractive Englishmen in suits presumably having a round after work, so I will have to give it another go sometime.

Friday I was again going to head over to Musée d'Orsay, and so I sent Alex a text to see if he would like to join.  It went something like this:
Me: Hey, what are you up to today?
Alex: We're going to Chinatown for lunch and to pick up some fake merchandise.  Wanna come?
Me: There's a Chinatown?  I was gonna ask if you wanted to go to a museum but that sounds way cooler.
Day 56: 2-25-11 - L'église Saint Paul-Saint Louis,
inside from the back.
So long story short I was again distracted by my original goal and we went off to the 13th in search of some eggrolls and fake Chanel with Kaitlyn, a girl in Alex's program.  Turns out that the area we thought might be this so-called Chinatown was actually a fairly average mostly-white area of Paris, but in keeping true to our original intent we did find a pretty happenin' Chinese restaurant with a 10 euro buffet that made me forget all about my quest for illegal counterfeit purses.  Wish I could remember the name (my newfound hobby of collecting business cards has failed) but I can get there again if (/when) necessary.

After we wandered around the Marais to find Alex's absinthe specialty store (yes, they have that), and decided to go into L'église Saint Paul-Saint Louis, a rather oddly placed church in the row of buildings on rue Saint Antoine near the St. Paul metro.  It's one of those places I've walked by dozens of times, even eaten falafel in front of, but have never gone in until now. Sadly, most of my pictures didn't turn out too well but I managed to get a few that worked.  (seen right).  I also have realized that my vertical photos tend to be crooked.  I will work at correcting this.  Finished the evening at Le Tribal Cafe with some cous-cous that I really wasn't  hungry for after 2 plate of Chinese buffet food and dessert, but with phenomenal 4 euro mojitos how can you say no to free cous-cous?

Saturday Alex and I had booked tickets (9.30 euros roundtrip, not bad) to go to Orléans, the city famously rescued from the English by Joan of Arc.  However, at 6:45 am I got a call from Alex saying that he couldn't find his 12-25 pass (which you need to show on the train when they check tickets to make sure you actually deserve the discount you got, or they fine you much more than the ticket would have been).  Our train left at 7:25 am.  So we scrambled to the train station, both in a bad mood and not really talking, to exchange our tickets for the next day, and went home to get a little more sleep (me) and tear apart a bedroom looking for said pass (Alex).  So, in finding myself with a whole day of nothing planned, third time is, in fact, the charm and I finally made it to Musée d'Orsay.  And I'll admit, I like it a lot better than the Louvre.  I only made it through one half before they closed, so I'll have to go back, and they don't allow photos inside the museum, so I had to settle for a picture of the outside, from across the river.  I'll give a more complete review once I make it the whole way through.
Day 57: 2-26-11 - Musee d'Orsay. Supposed to be in Orléans, but the weather sucked anway.
Alex did manage to find his train pass behind his bed, and we managed to catch a slightly later train to Orléans for Sunday.  I'll go into more detail later because it really deserves a post of its own and this one is getting to be a bit lengthy anyway.  I do need to keep the attention of my dear readers.  So go take a snack break and come back in a bit to find out more about my trip to the original version of Louisiana's most famous city.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

From the farm to the Louvre, an American Renaissance Woman in Paris.

Had an eventful few days.  As promised on Tuesday I went to the Salon International de l'Agriculture, which was essentially the best collection of food and beverages under one roof I think I've ever seen.  But I'll go chronologically so as not to confuse any unsuspecting readers who are undoubtedly starting to wonder how I spend my hours and hours of time off work.  I remember times in my life when I would kill for free time.  Ironic.  I feel like it's summer break and I'm bored with staying at home with mom but this is only a 2 week vacation.  Some summer weather would certainly make things easier though, it's a lot harder to make myself brave rain and near-freezing temperatures than it is to go swimming.

Day 51: 2-20-11 - a cosmetics store I pass as I walk through the hood on my quest for free cous-cous at Tribal Cafe.  Those better be damn good cosmetics to justify a name like that.  Something tells me they're not.

Day 52: 2-21-11 - St Philippe de Roule, a church 2 blocks away from me that is right next to the boulangerie I've been going to but that somehow I have never noticed.  It's apparently quite uneventful, though, there isn't even an English wikipedia page on it, and although it was built in the 18th century, was never completely finished due to lack of funding.  I didn't go in because I already had my baguette in hand but I will have to take a look around sometime.
Day 53: 2-22-11: Agriculture Expo!  Back row from left: Matthew, Eric, Pierre; Courtney, Rachel, et Moi.
Really the first exciting thing to write about in a while.  If anyone ever gets a chance to go to Paris in mid-to-late February, this is a must-do.  It is essentially a multi-story Taste of France festival, including food and beverages of each of the regions in France PLUS all their outlying territories/regions such as Martinique, New Caledonia, etc. etc.  Among the list of foods I dégustered (and would gladly pay the 6 euro entry fee to déguster again) include a foie gras sandwich (which made the last 23 years of my life seem dim by comparison), dried sausages that taste like slim jims (and were served beside the pig livestock exhibit, a little morbid really), oysters, some sort of ice cream toffee cake, a bread/cake/pastry thing that was literally called "pure butter" (and tasted like it), dates, various fruit spreads, a few wines, a locally brewed beer, several apple-based ciders and liquors from Normandy, and various rums, including one with chunks of actual fruit in it.  I'm fairly sure there was more but it is all running together into a big delicious rumpus.  Tomorrow is the last day.  I might go back, if nothing else for the foie gras sandwich that was 7.50 euros but was sizable and served with a plastic cup of deliciously sweet white wine and seemed to melt in your mouth into a forcefed-livery goodness. (But if you ask the French about the animal rights objections, they will probably tell you "We don't do that in France."  Nice try froggies.)

On the oyster note, I've tried them twice before, and never really liked them but I have heard they are an acquired taste.  I don't really get "acquired tastes" because all that really means is that you ate something and hated it, but then kept eating it anyway, which just seems silly, but I guess I am a bit ridiculous because I was determined to like them and so I tried them again.  And, voilà, it worked.  The bread and wine didn't hurt either.

dressed the part to sell their meats/cheeses

foie gras sandwish = heaven in your mouth

 not posing at all...

bar a pommes (literally, apple bar.  which it was) 

 Normandy's Medal d'Or apple alcoholic beverages.  They don't mess around.

The French go tropical. 

Oh yeah, there were animals too:
The French really like their horses

Donkey. He liked me. 

German Shepherd puppy that I  wanted to take home with me

Maybe Pete is in there somewhere

cuddling sheep.

Black sheep. We've all been there.  I think he could smell the rum in my cup. 

 weird cowbell processional.

This cow did not trust me.

So all in all I got a taste of some French foods I would be embarrassed to leave saying I'd never tried, saw more breeds of livestock than I knew existed, and left well fed and exhausted.

And since I was on a roll doing exciting things, and since the next day was rainy and miserable, I decided to hit up the Louvre.  I really like that I can say that: "Hmm rainy day, what should I do?  Guess I'll go look at world famous paintings and ancient artifacts at the most famous museum in the world."  Considering the last time I went with Leanne we spent most of the time making irreverent comments about the statues' male genitalia, I figured I owed it another go.  All the pictures are a bit dark because the sun had already gone down and of course I couldn't use a flash, but you get the idea.

crown jewels. 

the medieval foundations of the original Louvre structure


Ancient Egyptian frogs.  Weird, they look just like our frogs... 

One of the Ramses 

Hieroglyphics (I got this one: "man at beach, sees seagulls and starfish."  Man I'm good.)

 Army of funeral servant statues in the dead things and sarcophagi room

Gator mummy.  Go 'Noles. 

Cat mummies.  Mom should be glad I just asked her to bury our cat in the backyard. 

Around this time I lost interest in the old stuff and started paying more attention to the architecture and decor. 

Greek painting on a ceiling.  I have a feeling this wasn't originally there. 

Nike of Samothrace.  Was probably quite attractive at one point but seems a little scary now.

Day 54: 2-23-11 - another ceiling that distracted me from 3,500 year old artifacts.  You shouldn't put important stuff in a room like this and expect me to pay attention.

So c'est tout pour maintenant.  It's 11 am on Thursday and I'm contemplating how to spend my day.  I will probably go for a run and then play eenie-meenie-miney-mo between Musee d'Orsay or the Rodin Museum.

Oh, and I also booked my tickets to Amsterdam in Brussels in April with Caitlin (assuming she doesn't get thrown into some African prison before she gets here).  2 trips planned in 2 months; I'm quite the world traveller.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Going to the Farm

Not really.  Well, maybe, I don't know.  I am going to the Salon International de l'Agriculture at Porte de Versailles.  I have heard a few different things, ranging from a varied and exciting taste of France's cuisine, from cheese to regional dishes to lots and lots of wine samples, and then I've also heard it's a glorified petting zoo.  Which is cool with me, I'm just excited to see something a little more familiar than all this concrete and the perfectly manicured-into-a-shape-vaguely-resembling-a-rhombus, evenly-spaced-3.783-meters-apart excuses for trees they have here.  *sigh* such is city life.  Despite getting through River Run 2010 only with the aid of lots of beer and some well-mixed mimosas in a gallon jug (we are classy campers), I have a weird urge to go camping.  Or kayaking.  Or see something vaguely natural (the hair and makeup trend so prevalent in Paris doesn't count).

All in all, I'm expecting The State Fair Meets Old McMickey's Farm, with champagne samples instead of lemonade and Camembert instead of funnel cakes.

And thanks to Matty and this video, I am now a little terrified of cows.  If they do any of this, I'm on the next plane home.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Voila: good food, bear dogs and tiramasu shots.

Day 45: 2-14-11: Montparnasse on Valentines Day, but with the glorious lack of over-marketing, you'd never know it. 
Day 46: 2-15-11: Warm bagettes and black forest mousse cake. Maybe Paris and I could get along after all.

Day 47: 2-16-11: Homemade chicken curry (out of the Uncle Ben's jar).  Never liked curry before but Paris is making me more ethnic.

Day 48: 2-17-11: Went to Tribal Cafe with Tabitha.  This bear dog is apparently owned by someone who works there because he is always around.  He is GIGANTIC and fluffy and I want to bury my face in him (after we give him a bath because he stinks)

Day 49: 2-18-11: hung out with Kristin's boy thing Alexandre, who has a feather boa that was so soft and that I loved but that also shed green feathers all over everywhere.  Also discovered that "feather" is hard for French people to say.  Haha., serves you right for your 800,000 different vowel sounds. 
Day 50: 2-19-11: ended up at WOS where we met Claudia and Kristin and had Emma's AWESOME Tiramasu shots.  I'll definitely be making these when I get back.

Voila.  C'est ma vie in a nutshell.  Hopefully more to come now that I realized that Orléans is a 18 euro round trip ticket and only an hour away...Peut-être demain je vais aller au Louvre avec Alex?  Hmmmm possibilities.

Friday, February 18, 2011


I'm sorry about my lack of photos.  The fact of the matter is that my life has been embarrassingly uneventful lately and I don't want to announce to the world how I have no life and friends.  Also, as a result of having nothing to do, all of my pictures have been of food lately.  I mean, this is France and it is one of my favorite things, so I think I'm justified.

Positives: Leanne left Wednesday (that's not the positive part) but left me the contents of her cupboard so I now have a bit more variety (that is the positive part).  One item was a jar of Uncle Ben's curry sauce, which I've apparently developed a taste for despite never having liked it before.  That was nice of her.  I also inherited a hair dryer, some clothes, nail polishes, and a compact of powder (which I've really been needing lately).  Who will I will all my extra stuff to when it's time for me to leave??  I guess the next girl.  She'll get it whether she wants it or not.  Also, I've started running a bit, and have been surprised at how much I am able to do, I guess those stairs are keeping me in better shape than I thought.  Yesterday I was able to run longer and faster than I thought I would (good) but then forgot to stretch and am now having difficulty getting out of bed (not good).

So that's an update because I know mom will start bugging me if I don't post because as per our conversation the other day that would mean I've been kidnapped and sold into sex slavery (we even developed a code word in case my kidnapper insists that I continue my blog posts to maintain an air of normalcy...he is apparently an impressively thorough kidnapper).

Well folks, I have a rule that whenever kidnappers come into the picture it's time to wrap it up and call it a day.  If only the garbage trucks and construction workers outside would now do the same.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sorry, NOLA, Mardi Gras is old news.

The new party is Carnival in Nice, or so I'm told.  And it's not new at all, but dates back to at least the 13th century.  And I just booked my train ticket and hostel tonight.  Yessir.

Day 44: 2-13-11 - ready for departure.

Good times in 3 weeks.  In the meantime it's vacation (yay!) and Leanne's last few days in Paris (boo).  I'll have to celebrate with her as cheaply as possible.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Balls to the wall - it's Paris!"

Vacation (again).  The French love their vacations.  I was going to book a flight to Berlin during the next two weeks but I think we are going to go to Nice for the Carnival in early March (it's like Mardi Gras) so I'm saving my money for that instead.  I will be on the baguette diet the next few weeks, because a baguette is 1 euro or less and it's like 2 freaking feet of bread.  Slap on some honey or butter or confiture or even cold cuts when I'm feeling extravagant and I'm golden.

Day 41: 2-10-11 - Maybe I'll see Russel Brand if I hang out long enough
On Thursday it was one of those days where nothing really happened so I took one of those I-have-nothing-more-exciting pictures.  This is the Virgin Megastore on the Champs Elysees that I pass on my way to Monoprix.  Although I've never been inside, just walking by the 2 entrances is like a dance party; they always have loud music playing and music videos on the TVs.  This one was the Black Eyed Peas.  You'd think that the European Virgin store would have better taste in music, but the French seem to stick to their American fistpump-like-a-champ music.

Day 42: 2-11-11
Friday night I went out with Leanne and her friend Keyvan from uni (what English people call university/college).  Leanne apparently has trouble posing for pictures so we were trying to take a photo where they looked like they were actually having fun.  Ended the night at WOS, Leanne had a love affair with apple martinis (and a particular Scottish barman), good night all in all except the getting up at 9 am to go to work part.

Day 43: 2-12-11: it's magic.
Saturday (tonight) I slept all day after work and then went to Tribal Cafe with Winter and her friend from her program, where I meant to take my picture of the day but the 4 euro mojito was too distracting and I forgot.  So instead I will post this picture of my AWESOME MAGIC COLOR CHANGING STRAW that I found in my honey nut cheerios box.  Ok, the straw isn't that awesome, but I do miss finding things in cereal boxes on the reg.  They should introduce this concept to adult cereals.  $10 gas card in my Special K?  I'd buy that.

Exhausted and going to bed despite my long after-work nap.  I also overcame my fear of French postal workers (they are much more frightening than their American counterparts) and finally mailed a letter to mom.

OH and I had a major win with the Girl yesterday.  When I tried to make her do her homework she started avoiding it and doing the whole "One minute!" thing that really means 10 minutes and is just a way to stall, and then started yelling and crying because I was making her do her work.  So finally I just ignored her and went to the kitchen for some water and to destress.  She came in to see me (because she hates being ignored) and I told her "I don't want to talk to you unless you are ready to do your work.  So either go do your work now or please leave me alone."  She argued a little but actually went and did it, and even apologized a few minutes later.  I guess I just discovered her weak spot.  Harsh, but it worked.  Just call me Super Au Pair: taming wild French children one poorly-translated battle at a time.