Three days in Prague, and a lasting impression.

It all started with a night train.

Finding our 6-bunk cabin and making fast friends with the French students that would sleep on the bunks about 2 feet above our faces, Carly and I left Amsterdam and headed to Prague, on a 14.5 hour trip. We were misinformed with our original booking, which told us it was a 9 hour trip, and then we found out the train left 5 hours earlier. 😦 but in the end we still figured: this is our accommodation and our travel wrapped into one, with no important daylight hours lost in either city.

The summary of making this choice in travel? I don’t think I ever want to do it again. For more somewhat whiney details, you can read the rest of this paragraph. If not, skip to the next one. The ‘beds’ were more aptly described as wood planks with carpet wrapped around them. In addition you get a sheet, a tiny pillow, and a fleece blanket. The noise of the old train, the tracks, the many stops along the way, and the additional two people who joined us as we passed through Germany just after midnight meant that I probably had about a couple hours of sleep in total – and it should also be noted that if you buy a ticket for a bunk bed, there is no place for you to sit if you want to stay awake- you are forced to lie down in your cabin or stand in the hallway. There are no pictures to document the next morning because we looked so terrible after not sleeping.

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We arrived in Prague just before 10am on the Wednesday and proceeded to immediately get lost trying to find the right tram. The vast majority of Czech words have absolutely no resemblance to English, German, or French. We had a list of phrases we might need to know, but we actually had no idea what the correct pronounciation was. Lesson learned: even a few important words and phrases, pronounciation and all, are uber helpful to know before arriving in a new country.

My translator app, quite useful up until now.... It couldn't even give me correct pronounciation for Czech, a cool but super complicated language.

My translator app, quite useful up until now…. It couldn’t even give me correct pronounciation for Czech, a cool but super complicated language.

We had found accommodations through airbnb, and our host Vlada met us at the tram station and brought us home, which was really nice.

His English was quite good, and as we pulled into the driveway he let us know that he and his wife had four pets, so we always needed to make sure we closed the gate properly. It turns out they had three rabbits and a tiny terrier puppy, all of whom have names I can’t remember because I couldn’t pronounce them. Well, that’s not true. I do remember the black rabbit’s name. It is Karel (the Czech version of ‘Carl’, and coincidentally, the name of our tour guide on our walking tour of Prague).

How can you resist this face?

How can you resist this face?

Vlada was delighted to tell us he had a surprise for us, and showed us our (new) huge room with two large beds and a balcony. It was lovely, and I think we were so tired from our 15 hour travel we didn’t have the mindset to take our photo of the room (or house) at all.

(This is a photo of downtown Prague, nowhere near the suburbs where we stayed):
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Armed with a map and suggestions for our first day from Vlada, we took off with bus, and then tram, to get to the oldest medieval castle in the world, and the church there. It was quite a busy place, and we immediately saw the juxtaposition of the pastel buildings of Prague with the dark stone and gothic influence of the older buildings, clock towers, and churches.

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We also came across a toy museum, which had everything from tin windup toys to a full anniversary collection of Barbie dolls from the beginning until now.

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Walking across the Charles Bridge to Old Town was beautiful, and there were many artists doing portrait work- from characatures to full painted portraits, several art and jewelry vendors, and a few musicians.

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The only sign we came close to understanding.

Vlada told us that if we wanted authentic Czech food we should go to “Staromēstské Restaurace” right on the Old town Square. So we went there twice. 🙂

I had the roast beef goulash with dumplings, cranberry sauce and whip cream. It was delicious. Carly had locally caught Perch with green beans and Parmesan risotto. She said it was also excellent.

I had the roast beef goulash with dumplings, cranberry sauce and whip cream. It was delicious. Carly had locally caught Perch with green beans and Parmesan risotto. She said it was also excellent.

We sat inside because he told us the prices are less than half what they charge on the patio, which was absolutely true. It is also true that beer is cheaper than water here, and so it was very sad indeed that I am not a beer drinker. My sister found a nice Belgian dark beer here so she was very happy.

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Old Town Square:

Way more fun with saturated colours. :)

Way more fun with saturated colours. 🙂

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The astronomical clock by night

We checked out the astronomical clock tower and it was beautiful. We took a walking tour on our second day and our guide told us that every hour the animatronics around the clock face still function, even though the clock is over 600 years old. Huge crowds gather around the base to watch it throughout the day, so of course I had to get a picture of that.

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The walking tour was free and organized by New Prague Tours. Our tour guide – Karel (like the aforementioned bunny) – was amazing. He also works in drama therapy, and you could see right away he enjoyed putting on a show of giving us a detailed and entertaining tour around the centre of Prague; the amount of information he knew and shared was spectacular, and we were very close to paying for an afternoon tour with him as well. We walked through the Old Town Square, down to Wenceslas Square, over into New Town and Charles Square, and through the Jewish quarter, passing by the four beautiful synagogues there. He told us about the history in Prague during World War II, many of the local stories of artists and inventors, and we were so glad to have found this company. If you go to Prague, look up http://www.newpraguetours.com. They offer free walking tours and tour packages you can buy as well. If we had been there longer we absolutely would have paid for afternoon tours and possibly even a day trip. Well, next time.

Walking through the streets sometimes felt like you were walking on a movie set, or that the buildings were made of either marshmallows or tinted white chocolate, and the styles we’re varied too. They had everything from Art Deco and Art Nouveau,  to the only cubist architecture in the world.

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We came upon some of the coolest shops, including many marionette stores. If only I had room in my backpack (and perhaps more money in my pocket), I would have loved to take one or two of these masterpieces home.

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We also tried a local snack: ‘Trdlo”, a sweet kind of bread cooked on a turning spit and covered in sugar, almonds, vanilla, and cinnamon.

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The evenings in Prague has even more free entertainment in the Old Town square with performers of every variety at every corner of the square- if you didn’t like something, walk 10m.

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Awesome jazz band

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Flame-baton guy.

One night as we were window shopping we came across a black light theatre company called Teatro Negro, and they had a show called Aspects Of Alice, so we immediately bought tickets and had a great time seeing a very creative piece based loosely around Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and falling down the rabbit hole.

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Also in our shopping, I bought my first piece of artwork in a small gallery. I couldn’t leave without buying the limited print of a boy and his dog, so I have to get even more creative with my packing now.

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The last place we visited before bidding farewell to Prague was the National Gallery. It was on the other side of the river from downtown but had quite a mix of art from many centuries, and we were happy we got to explore it.

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All in all, it wasn’t as busy as Amsterdam, but it was fascinating and exciting and well worth the trip.

Well, that’s all for now, folks!

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Provence. I heart you.

It was sad to have mum head home to Calgary on Monday as we had such a phenomenal month in France together. Here are the stories of our week in Provence!!

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Some vineyards near Modene and a view of the top of Mont Ventoux

It was a 45 minute drive from Avignon to our villa in Modene, and we couldn’t quite believe it as we walked in to the yard to meet our hosts Phillipe and Sylvie. (They are absolutely wonderful and if you want to stay in a spectacular bed and breakfast (or ‘chambre d’hôte’/’gîte’) , check out their website: http://www.villa-noria.com)

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The view out the window from the indoor dining room.

We walked past a gorgeous yard and large outdoor dining table and up the stairs to our adjoining rooms. The first had a king size four-poster bed, the second two single beds on wrought iron frames.

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imageThen there was our bathroom with a large claw-foot bath tub, dual sinks and beautiful shower. White fluffy towels and three white terry cloth robes were ready for us. After carefully waiting for Phillipe to turn his back to us so we could silently jump up and down in glee, he brought us back outside to see the yard and pool. Oh, the pool.

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When we went to Tuscany as a family ten years ago, I thought we had stayed in the crème de la crème of bed and breakfasts. I never thought we’d find a place even close, but here we did.

Our dining room table

Our dining room table, and their dog Hurley.

Our host is also a renowned chef in the area, and cooks dinner every second night if guests want a gourmet dinner at home. We of course were looking forward to his cooking and were not disappointed. Just like on the cruise ship, not only was quality at the highest level but the presentation was beautiful.

Chilled Eggplant soup with a poached egg and sesame crisp

Chilled Eggplant soup with a poached egg and sesame crisp

Broiled cod with crispy polenta, zucchini tartar and roasted tomatoes

Broiled cod with crispy polenta, zucchini tartar and roasted red peppers.

Cheese plate of local chèvre with various herbs and seasonings

Cheese plate of local chèvre with various herbs and seasonings

Chocolate crème brûlée with rhubarb

Chocolate crème brûlée with rhubarb

Our first breakfast was another good sign of how the week would go. Sitting under a giant tree with morning sun shining through the leaves, several options of loose leaf tea or coffee, and with an overflowing basket of fruit (including peaches and figs they had picked that morning!!), freshly baked bread, croissants, homemade yoghurt, and waffles with fresh preserves, we were in heaven.

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On our first day we wanted to check out a local market, and then meet up with friends from home.
We drove to Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue to the Sunday market and found it to be the best one we have been to by far! It was fairly busy, and the weather was beautiful. There were dozens and dozens of stands with everything from fresh produce, vibrant pottery, artisan baking and sausage, souvenirs, to lavender, honey, soap, and table linens. We bought some fruit (and we thought that Parisian fruit was delicious!), some nougat, some cheese, and the best almonds we have tasted in our lives by leaps and bounds. Oh, France, you’ve done it again. 🙂

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We were then off to Carombe to meet our friends Maggie and Terry who were on a 4-month trip across Europe! These adventurous folks arrived to meet us on a motorcycle, and after great hugs and drinks in the shade to celebrate, we decided to do dinner in Le Barroux, a town just north of Carombe with one of the few castles in the Provence area. (Of course, in between we went back to the villa for a swim in the pool and a little sun.)

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Looking at routes.

Looking at routes.

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With the view of the valley and a delicious dinner, we shared stories of our travels and with the sun setting we said goodnight.

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On Monday we wanted to explore, and using a cyclists’ map of the Carpentras area that my mum’s friend Hope had lent us, we showed Phillipe our plan for the day- head towards the hillside city of Gordes via Venasque and Rousillon. He generously went over the map with my mum, writing a list of towns that we should drive through or stop into on post-it notes so we would see the best spots.

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The view from Venasque

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A gorgeous old door and handle

A gorgeous old door and handle

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We stopped in Venasque first and wandered up beautiful tiny streets in the quiet town and discovered a wonderful artist and his small main-floor gallery. His paintings were oil on canvas using only a pallet knife, and showed the town and other hilltop towns with the fields below, and church steeples punctuating the simple but beautiful skylines, all using tones of blue, purple, red, and yellow . They were fabulous paintings, and we talked with him a bit (my mum, of course, charming him right away). He told us that he had a painting teacher tell him that “grass is not just green, trees are not just green, they are any colour you can imagine they could be” and he said that gave him a true freedom to his paintings, so none of the hills or fields were green- they were gold or purple. We loved them. If he had prints I would have bought one right then, but unfortunately he only had canvases and they were a bit out of my price range.

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We then went to Rousillon and right from the start noticed the red clay of the hill as we parked the car. As we walked up towards the town it was clear very quickly why this is called “The Red City”, with red and orange walls of buildings and red exposed earth on the hillside a gorgeous juxtaposition to the surrounding forests and fields.

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The view was fantastic here and on our way to finding a place for lunch, we came upon another gallery that housed several artists’ pieces that we all could easily see purchasing if we didn’t have to ship it over an ocean in order to keep it. There was a collection of charming statues of young girls doing a variety of things, from looking up with arms reaching into the sky, to crouching down looking at a frog, to dancing- and they all had such simple honesty and joy to them you couldn’t help but smile. Then there were the paintings we loved best that were very urban scenes, with tall skyscrapers and taxis and crosswalks, and they had movement and energy without being too detailed.

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We arrived in Gordes and couldn’t believe the buildings clinging to the side of such a steep hill. It was a winding road to get there, and European roads are the least generous when it comes to two way travel. For once I was not the driver- my mum and sister shared this responsibility, and I must say I think my motion-sickness is getting worse as I get older as even in the front seat all the quick twists and turns and deeking around oncoming traffic made me a little green along the way.

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Winding streets with the bumpiest, roughest cobblestone yet, we wandered in and out of boutiques, jewelry stores and galleries, and found yet another exhibition I enjoyed. Pieces made from found wood and incorporated with metal, fabric, and stone, animals and people were set in whimsical sculptures that I wanted to take home as well.

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We then headed home via the Abbé Senanque in the bottom of a valley with lavender fields. It was so relaxing you just felt your blood pressure drop as you stepped out of the car. We watched them gather the lavender bunches in one field before stepping into the sanctuary of the Abbé for a few minutes. It was a modest church with no decoration or sculpture, and it was very peaceful.

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A great way to finish our exploration before heading home for our second dinner. More photos of dinner, of course.

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Crispy tartin with olive tapenade, diced tomatoes, basil and fresh chèvre.

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Grilled organic chicken nested on steamed green beans with a tower of lightly grilled zucchini containing both toasted and soft spelt “risotto”.

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Warmed Camembert sprinkled with dried thyme.

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Cheese yogurt ice cream atop grilled figs from the garden, dressed with a red wine reduction on top of a sable cookie.

We designated Tuesday and Friday as ‘pool days’, and promised ourselves we would take it easy on those days, and only leave the villa to go to a market or get dinner. It was perfect weather for lounging by a pool, and the saltwater of the pool made it actually possible for me to enjoy the water without goggles as I find that chlorine pools make it difficult to open my eyes underwater. It was glorious.

Lunchtime picnic

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We met several other villa guests through the week from all over- some from elsewhere in France, one couple from Switzerland, one couple from USA and one couple from Berlin. There was almost always company at the pool, and at 4pm every day Phillipe would bring homemade iced tea to the poolside. Have I mentioned it’s heaven there? 🙂

On Wednesday we wanted a lighter travel day on a central route around our area through Bleauvac, Malemort, Methamis and St Didier, where we heard that they make best nougat in France. These towns had small main streets, charming buildings, churches, and many doors and shutters we wanted to capture in photos. In St Didier, we picked up nougat and a few other sweet snacks, and delicious stone oven pizza in Malemort were highlights to the exploration.

The blue paint colour that we've decided needs to be more prevalent in Calgary....

The blue paint colour that we’ve decided needs to be more prevalent in Calgary….

Where we stopped and had lunch- amazing pizza!

Where we stopped and had lunch- amazing pizza!

We loved the colourful shutters and doors throughout Provence, so as you can see we kept taking photos of them…

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 Yes, this giant brick of dessert can be yours for only $45.00.

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On Thursday we headed towards Sault, because it is known as the the heart of Lavender country. Phillipe was eager to recommend that on the way to Sault we take the road through Bedoin and up to the top of Mont Ventoux- the largest mountain in the area that we could see the white limestone peak and weather station/communication tower from everywhere in the area. We took his suggestion and went through Bedoin, a small but interesting looking town we decided we would revisit later. There were a lot of cyclists on the road and it was part way up the winding (have I mentioned: narrow?!) road of Mt Ventoux we decided we must be in the middle of a huge bicycle race or ride because there were dozens and dozens of cyclists making their way to the top as well. Try driving a manual car on a tiny road that twists and turns up a mountain with sheer drops on one side and cyclists veering in and out in front of you as well as oncoming traffic coming down…. We were going to need the relaxing lavender fields at the end of this!!

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This was partway up when we had a bit more space. And where it was flat. Actually, this photo does not give any real representation of our journey up the mountain. Except that there is proof of both cyclists and cars…. So in that case, you may want to disregard this photo. 😉

The hiking trail up. Dry and windy, but what a view at the top!

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Mont Ventoux had hundreds of people at the top (don’t drive here- it’s insane) between tourists, their families and friends, hikers and tourists, the top was busy!! The view is phenomenal and on a clear day (slightly clearer than when we went up) you can see the highest point of the Alps. We were happy to get down to the bottom again and to quieter roads to continue our journey. Oh yeah, and the extremely large number of cyclists? That’s just a normal day on the mountain; Mont Ventoux is the second most visited mountain by cyclists in Europe. And it’s not for the beginner cyclists either- with a height of almost 2000m, the climb to the top of the mountain from the town of Bedoin is 1612m.

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We were happiest when we reached the bottom of the valley and headed for lavender fields. The fields of purple flowers and stunning blue skies were divine as we entered the area around Sault and we had to stop and take photos.

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We wandered around the few shops in the quaint town of Sault, and of course picked up some more nougat we found there. Our insider’s tip: it was hands down the best we’ve ever had in our lives- so if you like nougat- this is the place to come- watch out St Didier! 🙂

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Antique shop finds

Antique shop finds

The drive back was on a larger highway (a small highway by Canada’s standards), with one stop before we really got on our way- in Moniuex, a gorgeous little town on the very edge of a mountain rock face with stunning views of the lavender fields below. We also came upon a restaurant that we would have absolutely gone to dinner at if we had passed through any closer to dinner time (and not 4pm).

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Friday we decided a little trip back to Bedoin was in order, and we found lots of charming little shops to peruse, and a lunch of delicious fresh-made pasta and homemade sauce to die for. We saw a sign pointing off the Main Street for a gallery so of course we couldn’t say no. Well, boy did we drool over the artwork in that space!! If we lived in the area it’s likely we would have walked away with several sculptures, and if we had more money we would have bought over a dozen pieces. It was a marvellous mix of styles and artists, in the mostly ‘modern’ genre of art. After much discussion with the gallery owner and mooning over various pieces, we left the store with three mementos of Paris in the form of paintings. My sister bought one and mum bought two, and they were both buzzing with happiness at their purchases all the way home. (As I am currently without any real walls, I did not buy any art there but will live vicariously through my family and see their art often.)

We then enjoyed a lazy pool afternoon with lots of swimming, some sunbathing, and a bit of journaling and blog writing, as well as checking out the garden where most of our fresh fruit and veggies (and herbs) came from for our meals at the house.

Their tiny peach tree. With six peaches almost ready to pick.

Their tiny peach tree. With six peaches almost ready to pick.

Their fig tree. We got the last of the first harvest, and they would then harvest again at the end of September. Amazing.

Their fig tree. We got the last of the first harvest, and they would then harvest again at the end of September. Amazing.

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My gorgeous mom!

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Provence melon! Yum!

One last gourmet meal….

Saffron gnocchi and shrimp salad.

Saffron gnocchi and shrimp salad with walnuts.

Pork tenderloin with honey and onion sauce, fried onions and garden carrots.

Pork tenderloin with honey and onion sauce, fried onions and garden carrots.

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Poached white peach with almond biscotti and crème anglaise.

The lounge area by the pool

The lounge area by the pool.

Goodnight, pool.

Goodnight, pool.

We packed, went to bed too late, and were able to sit by the pool for an hour after our last breakfast before heading on the road to get back to the busy and bustling city of Paris. So long, Provence! See you again soon. 🙂

You realize how much time flies when you are too caught up in life to document it. And that’s good.

There are those moments in life where you are truly living ‘in the moment’, and then there are the times when you are just completely overwhelmed by/in awe of/truly gobsmacked by that moment you are in. I cannot believe I am living in Paris, buying groceries at outdoor markets every day, commuting to and from school like it’s completely normal and I’ve been doing it forever, giving tourists directions, and speaking in French as much as I can. A-freaking-mazing.

Class goes on, and our class has grown, with now 15 students in total, filling every available desk in the semicircle around the room. It turns out we have to pay for a fifth week in order to complete this *half* of the course of A2, so off I went to the registrar office to add another 5 days of class to my schedule.  I have now been told by several ex-pats living in Paris that a) the French have never been good at communication, and b) if the French can figure out a way to make things more complicated (education and paperwork particularly), they will. I am finding this to be very true.

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On the bright side, I have a change of venue as to my living arrangements. I have moved from the 10th Arrondissement across the river to the 5th. I have moved from a room in a family home (une maison d’hôte), to my very own apartment! It is a one bedroom (very luxurious for one person to have in Paris), an open concept kitchen (un cuisine américaine), a combined eating area/living room and a bathroom with shower and washing machine (which is so fantastic because going to a laundromat here is pricey)!! There is a darling little garden outside my bedroom, so fresh air and some greenery makes this an even lovelier spot. The apartment is in a very busy area. Very busy. For example, I had to say “excusez moi” to get in between people sitting at tables on the cobblestone street in order to get to the door of my apartment building with my suitcase and backpack when I first arrived. It’s a little funny to try to not knock over someone’s wine glass trying to get into your house. My street has numerous restaurants with outdoor tables and right now they have televisions set up so people can watch all the world cup games. So far the evening quiets down at around 2am. (Thank heaven for earplugs.)

The Franglish venue- now in 'my neighborhood'!

The Franglish venue- now in ‘my neighborhood’!

The art installation along the fence at Jardin Du Luxembourg; photos 'then and now' remembering WWII. Along my walk to school.

An art installation along the fence at Jardin Du Luxembourg; photos ‘then and now’ remembering WWII. Along my walk to school.

In the Jardin Du Lixembourg.

In the Jardin Du Luxembourg.

But to backtrack, and share a bit about the days leading up to this move, I had fantastic adventures last week, with a visit to a market, The Centre Pompidou, and “Dinner at Jim’s” on Sunday night!

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The Bastille Market is the best one I have been to so far, and as soon as I say that I have several other spots recommended to me, as always seems to be the case here in Paris. “Oh, you think that place is amazing? Try this place!”  It was much more of a food market than clothing or housewares, and had a lot of fresh seafood. Everything you could imagine from crab to squid to oysters…. To frogs legs.

Cuisses de grenouille.

Lots of produce at better prices than in any grocery store I have been to. And some prices went down as the end of the day arrived. Lots of fresh food (meats, cheese, bread, pasta) from different cultures and countries as well. I had a lunch of warm sate chicken skewers, roasted tomatoes, and fresh melon for dessert.

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The Centre Pompidou:

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imageI had heard about an art installation in film at the Centre Pompidou by the video artist Christian Marclay called “The Clock” That I wanted to check out. It is a 24 hour film montage with thousands of time-related scenes from movies, where each scene contains an indication of time (for instance a watch or clock, or dialogue) that is synchronized to be in real time of the audience watching it. It’s unbelievable- not only is it edited brilliantly, there is a wonderful rhythm to how the various films relate and move forward cohesively.I watched just over an hour and then went to see what else the centre offered. There are many galleries there, and a great view of Paris from the top floor.

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The largest exhibition seemed to be for Martial Raysse and was amazing modern art. It was a collection with pieces from his entire career (over many decades- from the 60s until now).

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The portraits were my favourite part.

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The detail and variation in the leaves in this painting amazed me.

The detail and variation in the leaves in this painting amazed me.

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An afternoon walk, via some beautiful streets, fountains, and of course some tourist-heavy areas. Oh, and Les Halles metro station, which I do not recommend using (crazy/huge/busy/dirty).

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Sunday night was Dinner at Jim’s! When I was researching ways to meet people in Paris I found a link to “Dinner at Jim’s”, and it sounded intriguing so I sent him an email asking for an invite. Jim is an American who has lived all over, worked in theatre, music, literature, among other things, and is now living in Paris. For the past 30 years, every single sunday he hosts a dinner at his atelier (an old art studio). Each guest brings some money to help pay for the food, and enjoy a night meeting new people. Some are living in Paris, some are just passing through. Some, like me, are meeting Jim for the first time, and some are old friends.  There were over 50 people there and I talked with about 12 of them. The food was great and the conversation was better. It’s a fabulous time! I wish I had taken more pictures but I was too caught up meeting the most fascinating people. Jim has a lovely ‘apartment’ on the main level of a long unit of buildings with a good size kitchen that opens into a sitting room, and directly outside is a porch and then a grassy garden area where we sat for a good part of the evening. There was wine and beer and non alcoholic bevvies, and we were served a sort of American-Mexican theme dinner with broiled pork, beans, rice, guacamole, pineapple, and of course, bread. For dessert: cherry crumble and ice cream. I had a really lovely time and took the metro almost all the way home with several people I met at the dinner. I met 2 students (one from Scotland and one from England), two ukulele players on their way to a ukulele festival (!!) (one is a full time musician and the other is a nurse), a documentary film director from LA, a film writer and producer from the UK who wants to get into theatre, several Canadians (from Victoria, Winnipeg and Toronto), a journalist, a translator, a conductor, and a couple of wine shop owners. I am definitely going back. If you are ever in Paris and want to check out Jim’s dinner here is his website. http://www.jim-haynes.com/

The only photo I took. The food being prepared. Notice the giant bowl of bread.

The only photo I took. The food being prepared. Notice the giant bowl of bread.

So, back to the present. I am currently writing this at my kitchen table, with the sound of a live accordion playing La Vie En Rose outside my window to the restaurant patrons on the street, before I head out to enjoy La Fête De La Musique today with some free concerts.

Last night I went out with my friend Hugo to a bar to watch France play Switzerland in the World Cup. What an incredible game! I’ve been asked several times about how ‘my team’ was doing, and if I was devastated they were eliminated yesterday, since they thought I was British. I would laugh and say “What team? Canada didn’t qualify so ‘my team’ doesn’t exist here. I will be cheering for France because I am in France.”
I was so happy to cheer for France last night at the pub, surrounded by Parisians. It was so fun to be in such an intensely passionate group of people cheering and singing and chanting . I’m sure it’s like the playoffs of the NHL in hockey in Canada or the States in the hometown of the playoff teams. I loved it!!

walking around Paris after the game….

D'Orsay by Night

D’Orsay by Night

The Seine by the Louvre at night

The Seine by the Louvre at night

And late night metro (the platforms were only empty for about 30 seconds):

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And on and on it goes! 🙂 I hope you have a great weekend!

 

Art and food. (I’m sure this will be one of many posts regarding both.)

More exploring,  mais maitenant, en seule.
On saturday the sun finally came out again, escaping the numerous threatening rain clouds that have been looming over Paris this week. I really was expecting warmer weather for the end of May, but I’m sure that will come soon enough. And with the mention of sun, I have  jinxed my current situation and it has ducked behind more rolling grey clouds. This wimpy Canadian is chilly again.
imageI succeeded in buying a Navigo pass, and got photos taken at a Metro photo booth (yes, just like in Amelie- without the zoro mask and hat). It will save me so much money to have a local pass instead of buying separate tickets or a Paris Visite pass! It turns out that the Navigo pass is not advertised on the English websites for Paris Metro because it was never intended to be used by tourists. I feel so… What’s the word… Débrouillarde! 😉
I also purchased some art supplies- a sketchbook, some sketching pencils, chalk, and charcoal. Let the art begin!! (I really wish I had thought of this before so I could just bring supplies from home that I already had.)

 

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The Jardin du Luxembourg is quickly moving up the ranks of favourite places in Paris, and challenging the Jardin du Tuilleries, and this weekend it was very, very busy. The locals and tourists alike were out in droves to celebrate the sunshine. (This photo of the fountain was from last week when it was quiet!) There was also a photography installation on the grounds that I took in- WWI documentation, photos from the archives of  the French newspaper EXCELSIOR. There were photos over the years documenting the first days deployment, to women in the workforce at home, to remains of buildings, to veterans returning. It was very interesting, and there were some startling and beautiful photos.

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Today I walked by a gluten free shop. Yes, even they exist in Paris. It was in the Marais (in case this is useful information for you 🙂 ), the 4th Arrondissement where I went looking for free museums today, as it is the first Sunday of the month. There are a lot of museums on the full list, but today I wanted to stay in one area- the 3rd and 4th Arrondissements, where there were many! I originally wanted to have a go to the Louvre but unlike last time I was here, it is no longer the ‘off-season’ and therefore, you have to pay for it. As I discovered last Sunday, weekends are extra nuts in Paris, so I think I’ll wait for a slightly quieter weekday…

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One museum  in particular I wanted to see today was Musée Picasso, but it is still closed for renovations. Hopefully in July they will be complete. 🙂 I stopped in at a museum not on my list, and spent almost two hours there: Musée Carnavalet. The garden in the centre court was stunning, and so of course I had to take many many photos…. It had some incredible models of many major buildings in Paris, and I’m not even sure I saw it all as it went on for ages. I then saw another, smaller museum, Musée Cognacq-Jay, just down the street. I also thought I might go to L’Orangerie again, but then I found a chair on the side of one fountain in the Jardin du Tuilleries, and tried sketching a statue.

image It has been a long, long time, since I have done any sketching of any sort, and I feel a bit rusty!! After that I did a little people watching, and wondered if it really was this common to see so many people in (navy&white or black&white horizontal) striped shirts go by as I sat there. I stopped counting at 17 in the 15 minutes I was keeping track… :)

 

I also discovered more street markets, of course, mostly selling food, but also jewelry and toys and artwork, but again I only took pictures of the food…. 🙂

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Yes, those giant Willy Wonka blobs of color are meringues….

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It is really hard to not get excited about all the cafés and bakeries and crepe stands and gelato places, and all the amazing food here, and not buy numerous things every daythat are not ‘necessary’, just extremely delicious snacks. Today I gave myself an allowance of 5 Euros, and I am proud to say, I kept to it, only buying a crepe and a drink as I wandered around the city.

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I went to Place Des Vosges to sit and have lunch (that I had made!), and this was when the almost-storm seemed to back off a bit, and though there were a lot of people at the big tourist spots like the Louvre, this are felt a bit more calm. still majestic, though. and all my OCD friends will be happy to know how perfectly symmetrical so many gardens and courts and other meeting places here are. 🙂

The architecture of Paris is so fantastic I just can’t get over it. Back home I’m the born-and-raised Calgarian who still can’t get over the mountains, and I’m sure no matter how long I stayed in Paris or how often I came back I would still “ooh” and “ahh” over the buildings and sculptures in this city!image

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Next up: my first French class in Paris, and I’m excited and nervous! First day of school again!