4 days in Paris and a packed schedule, of course.


After a nice and easy flight from Toronto and upon finding my Airbnb in the City of Lights, I did what any good returning Parisian-at-heart would do – I bought a croissant and a coffee and sat in a park to take it in. 

can you see why you’d want to have one of everything? 🙂

Four days in Paris and then off to the country I go!

On my list of things: go to the Jardin Du Luxembourg, see Monet’s Water Lilies at the Orangerie Museum, buy cheese and a baguette for dinner, and people-watch in one garden or another. 

My Airbnb host Émilie was lovely to practice my French with and spoke almost entirely to me en français the whole time I stayed with her. We actually both had a craving to go see a movie and decided to see La Monde Du Dory (Finding Dory) O.V. avec sous-titres. (Meaning: “Original Version in English with French subtitles.) Pixar excelled again, of course, and the movie is wonderful and touching and adorable.

Émilie also suggested that before I return to the Luxembourg garden, I should check out Le Jardin des Buttes-Chaumont only a ten minute walk from her apartment. 

yes, there is even a waterfall.

Well I was not prepared for the fact that it may be my new favourite place in Paris. Multiple pathways, grassy hills, and big beautiful trees to sit under, I was delighted for the recommendation. This is why you ask locals!

After spending the entire afternoon there, walking every pathway, across the bridges, along the man-made streams, checking out the waterfall, painting a bit, and doing a lot of people watching, I was content to have a night in. I was determined to have an earlier start the next morning.
I’m on vacation, right? So I was all packed up and leaving for the afternoon at about 1. 😁😳
I decided to focus on the Orangerie visit, with a meander through the Tuilleries Garden, and anything else would be a bonus. The garden was busy because it’s the yearly festival/carnival and there are rides all along the north side of the garden. 



Following a delightful (and surprisingly not-too-crowded) visit to my favourite water lilies in the Orangerie, I indulged in some gelato (du mange, du framboise, et dû noix du coco) sat by one of the fountains, and definitely was in my happy place. 🙂


It was time to move locations, and get my gear to the FIAP Jean Monnet hostel in the 14th arrondissement. 

By far it is the absolute nicest and cleanest hostel I have ever been in ever. High security and a big place, this is clearly a regular spot for large school groups, conferences, and teams. I got to my 6-bed dorm room and had 3 quiet roommates who all arrived just as I was heading to bed.
That night I met up with my friend Robert from the French classes I took in 2014 and it was like no time had passed (and truly, two years seem to have just flown by). He has since finished school and an apprenticeship in marketing and is now fluent in French! I’m super impressed and a little jealous. 🙂 We met at La Rhumerie for drinks and the evening just whizzed by as we caught up on what happened in our respective lives over the last 730 days… 

The cool courtyard at the hostel- and a giant garden chess game.

 

A free breakfast at the hostel started my day early whether I wanted it to or not – breakfast was only served until 8:45am. Ha! That bumped up the beginning of my day a fair bit! 
I decided that I needed to return to the Orsay museum, sit by the Seine, and then go see the Rodin Museum


The garden at the museum is absolutely gorgeous.

I completely see why the Rodin Museum was highly recommended, so along with that  addition to the itinerary, I added a return trip to the Orsay, for more time with my favourite impressionist art (including Renoir’s dancers, Cezanne’s portraits, and more of Monet’s garden and water lilies), and a wander past the Eiffel Tower (tricky to do as it the Champ de Mars is currently entirely surrounded by fencing as part of an event for the EuroCup.)



My last half-day in the city included a quick but sweet visit to the Jardin Du Luxembourg, and some time at my quiet spot by the fountain before the mid/day crowd arrived. 


Then it was time to head to the country via the OuiBus (at the budget-friendly cost of €15) for the next couple of months, if all plans were to turn out. My first Workaway adventure. 🙂


A bientôt, Paris! 

Museums and rainy days… A perfect combo.

The family vacation has begun! My mum and sister arrived on Saturday afternoon, and after their first fresh croissants of the trip and a jet-lag induced snooze, we had a relaxing evening with a short walk around the 5th Arrondissement around the Pantheon, down by the Sorbonne, and complete with crêpes on our way home.

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It was a beautiful night, as it often is, but we didn’t stay out too late as we planned a free-museum Sunday packed with plans.
Our apartment is awesome, but if you don’t have earplugs, and aren’t a heavy sleeper, you are hooped. There was some sort of event at the bar below that went later than the usual patio restaurant din that lasts till 1 or 2am, and the noise and celebration went on past 3am. As well, first thing the next morning there were some sort of renovations happening in our building above us, so needless to say it was a rough first-night sleep for the travelers, and they slept in while I went down the street to pick up some breakfast pastries.

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We ended up not doing a museum day after all as the adjustment to Paris time was harder than expected. 😉 That was fine, as we chatted about our plans for the rest of the trip, researched museums we hadn’t been to before, and my sister and I went on a walk down to and along the Seine. We discovered several spots along the Seine with groups of people dancing, so we watched for a while.

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I  had seen this one group before from the other side of the river on a walk a few weeks ago. They just have a small speaker set up and couples practice various styles of ballroom dance. It’s a little semicircle of steps to the edge of the wall, which makes it a perfect place to sit and watch, or join in.

 

That was the end of the clear skies for a while. And now: for the weeks’ activities! Time sure flies. 🙂 Especially when it rains for almost an entire week in Paris! 🙂

We had to get our mum to see the Eiffel Tower, and there were rumors the rain was letting up, so we headed to Trocadero metro station for the fantastic best first view. Unfortunately the rumors were wrong and it rained a lot. All that really means is that most of our photos include umbrellas! (And perhaps, the reason we decided to wear pants the next day….)

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We needed a warm up and lunch so headed to a small spot on the south side of the river. We had quiche and tea, and my sister had her first chocolate chaud, which was not as thick as the melted chocolate bars I spoke of earlier, and she only added a bit of milk. I was impressed. 🙂 And then we had our first macarons of the family time trip: pistachio, raspberry, and coffee.

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We then headed to the Musee D’Orsay.

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I have really noticed a huge surge in the number of people everywhere in Paris. Parisians are on summer vacation, and all the tourists from Europe and elsewhere have now arrived. And it is busy! Lines are way longer and museums are quite congested, and on top of that, there are all sorts of outdoor venues being set up for Bastille Day (July 14). The line for the Orsay was gargantuan, but it still moved surprisingly quickly, and we were only in line for about 30 minutes. Inside was packed, but we were still able to enjoy an afternoon snack in the Cafe D’Ours (The Bear Cafe) on the main floor, explore my favourite Impressionist paintings and sculptures on the 5th floor, and marvel at all the incredible marble figures and the Post-Impressionist gallery before heading back out into the rain.

imageWe then spent the good part of a day at the Louvre, with our main focus in the Egypt exhibit. That place is so huge we stayed primarily in the Sully Wing and we were there for hours!

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It was pouring outside, so we were content to spend the day in such a fantastic place.

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I think it was this night we walked across the street from our apartment (and when I say ‘across the street’, I mean, a few steps away from our front door) and had a delicious fondue dinner.

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Next up: L’Orangerie! I was thrilled to go back, and would be happy to go often if I lived here year round… 🙂

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The Jardin Du Tuilleries, L’Orangerie in the background on the left, and a cloudy sky around the Tour Eiffel. 🙂

And like the others, this museum was busy, so much busier than when I was there last, and unfortunately the quiet atmosphere of the last time I was there wasn’t the case this time. The “silence please” signs were entirely ignored, and there were loud conversations, noisy kids running around and even one woman chatting on a cellphone (who was thankfully asked to take her conversation outside by a security guard) and it was a lot less calm than it had been a month earlier. Luckily, the waterlillies paintings still had a magic effect on us, and we all loved our visit. I did not take a single photo here, so you’ll just have to come and see for yourself. No really. Come to this place. It’s at the top of my must-see list.

Thursday spot: the Musee D’Arts et Métiers – a museum full of inventions and design in the Marais. They were open late on Thursday which was perfect for us again, as we had a late lunch and were happy to spend the evening there.

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Our favourite room was the Automaton Theatre, full of animatronics, from toys to clocks to music boxes, it was filled with amazing and detailed work dating as far back as the 18th century.
We went to the Arts and Métiers Museum, which was fantastic! Inventions and design, industry and innovation, for practical or entertainment reasons, this place touched on it all. We actually discovered that the main exhibit wad free, and only the temporary exhibit on the history of cinema cost money to get it. We decided we would come back for that as we arrived three hours before the late-night museum hours ended. We saw all sorts of amazing things from ancient sun dials, gears and prints machines to hidden cameras and space station robotics.

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We truly were part of the last few people escorted out of the museum as they closed, so we felt we made the best bang of our buck… Oh wait- it was free admission. Even better! We may head back for the media exhibit there later this week if time permits…

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Friday we went to Notre Dame, figuring if there was a good time to visit an ancient Gothic Church it would be on a gloomy rainy afternoon. Apparently, most of Paris had this idea, so this meant more long lines in the rain.

We walked through the lovely Marché aux Fleurs on our way.

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(oh yes, and also, we discovered a cream puff shop. )

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We were prepared with rain jackets and umbrellas but it was remarkably chilly and all of us felt we could have brought warmer clothes for July (?!) weather in Paris. No 30 degree weather, here, Canada!

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It it was after standing for about 20 minutes in pouring rain in yet another line to climb to the top that we decided to instead go for dessert and tea in the Marais. (We learned the wait was over an hour, and thought- “another time!”) We walked along the the south side of the building through the park, and I showed them the bridge of locks before we went on our way.

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Back at the Loire dans La Théière, we found a cozy table with mis-matched chairs on one side, and a couch on the other. Tea and dessert (and a decaf cappuccino for mum) were just perfect.

Dessert options: we went with the lemon meringue tart, of course.

Dessert options: we went with the lemon meringue tart, of course.

We also walked by the Carnavalet Museum I had been to before, and since it was free, we decided to venture in.

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Friday night the skies cleared up a bit and we went to the Jardin Du Luxembourg to enjoy it when it is a bit quieter.

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Saturday we had a break from the rain at about 3pm, so after a lazy morning  we packed a picnic lunch to bring to the Parc Floral to take in a free jazz concert. The good news is, we pack excellent picnics. The bad news is, the concert was way less ‘jazz’ and way more ‘new music’, or as I like to call it, noise.

image We found a spot near the giant rock feature water fountain, which was lovely, and we people watched and relaxed in the grass, as well as exploring a little garden exposition nearby.

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All in all, we got in some great museum action, saw the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and spent time in gardens here, as well as having some great meals. Week one down, bring on week two!! (And maybe some sunshine and hot days?) 😀

My sister took this photo and I love it. She has a blog too, and if I did this right, you should be able to get to her page by the link from this photo!

Sights with friends: part 2! (ou Les attractions touristiques avec des amies: partie deux!)

Diana and Lisa introduced me to Sean, an American who will be studying for his Masters in Paris in the fall, and Hugo, a Parisian  who has agreed to meet me for coffee on occasion to help me practice my French. You could tell instantly who was from where; Hugo kissed both cheeks, Sean shook hands. 🙂

 

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These four introduced me to the Jardin de Luxembourg, and we sat in the late evening sun before going for food at the fanciest ‘pub’ I’ve ever been to in the 5th Arrondissement. They had fois gras, caviar, & champagne on the menu. needless to say, none of us ordered those. 🙂

It was great to hang out in a group, and though the gents had plans for the next couple days (work and such), we girls went out again yesterday and did some more sightseeing.

Well, we started with shopping, as both Lisa and Diana were heading out of town the next day- Lisa to Budapest, and Diana back home to Vancouver. Time for souvenirs. Diana and I started in Monmartre, looking for a well-priced béret, some scarves, and other fun items family and friends might enjoy. I introduced her to “Pylônes”, one of my favourite shops I remembered from the last trip, and I showed her Refuge Des Fondus- the amazing restaurant I can’t wait to go back to. Diana found a lot of great stuff, though I didn’t buy anything. I was just her souvenir ‘enabler.’ 😉

image  image  Montmartre was very busy!

Another serendipitous discovery that was on my ‘must see’ list that we happened upon: the famous Passe Muraille sculpture!

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The art is based on “The Man Who Walked Through Walls” -a short story published by Marcel Aymé in 1943. The story goes something like this- There was a man named Dutilleul who lived in Montmartre who possessed the unusual ability to pass effortlessly through walls. Dutilleul used this to break into banks and jewellery shops and occasionally would allow himself to be caught in the act, but could easily escape prison over and over again. He then fell in love with a married woman, for whom he would sneak through the walls of her locked bedroom at night to see her. One morning while leaving her house through the wall, he discovered that he could not move, and became trapped: where he remains to this day

imageHis hand has been worn down to bony gold fingers from all the people trying to help him out of the wall. It was kind of creepy.

 

 

 

 

We then decided to make a quick stop at Galleries Lafayette, which was hugely busy and overwhelming- kind of like a gargantuan Holt Renfrew or something.

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We considered buying tiny €3.50 macarons, but we decided against it and bought them for €0.90 at a McDonalds later that day. I know I know, McDonald’s is not your classic Parisian patisserie, but I has to try. And have a cappuccino there, too. To make proper use of their wifi. 🙂

I would understand if you judge me here. ;)

I would understand if you judge me here. 😉

$$$ desserts  (€€€ dessertes)

$$$ desserts
(€€€ dessertes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We wanted to check out the Chateau de Vincennes, which is at the end of Metro Line 1. The Chapel was our first stop, and it was beautiful. Apparently it took over two hundred years to complete.

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Walking into the castle truly felt like we had gone back in time. We explored the king’s chambers, ‘walk-in’ fireplaces as we liked to call them, and numerous stairwells and rooms.
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Plus there was a random kid in a knights helmet, so there’s that….

We were looking forward to spending the evening by the Eiffel Tower with a picnic (une pique-nique), so we picked up three kinds of cheese, olives, wine, cherries, and baguette, and sat in the Park to the south to enjoy our dinner and wait for the sparkling lights again

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Note the classy wine- it was a pink grapefruit rosée… I’m not taking credit for that..

At one point, someone started blaring the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and we joked it was probably a flash mob.

And then a flash mob happened. It was quite a modest size group,  so it was cute but not too exciting. It was bound to happen at some point, I suppose.

We were all actually more hopeful we would see a proposal when the Eiffel Tower flashing lights came on, but no luck.

imageWe were offered wine, beer, and champagne at regular 2 minute increments by guys wandering around the park selling them out of grocery bags. Either that or tiny Eiffel Tower keychains or laser pointers. We declined, but enjoyed watching an American girl barter and get the guy down to 0.20€ for one keychain, which was quite impressive as they were starting at 1€ each. 

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With one last dessert together of “Nutella et Spéculos” crêpés, we hugged (we should have double-cheek kissed) and took our separate trains home. The good news- Lisa is coming back through Paris in ten days, so we will meet up then and I’ll hear about her Train travels back across Europe. I’m looking forward to seeing other friendly faces as they pass through Paris later this month and at the beginning of August!

The sights: with friends! Part 1 (ou, Les attractions touristiques: avec des amies! Partie 1)

It’s great to connect with friends on the other side of the world, not only for that friendly face, but because you likely speak the same language and don’t have to work hard to communicate. It was refreshing to meet up with Diana- with whom I worked at Cirque Du Soleil in Calgary on Amalula last summer. She is just in Paris this week with a friend so we have decided to get together several times to make use of good company.

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We planned our day around a couple ‘must-sees’ on Diana’s list, and I was happy to join in, as most of them were on mine. I met up with Diana and Lisa in Monmartre, so we could visit the Sacre Coeur and shops in the neighborhood. It was here that Diana and I discovered we had the same favourite movie – Amélie – and loved the references we knew in and around Monmartre. And as if we had planned it, there was a musician outside the Basillica playing the music from Amélie on his accordion.

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imageWe then looked around Monmartre and truly stumbled across the Musée  Monmartre. I love stumbling across things- often they are some of the best discoveries on a trip! I wish I had thought to say I am a student, as that would have got me a better price on my entry to the museum, but oh well. I’ll be able to use that for the next month while I attend classes at L’Alliance Fancaise!! 🙂 but it was very nice to have an audiobook be included in the price of admission, so as we walked through the garden and rooms of the museum, we could listen to all the extra details you wouldn’t know. I don’t often pay extra for this so it was a nice treat to have. There is a lot of art related to the history of Monmartre, Le Sacre Coeur, the Moulin Rouge, and many of the artists that lived in the house now transformed into the museum, like Pablo Picasso. There was also an installation dedicated to the new 4-book comic book (or really, graphic novel) completed in 2014 about Pablo Picasso in his early years.

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Le Lapin Agile, a representation of Monmartre

Le Lapin Agile

Le Cabaret Du Lapin Agile

Le Cabaret Du Lapin Agile

imageAfter that we grabbed some baguette sandwiches on our way to Notre Dame and the Bridge of Locks. I had heard of the bridge but had never been, so I’m glad Diana suggested it. Notre Dame was busy, and we didn’t go inside- though that has been highly recommend and I plan to do so later this summer. We delighted in the fact we had wifi (or “wee-fee” as the Parisians pronounce it), in the garden of Notre Dame. We also came across a British girls choir singing several pieces in the park, which was great.

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PONT DE L’ARCHEVÊCHÉ: The Love-Lock bridge of Paris

 

imageI could easily create a gallery of the photos from the bridge of locks, because there are so many cool angles you can get! Apparently you write your name and your sweetheart’s name on a lock, lock it onto the bridge (or at this point, to another lock) and toss your keys into the Seine, and your love will last forever. I also found out that ACTUALLY the Bidge at Pont de L’archevêché is the place to lock your lover’s lock, while the (MUCH more empty) Pont Ds Arts is for your ‘committed love’. Maybe people have just been misinformed… As we saw a bride and groom lock a padlock on this ‘lover’ bridge and take photos of it… Do they know?? 😉

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I wonder how many more locks that bridge can hold. It’s crazy! (They have been all cut off before, apparently.)

Ah L’Amour. Et puis, La Mort. We then took our travels to La Cimetière du Père Lachaise (Father Lachaise Cemetery). This is a huge Cemetery full of the oldest tombs I have ever seen. It was unbelievable and the atmosphere was romantic- in the Romeo-and-Juliet-tragic-romantic kind of way…

imageThere is a large map at the gate (and we also picked up a free paper map at the main office, but did discover that the numbers on each did not match up, FYI)… And went to see a few specific tombstones- like Edith Piaf, Chopin, and Oscar Wilde, to name a few. You could often find the most ‘popular’/famous grave sites by looking for the most flowers or gifts on them. Some graves are so old they are covered in moss and you cannot see the name on them any more. Others have built-in planters with well-manicured or overgrown plants and flowers. We also saw one site that had been completely taken over by a large tree that had grown out of the centre of the plot.

The cemetery truly goes as far as the eye can see.

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I had no idea that it became ‘the thing to do’ for women visiting Oscar Wilde’s tomb to kiss it, so they had to put a protective glass box around it to keep it from getting covered in lipstick. Now, people kiss the glass…

"Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary."           -Oscar Wilde

“Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.” -Oscar Wilde

 

It was then we decided on Mexican food for dinner, and Nutella and Speculaas crêpes for dessert. I had never had one, and was told that they are the greatest things ever, so of course we had to document it. So exciting!

The first one went to Lisa as she was the most excited...

The first one went to Lisa as she was the most excited…

Diana taking a picture of Lisa with her crêpe

Diana taking a picture of Lisa with her crêpe

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My crêpe. It was ridiculously delicious.

It was fun to introduce the girls to my favourite view of the Eiffel Tower, as they had only seen it from the south side. We took the metro to Trocadero Station, and got some good photos in before heading down to the base at the perfect time to catch the first sparkling lights of the evening at 10:00pm.

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La deuxième partie à suivre! (Part two to follow!)

 

This one can *easily* live on bread (and cheese) alone.

On Sunday I went all ‘touristy’ on Paris and had a fantastic day!

Starting with my first boulangerie purchase: un croissant- I decided it would taste better if I was at the Eiffel Tower, and you know what? It did. 😉

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I believe the best first sight of the Eiffel Tower is from the top of the hill at the Pallais de Chaillot. You get off at the Trocadero metro stop, and there it is, framed so elegantly by this majestic structure and gold statues.
There were a LOT of people there yesterday. Great people watching. 🙂

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After a wander down to the Seine, I decided to stroll all the way down to Le Jardin des Tuilleries, one of my favourite places in Paris. It was perfect weather, and almost every green metal lawn chair strewn around the ponds and trees was occupied. Numerous personal and rental bikes passed by me, and I am considering renting a bike one day to explore faster and farther than walking will get me. I just have to figure out the system…

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I almost got to the Louvre, but decided to save that exploration for the first Sunday of the next month, when it will be free admission- totally worth the wait (and you’d be surprised how quick it is if you get in line (aka ‘cue’) before mid afternoon). I plan to check out another couple museums that Sunday as well! It will be great when my sister and mum join me in July- they get here the day before the first Sunday in July- so we can jump right into Paris museum craziness their first weekend in town!

I took photos for a few people struggling to take a selfie as i walked along the Seine- I pretended to be a local, and only spoke in French- to some French speakers and some English speakers. I will continue to work on *my* ‘selfies’, but until I get better you do not get to see my awkward bad-angle photo with me squinting, under- or over-smiling with my head far too close to the camera, and the item I hope to showcase almost off-camera. Just: no.

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I bought a museum passeport to the Musee D’Orsay and the L’Orangerie. I can easily say that the Impressionist time period is my favourite kind of art, and the D’Orsay exhibit with Degas, Manet, Cezanne, Monet, among others, was my favourite. I can’t wait until we head out to Giverny to see Monet’s garden that inspired the water lilies!

When I left, the sunshine was spectacular, so I sat on the wood steps down to the Seine, and discovered a festival going on, celebrating the arts… and it was fun! Live music, giant painted sidewalk games, a chalkboard wall for drawing, artisan’s market, the Parisian version of ‘food trucks’, free board games set up along big tables, and cool art installations of various types all along the Seine. It was there that I discovered that if you have your own water bottle, you can fill up at water stations around Paris- I had not seen these before! Some also work as water fountains, awkwardly:

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The more elegant bottle-filling only style I found later that day:

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I watched a giant rollerblading swarm of people go by on the Quai Voltaire, followed by police cars to contain/protect the crowd from the delayed and likely frustrated Parisian drivers. I plan on being part of that swarm a couple Sundays from now… A fun and slightly dangerous (cobblestones, people!) way to see Paris another way…

It was then I decided to head to Montmartre, my favourite arrondissement of Paris, picked up some Brie and a baguette, and sat on the hill below the Sacre Coeur to have ‘mon diner’. Delicious. Now, Montmartre will get its own blog entry, because I have that much to say about it!! 🙂 To make it brief, I people watched, explored many of my favourite and several new-to-me shops, was bought a cafe au lait and chatted up (in French) by a Parisian bloke for almost an hour, bought a mango gelato and wandered by an outdoor theatre performing Servant of Two Masters (en Francais, bien sûr !) and I wish I has been there from the start! Even though the actors spoken quickly, the physicalizations were very clear, and I had a good idea of what was going on, and it was very funny! It was their closing night, so I wont be able to see it again in full, sadly.

Eiffel Tower? Check. Croissant? Check. Museum? Check. Jardin des Tuilleries? Check. Bread and cheese dinner? Check. Montmartre? Check. Coffee with a handsome stranger? Check. Theatre? Check. Day 2? Good day!