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 dĂ» 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 bientĂŽt, Paris! 

Looking back: A must-see-and-do list for Paris.

My friend Jessie was heading to Paris and asked if I had any advice on where to stay, what to see, and the must-do items I learned from my travels, so I created this list.

(Of course they are far more things to see/do than this list, but here are a few things to get you started! And remember, I was there from June-August so this is a ‘summer list’.)

First and foremost:
Get this Paris offline map on your phone!!
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Download this bit of brilliance to your phone. I have found it indispensable- you don’t need to be connected to wifi and it doesn’t use data roaming to work– you can find the nearest metro, a Starbucks (if you need wifi), a grocery store (like a ‘franprix’ or ‘carrefour’), museums, galleries, (and many other things), and always find where you are and which direction you are facing. It’s free. And awesome.
(There is also the same kind of free app for Amsterdam, London, Prague… Etc)
IMG_5013The Sunken Chip
-delicious fish and chips, UK style. And if weather permits, taking it over to the banks of the Canal St Martin to eat it.
(Nearest metro: Chateau D’Eau (line 4) or Jacques Bonsergent (line 5)
IMG_3436The Artazart bookstore and boutique by the canal St Martin- honestly the coolest selection of books ever. Plus other cool things, but dear god the books. I could have bought a dozen.
(Nearest metro: Chateau D’Eau (line 4) or Jacques Bonsergent (line 5)
IMG_1971The Loire Dans La ThéiÚre:
A busy little tea shop with unbelievable desserts. In the Marais area, where there are all sorts of other fantastic eats. Laptops not allowed.
(Nearest metro: St-Paul (line 1)
The Musée des arts et Métiers:
Full of inventions, toys, design, engineering and architecture, it’s extremely cool to check out.
(Nearest metro: Arts et MĂ©tiers (line 3 or line 11)
 
IMG_5094The Pere Lachaise Cemetery
This place is huge and remarkable. I liked it best on a cloudy day; you can spend hours here exploring ancient gravestones and famous resting places. I was interested in this place far more for the beauty than the celebrities.
L’Orangerie
I know there are numerous art gallery/museums that will be recommended to you so this shall be mine. This beautiful gallery has a lower level of many artists, and my favourite part on the main floor: two rooms with wrapping floor-to-ceiling paintings of Monet’s water lilies like you’ve never seen them.
You can also walk through the Jardin De Tuilleries afterwards, on your way to the Louvre or towards the Marais area.
Nearest metro: Concorde (line 1, 12 or 8)
IMG_5765Rent ‘Velib’ bikes – if it isn’t too cold or rainy, this is a great way to get across town quickly and leisurely.
You can rent a bicycle online or at a velib station with a credit card- it’s 1.70€ for 24 hours, and you can use a bike for up to 30 minutes at a time (as many times as you want) for no extra charge, so it’s great to get places a little quicker, or enjoy a ride along the Seine. We found it perfect in the evening- the least amount of traffic on the roads. The roads often have bike lanes and we always felt comfortable on the roads here- drivers and cyclists cooperate. The stations are all over the place, and there’s an app for that as well.
IMG_2974Have a picnic. (Just about anywhere):
There is nothing like buying some good cheese, a baguette, grabbing a bottle of wine and finding an outdoor spot to eat. Way cheaper than a restaurant and you can enjoy the beautiful evenings that Paris often has. Three of my favourite places are: along the Seine (by the Musee D’Orsay, or at Pont Neuf), in Champs Des Mars- the park at the base of the Eiffel Tower, or the Jardin du Luxembourg.
IMG_1719Speaking of the Jardin du Luxembourg: go there. 🙂 It’s huge, beautiful, and a fabulous place to walk through, or sit and people watch. My favourite place in the garden is by the Medici Fountain.
(Nearest train line RER B- Luxembourg, or Metro: Notre-Dame-Des-Champs)- you can also walk here from the Odeon station.
 
IMG_5242Parc de la Villette
This was a very late discovery and we went there to check out their outdoor movie festival, but the park and area have even more to offer than that. In addition to all the pathways and walkways and playgrounds and artwork here, there is the largest Science Museum in Europe, The City of Music museum, IMAX theatre (in La Géode, pictured above), and numerous venues for music and events.
You can walk a lot in Paris, but if you take the metro, my suggestion is to buy a pack of ten tickets. I think you can use the same ticket for 60 minutes (any direction) on the metro but don’t quote me on that. I don’t know the bus system very well aside from the fact you need tickets (or exact change) for buses too.
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In terms of food, there are endless possibilities. CrĂšpe stands are all over and the price is often very reasonable, boulangeries (bakeries) are common and amazing, and fruit stands (even sometimes in the metro stations!) often have the absolute best fruit you’ve ever had. If you want the most concentrated restaurant options, get off the Metro at Saint-Michel(just southwest of Nortre Dame) and head south. There are a lot of cool restaurants in the Marais area, just west of the Etienne Marcel metro stop, and Rue Mouffetard (right by the Place Monge Metro stop) is another awesome spot for a variety of options. There are markets all over, and they happen regularly, often on a schedule like Sunday/Wednesday/Friday or Monday/Saturday. Fun to wander through and amazing selections of food, flowers, and sometimes housewares and crafts.
Festivals abound, but some I got to and loved:
1) FĂȘte de La Musique (3rd Saturday in June)  (Free music festival with concerts galore!)
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2) La Plage Sur La Seine (August)
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An Eiffel Tower statue made out of metal lawn chairs

3) En Plein Air (Outdoor Cinema Festival) @ Parc De La Villette (July-August)

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Bring a picnic dinner, drinks, and your own blankets (or rent chairs and blankets for a reasonable price) and enjoy!

There are new exhibits and events going on all the time, so check out TimeOut www.timeout.com/Paris/en for their ‘hot list’- a list of things to do and see each week. I found this site really useful.

Hope this list has some things you find helpful. Let me know what you have found and would suggest! I’d love to learn about more must-see things for my next visit there! 🙂

Culture shock, I guess

Many people asked if I had reverse culture shock coming back from Europe to Canada after 3 months, or if there were any major things I noticed.

I would say there were two things in particular that were hugely apparent right away.

ONE: While in Paris I never spent one minute in a car.   I did not drive for three months. In Paris I took the metro almost every day, walked, cycled, and had a couple trips on bus or train. There was one week in July where we rented a car in Avignon and drove around Provence (and for that week my sister and mom did all the driving).

My first day home in Calgary, I got in my car in order to meet a friend for a coffee. The day after that, I did some errands, and went out for dinner with my mom.   And I proceeded to use a car every. single. day. after. that.

Now, I don’t live downtown- I live in the suburbs. But very few of my friends are centrally located either. We drive to meet each other. It ensures we have more time to see each other, and spend less time waiting and waiting for inconsistent buses and avoiding rush hour LRT chaos.

TWO: In Canada we have so much SPACE. And we spread out like crepe batter. 😉 IMG_6151

Not only are the cities sprawled out but so many people here expect to have large front and back yards, a two car garage, and big house with parks and pathways and man-made lakes nearby. And suburbia reigns.

There have been attempts to create more concentrated housing in repurposed and more central up-and-coming neighborhoods in Calgary. The idea is for semi-detached housing in tall, narrow homes, and smaller lots. Sort of like townhouses, but without the condo boards. I see it as a wonderful opportunity to create a community with your neighbors, and some of the designs are beautiful and classic in design. I’d love to live in a place like this!   In several cases, the citizens of our great city have come up against the builders and have demanded more lawn space, larger square footage, and separate dwellings with larger garages.

In Paris, so many people live in tiny apartments with no yards, no garages and often they don’t even own cars. They walk or take transit or bike to get around. They share courtyards or small gardens and patios with neighbors. They spend their money on quality food and entertainment. They meet at local cafes and restaurants that are around every corner. They don’t sit at home watching giant tvs in giant living rooms and spend any time watering or mowing giant lawns.

My front ‘lawn’ aka door, in the Latin Quarter.

 

I have a new appreciation for our space here. The skies of Paris and France reminded me of our Alberta blue but I missed the mountain-edged horizon, the pathways around the reservoir, and the fact that the streets are only jam-packed with tourists ten days every year. Car keys in hand or not, I am happy to be home.  🙂

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My summer in panoramas.

It seems fitting I share the panoramas I started to take along my trip this summer as there were times where it took more than one look or one simple photo to take in the amazing sights around me.

Here are some shots from my trip that I captured with the panoramic function on my iPhone. A couple have appeared in my previous posts, but it’s fun to see them all together here one after another.

When I first arrived in Paris I had to go to one of my favourite places- Montmartre. Here’s the view from the steps of the Sacre Coeur on a cloudy day.

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Being able to explore inside the glorious Palais Garnier, I was almost inspired to buy opera tickets, but never ended up back there.

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Next up, the Louvre. I took this photo from the less-populated entrance.

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It was a few days in to my first week in Paris that I discovered my new favourite place, the Jardin du Luxembourg, including the palace, and palm trees and pond (oh my!)…

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I spent many evenings having picnics with friends here, and daytimes getting some sunshine, reading, or people watching.

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I honestly didn’t know that you aren’t supposed to take pictures inside the Shakespeare Company Bookstore. It serves me right, then, for if you look closely there’s a weird morphing/disappearing person in the middle of this photo.

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Thanks to my amazing French teacher, we got to go inside the Sorbonne (one of the oldest universities in Europe), and this is one of the incredible lecture halls…. including the carved wood ceiling and fresco painting.

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The MusĂ©e Carnavalet was one of the first museums I came across, and the grand courtyard was everything you’d expect from a French garden. Stylish, sophisticated, and completely symmetrical.

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It was inside the Chapel at Chùteau Vincennes on a beautiful and sunny day that I captured this photo.

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The view from the top of the Centre Pompidou allowed me this far off view of the Sacre Coeur, and the entire skyline of Paris.

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It was an overcast day in July when I couldn’t leave Monet’s Garden without a couple panoramic shots of the water lilies and romantic overhanging willow branches.

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The evening sight of Lyon before we embarked on our cruise down the SaĂŽne and then the RhĂŽne river.

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And Lyon by day. The view on  a rainy day. Red-tiled rooftops as far as the eye could see reminded us of Florence, Italy.

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In Viennes we learned all about the Cathedral of St Maurice, which was built in the early 11th century and then added to for almost 500 years.

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In Arles we toured this amphitheatre, where events still take place today.

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Avignon during their Theatre Festival is truly papered from one end to the other with posters of the hundreds and hundreds of shows going on. And all along the way roaming artists and performers acted out scenes and handed out pamphlets to encourage people to come see their productions.

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And yes, we did take an evening ride on the ferris wheel before leaving Avignon.

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With the freedom of picking up a rental of a car, we explored the fields, orchards, hills, and vineyards of Provence and found ourselves staying down the road from here; near Carombe and Bedoin, with a beautiful view of the famous Mont Ventoux.

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The lavender fields near Sault were every bit as amazing as we dreamed. Possibly better.

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And the lavender fields went on and on….

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The hilltop town of Gordes was a welcome sight after twisting and turning mountain roads.

One of our favourite places we discovered in Provence- Roussillon, also called ‘The Red City’.

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The view of the Alps from the top of Mont Ventoux.

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And August brought us to the northern coast of France, and the stunning view along the walkway to Mont Saint Michel.

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This was the view from our hotel room. We were so glad to stay on the island to appreciate the magic of Saint Michel at the end of the day without the swarms of tourists that flood it in the daytime.

The view of Mont Saint Michel at dusk. It was incredible to have the tide completely out and be able to simply walk barefoot in the sand out to this point to see it. 🙂

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Amsterdam was a beautiful, interesting city and we could have wandered the canal-lined streets for days.

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The city of Amsterdam is full of tourists from all over the world and full of Dutch souvenirs. One colourful sight? Clogs.

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We started our exploration of the city of Prague at the oldest Medieval castle in the world, and St Vitus Cathedral.

Definitely our favourite place to start our adventures from each day: Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic.

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One of the many bridges in Prague.

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The colourful buildings of Prague that look like they are made of white chocolate and candy…. and of course the Astronomical Clock and Old Town Square in the background.

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When we went to see the open-air film festival at the Parc de La Villette, we barely scratched the surface of this amazing area full of various gardens, sights, and activities. This dome we later found out held the IMAX centre at the CitĂ© des Sciences et de l’Industrie- the largest science museum in Europe.

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Our last apartment had the most beautiful view of the Sacre Coeur, and so this post comes full circle, with one of the places that made me fall in love with this part of the world. Hope you enjoyed seeing my summer’s adventures in a panoramic summary.

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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 crĂȘpes 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 MĂ©tiers – 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 MĂ©tiers 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 ThéiÚre, 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!

Sunshine and boats and history and school…. and July begins….

It was beautiful and hot summer weather here for a few days last week, and with a good wind, the sailboats were out at the garden ponds in Paris. That is, the toy sailboats. My sister and I delighted in this last time we were in Paris at the Jardin de Tuilleries, watching children set their boats in the water, push them off with their bamboo stick, and chase them around to the other side of the pond where the wind would take them. On Thursday I quickly got myself around the edge of the ‘bassin centrale’ in my favourite garden, and took some photos of the action. (This is where I enjoy using my phone for a camera instead of my good camera, as I can be subtle and catch wicked candid shots without being obtrusive. It’s sneaky photography, or ‘sneaktography’ maybe?)

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The last week of class also included a field trip to the Pantheon, via my favourite garden. I walked past the Pantheon every day on my way to school, yet had never been inside. Right now the dome is under renovations, so it is covered by a gargantuan white plastic wrap and images of hundreds of people looking out as if they are watching a spectacular show.

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They hired a street artist named J R who is known for giant street-art portraits, to add some modern art to the Pantheon while the renovations are taking place, so in addition to the exterior 360 degree audience art on the dome, inside the entire main floor is covered with the same style of photographs. People were asked to submit/upload a photo of themselves and J R created this composition of over 4000 faces.

It looked really cool and I’ll be the first to admit I was the one wanting to create silly photos of us interacting with the faces on the floor. My classmates didn’t entirely get it… 🙂

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This is a model of the Pantheon, sans plastic dome cover.

A model of the Pantheon.

We also went down to the crypt below, where most of the people buried there have their tombs.
To note in particular, there was Voltaire, Marie Curie, and Victor Hugo, to name a few.

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My class waiting for me. I still maintain I was not lost, just exploring.

Our class time ended before we finished our field trip, so it was only me, a couple of my classmates, and our teacher Isabelle, who continued to the University Sorbonne.

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They don’t normally let tourists through and have security guards at all entrances, but Isabelle sweet-talked a couple guards to let the four of us walk though, (or maybe it was easier because classes and exams were done for the year… Or we just looked adorably innocent).

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And of course we immediately snuck into a couple of the ancient classrooms and took photos of ourselves being silly.

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Isabelle ran down to the front to ‘teach’ us something.

The University Sorbonne is one of the oldest universities in the world, and the courses here range from Literature, Languages (like Greek and Latin), to Social Sciences and History. Most of the traditional classrooms have frescos painted on the walls, chalkboards, ornate ceilings, and sculptures and art around the room. (And in one instance, a grand piano, of course.) It felt like we were on a movie set or something.

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Every inch of this architecture was stunning.

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More stories and photos to come soon, of course, but with company!

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A dessert that could feed a small country and a rant about chocolate.

This entry is about desserts.

Okay, so it’s about many things, and dessert happens to be a feature. 🙂 Because, to be honest, I started this post with the intention of writing about walking around Paris, but then I realized that walking is simply a means to an end in Paris. To eat. (Okay, okay, and also to get to cool places. True story.) 😉

I definitely recommend comfortable shoes to explore Paris. Seriously. If you want to eat all these crĂȘpes and croissants and baguettes and cheese and desserts and whatever else is rich and delicious in France without having to buy drawstring-waist pants, ya gotta walk. A lot. On cobblestones. And if you want to keep up with Parisians during rush hour on the metro, you feel like you are training for a speed walk competition. (Although as a general rule I try to avoid rush hour on the metro; it’s just too many people, too little air, and too much stranger-body-contact-to-stranger-body-contact.) I have to admit, the footwear I brought are somewhat lacking in the ‘cushion’ department and there are mornings where I get up and feel like the soles of my feet have gone on strike and are violently protesting.

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On Friday night after class I decided to go for a walk (of course 😉 ) and revisit the 3rd Arrondissement (the Marais) , check out the Canal St Martin and scope out a couple cafĂ©s and restaurants that had been recommended to me. Not that I have to go very far for good restaurants- I walk by dozens of great places close to my apartment every day, and I passed three crĂȘperies and two gelato places on the same small street on my way to the Marais. It’s fantastic and dangerously tempting at the same time.


It turned into a very ‘romantic night for one’ as I walked across the Seine and along the St Martin canal through rose gardens and ivy arches, passing numerous couples and several groups of friends hanging out under the arches, at the base of old twisted trees and on park benches and garden edges.

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This is the first sculpture I have seen in Paris with is much (or any...?) graffiti on it.

This is the first sculpture I have seen in Paris with this much (or even any) graffiti on it.

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A zig-zag stroll through the Marais brought me past many fancy boutiques, funky jewelry shops, art galleries, tea houses, bars, and as usual, so much amazing architecture. The perfect Paris evening sky made it a gorgeous walk, and the streets were decorated with rainbow flags and banners, along with crowds of people lined up outside the busy night clubs celebrating Pride weekend.

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Saturday was the rainiest day of the weekend, and after the parade I wanted to warm up with some tea and the famous tarte au limon meringue at Le Loir Dans La ThéiÚre (aka the Doormouse In The Tea Pot).

It is a very popular spot and there was a huge lineup to get in, but this ‘party of one’ was seated rather quickly at a shared table by the window. 🙂 They have a sign at the front door stating that laptops are not allowed in the establishment, and though my blogging heart would have been happy to move in for the afternoon and type away in a corner, I like the fact that they encourage people there to enjoy each other’s company over tea and dessert. (My table-mates and I didn’t talk too much more than a) marveling over each other’s dessert selections and b) laughing at the fact our table had one off kilter leg that made us spill each other’s tea any time we moved even slightly in our cozy corner of the place.)

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I ordered an Earl Grey tea which was brought over in a beautiful heavy silver teapot, and then was served the largest piece of lemon meringue pie that I have ever seen in my life. I believe that the meringue alone would feed several people. And really, you should have seen the size of the entire pie- it was gargantuan. It was deliciously luxurious and rich, and everything that is indulgent on this rainy afternoon. But I think I should not have eaten at all that day- in preparation. Or worked my way up to it -over several weeks…Is there training to prepare oneself for such an epic dessert? Alas, after my best efforts, I could not finish it. I tried. I really did. It hurt. In the best and yet saddest way. Next time I’m bringing a friend (or a hidden take-home container). 🙂

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Sunday was an excellent day with market shopping, more walking, company, and another delicious – um, we’ll call it ‘dessert’- that I couldn’t finish.

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In the morning (who am I kidding- late morning….so, at noon) I went to the outdoor market down the street from my apartment and got some great fresh produce- and possibly the best strawberries and cherries I have ever tasted. You know you are a little over-excited about your food when you have a mini photo-shoot about it.

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Yup. And now I wait for all the food magazines to start calling me.

It was a little rainy for a couple of hours, and I got to Skype with my pal Erin who is in Italy right now, which was fantastic. I then met up with my friend Hugo to go for a walk and possibly check out a cheap movie as it was the FĂȘte du CinĂ©ma on Sunday. The sun had come out at this point, so we started with a walk, but about five minutes in, charcoal clouds took over and rain sort of chased us along our route up past Notre Dame and along the Seine. (Yup, this girl still can’t get over the fact that on regular occasions she strolls past Notre Dame. *loooooove*). Even in the rainy weather, tourists were all over that place. It was the perfect day to explore inside a gargoyle-covered ornate ancient church, obviously. (And stand in line for a good long time beforehand, of course.)

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We went to a restaurant in the OdĂ©on area called Le Hibou for something to drink, and both decided to try the Chocolat Chaud. Which turned out to be like eating an enormous dessert. It had been eight years since I’d had a chocolat chaud in Paris- with my sister at Le Chat Noir in Pigalle- and I will not forget again: a chocolat chaud is NOT like a hot chocolate. Unless you make your hot chocolate by melting down a giant Belgian chocolate bar and don’t add any milk. Or to be more accurate, you grind up your own cacao nibs and then melt them down and then pour that directly into a mug. It is likely the richest thing I have ever tasted. It is served with sugar sticks on the side, because, of course, you need to add sugar to your melted-chocolate-bar-in-a-mug. We asked for milk, and were brought a small creamer container, and we realized that we should have asked for a pitcher. Or a cow. I am certain that one chocolat chaud could easily be shared by four people (and a pitcher of milk). It was kind of ridiculous. And this girl loves chocolate, but come on, now. Hugo and I were beside ourselves, both bemused and considerably distressed at how on earth someone was actually expected to finish this ‘drink’ unless they were Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Neither of us could finish it for fear of being sick. Let that be a lesson to you all. And by all means, if you have had an entire chocolat chaud to yourself and lived to tell the tale, I want to know how you did it. End of chocolat chaud rant. 🙂

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We decided not to go see a movie, and as the sky brightened and that amazing Paris ‘evening magic’ happened again, I decided to explore OdĂ©on, and see what the fuss was about with all the sales going on. The biggest sales in Paris happen twice a year: in February, and now. Danger danger: Paris fashion at 20-70% off…. I may end up shipping a box home…. 😀

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Window shopping in Odéon

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Many stores were closed because it was Sunday evening, so I ended up window shopping (and croissant buying), and finding my way around to my favourite place, the Jardin Luxembourg. Again, after a rainy day, it’s a fair bit quieter in terms of crowds, but diehard park lovers like myself were enjoying themselves on the metal chairs and around the fountains. With some Roquefort cheese, a demi baguette, and some fresh cherries, I had a lazy evening enjoying the delight of after-rain weather.

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Check out that sky!! (And the less-than-aesthetically-pleasing architecture of the Montparnasse building in the background.)

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Getting some evening sun!

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That’s all for now, but perhaps I will have a few more things to share before next weekend, when I will be joined by my mum and sister! I cannot wait to see them!!!

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Paris Pride Parade (ou, MarchĂ© des FiertĂ©s).

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This will likely be my most colourful post so far. It was a rainy rainbow sort of day. 😉

As part of the yearly, highly celebrated LGBT festival, the Paris Pride March was this afternoon -and I discovered that it started within walking distance from my apartment. I had been trying to decide how to spend my Saturday afternoon, and having a great time in Toronto last year during Pride week, I wanted to see what Paris would be like. The parade was to start at the Jardin Du Luxembourg and go from there, and started like a rally, or a peaceful (but energetic) protest in the large roundabout by the Luxembourg RER entrance. There was music and several passionate speeches by unseen people at a large float in the middle.

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Strategically placed police surrounding the square, clearly prepared for a riot. There wasn’t one. 🙂

There were lots of people dressed up (to varying degrees), and you could buy rainbow flags, feather boas, rainbow wings, and other multicolored paraphernalia from a couple of stands in the square. There were also carts of drinks (mostly beer and wine) moving around the crowd.

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It was no surprise when it started to rain, and although many umbrellas appeared and some people used their rainbow flags as cover, the majority of people just reveled in the rain. It was already a party. 🙂 The float -and then crowd- started moving, and that’s when I realized that we were part of the parade! 😀

With the one giant dancer-filled float playing a mix of pop and electronic dance music at the front to a balloon-covered fire truck at the back, thousands of people walked from Jardin Du Luxembourg all the way to Bastille (and really, beyond). It was relaxed and fun, with the occasional wave of cheering passing through the crowd. Along the way I came across a group of people painting rainbows on cheeks, so I enthusiastically said “si vous plait- moi aussi? Si vous plait!”, and they happily obliged- they ended up speaking English, but after that I didn’t say much more than “Merci!”.

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There were loads of people lining the streets, and it was truly a giant crowd of happy drenched strangers dancing through Paris for a couple of hours. I often shared my umbrella for a few blocks at a time, I danced to some great music, I followed a giant butterfly for a while, and got to join in the celebrations for the LGBT community. It was a great way to spend a rainy saturday!

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FĂȘte de la musique – le 21 juin, 2014

Saturday the 21st was FĂȘte de la Musique, and there were free concerts all over the city.

This is a huge event in Paris every year and I was so happy to take part in it!

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My classmate Robert told me to go to the concert at the Invalides Metro station, because it would be all Canadian bands. The weather was spectacular and I walked past four other concert venues on my way to the “Nuit Boreale” Stage (aka, the Canadian stage), including a military band performing at the south end of the park at the Eiffel Tower.

The first group of the night was Marijosee (marijosee.com), a woman from Manitoba with a wicked voice and awesome band! When I arrived she was just killing it with crazy high notes and an amazing stage presence.

There were lots of people standing in front of the stage, and dozens more sitting on the grass in the huge field off to the side. There also some really adorable kids dancing their faces off just in front of me – they really had some great moves! 🙂 In between each of the 5 acts that night there was also a DJ from Toronto (Skratch Bastid), who was truly the very best DJ I have ever seen, and watching him is uber entertaining because you an tell he obviously loves what he does!  He will be in Calgary July 19th at The Marquee! Go see him! (skratchbastid.com)

The next group at our stage was a rock band called Mise En Scene, another Manitoba group (an English band with a French name). I ended up hanging out with Marijosee and her rockin’ drummer Kathryn for the changeover into the next band’s performance and we had our own sort of dance party during the DJ’s tunes. Marijosee told me that they had also been at a festival in Switzerland before Paris and were heading back to Canada the next day. Sounds pretty good to me!

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The next group was called Klî Pelgag, with a fantastic lead singer/piano player and a crazy band including violin, viola, cello, upright bass, and drums. The costumes really were the cherry on top, with the three female string players in bridal gowns and baseball caps, the drummer in a speedo and bathing cap and sporting a fake mustache, the bassist in a speedo, bathing cap, cape and flashlight spectacles, and the lead singer in a skeleton jumpsuit. They clearly have a lot of fun, and the lead singer has a great sense of humor and rapport with the audience. And in the middle of one song, the bassist did a magic trick centre stage. Yup, they are the whole package. (klopelgag.com) 🙂

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I ran into my friend Robert by the stage, which was great, and we enjoyed grooving to Franklin Electric -the next group. They were from Montreal, and were phenomenal. The lead singer started the first song wailing brilliantly on a trumpet. I was delighted to realize that I had made my way to the very front and had an awesome view of the stage for the rest of the night. (I promptly went home and bought their latest cd on iTunes.)

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The last group was a punk bank (Dracula Legs), and the crowd at this point was mostly made up of highschool/university students and they got a little crazy. A mosh pit was created, and several kids tried crowd surfing but didn’t get very far. It was a bit much by the end (yes, I am too old for this).

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I ended up chatting with another ‘solo’ Parisian attendee, and we left at the same time and ended up walking up and down the Seine talking in French for about an hour, before walking home. Since the concert ended at about 1:00am, and we took the long way, it turned into about a two and a half hour stroll so I got home just before the sun came up. Haven’t done that in a very long while. What a night. 🙂

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’hĂŽte), 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 amĂ©ricaine), 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 FĂȘte 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!