The Past Week

Summer appears to finally be here after last week’s endless rain. We didn’t experience any flooding here fortunately—the lawn just grew a lot. Our tomato plant appears to also be doing well, but not so much the corn.

My brother came to visit last weekend and after a few days of carefully following the news about the airport strikes, it turned out that the problem was the trains. His train upon arrival in Paris was canceled but he was put on a later one automatically and got his ticket immediately at the train station (part of the TGV + Air service). Friday evening after more internet research I learned how to tell if your train has been canceled: do a search to see if tickets are still being sold. And yes, his train back to CDG on Sunday was indeed canceled as well as all other trains except the one at 9 in the morning. We were bummed for a while until he said he would treat me to a train ticket to Paris so we could spend the day there together. And even though our day in Paris was complicated, it ended up being a good way to spend more time together and save the weekend.

Complicated how? First, I forgot my cell phone, so we had to do everything by memory and with signage, which worked out okay, actually. Then, we planned to go to the Musée Picasso, but because of the plan vigipirate, we couldn’t even enter the museum since my brother had his travel backpack with him. So we headed to Montparnasse to drop it off in the baggage lockers, at which point I did not feel like heading all the way back to the Marais, and we walked up past the Invalides to the Musee D’Orsay, which was, suprise, closed because of flooding. We then tried the Orangeries but I was having some trouble standing in line and didn’t want to waste an hour of the day (it was a free first Sunday) watching him stand in line from a bench. I really need to get on asking for that carte prioritaire. So we ended up just wandering around the Tuileries and people watching. We did get a good look at the flooded Seine but I have to wait for him to send me pictures since I didn’t have my phone!

In other news, the CAF has named me J’s last name even though I never wrote it in anywhere. And of course their e-mail service has a “problème technique” so I may have to write a full on letter or actually go out there to fix it.

Here’s some stuff I read this week:

Queen Elizabeth and Her Corgis: A Love Story

Jonah Ryan for Congress: For any Veep fans out there.

The 5 Biggest Financial Mistakes I Made while Traveling the World

A bit dated now: Hillary Clinton Supporters May Be Hiding in Plain View: It’s true that I feel like I only see Bernie stuff on facebook walls (except for my family) and I don’t step up and promote her myself even though I love her (there I said it).

Wedding Shopping in Paris

When J’s vacation plans this week fell through, he decided he wanted to go to Paris and Fontainebleau with me. Although I was nervous about walking so much with my foot, we drove up to Paris Tuesday morning and parked at Antony, where we would spend the night at a friend’s place. Navigating the RER and the metro with a fragile foot that no one seemed to notice was a little stressful, and very tiring for my calf muscles. But all in all I think it was worth it. Once we were finally in Paris we headed to the Marais where I had decided we would go to Danyberd’s shop after poking around on the internet. Turns out this area of the Marais is almost entirely men’s shops (Parisians are probably already aware of this) but I was pretty confident with the choice of Danyberd, where J got fit for his suit including pants, jacket, and shirt. He got the tie across the street and got the pants hemmed in the same neighborhood. All we have left to find are the shoes, which, if he weren’t so picky, he could have gotten at Danyberd as well.

Wedding dress shopping was not the goal of the trip as I already have a prêt-a-porter dress that I’d be perfectly happy wearing for the wedding. Unfortunately we did walk past “Une fille à marier” in the Marais with the absolutely perfect short, lacy, stylish “made in France” dress for… 780 euros, or about twice my budget. Sigh.

Picture from monbeaumariage.com

Picture from monbeaumariage.com

But I did make one purchase for myself, since I had been eyeing some rings on zeina-alliances.com. Knowing they had a boutique in Paris, we went over to Place de la Madeleine to find it. It is well hidden, through a little archway and behind glass doors that you buzz to get in. We were gauche enough to wander in without an appointment at 6 pm (they close at 7) but I don’t think the saleswoman regretted helping us since we did order my ring, which I should be able to pick up when I go back to Paris for my certificat de coutume probably in February. Though of course I won’t be able to wear it till July! So things are coming together for the wedding, since we also booked our “traiteur” Thursday night. I’ll go back to work on November 3rd at which point I imagine the planning will slow down significantly, since I’ll be doing other things than sitting on the couch thinking about it.

Faire découvrir Paris à mon chéri (français!)

Ju and I went to Paris this past weekend. A friend of ours was coming back from her trip around the world and wanted to meet up with friends in Paris before heading home to Lyon. We also discovered a few weeks ago that Ju’s cousin moved to Antony (near Orly airport) a year ago so we decided to go visit her as well.

I’ve been to Paris multiple times, starting when I was 12 years old (and 11—I spent my birthday there on that trip) on a school exchange. With that first initiation to Paris I already got to see the Tuileries, the Eiffel Tower, the Musée d’Orsay, the Invalides, and went on a bateau-mouche down the Seine. (And let’s not forget that extra special trip to the Hotel Dieu for stitches for my brother who got attacked in the metro in broad daylight!) I came back to Paris when I was an assistant and started finally to have favorite things over the next few years: the Musée d’Orsay, the Centre Pompidou, felafel in the Marais, the façade of the Louvre and of Notre Dame… Imagine my delight when I learned that all that Ju had ever seen in Paris was the Eiffel Tower. I was soon excited to show him his own patrimoine.

First I asked him if he liked the impressionists. He said he didn’t think so. I was distressed. I only really love art that was produced after 1800, the more abstract or blurry the better. A week later he said, “En fait si j’aime les impressionnistes.” So that was settled—if we could, we would stop in to see them at the Quai d’Orsay.

What was funniest about this trip to Paris was that I was leading around two different French people, deciding on what metro line to take, knowing whether the 9th or the 4th arrondissement was closer to where we were, pointing out the Tour de Châtelet, getting them to eat weird food that they didn’t really understand (felafel). To be fair I did discover the Jardin des Plantes for the first time, where we rested in the shade drinking the flavored rhum our friend had brought back from Guadeloupe island.

The first day I made us go directly to Notre Dame and we discovered that there was a huge religious ceremony going on, but the point was for Ju to agree with me that it’s breathtaking and huge (he did). Then we showed him Beaubourg, which he wasn’t a huge fan of, but we wandered inside just a bit so he could see what it’s like (taking the escalators up to the top didn’t seem to be an option without a ticket for the exhibitions). Then we ate felafel in the Marais where I crassly told him that he would see expensive boutiques, Orthodox Jews, and homosexuals. I’m a tactful tour guide.

As it happened it was Gay Pride so after the Jardin des Plantes and saying goodbye to our friend at the Gare de Lyon, we wandered over to the Bastille to meet up with other friends and watch the parade from the comfort of a street-side bar where we had a perfect view.

On Sunday, after spending the night with J’s cousin in Antony, we headed back into Paris where I made him wander past the Louvre and through the Tuileries, where he saw the petit arc du Carroussel in front of the Louvre, the big Arc off in the distance, and some sort of fête foraine going on in the gardens.

Upon getting home Sunday night we had this conversation:

J : Mais je crois que pour des français le Louvre n’est pas tellement exceptionnel. Il y a beaucoup de choses comme ça en France.

Me : Bah, non! Il n’y a rien comme ça dans le monde! Il y a quoi comme ça? Le château de Versailles? Chambord? Et puis c’est tout, il n’y a rien d’autre.

Spoiled Frenchman! Or am I wrong?

In any case we did get into the Musée D’Orsay on the free first Sunday so that I could show him the impressionists and the neo-impressionists and the post-impressionists. Then he tolerated me as I made us go up to the 9th to go to the new and only Chipotle in Paris. (Seriously, I will never go to Chipotle at home in San Antonio—fast food Mexican in a town filled with the real thing?) It was delicious. J liked it too though we both thought it was too expensive for Poitiers. He was the one to notice the Dr Pepper available as a drink choice, because I’d made him taste some from Auchan a few weeks ago. (He thinks it tastes like cold medicine. I don’t completely disagree.)

Oh, and, I don’t have any pictures. D’oh. We didn’t take our cameras!

Now we’re back in Poitiers and I am sick, with some sort of evening-only fever, swollen lymph nodes, blech. I’ll be going to the doctor tomorrow. This being sick thing is putting a hitch in all of my plans!

Parisness, and Two Days to Go

Some photos of what I’ve been up to:

From the Louvre:

From the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur:

From messing around on the metro last night on our way back from the Y’s other apartment:

From sitting around at the apartment (what I’ve been doing all day):

Margaret hunts for jobs in London, I wander around with a camera.

From Renan Luce (yes, a bit obsessed lately):

I was here

Je connais des lieux qui respirent
L’air du temps, les souv’nirs
Le vécu
On y vient parce que l’on y boit
On laisse pour ce que l’on voit
Un écu

Ceux qui entrent sans savoir apportent
Et laissent à l’heure où ils sortent
Leurs pensées
Qui adhèrent aux murs et aux meubles
Semblent partir et puis veulent
Y rester

Dans ces endroits, moi j’aime l’envers
Du décor une fois vos verres
Desservis
Je joue au petit criminel
Qui promène son opinel
Dans vos vies

Ouvrez les yeux car où que j’aille
Je laisse derrière moi des entailles
Des rayures
Et les gravats qu’il me reste
Servent à combler ma tristesse
Mes félures

Qui était à ma place ?
Laisserai-je des traces ?
Moi aussi ! Moi aussi !
C’est pourquoi j’occupe mes loisirs
A graver partout “I was here”

Des traces de premiers rendez-vous
Ceux qui donnent le rose aux joues
Et des paupières
Battant l’air comme des papillons
Soul’vant dans un tourbillon
La poussière

Tout cela se propage et donne
Peut-être pas un cyclone
Jusqu’en Chine
Mais laisse dans l’air alentour
Un frisson qui parcourt
Notre échine

Et lorsque nous étions à l’école
Nous collions déjà nos chewing-gums
Sous les chaises
Plus tard les premières galoches
Et l’addition sur l’écorce
D’un vieux chêne

Ces gentilles délinquances
N’évit’ront pas les vacances
Eternelles
Mais ces coeurs et rectangles
Sont un peu notre langue
Maternelle
Pour dire…

Qui était à ma place ?
Laisserai-je des traces ?
Moi aussi ! Moi aussi !
C’est pourquoi j’occupe mes loisirs
A graver partout “I was here”

Qui était à ma place ?
Laisserai-je des traces ?
Moi aussi ! Moi aussi !
C’est pourquoi j’occupe mes loisirs
A graver partout “I was here”
“I was here”

I finally went to the Louvre.

And I gotta say, it was not my favorite. It was overwhelming and hot and I felt kind of lost among the kind of art I’m not crazy about and don’t much enjoy. So, now that I’ve said all those negative things I’ll say what I did like: the building, the gardens (which I’d seen before of course), seeing the pyramid from underneath, the Napoleon III apartments, the huge painting of the crowning of Napoleon/Josephine, the Michelangelo slaves.

Oh and guess what? I didn’t cry in any public places today. I’m gonna try to keep the count at two (I teared up at the post office in Reims the other day when the guy said my package was going to cost 123 euros, which, um, it did NOT). At least until Thursday at the airport.

Trip to Paris in Parts

I. Paris

Paris was interesting. I can’t quite figure out what I think of it. I didn’t realize how much I’ve gotten used to Reims. In Paris everything seemed bigger, weirder, and more touristed. I stayed with the Y’s down in the 15th and the concert was up in the Parc de la Villette, pretty much the other end of town, so the metro ride was about an hour total. I got on the wrong train at one point, making me a little late to meet up with American J*’s friend who was meeting me for the concert. So I didn’t see much of Paris but I spent plenty of time on the metro.

I was taking the 4 all the way to the end to get back to the Y’s, and was in a super good mood after the concert, when this guy sat down in front of me and said something to me in French. I was pretty sure he was asking how long we’d been sitting there in that station (2 or 3 minutes) but I couldn’t understand exactly and didn’t want to give him the wrong answer so I said “comment?” and he repeated. Still couldn’t understand. So he smiled and said “Vous n’?™tes pas fran?ßaise” and asked the guy next to him, whose answer confirmed that I had understood correctly. So anyway this first guy, who’s young and friendly-seeming, asked me where I was from and I told him the U.S. He asked me how long I’d been in France, and we must have been speaking in English, because I remember answering 2 years in English. To which he said (still trying to be friendly) that I really should try to learn some French! Two years is a long time! At which point I got really annoyed because I DO speak French, very well, and he just assumed that I didn’t based on one misunderstanding. I think my irritation showed because he asked if it bothered me if he talked to me. It didn’t really, it just bothered me that he had been so dense, so we kept talking, a mix of French and English. The thing is, French people can be so dense about what it means to speak another language that even though we’d said a lot in French, by the end of the conversation he still probably thought I didn’t speak a lick. And it continued to bother me all night. It’s an impossible thing to explain to a stranger on a train that missing one word doesn’t mean you don’t know any of their language.

Anyway, back to Paris. Possibly it was because all I did was go to a rock concert where the audience was half anglophone, but the city didn’t seem as French to me as it used to. Probably it’s just that my idea of what French is has changed to conform to, uh, the East. Everywhere else feels foreign.

* female, American J, not ex J

II. Tegan & Sara

Short note about the opening act: I didn’t know anything about Northern State, but they were fun and cute.

Can you see her at all? My camera doesn’t take good pictures in the dark. Or in the red. Or else I wouldn’t have cut Tegan out of this.

My obsession with Tegan & Sara started, yes, when I heard them on the Gray’s Anatomy soundtrack in 2005. I listened to Walking with a Ghost for a few weeks and then listened to So Jealous compulsively all summer long. Consequently I associated all those songs (Take Me Anywhere, I Know, I Know, I Know) with the events of that summer for a long time. But I’ve listened to them enough now that all those connotations are pretty much gone. Oh, I also saw them at the Minnesota Zoo that summer.

So I downloaded most of The Con (it wasn’t released in Europe, but I DID get it for Christmas) last September when it was really appropriate because things with JS were not going well and T&S seem to hit the nail on the head with the complexities of relationships. It’s kind of a dark album, I think, but I think it’s better than So Jealous (which don’t get me wrong, I adore).

Point is, I haven’t been listening to The Con in a while because I try generally to use music to keep me in a good mood, and The Con + breakup doesn’t really do that. But it’s an awesome, awesome album, one of my favorites, and it was so much fun to hear it last night. Listening to the album and hearing it live are not at all the same experience. They even sang one of their earlier (pre-So Jealous) songs that I normally don’t care much for, and it was great live. I think I would go listen to these girls every month if I could.

I changed into my “Evening looks I want be free” t-shirt before going to Paris, where I met up with N, a friend of a friend who had just arrived in Paris, in the metro station by the park. We followed the trail of hipsters to Le Trabendo, somewhere in the middle. It was a nice place. N and I had a pretty good view, on the upper level, right behind some short French girls who had all the songs memorized. I mean, I have all the songs memorized, but I know it bothers people if I sing along, so I don’t. These girls didn’t really care. I shouldn’t complain too much though because as far as concert crowds go they were a good lot to be stuck behind.

III. Conclusion

I love love love Tegan & Sara. Paris still has to win me over.