Monday, April 28, 2008

The Night Owl

"I work at night. I don't just mean I write at night - I am writing this at 1.53am, as it happens - I mean I function at night. After sunset, I think as clearly as I ever will. I want to walk about, play the banjo and wear hats. I want to enjoy being alive in an uninterrupted and possibly creative way. Left to my own devices, I would always keep my office hours between 10pm and 4 or 5am. Sadly, the rest of the world fails to understand this and tends to telephone me most mornings. Traffic noise, hammering next door, unforgiving travel schedules, the necessity of meeting daytime people and purchasing food; they all conspire to drive me from my bed and disturb my natural order, so I spend my life jolting from one kind of jetlag to another."

A L Kennedy

Read the rest.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Learning to Love you More: old fave

I was hanging out yesterday with a friend in Prospect Park, discussing the joys of walking (how can something that I do so often that its easy to take for granted, bring me so much peace and joy its beyond me) when he told me about an art project he'd joined in on with Harell Fletcher called the "Long Walk Home" which basically consisted of gathering a group of people at Grand Central Station and walking each and every single person home.

I bring up this story because it reminded me of Harrell Fletcher and Miranda July's website: Learning to Love You More, which as always been one of my favorite blog-project websites.

My favorite assignment photograph a significant outfit. Click on the list of names on the right hand side to see each person's report.



I woke up this morning a little bit before 5am and I was lying in bed thinking and thinking. So I got up and wrote a little bit and then blogged a bit. As I was looking for the post that referenced my resolution, I came across Auden's poem "More Loving One."

It was a poem I'd first heard the stanzas of "If equal affection cannot be, / Let the more loving one be me" during high school on a show that I watched at the time. I wrote it down and searched for the complete poem. What I realized was that the meaning of the entire poem had been obscured from me by those few lines. Being a person who always feels things deeply I was resigned to accepting the fate of that second stanza.

I was reading it this morning and I kind of chuckled to myself as the rest of the poem revealed itself. Seeing it in its entirety. The end of the poem is like a small epiphany, Auden says "Were all stars to disappear or die, / I should learn to look at an empty sky / And feel its total dark sublime, / Though this might take me a little time." Which means that yeah while he discusses the inequality of feeling as having weight, that he'd rather love more than less, he also realizes that if the object of his strong affection were to leave or disappear that he'd learn to live with it and appreciate the sky (or life rather)for what it was without it eventually. That everything would be just as awe inspiring without the things that we believe make them so important.

Revelations are beautiful that way, whether referring to the revelation at the end of the poem or realizing that you'd never really understood it until now.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Being Analog in a Digital World

Well folks.

We've nearly reached the end of my blogger blogging era. I've been playing with the idea of drastically changing my blog since a little before the New Year. So here it is, April and I'm excited to be nearly there, it had gotten to the point that everything about blogger's clunky back end design had begun to annoy me. Posting photos was still a chore, the look of the actual blog was bad and I still didn't have my own domain name.

The change isn't quite complete, since I'm still playing with everything and figuring out the look (I keep talking about the mysterious banner at the top which will be created through my own cunning and genius...well not really...I've got lots of creative friends), but quite soon.

I will keep the archives here active as long as blogger will allow. It would be ashame to lose my virtual documentation of the past three years.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Before Sunrise, Before Sunset. Paris.

Last night I dreamt that I was watching the same movie over and over again. Maybe it was everyday, but definitely repeatedly over the course of the dream (since in dreams time expands and contracts at will).

I couldn't remember the movie, but I woke up with the thought that it might have been Before Sunset.

Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are my two favorite movies ever in life, the latter weighed a great deal in my decision to go to Paris. I watched them almost exactly a year ago and the idea popped into my head to buy a ticket right then, to leave the next weekend if I could. The idea of walking with someone and discussing everything through the streets of such a beautiful backdrop struck me as one thing I infinitely wanted to experience in my lifetime. Even now, watching it again, I still have that small ache in my chest at the end. I still feel that same tug. (I watched them both again this afternoon to relieve myself of the funk that I woke up in...Definitely did the trick)

The last ten minutes of that movie, sigh...if you haven't seen it, add it to you Netflix list. You'd have bought a ticket as well.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

My First Guest Spot


I haven't stopped writing my long Parisian post in case you're waiting and wondering where my usual morning updates are, they've just moved briefly to Wordbk for a small guest stint.



Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shakespeare and Company

If you're ever in Paris and happen to be as big of a fan of books as I am, visit the original Shakespeare and Company, opened by George Whitman:

The Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart

When Frances Steloff was president of the American Booksellers Association she told me that my bookstore had drifted into being the sort of place that might have been designed by the world's greatest architects. I have let my imagination run wild with the result that a stranger walking the streets of Paris can believe he is entering just another of the bookstores along the left bank of the Seine but if he finds his way through a labyrinth of alcoves and cubbyholes and climbs a stairway leading to my private residence then he can linger there and enjoy reading the books in my library and looking at the pictures on the walls of my bedroom.


I may disappear leaving behind me no worldly possessions - just a few old socks and love letters, and my windows overlooking Notre-Dame for all of you to enjoy, and my little rag and bone shop of the heart whose motto is "Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise". I may disappear leaving no forwarding address, but for all you know I may still be walking among you on my vagabond journey around the world.

- George Whitman

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Hopelessly Rafael: A Brief Parisian Anecdote

It was on my third day of my Paris trip, after my brief day trip to Versailles, that I met Rafael. I had not, up until that point, actively made any effort to seek company. I would even go so far as to say that I had been avoiding interacting too much
with anyone from the hostels and was appreciating the self explorative tone my adventures had taken. But there he was...

I was standing outside smoking a cigarette when he approached me, and though I can't remember the details of the beginning of our conversation, I do remember that he began to ask me questions as openly and inquisitively as a child, that I found it hard not to answer or to keep my little self imposed wall up. I was trying to maintain a quiet silence in my head which is sometimes good for writing. I found it nearly impossible. His smile was king, green eyes unwavering and he had a small patch of grey hair just behind his left ear (I've always found something completely endearing about prematurely grey hair, maybe I find it instantaneously warm and disarming through stereotypes of my own creation).

He loved the american language, be it in book, film or music. He seemed to love the words "nice" and "good." Often telling me, "Oh, Marcia, you are verrry nice" or "KFC was verrry good." He was from São Paulo, Brazil and we discussed in length the corruption and the danger of growing up there (it was verrrry bad). We also discussed crowded trains, families, awkwardness in front of cameras, the Parisian weather, the importance of soccer, writing, art and whatever else that crossed our minds. I introduced him to a few phrases in English and tried to help whenever he was struggling with explaining a certain concept.

We stood outside smoking cigarettes and talking till it began to rain harder (there seemed to be a little drizzle on almost all my Parisian days) and he invited me in for a drink. He told me about the night before (Verry Bad). Rafael had just arrived at the hostel, early before he could check into his room and needed to use the pay phone at the corner to let his parents know he'd arrived safely. On his way outside he ran into a girl who also happened to be from Brazil, they struck up a brief conversation in Portugese, both excited to find someone that reminded them of home. Much later when he returned to the hostel he ran into the same girl again, this time drinking with a few other people. She invited him over for a drink. Drinking turned to dancing. (She was verrrry attractive). She seemed to like Rafael a lot. So he, being 'nice' and 'good' Rafael, told her he had a girlfriend at home that he loved.

He looked at me his eyes all big and earnest, "but she didn't care. It was not very nice. You could tell that she had too many glasses of wine. I tried to leave and she kept saying stay, stay, stay. She buys me a glass of wine. I said no and she buys it anyway. Just like that. Then, do you know what she did?"

I had a guess.

"She kissed me!!"

He briefly explained the logistics between a brazilian kiss and an american kiss using hand motions (though I'm fairly sure a drunk kiss is a drunk kiss) which seemed to involve her nearly sucking his entire face. He pushed her away, maybe a minute too late, but he felt incredibly guilty. He had to tell his girlfriend because they told each other everything but he kept telling me how horribly bad he felt and how he'd left.
(I sat there maybe wanting to tell him that he shouldn't tell his girlfriend, that it was just a slip in judgement or that it was she who kissed and maybe therefor not such a big deal. He'd stopped it anyway. But I said nothing. ) The girl was upset that he pushed her away and Rafael felt bad about that too. He reiterated how attractive the girl had been.

Then he said, "The Man in me wanted to go upstairs and lie with her, but"

"Boyfriend," I supplied.

"No...the Human in me. The Human in me that loves another Human knows that my love is much bigger than that desire."

At that moment, I fell a little in love with Rafael myself. I saw in him something great and desirable which I'd felt once and had been lost along the way. He was a hopeless romantic.

He believed that he could tell his girlfriend what had happened and because they loved one another it could be worked out. That any problem could be resolved. That love was powerful. Maybe I'd
even stopped completely believing that men like that could exist.

Still there is a part of me of course, that thinks, that thought, he's young and that the world will teach him a thing or two.

But I really hope it doesn't.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Career Choice: Fail

For the record, writers get no love. And if you're thinking maybe I'll take up a career in writing, don't move to france.

France of all places. Home to the historically intellectually astute. Philosophers. Poets. Novelists.

Do you know what the french are interested in?


If photographers and writers were in a battle for drumming up career interest in Paris, writer's get the smack down (old school wrestling style) each and every time.

(of course I hardly consider the opinion of a waitress and a cook to matter that much anyway)

(yes thats my bitterness talking)


My One Purchase

I am extremely pleased with it.


The Eiffel at Night* (to expand a bit on bk's post)

*He was so excited about all the beautiful ladies, I thought I'd give a more in depth and marica-esque account of the night.

Sunday night was my last night in Paris. It rained all day but the sky was still bright and things took on this different light that I'm sure only happens in Paris. The sky is still incredibly blinding on clouding days in Paris, everything seems a bit whiter than one would expect. I found myself squinting even on the rainy days. We decided to walk to St. Germain for dinner and hang out in a part of the Latin Quarter we hadn't explored (or he rather, I realized once we got there that it is where I had wandered the sunday prior and had my brief epistolary affair with the older gentleman over espresso and lunch.)

After wandering over Pont Neuf from the apartment, we settled inside Cafe Jade on
10, Rue Buci, a very hip and modern little restaurant/cafe/bar, though I don't think it made the superfuture guide. The walls were adorned with the names of famous artists from all over the world in bold colors. The crowd seemed our age, gorgeous in a very Parisian way...and yes the women were absolutely beautiful. They were all stylishly dressed, everything about them had that flair and simplistic style that we'd expected to find right upon entering France simply everywhere. It did dominate a bit of our conversation as every woman that walked into the room seemed a bit more alluring than the one prior. And at least to my and bk's probably ignorant standard of Parisianesque, they fit the bill completely.

The rest of our conversation was the sort of conversation that Paris breeds. At times heavy, at times wordly, at times thoughtful, at times philosophical and at times light and airy.

Diner was delicious. I had the duck, which was delicious and which if I close my eyes I can almost still taste. Bk had the rumpsteak I believe...I must say it makes me happy, the number of restaurants that serve fries with everything. We had two carafes of wine. The clock struck 10:45. I nearly turned into a pumpkin. My one goal for my last night in Paris was to see the tower sparkling at night. We had to run/walk back to Pont Neuf, which is where bk had suggested seeing the tower, as opposed to the foot of the tower. I am exceedingly glad that I agreed.

This was the magic I'd been waiting for it, that one moment to cap off my trip and make me completely sad I had to leave and return somewhere that could never be quiet enchanting or charming as this (though ny has its charms).

Standing at the northern most alcove of Pont Neuf, with the water of the Seine River dark green and swirling beneath me. The rattling of the rain against my big yellow umbrella muffling out the sounds of the city. The traffic at my back, the Norte Dame at my back, to my right and my left the dazzling Paris city lights and just like that she began to sparkle, her great big spotlight twirling in the clouds. Like a stationary firework, that never dies out. And I'd hate to be repetitive but it was incredibly magical. Everything was exactly staged like I might have been the starring lead in a my own little Parisian adventure movie. The entire city seemed to breathe and pulse and be there just for me.

I think I left a piece of myself there in that little alcove of the bridge or maybe I gave up something that I'd been holding onto.

I had a dream about it tonight, seeing the Eiffel Tower from the bridge, the entire moment, right down to my soggy tote bag seemed to recreate itself in my head.

I wish that I could have the same dream every night for a very long time.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Blazey and Sonya in Paris

Two or three days ago, over a glass of wine while we lounged around the apartment (maybe there wasn't wine but it seems fitting) bk turned to me with a devilish smile and said 'do you think think the courtyard by the big building is a good place to meet someone?'*

I looked up from my book and shrugged. 'Sounds good to me.' paused for a beat. 'Wait who are we meeting?'

bk just replied 'someone I know.'

And this began my two day inquisition. No question was too big or too small. 

'who are they?' someone i know
'what are their names' george and jordan
'where do you know them from' ohio
'how long have you know them' five years maybe
'are they designers' one is
'are they tall or short' they're not tall
'black or white' white
'are they like you or blazey?' me
'why are they in paris' they came to party
'where are they staying' i'm not sure

Somehow the story of george and jordan began to take a life of  its own, the gay couple from ohio, that I was reassured would thoroughly enjoy meeting. The first day we waited for them at the Centre Pompidou, I kept looking for the stylishly dressed gay couple (bk said they were like him).  They ended up not making it and we got coffee and went shopping instead.

The second day we were scheduled to meet them at four pm at Notre Dame. After going to Shakespeare and co (another blog post all together), we walked along the Seine till we reached a short bridge that connected Paris' left bank to the Ile de la Cite. I tried to not ask any more questions. 

Right as we walked into the small courtyard I saw a curly head in the distance. 'Oh my god, that guy looks just like Blazey from behind. Look at his hair, look at the way he walks. That's so weird...wait....standing with the brown haired girl that looks...sorta like sonya...these people are like their doppelgangers...bk you have to follow them and take a picture."

It was absolutely hilarious. I was so convinced that they couldn't possibly be in Paris that we followed them for a whole five minutes without it ever dawning on me that it might be them and even as Blazey turned and his face came into view my first thought was 'wow, Blazey came to paris without telling bk, friendship-fail' I had been told that he was surprising her with a weekend trip to San Francisco.

It was a great evening in Paris...not so much of a bad way to end my two weeks. Its a little weird seeing them in the Cafes and against the backdrop of all the Parisian buildings, a little weird and a lot of fun.  

Brooklyn storms Paris. 

These guys are the best at surprises. 

*(Centre Pompidou is very close to our place).


Friday, April 11, 2008

Bk Takes Me Shopping.

One of the highlights of having bk join me for my Paris adventures (convincing him didn't take much arm twisting) was all the cool kid stores we'd go to along the way. We've sort of got this perfect mixture of new and old going on. Yesterday I took him on my walking tour of Montmartre and the Sacré Cœur, through old charming Paris, to the place where Amelie was filmed, Today we went to all the hip stores in Paris. Artoyz (a big little toy store with all of the little figures that bk and his friends collect) and Kiliwatch (a big expensively priced but cool vintage store)...There were a bunch of others. Even I got into the swing of things, spending money.  I'm consistently amazed at the amount of work that goes into designing stores. We walked into one and there was a narrow spiral concrete staircase that led to a little cavern underneath, fashioned after a cave with arched walls of brown concrete bricks.  Everyone in most of the stores were really nice (another kick in the face of the french rudeness myth) and I think that most of the bored attitude you encountered in any of them would be akin to any high end retail store.

Another thing that I love about Paris...walking through the streets (nearly running at times to keep up with his longer legs) are the things you run into along the way. We passed the Gallerie Vivienne, which is one of the great passages in Paris...most of the roof is made up of these ancient skylights. Slightly brown and yellowish. You walk through a hall with shops on both sides until you reach a big dome, with the same skylight/greenhouse effect and a big light fixture hanging down that reminded me of a cross between a candelabra and a chandelier. 

Somewhere in the midst of this we stopped to eat at a small cafe (my food was cooked this time) while it rained and was sunny at the same time.


The Eiffel Tower, the dreamer and me.

The couples made it more beautiful. 

I know its a cliche, but lest we forget, I am a girl and I do have a great big heart.  Seeing these two couples standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, one young, one older about twenty feet apart from one another standing  on the great big lawn/garden. They were both embraced, the younger couple just staring out across the at Paris, taking everything in, the older couple alternately kissing and looking up at the tower, whispering to one another in that secret language that two people in love share. 

It was the first time I felt completely overwhelmed by the romantic nature of the city of lights. It made me both a little hopeful and a little sad in equal measure.  Like bk said: "Its universally understood that you can't go to Paris without thinking about love, wishing for love or being in love."

At the Eiffel Tower is the moment when it gets the best of you. 


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Notre Dame

I don't want to lose track of my days...
I think its easier with the time spent talking verbally about how things go and how life seems and the nature of things (because Paris breeds that or I breed that or a mixture of the two).

Being alone its so much easier to tell your verbal story to someone. The world. 

Two days ago we went to the Notre Dame.  Which is much larger and more majestic than it is in any photograph you've ever seen.   I'm always struck when I stand beneath something with that much history by the passage of time, the number of people who have stood in that very spot and thought the exact things that I thought. The people who spent their entire lives building and perfecting every inch. The people who went through great pains to restore it after parts were destroyed. 

A note about the woman begging from bk's photo. The whole situation was a little intense. She followed us across the courtyard in front of the Notre Dame, asking for money because of the photograph. I can't say I was nonplussed by the whole thing. He seemed a little less phased.  I think I'm not sure I agree with his whole idea of not paying someone who is begging, especially considering that its the least you can do if you're going to snap their photograph and exploit their lifestyle for your art. 

There are lots of impoverished Romany people in Paris. (what we call and probably offensively gypsies). They're outside of every major tourist attraction. The first thing they say is "Do you speak English?" though I believe its the only english they speak, once you say yes (and I think for the first day bk kept saying yes) they'll show you a hand written note. I have not, since I've been here seen anyone give them money. You'll also find a few women, like the one in the photograph, sitting or kneeling (sometimes on Metro stairwells) saying nothing, heads bowed and holding a cup.  There is something about it that I find slightly unsettling. 


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Last Nights Dinner (And 3 bottles of Wine later...)

photo courtesy of jaybeekay

Last night, being the daring traveller that I am, I decided to try steak tartare. I think that because of the name, I expected raw steak, raw steak which seemed not so bad in the scheme of things, when considering how much I eat steak rare to the point that its only brown on the outside. Besides, I'm gutsy. I'll try anything once. When in Rome?

I was not expecting what I got.

Steak Tartare is raw ground beef with an egg on top, for those not in the know, served with capers, onions and parsley and sliced potatoes on the side. 

I did eat it, most of it. 

It wasn't so bad, if the texture didn't get to you. The capers gave it most of the flavor and they serve it with worcestershire sauce (i googled the spelling nic). Also the large quantities of wine consumed before (one bottle), during (one bottle) and after (one bottle) helped. 

I can still taste the capers. 

Maybe I should be a little less daring. 

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Apartment Living

Monday was uneventful. I decided not to wear myself down with traipsing all around the city. Bk was coming Tuesday and I didn't want to feel rundown and tired by the time he arrived. I did check out and fall in love with the beautiful apartment in Le Marais. On a street lined with galleries and cute little shops, behind a large, tall green door (it was so parisian and interesting looking that I thought for a long while that it couldn't possibly be the place), Past two courtyards, up four flights of wooden stairs that slope and sag. Is the most charming little attic apartment.

The apartment thing is nice, it feels homey. There are wooden beams across the roof. Lots of windows, one overlooking a small terrace, that I believe we have access to, and the courtyard.z The other out across to the other buildings.  A tiled floor in the living room and kitchen, with small spanish rugs.  Two or Three big wooden amours.  A real bed (its been a week, hostel mattresses  are like cardboard) all with white linens...there is something quite charming about that. 

This morning bk made breakfast (croissants, eggs, cheese, juice).

It feels almost like living here.  Watch out. I might run away. 


Sunday Night, Paris Snow.

Sunday Night found me at dinner at a wonderful restaurant in Le Marais with the Cali Boys. A girl from the hostel, Brianna tagged along as well. 

The best french onion soup I've ever tasted (a bit on the salty side but I like that sort of thing).  Chicken Supreme--cooked in riesling with fabulous oniony chivey mashed potatoes. I wish I had taken a picture because they really were fabulous.  We exchanged information, finally. 

 Afterwards I attempted to go out but with a Metro that stops running at 1am and everything being closed on Sunday Nights it was mostly a failed attempt on my part. I'm not sure whether or not they ever made it out, at 12:30 I ran to catch the train and said my final goodbyes to all of them. 

What really made the evening for all of us was the snow. It snowed in Paris in April. I've never seen anything more enchanting or magical than all the statuesque 16th and 17th century architecture with snow flakes falling all around it. I wanted the weather to be warm while I was in town. I wanted there to be lots of sunshine. But it felt like a small gift from Paris to me. 


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Missing Post and Photos

Just for the record, I'm not slacking on the posting. (or only posting photographs of guys from California).

At Oops Hostel the internet is free but the connection is slow and gives out (they only allow you to use it in 30-60 min and it gives no warning when they sign you out) so I end up losing emails, blogpost and get cut off in the middle of uploading photographs.

There was a great photo taken from the coffee shop where Alexander and I shared an espresso on Sunday which overlooked the Pantheon. There was a photo of the biggest and most beautiful dog I'd ever seen, tied to a gate surrounding a huge fountain. The sign that said "beer goggles, the cheap alternative to plastic surgery."

There are also a couple of post that I've written in my head that will hve to wait as well till later.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Parisian Afternoon

This afternoon was very nice and relaxing. All of my plans usually are in flux for most of the day so I never made it to the Museum. I started walking north from my hostel and ended up at Rue de Muffetard (sp?) where there is an outdoor market quite by accident. It was one of the places and things I wanted to do while in Paris, just to see and experience. I continued walking north (hoping to make it to the Seine) bu stooped to get chinese food (because its inexpensive).

When I stopped in an older french gentleman upon realizing my difficulty ordering offered assistance and asked that I sit and eat with him. Me being me, said sure why not? Talk to more french locals get to know a bit about the culture.

Afterwards he invited me to a café to sit on a terrace and enjoy the sun light. We drank espresso talked about french poetry and literature. Talked about life. Talked about American culture and linguistics. He explained to me the importance of French Appertifs which is loosely translated into appetizers but is a very important french way of life. Its the way, he said, that he french get together and talk about life and enjoy one another's company and it can go on for hours, you eat or you don't eat, but its really about communing with another person. Enjoying company.

Then we walked to the river (it was nice to have someone point out the architecture and the nuances of the city along the way) where we sat on a very narrow staircase (his secret of course) that led straight down into the water.

I suppose for now that's it. I really would like to head to the room and take a (hopefully) short nap. Maybe when I wake up I'll call some people to see what their dinner or evening plans are...

Till later.


A Few Random and Un-ordered Notes

  • Blogging after a bottle wine, a beer and a cocktail is a lot like emailing after a bottle of wine, a beer and a cocktail. Except of course that everyone can see it. You wake up the next morning and think...wait...did I just say that. Why yes, M, yes you did.
  • Cool design hostels attract cool looking people.
  • I'm still quite exhausted (I haven't really gotten that rest yet).
  • Headed to the Musee D'Orsay today most likely.
  • Most people recommend going to the same places in Paris...Musee D'Orsay, Montmartre, Versaille, so far they're all right.
  • Free internet is a gift from Bob.
  • I did not change my hostel plans (that seemed like a much better idea last night, than this morning and was contingent on where I would end up Monday Night...which is looking like the apartment!!).
  • Hostels say they're in a great location...thats usually not true.
  • Moving your luggage over and over again makes you realize what you could have left at home...which was probably a lot.
  • Don't buy things that don't fit your bags.
  • Hostel free breakast is always a baguette and a croissant and maybe with cereal, coffee and orange juice.
  • I'm getting excited at the idea of having consistant company. Trips alone are fun...I'd like to travel alone alot more, but it'll be nice to have someone around to motivate me to get out and do things again since my energy is lagging.
  • Everything I brought is wrinkled which means I'm only wearing a few things anyway.
  • I'm less surprised by the amount of time people spend chilling at their hostel than I was when I arrived.
  • I'm having a hard time keeping track of what day it is. Is it Saturday? Sunday? the 5th?


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Last Night-Today


This morning.
I woke up.
I looked around.
Room full of guys still.
And remembered I had no Credit Card....still....right.

Majority of my day (11:30am-4:30pm) was spent on the phone with the bank trying to get an emergency bank card or cash. Finally they sent me cash and I had to literally dash to the Western Union to get a replacement. I'd love to recap last night but I think I'll save some stories to tell when I see people.

Once I got the cash I decided to make that trip to Chez Hanna on 54 Rue des Rosiers in the 4th arrondissement (Marias). I'd read about it on Voice of a City. Plus I seriously wanted to take a stroll around the 4th and check out what all the fuss was about. First, the falafel was seriously delicious and came with all sort of goodies (eggplant on top was great). Second, the 4th arr is seriously where everyone beautiful and young and paris seem to be. I'd been looking for the stylish french women (outside the champs where its mostly tourist anyway) and finally found them there. Dressed to the nines in the latest and greatest, the girls of Le Marias would give new yorkers a run for their money. The styling is similar but very different in a way I find hard to put into words. Maybe its less the outfits and more the personality or a mixture of the two intersecting.

I walked past a bar, considering as always to stop by and have a drink, and who would happen to call my name but Timothy, one of the now infamous CA boys. He'd been stopping into to have a drink while the rest of the guys made a trip up to the Eiffel tower. So we sat for a beer during happy hour and then went to dinner at Takami (sp?) on Rue De Temple, where I had a sushi and skewers of meat and cheese, it was a very weird and very delightful take on the kebab.

Following that we headed to the most scandalous club I've ever been to. I did meet lots of people from Germany, Poland. Paris is a lot like NY in that everyone is from somewhere else or visiting.

Jeff, Mick, Josh and Mick all met up afterwards and thats when I said au revoir. Too much party the night before, it was around 12am and I didn't want the subways to stop running. Leaving me stranded with no way to get to my very far hostel. We rode the subway to République (it was the moment of saying goodbye to someone four of five times, only to realize they're going the same was as you).

Tomorrow I switch hostels.

I am considering, much to Tim's encouragement, changing to their hostel (they switched this morning) instead of the very fashionable Oops (which is actually not too far away). Their's is much cheaper and I figure as long as I'm having fun why not let the good times roll.

Plus I'm ready for a little company after a week of near solitude.

When does bk arrive again?


The (self proclaimed) Best Falafel in the World

That was my sole objective for the day. I read about Chez Hanna on Voice of the City, a blog written by people from Paris for people visiting Paris. A sort of personalized Not for Tourist guide.
This falafel marks the moment when my day turned around.


Last Nights Party


It did involve Absinthe. But when in Rome I suppose, do as the californians do.

I was exhausted from too much travel so I went to take a nap and woke up to six fairly attractive guys from California who invited me out to a disco for a little dancing in Paris.

Lets just say that I've got quite a few stories to last me a life time from last night. The guys were great though and I'm glad to have met them, they invited me out again tonight, but I think I'll sleep instead.


Friday, April 04, 2008

An afternoon by the Seine

(written yesterday after a walk down the Seine)

Today after spending the morning exhausted, legs achey and nearly unable to muster up the energy leave the hostel (Rafael talked me out with slow and steady persistance) I ended up walking 2 1/2 miles down the Seine River and thinking and thinking. I spent about four hours meandering northeast from the intersection of Avenue de New York and Avenue Albert de Mun near the Eiffel Tower and to the Île de la Cité. My legs feel like they might fall off right now.

My thoughts began with the idea of me Living in Paris, Being in Paris, Raising a family in Paris, Being happy in Paris. I could see it in front of me unfurled like a dream. I drifted as quiet as a cloud between sitting on the waters edge and walking through the trees; up the staircase to peer out across the river and back down to hop like a kid between the stones. And I thought. I guess at some point my thoughts turned melancholy.

I wonder if its possible to be in Paris alone and be light and airy the entire time, if there isn't some sort of melancholy built into the air that gets in through the soles of your shoes and makes you reflect on everything. The view of the Seine is enough to make anyone's heart ache.

Being there for hours was enough to turn my thoughts from the trivial to matters of the heart to the nature of love to my achy knees.


Near the Passerelle Solferino from Marcia Howard on Vimeo.

I had to do it

(I dedicate this post to blazey...
not because it contains food)

It looks like a Baguette

But really its a hot dog!

The mustard was so good and spicy.
Sorry Bk for stealing your hand posing technique, but you knew it was going to happen eventually.


Bad Adapter

I nearly burned down my room.

Apparently something happened when I plugged in my curling iron to the cheap adapter I bought at MoonPrix. That something involved a super hot curling iron. It started smoking, almost burning through the towel I had sat it on (more smoke). The plastic tip on the curling iron started to melt.

I also can't plug anything into it, which may have been a blessing in disguise, I suppose lest a surge of power blows out my ipod.


Being Literary in Paris

I had two thoughts coming to Paris:
  1. I'd like to write in a cafe
  2. I'd like to see a poetry reading (Preferably in french)

When I read on Voice of a City, last night after returning from Montmartre and before I could head to the 4th, that there was a poetry reading at L’Ogre à Plumes, I automatically ran upstairs grabbed my stuff and headed out the door. I had, of course neglected to look at the date, by tonight at 9pm they meant the night of the 2nd and not the third. I was promptly lost after exiting the subway and when I finally oriented myself, I realized that it was the big bar/restaurant right at the end of the block and visible from the Metro.

It was the most wonderful little bar. While it pretentiously called itself the "café littérature" it was exactly what I would have expected and desired it to be, a couple of little old type writers. Books in french place haphazardly in various places. A small and literary crowd. Decent wine for 3,50€ a glass. I don't think I'd ever had so much fun at a bar alone. I don't think I've ever been in a place where so many women sit at bars alone. I read, I wrote, I soaked it in. I listened to the American visiting friends talk for a while. I enjoyed a horrible french cigarette (the smell of which is quite irremovable by the way--aj please send cigs with bk--I'm dying here). I botched some french. I felt again, what it might be like to live here.

It was the perfect end, to the perfect day.


Montmatre, Love, O'Vinea, Love.

Yesterday was so perfect I feel I have to break it up into bits just to write about it appropriately, without losing everyone in one long post that goes on forever. I think it marks the day I fell in love with Paris.

I walked around Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur, guided of course by the wonderful Gilles Desmons who I highly recommend (beware though, it seems near the end of his walks he becomes slightly lazy with directions, meaning that you should have a map handy and be prepared to lose yourself a bit...which is not entirely a bad thing). I spent a lot of time staring leisurely onto all of Paris, walking up and down the winding streets and stairways that populate the area, through beautiful cottages and gardens all built as early as the 17th century. Gazing at homes and the playgrounds of some of the world's greatest artists and writers and general seekers of fun and pleasure.

It was a walk to put everything into perspective. It was, I think, my second favorite day in all the world.

I also conquered my fear of the French at O'Vinea, a wonderful little café on the Rue Lepic. I walked by. I stopped to look at the menu. I walked a few more yards down. I thought okay, its now or never. I either speak the language or continue on being hungry and waiting to find a market, there was still another hour or so left on my walk. Plus I'm beginning to think of croissants as the axis of evil. I think its time that i switch to baguettes as my food of choice.

What I learned at O'vinea was that I don't think the French are rude at all. I have in my short time in France found everyone more than willing to help. Its true that everyone speaks a little english, and therein lies the problem, american knowing this walk into the situation expecting to be helped in English, usually from what I've seen not even trying to speak a little french. And its true what people say...if you want good service or directions its best to at least try. It is, of course, a french speaking county and the fact that Americans, the most idiotically patriotic of all don't give the language a go, while we constantly harass other nationalities in America to speak the language, seems the most ridiculous of all. I've consistently been helped and received more than great service in all but one place. I try, they try, we reach a nice little middle ground. I also noticed that most people aren't so confident in their English that they feel comfortable having a conversation.

At O'Vinea I ordered en Salade Poulet (thank god the romantic languages all resemble one another) and my first espresso. The food was great and I enjoyed the feeling of sitting at a café without feeling rushed. Eating my meal I felt triumphant, elated and full. The salad was beautifully presented, my server was absolutely handsome, the sun was setting over the buildings. I met two frenchmen with whom I had the most hilarious conversation. Gabriel and Uni. ('re from New York...I love New know Brooklyn?...50 cent?...Canal Street?... I love canal street). They told me I looked like Kelly Rowland (?), which sounded at first like Kelly Holland. Then they offered me a little of their salad, a little of their beer, a little of their bread, a ride on their scooter, a place to stay at their apartment (we have big big house, in a very pop-u-lar area), their phone number, a night out on the town, taught me a little french.

I continued my walk, I was propositioned by an artist who said he wasn't sure whether he should paint my picture or pick me up. Maybe both? When I said I had no money. He said 'okay, then I'll just pick you up. ' It's Paris, let me walk with you, we can fall in love.

Parisian men are great, really. I mean they're alot more fun to say no to. They're attractive. They've got swagger and style. They're charming, they don't cat call or whistle. They're also relentless. They can't figure out why, if you're an american woman alone in Paris, you'd say no to a glass of wine or why you wouldn't let them walk with you for just a while.

I suppose being alone gives you a much bigger opportunity to talk to people that you might not have otherwise, to carry on the conversation just a bit longer than usual....


Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Perfect Day

(see it big)
I've already started to write about it but I'll wait till tomorrow to post.


Dear James, I could kiss you

Dear James who mans the front desk at the St. Christopher Hostel from time to time.
Giving me a room that I can stay in without checking out every morning and rechecking into a different room every night, has provided me with a raison d'être. You made me momentarily forget what a suck-fest this place is, while putting me in a room with a majority of people who are close to my own age and seem genuinely interesting. When you said, I've got a bed on the 3rd floor for the next four days I didn't respond not because I'd been you so quickly assumed...but because I was seriously thinking of leaning across the counter and placing one big kiss on that lovely face of yours. I'm not sure what you magically did at the computer screen that made it possible for me not to change rooms every night, that the girl at the front desk couldn't do the day before but whatever it was, and despite the three spanish brothers/friends who talk all night like little girls, I'm grateful.



ps: Todays goal, ear plugs and one of those nifty face masks.

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Today Montmartre, Tomorrow the World.

I'm taking it sort of easy today after another sleepless night. I decided that I'm tired of waking up every morning at 7:30, not doing my hair or my make up, making it out before 10 and back to the hostel exhausted around 6-7pm. Today I'm going to leave a little later, enjoy the afternoon/evening sun (its back for a moment) and see a little of Paris by night. (I'm having a hard time with this it seems and have put on and removed my jacket several times)
I'm headed to Montmartre to climb the stairs near the Sacré Coeur where I hear there is an amazing view of the city, maybe take a gander at the Moulin Rouge (I'd like to get photos for my mother). And if I'm lucky stop in the Red Light district and pick up a hooker...which is apparently what the three spanish brothers thatswoke me up five times last night were up to (she was muy caliente they said).
This is a photo of the Sacré Couer which I found online to give Blazey a reason to look at my blog.
Also I can't get the taste of the Parisian Marlboro Lights out of my mouth...its almost enough to put me off smoking completely. Almost.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Day trip to Ver(sigh)

I'm afraid to write about it, because it was such a great day, as if putting it in words might cause it to lose some of its magic. I don't want to lessen it with trivialization. It felt big. Yesterday my friend said "there are certain professions, places, experiences... that serve as particularly great metaphors for life... a city like Paris has got to be one of those places." Today was that day.

I took the RER C train to the Versailles, a suburb of France about 40 minutes from the city. I was quite excited. I'd packed crossaints (smooshed from hanging in my bag for two days), proscioutto, some kind of dutch cheese and a bottle of wine. Apparently my hostel is in Paris' Bed-stuy (this is why I haven't been out yet but more on that in another post) and the store that I went to was like family dollar where they'd run out of everything. So I got the dutch cheese in place of mozz and was surprised to find that I really enjoyed it. Back to the story.

I arrived in at the Versailles Rive-Gauche station with Walking Paris by Gilles Desmons, this great little illustrated walking book, great for restless (read overly energetic) souls like me that find all their enjoyment in pounding the pavement. The directions are great and the history of the locations is very interesting, even though its a little hard to pay attention to while you're walking and a little dry to read if you're not walking. I kept stopping every few yards or so at first to check where I was, what it meant, to stop at main gates of the chateau and look back at where the avenue de paris, the avenue de st. cloud and the avenue de sceaux met. Later as I continued on I found a nice medium between reading a head and walking a little. I didn't actually enter the Chateau, it costs money and since I had my handy guide book it didn't seem all too pressing. I wish now that I had taken some time to go through it as I've looked at pictures and it looks as breathtaking as the grounds.

Side note before walking to the chateau, I stopped to by a post card for my friend. The owner of the store an older gentleman with a kind smile, was so nice that it made my day. After exchanging Bonjour (whenever you walk into a shop in paris you are almost always greated with a hello and a least the shops that I've been in, which I find to run against the general idea of the french and their famous rudeness) he began to speak to me in french, after which I flubbed my most important line Je ne parle pas francios. He asked me where I was from and then he said, "You are very welcome here in France." I thanked him and gave him my biggest brightest smile and for which he gave me the postcard for free. (almost in those exact words) I smiled all the way ot the gates of the chateau.

I want to right about my experience in the gardens surounding the chateau but I'm having difficulty (despite all the thoughts running through my head at the time when I should have grabbed my note book and put them to paper). It was that moment of being somewhere that is unlike anywhere you've ever been before, the air is more crisp and everything is more beautiful than it should be. It was the wrong season to be at the garden, too cold and the leaves were still just barely beginning to bloom. The sky was overcast and rain looked immenent nearly the entire 2 1/2 hours I was there. But it was simply moving, standing there at the fountain overlooking the Grand Canal, I never wanted to be so disconnected to experience everything fully and quitely as I did at that moment. I had nearly talked a girl, Johnna, into joining me and I'm sure we'd have had a great time, but I was so happy to have the time to think and breathe and to walk at my leisure, losing myself. The garden is great because everywhere you are, seems like somewhere you shouldn't be, there are so many gates everywhere. I found a big stone bench with moss growing out of it and made three sandwhiches which I ate in silence, watching the occassional person slowly meander through. There were also qutie a few older couples which made me extremely happy, something about a couple of a certain age (think 60-70) slowly walking through the gardens on a cold day, holding hands and talking quitely to one another like it just filled me with so much hope about love. They were everywhere sitting on benches watching their dogs play...the general crowd, once you got past the Bassin d'Appollon was 40+, but once you got into the larger part of the garden there were all these people in love. I'd almost say that I'd rather not have discovered Versaille on any other day but today. I wandered around, past the grazing sheep and horses, until I found a clearing where I sat and while the clouds gathered enjoyed my first glass of wine in france and my first real rain in france.

From there I meandered up and accidently off the grounds not realizing I'd entered the surrounding town, until I saw cars, street signs and bars. So I also enjoyed my first time getting lost in France (with no map to guide me as I was outside of Paris).

I found the train station in the rain, paid just in time and hopped aboard the train. I'm not sure why I'd felt a kinship with the girl who sat across from me (it seemed ridiculous that she sat across from me at all since my legs were propped up, blocking the seat and also because the train wasn't full at all) but she asked me if we were on the train to Paris, which I confirmed and we both kept simultaneously looking at our maps. We napped together, if thats weird to say, seperately but together. It was just that sense of doing something along with another person that I hadn't felt in a couple of days. She smiled (maybe her biggest and best smile) and thanked me as she exited the train.

I wasn't so sure but I really think I love being in Paris alone right now at this time in my life, I didn't imagine how much I needed it or how or why it might change me, but I did need it and it is changing me...minutely and bit by bit, but a change nonetheless.


Day 3: Versailles, Heaven's Gate and Living at Animal House

I think I'm headed to Versailles for a romantic walk around the grounds and perhaps a bike ride. I'm unsure as of now where to rent the bike (I hear its on the grounds), how much it might costs (my daily budget is hilariously ridiculous) or if I can still ride a bike (yes I know how the saying goes, but its been over ten years). I'm also considering saving the Versailles for tomorrow when the weather might be nicer and finding a few street markets. Making my way to Chez Hanna in the 4th arrondissement, this afternoon for what is supposed to be the best felafels in Paris.

Yesterday I walked from the Arc de Triomphe down the Avenue des Champs Elysees and sat in the Rond Point Des Champs Elysees overlooking the Theatre Marigny, where I enjoyed 3 croissants and watched a young teenage couple talk and play on the bench in front of me for maybe a half an hour, till they left and I resumed my walking. I was immediately drawn to the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais, down avenue Winston Churchill. Its amazing as you walk down that way and the gold dome of the chapel peers out from overtop the Hotel des Invalides. I felt quite literally that it must be what entering heaven looks like, should a heaven exist, crossing the bridge above the seine. The sun making its first appearance and making everything look radiant and majestic. I'm sure on another day it might not have been quite so beautiful as it was at that moment. But then it was breathe taking.

From there I continued on the Rue Saint Dominique past the ministére de la défense, with the guards standing outside...along these building there are big gates manned by two blue clad guards that lead into little courtyards with car parks, that reminded me of something from a james bond film. I stopped in the sq. samuel rousseau and watched children play and a few students smoke cigarettes in a small playground over looking s chapel. A short while later I walked on the Boulevard Saint Germain for a while entering the 6th arrondissement which was much more...hip and elegant than the districts I'd passed through prior. Lots of stores, lots of expensive looking clothing, and men in great suits...which I suppose leads me to talk about a great part of my trip so far, French Men and their swagger. Its quite a possibility that I might move to france just to spend more time with the arrongant, beautiful and almost cruel looking french men, their well tailored wonder women in france are so partial to adultery. I have never seen so many women (probably not french) staring so openly at men girl nearly ran into me, but my were they beautiful. Enough of that. Back to the important matters.

I'm considering checking out of my hostel in favor of the old hostel, I have to call and see if they have rooms, but this place is quite the nightmare. First off the benefit of the other hostel, besides being located near the Place de la Republique, was that the travels were all in the same age range as myself, here the bar and the large (10 to a room) dormitory style housing has drawn a much younger crowd in the 18-21 age range. I never realized how much I don't have in common with an 18 year old until now, matter of fact I can't remember the last time in the past couple of years that I spent enough time with an 18 year old (outside of during train rides) to give it much thought. But oh sweet jesus, its not alot. Couple 18-21 years olds with a bar and a hostel "club" and you have a recipe for a sleeping disaster. First off, most of these kids are on the younger side, closer to 18 and have taken a year off from college to explore europe, secondly in their exploration of europe they've decided, in true american style, to spend their time socializing with other people from america (a few brits and a rarer few from other parts of europe) in the hostel bar (there were of course a few older men waiting in the wings like vultures). Somehow by asking for a mixed room (or by virtue of the short hair cut), I've ended up in a room full of nine 18-21 year old males, trickling in at various stages of the night in various stages of drunkeness with an influx at 2am...this morning, I awoke to a symphony of snores and emerged from my bed (I did have the curtain replace by the way) to find a room full of boys sleeping in various stages of undress, a few of whom shut their curtains as they realized a girl was in their midst (one boy kept peering out every so often). I was quite upset to have ended up in the all male party room, but then I considered the alternative nine 18-21 year old drunk girls...yeah, I'll stick with the snoring. I think I might this place another night, but I'm going to call the other hostel to see if they have rooms available beginning tomorrow. On a good note they do sell plug converters and metro tickets so it can't be all bad and 24 hours of internet usage for 6€ (which means that I can keep blogging and posting photos at my leisure).

This morning I awoke to a slew of emails from my friends at home which definitely made me feel a lot better after a near sleepless night and lightened my mood. The second best from Stéve, that I missed yesterday at the arc de triomphe and who I played one sided phone tag with (definitely appreciating the invention of cell phones now), who sent me Nina Simone's Funkier than a Mosquito's Tweeter Jazeem all styles remix, which is already one of my favorite songs.

Till later, A bientôt.

(I've tried to re-read and edit all the typos...but I'm still all over the place with this keyboard)


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

St. Christopher Hostel 2: Hmmmm

I've arrived at my second hostel (well I arrived at 10:30 this morning) to check in...though the check in wasn't until 2pm and of course there was no where to store bags except a small little locker area (20 lockers, 100 guests; you do the math). Apparently because of some crazy computer booking thing, I'm going to have to check out and recheck in every morning, which means gathering all my bags and trying to beat everyone down to the lockers so that I don't get stuck as I did today carting my bag around (apparently you can leave your bag in the basement at the "club" which isn't secure, but no one told me that after they told me they were out of lockers). So I went to the Cimteriere du Pere Lachaise, determined to keep my plans, with my big pink suitcase in tow. If you've ever been, I was quite the sight lugging the suit case up long flights of stairs, down gravel passageways, between graves. I had to stop and chuckle at myself every so often, I felt resilent and a little stupid, but I had fun. I'd like to go back again before I leave, sans luggage.

I'm considering checking back into the last hostel I stayed at upon first arriving Absolute Paris, depending on what happens with tomorrow's bag situation, where I won't have to change rooms and they have secure baggage storage...and each room has its own shower/bathroom. The internet is alot worse off, but the girl showed me how to make a phone card call and the staff were much more helpful then the people here.

Also I'm curious how I ended up with the only bed that does not have a curtain.

For lunch I had a pear in the Square de la Roquette and it was the sweetest thing I've ever eaten. I'm quite sleepy (still) and quite happy. (I considered taking another nap but after yesterday's accidental snooze fest I thought better of it and decided to rest in front of a computer instead)

I've also just met a girl from Canarsie, Bk...represent.

Three people have asked me if I'm British saying that I have a slight accent... I'm wondering if they mean the muffins in my mouth. One asked if I was here for fashion, I'm taking that to mean I look fabulous. The small bits of fench from my guide book have served me well and (unrelated) I'm supposed to meeting up with Sir today at five or six.

Viva la France.


Day Two: Ready


I slept nearly an entire fifteen plus shameful hours yesterday(no aj and bk I have not done the math on that, but I went to bed around 4pm and I just woke now at 8:30).

My first hostel was a great place to get rest. Only two other people in my dorm, who were both polite and quite, an adjacent bathroom that was clean with warm water. The actual hostel is in a great location that provided lots of entertainment during my walk around the city, near the republique and canal saint martin. I wondered around trying to lose myself but all the side streets seem to lead me back to exactly the same street where I started, so making my way back to the hostel when I was ready to pass out was fairly easy. I'm glad I have two weeks because I don't feel that guilty about giving my body the chance to rest and I just became excited after realizing how much there is to do and see. Today I'd like to walk up the champs to the arc de triomphe but first to make my way to the cemetiere du pere lachaise. I also got a calling card and plan on trying to meet up with Siracuse Steve (my unofficial tour guide) or my friend Cate.

Thats all. Absolutely nothing has happened yet really, but I'm leaving this hostel and need to use my internet card.