03 August 2009

Des larmes au Louvre

It could be viewed as unfortunate that one of my most vivid memories of Paris is a sad one. But the melancholic image is so beautiful that I don't mind reliving it.

It was mid-December. A period of my Parisian experience that is a blur of travel plans, my brother's visit and the excitement and disappointment of that lost internship debacle.

Ben and I were visiting the Louvre during its Wednesday nocturnal hours. After stopping by the random bits that we wanted to see, we decided to pass through the ever-crowded halls of large-format romantic paintings. Giant tableaux by French romanticism's heavy hitters - Delacroix, Ingres, David - abound. The richly painted ruby rooms are noisy and crowded but an eternal must-see.

Exhausted from a long day, difficulty sleeping and the wear of depression, I nearly collapsed on one of the large hall's giant leather ottomans. Sitting side-by-side with my brother an argument over something or another broke out between us. With my emotions intensified by everything that had happened over the last few days, I began to cry. There, with swarms of Japanese tourists and Parisian art students whizzing by, with giant walls covered with epic, larger-than-life paintings, I sat silently sobbing.

And the last thing I remember is my brother, without saying a word, putting his arm around me in the only gesture that could possibly matter.

20 July 2009

Paris Plage

Paris Plage began today along the banks of the Seine. Each year since 2001, the city of Paris sets up a makeshift beach along the Seine River from late July through mid-August. The "beach", complete with sand, palm trees, lounge chairs and more, occupies the walkway and stretch of highway along the right bank of the Seine.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

Although it's not quite the real thing, Paris Plage offers a pretty great approximation of the beach for those who can't make it to the Mediterranean.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

It's a momentary oasis within bustle of urban Paris.

19 July 2009

Le Pont des Arts (selon le NY Times)

Read the New York Times' take on the Pont des Arts here.

Their vision is somehow even more romanticized than my own.

17 July 2009

Tarte aux pommes

I knew I had to do something French to celebrate Bastille Day, la fête national française, on Tuesday. While listening to bad French pop music and adolescently angsty French pop-rock was inevitable, I decided to try something a little more à la française: baking!

For my first foray into French baked goods, I chose a very simple, but tasty treat: la tarte aux pommes. During my year in Paris, I ate a number of wonderful apple tarts and it came to be one of my favorite French desserts. Combined with the fact it’s a cinch to make, the tart was a no-brainer choice. (The super easy recipe follows below).

I had a great time singing along to French songs and baking the tarte in my Parisian-sized kitchen. Oh, la nostalgie! Plus, my co-workers praised my tasty concoction.

It was nice to bring a bit of France to Columbus.


2-5 Golden Delicious apples (amount depends on size of apples and size of crust)
Lemon Juice (juiced yourself or purchased in those handy lemon-shaped containers)
2-3 tbs of Sugar
1 tsp of Cinnamon
2-3 tbs of melted margarine or butter
1 Pie Crust (you can make your own if you so desire)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Peel, core and slice as many apples as you’ll need to fill the crust. Brush the exposed parts of the apples with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

Arrange the apple slices in concentric circles within the pie crust. Try to fit in as many slices as possible.

Sprinkle some of the sugar and cinnamon over the tart, then spoon the melted butter on top. Add the rest of the rest of the sugar and cinnamon and you’ve good-to-go.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the apples are golden brown.

Serve cool or warmed up with a dollop of strawberry Bonne Maman jam on top.

Voilà et bon appétit!

27 June 2009

Le Pont des Arts

Originally build in the early 19th century at which time it was the first metal bridge in Paris, the Pont des Arts’ smooth, sparse arches span the Seine from the Louvre to an important looking building that will never be l’hotel de la Monnaie [the mint] no matter how many times I claim it is.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The subject of a George Brassens song, Le Vent, the Pont des Arts is classic, timeless, Parisian.

But at night, the bridge comes alive in a less savory way. Teenagers and college students of all nationalities flock its uncomfortable wooden slats for nighttime debauchery. Although it is mostly a popular spot for lycéens [high-school students] and lacks the authenticity of the Canal St. Martin and the class of the quays of the Seine, the crowded and tawdry bridge can still be a lot of fun.

I first visited the Pont des Arts under unusual and random circumstances back in November. You’ll remember the Chinese photography student named Marshall – with his too-skinny legs in his too-skinny jeans and his broken glasses taped together, seemingly par hazard but probably done just so to concoct and idealized artsy imagine – with whom Hannah had, bien sûr, made friends at the European Film Festival. When the last film of the night had been cancelled, Rebecca and I (somewhat reluctantly) and Hannah (inherently less so) took up Marshall’s offer of free entertainment for the evening. We ended up on the Pont des Arts drinking mini Kronenbourg bottles that Marshall had provided while he captured video for some sort of photography-related art project. It was an altogether bizarre but enjoyable evening that introduced us to the Pont des Arts camaraderie (I distinctly remember the blonde-haired, pink-cheeked French youth innocently offering up his white Dixie cup as he requested a bit of beer).

It seems only appropriate that my second and final encounter with Pont-des-Arts nightlife arrived on my final Saturday night in Paris. The experience occurred equally by hazard. I had spent an absolutely wonderful Saturday with friends. The day began at the Champs-Elysees stamp market (featured in Charade) where Rachel and I spent altogether too much money on old postcards. After lunch at Rachel’s place, as rain began to fall, the skies cleared and we met up with Rebecca and Amy for a lazy afternoon at a Marais café. Berthillon ice cream and a stroll along the quays of the Ile-St-Louis concluded the evening. We headed back to Rebecca’s place where she cooked us a lovely Frenchified American dinner. Stuffed and satisfied, we decided to venture back outside for a nocturnal stroll.

That is when, on a whim, we stopped chez Ed, the local épicier [grocer] – this time, we had to supply our own Kronenbourg – deciding to do the trashy American thing and join the crowds on the Pont des Arts. Rachel objected of course, but there was no stopping us. Why not enjoy such a warm summer’s eve among the drunken masses? The girl who puked mere feet before our original resting place on the bridge provided an adequate counterpoint, but we settled in elsewhere and managed to have a good night (plus, what Parisian night is not complete without a little public vomiting?).

With laptops, boom boxes, guitars and other instruments filling the air with the sounds of summer, we settled in to listen and observe. I particularly enjoyed a raucous version of the Cranberry’s “Zombie” and the mother who had brought her young daughter out to dance with the drunken guitarists. We applauded the cunning of Red Cross volunteers who swarmed the bridge looking for donations. We debated once again the function of that domed building that was not la Monnaie. We guessed and remarked upon who was American and who was not picking up multitude accents and languages. And I simply felt a part of something, there on the packed wooden slats.

There among something so un-American, so seemingly clandestine, four quiet, unassuming American girls sat, watched and listened, taking in for one of the last times (at least for me) the carefree breeziness of a Parisian night.

Paris pas cher

Interesting NY Times article on "Frugal Paris."