31 March 2009

Les bonnes promeneuses

I’m happy to report that I had, for the most part, a great time with my mom while she was here in Paris with me for a little over a week. In addition to exploring nearly all of Paris on foot, we took a weekend vacation by train to Amiens and Boulogne-sur-mer – an excellent experience that I hope to write more about later.

It was a bit surreal to have someone so assuredly part of my American life here in my Parisian life (almost as surreal as the wonderful afternoon I shared today with a friend from high school that I have hardly talked to in two years who was visiting Paris on her spring break from studies in Scotland).

It was, however, incredibly rewarding to share Paris with such an eager and excited visitor, even if I am a bit of a lacking tour guide.

We did so much in our short time together that it’s almost impossible to recount it all. I guess I should have kept a journal like my mom. Since I’m a very visual person, I have plotted the majority of our Parisian walking adventures below.

Friday, March 20: Jardin du Luxembourg, L'Ile-de-St.-Louis, Le Marais

Saturday, March 21: Promenade plantée, Canal Saint-Martin, Parc des buttes-Chaumont

Sunday, March 22: Montmartre, Montparnasse, Le Champo-Espace Jacques Tati

Monday, March 23: Jardin des Tuileries, Rue de Rivoli

Tuesday, March 24: Galléries Lafayette, Place de Vendôme, Trocadéro, La tour Eiffel, Montparnasse

Thursday, March 26: Le 6e arrondissement

I imagine that you now understand why the week was fatiguing. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time to recover before I head off to Belgium with my friend Rebecca on Friday. But with April upon us, I’d rather be head-spinningly dizzy that get a goodnight’s sleep.

All maps copyright of Google and Tele Atlas.

17 March 2009

Le printemps arrive

Palais Royal et Parc Montsouris

16 March 2009

Profitez bien!

I am beginning to realize just how much I love living in a big city like Paris (particularly at a moment in my life when I have a fair amount of time on my hands). At any given moment, there are more possibilities of how to spend your time that you could imagine. Originally, this was a bit overwhelming for me. With so many interesting propositions I could hardly decide what to do. Often, I would do nothing or very little due to sheer overstimulation. But now, I am beginning to learn how to balance the millions of options and seize each moment. My schoolwork may be suffering a bit, but at least I am profiting from Paris.

My weekend started early when on Thursday night, I went to Le Roi Lion [The Lion King] with my friend Jamie. Arriving early to faire le queue [wait in line], we got discounted student tickets – a great price and great seats in the second row of the first balcony. I absolutely adored the production. The costumes and puppetry were truly amazing, and the songs were of course great. I really enjoyed listening attentively for the changes and adaptations in the French lyrics. In all, it was a pretty awe-inspiring performance, and I loved every minute of it.

Friday, I met up with my friend Rebecca and her friend’s friend to check out the free exhibit honoring Le Petit Nicolas at the Hôtel de Ville. Studying the original Sempé drawings and reading the accompanying texts was as entertaining as le petit Nicolas himself. It made me want to read more of the stories. We capped the afternoon off, enjoying the wonderful weather, by strolling around the Marais. We ended up at the Place des Vosges and decided to stop in the Victor Hugo house since we had never been. After dinner, I met up with another group from the Smith program to watch a new copy of Woody Allen’s Manhattan at one of my favorite tiny Latin Quarter theaters. We stopped at a cozy bar for drinks and conversation afterward.

I was determined to get some homework done Saturday so I hopped the RER down to Parc Montsouris where I grabbed a bench to do some reading. The weather was not as nice as I hoped, but the scent of nearly blooming flowers made up for it. Unfortunately, my solitude was interrupted by a well-meaning-enough old Frenchman who wanted to strike up a conversation with me (I have to admit that this sort of attention will not be missed when I return to the States).

When tiny droplets of rain began to fall from the already cloudy skies, I caught the tram to the Parc des expositions to explore the Salon du livre, a huge book and publishing exposition that lasted through the weekend. A number of authors and publishing companies were present for signings and conversations, but I mostly just reveled in the atmosphere of what seemed to me like a giant bookstore.

Saturday night was consecrated to Hitchcock. After seeing the poster Friday afternoon, I was quickly determined to attend a double feature of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Gus Van Sant’s 1998 shot-by-shot remake. My friend and Hitchcock-classmate Zoë came along (although she ended up missing the first film do to miscommunication), and we had quite a night of Hitchcock, including the lengthy discussion/question-and-answer session that followed the two films.

After an already eventful weekend, I was determined to make it to the Comédie Française on Sunday. I’ve been meaning to check it out for sometime, and it was the last week for Cyrano de Bergerac. I absolutely could not miss such a classic of French cultural history. Although I arrived over an hour early to wait in line for the discounted tickets, I merely missed out on my opportunity after waiting for half an hour in the wrong line. I luckily got a ticket. Unfortunately, my seat was in the second balcony, all the way to the left, making it possible to see only half of the stage. But with some creative standing/leaning/moving about, I could see more than was expected and, of course, I could hear it all. The performance was in turns hilarious and moving – altogether a thoroughly entertaining experience.

After taking the bus home, I finally retired myself for the evening to try to catch up on my work. But I can’t say I regret pushing it aside to take advantage of the many cultural experiences this city has to offer.

09 March 2009

L’Opéra, le tourisme et du champagne

Salut, les punks!

I feel like I haven’t written anything here in forever. That can be interpreted as a good thing, as in I’ve been doing too many amazing things to take the time to record them here, or it could more accurately be a reflection on my recent spurts of laziness and utter lack of gumption in all aspects of my life. I have, however, done some pretty sweet things in the last few weeks. I’ve been returning diligently to check items off on my “to-do list” as they are accomplished, but I’ll try to expand on a few of my more interesting conquests.

This last weekend was pretty eventful. Earlier in the week, I stumbled upon a ticket to the opera – Smith’s theater class was going and M. Bloom offered me one of the extra places to which I literally responded, “Pourquoi pas?!” So Friday I had the privilege of getting dressed up and joining my amies at the enorme Opera Bastille. An excellent example of romanticism, Werther was full of lost love, torment, angst and agony and, ultimately, suicide. What fun! Despite the subject matter, the music, scenery and general experience was pleasant and fun. It was a truly great and unforgettable experience; my thanks go out again to the generosity of this Smith program.

Unfortunately, I had to pull myself out of bed early on Saturday morning to get myself to the lovely Gare de l’est where the Smith crew reconvened for a daytrip to Reims (pronounced like the French word for prince without the “P”). I indulged in the Smith-provided breakfast of a croissant, which I chose over the pain au chocolat, and the short train ride and the Champagne countryside passed quickly by.

Once in Reims, we partook of a tour of the Corot exhibit at the Musée de Beaux Arts, which was burdened by an utterly banal tour guide. Next, we received our audio guides for the tour of our choosing. Yes, these clunky devices made us the visual definition of overeager tourist, but the buildings we saw on the Art Deco walk were pretty cool. It was a great way to explore the city.

Before heading back to Paris at the completion of our brief séjour, we visited Mumm’s champagne facility, where a tour and tasting were enjoyed by all. Returning to Paris, we were greeted by the city’s typical overcast skies and biting droplets of rain, an unfortunate contrast to the warming sun we had enjoyed earlier in Reims.

In addition to my busy weekend, I’ve been going often to the cinéma (35 Rhums, Le code a changé and Harvey Milk were all wonderful), profiting from the increasingly frequent spring-like days and visiting interesting exhibits (this one made me fall in love with Serge Gainsbourg). Plus, I somehow found myself on a tour of the UNESCO building…I’m still not quite sure how that one happened.

Well, we are well into March now and the time is passing absolutely trop [too] quickly. My weeks, and particularly weekends, to come are quickly filling, but it’s all for the better. My mom will soon be visiting, and we will be traveling to Amiens and Boulogne-Sur-Mer. A high-school friend will be stopping in from Scotland. I will, hopefully, be participating in a weekend trip to Belgium. And Spring Break will bring me to the Côte d’Azur and Provence. Also, I guess I still have that school thing to do…