Today is my last day in Paris, a fact that sends more emotions through my body than I am equipped to process. Despite devoting my life to language, this is one of the moments when words completely fail me; I have no idea what to say. Instead, I picked up my camera and did the same thing I did when I arrived: I went for a walk through my neighborhood. Here, presented without commentary because I have none to provide, is what I saw.
I missed Place Settings yesterday, so I wanted to make up for it with this picture of the Eiffel Tower from my friend’s kitchen window. Sometimes one of your best Paris friends is leaving the city, possibly permanently, so you get everyone together and have a party and watch the sun rise from the roof and then Sunday is not for home cooking or fancy brunches and pretty photographs, but for sleeping and pretending that you were just part of that scene from Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette where they all party through the night.
Know what I mean?
When I was six years old and living in Bavaria, my parents took me to Vienna for a short trip while my dad gave a talk at a university. I have a number of vivid memories from this trip — including a traumatic episode in which I didn’t want to eat a crab cake because my tooth was about to fall out and I was afraid to chew anything — but my favorite was the Naturhistorisches Museum. I have no idea if the museum is still like this, but at the time it was itself a specimen of the Victorian period: room after room of vitrines and dioramas containing perpendicularly arranged fossils, minerals, and taxidermy animals, labeled by Latin name in ornate calligraphy on yellowed cards. There were no interactive displays or animatronic dinosaurs, but I loved it. I remember my mom lifting me up so I could look into the rock and mineral cases and being mesmerized by the orderly, endless rows of information. In many ways, I never want to go back to the real Naturhistorisches Museum in case it has changed or, as is more likely, in case my memory is selectively exaggerating and erasing parts of the museum.
When I shared this memory with my friend and Paris native Laurène she said we had to go to the Galeries d’Anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie. Located in the 5th arrondissement, the gallery is actually part of a pretty little complex of buildings, gardens, and a small zoo that collectively form Paris’s Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle. Laurène said that this particular building had a similar Victorian sensibility, and so we made plans to go together. (more…)
Yesterday I ended up at the Musée Rodin by accident. I took the Metro to Champs-Élysées Clemenceau and climbed out without a plan in mind; it was quite warm yesterday so I thought I might sit by the Seine and read or write. By the time I surfaced it was quite overcast and none of the river perches caught my fancy so I kept walking. Two white-haired German men paused in front of me by the Passerelle de Solférino to consult their travel guide and, seized with this sudden inspiration to render myself a tourist, I crossed the river to go visit Le Penseur.
I should add that I know basically nothing about either Rodin or sculpture, but I did remember the scenes from the museum in Midnight in Paris and it seemed like a pretty place to pass a Wednesday afternoon (is this an embarrassing cultural reference?). I was not wrong. The Paris museum consists of a small indoor collection in the Hôtel Biron, an early 18th century townhouse in which Rodin lived for many years, and a gorgeous garden full of sculpture, including Rodin’s most famous thinking man. (more…)
On Sunday I visited my friend Emily at the Jardins du Ruisseau, a community garden at the very north end of Paris by the Porte de Clignancourt. The gardens run alongside a stretch of defunct train tracks, with a bee hive at one end and a coop full of fancy chickens at the other. As I mentioned the other day, I’m worried that Paris is turning into a city of blind habits for me, instead of remaining an endless supply of visual stimulation. This is, of course, no fault of the city, but of my own mental laziness. So when a friend invited me to a garden in a corner of Paris I hadn’t seen yet, I picked up my camera and headed out the door. What follows are somewhat pedestrian photos of flowers that nevertheless injected some much-needed visual awareness into my life.
Happy Saturday, everyone! I thought I’d post some photos, even though I had minor camera problems this week. I genuinely thought that I had either broken my camera or had a tumor pressing on my optical nerve (my ex-therapist would classify this as “catastrophizing”) because I couldn’t get anything to focus in the viewfinder, even though the shots turned out okay. Long story short, I realized just moments before sitting down to write this post that the knob I had been absent-mindedly fiddling with the other day actually does something, and that something is focus the viewfinder. So if some of these shots are not in perfect focus, it is because I have been under the impression that I was speeding towards legal blindness for unknown reasons for the past week.
Above is the espresso I drank at the tabac (obviously where tobacco products are sold, but also often places to get espresso and drinks) while writing and waiting for my laundry. Less glamorous than Café de Flore, but more authentic.
I was quite apprehensive about doing laundry here. For one thing, I have never used a laundromat before because in New York I always chose apartments that had laundry in the building. For another thing, my French is not at a level where I would feel comfortable having an argument in public with a piece of French machinery. After much googling of “how to use a French laundromat,” compulsive translations of the words on images of French laundromat machines, and critically low levels of underwear, I gave myself a pep talk and did some laundry. Turns out, this is an easy and painless process. If you are ever in France and have similar laundrette anxieties, let me know; I’m happy to help. (more…)
During my first weekend in Paris I had a conversation with a friend about the Lost Generation and whether they knew at the time that they were having a moment. I think about this often. Obviously in retrospect it is easy to see the significance of and adopt an envious eavesdropper’s faux-nostalgia for the group of Paris artists that included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Gertrude Stein, and so on. When I feel uncomfortably overwhelmed by my faux-nostalgia, I cast about for today’s version of 27 rue de Fleurus, but don’t really know where to look. (more…)
In addition to the food, art, architecture, and la vie boheme, I have been really excited to take advantage of some French skincare. Great skin is a key part of the effortless Parisienne look — you don’t need a lot of makeup if your skin glows naturally — and I think those of us with a vain streak all hope to find a tube or jar of miracle product that will have us bouncing out of bed every morning with skin like Marion Cotillard’s.
I haven’t discovered that product yet, but I did pop into a few pharmacies in my neighborhood to pick up some toiletries I hadn’t brought with me. The bits are mostly boring, as I’ve made a rule that I have to use up the version I have with me first, but I’m so excited about the pharmacies that I’m going to share them with you anyway. (more…)
I had a pretty lazy weekend, but I did go for a nice wander around the Eiffel Tower and the Left Bank of the Seine. Here are a few of my snaps from the weekend. (more…)
|Paris Metro||New York Subway|
|Ticket: T+. When you buy 5 rides, the machine spits out 5 tickets. “Navigo” passes are available, but only worth it if you take at least two Metro/bus rides a day.||Ticket: Metrocard, which can be loaded with a cash amount or unlimited rides in a certain period. A monthly pass will bleed your bank account dry, but is necessary if you take the Subway to work.|
|Stations: Clean, well-lit, generally pleasant places to be; Nowhere in Paris proper is more than 500 meters away from a station.||Stations: Dark, moldy, subtly complex layers of bathroom smells, possibly an introductory circle of hell; Some parts of the city are just not accessible by train.|
|Hours: Closes at 1:15am Sun-Thurs, 2:15am Fri-Sat. Depending on how far you have to go and how many transfers you have to make, you want to get there thirty minutes to an hour before closing. Do not take during rush hour.||Hours: 24 hours. Well done, New York, well done. Do not take during rush hour.|
|Lines: 14 lines, named by number, direction indicated by end station. None of these trains are express, though you can catch an RER train (commuter rail) at some stops.||Lines: Nine lines indicated by color, with each line comprising from one to four sub-lines indicated by number or letter. Direction is uptown/downtown and/or the destination borough and/or end station.|
|Cars: Seating arrangement isn’t the most space-efficient, but some of the poles split into three tines at holding-height, eliminating any unnecessary contact with strangers. Push a button or pull a lever to enter or exit the car.||Cars: Disgusting, usually with a mystery liquid sloshing around on the floor. Seating arrangement theoretically allows for optimized use of space, though user error usually prevents this lofty goal from being realized. Doors open and close automatically, except for when that jerk holds the door for his/her friends, the ripple effects of which eventually clog the entire system.|
|Snacks: Vending machines in many stations||Snacks: The occasional newsstand selling junkfood, candy, and soda. But you’d never want to eat in the station anyway because it’s so gross.|
Is there a winner? Hard to say, and I need to spend more time with the Metro before I can make a clear call. New York’s 24-hour convenience kind of makes up for the general unpleasantness of riding the subway (most of the time), and I’m sure that the Metro has some surprises, good and bad, up its sleeve for me.
PS Do you like this kind of post? I have had and I’m sure will continue to have many Paris/New York thoughts.