France

Like the Last Note of a Love Song

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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.

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The Laziest Sunday

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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?

xo,

Alyx (more…)

Loire Valley #5: On the way home

A few weeks ago, I escaped city life and spent a relaxing week with my parents in the Loire Valley. I came back with 500 photos, so I’m breaking them up into a five-part series (last one!). Hope you enjoy!

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We’re finally at the end of the trip.

I. Tours Cathedral

Tours is the biggest city in the part of the Valley where we were staying and while we didn’t spend much time there, we did pop into town to see the cathedral. It’s not as big as Chartres, but it’s still quite impressive. Tours also took almost 400 years to build, compared to Chartres’s 55 years, to put Chartres in perspective. As a result, there are many different architectural styles visible in the building. Obviously the dominant style is Gothic, but some of the buttresses are Romanesque and the tops of the towers are early Renaissance.  (more…)

Loire Valley #4: Loches and Montresor

Last week I escaped city life and spent a relaxing week with my parents in the Loire Valley. I came back with 500 photos, so I’m breaking them up into a five-part series (don’t worry — I’m not posting 100 photos a day!). Hope you enjoy!

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We’re back to the châteaux today with two of my favorite stops: Loches and Montrésor.

I. Loches

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Loches is probably best known as the favorite home of Agnès Sorel, favorite mistress of King Charles VII and Medieval power woman. She died of mercury poisoning (it’s still unknown if it was a murder or an accidental poison — she was taking mercury for a number of health conditions she had) when she was just 27 years old, but she spent her life encouraging Charles VII to become a more active French leader, attending court, and having three children with the king, all of whom he took care of after her death. Her remains have been abused and moved around a lot in the past 500 years, but they are finally back where she wanted them to be, in the St. Ours church at Loches. (more…)

Loire Valley #3: Fauna and Fungi

Last week I escaped city life and spent a relaxing week with my parents in the Loire Valley. I came back with 500 photos, so I’m breaking them up into a five-part series (don’t worry — I’m not posting 100 photos a day!). Hope you enjoy!

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As I continue to bombard you with Loire Valley recaps, I thought we’d take a break from the châteaux in favor of some animals and mushrooms.

I. Zooparc de Beauval

Anyone who knows me also knows that I love zoos. I know I’m not supposed to, or that at the very least I’m supposed to be extremely skeptical of wild animals kept in enclosures for our viewing pleasure, but I can’t help it. So I was very pleased to discover that France’s largest zoo was a mere 20 minutes away from our little moulin. (more…)

Loire Valley #2: The Châteaux Spectrum

Last week I escaped city life and spent a relaxing week with my parents in the Loire Valley. I came back with 500 photos, so I’m breaking them up into a five-part series (don’t worry — I’m not posting 100 photos a day!). Hope you enjoy!

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I. Cheverny

I told you last time that symmetry would make a comeback, and so, behold: Cheverny, the perfectly symmetrical château. Just take a moment to appreciate how pleasing it is. The inside of the château was very pleasing as well; it felt almost British in style, with many rooms decorated in late-18th/early19th century style. It’s also quite famous as the inspiration for Château de Moulinsart, the fictional residence in Hergé’s Tintin books. It is only surprising to me that Cheverny’s exquisite symmetry hasn’t been the inspiration for many more fictional homes.

Cheverny has a long history of hunting and still keeps a kennel of some fifty hounds. It might have been the rain that day, but they were some of the saddest dogs I have ever seen. They looked perfectly healthy, but also kind of sad and bored. Is that just the life of a hunting dog? (more…)

Loire Valley #1: From Here to There

Last week I escaped city life and spent a relaxing week with my parents in the Loire Valley. I came back with 500 photos, so I’m breaking them up into a five-part series (don’t worry — I’m not posting 100 photos a day!). Hope you enjoy!

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An inalienable right of any city-dweller is getting to say, “It’s so nice to get out of the city” every once in a while.  As much as I enjoy my urban homes on both sides of the Atlantic, quality time with the countryside allows me to appreciate both environments more clearly and more deeply. So while I love Paris, I was also happy to leave it for a short time to soak up the joys of the springtime Loire Valley.

I. Chartres

As you can see from the photo above, we made a quick stop at Chartres on our way out of Paris, a must-see for any gothic cathedral enthusiast. It’s considered one of the — if not the — best examples of gothic architecture; it’s hard to believe that it was constructed in just 55 years when so many other architecturally inferior cathedrals took centuries to build (although to be fair, that was often a funding issue). I’m not religious myself, but I can imagine entering the cathedral in the 13th century and being completely in awe of the church’s power. (more…)

Le Havre

Le Havre from Alyx Cullen on Vimeo.

Last Friday I took a quick day trip up to Le Havre, a small city on the English Channel that’s a two-hour train ride from Gare Saint-Lazare. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Le Havre; I had basically only heard about it in reference to some Impressionist paintings and Auguste Perret’s post-war reconstruction of the city. As soon as I walked out of the train station, I could feel that I was not only in a different city, but in an entirely different kind of city. At first it looked like a mess of ugly mid-century buildings to me, but as I wandered around town they started to grow on me. The Church of Saint-Joseph and the phenomenal Hôtel de Ville pushed me over the edge, and I am now a huge fan Perret, who reimagined and rebuilt the city, mostly in concrete, between 1945 and 1964. The strangeness of the architecture (to my Paris-calibrated eyes) and the coherence of the city’s design make the streets of Le Havre unlike any I have ever visited. I felt completely removed from my lives in Paris and New York, as though I were not 200 kilometers away from home, but in an entirely different world. It was lovely; this is why we travel, no?

I decided to try something new and make a video from my trip and I hope it gives you a little taste of what I mean. Other methods of consumption include the photos after the jump and the playlist I made myself for Le Havre, available on Spotify and embedded at the end of the post (add “Lullaby Haze” by Mates of State, which doesn’t seem to be on Spotify?). Let me know what you think!

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The Four-Year Sardine Hunt

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On May 5, 2010, I was living on Gold Street in New York City’s Financial District and had just started working from home as a social media manager for a small wine bar group. I sat down that morning to catch up on the daily food news and opened the New York Times Dining section. There, on the now-defunct Diner’s Journal Blog, was a photo of a tin of sardines sheathed in bright yellow cardboard. What followed were 517 words describing the virtues of sardines packed in beurre rather than olive oil, and thus began my fish hunt. Edward Schneider, you altered the course of my life.

Edward warned me in his blog post that butter-packed sardines are nearly impossible to find in the United States, but most people who live in New York don’t believe that something can’t be found in that city, even when a fellow New Yorker says so. I started with the grocery stores in my neighborhood, spending twenty minutes at a time scouring tiny seafood aisles first for that seductive, haunting yellow packaging, and then for traces of the words “butter” or “beurre.” No luck. I moved onto the bigger guns: Dean & Deluca, Murray’s Cheese, the stalls of the Grand Central Market, Whole Foods just in case an errant manager had started a black-market preserved fish venture out of Union Square. I hustled over to Eataly when it opened later that year, though of course what would they know about butter. Nothing. Not a single buttered Sardine to be found in all of New York. I was distraught. (more…)

Paris: Around the 17th

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Four days in, I’m loving Paris and never want to move back to the States. But that being said, I honestly haven’t done that many adventurous things, other than wander around my new neighborhood. I’m living in the 17th Arrondissement, which I’ve heard multiple sources compare to New York’s Upper West Side. So far I feel like that’s a fair comparison, though of course as a foreigner here, everything seem très charmant. I’ve been snapping away during my wanderings like a good ol’ tourist, so I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve seen on my walks.IMG_0303

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