Paris

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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Coffee Catch Up

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Grab a cup of coffee and your pastry of choice while I give you a quick catch-up on my life.

o n e || Obviously, I have been really bad at posting the past two weeks! After I got back from Berlin, it was my Paris best friend’s last weekend in town and then it was time to pack up and fly back to the States for my 5th college reunion. As is typical for alumni of my school, I have a huge amount of love — bordering on obsession — for my college days; I’ve been waiting for my 5th reunion since the moment I graduated. I got back to France on Monday afternoon and have been wallowing in nostalgia and mild depression ever since. In any case, we’re back on track now!

t w o || In other big news, I only have about a month left in Paris — everything is beginning to take on the tinge of nostalgia, even my laundromat. On July 10, I have a one-way ticket from Charles de Gaulle to Berlin Tegel Airport where I’ll be spending a month living with one of my best friends, whom I somehow convinced to join me from New York. I love Paris very much, but I’m also beyond excited to get to know Berlin.

t h r e e || A final life update: I’m moving back to New York in August to go back to school! I’m not too excited about the idea of returning to New York (I know, I know, I’m trying to adjust my attitude), but I’m very excited to be hitting the classroom again, especially to study creative writing.

Thanks for bearing with absent me the past few weeks, and hold onto your hats as we go to London this weekend, Paris for a few more weeks, off to Berlin for a month, and then back to the Big Apple!

xo,

Alyx

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…)

Galeries d’Anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie

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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…)

Musée Rodin

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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…)

Jardins du Ruisseau

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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.

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Looking through Lenses

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I’ve been in Paris for two and a half months now, and I am ashamed to admit that I have already felt the force of habit creeping into and obscuring my vision. The first two weeks I was here, every moment I spent outside was full of amazing things to see. Even something as mundane as the grocery store was packed with interesting details; I wanted to look at every single product and label. I was never afraid of whipping my camera out to photograph something I found beautiful or fascinating or funny, which covered pretty much everything I saw.

But of course, this doesn’t last. Even the flakiest people have habits, and the force of habit is a strong one: “We commonly live with a self reduced to its bare minimum; most of our faculties lie dormant, relying on habit; and habit knows how to manage without them” (Proust, 235). I have a Paris routine now, full of places I like to go, foods I like to buy, restaurants I like to frequent, and so on. Slowly the details that charmed me at the beginning are becoming invisible to me. Somewhat symbolically, I don’t take my camera with me as much anymore because it’s heavy and bulky; I no longer look at Paris through the same lens. (more…)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Valentine’s Day is a complicated holiday. If you’re single, you’re inclined to feel bad about yourself; if you’re attached, it turns into an unspoken competition between you and all the other attached people  for the cutest/most romantic/most unusual celebration. And so now anyone who wants to be considered “grounded” is supposed to go around talking about how much they hate Valentine’s Day, regardless of relationship status. After many years of being single or otherwise in the middle of February, my personal feelings about the holiday have settled into a somewhat moderate zone. I think it is a kind of silly holiday, but knowing this doesn’t stop me from wanting to be made to feel special.

Paris is my Valentine this year, in case you couldn’t see that coming from a million miles away. To celebrate, I decided to make palmiers, otherwise known as elephant ears. They are a simple French pastry; the only ingredients are flour, butter, water, salt, and sugar. Nothing makes me feel quite as special as stuffing my face with French butter, so it somehow seems appropriate. (more…)

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…)

Three Cups of Coffee

Over the course of three days this week, I met three people over three cups of coffee. My social strategy in Paris has been to cold-email people I find interesting on the internet. In a past life, this idea would have terrified me, but three years in publicity will convert even the digitally taciturn into email machines and the strategy has been quite successful here. I’ve met many other interesting people here as well, but with a memory card full of coffee photos this week, I thought I’d share these cups with you.

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I met Bryan for coffee at Ten Belles. Bryan is a fellow blogger, runner, food enthusiast, and coffee consumer who, like everyone I’ve cold-emailed, more than graciously entertained my overtures of friendship. Part of the Belleville/Le Bal family, Ten Belles served us two excellent cups of filter-brewed coffee. I actually prefer brewed coffee to espresso beverages (blame the mild lactose intolerance and file this under “Things You Needed to Know About Me”), and though I’ve found some places that pull excellent shots, I was happy to guzzle this mug of coffee.

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