December 7, 2013 § 1 Comment
By each year Christmas decorations are put up earlier than ever. And as Missoco said next year they might as well start in summers. So, by those standards my Christmas post is late but for me it is rightly timed. It is always the month of December that ushers in fun-filled Christmas days with Christmas Markets, decorations all over the city and pretty much everything red, green and white.
It seems that everyone is waiting for Christmas to come fast and open gifts with family and friends. Paris during Christmas is a dream come true. It is wonderful because of the happiness daze caused by chocolates and everything which has a bit of sugar. To officially kick off my Christmas month I spent almost ten hours today and the cherry of the cake is not anywhere near the finish.
Having an extra early dance class helped with the waking up part. And next, joined by Missoco, I went to La Cartonnerie (12 rue Degeurry Paris 11) for a Christmas Market where twenty-eight French artists/designers put up lots of creative things on the display. My best picks are the vintage lace jewellery from KDYAK, masculine scented candles from Maison Moustache inspired by different districts of Paris, London and New York and a new way to discover books by Exploratology. And if you want to catch up with your friends around cute cupcakes and tea, there is Marine Is Cooking. But of course I didn’t spend ten hours just talking with Missoco (well yeah most of it, which also made us miss our metro stop by a few stations). We girls meant business today.
Missoco took me to discover Christmas decoration and gifts shops near Place de la Madeleine. At Sia, I couldn’t stop taking photos of the beautiful and different decorations. Then we went to La Chaise Longue which is a famous French gift-shop chain. I liked all the stuff in the Parisiennes range and I am sure of buying the dinner set.
On our way around the Madeleine Square we quickly managed to peak at the irresistible chocolate Christmas tree in Patrick Roger‘s Chocolate shop display.
To finish of our day in Christmas style, Missoco treated me with the éclairs at Fauchon. It was delicious and perfect way to relish the end of a wonderful day. Now I am ready to sip on some hot chocolate and go to bed to prepare for my very first Thanksgiving (it is never late to say thanks) Dinner tomorrow for which I am going to cook a French dish. The next post will be a cooking experiment.
Before I make any 2014 resolutions, I have made things to do before Christmas list which includes ice-skating at Hotel de Ville, visit Louvre (yes I haven’t done that until now) and start running. Long shot but worth every try.
“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flown. How did it get so late so soon?”– Dr. Seuss
(I am so glad not to have missed my deadline of writing a weekly post just by forty-five minutes.)
November 12, 2013 § 5 Comments
Every year since 2004, the month of November holds month-long event involving the growing of mustaches as Movember to raise awareness of Men’s health issues.
Personally, I am not a fan of men with mustaches, simply because the men (boys would be more right) of my generation do not know how to keep one. Generally they try low maintenance beards or worse experiment with a goatee (and I can’t understand why?). The only man I adore with a mustache is my father which leads to what happened during this summer at home.
Papa has been always had a well-trimmed mustache and it suits his personality very well. I had never seen him without his mustache in my twenty-five years of existence. He is now in his late fifties and becoming a little lazy to die his hair (he is still young not to want white hair or until I get married). So what did he do? He shaved off his mustache! My mum had already told me about it but I couldn’t believe it. So, when I reached home the first thing I did was cry for Papa’s non-existent mustache. I told him to get it back or I won’t talk to him. I didn’t for almost two days and pestered him continuously for a whole month until I got used to his face sans mustache. He didn’t give in and I can’t even until now think of him without his mustache (I never will).
This weekend I went to a bar called Le Petit Joseph Dijon just across the metro Simplon of line 4 in the eighteenth district for a Swing concert. This place is celebrating Movember and Thomas from the bar had a real man’s mustache. I somehow managed to take his picture (it is real weird when you want to take a person’s photo without letting them know) but there are many more and much better on their Facebook page.
The band was a real delight for ears. They call themselves Swinguez Moustaches (and so more on mustache). Swing, Latin, Russian, Klezmer make the perfect recipe to make you tap and dance. I managed a few photos from the spot I occupied for the evening. The place got a little crowded as the band was awesome. I am definitely going to find more gigs of this band and visit the bar for their special cocktail Le Petit Joseph.
Here’s a video, I found on their YouTube channel, of a song they played during the evening. Great music!
A fun evening on Saturday charged me so much that I finally went to see Orsay Museum on Sunday morning.
When I came out of the museum there was already a queue of at least one kilometer, I felt proud of braving the early morning cold and thus avoiding such long queues. As always I used my preferred mode of transport, the bus. The sun shone brightly. I took a few photos to save the clear blue sky view even though I missed my bus and had to wait for twenty more minutes. It was worth the warm rare sun Parisians get.
I am writing this post at the visa office waiting for twenty-six people before I get my renewed residence card. Even though I braved cold and drizzle this morning I have to spend more than an hour and I am using this time for summarizing my weekend.
November 6, 2013 § 4 Comments
Loving Paris gets tough when we get stuck with daily life chores and forget to cherish every moment we are living in this amazing city. This blog is my tool to go out and explore and then write about it. Ever since I arrived in Paris I made crazy plans to learn more about this city. But most of it is still on the to-do list. And I thought of my list when I found this YouTube Channel called Paris By Métro.
Michaël Hoellerer decided to rediscover Paris with a year-long video series, following all the metro stops around town. There are more than three hundred stations on the fourteen lines of Parisian metro. Each video talks about one metro station. I loved the idea and the work.
I have travelled on all the metro lines just for the fun of it. I then thought of taking all the buses but there are three hundred and forty-seven of them. So I dropped the idea. Paris By Metro has charged me up to work on another plan I have had for more than a year. I will write more on it when I actually execute it.
I recently found a gem of an app for my smartphone. I use duoLingo, an app to learn Spanish and practice French. It is an amazing app, no advertisements, simple and effective. One can learn Spanish, English, French, German, Portuguese and Italian. Learning Spanish is easier for me since I know French and almost ninety percent of my friends in Paris speak Spanish. I would recommend this app to anyone who has some beginner’s knowledge of a language. I would have loved it more if I could learn Spanish from French and not English as the languages are in the same family but I think the app developers are working on something like that. Until then I can easily manage phrases like yo hablo español (I speak Spanish).
October 14, 2013 § 3 Comments
This month of October is impressing me every week. There are so many things happening all around Paris. It is almost impossible to have a sane planning and not miss a few things. La Nuit Blanche weekend was beautiful but as soon as Monday arrived, temperature took a deep fall and I was left with no inclination to leave the warm walls around me and face the eventual truth. But obviously, that’s not a choice as I am in Paris.
During the 80th harvest festival, La Fête des Vendanges, Montmartre celebrated the art of love through endless activities happening around the 18th district from 9th to 13th October. I had made reservations long ago for a vineyard visit (yes, at Montmartre) and wine tasting on Friday to enjoy the festival without the hoards of visitors during the weekend.
Let me tell you about Montmartre, though I am sure Paris lovers know about it all. Crowned by the white-domed Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, Montmartre is one of the greatest symbols of the French capital. It is a hill in Northern Paris, famous for hosting artists like Dalí, Modigliani, Monet, Picasso and Van-Gogh, phew! This is a dreamer’s land, a village overlooking the mighty Paris yet having its own charms and pleasures. From the days of the pilgrimages in the middle ages, Montmartre has always been a spot to drop barriers and indulge in pleasures. Well, doesn’t that justify why I pampered myself a little on a memorable Friday, lost in Montmartre?
The weather on my pleasure day was no different and not easy to survive. As soon as I would close my umbrella it would start raining. But nothing could stop me from indulging in the sweet Parisian life. I took a bus from my place to reach Montmartre. Why a bus? The Parisian metro is good when you are in a hurry and are ready to sacrifice the beautiful views for the dark underground tunnels. If you are a true Paris lover (a bit of French comprehension and fine map skills help), you would take a bus even if the bus stop might be in some tiny street, you might arrive far away from the destination and eventually get lost. This is my way of discovering Paris. My bus left me just around the corner of a restaurant called La Belle-Mère Qui Fume (The Mother-in-Law Who Smokes), beyond funny!
I had to walk uphill for a good ten minutes and I managed to arrive on time at the oldest vineyard of Paris, Clos Montmartre at 14 rue Saules. This vineyard remains closed to public except for few exceptional days. The caretaker of the vineyard was a nice gentleman who recounted the history of this particular place passionately. Then he took the visitors around the vineyard to show the different vines, old as well as new. There were a range of exquisite plants and flowers growing along the vines and the rose in the photo at the beginning says it all.
It was time to taste the wine, but first I had to find the place where the free wine tasting event was to take place. That took me around two hours of doing rounds through the street market set for the festival. And who’s complaining! I tasted different local products from different regions of France like cheese, honey, figs, grapes, jams and I bought something special, nectar of organic peach. Doesn’t sound interesting? It does because it’s called bloody peach nectar.
Enough of fruits, it was time for the real thing. The tasting had five wines from vineyard Gontard, from Aubignan commune in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in south-eastern France. I tasted Ventoux Blanc 2012, Ventoux Rosé 2012, Ventoux Cuvée des Fontainiers 2011, Pinot Noir 2011 and Muscat Blanc 2011. As always I liked the white and pink wines but also the red one called Cuvée des Fontainiers that leaves a sweet taste at the end. Five tastings were almost equal to two and a half glasses. A small secret, wine doesn’t go well with me and five wines in less than half an hour definitely wasn’t nice. Light-headed and tipsy I chose to ride a bus again. Going down the stairs as a happy soul I kind of managed to arrive safely at the bus stop and took it back home.
The weekend hadn’t started yet. There was a fireworks show called Feu d’Amour (Fire of Love) scheduled for Saturday evening at Sacré-Cœur and I was excited. But, I had a surprise waiting for me on Friday evening. I found two invitations to watch a musical in French, narrating the life of Edith Piaf, I am not so lucky often. October 10, this year marked the 50th death anniversary of the world’s most famous French singer, Edith Piaf. La Môme Piaf (The Little Sparrow), is revered as a national treasure in France; she sang songs on love, loss and sorrow. I chose Piaf over the fireworks and enjoyed my Saturday evening with beautiful songs at Théâtre Daunou. The musical was beautifully sung, the audience sang along and everyone was very happy at the end. I liked this song called Mon Manège à Moi (My Carousel to Me), which like all Piaf songs, complements the love theme of this year’s Fête des Vendanges.
As a twenty-five year old, I think I have travelled a lot and these travels in different countries have given me such beautiful memories that I could never imagine. But I am afraid that as time is passing by, my life in those countries has started to seem like it never existed. The time, I shared with those places and people who accompanied me, is nothing but a few photos and souvenirs. Even my first few months in Paris seem like a distant memory. Maybe because I have changed, the people I knew during that time have changed, I either got to know them more or they have simply faded away. And maybe that is why I chose to blog, to try accumulating these memories for the rest of my life.
“Good days are to be gathered like grapes, to be trodden and bottled into wine and kept for age to sip at ease beside the fire. If the traveller has vintaged well, he need trouble to wander no longer; the ruby moments glow in his glass at will.” – Freya Stark, an English travel writer.
October 9, 2013 § 1 Comment
La Nuit Blanche is an annual all-night arts festival. It is the best excuse to mark a night out. Most of the museums and art galleries are open all through the night free for all public. There are various art installations, performances, social activities scheduled throughout the host city. Along with Paris (first Saturday of every October since 2002) , this event also takes place in the cities of Rome, Montreal, Toronto, Brussels, Madrid and Leeds. In Paris, public transport is accessible all along the night, which is a rare.
The first time I checked out this festival was last year but my experience was not the best, because I did absolute zero planning. That was unintelligent and, it rained! This year I started browsing the program long ago and took tips from various blogs for the must see exhibits. I made a concrete plan to navigate through Paris on this eventful night. And I had company of a few friends to enjoy La Nuit.
At 22h00 began my adventurous night at the terrace of Arab World Institute. This beautiful building, located on the left bank of Seine, houses the organization to promote and diffuse information about the Arab World. The view during the night was special, where one could see Notre Dame Cathedral as well as the Bastille Tower illuminated by the various La Nuit Blanche expositions. My photo can’t describe it at all. A friend remarked, “what our eyes see can’t be captured by any camera”.
The next stop was the fireworks show, by contemporary pyrotechnic artist Cai Guo-Qiang, on the banks of Seine, in front of Orsay Museum. When I reached the place along with loads of other people, there was not an inch left along the two bridges between which the show was about to happen. Still hopeful, I and my friends stayed until the show began but we couldn’t see the real thing except the huge amount of smoke that engulfed the Orsay Museum façade. That took the fun out of the show for me but my friends were excited. You can find a video worth a watch shared on Paris’ official page here.
It started getting a little cold which gave some of my friends a good excuse to leave. But one friend was as enthusiastic as me and so we charged towards our next destination in the famous Jewish quarter, Le Marais. At Library Forney, Elena Paroucheva, an electric art environmentalist, had put up a mini electricity tower transformed into an haute couture electric dress. It was magnificent, a dream so beautiful and well placed. I talked to Elena and she explained how her creative art transforms the ugly electricity/mobile towers into amazing artworks. She made me feel less bad about my profession which puts up such towers everywhere and ruins nature’s beauty. I can sleep with some peace now.
Nearby at Saint Paul Saint Louis Church was an artwork which impressed me the most. Dominique Lacloche is a visual artist who uses leaves of Gunnera from Amazon for his work. He hanged forty-six such leaves of various sizes from the church’s dome. Lying under these organic leaves, which oscillated tenderly with air, I could spend my whole Nuit Blanche under them. But of course there were many people like me who wanted the little space I was lying on. I came out of the church inspired to do something similar in my room.
It was almost 03h00 but I wasn’t tired yet, not unless I had seen the Fog Square at Place de la République. I and my friend took line 5 from Bastille to Jacues Bonsergert to our penultimate destination. That was the only disappointment of the night, the fog was all gone and what was left was wet floor and drunken people all over the square trying to mount the Lady Republic statue. But I guess, fog is the last thing that Parisians would miss, winter is coming!
The last stop was at Quai de Valmy for an orchestra pit installation at the Canal Saint-Martin. I was very tired but this artwork made me happy, very happy. Water jumping out from the sound device was funny. Sound devices, placed underwater, created an electronic music composition vibrating the surface of water. The acoustic waves invisible to human eyes, reflected as water waves, was awesome. I don’t have a good photo so I am borrowing this one from Paris’ official page on Facebook.
I reached home at 05h00. Seven hours of blissful Nuit Blanche. Content with my artful adventure, I slept well through Sunday morning.
“A work of art is above all an adventure in mind.” – Eugene Ionesco, one of the foremost playwright of Theatre of Absurd.