Jumping over the lazy dog

or, taking the bull by the horns.

Tout Paris, dans un week-end

It’s amazing how much you can fit into a weekend. Granted, my weekends are longer than most, especially this one, since I didn’t have to work on Thursday or Friday…but all the same, I saw quite a bit in four-ish days!

Thursday morning I went to the Gare du Nord to pick up my birthday present, i.e. the Brit, to begin our whirlwind tour of Paris. After dropping his bags off in the apartment, and a quick trip to the grocery store, we headed to the Luxembourg gardens for a post-lunch walk in the park.  Our tour on Thursday included a lot of walking, we made it from the Luxembourg gardens up to Notre Dame, then down along the Seine to La Place des Vosges, then back across the Seine to Ile St. Louis (where we ate the most delicious ice cream in Paris, at the original Berthillon shop, all decked out in purples and gold), then waaaaaaaay down the Seine to the Musée d’Orsay (where we learned that I can use my teaching ID card and he can use his EU passport to get in for free – and where we spent half our time watching Asian men take pictures of their wives/girlfriends posing suggestively with sculptures).  We were really knackered by the time we left the museum, so we grabbed something to eat at a restaurant in the 5e, in a small maze of streets bordered by the Seine, Bld St-Michel and Rue St-Jaques (lots of cheapish places to eat there, in case  you’re planning a visit to the city and looking to eat well on a budget).

The Brit in the Luxembourg Gardens - that's the Luxembourg palace behind him, there.  Basically, the gardens were somebody's yard.  Awesome, eh?

The Brit in the Luxembourg Gardens - that's the Luxembourg palace behind him, there. Basically, the gardens were somebody's yard. Awesome, eh?

The best ice cream in Paris.  Worth the money, and the wait.

The best ice cream in Paris. Worth the money, and the wait.

The Gare is beautiful...the 1980s architectural invention looks like it should be either a fortress or a bank, but certainly not an art museum.

The Gare is beautiful...the 1980s architectural intervention looks like it should be either a fortress or a bank, but certainly not an art museum.

Staying up late on Thursday and the subsequent late start the next morning became somewhat thematic of the Brit’s visit across the Channel. That’s not such a bad thing in Paris, where nothing opens until 10am anyway.  On Friday, as I had another training session out in Créteil, the Brit wandered around town by himself, getting into all kinds of trouble.  When I finally got back, it was almost half past seven and so we scrapped our plans to see the Eiffel tower and went to the Louvre instead (getting caught in a rainstorm along the way, so that by the time we got to the pyramids we were thoroughly soaked and my moisture-wicking socks had nowhere to wick the moisture to).  The museum was all but deserted, which meant we actually got to see the Mona Lisa (or La Joconde as the French call her) instead of a throng of Asian tourists. I must say, though, getting caught in the rain before a night visit to the Louvre is not a bad way to spend your birthday, especially for an art fiend like me!  The Louvre was followed by another late night dining experience in the 5e, this time at a restaurant where I was spoken to in Spanish twice, because I’m brown, and where the kitschy Franco-Greek themed décor was only rivaled by the 70s pop music playing over the speakers.  The food itself was quite tasty, I had escargot, duck and chocolate mousse – all good things in my book.

The pyramids at the Louvre are impressive during the day, but exquisite at night.

The pyramids at the Louvre are impressive during the day, but exquisite at night.

Another late start Saturday had us going to the 1pm showing of Funny People at the Pathé in Montmartre.  After two hours of giggling, sniggering and snorting, we wandered past Moulin Rouge (no free show there, but wait till I tell you what we saw on Sunday) and through Montmartre towards Sacré Coeur.  Turns out there was a once-a-year festival at the top of the hill, Les vendange, a celebration of the local Parisian wine grown in that quartier.  If the stalls had been giving away tastings, rather than asking for our limbs in exchange for un goût, I might have something to report with regards to the quality of Parisian wine, though my coworkers tell me it’s nothing to write home about…but we got a good view of the city from the steps leading to Sacré Coeur, and sat for a while to listen to the Afro-French musicians singing American songs: at one point, they even had a guest singer from the audience, a girl from Spain, help them with “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  After that number, we went down to the Jardin des Plantes, got kicked out at closing time by a guard enthusiastically weilding his whistle, and strolled down to Chinatown to grab dinner with some assistants.

On Sunday we thought we’d be French and take our lunch to a park.  A brief detour to the Eiffel Tower, to learn that you cannot, in fact, purchase advance tickets, though you will be able to soon (when is soon in this country, I don’t know…), we walked (a very long walk) down to the Parc André Citroën.  Now, I visited this park when I studied at Fontainebleau in 2007, and it’s one of my favorite parks in Paris. It has beautiful proportions, the side gardens are leafy and inviting, with a balance of views to promenaders and privacy, the latter of which is what probably provoked an incident in French PDA to the extreme.  The Brit and I had slipped into one of the aforementioned small gardens to grab our lunch.  There we sat, having just consumed a sandwich jambon fromage, chatting quietly, when I looked up across the garden to see a curious sight.  It’ll suffice to say that necking in the park is one thing – in fact, an intense make-out session seems to be the default mode for couples in a Parisian park – but addressing romantic issues below the belt (literally speaking) should really be done in the privacy of  your own home.  Needless to say, after a few speechless moments, the Brit and I gathered our belongings and made our exit.  Like two teenagers, we slunk away, giggling, only to happen upon a group of boys leaning over a ledge to observe the sight we had just escaped.  Their surprised yells only made us laugh harder, and by the time we had walked across the park, we were breathless with glee.

One of my favorite mini-gardens at the park. A picture from a few years ago, because I decided it would be more fun to hang out with the Brit than take pictures all day.

One of my favorite mini-gardens at the park. A picture from a few years ago, because I decided it would be more fun to hang out with the Brit than take pictures all day.

As Sunday was our six-month anniversary (now a day to remember, for sure), we went out to Montparnasse, where we soaked in Breton culture and cider, along with some delicious crêpes, at the Crêperie Josselin.  The dessert crêpe was amazing, a combination of chocolate, bananas and coconut ice cream flambeed in rum: mmmmm.  Perfect for the not-so-hidden sweet-tooth in the both of us.

I did have to work on Monday, my first day with students of my own, which was interesting in its own right and will warrant its own post later this week. I managed to wriggle out of work earlier than planned and met up with the Brit to grab dinner and Skype my aunt and uncle in India.

Monday was our last night together in Paris, so we thought we’d splurge by having a glass of champagne while taking in Paris aglow. After only 30 minutes waiting in line to purchase our tickets, we packed ourselves onto the first elevator – I say packed because the close quarters on that journey up the Tower has made quite clear to me the meaning of the phrase “like sardines in a can.” It’s a (mostly) glass elevator, and I was pressed firmly against its clear doors – a great view, to be sure, but for someone with my slight acrophobia, a somewhat terrifying experience.  Nonetheless, we shuffled off the first elevator and onto the second; within minutes we were at the top of the tower with a dazzling view of the City of Lights.  While we were taking in the sights, it seems we were a sight ourselves – a group of children followed us around the second floor and during our descent, whispering amongst themselves and trying not to look as though they were watching us, looking away and giggling when we caught their wide-eyed stares.

Looking East from the Eiffel Tower.  My apartment is just beyond the brightly-lit dome, before the not-so-brightly lit dome (the latter being the Pantheon).

Looking East from the Eiffel Tower. My apartment is just beyond the brightly-lit dome, before the not-so-brightly lit dome (the latter being the Pantheon).

One of my professors has made it his mission to take "the right" picture of the Eiffel Tower.  This might not be it, but I think the composition is quite interesting...

One of my professors has made it his mission to take "the right" picture of the Eiffel Tower. This might not be it, but I think the composition is quite interesting...

This morning we woke at the crack of dawn to shuttle the Brit back to Gare du Nord, and poof! at 7:15am he was gone.  It’s a strange thing, a long-distance relationship, where the highs of meeting your loved one are so quickly tugged down by your longing upon their departure.  It won’t be too long until I see him again, though, we’ve already planned a trip to Loughborough and Edinburgh at the end of the month.  Traveling the world is certainly one of the advantages of living in two different cities.

All in all, a very romantic anniversary outing indeed – it’s going to be a hard one to top!

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Oh whatta night…

This post might be better titled “All in a day’s work,” but because it’s 3 in the morning and I just got in, I thought Billy Joel was quite appropriate.  Just got in, you say? Why yes, and the party’s still going on in the streets of Paris…I’m just so old that my knees started to complain about all the walking.

But before we get to all that, a recap of my first Saturday in Paris: quite a busy one, if only in the French sense, in that I got a grand total of 3 things done today.

  1. Thing number 1: I went to set up my bank account.  It was quite simple. I had most of the necessary paperwork, and need one last paper signed before it’s all completely done.  My debit card should come in the mail in the next week or so, along with my RIB, which is a slip of paper with my bank info I need to get my paycheck deposited in the account (important stuff!).
  2. Thing number 2: I wrote a rough draft, an incredibly sloppy one that will be scratched, once again, for a scholarship application.  For some reason, I can no longer write personal statements, the ability has completely left me. So much for getting money to grad school. So maybe it should be 2.5 things, not 3…
  3. Thing number 3: I got my camera’s sensor cleaned. No more dust! This was a bit of a challenge, as I had no idea where to look for a camera store that would clean my sensor in Paris. This website came in handy, but the store the author mentions did not exist – in its place was another camera store, with a very nice gentleman who told me to come back in an hour.  So, for €30, I had my sensor, lens and body cleaned, and got to sit at the Place des Vosges while reading George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London and watching little children kick up dust while playing soccer with their papas.

Now, for the night.  Dun dun dun.  The Tall One, another ETA, and I met up for dinner/dessert (dinner for her, dessert for me) where we solved America’s problems.  Turns out Mies was right, less is more, people.  Then we wandered around the city for four hours, trying to find the events described on the Nuit Blanche website, but because we had no map…it turned out to be more entertaining than planned. We stumbled upon the following images during our ambling parcour through the city.

Yes, that is a GIANT disco ball hanging from a crane in the Luxembourg Gardens. We wanted to go in to get a closer look, but there was a 3 hour wait.

Yes, that is a GIANT disco ball hanging from a crane in the Luxembourg Gardens. We wanted to go in to get a closer look, but there was a 3 hour wait.

I can never remember which bridge this is. But isn't it pretty?

I can never remember which bridge this is. But isn't it pretty?

You guys remember the Impressionists? This is why the movement started in France.

You guys remember the Impressionists? This is why the movement started in France.

Spiderman, spiderman...crossing the ocean onto French land...

Spiderman, spiderman...crossing the ocean onto French land...

Place des Vosges at night, where it's kind of creepy, but kind of beautiful.  Oh, and that's the Tall One in the red coat.

Place des Vosges at night, where it's kind of creepy, but kind of beautiful. Oh, and that's the Tall One in the red coat.

Ok, you explain this one to me. I have no words.

Ok, you explain this one to me. I have no words.

Notre Dame at night, from the Pont Marie (I believe). Now tell me you aren't jealous I'm spending 7 more months in this beautiful city.

Notre Dame at night, from the Pont Marie (I believe). Now tell me you aren't jealous I'm spending 7 more months in this beautiful city.

Finally, around 2:15, we decided to split ways and head back home…which took me about 45 minutes to walk. This is one thing I’m quickly getting used to: walking everywhere, 10-30 minutes at a time.  Oh, and eating tiny, tiny portions.  I’m going to come back to the US as a stick.  Twiggy’s back in style, didn’t you hear?

Well, I really ought to be getting to bed, because tomorrow, I’m off to the races! More on that after this break.

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