Month: August 2014

les étranger souriant

We spent a quiet and short morning together until SO had to catch the train to Marseille. I offered to go to the train station with him to stand on the platform and wave my kerchief at the train as it leaves the station, dramatically. My offer was not accepted. Which is good because I was totally bluffing about riding my bike down there today.

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leaving the house.. why?

Dimanche dans Paris is quiet and slow. Most stores are closed today to allow people the freedom to have a “day of rest” and spend time at home with family. That being said, there are still a number of areas in town which do not comply and are open for a shopping experience extraordinaire! One of these areas is the Marché aux Puces / Saint-ouen, and is said to be Europe’s largest open air antiques and flea market, with over 2500 stalls in different themed marchés, block after block of impromptu flea market stalls along the sidewalk, as well as a large number of people hawking “legal” goods, etc.

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When I ride the métro I’ve taken to writing down a small cheat sheet of directions and station-stops, which is invaluable. I don’t really like standing in front of maps and tourist info things because it makes me look like a target, especially traveling around by myself. This way I can just put on my shades and walk around like I know what I’m doing, and not many people bother me.

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hey, I don’t feel like talking to you now, I am an artist 1

If you’re ever looking for the Marché aux Puces and you’re a bit lost, just look for the hordes of people. Seriously it’s so hard to navigate except for to merge with the stream and let yourself flow along, listening to the variety of languages with french accents or the inverse, checking out table after table of knock off shoes, football jerseys and purses, as we push past the occasional blockage of stationary people waiting at some window for a falafel. After some time I departed the crowds in favour of the less traveled marché of antiquities, spending my time perusing the usual bricabrac; crates of old doorknobs, wooden frames, postcards, lead type, china tea cups, glass vases, leather bags, wooden side tables and mirrors, as well as some unusual things, like doll heads, apothecary jars and unused wine labels.

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I think I might have interrupted the guy in the top corner’s phone call..

I also found a stall that specializes in antique keychains. If it sounds specific, it is. Everything from miniature wine bottles, ads for shops of days past, tiny cars, tiny shoes, tiny folding knives, tiny ice skates, tiny anchors and tiny dogs. I opted for the tiny shoes. I mean, do you know me?
I spent a long time browsing, and I only saw a small portion of the place.. but this is good because it means I can come back and see new things all the time. And also pick up those items I regret not purchasing!

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I managed to find a small asian grocery that was open near my flat and picked up a few things for dinner. Now, leeks slow braised in garlic and white wine sauce, a simple emmental frittata, short grain rice in a creamy mushroom and beef broth, fresh pinto bean salad. I probably made enough food for 4 people, but that’s what I do. Whatever, leftovers are good. And I bet you couldn’t find that meal at a restaurant for the 4.50 euros I paid for it. Also turns out I’m a good enough cook to pull it off with a hotplate. Bam! Ok, enough gloating. Bon appetit!

1 http://youtu.be/MK0ITXBWpHE

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les canaux

I was up late last night writing. By the time I had written out all my thoughts for the day, it was 3am.. and that was before I had begun to write my analysis of the artwork I had seen that day. So I put the laptop away and eventually got to sleep, as visions of paintbrushes danced in my head. Then of course the, er, mid-morning sun kickstarted my desire to just start spewing art analysis again. I thought and I looked, I typed and I erased, I read and I quoted, I edited and I rewrote. Then I had some baguette and jam. Then I copied and I pasted, I formatted and I coded, I resized and I resaved, I drafted and I reread, I published and I modified. Then after 5 more hours I decided it was good enough. Not great, but good enough. I really need start spacing out my Louvre visits if I’m ever going to get anything done.

Now it was coming up on 4pm and we hadn’t decided on anything to to today. It’s Saturday, after all. I can’t just stay in typing, can I? I was looking at the Paris canal cruises recently and remembered that some of them are just until the end of August, and this being the last weekend in August we figured it would be good. Plus who wouldn’t like sitting on a boat for a few hours watching the world go by?

IMG_6427I don’t dislike you, I nothing you

This is by far the longest and strangest tour I have ever been on. Turns out, which I should have thought through, the canal tour goes from the 19th to downtown, which is down a big big hill. This means, lots of locks. Lots and lots. And by lots, I mean there were like 20 of them. And locks take forever to empty. So this crazy tour consisted basically of us moving forward 50 ft and then sitting around for 15 minutes, the repeating again and again. The first couple of locks were kindof nice, the first big one was reaaally big, and people walking around on the street kindof gathered to watch it go, which was fun. Then, the next couple were nice as we got to watch people milling about on the quays; picnicing, playing bocce or ping pong, cycling, dog walking. After a while, it got pretty tedious, especially when the view of the quays changed to makeshift hobo shanties and piles of garbage. Plus, not to nitpick, but the tour was advertised as completely bilingual but there were only about 10 words in English thrown in for every 100 French words. I know I can’t expect to hear things in English here… but when it’s advertised..! Ah, now we’ve gone down 24 metres. Now we can get going. Hey, what’s this cool underpass? Oh this is neat.. and dark… hey how far does it go? Oh, half the length of the tour, great. Really, what a shame that any traversing of the downtown/historical area is completely underground in a damp, dark cobbled tube. Oh well, being forced to do nothing but sit with my SO for 2.5h and point and laugh at things, not so bad!

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Trapped on a ship with me..

Once we emerged from our our *ahem* adventure, we decided to get on a vélib and try to make our way uphill. I got about halfway before I decided I needed a break, so we parked our vélos and walked around the 20th enjoying the buzz of Parisian nightlife spilling out onto the streets. We also found a place that has honestly the best falafel I’ve ever had. Score! We wandered around some more until we found the energy to bike the rest of the way home.

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bons amis et nouveaux amis

Today began with another vélib trip downtown. The vélib is a really nice way to start the day. For some reason (probably because we’re on a hill) there usually aren’t any bikes available right by our house. Fortunately it’s a short walk to the next station and it really doesn’t take long to find an available bike. So after a nice short stroll we set out on our journey, with a vague idea of what route we should take. We got lost a few times, but I can’t really say that I mind.

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There were a lot of neighbourhoods and stores I’ve made a mental note of to check out later. We were having a grand old time until we crossed the Seine and started going uphill. Whoo boy! I mean, I know I’m out of shape, but I almost died of fatigue. Not really how I want to feel on vacation! Also, we went over our time and got fined 1 EUR. Not a big deal, but we weren’t allowed to rent any more bikes until we paid up.. and you can only do that at certain locations. Oh well! So we parked our vélos and decided to check out what this crazy long line stretching around the square was all about. It was the line for the catacombs, which unfortunately is where we were headed today! Oh well. The good news is we can just come back another day. It’s just too bad I killed myself cycling to get there. So from there we stopped in the nearest brasserie to quench our thirst with lovely Grimbergen (Belgian) bière. Wow. Super delicious. And not just because I biked for an hour and 15.

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bi……ère……

Next, we popped into a nearby cemetery, presumably to satisfy our macabre appetite that should have been satiated at the catacombs. Paris cemeteries are very different than back home. The plots are often raised tombs, or even big vaults, as opposed to Canada where they are predominantly garden-based with generously spaced plots and few raised markers. That being said, space is at a premium here and its no surprise everything is tightly fit to accommodate the millions of deceased. Even though, the large (read: tall) vaults are beautiful and ornate, offering family a quiet and private space to enter, pray, and leave flowers. Many have stained glass and wrought iron, ostensibly tiny chapels. They have an air of quiet melancholic beauty and sad, wistful elegance. We wandered around and found the tomb of Henri Poincaré, who was a mathematician who made fundamental contributions to the field as well as physics and celestial mechanics. The IHP, which is holding the session for which SO is attending, is named after him.

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Next, we biked up to the Louvre to pop in and see more stuff. Cause, why not! The thing that is crazy about the Louvre, well one thing, is that it was a crazy 12th century fortress/Royal palace. You cannot walk down the surrounding boulevard without being completely in awe of it. Forget the pyramid, this place is awesome!

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So after taking however many billions of steps it takes to actually get around the courtyard and into the building, we headed this time to the 1st floor. Now, remember when I said this place was a crazy 12th century fortress/royal palace? Well you can’t go very far without seeing some amazing original architecture and decor. Sometimes, when you’re looking at a really nice painting, just let your eyes wander up to the ceiling where you will see an equally amazing thing! We also got to see the Winged Victory of Samothrace’s new badass pedestal, on the bow of a ship as she was originally displayed in 200BC. Lookin’ good!

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Royal Quarters, Winged Victory of Samothrace, Sculpture Hallway, and Badass Armour

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just look up. i dare you.

We also checked out some good friends : La Jeune Martyre (Delaroche), La nuit ; un port de mer au clair de lune (Vernet), Magdalena-Bay, vue prise de la presqu’ile des tombeaux, au nord do Spitzberg ; effet d’aurore boréal (Biard), and Atala au tombeau (Girodet de Roussy Trioson). We also said hello to some new friends : Jeunne homme nu assis au bord de la mer (Flandrin), Le Tricheur (La Tour), Le Pandemonium (Martin), Pygmalion et Galatée (Girodet de Roussy Trioson), and Vue d’intérieur / Les Pantoufles (Hoogstraten). We also stopped for sushi dinner halfway thru that big list. Benefits of having a membership!

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La Jeune Martyre always draws me in from across the room. There is so much darkness in this painting, literally, it almost swallows everything within; save the heavenly illumination of her fine halo.  The light glows on her beautiful face, warming what is a chilling scene and giving you a sense of warmth and comfort blanketing the girl. In addition, the light the halo provides extends and reflects in the depths of the water and the soaked folds of her gown in such a sadly realistic way it makes you want to cry. I have viewed this piece before and was equally drawn in before, but what I noticed this time was in the top left corner there is a shadowy figure of some people, just barely visible in the faintest glow of the sunrise, and a hint of the bow of a small boat.

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Remember in that other post when I said I loved painted night scenes with one light source? Yeah, La Nuit is another reason why. Granted you could argue there are two light sources but I would tell you that I think the faint light of the bonfire literally and metaphorically fades quickly and pales in comparison to the brilliant and far-reaching luminescence of the full moon. This painting is a beautiful thing, but is also a dichotomy almost literally split in two. On the right, the figures are turning away and ignoring the moon and it’s gifts, instead huddling around the fire to glean some comfort from its temporal existence. On the other side, the figures are preoccupied with savouring the helpful glow : navigating ships, fishing off the dock. Literally, food and transportation. Also they don’t seem very cold as if the provision they receive are sufficiently fulfilling… . The quality of light in this piece, to which no jpg could do it justice, is absolutely captivating and illuminates the world in a very complete way. I might be out to lunch : it might just be a nice painting of some moonlit activities and people enjoying a bonfire, but thinking about different relationships within a work is kindof fun!

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Magdalena-Bay is horrifying. At first, when you see it across the room, you see lots of nice sweeping contrasts and brilliant cyan hues and you think to yourself, ooh that looks pretty! However, when you get up close you behold the horror of this work! One of the amazing things about paintings is the ability to tell a story without using any words, so let’s look at what this painting says. It’s cold, it’s very cold and windy and icy. Oh, look there are some people on the shore, oh wait, all of them are dead except one. Hey, what’s that in the water? Oh yeah its a shipwreck. How horrifying would it be to 1) be shipwrecked in a horrible place 2) all your shipmates are dead except for you. That being said, there is a single file of footprints leading off the painting to the right, indicating that one of their crew has gone for help and this poor soul is left to wait with the dead. The snow has begun to pile up on the corpses, indicating that some time has passed. I wonder if the friend with ever come back alive? This business of perpetuity in painting is both fascinating and horrifying. There is no indication of something happening, or going to happen, it’s just this poor soul doomed to forever sit in the freezing cold and wait for help. Help will never come, and there will be no reprieve from his situation. /shudder.

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Atala is another one that tugs at the heart strings. The subject is from Chateaubriand‘s romantic novel Atala, or the Loves of Two Savages in the Wilderness; a story of the half-caste Atala who falls in love with Chactas, a native man (America) but Atala has taken a vow to remain a virgin and a Christian, so she commits suicide by poison. I could go on about the unbelievable quality of the persons painted in this scene, how the light and shadow is so masterfully done you believe in your heart you are gazing at the event.. but I could do that about basically anything from this era. The thing that I love about this painting is how quietly painful it is. Father Aubry is trying to do his job and bury this poor lady while Chacatas cannot let her go. Again there is no indication of the passage of time, or that he is just giving her a quick hug before she goes. He will hold on forever.

“The exoticism, the defense of the innocence of primitive peoples and the religious sentiment that characterized the novel are all transposed into the picture. Girodet has not merely illustrated a single scene from Chateaubriand’s novel, he has synthesized several passages.”1

The scene is very quiet but there is definite tension : the old man’s hands pressing in to her sides, attempting to pull her away, her lover clinging with a very tight and unrelenting grip. Even the arrangement of the piece gives you this feeling – the lover curled up in a heavy, stationary form, low to the ground and rooted at the bottom of the painting, and the lady and old man in a light and flowing form, drifting away to the top right, sweeping or floating out of the painting, balanced and anchored also by the tomb archway with the glow of light and the cross – salvation and redemption encompassed in perpetual light.. it indicates balance, permanence and steadfastness.

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The jeune homme is a painting I recognized from some art history years passed, but had never taken the time to hang out with it in person. It is a simple painting; the boy quietly sitting by the sea, head down in simple posture in deep rest and contemplation. Yet the sea is a tiny tiny part of this painting. Overwhelmingly, the boy is the main subject matter. Firstly, the quality of the painting is fantastic but moreover it gives an audience to a quiet moment.“The young man shows introspection in deep timelessness“.2 It elevates the importance of man, of his greatness, of his self-analysis, of contemplation, of loneliness and of rest.

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Le Tricheur is a nice storytelling piece and allegory. The main figure gets tipped off by the barmaid that her opponent is cheating, as we the viewer gets to see him slip an ace out of his sash. The other guy  has no idea what’s going on. He’s a fish. His dress is grand and opulent yet he is young, hinting that he is naïve; proud of the wealth that he spreads out on the table, and becomes drawin into the game by the other players, only to be cheated. The scene dictates a contrast between innocence and vice, and dichotomy of the detailed opulence vs unfinished quality of their physical appearance, yet opposite in their wiles. There are some aspects of this painting that are really fantastic, the layout for example is balanced evenly, the table completely parallel to the edge of the painting with an empty seat, as if you, the viewer, are part of the scene. You literally come to the table and get to see the tricheur showing you his hand, almost smirking while the woman becomes suspicious but insofar is getting away with it. At first glance, the fact that some parts of this painting feel unfinished seems to take away from the experience, as the majority of works in the Louvre are finished to such fine detail, yet it is in the contrast of finished and unfinished that we are given information and guidance to the quality of the characters, their intentions, their downfalls and their fates.

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Pandemonium. This one’s fire and brimstone spewed at me from down a hall I didn’t intend on going down today. But if this painting doesn’t capture attention, I don’t know what will. It’s based on Milton’s Paradise Lost, it “denominates the capital of hell created by Satan (literally in Greek, pandemonium means “all the demons”) Satan is held here in the council chamber and presides over the assembly of demons”.3 Huge boiling pits of  fiery lava, big sheets of dark cloudy rain, army of millions marching from a giant fortress of evil commanded by a crazy looking Satan with a pike. Yowza.

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Pygmalion and Galatée is the Greek story of how the sculptor, Pygmalion, falls in love with the statue that he created. He makes offerings at the altar of Aphrodite, and quietly wishes for a bride to be the living likeness of the ivory statue. When he returns home, he kisses the statue and discovers she is warm to the touch and Aphrodite has granted his wish. Not only is this kindof a nice story, but the soft but perfectly clear application of paint is simply delightful. The gentle but deliberate attention to the faces is what makes this painting perfectly charming, not to mention the brilliant bright light and soft clouds, almost a fog that is bringing Galatée to life.

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Vue d’intérrieur – Dutch paintings are the best, the quiet simplicity of everyday life is brilliant. I always find much comfort in these paintings as they spend time with and lovingly record the mundane, but that which we are familiar : the comforting view of our home from the front door, the keys still dangling from the lock, the gentle afternoon glow from the window greets us and says welcome home. The hanging linens, the broom leaning up against the wall, the candle in the holder still askew the way you left it, the reassuring and familiar view of your favourite picture on the wall. Just kick off your shoes and come on in. How nice is that?

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Apollo takes a selfie.. with a vanquished serpent. Apollo takes the best selfies.

1 http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/entombment-atala

2 http://www.archivesdefrance.culture.gouv.fr/action-culturelle/celebrations-nationales/2009/arts/hippolyte-flandrin

3 http://musee.louvre.fr/bases/doutremanche/notice.php?lng=0&idOeuvre=1899&f=2100

talons hauts

The weather was much more amicable today ; blue skies, gentle breeze, warm afternoon sun. But when there’s nice weather, there’s skirts. Fashionable ones. And where there’s skirts, theres high heels. Fashionable ones. So despite the fact that my feet are still in a considerable amount of discomfort, I donned my pretty shoes for fashion’s sake and strolled along the boulevard in search of un croque-monsieur, la tarte au coco, et des fraises fraîches.

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la tarte au coco, et des fraises fraîches

We walked over to the parc des buttes chaumont to eat our lunch and watch the kids run by kicking soccer balls. It’s really nice to have the flexibility to spend some days just relaxing and enjoying the simple things! The strawberries were a little on the expensive side but I couldn’t resist. They were really small and red, which back home means they’re sweet and full of flavour! The same is true here, although the flavour is a touch different. After our nice jaunt in the park we headed back home to lounge around and read. Not very interesting, but very fulfilling. Someone was playing opera music somewhere nearby, and it was nice to listen to it echoing thru the block, mixing with the friendly chatter of my neighbours and the warm buzzing of daily life in Paris.

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For dinner, another homemade meal! But turns out whole chicken takes much longer to cook in a toaster oven than it does in a big stove, as I should have realized sooner.. so while we waited around for le poulet, more wine and cheese and bread! And Star Trek Voyager! Lots of new things, with a little touch of home 🙂

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le vélo en libre … vélib’ !

I have a sensitive face. Just look at me the wrong way or after some wine I’ll turn all sorts of red. These things happen pretty often. Also if I use the wrong kind of soap my face turns into a mess.. and not the hot kind. In preparation for my trip I made some handmade soap so I would have something I could be sure was nice and gentle for my face. The thing I didn’t really consider is that I made a slightly different recipe so it could double as a shampoo in a pinch. Unfortunately this was a really bad choice. Also, I didn’t bring anything else. So after a couple days of suffering this horrible soap I decided that I should go buy some. Naturally I looked up a nice and fancy perfumerie and soap shop. Naturally. Also, they have a new location in Montmartre. My opinion may change after some more time spent here but Montmartre is easily my favourite place. Sure, all the tourists flock here, but with good reason. The streets are narrow and winding and it’s on a huge hill, and the Sacré Coeur peeks at you from every lane way. It’s full of vibrant people milling around enjoying life : eating macarons and strolling around while the afternoon sun pops in from time to time from behind the clouds and scruffy dogs jog around happily. Also, fantastic views. Anyway, I was pleased to endeavour to spend my afternoon there.

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So, after trying to figure out which train tickets you can buy online with a Canadian credit card (read : not as many as you’d think) we made a simple breakfast and headed out to find a Vélib’ station. We activated our cards online that morning, paying some modest fee, and only had to check in to a station and we were free to cycle around the city! Now all we have to do is swipe our card and we can use a bike for 30 minute intervals at any time. I won’t lie, the prospect of cycling in Paris sounded horrifying. But, I gave it a go.. and I must say it was fricken’ delightful. First of all, yes Paris is very busy. But really, there are more motorbikes than cars. Also, the street lanes are pretty liberal so each individual has more freedom to give and take as much room as they need. Surprisingly everyone is very respectful about this and I had no trouble zipping along. If I had a baguette in my basket, it would have been picture perfect.

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You know what else is picture perfect? Pretty much anything in Paris.

So we finally arrived in Montmartre and strolled around drinking some kind of wierd milk and vanilla slushie while watching poor tourists trying to politely dodge the pushy con artists. You know the ones. They ask you if you want a bracelet or something, then when you say no they grab your arm and slip a coloured string on your finger and start braiding it. Now you are literally trapped until they finish braiding some string on your finger and then ask you to pay for it. So many polite people. So many braids. I’ve learned to use the phrase “non, merçi” a lot. Also, “non…. non non non non non.” Though my favourite is a dismissing wave of the hand. It says fuck off the the nicest way possible. Anyway, after sampling some amazing lime/basil and salted caramel macarons we finally made it to our soap shop. I picked up the gentlest-sounding stuff I could find, as well as a nice soap dish, cause, why not. I also got a new pair of sun glasses because my old ones got squished in my carry-on. Turns out they are literally identical to my squished pair. I guess cheap glasses know no bounds. Also, I guess I know what I like.

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Now, on to downtown, which on the vélo is fun because you can kindof meander through streets and as long as you are heading to that pointy tower thing you’re going in the right direction. Also, traveling not on the métro means you get a quick overview of what’s around. I found a nice street where there were jillions of bakeries. Also a cool park with lots of sculpture. Also we passed by the Opera house and everyone was showing up in evening wear.

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Quickly we came to the Louvre and decided to pop in and pick up our membership passes. Now, get this. One admission to the Louvre is € 13, and a youth membership is € 15. Quoi ? I can’t even believe it. I really thought the guard would stop me and be like, hey, your pass is fake haha you fell for it. It has my picture on it and everything. Now, I was getting pretty hungry at this point, but once you have a Louvre pass in hand, you don’t leave without seeing something. Aaaand, if you’re going to see something you might as well go up to the top floor. Aaaaand, once you’re there you can’t go without saying hi to all the other paintings. So that’s what we did. We checked out Cimetière et ruines envahis par les arbres (Lessing). We said hey to Vues de sites du Danemark et de la Norvège. (Balke) We also spent some quality time with Vase de fleurs sur une table de pierre avec nid un verdier (Spaendonck). And I mean quality time.

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It favors emotion over reason and imagination over critical analysis

The Cimetière really caught my eye due to the lighting. Its tucked away in a small room, higher up on the wall where the overhead lights kindof gleams off it. But if you catch it from the right angle, it will take your breath away. I really have a soft spot for paintings that are a night scene with a single light source. I know that sounds specific, but oh man, I’ve never seen one I didn’t like. I will quote to you from the Louvre website, because it’s 2 am and I’m not feeling clever :

It shows an imaginary scene of a neglected cemetery under a heady sky through which a single ray of light illuminates the tombstone in the center. The tombs are in disorder, and the Gothic ruins are overrun by weeds and leafy branches. They are the true subjects of this meditation on death and the passing of time. […] It favor[s] emotion over reason and imagination over critical analysis. Nature played a central role in [German Romanticism], reflecting human emotions and serving as a vector for melancholy, anxiety, and the fantastic […] the same expression of anxiety, tinged with religiosity, when faced with the human condition, man’s place in the world, his relationship to the divine, and his imminent mortality.”1

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awfulness

The Balke studies surprised me. Normally when I see a room full of studies I think, why would I look at studies when I can spend my time with finished works? Thankfully SO called me back and pointed out some cool things and got me to look closer. Then they kindof hit me over the head. Plus, there were a lot of them. I love Romanticism, which is why I beelined for the top floor. A nice aspect of them being studies is it adds a certain rawness and reality to the pieces, which can sometimes border on the surreal. The majority are enveloped in dark unending cloudcover and wild storms. Some are gentle seascapes but not without the overwhelming awfulness (read : full of awe) from a blazing sunset. Also, most of them contained a line of birds making their ascent to the heavens. Usually Romantic pieces have a certain permanence of mortality feel to them so I’m a bit confused but I’m liking this metaphorical touch. I haven’t really figured out what it means. I’ll sleep on it.

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The bouquet never stays still, it lives, and more importantly, it dies.

Now, the Spaendonck. Normally when you see a painting you like, you see it from afar and bask in its brilliance. Then you think.. I wonder how they did that. Let’s look a little closer. Ah, brushstrokes! I knew it! Not with this baby. The closer you get, the more your mind will boggle at the sheer unbelievable quality of this. And no, it doesn’t look like a photograph. It looks like the flowers are right fucking there. Every vein on the back of the rose leaves, every brownish tinge on the edges of the tulip’s petal gently curling away in its age, every almost undetectable crease in the peony’s million petals, every pillowy push that the flowers gives eachother as the bouquet sighs and wilts away. He even put in some ants and a bird eating a caterpillar. Why? Because he’s Spaen-fricken-donck that’s why. I can’t even begin to describe how difficult it is to paint flowers and birds and ants in 1789 because as every florist knows, as soon as you cut the stem the flower begins to open and move and grow and change. The bouquet never stays still, it lives, and more importantly, it dies. To capture this kind of detail and liveliness is beyond me.

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The best rosé I’ve ever had. € 4. Bam!

Now, as you can imagine, my feet are getting pretty tired. And my stomach was rumbling way more than it was before I got in the Louvre. And even when I said I was ready to go, and I rushed by some Rembrandts promising I would come back to see them, something would catch me and I’d have to spend a few moments in front of it questioning the meaning of life. Thankfully, there was a pizza-by-the-slice joint outside of the Louvre. You can never be too cultured for pizza-by-the-slice. And Coke. And Apricot and custard stuffed pastry. Man, Paris is good. Now, there’s no way I’m biking home at this point so we grabbed some groceries and got on the métro, then got off then back on then off and on as I managed to misread some signs. You know, just to punish my feet a little more. Then home to make soup and drink wine. And more bread, and more cheese. Life is good.

1 http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/cemetery-wood

visite à pied

Today, we hit the town… softly. Being as our vacation is so lengthy we don’t have anything planned, and don’t feel the need to rush and do everything possible. So today, we set out as soon as we started hearing the buzzing of motorbikes out our window. Today is bleak and cold, requiring fall attire at minimum, which is great because fall clothing is so fashionable, but not so great because it would be nice to get some warm weather at all this summer.

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” Liberté, égalité, fraternité ”

This is one of my favourite ways to get around when I’m in a new place and don’t know where to start : walking. Put the map away, turn off the gps and just start. We began our journey winding through the streets of our arrondissement until we happened on a tiny hole-in-the-wall boulangerie, as most places are here. We ordered a croissant and pain au chocolat (omg so good, and also less than € 2) and continued on, passing thru a nice garden and lookout from the top of the hill.

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” salut ! ”

Winding our way down thru the 20th we came upon a cool flea market. I’ve never seen such amazing variety of fresh fish. The produce selection was so great, I will definitely be back to do grocery shopping here. Also, it didn’t take me long to realize that if I carry my camera around my neck, everyone realizes you’re a tourist and starts shouting at you in English about all the things they want you to buy. Oops.

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” watermelons ! fresh watermelons ! ”

Next on to a café for my long overdue café au lait, and l’express for my SO. I was doing great until I tried to figure out how to pay.. I forgot how to ask for the cheque, and started mumbling something about c’est combien pour les cafés? Et, je paye ici ..? Thankfully everyone is very nice and understands that you’re trying your best. Often the person will switch over to English, which for now I don’t mind, when I’ve dug myself a sizable hole.

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After a while when trying to decide where to go next we realized that we were basically halfway to downtown and should just try to walk the rest and see how it goes! As the core is only 10 sqkms it doesn’t really take that long.. and also it’s downhill from home haha. Later we came upon Hôtel de Ville and stopped in to get bike share passes, then crossed the seine onto the Île de la cité, aka tourism-land. Across many of the bridges here, there are wire barriers that people have taken up this public art tourism ritual wherein you buy a lock (usually from an expensive nearby tourism shoppe), carve or write your name and the name of your sweetheart, then lock it to the bridge and throw the key in the river. Also, be sure that you get your photo of yourself pretending to throw away the key before your actually do. That way you can also post it to facebook. It kindof seems like some crazed lovestruck idea that someone had and now it’s been inundated with ridiculous mass-littering-and-public-nuisance-trending-mainstreamers. Also there were multiple people madly asking you to sign some kind of wierd paper. Some love-bridge tourist trap, no doubt.

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#justtouristthings

We walked around checking out some nice buildings, then made our way over to the Louvre to see if we could pick up memberships but they were closed. We enjoyed watching everyone getting their picture taken with the pyramid, and everyone was holding their arm up pretending like they are leaning on it to get a sort of trompe l’œil going on but from any other angle it just looks like everyone is giving a heil salute. Which considering everyone was celebrating the 70th anniversary of the WWII liberation yesterday is kindof funny. Sortof. Not really.

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” la france victorieuse is disappointed in your shenanigans.
also crows. ”

We wandered around some more and scoffed at the prices of the restaurants in tourism-land decided it would be better to head home via the métro, pick up a baguette on the way home and have another nice wine, cheese, sausage and plumbs meal. Also strawberry jam. Can’t really say no to that.

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” plus du vin ! “

After some r&r at home we went to check out the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, which is an amazing park, almost completely landscaped. It, aparrently, used to be a barren wasteland, home to refuse, sewage, carcasses, and a limestone quarry. The quarry was blown up to make a huge rock ediface and an artificial lake made with a waterfall and thousands of workers brought in tonnes and tonnes of soil to reclaim the area and make it suitable for landscaping. It sounds kinda gross but man is it amazing. And also really big, which makes for nice walks.. and the grottos are good for ducking out of the rain.

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” this place used to be a big dump ! “

Also, did you know the eiffel tower lights up at night?

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” awesome ! “

bienvenue en france

It’s 4:30 a.m. on day 2.. i think. After multiple naps and mutiple meals I’m starting to shed some jetlag. We landed in Paris yesterday around 9am, Paris time, about an hour late and with amazing jetstreams and water vapour all over the plane as we gently glided onto the runway. It has been cold and rainy so my attempts to keep the window open to enjoy the sights and sounds of the neighbourhood have resulted in a really cold apartment. Worth it. We can see la tour eiffel from our window, and while it is cliché it fills me with glee that, wow.. I’m really here!

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We stumbled through our apartment walk-thru, with our friend speaking no English, and us trying to explain things to eachother with a lot of gesturing. Je peut parler un peu, mais mon vocabulaire est limité. As a result I can do a pretty good cavewoman impression.

“Me want cheese. You give wine now.”

Our apartment has everything we need, really. It’s smaller than we‘re used to back home but it works. There’s food in the fridge and Paris out the door, what else could I need. Other than to use the shower, which by the way is a tub (yay) but with a detachable shower head that has no.. wall attachment. All I can figure is you have to sit in the tub and just hold the showerhead? That’s what she said.

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Our neighborhood seems good but I haven‘t explored much yet. We are residing in Belleville, which seems to be some kind of Chinatown. It’s also on a hill, which was a pain to carry the luggage. Also, we are on the 4th floor (which is 5th by Canadian standards) and up a windy wooden staircase, which is both extremely awesome and painful. Part 1 of the french paradox diet I guess. (I hope). There is wifi for 20 EUR a month unlimited with no setup, which is awesome. We only got one pass so far so when one person wants to use the internet, the other has to… log off. Remember those days? That’s fine though as I should be out doing things instead of wasting time on the internet. Oh wait.

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We also managed the french métro which was totally awesome. There’s over 250 stations crammed into the 10 sqkm downtown. Amazing, amirite? It’s also 1.30 EUR per trip which seems reasonable, and tickets are easy to buy. I think the next thing to do, once a few hours passes and it’s actually morning time for the locals is to find a café. Yep.