cuisine

glace aux pétals de rose

We are far enough in to our vacation that the ending is coming in sight and we’ve started counting down instead of up. Missing holidays and events back home, missing our family and friends, missing our pets, our language and our lifestyle, we’ve begun to respect the time we have left in France and look forward to home. We currently have a “to-do” list of things we want to see and do and considering SO works all week we only have a few weekends left to accomplish these. I have the unique opportunity to be able to come and go and check stuff out around town without obligations but it’s tricky to strike a balance between spending vacation blogging in your apartment and seeing all the sights without your partner. I’ve taken to checking out small or so-so things, (or places I would uniquely go nuts for) during the week and leaving the show stoppers for the weekend.

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This includes, of course, shopping. In the plethora of research I did before coming to France, I heard that the French dress very smart and jeans and sneakers are unheard of. This is not true. It’s probably an outdated statement because they fashion sense here is very similar to back home. This time of year people all around this latitude bust out their scarves for fall. As far as I can tell the French wear scarves all year. If it’s too hot they wear amazing Hermès silk scarves and if it gets cold you would be hard pressed to find someone without a pashmina, even the guys. The gentlemen here seem less concerned about preserving a “manly” attire opting for fashionable scarves, jewelry, shoes and purses. I don’t know what they’re called. Murses? Regardless they are very popular, especially the small, flat ones that go across the shoulder and sit against the body. These are super common due to the pickpocket problem.

Women’s style is almost indistinguishable from back home until you go shopping. The whole low waist thing never happened here and all the pants, skirts, panties and shorts all are what I would call “high waisted”. You will also find a greater amount of slacks to jean material here. I don’t think of myself of a “tall” lady, I’ve never shopped in a special section because I’m a pretty average 5′ 8”, but I have to buy special pants here or I end up with floods. I dunno if people are just shorter on average here or something but back home pants are always long enough. That’s ok I just have to shop in the “tall” section.

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There is also the stereotype of the French having an aversion to bathing. SO’s supervisor informs me that 20 years ago you would see people around town with really greasy hair but the whole shampoo trend seems to have caught on. Though, women seem less concerned with their coif then back home, and the men moreso. Recently a lot of men have adopted the super spicy pompadour-fade hairstyle, which you probably saw a lot of if you caught the world cup this year. You won’t find $50 blow dry bars here, just average small stylist shops and nice cuts without all the straightening and highlights you find back home. I’ve heard foiled hair referred to as bacon strips.

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Hnnnngg  Photo: AP

French ladies seem to go for a more au naturel hairdo, embracing their hair in all its frizzy curly wonderfulness. The most attractive thing is the confidence. Back home everyone is so worried about their appearance they go to such lengths to preserve a perfect look, so me being the schlub that I am I often feel embarrassed when I see gorgeous primped ladies walking around. The bad news is everybody feels that way, primped or not. I’ve ran across the street enough times to buy bread without a bra, no makeup and my crazy unbrushed hair thrown up in a bun.. and nobody batted an eye.

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Photo : damejuliette.com

Anyway, getting back to excursions, I took a trip out to Chantilly to see the Fra Angelico exhibition they have going on. Chantilly is about 45 minutes to the north. It’s a nice, small town with lots of forest to stroll through. Chantilly is famous for it’s horse racing and the Château de Chantilly which houses the Musée Condé (one of the oldest art collections in France). Of course you may also know Chantilly lace or Chantilly cream. The latter is not exactly ditinguishable from regular “whipped cream” though some think the addition of sugar and/or delicate flavours like orange flower water is the distinction. It’s very light, not like that waxy stuff that comes out of a can. Regardless, it is delicious. I went to Dame Juliette to snack on a crepe topped with raspberry-violet jam, rose-petal ice cream and chantilly cream. Omg the best thing I’ve eaten in I dunno how long. Seriously if your mother ever told you not to shove flowers in your mouth she’s wrong. Well, flowers that have been whipped and frozen with cream and sugar. Also, not poisonous flowers.

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“Saint Benoit en extase au désert” (Musée Condé),
“Saint Romuald interdit l’entrée du couvent des Camaldules a lEmpereur
Otton III, coupable d’adultère” (Koninkijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten),
“La conversion de saint Augustin” (Musée Thomas Henry),
“Scènes de la Thébaide” (Collection particulière), “Saint Grégoire le Grand
(ou Célestin V) refuse la tiare pontificale” (Philadelphia Museum of Art).

(Fra Angelico) 1395 – 1455

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“Cinq anges dansant devant le soleil” (Giovanni di Paolo) 1405-1480

The museum itself has a collection of Fra Angelico works as well as some contemporaries such as Botticelli and Raphaël. The highlight was the curator’s brilliant deduction of how a number of pieces from various different collections are actually fragments of a larger work, so they managed to get these works on loan and rearranged them. It’s really astonishing. They also had a number of works that formed the panels of a chest which for hundreds of years had been separated. Not only this but they had a number of works from the permanent collection of Musée Condé that were of the highest calibre from that era I’ve seen yet. Indeed, the Musée Condé itself has a great amount of very old and/or very famous works, which shown in an intimate interior setting is a refreshing change to the pristine and echoing halls of contemporary galleries. The Château’s interior is unsterilized with amazing patterned parquet floors, marble topped furniture, elegant wainscoting, high ceilings, gleaming objet d’art and shimmering chandeliers.

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In preparation of my return to Paris I had purchased a return RER ticket thinking that if the RER goes there it must go back the same way. I’m not sure if this is so because all the trains seemed to be TER or IC, which I’m not sure the ticket is no good for. The train station was under construction and consequently there was no one to ask for help. Afraid of becoming stranded but also not wanting to spend another ten euros on a duplicate ticket, I eventually decided to just get on a TER and hope that my ticket was valid, playing the ignorant tourist if I had to. Instead of delving into my notebook I spent my travel time nervously fiddling with the ticket in my pocket, my eyes darting around the train for ticket control. The fellow next to me asked me something in French that I didn’t understand but upon spotting the control officer at the back of the car he shiftily changed seats looking as guilty as I did. Relax, I thought. You paid a fare it’s not like you’re stealing. Even still I left the car for one not containing ticket control to join the group of shifty freighthoppers, getting off at Gare de Nord before anyone was wise.

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normandie

When you have to catch an early train, it’s only natural that bar next door gets rented for some crazy hootenanny and the dj pumps music all night. What’s worse is the French love for disco and trying to sleep while they’re belting out showtunes or somesuch. That being said, waking up early enough to catch our train was aided by my excitement, a feeling reserved for trips, birthdays, Christmas and the the last day of school. I have become quite blasé about the latter three so I hope travelling never gets old. The ride to Caen is about two hours. Having not seen my S.O. basically at all during the week, the train ride went by all too fast, talking and joking the whole way, laughing so hard I had tears welling up and all my strength employed to avoid orangina shooting out my nose.

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We are the Dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow

Arriving at the station, we managed to figure out how to buy bus tickets to Courseulles-sur-mer despite the language barrier and not being able to find the station door. We had some time to kill after so we walked around downtown Caen, ending up at a église st-jean, complete with crazy modern stained glass and courtyard with late-blooming poppies. Back on the bus, which was more like a coach, we had a nice lolling sojourn through the northern countryside. It’s not uncommon to pass a world war cemetery in almost every town, neatly kept with straight rows of brilliant white crosses. The town themselves are pretty small and the houses almost exclusively stone with terracotta or slate roofing. The towns maintain a quiet old-world charm and of course, there is the perpetual church steeple poking out at rapid intervals.

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“here is the church, here is the steeple”

We slowly made our way into Courseulles-sur-mer, getting off at ‘Place de 6 juin’ the date, of course, of D-Day. The square is the very centre of town, where the pier, boardwalk, each access, carrousel and town monument meet. There is a croix de lorraine just across the quay to commemorate the return of Charles de Gaulle to France 14 June, 1944. We arrived at high tide, the brisk and salty sea air greeting us with pleasant acquaintance.

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At the centre of the square is a Canadian Sherman tank, pulled from the frigid waters of ‘Juno’ beach some 25 years after it sank during the commencement of operation Overlord. It was of course cleaned and restored, now adorned with the insignia of the troops that fought and died here including the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Regina Rifle Regiment, Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, and North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment. The tank itself is now enveloped in a pillow of flowers, often red and white organized into the Canadian flag. Also placed nearby is a German Kwk 39 anti-tank gun with obvious signs of battle damage, also restored.

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For it’s early in the morning and I’m far, far away.

Making our way to the Juno beach centre, we waited for the swing bridge to let some sailboats in and we checked out the catch of the day, at the plethora of stalls erected right beside the fishing boats docked in the river. Arriving at the centre you can hear the waves crashing along the shore, the gentle breeze rustling the long grasses. The landscape has long since returned to tranquility, though the centre acts as a reminder to us the events of the war.

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Juno Beach Centre

The tour begins with footage of the landing and an audio representation of that the soldiers would have heard preparing to land on the beach, the sound of the sea spraying over the boat, heavy artillery exploding and rumbling nearby.. the tour encourages you to also learn about Canada’s fragile military and economy predating the war to further appreciate the difficulty lying ahead.

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The centre of the tour had a trove of information about the different ships, tanks, aircraft, formations, payload, propaganda, home front and war effort from a Canadian perspective. It was absolutely fascinating to discover the attack and defence strategies, and certain difficulties unique to north america such as trans-atlantic transportation of supplies and how to diminish u-boat damage. Also, that Canada went from having basically no air force to the 4th largest during wartimes. We also attended an emotional video giving an in depth detailing of the Juno beach events.

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The final room was a relievingly lighthearted Canada factoids room for those not acquainted with our culture. There was a great amount of hockey gear and curling rocks, let me tell you. It was my great pleasure to encounter other Canadians accessing the tour. You can easily pick them out because if they want to get by you while you’re looking at something they linger first trying to wait for you to finish what you’re doing, then slip by you giving ample berth while saying “sorry”. There were also a lot of toques.

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the shepherd will tend his sheep, the valley will bloom again

We also attended a tour of two recently excavated German bunkers. The first was built early in the occupation so it was not built as a defensive post but to aid in the organization of potential invasion of England to the north. The structure was built using French labourers and whatever materials they had on hand, some parts brick, some concrete, even railway ties for beams. It is speculated that the French tried to sabotage the building by placing the cinder blocks on their sides so the walls would have hollow pockets. The walls also had wood interlaced for hanging up maps and fixtures.We also visited a bunker built much later in the war, at a time when German occupation of France was shakier and they were preparing heavy defensive fortifications.

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escape hatch

This bunker by contrast is solid cement, with two heavy metal doors that double as a gas proof chamber, a gun slit facing the only entrance and 365 degree parascope. Our guide told us that it was expected of soldiers to do 36 hour shifts in the bunker so there were also fold down beds and a small stove for comfort. The bunker walls are 3 metres solid concrete and the only emergency exit was a small tunnel filled in with sand, so if you were trapped at least you could start digging your way out. Apparently in allied training it was instilled that if you see a grate or opening into a building that you should throw in a grenade to clear the room before entering. Once the Germans caught on to this practice their bunkers, as this one did, had false grates installed that lobbed the grenade back out at the intruder. It was also equipped with a gun nest, each pointed on angles across to beach to create crossfire.

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In 1944 the bunker was right on the water and locals can remember as children jumping off the parascope into the sea, but nowadays the beach has shifted greatly and there is now a barrier of sand in front of the bunkers so you have to use your imagination a bit to picture how the beach looked way back then. We finished our tour on the shore where we got to see the buoy indicating the shoreline at low tide, which is much farther out. Upon deployment, the entire beach was riddled with anti tank and anti personnel mines some 5 ft apart, blockades, razor wire creating what was dubbed a “devil’s garden”.

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Just before deployment there was heavy bombardment to reduce the German numbers by an estimated 60% though in effect only reached 5-15 % depending on the area. Despite the odds, the fortifications on the beach were overcome and the troops moved inland to liberate Courseulles-sur-mer. The Canadian troops lost 356 men, 574 wounded and 47 taken prisoner, though the losses were lower than estimated from the devastation of its predecessor mission operation Jubilee in Dieppe. Despite the difficulties and objective failures Juno beach alongside Utah is considered to be the most strategically successful of the D-Day landings. Walking the sands where such a critical and painful battle was fought is truly a moving experience. The land is now so beautiful and the town so gentle and quiet it is hard to imagine what it was like, which is why I personally believe it’s important to keep listening to the stories and remember the sacrifices made.

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We made our way around town to to our rented room. We decided to try out airbnb for the first time. We got a private room with key in an old converted garage with facilities shared with the homeowner. Our host was very nice and accommodating. I did my best to speak French and we understood most of what the other was trying to say. Airbnb is of course much less expensive than a hotel which suits us just fine. That being said any money we saved on the room we probably promptly spent at the most hit-or-miss restaurant I believe I’ve ever been to.

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We decided since we were “on vacation” that weekend we would live a little, by which I mean order a drink with dinner. Big spenders! We both got the house cocktail which turned out to be cheap champagne spiked with curacao and a generous profit-margin of juice topped with a stale candy and sugar rim. It has got to be one of the worst drinks I’ve ever had. Next came the complimentary bread. It’s basically expected to get free bread with your meal here, and being France the bread is always fresh and delicious. So when I tell you that the bread was so stale that no pigeon would eat if you can see why we started to become suspicious of this place. Next came the complimentary appetisers brought out to us by the chef. Maybe the chef should spend more time cooking and less time schmoozing because the only thing the app was good for was a raised eyebrow and hearty laugh. I think they were supposed to be maki.. I think. Being by the sea didn’t help this dish any. I think it contained rice that was made three years ago that they found behind the radiator. Or it might have been tiny pebbles, I’m not sure. If you go to pick up your app and it crumbles into a pile of dust you know something is wrong.

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However, next came the oysters. Thankfully all they had to do was open them for me to enjoy a wonderfully delicious treat fresh from the sea. SO had some kindof yummy bouillabaisse. It was stewier than most but he seemed to like it. Our main was some kind of tiny braised fish on a bed of lentils, which were quite yummy. The fish was decent. For dessert? Bread pudding. Now I’ll give them a break because it’s not a french dish. That being said, they’re only a stone’s throw from England and also bread pudding is easy, who can’t make that? They took a slice of old bread, presumably the same stuff they served before dinner and instead of soaking it in cream to make it soppy and delicious they kindof.. toasted it? Then drizzled cream on top? I’m not quite sure what was happening there but the tiny after dinner mints were good. Here’s a tip to enjoying a shitty restaurant : a) don’t read the bill too closely cause you’ll just get mad b) make fun of everything relentlessly.

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croix de lorraine

Anyway, late in the day the tide was going out and the inlets had become rapids. We strolled along the now widened beach to tiptoe thru the seaweed and find cool shells. We wandered home and settled in for a good night’s sleep, lulled by the patter of rain that amazingly decided to be nice and hold off until we were tucked in.

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Our host was still asleep when we left early, trying to get a leg up on our journey back to Paris. The bus took us on the reversed journey, this time the cities quieter and more cars at the church parking lots. Arriving at Caen we stopped first for pain au raisin before heading up to the Chateau de Caen. The Chateau is an 11th century fortification buit by William the Conqueror. It saw several engagements during the Hundred Year’s war, and the keep pulled down during the French revolution. It was also used as a barracks during WWII and was heavily bombed at that time. It is one of the largest castles in western Europe.

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Caen

It now houses two museums and a church, and you can see the ruins of other structures such as the keep, William’s residence, ramparts and curtain walls, and the two fortified doors. There is still ongoing work to excavate the bottom of the walls and more ruins are still being uncovered. The walls are incredibly high and you can peer thru the bow slits into what would have been a moat, though these days just grass. The stone stairs heading up the ramparts and towers are so worn from literally a century of use they are very curved.

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super neat.

It’s a huge area which was great fun to explore. The art gallery at the top houses a nice collection from many eras in French history, which matches beautifully with the lineage of the castle. Afterwards, we strolled around town, the majority of stores being closed but lounging in parks and cafés is not a bad way to spend your afternoon. We finished off the day at a nice restaurant in an old area of town on rue du vaugueux ie) beggars row.

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It’s a small and narrow pedestrian street with old shifting houses, once known for squalor and crime. It also once housed a bar owned by Edith Piaf’s grandparents, and the woman who murdered Marat. It now houses a number of nice restaurants while maintaining the enclosed medieval structures. We had some nice wine, confit du canard, terrine de poissons, croustillants de chèvre chaud and ile flottante which is a whipped meringue cake soaked in thin caramel sauce. I really need to learn to make this back home! Before having to catch our train back we made sure to watch the sun set behind the glimmering houses from the parapet.

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la nourriture

When I told my folks back home that I was going to Paris, a good number of people mentioned the food and how good it was going to be. They aren’t wrong.. I have, of course, been eating a lot of good food. Not to sound like a prick but, its all made by my SO and I. We have gone to a few places to eat but frankly the food is so astronomically expensive here I’m afraid to go out. It’s very common for an average dinner to cost € 30 ($ 45 CAD) per plate and I’m really can’t afford it, nor do I think it’s worth it. Back home I would spend less than $20 on dinner, more if it was a special occasion or something, but I definitely wouldn’t spend forty-five, let alone every day.

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I can count the times we’ve gone out for dinner in the month we’ve been here on one hand : because it’s three. Twice we went out with folks from IHP because its a good social thing to do. And the food was alright, but imho nothing to shake a stick at. Also, being frugal students we tried to find more affordable but decent places, such as Kunitoraya. The third time we went out was yesterday. Yes, it took us a month to go out to dinner on our own. We of course googled the shit out of Paris cheap eats and settled on Gladines, a chain restaurant. The restaurant was divey in appearance but they had some affordable options (€ 14.50 for confit de canard). We chose the location on St. Germain which is in the 5th near the Seine where they had plenty of English menus, being in a touristy spot. The restaurant was definitely set up for quick turnover, the meals pre-made on individual cast iron skillets to be heated on ordering. It’s a good setup in that people don’t have to wait long for food and the menu consists of meals that by nature are better when reheated (read: duck confit), but I just can’t seem to be able to justify the experience against the price. Yikes, I sound really ornery right now.

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We usually eat around the same time we would back home, say seven or eight pm. The French however eat much later like nine or even ten, or dix-huit ou dix-neuf if you run on a twenty-four hour clock like they do here. Needless to say by the time we finished our meal we could hardly find room to shuffle to the bar to pay. Maybe the magic of “going out” gets ruined when you have worked at a cafe, bar or restaurant (or all three if you’re me). But I know that the people there want you to eat your meal, enjoy it, then get the fuck out. Also, leave them a good review on Google + or Yelp. And the food tastes like it.

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One of the glorious things about food in France are the plethora of high quality ingredients available conveniently. It seems you can’t walk ten feet without running in to a boulangerie, stuffed with handmade breads and delightful pastries and desserts, or a produce market overflowing with the freshest and most appetizing fruits and veg, or pêcherie containing more varieties of fish than I’ve seen in my life. In fact our most frequented place is la Baguettes des Pyrénées, only 50 m from our house.

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the typical lineup at la Baguette des Pyrénées

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the typical lineup at la Baguette des Pyrénées

They have the best baguettes we’ve found so far in addition to many tasty treats like pain au chocolat (croissants stuffed with dark chocolate) or tarte normande (giant apple and custard tarts). There are also quite a number of street-side food stops à emporter (to go) selling equally delicious croques, or tartines, all of which are always drizzled in toasted melty goodness. Trust me, the French don’t skimp on anything. There is no such thing as “low fat” or “low-cal” here, everything is made with the best and tastiest ingredients because there is no other way. The French balance this out by living an active lifestyle and never snacking – eating a meal is a very serious thing here.

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Also, when the French faisons du lèche-vitrine, they are usually drawn to storefronts to admire things like swanky clothes or nice shoes.. but we definitely bee-lined it for an amazing demo kitchen on our way to Orsay, standing slack jawed in the street, basking in its shiny marble glory. Sigh. Nous aimons cuisiner!

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Most recently we went to the open air market at Place des Fêtes, open Tuesdays (mardi) Fridays (vendredi) and Sundays (dimanche) just up the street from us. It’s a meandering maze of market stands zig-zagging through the square. In fact, if you don’t know what you want to make for dinner, it’s a little overwhelming. Something special always manages to catch our eye, though, be it fresh beans or giant artichokes. Back home, I make an effort to buy fresh food, I try to go to local markets and get good stuff straight from the source. But frankly some of the food stands make any market back home look like a pile of crap, and I hail from an agricultural stronghold. Perhaps it’s the population density here allowing for high turnover of goods, but I think this is something I’ll be sad to leave when I go.

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la Canadienne étrange

My SO has returned from Marseille finally, so my schedule has changed back from sleeping in late and sitting around in brasseries drinking bière and musing about artistic and historical conservation. Instead we caught up on life and looked at pictures of beautiful Marseille. It’s really gorgeous in the mountain and coastline regions and I was able to view many nice landscapes courtesy of my SO who trekked for hours to the tip top to capture them.

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holy foothills, batman!

Yesterday we also received another IHP student who needed a place for a night until he could get the keys to his apartment in Paris. Our apartment may not be the biggest but there’s always room for friends. So being his first day in Paris we just went out and walked about in the downtown, mostly around Île de la Cité where we were treated to ice cream and milled around watching the huge lineup to get into the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris (it extended out of the building and around the square). We walked around the courtyards and surrounding gardens and found a bench not completely covered in bird shit to sit a while and chat.

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ding dong

After a bit we departed to meet some more friends for dinner. Outside of the Notre Dame there was a superb statue street performer, who when you give some euros breaks his act and invites you over for a picture.

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“…la fille français is not amused by your antics”

We previously arranged to meet our friends for dinner, and agreed to meet at a métro stop. Now, in Canada there are usually one or two entrances to a subway station, but here there are lots. Usually around 5 or 6. So if you agree to meet your friends at the métro stop, they could basically be anywhere the a two block radius. Regardless once we located each other we headed off for dinner and ended up at a very busy Japanese restaurant. SO and I ordered Udon, and our friends had rice bowls. Super yummy! And somewhat reasonably priced, which is a difficult thing to find in Paris. Usually if you are just walking around a lot of the restaurants are usually € 30 for a two or three course dinner. In order for me to spend $45 CAD on a meal, it would have to be a really special occasion. So I’m not really accustomed to spending this much on dinner.. but SO and I managed to get our two Udon for € 33, not bad! We meandered a while after dinner, got some espresso and chilled and chatted, very nice. Afterwards headed home for some much needed rest.

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Île de la Cité

Today our friend left and we went out for a long walk, after the obligatory croissant and espresso of course. We headed down to the 20th and went to the Cimetière Père Lachaise and wandered through the tombs and had some interesting discussions on burials, last wishes, grieving and memorials. I know I have some strange and unusual opinions on such things. It’s definitely nice to have a SO who is equally weird. It’s not fun to have someone to balance you out, it’s better to match, imho. We discussed the importance (or actually lack thereof) of having a dedicated, visitable “plot” or tomb and instead entertained notions of rock climbing walls and water slides. Why not? We are generally in agreement that once we’re dead we’re not going to know what our final resting place will consist of, so what is going to matter is your legacy. Who doesn’t want a water slide legacy? Just sayin’.

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retour à la nature

We also determined it would be good to donate yourself to scientific research. That’s a pretty good legacy, too. Unless you just get chopped up by some first year who later drops out to join the circus. That must tarnish it a bit. My favourite plots were those reclaimed by age; ancient rock broken and crumbling, covered in tree branches and ivy, and even the big stones laid down return back to the earth and enshrouded in the embrace of nature. I like that.

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“svp”

We endeavoured to go visit Fourier and Laplace and other stupidly famous mathematicians, but unfortunately they didn’t make the list of notable figures on the big map. C’est dommage! Of course if you follow the hordes of gum chewing swaggering half drunk weirdos up the winding hill and through the tombs desecrated by graffiti and scrawled names towards the sound of music playing out of some tiny dollar-store speaker, towards the smell of rotting heaps of flowers and cigarettes you will find Jim Morrison’s grave. It’s pretty disgusting. As much as I am a fan, and by fan I mean totally-obsessed-owning-every-possible-LP-and-book-and-poem-totally-encyclopedic-knowledge-filled-wide-eyed-super-fan, the disgusting decorum of these fans is sad.

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“haw!”

I don’t mind so much milling around smoking hash and drinking wine sadly humming Doors songs and thinking about this person you admire so much, it’s more the people who desperately want to take some kind of ownership of the space and endeavour to make their mark, whether its carving their name in some poor neighbor’s tomb, sticking their gum (and I mean thousands of bits of chewed gum) in some nearby ash tree, coating the bannisters that are in place to keep the rabble out in layers of meaningless stickers or leaving condoms, wine corks, cigarette butts and otherwise trash around the site or pinning it up somewhere so it doesn’t get swept away? How reprehensible is your demeanour that you think spewing your trash allover a cemetery is admirable? Not that Jim Morrison promoted proper behaviour, but standing up for things that are important to you and you feel need to be said, and sticking your refuse in somebody’s gravestone are two different things.

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“Victimes des révolutions”

Just outside the cimetière is the Square Samuel-de-Champlain which is a lovely hilly garden that houses the Victimes des révolutions, by Paul Moreau-Vauthier. This bas-relief sculpture is often mistakenly called the mur fédérés but is actually a tribute to the victims on both sides of the revolutions. It is meant to be a general monument, with ghostly anguished faces lightly carved into the wall, with the figure of a woman standing in front. The stones of the wall, however, are the actual stones from the wall where one hundred and forty seven “fédérés” (combatants of the Paris Commune, France’s oldest labour movement and socialist government that briefly ruled Paris after the Franco-Prussian war), were lined up and shot and thrown in a trench at the foot of the wall. Père Lachaise was the last remaining stronghold of the uprising, with a long and difficult battle fought in between the tombs and through the night, which ultimately ended in the horrible demise of those remaining few that surrendered, who joined the thousands before them that died in the gallows and on the streets of Paris. The anguish on the ghostly faces lightly carved into the wall fill your heart with dread and despair, contrasted with the goddess whose splayed body both enacts the execution and stands in front of the victims with arms extended as if to protect them. The bullet holes lodged in the stones speaks haunting tales to any viewer who beholds it, and while it isn’t specifically for the fédérés, they are a few of the hundreds of thousands of souls lost in the historical, political turmoil of France.

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marseille…marseille…

After a long and meandering walk through the cimetière we stopped into a nice restaurant for three-course lunch. I had caprese salad, chicken in mushroom creme sauce and crème caramel and a café au lait for dessert. SO had les œufs au mayonnaise, roasted pork with cauliflower casserole and chocolate mousse for dessert. Damn, french cuisine is so good. Afterwards, we found (much to my delight) a very mishmash and very thrifty street antiques sale. There were many boxes laid out to dig through the piles of old dishes, shaving kits, broken watches, figurines, old photos, violins, coffee grinders and anything-and-everything wrought iron. There were also occasional stands selling artisinal meats, cheese and crêpes. You seem to find the strangest places to spend money on a Sunday when all the regular stores are closed. We then headed back to the 19th, started dinner cooking and caught up on some work for the week as we waited. On Sundays, I sometimes find a modest sized chicken and cook it up for my SO and I, and am reminded of Henry IV of France who stated “I want there to be no peasant in my realm so poor that he will not have a chicken in his pot every Sunday.” I often think of this quote when we sit down to our humble and yet delectably wholesome meal. Granted, I usually substitute a pot for an oven.. or these days.. toaster oven.

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another Marseille picture, because it’s fucking gorgeous, that’s why.

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

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 ! “