les étapes nombreuses

One of the nice things about having co-workers in a new city is the excuse to go out for social time. As promised by our Korean friends we went out to a restaurant of their recommendation. We managed to get a table, somehow and as the night went on the line out the door got longer and longer.



For good reason, too, the food was really nice. SO and I had a hard time picking what to order, on one hand since learning how to make bibimbap we wanted to know how it’s done at a nice restaurant, but on the other hand there were so many new things to try. We settled on bulgogi and it was amazing. It came to the table raw on a big cooker thing. We were scared. But after enquiring with our Korean guides as to how to eat it we were happy. The food also came with a selection of appetizers which were also really yummy. I don’t remember them all but included yangnyeom tongdak, japchae and of course, kimchi.


out for a stroll aka. thinking about math

We also met up with our friends last weekend in Montmartre to enjoy what might be one of the last sunny and warm weekends of the year. We met up at Abesses, the main subway access and sort of central hub. There’s always something going on there and on that particular day it was a thrift market. I love Paris! Lots of tables set up with all sorts of strange and wonderful things to dig thru.. painted glasses, old lighters, books and prints, glass negatives, fur shawls, rollerskates and my favourite, a stuffed goat head riding in a soapbox car. I really should have got a picture of that.


We climbed the 222 steps from Abesses to Sacré Coeur. It’s always a lovely thing to look at. We strolled thru the interior of the church. I checked out the murals more this time, and they were really nice. I also got to see a cool statue of St. Michael slaying the dragon. The Basillica explicitly states no photography, though I think I was the only one who obeyed.


tiny streets, the way medieval paris was laid out before the war…s

We then strolled around the top of the hill checking out the tiny winery, various stores and goings-on. We got lunch at a busy restaurant and though it was pretty touristy I got the best croque madame I’ve ever had. Even the couple next to our table were like, ‘what’s that I want to eat that’. We also stopped and got candied peanuts, being made fresh by a street vendor. They were much like beer nuts from back home, one of my most loved snacks.


pls ignore purse strap. it was crowded

We eventually decided no trip to Montmartre was complete without checking out the dome at the tip top of Sacré Coeur so we paid the € 8 for the privilege of climbing the two spiral staircases summing 300 steps total. Now, that sounds pretty cynical but it was really awesome. First of all, spiral staircases are inherently cool and there is a distinct lack of them back home, probably because they’re a slip-trip-and-fall hazard… OHES training ftw! Anyway, it goes straight up probably 200 steps, then you get out on to the roof of the main chapel and get to walk by the gargoyles and bird shit, across the roof to another spiral staircase (going counter-clockwise which is more difficult somehow) to reach the summit.


om nom


Paris has like.. 3 sky scrapers.

If you think the view from the top of the hill is grand, try standing on top of the largest building around. Holy shit. Not only can you see basically all of Paris proper but can pick out the various elevations changes and figure out the arrondisements accordingly. Plus due to what is probably a lot of smog and a little sfumato, the ends of the landscape take on a cool blue glow. Plus it makes the Eiffel tower look puny, which makes me feel good as I irrationally think the tower is lame.



je t’aime

Then back down the 522 steps to get back to Abesses to check out le mur des je t’aime which has the phrase I Love You in over 250 languages. It’s really, really well done. Back home for more bibimbap and FTL.. and of course taking pictures of the view from my window late at night when I can’t sleep.


mons martis

After spending the morning working on my two-row painting, I took a break to walk around my favourite neighbourhood and artist’s historical refuge, Montmartre. I grabbed a vélo and began my journey, stopping at Bassin de la Villette the along the way for a photo of the canal.


Once in the 18th, I ditched my vélo in favour of breaking in my newly-cobbled heels. And break-in I did. If you don’t head for the funiculaire, or the grand stairway at the square Louise Michel at base of the Sacré Cœur, you can always take the stairs at the top of Rue Chappe.



All told, it’s over 200 steps up. Now, I used to live on the 14th floor of a university residence and had to go down and up the 15 flights of stairs every time the fire alarm went off. Let me tell you, I eventually decided that the slim chance there was actually a fire was a risk worth taking by staying in bed instead. This is how much I like stairs.That being said, It’s all worth it when you get to the top, because it doesn’t matter which way you turn, there is something beautiful to see.


pretty sure I saw saw a post card with this photo on it

At the very tip top is the Basilica Sacré Cœur, built between 1875 and 1919, is Romano-Byzantine style architecture, and is made of “travertine stone, known as ‘Château-Landon’, [which] comes from the Souppes-sur-Loing quarry in Seine et Marne and is particular in that it is extremely hard with a fine grain and exudes calcite on contact with rainwater, making it white” 1. Montmartre, or mount-martyr is supposedly named after St. Denis, patron saint of France, who was martyred around 250ad.  Denis is said to have picked his head up after being decapitated, walked ten kilometres and preached a sermon the entire way. There was a small shrine and later Basilica in the location where he eventually died.


wait, what did St. Denis do?!

Looking away from the Basilica there is a very nice and very famous view of the city. If you want to avoid the crowds I would suggest taking a little walk around the square Louise Michel because there are nice winding paths just off of the main staircase that offer very lovely views without the hassle of cameras on sticks waving in your face. Plus the shade of the greenery with the scent of roses on the gentle breeze, paired with the lovely pristine Basilica peeking around every tree is a really nice experience.


Around the back of the Basilica is the lovely square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet. Here there is a gorgeous shaded walkway, a simple fountain and many shaded benches to sit and admire the equally lovely view from the rear. hehehe.


daaamn, gurl

Moving on, I found Place du Tertre, which is a famous square in which artists come and set up their easels and sell paintings. I had moderately high hopes for this square, but unfortunately it was an unabashed ad hoc display of immoral commercialism and tourist-trapping. Seriously if these “artists” aren’t sell outs I don’t know anything. It was wholly consisting of cheap stylized eiffel-tower images done hastily and without care, and caricature or other while-u-wait drawings.


oh look, honey! wild art! poor little guy looks hungry.
let’s give him some money for this shit-smear on canvas.

It’s a cash grab is what it is. And I hated it! My problem isn’t with artists making money, it’s anyone without talent learning a few tricks and churning out enough stuff in a popular enough place with enough tourists that they will make some money off of it. And people think they’re supporting the arts. Come on!


pretty, though







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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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.


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.


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.