Today is my last day in Paris. I spent the morning packing, and researching transit directions to the airport. Then I set off to see a couple last sights. Somehow, with all the bridges I’ve been on, I had missed Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris. It was constructed from 1578 – 1607.
I stopped at this little garden, Square du Vert-Galant, on Île de la Cité, and had a nibble of my daily bread and cheese.
Paris has drinking water fountains, but I only noticed two this whole trip:
I took in the scenes on the street one last time, admiring the cafés with little outdoor seats.
Then I headed to the Jardin du Luxembourg, which ended up being one of my favourite places in Paris.
I was the biggest kid in line for a toy boat.
I saw a sign for puppet shows too, but couldn’t find any information. I would have been all:
Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt: Children Watching the Story of “Saint George and the Dragon” at the Puppet Theater in the Tuileries, Paris, 1963
I stopped for a salad niçoise, the last item on my Paris Eat List.
I brought Flora’s mom a begonia for her garden as a thank you for her hospitality. Loaded up my 23kg bag, and headed to the airport! In a few hours I’ll be in India! I have no idea what to expect!
Seeing how far I can walk with my eyes closed.
Sitting in direct sunlight.
Long, slow kisses.
The way it feels to sand wood.
Talking to strangers.
Searching for complete understanding.
Working towards complete empathy.
Gaining greater understanding after repeated exposure. (in terms of art, books, films)
Reuniting with old friends.
Believing in magic.
My dirty, stripped keds.
Eight-month old babies.
Sitting in my emotions. Not too much though.
People that realize that dancing’s not about looking cool or sexy, but expressing how you feel.
Being honest with ones’ sexuality.
Sucking on dark chocolate.
Crying in public.
Watching friends and lovers look at each other: their smiles, and how their eyes linger.
Black and white patterns.
Music that makes you feel like you’re inside of it; like it’s not just one sense that’s tickled, but rather your entire body is enveloped in it, like slipping into a bath, or pulling the covers up in bed.
Believing that everything has a meaning.
Exercise that’s not exercise, but rather having fun interacting with the world: swimming, walking, biking, hiking, dancing, dancing, dancing.
Laying on my belly on the ground, arms outstretched, hugging the earth with my entire body.
When my brain thinks too fast.
Really long songs.
That my eyes see better than any camera. This means photographs are disappointing, but that just brings your attention back to the majesty of life.
Not needing things.
Falling, in every possible meaning of the word.
The mindset of farmers and scuba divers.
Listening to the same song or album throughout the entire flight experience: from taking the train to the airport, through security, boarding, taxi, liftoff, landing, all the way until the moment you see your love greeting you in the arrivals area..
Intuition. Looking up.
Good morning Paris! I started the day with a stroll through Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, a cemetery near Flora’s place. Famous people like Chopin, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Molière, to name a few.
I took the train to Montmarte today, and visited Sacre Coeur. It’s one of the highest points on the city, and the beautiful lawn offers a view of all off Paris.
There was a man doing stunts with a soccer ball, while climbing and swinging around a light pole. Amazing! My little cousins would have loved it!
As soon as I entered the cathedral I said to myself, “c’est brillant!” Wow, how it shines! The altar features a huge mosaic depicting Jesus, with gold tiles. Pictures aren’t allowed inside, but everyone was taking pictures. I snapped just one:
I walked through the neighborhood of Montmarte, which was surprisingly crowded. There were street vendors with peanuts, souvenir shops, tourists by the boatload. But somehow there was also a used clothing store that advertised clothing sold by the kilo! I had only seen this concept once before, near Madison, Wisconsin. Weird. I tried to find the Moulin Rouge. I was probably pretty close to it, as one section of town is laden with sex shops, but I didn’t find it. Anyway, on to the Arc de Triumph! I walked down the Champs-Élysées almost all the way to the Grande Palais, and then headed back up. Doesn’t she look lovely in the twilight? I decided to go to the top.
I climbed up to the top; there are tiny spiral staircases leading you up to the top.
Once I descended, I saw there was a military service going on near the Eternal Flame. Flora later told me that the ceremony was probably to honor a French soldier that had died the previous day.
I walked down a side street, looking for something quick to eat. This crepe restaurant had a large table in the center, with five crepe hot plates, worked by one quick chef. I’ll also note that I paid €4.50 for what I thought was a carafe of free water. Whatevs.
Then: PITCHFORK! I met Flora and some friends outside the venue.
There was a SmartCar exhibit at the entry, where I fell in love with this disco ball version:
The only artist I had truly listened to before tonight was Mogwai, but I also saw (and LOVED) War on Drugs, Jon Hopkins (fave!), and James Blake. We danced most of the night and went home sweaty.
Julie and Arnaud met me near Flora’s place, and we walked around the neighborhood. I wish I took more pictures of the street scenes and art, but this was one of my favourites:
We took the bus to a neighborhood they used to live in, called Porte Dorée. There’s a big plaza in the middle of the neighborhood with a gold statue of Athena, surrounded by palm trees! Picture from here.
They took me to one of their favourite restaurants, Le Bonnet d’Ane, which is the French version of the dunce’s hat. The restaurant serves traditional food that’s entirely freshly made. The menu is small, and we all ordered from the chef’s selection of the day. The daily menu is commonly found on a chalkboard, and propped up on a chair for customers to survey.
I had a quiche lorraine with salad:
Followed by a vegetable and fish tangine. It was delicious, and served in a cute little pot:
Followed by a milk caramel tart with walnuts – sooo delicious!
We walked through the neighborhood, and I took a picture of Julie et Arnaud in front of the building they used to live in.
Hopped another bus over to Île de la Cité to see the cathedral of Notre Dame!
We stopped for a glass of wine before saying goodbye.
It’s been so fun to reunite with them! First I showed them my home Chicago, then they showed me their home Paris; hopefully next time we meet it’ll be in an entirely different place! The picture below shows Arnaud asking the French riot police where the metro is to make sure I made it to my destination easily. Thanks!
I took the bus to the 15th arrondisement, and explored for about an hour before meeting Flora for dinner. There was a large street with lots of fresh food markets:
Flora had asked around for a suggestion of a restaurant that serves good bœuf bourguignon. It’s typically a meal that you have at home, and isn’t so common for restaurants. She made reservations for us at Bistrot Chez Loulou. It’s adorably tiny, with soft lighting, small tables, and one incredibly competent server that worked the entire restaurant himself. This dinner was amazing! The restaurant has a tiny menu (only 2-3 options for each entrée, plat, and dessert), which usually indicates that the dishes are all home-made, and items that the restaurant specializes in. Flora and I mushroom soups to start (cépes with chives, and another with oyster mushrooms), wine with the boeuf, and I finished the meal with Moroccan-spiced chocolate mousse! What a treat! I particularly loved having dinner with Flora tonight; she’s so sweet, and upbeat, always with something interesting to say. It’s so easy and lovely to spend time with her; that was a great treat as well!
Bonjour Paris! I started the day with a quick walk along Rue de Pyrénées, one of the main streets in Flora’s neighborhood. There are several small food markets along this street. I stopped at the boulangerie et fromagerie, the bakery and cheese shop, but there’s also a few butchers, a fish place, many fruit/vegetable stands, and a store that seems to only sell honey!
I had ordered a joint ticket for the Musee d’Orsey et Musee Rodin online. If there’s any advice I have for someone visiting Paris it’s to order your tickets for large attractions online. You can wait on line for tickets for hours, literally, but if you already have one the line doesn’t exist at all. It’s like being VIP, but all you need is internet access and a touch of forethought. I navigated to Forum des Halles to retrieve my ticket. I didn’t expect it, but it’s a huge underground mall! I had purchased my ticket through FNAC, and retrieved them easily at a machine in a store that bore a striking resemblance to Best Buy. Anyway, somewhere near the exit there was a large exposition called Quelle Connerie la Guerre, What Bullshit the War:
The quote below reads, “The first World War killed one civilian for every 10 soldiers. In the second World War, one civilian for each soldier. The Vietnam war killed 100 civilians for each soldier. In the next war, the soldiers will be the only survivors. Get involved!”
I also liked this classic quote, also on display: “Toutes les guerres sont civiles, car c’est toujours l’homme contre l’homme qui répand son proper sang.” – Francois Fenelon. Translated: “All wars are civil wars, because it’s always man against man who spills his own blood.”
Just outside Les Halles, there’s a garden dedicated to Nelson Mandella, and this beautiful round building below, the Bourse de Commerce.
I walked to La Seine,
I crossed another bridge laden with even more love locks:
This bride had so many locks that the bridge’s fence-work was failing in places, and they had installed plywood to prevent people from adding locks. You can see some locks had fallen into the river below.
There were locks attached to other locks, forming long chains, and even some locks attached to the garbage cans on the bridge!
Enter the Musée d’Orsay!
View from he inside of the grand clock.
The statue in the photo below is called “war dance,” or something like that.
They were set up for an orchestra performance. There were tables and chairs set up all along the main hall, inbetween the statues. I can’t imagine how magnificent a performance in that setting would be! Almost as awesome as Terrible Spaceship at the Planetarium, I bet! (I went there to see them perform the day before I left for my trip.)
I walked over to the Rodin Museum.
The first statue I saw was Le Penseur, which was magnificent in person. It’s larger-than-life (I use that figure of speech literally), and mounted up high so you have to look up to him. In the background, you can see Les Invalides, (not pictured), which adds to the majesty of this scene.
I hugged a tree, overwhelmed with emotion.
And proceeded through the gardens. Below is a statue of Eve:
I peeked through the window of Hôtel Biron, where Rodin worked during the last several years of his eyes. The sculpture below is The Kiss; I like how it seems like I’m peeking through the window into a private moment between lovers.
After, I met Flora and her friends Cecile and Marie for crepes. I ordered the Paysanne, a classic choice with ham, egg, and caramelized onions. We shared hard cider, which is a typical accompaniment for crepes, and enjoyed crepes for dessert too! What a treat!
Later that year, when snow started to hide the front steps, when morning became evening as I sat on the sofa, buried under everything I’ve lost…
I’m re-reading one of my favourite books. I consider my favourite book characters, Leo, Alma, and Oscar, to be my friends. My friends are all sad, because they all lost their favourite person, their greatest love. And I did too. I’m not so much sad; at this point I’m simply disappointed (and unfortunately, angry). But I’m sad that love ends, and people die, and that love doesn’t always conquer all. These are hard lessons for me. I, like my friends, search for an understanding that may not exist, in a deep and compulsive way.
Some of the similarities between us are shocking, such as Oskars’ grandmother who asked her father to write her a letter for no reason other than to study his handwriting; I’ve done the same. And Alma, who wore her dead father’s sweater for 43 days straight; I’ve done the same.
The next morning I told Mom I couldn’t go to school again. She asked what was wrong. I told her, “The same thing that’s always wrong.” “You’re sick?” “I’m sad.” “About Dad?” “About everything.” She sat down on the bed next to me, even thought I knew she was in a hurry. “What’s everything?” I started counting on my fingers: “The meat and dairy products in our refrigerator, fistfights, car accidents, Larry-” “Who’s Larry?” “The homeless guy in front on the Museum of Natural History who always says ‘I promise it’s for food’ after he asks for money.” She turned around and I zipped her dress while I kept counting. “How you don’t know who Larry is, even though you probably see him all the time, how Buckminster just sleeps and eats and goes to the bathroom and has no raison d’être, the short ugly guy with no neck who takes tickets at the IMAX theatre, how the sun is going to explode one day, how every birthday I always get one thing I already have, poor people who get fat because they eat junk food because it’s cheaper . . . ” That was when I ran out of fingers, but my list was just getting started, and I wanted it to be long, because I knew she wouldn’t leave while I was still going. ” . . . domesticated animals, how I have a domesticated animal, nightmares, Microsoft Windows, old people who sit around all day because no one remembers to spend time with them and they’re embarrassed to ask people to spend time with them, secrets, dial phones, how Chinese waitresses smile even when there’s nothing funny or happy, and also how Chinese people own Mexican restaurants but Mexican people never own Chinese restaurants, mirrors, tape decks, my unpopularity at school, Grandma’s coupons, storage facilities, people who don’t know what the Internet is, bad handwriting, beautiful songs, how there won’t be humans in fifty years-” “Who said there won’t be humans in fifty years?” I asked her, “Are you an optimist or a pessimist?” She looked at her watch and said, “I’m optimistic.” “Then I have some bad news for you, because humans are going to destroy each other as soon as it becomes easy enough to, which will be very soon.” “Why do beautiful songs make you sad?” “Because they aren’t true.” “Never?” “Nothing is beautiful and true.”
Paris is beautiful. Every inch of it. So beautiful it hurts. I’m hesitant to say it, but I’m always sad in Paris. I remember this from my last visit, and it’s true now. Sometimes all I can do is sit in the sun and wait for it to pass.
I like the Rodin museum at least as much as I liked it the first time. There’s such expression dans les visages des figures. They look like they’ve had hard lives. Strong backs, remnants of heavy burdens. Broad shoulders that bear life’s troubles. Austere expressions, covered faces, arms reaching for something that isn’t there. But maybe my eyes see what my heart feels.
In some ways I feel like I am a collector of sadness. It’s not so much that I see sadness as profound, but more that it’s often hidden. And when it’s not, it’s often denied or ignored. Being authentic is difficult. It’s hard to be authentic with oneself, and even harder to be authentic with others. I’ve written a lot on this trip, yet I’ve shared so little.
People say they care. They say, “I wish she reached out,” “I would have tried to help,” “doesn’t she know how much she’s loved?” But that’s not true, it’s a lie. I’ve reached out, and I’m told it’s my “faulty opinion” (spit on that, and change that p to an h), “don’t think like that,” “it’ll pass,” or “you’re all right,” as if it’s that easy, as if I wouldn’t do that if I could, as if misery is a choice. Or I’m downright ignored. Surrounded by people, yet ultimately alone, for no one actually wants to have the deep conversations, share or even acknowledge the scary thoughts, unanswerable questions, hurtful emotions. No. We’re content to distract out minds with TV and alcohol, cover our puffy red eyes with makeup and fake smiles, continually deluding ourselves. I’d rather be miserable and on my own than blind to it.
I see my friends deny their pain. Rather than admitting that a breakup hurts, they put on a stoic face and act like they don’t care. One friend in particular I’ve seen go through several breakups, and I’ve seen how it’s worn her down over the years. Many times she’s mentioned a person she’s had a date with and was excited about, only for it to end soon after. Now she doesn’t even mention when she has a date, or even several successful dates, for fear of having to say “it didn’t work out” upon our next encounter. She doesn’t let herself get excited or hopeful; she expects disappointment. She is strong. Immensely strong. But she is incredibly fragile in her core. Her heart has been damaged by heartbreak, but instead of acknowledge it and repair it, she’s built a fortress of protection around the broken pieces. She boarded up her pain, covered it up so that no one can see. And yet, it’s painfully obvious. Maybe if she didn’t deny her hurt, we could help each other navigate our pain. Once, when my depression had obviously lifted, she said “I could tell you were depressed, and I’m so happy you’re doing better!” I was surprised that she was aware of the depression, but I was deeply deeply hurt that though she knew it, she didn’t say anything. Why do we talk about sadness only in the past tense, when we can only help it in the present? Why are so many people suffering alone?
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. New York City: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Print.
First photo of a statue in the gardens by le Louvre, sculptor unknown; all others by Rodin.
I started the day with a café noisette, an espresso with a tiny bit of hot milk. It’s like a mini cappuccino, and is my new favourite thing to order.
I planned on going to the Louvre today, but when I arrived I basked in the sunshine and the glorious exterior.
The line for tickets was long. I waited for 30 minutes until I gave up.
I walked along La Seine,
And stopped for a picnic near here. Baguette, morbier cheese, and clementines!
I decided to go the Museé d’Orsey,which is just on the other side of La Seine.
This beautiful pedestrian-only bridge was covered with love locks.
Museé D’Orsey! It used to be a train station, and the big clock on its façade is its trademark. But alas, the museum is closed on Mondays. I hung out in front of the museum, where there are some great bronze statues. A couple of them are rhinoceroses, but there’s also a series of larger-than-life women representing each of the continents. Shame on me, I didn’t take a picture.
When the sun started to set and the temperature dropped, I took cover in a nearby café and skyped with a friend. Later I met Flora at Place de la République. We went for a long walk, and she showed me a few neighborhoods that are more typical to Parisian life, less touristic. We walked along the canal, pictured below, and through a neighborhood called Belleville. Flora just got a job (congrats!), and is trying to figure out which neighborhood she’ll look for an apartment in. It sounds like Belleville is a top contender.
We walked through a Chinese neighborhood and stopped for a small dinner. (WordPress is still not rotating my pictures, sorry.)
Today Flora and I met some old and new friends for brunch. I met Diane, Bastien and Antoine in Chicago a few years ago when they were finishing their Bachelor’s degrees at IIT. Julie and Arnaud stayed with me through Airbnb during their honeymoon tour of the USA this summer. We all met for an American brunch, and then walked through the center of Paris. First we passed through the Louvre…
There were a lot of people gathered around the fountain, sunning themselves like birds.
We wandered through the 7th arrondissement along Rue de l’Université, one of the most exclusive streets in Paris.
Et voila! La tour Eiffel!
Afterwards, Flora and I went for a glass of wine near her home. We took a walk around her neighborhood, Ménilmontant, which is beautiful. I particularly loved seeing all the street art and the tiny plant-filled streets. You can see some pictures of the neighborhood here. We returned to her home and had dinner with her family: Butternut squash soup; salad with endives, walnuts and apples; mashed potatoes, green beans, quenelles; and finally some cheese! It’s been so nice to have some family dinners lately!
Happy Saturday! I had mentioned to Vanessa that I’d like to go makeup shopping with her, and she happily obliged. We piled into the car, and Severine dropped us off in a shopping area.
Morgane tried on the lipsticks, while I shopped for some foundation. The last time I bought foundation was in 2009, with my mom in Atlanta!
All dolled up:
Severine dropped me la gare, the train station, and I took the Thalys to Paris! Flora met me at the train station and made me incredibly comfortable in her family’s home. They have an apartment on the top floor, with a huge wrap-around terrace, and a view of all of Paris!
Flora and I got dressed and headed to Barramundi, a restaurant/discotheque, to celebrate her friend Caroline’s birthday.
We had a delicious meal (I timidly choose the tempura chicken, and loved it!) Only in France can you meet friends for dinner at 8pm, and get the check around midnight. Just as we finished our meal, the DJ’s volume went up, food disappeared from the tables, and servers started bottle service: the restaurant was closed and the club was starting to fill up!
I got a glass of water from the bar and was charmed by the way they serve their cocktails at night: in a glass with a lid and a straw. This is good for two reasons: 1, you don’t worry about spilling on the dance floor, and 2, date-rape drug protection! That blur to the left is Flora dancing.
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