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Posts Tagged ‘Museums’

Yes, the weather was lousy this weekend. Yes, this was my last weekend in my apartment in the 10th. Yes, I had my first final on Thursday.

But despite all of this, the weekend was a fantastic one, because my Berlin-based friend, Tim, came back for a second action-packed weekend of Parisian adventures.

Wednesday night, I took the RER — regional express train, kind of like the metro but not as nice and kind of weird and sketchy at times — out to the Charles DeGaulle International Airport, where Tim was waiting on the train quai. We got right back on that train — it’s a really expensive ticket, but if I stayed in the train system I didn’t have to pay, hat tip to my friend Claire for that helpful hint that would have been really useful for retrieving my parents back in April — and took it to Gare du Nord and my neighborhood, where we celebrated our reunion with an expresso and a delicious plate of gorgonzola and pear.

Thursday, we traipsed on over to the Musée d’Orsay for some art watching — finding time to run into somebody I know from UNC who is in town for a summer project on ballet, waiting in line outside the museum, crazy tiny world that this is — and I went off to take my first of two finals.

It wasn’t terrible — multiple choice and an 11-page essay on media models in transition, in English — and it feels good to be that much closer to being finished with school.

We spent our Friday picnicking in the Jardin de Plantes, drinking coffee at La Caféotheque and avoiding hordes of tourists in the Louvre — it helps when both you and your guest can get into museums for free, yay European youth benefits! — finishing up with a victorious second attempt at the strawberry-asparagus tart — more butter, almond powder and creme fraiche this time — and a movie outing at the Action Écoles Cinema to see Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest.”

Saturday, more coffee wanderings, coupled with a marvelous and lively rendition of Manhunt on Ile-Saint-Louis. More epic chase sequences, more distracted and angry tourists and more sweating international young adults meant a fantastic game. Plus, at one point I avoided being tagged by rounding a street corner and ducking between rows of school children on a field trip, using their adorable small size and charming tendency to hold hands to create a tiny human barrier between me and my huntress. It was quite, quite epic.

We ended the day with some delicious asparagus risotto chez moi and a happening party at the uber-posh apartment of one of my journalism program friends who lives right next door to the Eiffel Tower. The party was a lot of fun, and Tim actually found a girl from his hometown of Dusseldorf — a girl who had been in my French language class here — with whom he shared a lot of mutual friends.

Capping off our weekend of adventuring with a delicious Sunday brunch at Breakfast in America in the Latin Quarter — so much American drip coffee and a big pile of raspberry-coconut-white chocolate chip pancakes YUM — we again rode the RER to the airport, saying goodbye only until July 1, when I will be staying with Tim in Berlin as part of my European Opera Adventure.

This week will see me:

1) Moving out of my apartment

2) Taking the LAST final of the year

3) Going to see “Rear Window” at Action Écoles

4) Running along the Seine

Stay tuned, dear readers — la fin va arriver!

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So, it’s been a week since I last updated this blog. And while I do mean to cut down a little on my blog posts — the once-daily regimen of earlier in the term just can’t happen anymore — I never intended to move to once a week posts.

But this last week was some kind of busy. What, with schoolwork, visiting Germans and the full onslaught of spring weather here in Paris, I had a hard time finding space to squeeze in a quick update. Eventually, it just got to the point that I decided a full report this morning would be better than a few tiny dispatches from the field during the week.

Monday, after my idyllic run through springtime Parisian streets to class, I went to the dinner party gang’s house to make Gypsy Soup for dinner, a favorite recipe from Molly Katzen’s incredible veg-head tome, the Moosewood Cookbook. The soup went over well — although I did get a rather nasty blister on my left middle finger — and we had quite a lovely evening together.

Tuesday, I didn’t have class in the afternoon, so I went back to the dinner party gang’s apartment to plan our spring break and steal/drink some of their delicious, French-pressed coffee. After much cajoling and convincing, I gave in and purchased a ticket to Valencia, Spain for 7 glorious late April days on the Mediterranean beach. All things considered, it isn’t going to be a terribly expensive trip — especially if my girl Merkel keeps delaying a Greek bail out, driving the Euro down a little bit everyday — and I think it will be good to have a relaxing week by the sea. In the warmth. With friends. In a country where everything is cheaper than here in Paris.

Plus, the night of our return to Paris, we have tickets to the She & Him concert, which will be a lovely, but not completely satisfactory, makeup for the missed Joanna Newsom concert in Durham this month. But I can’t hate too much, because Zooey Deschanel is a true delight, and I can only imagine how much her gleeful energy will be doled out in generous portions when she is on a brightly lit stage in front of me.

We then spent the afternoon in the Jardin de Luxembourg, fighting the scores of other sun-starved Parisians and tourists for the green metal lawn chairs scattered around the park. As the resident runner of the group, it was up to me to dash around La Grande Fontaine, scooping up empty chairs as they became available. Needless to say, by the time I left to go home to run and do homework — sort of — we all had a chair.

But Wednesday is when the real fun started. Tim, an old German exchange student from my junior year at Cranbrook, flew in Wednesday night from Berlin, where he is spending his year of public service looking after old West Berlin shut-ins. I haven’t seen Tim since the summer after my senior year, when we had a reunion of sorts in Munster with our other German chum Friedemann after Friedie and I backpacked around the continent.

And yet, when he got off the OrlyBus, it was like it had only been a few weeks. Granted, we both look a little older, and a lot has happened in both our lives since that year at Cranbrook and that late summer day in Germany, but I instantly knew that my weekend with Tim was going to be a good one.

Plus, Tim was quick to let me know that even though this was his first time in Paris — which surprised me, considering that he is from Dusseldorf, has spent considerable amounts of time in the UK, and will be a student at Cambridge next fall — and he hadn’t seen anything yet, he didn’t want to do the touristy things. He wanted to see MY Paris, the Paris that I lived in.

Which suited me just fine.

We had dinner at Breakfast in America, which was tasty good, per usual, and bought a bottle of wine to split and catch up over in my apartment. Tim loved my neighborhood, and the funky weird vibe of my apartment. Also, Flocon, our cat, loved him, and in turn seems to like me a little bit more now. Go figure.

Thursday, I took Tim to the St. Germain neighborhood by school, and he wandered around while I had my French reporting class, where we finalized the details for our culture feature stories. I will be working on a story on the Ciné du Réel documentary film festival at the Centre Pompidou — more on that below — which I am very much looking forward to.

Since Thursday was such a pretty day, we walked back to my house, passing through the Jardin des Tuileries, the Grands Boulevards area, and everything in between, speaking snatches of French as we walked. Tim hasn’t studied French in a year or so, but he still is really good at the language, so it was fun to have another non-native speaker to mumble incomplete French thoughts with.

That night, we went to the dinner party gang’s house Thursday night to make my famous French toast and scrambled eggs dinner. It was a huge hit, and we left fat and happy.

Friday, we picnicked in the Jardin de Luxembourg, pausing for my class in the evening. We then joined up with Claire of the dinner party gang for a film at the Ciné du Réel festival, which was lovely.

I had to get my press accreditation, which I managed to successfully do all in French, and the helpful (!) women at the press desk were amused with my obvious excitement.

“This is your first press accreditation, isn’t it?” one asked gently. When I responded in the affirmative, she smiled and said, “Well then, this is a big moment for you!” And it was.

The press accreditation — thanks to my French reporting prof —  allows me to see any and all of the films for free. Meaning that I probably won’t get much homework done this week. Maybe.

We saw two interesting short films, and then headed back for dinner and cards at their apartment. A truly successful, evening, indeed

Saturday was the day of walking, with us visiting my favorite park — Buttes Chaumont, of course — heading down to the beautiful Musée de Rodin — where the grass was closed off, or “La pelouse interdite” as the signs helpfully indicated — and pausing occasionally to speak French with each other, still returning home for tea.

By Sunday, I decided that, even though Tim didn’t want to be a tourist — and truly hadn’t been — one can’t come to Paris and not see La Tour Eiffel up close. So we bought a picnic lunch from a street market — complete with an absolutely delicious pistachio macaroon — and found a bench in the Champs de Mars on which to eat and people watch in the shadow of the towering symbol of la France.

By the time Tim left Sunday evening, I realized that not only had I spent the weekend enjoying the company of a good friend, I had also spent the weekend enjoying Paris — pointing out things I liked about the city, telling stories about my time here, taking my visitor to secret spots and boasting of things I loved about the place.

In short, having Tim here reminded me — or rather, made me aware — of how much I have come to truly love Paris. Sure, there are problems sometimes. I am homesick sometimes. France isn’t the most welcoming of countries, it’s true.

But having Tim here, and seeing his obvious delight with the city and my life here, really just pushed me over the edge. I love it here. I’m glad to be here. Really.

I’ll leave you — after this massive post — with some thoughts from storied film maker Albert Maysles, part of the team that produced the legendary cult film “Grey Gardens,” detailing the lives of Big and Little Edie Beale, living in splendid squalor in a decrepit Long Island manor home.

Maysles, who was in Paris for the Ciné du Réel festival and who I was lucky enough to see speak after a showing of “Grey Gardens” on Sunday evening, told the audience that he often was criticized for filming these supposedly “crazy” women. He is often accused of exploiting their story for his own benefit, he said.

“I respond, ‘Well, they’re just like everybody else, only maybe more so,'” Maysles said.

I’m aiming to be more so, too.

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This weekend was pretty nice, so I can’t really complain. Nor is my title entirely accurate. I just couldn’t think of anything else to write up there.

I apologize for being absent for a few days. My continued calls for homework to do finally came true, and I found myself with a small, but necessary pile of assignments to finish or explore this weekend. So, after class on Friday, that is what I did — along with other, less homeworky things.

Friday was a lovely day. The weather was warm and clear, I had a nice run in the morning, and I met up with a girl from my French class to work on a joint project for this coming Tuesday’s class meeting. As part of our grade, we are required to give a “revue de presse” — a presentation comparing coverage of a news event of our choosing in both a French newspaper and a foreign newspaper and launching a corresponding class debate — and our presentation will be on the coup d’état in Niger last Thursday.

It’s a pretty complicated issue — the president may have already staged a coup last June, according to some, when he abolished the government and the constitutional court to guarantee himself an illegal third term of office — but we are using the coverage of the coup in both The New York Times and the French daily Le Monde to explore the idea of international press coverage of these kinds of events.

The Times suggests the possibility of a coup, without actually confirming that one took place, while Le Monde staunchly declares that a coup did take place. Now, today, no one is doubting the coup. It happened, the military took control and there is international concern over the usual grab bag of human rights violations and violence that could possibly explode in the coming days and weeks. But we hope to launch a debate on the fact that a coup, which is clearly a big deal, was not easily found in the international press — page A4 of the Times, and difficult to find in many other American newspapers. From this fact, we also hope to discuss the respective coverage of the event — coup or no coup? — to explore the responsibilities of the media in reporting these kinds of things: should they be accurate in their coverage, or the first to publish something?

After our meeting, I had my French lecture on music and politics, which was just as fun as I remembered it. We discussed important trends in Western music and political development throughout the middle ages and beyond as a lead-up to the 19th century, which is the main focus of the course. The absolutely lovely and humorous prof made us all sing, as a class, repeatedly, to demonstrate important musical tone developments.

The best part of the class is that I can understand the majority of what the professor says, which is all in rapid, conversational French. The other students, not so much — when they ask questions out loud in class, I have to strain to understand sometimes —  but definitely the prof. Which is wonderful.

Friday night saw me making dinner with a Carolina friend here in Paris for a different study abroad program  and one of her new friends, followed by a visit to the Louvre — which is FREE on Fridays for students, so WIN — and an early bed time. I like the Louvre fine, but I do find it too large to fully appreciate. We just hung around one specific wing — where I oddly ran into someone I knew from my welcome program — and agreed to come back in the future and explore the rest of the museum.

Saturday was more homework — all mostly finished by the afternoon — and a run, followed by an attempted outing with the dinner party gang to the Centre Pompidou to see the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra. This group of musicians are exactly what their name suggests: an Austrian ensemble that fashions instruments out of produce. I originally thought the concert was free, but it was actually 14 euro, a fact which initially deterred us from going. I finally convinced my friends to join me, but by the time we got there, it was sold out. Which was a bother.

We did get to see the ensemble demonstrate their instrument making process, which was almost as cool as seeing them live, and completely free. We followed this up with a dinner — my winter roots dish, which everyone loved — and a small outing with some of their friends at someone’s apartment.

Missed the last metro, again, so I stayed the night on the other side of the Seine, waking up today rather late to meet up with my French partner again for our project. After a small dinner — I wasn’t too hungry today, actually — I am settling down for the evening to edit some of my papers for class and maybe read a little. I also will be going to bed early, as I was out too late last night.

I discovered today that we have winter break all the following week, so I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do. Maybe explore the city? Maybe hang out with some French friends? Maybe to London for a day? Spain? Somewhere not Paris? Who knows.

But I’m doing well, and as the weather improves, so does my overall happiness. Soon enough, spring will be here for real, and that will simply grand.

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I had a rather relaxing weekend, something I realize I truly needed. I needed two days to sleep, to laze about, to eat good food and have nice runs and enjoy the almost-spring like weather here.

And that’s exactly what I had.

I started off Saturday with a long and leisurely solo breakfast, followed by a visit to the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) for a free photography exhibit with the dinner time gang, replete with images of my absolute favorite artist, Marc Chagall — turns out Izis, the photographer in question, was a big fan of Chagall — followed by an equally long and leisurely lunch.

But the lunch was not long by our choosing. You see, as a very astute article in the BBC pointed out just yesterday, customer service here in Paris is virtually nonexistent. In order to obtain our food, our coffee, even our check, we were required to perform elaborate and difficult maneuvers — it was almost as if the waiter didn’t want us to leave.

Granted, this is quite different, and at times more welcome, than the traditional American idea of waitstaff — hover around until you are finished and then throw you out in favor of incoming customers — but you want just want to leave, the welcome feeling of being left alone wears off rather quickly. I am actually pretty sure that our waiter’s shift ended in the middle of our marathon meal, leaving us with completely new garçons to deal with to obtain our dessert coffees and final check. It was quite the meal time ordeal.

We then headed off towards one of the biggest shopping districts of Paris, searching for “la saison de soldes” (Sales, illegal here in France except for very specific periods of the year) and find them, we did. We also found most of Paris.

The stores were an absolute ZOO. It was impossible to move, and the lines at the cash registers snaked around the outside of the store multiple times over. I think this shopping atmosphere must be a truly Parisian thing, because I can’t even imagine this kind of chaos in New York. It was a true migraine in motion.

But the evening was lovely, as we made a carrot-honey soup and garlic bread dinner together and cozied up to watch “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin”  — both movies of which the majority I have largely forgotten — feeling fat and childish after the end.

Today, I went on a brisk and refreshing jog in my favorite park, and then headed out to the Musée des Arts and Metiers for a school assignment, meeting up with some friends in another part of the city for a quick lunch.

Then, it was off with another friend for dinner and a scooter ride, and back home for a quick edit of my next Daily Tar Heel column — see it tomorrow here! — before drifting back off to sleep in preparation for another busy week of school work and French-ness.

Stay tuned, mes enfants! Restent ici!

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So, I really am a student of la belle France. For this semester, I have dutifully paid my fees, bought my carte d’etudiant and filled out all the requisite visa forms in triplicate — exactly like they asked me to do, even if when presented with said forms, the consul office in Atlanta seemed not to care about my hours of work.

That means, of course, that I am un vrai etudiant français — and as such, thus subject to all the perks and benefits, including FREE ADMISSION at the vast majority of the vast collection of vast museums here in Paris.

I had kind of suspected this — the websites for some of the bigger museums kind of indicate if you try hard enough, even as a foreign exchange student you get the same thing — but I wasn’t sure until I went to the Musée D’Orsay with Jean-Baptiste, a French friend.

But, as you might well know, two of the things I love most in this world include things which are free and things which are French. Et, voila, I am there. So, to start, today was a pretty good day.

I ran early in the cold — I wasn’t going to get up and do it, as the rain on my skylight over my shower/plant nursery/bathroom/general living space indicated the ugly weather outside — but I’m really glad I did. It felt really refreshing and made me wake up. Runs do that sometime.

I then made the not so long trek — do I really need a metro pass? (YES) — down to Sciences Po to purchase my course pack — with enough money today! HOORAY! — and then spent the rest of the day there, reading in various buildings and pretending to be studious until the time to meet Jean-Baptiste arrived. Classes start Monday, by the way. They do. I’m sure of it.

Then it was off to the Musée d’Orsay, for a lovely afternoon of impressionism, art nouveau and other such wonderful things. It was a lot of fun to walk around the museum with a French friend, speaking in French and talking about art. When I spend time with the French gang I’ve randomly assembled, my French improves a lot, but it still hard to fully express myself. It’s a process, I know, but I really love to talk — you are reading my blog, after all, so you know this — and not being able to fully use all the right words is incredibly frustrating.

Additionally, I tried to explain a complicated argument presented in a recent article in “The Believer” that concerned the democratization of art museums and the ensuing commodification of high culture into easily digested, smaller culture pieces. This was not a good idea, and not easily explained in a foreign language in which I am not yet completely fluent. At times, we all make poor choices.

We got coffee, talked a little more, and then I left for home to meet Victoria, my American friend from high school, for dinner and a movie.

We have agreed to only speak French with each other, which is a fun time for all, including the passersby. Tonight, a man at a grocery store looked at us very strangely. We know we aren’t French. We know our accent is not great. But we are trying. And that’s enough.

We made some yummy omelettes — I need to start cooking other things soon, I think — and then walked down to a big movie house nearby to catch “La Princesse et la Grenouille” — “The Princess and the Frog”, which I’ve already seen in America, but Victoria has not — thinking it would be doubled in French. I’ve seen the bandes annonces — trailers — and they are clearly in French.

Unfortunately, we must have found the wrong theatre, because was the same sassy and sweet movie I saw at the venerable Milford Cinema One Screen in Milford, Michigan last month with my parents, only with silly French subtitles below. Really. Victoria and I laughed at some of the malapropisms displayed there more than we did at actually intended humor in the movie.

We decided the next movie or cultural outing we take will be a truly French one.

But it was a truly lovely day, and tomorrow I have more to read and run and a French party to go to — NOT in the suburbs, thanks be to the Metro — and more fun things to do. Life is improving, peu en peu.

And I’m slowly starting to love Paris.

But don’t tell Paris. I think it’s seeing other people right now.

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