Friday, June 20, 2008

Le weekend passé

Saturday, 14 June

As usual for Saturdays, as the gallery was open, I had to work. However, when I arrived, Eric told me I could leave around 2 or 3, which is pretty wonderful as I only start working at 11. It's kind of amazing to me, even if I am going to leave at 2 and I start at 11, when 1:00 rolls around, it's lunch time! I visited a little park I had discovered earlier in the week, along with a baguette, and studied for an hour before leaving around 2:30.

A little later, I met up with a classmate for a project for our class. The class I am taking looks at trends in French Literature between 1750-1950, and how Paris and said literature kind of developed together throughout this epoque. Our passage came from Breton's Nadja, which takes place all within a block of rue La Fayette in the 10e arrondissement. I took pictures for the project, but I don't think I will put any up of the actual sites where the short passage takes place, because the point of the text is not really at all the location where he is, but the person he sees across the carrefour. The description of the location is intentionally vague ("I came to a place, of which I forget or never knew the name," for example) and there isn't really anything specifically important about the location. It remains the same today, it is a typical Parisian street with little to differentiate it from another. (Except that this one houses the Paris communist party headquarters, but that is a minor detail). Speaking of details, here is one I appreciated on a building in Rue La Fayette :

Saturday evening, there was a party on the metro : at 9:00, a ton of people all packed into a metro train leaving from a certain station. The cars were packed and hot, but there were stereos playing music, and at every stop, there were chinese fire drills and races. Or at least, this is what I heard from friends who went - I must have eaten something that didn't agree with me because I stayed home feeling sick to my stomach :( I could also feel a cold coming on, so I had what felt like a pretty lame night in, watching Ratatouille in French with English subtitles. I'm not sure if I mentioned that Catherine and Jacques have a large DVD collection - most of which is westerns. Or alien movies. And then there are a few children's movies. But Catherine does seem to have a few discs in there as well, including some French films that sound ridiculous and wonderful that I think I would have preferred to watch, but Kendall wanted to see ratatouille and I was in no mood to get up off the floor where I was lying, so Ratatouille it was. I must say though, I do have a greater appreciation for the movie now that I know my way around Paris!!

Sunday, 15 June

Catherine told us about a little grocery store nearby that has an international shelf, for which the cuisine changes each week. The prior week had been American week, and so Catherine decided to buy the following products :

I must say, as pancakes and muffins (along with cookies, of course) are absolutely my forte, it made me laugh to see these products in France! Kendall, my roommate, decided to buy the same, to see whether it was really edible... Here were the pancakes :

Not much of pancakes - they are about as thick as 3 crepes! They sort of had a pancake texture... but really they would need to be thicker for that. The muffins were more like real muffins, but they were definitely like cheap mix muffins - nothing like what I usually make. Catherine told us at dinner this week there is a little epicerie near by that sells a lot of British and American products, so I told her I would go there and look for baking powder, and that if I can find it, I will make her real pancakes and muffins. Too bad there's no oats, either, for my muffins, or maple syrup for the pancakes!

But really, I'll leave the pancake to America and the croissant to France. And they do make a good croissant...

In the morning I visited my wonderful marché de la bastille, as I showed you all about in my previous post. After bringing my purchases home, I decided to make my first attempt to tackle the Louvre. I say first because I knew even before going in that I would need multiple visits. I wanted to hold off on visiting the Louvre for a while because, as Jen told me, it makes every other museum feel small... But at the half way point for this trip, I realized how mad I would be at myself if I never did get to see everything there that I want to, so I decided to start.

I went straight up to Italian painting, not because it was necessarily what I most wanted to see (although really, it pretty much was) but actually just because I needed a bathroom. Ah well. The Louvre is a pretty incredible place. It was like walking through an art history class. They have a room of Delacroix and David large scale paintings where I am pretty sure I had studied every single painting in the room, except maybe one or two - that is pretty unbelievable. I for one am always most interested in art that I know something about, so seeing a lot of familiar works was wonderful.

It's funny how people are at museums. There are the ones with their videocameras, mindlessly filming all around them; there are those who wait in the line to get within 10 feet of the mona lisa (why bother? she's not that big and we all already know what she looks like anyway) while completely ignoring the incredible collection of Titians and Venezianos kept in the same room; and then there are my favorites, the people who go up to every work and take a picture of it, without actually looking at it. WHY, I want to ask them. You can find an image online for anything anyone has ever actually heard of (which, at the Louvre, is rather a vast portion of their collection) which will be better than the image that you just took. AND, what's more, the reason you go to the museum is to SEE the works, instead of just sitting and looking up all those dozens and hundreds (lets assume they don't go as far as thousands!) of pictures online.

Oh well.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the Louvre was the building itself - it was certainly fitting for a royal residence :

I don't remember the name of this galerie (Napoleon, maybe?) but I believe it is where they keep the crown jewels... I was more interested, however, by the decoration of the room itself. Note the garlands actually hanging from the ceiling.

I don't remember if this room had a name, either.

After spending maybe 4 hours or so at the Louvre, I made my way over to Ile Saint Louis to visit Berthillon, as so many members of my extended family insisted that I must :) I ordered a relatively boring double cone - they had flavors that were a little bizarre that I don't remember any more, unfortunately, but they were all fruit flavors to I suspected they were sorbets rather than ice cream, which was what I wanted. So I just got a scoop of coffee and a scoop of vanilla. I will say for Berthillon that it was probably the most intensely flavored ice cream I have ever had. However, the scoops were small enough I didn't feel like I really got more than just that little taste of flavor, so I don't think I can agree that it is absolutely the best I have ever had. I would need a pint, perhaps, but that is something like 18 E so it won't be happening. Ultimately, it was good, but so is what I find at the grocery... Unfortunately it didn't knock me over like Angelina's hot chocolate or Pierre Hermé's macarons.

From Ile St. Louis it was just a short path across a bridge to Ile de la Cité to attend evening mass at Notre Dame. I must say, the choir singing was a pretty spectacular acoustic experience. They also had a lot of incense burning, so the church smelled wonderful. The sounds and the smells, combined of course with the awe-inspiring sights, made for a pretty incredible service.

For dinner I decided after the previous evening's bad experience, and the bad royales the night before that, enough was enough and I was going to eat AMERICAN food, just this once. My mom had sent me 3 boxes of Jiffy corn muffin mix for Catherine's American birthday dinner, and I used one this evening to make corn pancakes, which I discovered last semester at school and which I love. Let's just say, I am not alllll sad about the fact that I will be leaving again in 3 1/2 short weeks (but that is certainly not to say I am happy about it!!!)

Monday, 16 June

I told myself over the weekend that if it was nice out on Monday morning, I was getting up and out early to get over to Notre Dame to climb the towers. They open at 10 AM, and I am sure if you get there early the lines are shorter than later in the day, when I tried to visit the week before. Sure enough, it was only partly cloudy (that is about as good as it gets here) and so I made my way over back to Notre Dame for the second time in 24 hours. Even for getting there certainly no later than 10:15, there was a good-sized line! I probably got in after about 20 minutes, though.

When you first head up the stairs, they have you stop in a little gift shop before you get to go all the way up... I saw this book, and thought to myself that had I visited 10 years ago I might have wanted it...

Anyway, after this brief rest, you continue your way up 400 of these :

Which only get narrower the higher you get. I am glad they were not wet!

And then you get to see this :

I mean really, I paid 5 E to see that?

Oh but I guess you also get to see this :

And this...

And then you go even higher again, and see this :

And this:

The tall building on the right is Tour Montparnasse, the only sky scraper in Paris. The dome on the left is, as I learned today, the Pantheon.

The view from the top was pretty incredible.

After I came back down, I intended to go and buy myself a birthday present at a cooking supply store, and as I made my way across town I came across this :

It was a little park, that was partially covered. This little fountain was just on the other side of the building seen in the previous picture:

And then I found this little place :

I am not sure what any of these places are, although I am sure it says in my Paris Practique and I am sure I was checking my map at the time and could have told you then.

Ultimately, I did find my cooking stores, but the first was dark and awkward (I hate when shop owners stand in their doorway and stare at you) and the second one didn't open until 1:30 (lame) so I headed towards the 4th to have lunch in a little restaurant Isabelle and Jamie had recommended. It is called Le Loir dans le Théière (the dormouse in the teakettle). I had a tarte salée, a pie crust with savory filling - red onion and tomato. It was absolutely delicious, and came with a salad of mixed greens and bread. For dessert, they have a buffet which had a ton of tempting options, but you know I had to get the tarte à la rhubarbe, which was wonderful (but would of course have been better warmed up and with ice cream!!) It was all delicious, if a little pricey (these and a café made 18E) but I figure as I am not traveling that just makes my food budget bigger. Anyway, this is certainly one little restaurant that gets my mark of approval.

After my lunch, I walked home to rest and study for a little while before my class started - at this point I was nearing the middle of my cold. I didn't really feel bad, I was just coughing some - but it really sounded like a horrible, hacking cough. That evening, my class was our midterm - hard to believe, but Monday was the half-way point for my Paris séjour! The exam was really very easy - I knew we would have access to a dictionary to help with translation and make sure we could say what we meant to... I didn't know going into the test that it would be open book... and the questions were often like "What is the most common imagery used to describe ___ in so-and-so's X (pg Y, book title)?" At our orientation, they explained to us how rigorous French schooling usually is, and how hard it is to get a "good" grade as we would define it in the states, so maybe Lionel felt he had to tame it down for those silly Americans with no back bones... I have no idea. But I am not complaining. And perhaps I will start taking notes in my books... After all, I am here to see Paris, not to study!!

Ok well as much as I would love to continue telling you about the rest of my week, it will have to wait a while as this is a slow process! So hopefully,

à bientôt!


I need orange said...

Twas in Europe that I began looking up, always, in grand buildings....

Love your shots of the gargoyles with the city behind!

I found that flat dome-y building when I was trying to figure out what dome you were seeing through the end of la Musee d'Orsay, but if it was labeled on, I can't remember what it said it was.....

Must try to get some rhubarb.......

Celine Marie said...

i can't believe you're halfway done. crazy how time flies, right?

anyways, bio station is absolutely gorgeous. kinda reminds me of Interlochen, minus the music, and plus a larger lake and lots of biology people. hahaha
keep having fun :)


Jennifer said...

Glad to see you listened to my advice about the Louvre. And btw, I had the exact same reaction around the Mona Lisa!!

I also have 2 of the exact same images you have at Notre Dame. I thought the gargoyle eating the little creature was especially funny, and i also have one of the view of Paris with the gargoyle in the foreground.

You shall have to tell me about all your travels when you get back from the wedding. :-)