April 8th

Ah Paris! You are so unbelievably gorgeous when you want to be. Today I had so many plans of different things I needed and wanted to do. I got out, and promptly forgot all of them with the glorious feel of the sun on my limbs. BARE LIMBS, people, it was that warm. So instead, a long and lovely stroll along the Seine plus some gelato in the Tuileries. Cheers!

            

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April 7th: Coffee and Cake

You know those days when everything in the universe seems to be absolutely perfect? Where you just want to sing and skip and dance because there’s this insane buoyant gaiety that is totally inescapable? Today was one of those days. Paris put on her finest and was STUNNING today: sunny radiant, beautiful weather with a slight chill and pleasant breeze. The flowers were blooming and everyone was happy. Me included.

So, to best profiter, I took advantage of the weather and walked all over the Marais hitting up two different joints I’ve been interested in for a long time. And took a few shots of the streets along the way. Because I couldn’t resist.

First stop was Boot Cafe, a place I’ve been hearing about on every insider Paris blog as the hipster hangout for a coffee. And let me tell you. There were hipsters. Plenty. And they clearly were regulars. It was amusing and wonderful.

Funny story, this place is actually RIGHT next door to where one of my good friends lived when we were studying abroad. It was always hopping and I remember her mentioning it being a really popular/known spot, but I never ducked in for a cafe and therefore couldn’t judge. The cafe is TINY so be prepared to swing in and get one to go (especially if you go during rush hour or early in the morning. The menu is simple, offering espresso, cortados, americanos, and cafe cremes plus bagels, scones, and such. I got the creme and it was loverly, though very strong. My poor system which has become much more sensitive to caffeine since I dumped my 3 cafe-a-day habit was a little overwhelmed. Rabbit heart all morning. But it was worth it.

I later wandered down Rue de la Sicile to visit another hyped spot, Comme à Lisbonne—a tiny bakery dedicated entirely to the pastel de nata—a Portuguese pastry with the sweetest most perfect cream (think creme brulée in a flakey pastry crust) and cinnamon.

The spot has recently expanded with a restaurant that serves Portuguese delicacies as well as specialty food goods (all the canned sardines you can imagine and more). Unfortunately, I had already lunched when I arrived, but I will definitely be heading back for déjeuner in the very near future.

It was honestly one of the most charming places I’ve ever been in Paris, the staff was friendly and cheerful and chatty and I was loath to leave them. Moreover, I can attest that the pastel de nata is seriously the tastiest thing ever. Not too sweet and just perfectly creamy, it now ranks among my favorite pastries EVER. And if that doesn’t sum up why you need to head to this little haven I don’t know what will.

April 6th

Today a brief ode to one of my new favorite English bookstores in Paris: WH Smith.

I must say, I feel mild guilt about proclaiming this spot as one of my favs since it is a British bookstore chain, but I do love it. Now, there will always be a very special place in my heart for Shakespeare & Co’s boho charm and for Galignani’s more subdued, historic glamour, but I adore this little shop (which happens to be a metro stop up Rue Rivoli).

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I think I love it best because it’s so unpretentious. The staff are friendly, and it emits that warm glow that all book lovers find irresistible (particularly on a cold, grey Parisian day). It reminds me of an English bookshop I used to frequent when we lived in Rome and therefore has an odd comfort that the others can’t match. More than any other shop, I love to just whip in here and see what’s new, browsing as long as I please (even when it’s busy it’s not too busy) before heading home.

Sometimes I buy something, sometimes I don’t, but I rarely miss an opportunity to visit it when I’m in the area.

Bonus? It offers an AMAZING selection of magazines including a number of new independently published beauties. After weeks of popping in (and months of not being able to justify shipping charges) I recently got my hands on Cereal, a new indie style and travel magazine that is so unbelievably gorgeous. They also have various magazines with numerous foreign language counterparts, so I can get my English or my French fix (or Italian if I’m feeling brave). And to top it all off they have a number of truly delectable snacks (because, why not). Many come from niche British brands I’ve heard of but never seen, and it always takes all my strength not to walk out of there with a Cadbury chocolate bar. When I took a friend last week we ended up leaving with mince pies!

If  you are on Rue de Rivoli and are an anglophile or anglophone craving some solid reading material and a warm environment, I highly recommend swinging in. The bilingual staff are always willing to help you with anything you need, and be sure to check out the shelf dedicated to their top picks if you’re indecisive.

April 5th: Easter!

Happy Easter!

What a lovely day. I love this holiday. The bunnies. The chocolate. The dyed eggs. It’s all great. And it marks (for me) the true immersion into spring time which I am always so ready for. Maybe less in Paris then when I was living in Minnesota, but it’s still one of my favorite seasons. I love a good transition.

As I promised yesterday, today’s picture is a summary of all the goodies I picked up during my errands yesterday. Now that I have them all on the bed I am realizing that I maybe went a little crazy. But I suppose that’s what holidays are for.

So, let’s go through these together, shall we?

To eat:

  • Berries: from one of the beautiful alimentation places at Saint-Paul. Crazy expensive but they were so stunning I couldn’t resist. And they taste divine!
  • Eggs: (bio, bien sur). I hard boiled mine like we do at home, but I didn’t dye them.
  • Yogurt: again bio from the bio food store. As a special treat.
  • Brioche: I’ve been trying to stick to the gluten free thing but today felt like splurging. And I couldn’t resist this sweet little bun.
  • Orange juice: fresh squeezed (yes!) from the grocery. Because they have a machine to fresh squeeze orange juice. Because that’s a thing. In France. Did I mention that I love France?
  • Kusmi Detox tea: I’ve been wanting some Kusmi tea for a long time and finally went into a shop yesterday. It’s like my version of a candy factory, dangerous for the wallet with more delectable and unusual aromas then I’ve ever experienced. The green tea is especially enticing.
  • Cadbury mini caramel eggs: …just a few. Because, you know, Easter.

I also picked up some small comforts (because the food wasn’t enough). Some Lush moisturizer because I love, love, love Lush. And after being very good and not buying more products for almost a whole year I decided to treat myself. I also grabbed some magazines for fun. Porter (which I love), Elle (in French to practice mon français), and Cereal which I’ve been DYING to read since I found out about it this time last year. A copy is finally mine! I’m so excited.

That’s about it for today. Snuggling up with all of this in the lovely light of my apartment and listening to some lovely francophilic tunes (I decided to go all-out on the French thing).

Because in my head somehow Easter equals Juliette Gréco...

Because in my head somehow Easter equals Juliette Gréco…

Hope you and yours are having a similarly lovely day!

PS—Shameless self promotion: If you’d like to see what I’ve been listening to lately, head on over to my other blog for daily song updates.

April 4th

Another day without too much happening. It’s the beginning of a three-day weekend! Hooray! So I’ve been taking it rather easy. Lazy Saturday morning plus an afternoon of errands and shopping all ’round the city. But I made sure to snap some pics of the overcast streets of Paris—which were PACKED by the way…note to self, never go shopping on the weekend—while I was out. Want to see what I picked up? You’ll just have to check back in tomorrow. Winky face.

      

April 2nd: Nose

Today’s weather was ugly…it’s been super grey and rainy lately—not the sort that leaves you running for your umbrella, but the cool, obnoxious misting that is so infuriating and leaves you feeling exceptionally dirty. Yuck. So I was in need of something a little uplifting for the instagram feed.

I’m actually cheating slightly since these photos are from the other day, but I promise the weather was just as bad and that I was so busy I didn’t have the opportunity to take remotely interesting or exciting photos. Seriously guys the most eventful part of my day was being stared at by a French professor as I ate my sandwich in the teachers lounge—seriously, though, WHAT was his problem? So I thought I’d share two shots from my recent (and long awaited) trip to Nose—Paris’ finest fragrance and beauty concept store.

The concept is simple. Want a perfume but maybe not the same one EVERYONE AND THEIR DOG is wearing? Come to Nose and let the experts help you find your perfect scent. Ain’t nobody got time for that? It’s even easier! On their website you can create an account and fill out “perfume diagnostic” where, by identifying fragrances you’ve enjoyed in the past, you will be provided with suggestions of 5 other scents you may like. You can read descriptions of them and then order all 5 for a total of 10 euros (to be shipped or picked up in-store) and try them out at home. Once you’re done, you can go and pick up the perfume with a 10 euro discount. Or, if you don’t like any of the samples, you can annotate your profile and start the process again!

As someone who’s long been interested in perfume and had trouble finding that signature scent, I was super excited to try this out. I chose to pick my samples up in-store, but they do ship and are remarkably prompt. I ordered my sample pack plus two samples I was curious about after browsing the site.

I’ve been slowly testing them over the last few days and I must say all are lovely and unusual (in a good way). Two are too sweet for me, but that actually makes it easier to tailor things down. I’m excited to see which one I fall in love with, I’ve already worn one twice and I haven’t even sampled them all!

In the meantime, if you’re in Paris any time soon, you should definitely check out this shop. It’s already one of my favorite Parisian finds.

April 1st

Inspired by my dear and beloved mother, this month I thought I’d try something new on the blog—a month of daily photos documenting my life here in this beautiful city. I’m heading home at the end of April, and I can’t think of a better way to document my final days and get me outside to enjoy every second. So…be prepared for a lot of short posts. Let’s do this!

Today brought a perfect balance between lazy and productive. Morning involved a trip the the elementary school to teach, followed by a leisurely lunch and wander around the 6th with a new friend. And because I was in the 6th there were two things I truly couldn’t resist…

Pierre Hermé. Those of you who follow me on Instagram will have seen me documenting my determination to taste every flavor he has for sale. I’ve tried about 10 now and I can honestly say there isn’t a single one I didn’t like. More importantly, there are a few that I find utterly irresistable.

Today’s flavor was Jardin des Prés—a delicate mix of honey and meadow seed. Perfect for spring!

I also swung into Oh My Cream! since my friend wanted a few samples. There is much more to be said about this fabulous beauty concept store…it’s one of my favorite discoveries here and one of the few beauty shops that’s generous with samples. Danger danger!

Macarons were munched in front of Saint-Sulpice, a lovely spot for a quick break from shopping. Even with the chilly weather, it made the perfect end to a lazy afternoon.

‘Till tomorrow!

M

Museum Day: Musée d’Orsay’s Sade Exhibit

A couple of weeks ago (read over a month ago) I decided to pay a visit to Paris’ iconic Musée d’Orsay. I had originally planned to wander around and discover all of my favorites from art history classes past, but was quickly sucked into their temporary exhibit: SADE. Let me tell you, this exhibit was HUGE. So big with so many different works. I spent at least two hours in there. It also is an exhibit you will either absolutely love or absolutely hate, for reasons I will explain shortly. So bear that in mind. Luckily, it’s free, however, so if you hate it you can just zip through and continue to peruse the museum’s permanent collection.

Affiche-Sade

The exhibit portrays the ways in which the infamous Marquis de Sade’s writings and philosophies influenced 19th century artists, thinkers, and writers. Let me tell you, the concept and construction of this exhibit was not only fascinating, but extremely well designed. NB: I was not overly familiar with Sade’s works, and felt like the exhibit gave me a thorough education and provided me with enough background that I didn’t feel lost. And the design was absolutely flawless.

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You start by entering a dark room where hanging screens show clips from films that fit with the themes of Sades works, such as “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde,” ‘The Girl Without a Face,” and Bunuel’s “L’Age d’Or.” After this you are introduced to a timeline of Sade’s life, before entering the main portion of the exhibit: a series of rooms thematically based on different philosophies Sade promoted, such as violence, promiscuity, and voluptuousness. The rooms all feature large wall texts with quotes from Sade, as well as explanations of how these different philosophies were featured in the art of his time, and around the room smaller quotes are inserted between the works.

One of the most impressive aspects of this exhibit was the scale of it—it was truly enormous and filled with a shocking number of pieces. It also contained highly diverse works—paintings, photographs, books, models, sculpture, the whole artistic gamut—meaning there was truly something for everyone involved. Moreover, these weren’t obscure works from smaller artists, but highly renowned popular works from artists like Delacroix, Picasso, and Courbet. And the wall texts? Truly wonderful—fascinating, informative and well translated. What I loved about this exhibit was that it took you on a real tour of Sade’s thoughts, and provided an unusual glimpse at the 19th century art, which I feel is often regarded as conservative in comparison with the radical modernists who followed. (I would argue that every century contains lots of radical art—that’s why we study art history—but I also feel that’s easy to forget since we are exposed to so many contemporary and modern works.)

Perhaps even more impressively, the exhibit managed to focus on the dark underbelly of the art world—the endless preoccupation with sex, violence, and contortion—without condemnation or condonation, showing solely how one artist’s voice and preoccupations created a dialogue between many different artists in different mediums. The only thing it did seem to condone was the absolute right for this art to exist, the possible need for it to exist, and the fact that it likely will always exist whether society approves of it or not. (Interestingly enough, I saw this exhibit on the same day that the Charlie Hebdo offices were attacked…food for thought.)

I suppose that my only gripe with the exhibit was that, as a viewer, there was really only so much violence and sex and contortion that I could handle. It was fascinating, and I was quite religious about reading the wall texts, but by the end of the exhibit I started moving quickly through the rooms, stopping only for pieces that really grabbed me. In a way, the impressive scale almost killed it—leaving me so tired that I couldn’t completely process the later parts.

I should also add that, while I found the entire concept fascinating, many of the works were not to my taste and I hit a point about halfway through where I didn’t want to see much more. But that’s my personal preference. Others may well feel differently.

That said, it was an immensely impressive exhibit and (if you think you can stomach it) definitely worth checking out. I would recommend giving yourself time for it, however. I meant to pop in for a half hour and spent WAY longer in there, even with my speeding along at the end. If you have a few hours to kill, however, pop on in! You won’t see anything else like it—that I can guarantee.

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On the subject of French schools…

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my ticket to France came hand in hand with a contract to teach in a French public high school and although I was trepidatious about how this would pan out, it has easily proved to be one of the best parts of my new Parisian life. By some miracle, I landed a fabulous school with truly wonderful staff and students. As a whole my students have been engaged (and engaging), the teachers are helpful and wonderful (a couple proving to be very good friends), and the TAPIF program has been truly supportive throughout all of my housing madness. (Huge shoutout to the fabulous rector on this one…she’s made of awesome).

The icing on the cake, though? My high school, the Lycée Charlemagne is located in the Marais, right next to Saint-Paul, giving me a lovely and easy commute and a lot of fabulous lunch and shopping options to explore during my off-hours. Not that I need to “sortir” for lunch…the cantine (which is insanely cheap) offers a multi-course lunch complete with wine/beer/cider for the “professeurs”. Because this is France and no school will shirk entirely on food. Case and point: today for lunch I had boiled potatoes and grilled salmon (not fishy tasting at all!) with a creamy lemon sauce, a green lentil salad with slices of ham, bread (bien sur), a slice of emmental cheese, a yogurt, and two (yes TWO) clementines. I was teaching later so I skipped the alcohol, but the dining staff assured me that I am allowed it if I so desire. Absolute awesomesauce.

[I would normally have posted a picture of my meal here, but I was too excited and ate it before I could take one…]

Another way in which this high school differs almost comically from those I grew up with is in its students. I mean, first of all, they’re (for the most part) crazy respectful and well-behaved. We’re talking standing at the beginning of class until I tell them to sit down and lots of “Madame”s to go around. And they are so lovely to teach. Despite all of this incredible politeness, however, I was rather shocked recently when I waltzed up to school and witnessed this scene:

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Yes. That is a barricade of trashcans over the doors.

I actually had to call one of the teachers to figure out how to get into the school. Apparently protest culture starts young in France and once a year the students find a cause and shut down the school for  a couple of days. The level to which they are committed varies depending on the student—some were, by their own admittance, definitely just looking for an excuse to cut class—but they all amassed outside megaphone and all.

The first day they protested the recent death of a young protester in the South of France, the second, the deportation of a young student to his country of birth. And I have to say, coming from a country where I think high schoolers are generally in the dark about current events, I quite admired the initiative of these kids. That, and it was pretty hilarious to watch the whole ordeal. The police nonchalantly promised to see the protesting kids next week. The school administrators put everything in lockdown and treated the whole thing like a siege. The teachers? Generally nonplussed. Because in France, c’est la vie.