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 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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And just like that…

Sometimes I’m struck by just how many firsts I’ve experienced in a foreign culture. I learned to navigate public transportation, secure and shop for an apartment, open a bank account, and start my first “real” job, all while living abroad. And today, for the first time in my life, I visited a police station.

I feel rather fortunate to have never had the occasion to visit one before, but it wasn’t until I walked through the intensely guarded doors and stood timidly in the hushed and unfriendly lobby that I realized why. Police stations freak me out. I wasn’t even guilty and I felt on edge as I waited for my summoner…a certain Monsieur Blanc.

Let’s rewind a couple of days, shall we? To Sunday afternoon, the day my phone and wallet were stolen.

In all honesty, it was my fault. I was at a cafe with a friend, we were drinking tea and chatting and I let my bag hang off my chair near the ground instead of keeping it closely guarded in my lap. When I went to grab it a few hours later, my phone and coin purse were missing. The guys who had stolen it were long gone. I was frustrated with myself and sad, but resigned to the fact that it was gone forever. I didn’t even file a police report…I hadn’t seen what the guys looked like and how could the police find one lost cell phone? Instead, I counted my blessings. It was an old phone that I had been hoping to replace. And the wallet they took was actually just a small coin purse with 8€ inside…hardly a great loss. By some miraculous stroke of luck I’d swapped it earlier, leaving the larger one filled with cards and i.d. at home.

The real sorrow was the loss of the phone itself. It’s silly, but I get quite attached to my technology. That phone had gone to Mali with me, school in Minnesota, and Paris two times. It had taken nearly all of the photos you’ve seen on this blog and many more. It was my companion in my first interviews with musicians and helped me document concerts for the Current. So I was sad to see it go. And I was quickly faced with daily inconveniences…when one item serves as your watch, your alarm clock, your map, your calendar, and your camera you miss it REALLY quickly.

But by some rare alignment of the universe, I received an email a few days later from the police. They had found my phone, could I come to the station? And so an hour later I was escorted past armed men into the lobby to wait for him.

Monsieur Blanc (Mr. White in English…I cannot believe that’s his name) found me quickly and guided me through a maze of hallways to his office. It looked as you would expect…several small desks in a darkish room with a larger office for the captain (a very brusque woman who liked to yell as she interrogated people on the phone). How to describe M. Blanc and his partner? I kid you not, these two could have been in a movie and no one would have batted an eye. Blanc was wearing a dark grey sweater with black elbow patches and was well groomed with short hair…he had a kind of Gerard Bulter, Richard Armitage-y thing going for him except he wasn’t QUITE as handsome. More real, more tired. And very kind. His partner had short blond hair, sneakers and big glasses. The geekier looking of the two…Robin, in other words.

M. Blanc took my statement and told me a little about what they knew had happened. Apparently the two guys were arrested within a half hour of stealing my phone. They both confessed to it, and probably gave the police more detailed information than I was able to. They were to go to trial later that day and likely to prison after.

Giving my statement was weird and hard. I felt extremely self-conscious (how much detail should I give and do I sound stupid?) and I could only approximate details. Worse, I had NO IDEA what they looked like— I’d been tunnel-focusing on the person I was talking to. M. Blanc showed me their photos anyway (to check), and they looked like normal guys. Older than my students, but otherwise no different. Unfortunately, they had 7 phones on them (mine included) and my wallet (which was still full of cash…la chance!). So when M. Blanc asked if I wanted to file a complaint, I hesitated. Against all odds I had all of my stuff back, and no matter what these guys did or what type of people they were, my heart broke a bit when I saw them. Apparently they were caught because they were “behaving strangely,” but I couldn’t help but wonder if they’d have gotten away had they been white. And as relieved as I am to have my belongings back, I don’t like the idea that I may have gotten them due to racism. In the end I agreed because Blanc insisted that it was better for “la justice” but I’m still not sure it was the right choice.

I was grateful when M. Blanc finally led me back through the station and out the French door. He told me that he’s from Toulouse and advised me to visit and profiter du soleil. He shook my hand, made sure I knew where I was going, and sent me on my way. And that was that. Fist trip to the police station and statement made, all in French. If that isn’t an expat accomplishment, I don’t know what is. And best of all, my dear, tired phone and I are reunited. I honestly feel like the luckiest girl. I never dreamed I’d see it again, nor so promptly. No matter what, this encounter has left me with a very deep respect and appreciation for the French police force, who, throughout this entire experience, treated me with great gentility. The gallant Monsieur Blanc had three more phones to return before the business was done, and I am so grateful to him for his patience and kindness during the whole ordeal. May need to plan a visit to Toulouse in the coming months…

Instagrams to follow.

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Rockability at the Balajo

There is really nothing like going to see live music. I love getting dressed up and heading out, not knowing what exactly expect beyond a good show. So when I woke up Tuesday morning feeling sick as a dog, I panicked. I REALLY could not be sick…J.D. McPherson was playing TOMORROW NIGHT at the Balajo…I’d been planning this for months. I REFUSED to be sick. So I stayed home, took the maximum dose allowed of some flu-symptom relief meds, watched YouTube, and slept. And you know what? I woke up the next morning JUST FINE. Okay, so my throat was still a little sore (and still is…oops) but really that’s not that bad…I could teach! I could go see live music!

So at 7:30 I threw on my cutest dress and a red lip (to distract from my very tired eyes) and headed to the Balajo for their weekly soirée Rock. The venue is great…my kind of place. Old, a little run down, with nice charismatic staff and a lot of character. I heard that the designer of the Moulin Rouge did the interior, and that tons of French icons used to hang here. It felt very hip.

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And the people! Man! Parisians know how to dress up. I remember some thematic clothing the last time I saw J.D. McPherson, but this time I really felt like I’d walked into a film set in the fifties…bright lipstick, denim, mom jeans, jean jackets with slicked back hair, the whole shebang. And it was great. Best dressed? An early arriver (and one of the last to leave) wearing a full white suit with waist-coat and saddle shoes. Oh yeah. I think he had some red in there too for pop.

To my great surprise and pleasure J.D. McPherson brought The Cactus Blossoms all the way from my beloved Minnesota to open for him! Brothers Jack and Page climbed onto the TINY stage for a short (but sweet) set. I remember being impressed the last time I saw them, but I must confess, they really stole my heart this time. Maybe it was that we were in Paris and it all smelled so sweetly of home, maybe they’ve upped their game, but I was thoroughly enchanted with their performance. Their vocals are astounding—offering rich warm harmonies that truly soared through the tight space—and Jack was the perfectly charming front man, catching the eyes of the girls for just long enough that they would get the full impact of his romantic lyrics. And trust me, they swooned. Much later in the evening I played translator for them with several French ladies who were taken with the tall boys from Minnesota.

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And then J.D. hit the stage. I’ve raved before and imma do it again. This man is a king onstage. I generally go to excellent concerts, and McPherson’s are always some of my all time favorites. He brings an incredible energy and vitality to the stage which is raised by the incredible band behind him. Even in this unconventional* space he managed to give a thoroughly enjoyable and dynamic performance. And when you combine that with the fact that not only were they cramped but were also forced to play in two sets (with a DJ-ed dance break in the middle), had the audience literally being pushed up the steps into their faces, and could not hear each other well, you have an astounding performance.

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As if that weren’t enough, McPherson (and some of his bandmates) was suffering with the flu. I only know this because his bandmates told me later. You wouldn’t have known it from watching him. Because he’s really that good. And the French noticed…calling for encore after encore.

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I think what I love most about a J.D. McPherson show is that it has such amazing character. He manages to work a nostalgic sound into a truly thrilling show for all ages. I’m always struck by the diversity of his crowds and the enthusiasm. For some, he’s harkening back to a time when they were growing up, for others he’s transporting us to a time we never knew, but wish to experience. Either way it works. And in an age where many argue (myself included) that rock and roll is a thing of the past, it is thrilling to see a true rock and roll concert. We listen to him and we hear long nights of sneaking out of our bedroom windows, dancing** and drinking all night long. I never did that as a high schooler. But I think if his music had been around back then, I totally would have.

*read VERY TINY i.e. no elbow room

**real dancing mind you, not that humping business people do now