Monday, May 30, 2011

Crépuscule, Paris

Pretty sunsets symbolic of our pending departure!

 From our window

From Canal St-Martin

We leave tomorrow, but we must return our internet hardware to the (hopefully) fine people of France Telecom today, so this will be the last post from Paris. If the opportunity arises we may update the Twitter feed, so look up and to the right for that.

We talked about writing a big sentimental post about all the things we'll miss most, and then a snarky post about things we really won't miss. But surrounded as we are by bags and boxes and with an unpleasantly long to-do list, a short version will have to do.

The things we'll miss most: friends, visitors, the markets, the parks, apéros by the Canal. See our previous posts for details.

One thing we will definitely never, ever miss, not even for the teensiest little second:

First note that I had to press the button several times. There's always a moment of tension when you're not sure if it's going to work at all. And then it makes the noise. That enormous, apartment-rattling, horrible noise. And then a pipe somewhere in the kitchen makes a noise and you're terrified that's gonna blow. Someday it will. But (knock wood) we're thankful we won't be here when it does.

But adieu to all that.

- Lia

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Last Popincourt Marché Haul

On Tuesdays and Fridays, from sometime before we wake up until about 2:00pm, Boulevard Richard Lenoir between Oberkampf and J-P Timbaud turns into an open-air market. It's amazing, and it's not even considered one of the bigger or better of the 60-some marchés volants that open and close twice a week all over the city. A short walk to the south is the Bastille market. Open Thursdays and Sundays, it is the biggest in the city. It attracts hordes of shoppers- locals and lots of tourists. We go on most Sundays, but the crush of people can be tough to bear. Popincourt is a mellower affair. It has most of the same vendors I like from the Bastille market, plus a few extras. It has none of the photo-taking crowds, just sharp elbowed, line-cutting little old women. These photos show our final haul from our favorite market. It's a pretty normal collection. Usually there would also be a chicken, maybe some potatoes. We are not going to be cooking much more so we splurged on things like nice mushrooms, extra cheese and a good fish. We felt a little sad making the final rounds, but we hit all of our favorites. 

Here are the details, for those interested: 
The bag in back was a give-away from the marché organization. Look for it this summer as we show it off at the Farmers Markets back home. Moving forward, the brown, dirt covered mushrooms are champignons de Paris. Like cremini, but much firmer, they are the basic mushroom around here. The light colored mushrooms to the right are pleurotes jaunes (yellow oyster mushrooms), and the golden mushrooms toward the front are girolles (chanterelles). The big ugly thing on the right is a turbot- a lovely and expensive flat fish from the North Atlantic. To the left, the green things with the red band are wild asparagus. They have thin stalks and wheat-like tips. Above them are simple cherry tomatoes. A lemon is in the middle, next to the bunch of spring onions. Above the onions are chives and parsley. Moving on to dairy, we've got six eggs and three cheeses. Oh, the cheese. The herb-covered mass is a Corsican brebis, the small one is half a Tommette de Brebis and the large slice is Abondance. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Parc de Bagatelle and a lunch

Parc de Bagatelle is located within the Bois de Boulogne on the western edge of Paris. It was built by the Count of Artois in 64 days in 1775, on a bet by Marie Antoinette that he could not turn the land into a park in such short time. It is well known for its spring tulips, rose gardens and peacocks. We were a little late for the tulips, but the roses were beautiful and the peacocks were screeching.

The rose gardens were built in 1907. There are about 1100 roses on display, roughly 20% of them pre-1920 varieties.


goslings and ducklings

 Enough beauty. The next day we hit the Popincourt market and checked another food item off the to-do list. Cuttlefish is somewhere between an octopus and a squid. It has a strange bone in its back, the cuttlebone, which is the calcium-rich thing you put in birdcages for them to peck at.  It wasn't pretty but it was fun and educational to turn it from the first photo into the last. We ate it with salad and some raw milk soft-ripened cheese, which we are consuming in heroic quantities before our return to the land of ruined food.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Photos I have Taken of People Taking Photos of Dumb Shit

When you live in a city with a lot of tourists, art students, models and photographers, it's not unusual to see someone taking a picture. You get used to it, you even get a little jaded about it. And sometimes you think, really? You're gonna take a picture of that?

And thus, a photo series was born. 

This last one turned out to be actual French pop star Yelle
who just played at First Ave in Minneapolis and at Coachella.
If you look at the photos on her Facebook site, 
you will see her wearing this exact leopard-print catsuit in concert.

Who knows, maybe the rest of this photo series will also turn out to contain famous people, amazing works of art (I mean, besides the Victory of Samothrace), or the work of celebrated photographers!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Random Cool Things in Paris, part 2

Here's another couple of fun or interesting things we've seen over the past couple of months, which for one reason or another we didn't write a whole post about at the time.

1) Les Passages de Paris
We Minnesotans like to take the rather dubious credit for inventing the indoor shopping mall (oh how I do loathe Southdale). But we can blame the concept on the Parisians, who began building covered, semi-enclosed shopping passages in the early 19th century. Frankfurt school philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote a great deal about them, if you're into that kind of thing. One day back in February, Jeff and I set out to explore some of them.

Some of them are lovely, with what appear to be original lamps and decorations, and are filled with high-end clothing, antiques, gift shops, little cafés and restaurants, or design offices. Others are less well-preserved and a little ratty, but still retain some charm. If you get out of the center of town, you can find passages that are full of cheap wholesale clothing shops. Up by Porte St-Denis, some of them seem to host prostitutes, but we're not sure.

2. Église St-Eustache
We went into this church on a whim - we just happened to be walking by, and we wondered what it was like inside. Pretty cool, it turns out. This church was built in the late 16th-early 17th century, so it is a good example of the late Gothic style. Here's their website, in French, but if you've got Google translator you can figure it out.

And here's the apse end, peeking out through the Passage St-Eustache.

The nave and the organ.

Not sure who scandalized Peter Lorre so much,
but we didn't know he was a Catholic cardinal, either.

St-Eustache is right by les Halles in the 1st, for centuries the largest wholesale food market in Paris and the setting of Émile Zola's novel, Le Ventre de Paris [The Belly of Paris]. But the old market was demolished in 1971 and the food vendors banished to the suburbs. The diorama below dramatizes their departure.

There is now an underground shopping mall and a large, not terribly appealing park where the old Halles used to be. The city has ambitious plans to remake the space yet again.

We have just over two weeks left here in Paris, and parts of them will be pretty busy, but we'll try to update a couple more times before we leave.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Paris Parks

If it weren't totally obvious how much we love the Paris park system, I have to tell you we just spent most of a week dragging a friend from one park to another, plopping him down on our pique-nique blanket with wine and cheese, and exclaiming "Isn't this fantastic!" And truly, it is a good time.

Place des Vosges

Jardin de Reuilly

More of our pictures of sundrunk Parisians here and there

Paris parks are not only places where you can huff flowers or promenade yourself. If there's sunshine, there is essentially a big, happy, relaxed party on every lawn in every park, where you can read, nap, have a meal or an apéro, people-watch, dodge flying toddlers, and otherwise just enjoy the life.

This may be a common experience in large cities, where people tend to live in tiny apartments without any green space to call their own. But as far as we know, it is not very common in Minneapolis, where many people have their little patch of land and stay within their fences. At home, we don't hang out among strangers nearly as much; so we were really surprised to find that we liked being two of a hundred or so people sitting around together. Not necessarily paying any attention to each other, but relaxing in proximity. At least for us, the Parisian habit of really using and enjoying public spaces, with the rest of the public, is new and different and enormously pleasant.

We have repeatedly vowed to each other to start a pique-nique ritual when we get home. Frankly I'm not sure it'll be quite the same if we can't be in a giant field with a ton of other people, but we'll try. Expect to see us spreading out the big yellow blanket somewhere in Minnehaha Park later this summer.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Musée Carnavalet Garden

Musée Carnavalet houses a collection related to the history of Paris. Entry to the museum, as well as the clean, functional bathrooms, is free, which is a great thing to keep in mind if you've downed too many Heinekens with your lunch at l'As du Falafel. While you can see much of the garden through the doorway on Rue des Francs Bourgeois, you need to enter through the courtyard on Rue de Sevigné to enjoy the view without the roving hordes. Get cleared through security, enter the lobby and then head out the wooden door at the end of the corridor to the left. Voilà - roses and topiary!