Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Holidays in Paris

I won't actually be in Paris for Christmas, but that won't stop me from taking advantage of the winter events in Paris.

Blvd. Haussman

Just like in big cities in the states (and in fact preceding them), the big department stores in Paris have always done their best to decorate for the holidays, and the most important part of that is the design of the store-front windows. So, instead of going to Macy's, etc., in New York, I went to Boulevard Haussman in Paris to see the stores Printemps and Galleries Lafayette.
It was a bit busy on the sidewalks in front of the aforementioned windows, with wooden platforms for the little ones to get a better view, those little ones' strollers still occupying space on the sidewalk and those of us who are merely young at heart trying to squeeze in for a glimpse. But, I must say, it was the ideal of perfection when compared to my last visit to the Macy's windows, with crowds four persons thick barricaded into straight lines up and down 5th Ave., not to mention the general walking traffic trying to make use of what was left of the sidewalk and, even possibly, trying to catch a peek at the windows without taking the time or effort to wait in the corral with all the other cattle.

In order to appeal to every demographic, there was an interesting juxtaposition of animated puppetry and bizarre mannequin displays with a Nordic Winter theme. Commercialism at its creepiest.

Adorable wolves causing havoc.

Creepy mannequin with lots of hair, surrounded by stuffed woodland creatures.

Cute bears taking photos.

Strange mannequins wearing fur.

I also had the fortunate chance to go ice skating in front of the Hôtel de Ville with some friends. We had to wait a week and a half for a nice (rain free) night when we were all available, finally we had a nice, crisp cold night to spend on the ice. It was a busy night at the rink, with plenty of skaters much better and much worse than us.

Here I am, getting my 'ice legs', as Caitlyn called it.

And here's Caitlyn, Jennifer and Christina in front of the Igloo that housed the ice skates and benches for changing into them. I like the igloo. It's a nice touch.

This shot was not easy.

A touch of red on the cheeks and nose show just how chilly it was.

Smile, Christina! You're on candid camera!

From Paris, Fall 2007

Make sure to check out the rest of my photos by clicking on the album link.

And Happy Holiday, everyone!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

August Rush

Besides dinner once or twice and an all-nighter at a club by Moulin Rouge, I haven't really done anything all month long- and I'm not exaggerating. Starting with the week of vacation for Toussaint and followed up by three weeks of student strikes, I really haven't had class. I went to a concert (which you know already if you read about Rufus), I had dinner with some friends for two different birthdays and I went to a club last weekend. Other than that, nada, zip, zilch, zero.

But there is one good thing that has come out of that. I've spent way too much time watching tv and movies on the internet (that's not the good thing), but today I finally watched something truly magical. Yes, Enchanted was fantastic, romantic and adorable, but being a fairy tale, I expected magic from the beginning. In August Rush, however, I didn't really know what I was expecting; but what I got was truly magic. At the end, it felt as though I should be crying, but it was just too happy and wonderful for tears to come. (If I were Christina, though, I'm sure I would have been balling.) Freddie Highmore is really just getting better with age; Kerri Russell, too. And who wouldn't wish they could fall in love with Jonathan Rhys Meyers on a roof-top above Washington Square Park? See this movie- I implore you! It's the kind of movie that makes a person happy to be alive.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rufus the King, the Queen, the Jester

If the man weren't gay, I'd be in love. Heck, maybe I am a little anyway, that kind of far away celebrity love that I like so much because it's safe. All I know is, he makes me smile, when he smiles, throws backs his hair, glows in the dark, wears tights and heels. In other words: What a fantastic concert last night!

The walking, the constant walking...

Okay, so the transit strike is still happening. And as I found out after walking 45 minutes to school, Paris III is still 'blocked'. So, I spent about an hour in the library reading and resting, and then I tried to make my way to the concert. I gave myself a little over 2 hours to get there, which turned out to be enough time, but I was hoping that part of that would have been spent getting a bite to eat before the show. That didn't work out so well.

I first tried the train, because I had checked hourly on the status of the 7 train, which would have taken me almost as far as I needed to go. I stood on the platform for 30 minutes, and there were three trains that went by- all in the other direction, and all back to back, like it was some sort of fluke. The most annoying part was that there was a lot of noise in the tunnel that made it sound constantly as if a train were about to show. But no. So, I resigned myself to walking and headed on my way.
Walking down the street, not 5 minutes after I left the train, it started raining. So, I checked to see what was going on with the bus situation. There was a bus stop nearby, and it turned out that that particular bus would take me almost exactly where I needed to go. The wait time was 15 minutes, so I decided to risk it. Bad idea. The bus was completely packed, and only about half of the people at the stop made it onto the bus- and I was not one of them. Not pushy enough, I guess.

I really didn't want to be a wet, resentful scrooge when I got to the concert, so I tried one last thing. I went to a taxi stand that I remembered being near the Sorbonne. Unlike in other cities, you can't just flag down a cab in Paris; you have to call a taxi and wait for it at a designated taxi stand. It's a little annoying (not that I've taken a cab since the day I moved all of my luggage into my place), but unfortunately, I was not the only one with that idea at that particular stand. No taxis in sight, I decided once and for all to hoof it all the way.

It wasn't so bad, really. My feet hurt a little when I got there, but the concert itself was enough to lift my spirits. The real sad part came when I had to walk home. The concert ended around 11pm, and I figured I probably would have just ended up waiting around for the train that would never come (since service ends around midnight during the week), so I found the most direct route, popped my headphones into my ears and started off. A little over an hour later, and sporting a slight limp, I was home. I will say this though- if you are going to get stuck in a city during a transit strike, Paris is the place to do it; I walked between the Caroussel du Louvre and the Tuileries Garden where the giant, well-lit ferris wheel is, with a view of the Eiffel Tower and puddles on the ground reflecting all the light- and suddenly the 9 or so miles I walked yesterday all made sense. This morning, the balls of my feet may be a little swollen, but I'm alive, and if not kicking, at least still able to walk.

And as for the concert.

What a fantastic show! Rufus started out wearing a neon green and black suit that looked fantastic in the dark (with the help of a black light, I'm sure) and a golden crown of leaves à la Caesar. He had to remove it, since it was sliding off of his head, but he was hoping to pull off a sort of "Gayligula" look- which he pointed out at the first pause. It was fine for me that he had to remove it, though, because then his full hair-tossing potential could be unleashed. For the second act, he changed into lederhosen. Freakin' hilarious.

After the required pretend end of the show, he came back for the encore wearing a big comfy white robe (like you'd find in a hotel room) and played a couple of songs at the piano. All of the other musicians had left the stage for a song between just he and his piano, and when he finished the song, he came to the front of the stage where there was a chair waiting with a bag of goodies. Those goodies just happened to be big flashy costume jewelry, a black fedora and high-heeled shoes, which he slipped on before removing his robe to reveal a black tuxedo jacket (mini-skirt length) and black stockings. Oh, yeah, he also put on some bright red lipstick to go with the ensemble. I tell you, I am jealous of the man's legs. The band members came back onto stage in black suits and some of them served as backup dancers for an amazingly choreographed "Get Happy", which is apparently a leftover from his Judy Garland Carnegie Tribute concert.

I was completely blown away by the live version of some of the songs I had listened to a hundred times (and am listening to right now to relive the experience), particularly "The Art Teacher" and "Slideshow". The former was performed solo on the piano and was so beautiful live that it was like I was hearing it for the first time. "Slideshow" was performed with full lights and sound, accentuating the emotion with technocolor, which was incredibly fun. Rufus performed a few more of Judy's songs, and also sang an Irish folk song that his mother had requested of him, this one in the traditional Irish tenor style with a French horn accompaniment and no microphone. Boy can really project.

One of the best parts of the show was listening to Rufus speak French, which he can do pretty well. But every time he didn't know a word or phrase, he'd just seamlessly shift to English. It was a nice use of Franglais. He said that if his album went gold, he would learn to speak French fluently. He then went on to ask everyone to stop buying his album so he wouldn't have to. His banter was very amusing. I especially liked the part where he played some older songs, and introducing "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" he said that during his second album, it was apparently chocolate that was more of a vice to him than cigarettes (which leads one to believe that he had put on a little weight at the time). Before "Not Ready to Love", Rufus asked the audience to tell him that we love him. We just thought, "Of course we love you, Rufus" and went ahead and said so. He followed it up with the back of his hand across his brow and "I can't" (in French, of course), and led right into the song (the title is also the first line, with an "I'm" beforehand to make a full sentence).

I was very lucky to be seated where I was. Sure it was the back row on the side (normally a pretty crappy seat), but there were some people at the end of the row who didn't show up, so I was able to move down the row to see Rufus at the piano, or stay in my seat when he was at center stage. And I was able to stand up without annoying anyone. I don't think I've ever been to a concert where everyone stayed seated the whole show. It was a little disconcerting. So, to put things right, I stood.

No Slideshow Here

If you couldn't tell, I really enjoyed the concert and wanted to chronicle it for you, and for my own memory. I didn't take pictures so that the images might stay in my head longer and stronger, instead of relying on a camera to remember for me.

If you ever get the chance to borrow a Rufus Wainwright album, and you have not listened to him before, I highly recommend you take a listen. He is entertaining and thoughtful. And if I can imaginarily love him [;)], so can you.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Paris en Grève!

This whole city is on Strike! We are in the second (longer, more severe) stretch of a transit strike. So, I didn't go anywhere yesterday after walking all over the 5th arrondissement Wednesday. And why was I walking all over the Latin Quarter and its environs? Because I was trying to go to school. Why couldn't I go to school? Because the university students are blocking entry to all regular courses (including my literature courses) in order to protest a law voted in earlier this year that will change the university system here in France. The current system has its flaws (overcrowding and worn-down facilities being the primary ones) and the new law hopes to alleviate them by allowing the schools to accept only certain number of students and to get money from sources outside the government. This is the system in many other countries, the problems being (from the point of view of the students here) that the new system will discriminate, that not everyone will have access to the universities because they won't be able to afford it, and that big companies will be able to "buy" the universities, corrupting them. On one hand, I completely understand their complaints (every time I look at the amount of student loans I'm going to have to pay back some day), but on the other, there are flaws in the current system that are serious and need to be fixed.

Trying to get into the Sorbonne.

Translation: Good news: Paris is fighting! (the original sign reads: Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris III, that is my school)

The father of the family I work for was of a completely different opinion. As he sees it, the law was already passed by those whose job it is to take care of legislature, so it's too late for the students to be protesting. And furthermore, they are just an anarchist minority who are keeping the majority of students from going to class like they would prefer. They do their voting to see who would like to continue blocking the university (each school has their own vote) by a show of hands, which is apparently not really legal since they really eye the vote instead of counting.

Since the trains are running at around 10%, I walked back home. I decided to take the most direct route down Blvd Port Royal/Montparnasse. On the way, I passed hoards of people in the street- demonstrations or protests by certain left-wing political groups taking advantage of the transit strike to get people together. They were all over, with vans cranking loud music, and people ranting through loud-speakers. And of course they had banners and balloons with their parties' respective colors, logos, etc. What a spectacle!

And for the complete experience, a little video footage:

And you hear that wind? Yeah, it was cold.

That was all on Wednesday. It is now Friday. There are still less than 10% of trains in and around Paris. The universities are still closed (not that I had class today anyway). And tomorrow I'm taking a bus (privately rented, thank goodness) to Normandy. It will be a nice break from the craziness.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Keep 'Em Coming!

I've got some more adorable pictures of Gavin. You know you wanna see these!

From Pregnant sist...

The bib says: Nothing's wrong. I'm just testing you. How cute!

Looks like someone's angry!

Musée de Picasso

Weekend before last, I took a trip to the Picasso Museum. It was the first Sunday of the month, which means something very special: free museums! And Picasso is a little pricey because of the prestige, so I decided to take advantage of the free day. But then again, so did a whole lot of other people. Regardless, it was a nice place.

The museum was organized chronologically, I guess you could say. The exhibit was about the evolution of cubism, so they showed some preliminary works, followed by pieces influenced by African art, then dissections of drawings that led to cubist pieces. And there were lots of guitars: painted, sculpted, collaged. I think he found the guitar a clear example of how an object could be broken down into its parts and represented in the abstract.

The major problem with the Picasso Museum was the building's layout. I really found it difficult to find the last part of the exhibit. For the most part, I just followed the rest of the people, and occasionally an arrow pointing in the "sens de la visite". But at one point, I found myself going down 2 or 3 flights of stairs all at once, and then into a room full of sculptures that didn't seem to have anything to do with the exhibit. There were some interesting sculptures there, so I'm glad I stumbled upon it, of course. And that that feels how I found it- by accident.

Then I walked back upstairs and out to the front trying to find more. I was convinced that I couldn't have seen everything. I wandered around feeling foolish, until I found a sign that pointed toward the garden and café. So, on my way to the garden, I saw a room with more pieces in it. It led to a few more rooms, not a lot, but enough to make me feel as though I had possibly finally seen everything. Since I seemed to be done inside, I went out to the garden. It was kind of chilly, so I didn't stay long, even though it was completely charming in its simplicity.
From Paris, Fall 2007

There was another exhibit called Towards Guernica or something similar. That exhibit incorporated Picasso's works and a photographer's around the theme of war and violence. There was a photo exhibit on the Rwandan genocide. There was a comic that Picasso worked on attacking Franco around the same time as the bombing at Guernica. Unfortunately, the Picasso museum doesn't have the Guernica painting. It should be in the Guggenheim in Bilbao since that is in Basque country, but I'm not sure where it is at the moment. There was a large painting that Picasso did based on the atrocities in Korea. I never knew about that painting. It was quite touching. I shouldn't really be surprised that he would be active in protesting the Korean war. I mean, I do love the Picasso peace dove painting.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

They sure do try

Well, it looks like the French tried to copy Central Park at some point, but they couldn't find a central location, nor a place as big as we have in New York. What they did succeed in doing was to make an absolutely adorable gem of a park that is also a very good place to job. The paths are wide, it's challenging with sloping hills and the occasional stairway, and there is even the option of running on the gravel pathways that border the wide concrete paths. I am glad I stumbled upon it.

I guess the major difference between this park and the parks in New York is the sculptures. I know that they have them in Central Park, but they are more likely to be something huge, and possibly with some sort of gimmick- like the Alice in Wonderland sculpture. Here they just threw in some works of art that look good in the park and can handle the weather. Of course, they could have chosen them very carefully for all I know, but here's an example.

The park looks nice in the fall weather. The combination of water and leaves is quite nice and soothing. I like to sit and look around a bit after my jog. There seem to always be a lot birds: ducks, seagulls, pigeons of course. Watching the birds is good for me. I seem to have a slight fear of birds, especially when they are flying at my head. I think I had too many pet birds bite me when I was younger, or even when I was in college and my mom at a couple of cockatiels.

I'm not sure what it is, but for jogging, I prefer this park over the Luxembourg Gardens. Maybe I'm just used to the style of park where they try to make the area seem more natural and wild, as opposed to the French style where everything is obviously planned out with symmetry and lots of flowers. Maybe it's less crowded with tourists and more populated with joggers like me. Whatever it is, I think I will take the little extra effort it takes to get there from now on.

Monday, November 12, 2007

In other news... I'm an aunt!

Yes, one week ago today, after 32 hours of pain and struggle, my heroic sister pushed out her little 7lb 4oz bundle of joy - Gavin Cannavaro Ortega. He is adorable, and I have the photos to prove it.

I am personally of the opinion that he looks just like my sister as a baby, at least in the lips and nose. He definitely has his mommy's nose. And I can't wait to see him at Christmas. He's gonna be so big by the time I get to see him!

Videos are now available!

Well, thanks to Google Video I was finally able to get that video tour of Basilique St Rémi online. Unfortunately, it was too big for YouTube; and even though Google owns YouTube, or something like that, I had to go to Google Video to be able to upload the file. So, here it is. Go with me on a virtual tour of the basilica. Be charmed by the light and the choir practicing in the background. And please don't be too annoyed by the blurring and jarring; I was walking hurriedly around without really looking where I was going, and I was using a camera, not a video camera, so the quality isn't the best. But I think you can enjoy it all the same.

I also have a couple videos of the interior of the Notre Dame cathedral in Reims. They are a little dark and crude, but you can at least see the color from the windows.

And finally, I have a very short video of the view from the top of Mont-St-Michel, in case the pictures just weren't enough for you.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Well, Halloween wasn't a total bust in this foreign place where the day after is actually more important. Although I did go to a club with two of my friends, we (like about 70% of the people waiting in line) didn't get in. But, we took a nice stroll down the very crowded Champs-Elysée in the middle of the night.

But before feeling dissed and dismissed by some middle-aged Frenchy in a glam beret, I had a lovely time meeting some French students who were going to be a part of the MICEFA exchange in the Spring semester, and some other students who were studying English and were looking for some conversation. After having a couple of drinks in a cozy café, a friend Aleksandra and I did a little bar hopping with a small group of the French students. I drank a shot called Monkey brains (which eerily enough looked a little like brains, but then, hey! it was Halloween!) and lost a scarf. But we found a nice place in the Latin Quarter that I might even be able to find again, since it is next to a little "passage" that I remember from my trip here in January. We chatted in that oh so international fashion where everyone speaks a foreign language so that one person asks a question in less-than-perfect French and gets a response in less-than-perfect English. This game is especially fun when drinking.

From Paris, Fall 2007

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Mont-St-Michel

Hello, from the top of the Mont-St-Michel!

So, I finally sat down and got these pictures on Picasa. So now, I can write about it.

Mont-St-Michel is a wonder- natural, architectural, historical. It is simply put, beautiful. It is a small island off the north coast of France in the English Channel. It has been around for about 1000 years, when it started out with just a church at the top, then the town sprang up around it, building down the hill. There are signs at the entrance showing the times for high and low tide. So, I learned a new vocabulary word (which suddenly appeared to me to be everywhere) and found out that, at least at this time of year, it is safe to park a car or bus in the parking lot without fear of it being swept away in the tide. I remember hearing at some point that people could only visit during certain hours, but maybe they have added some ground to the surrounding area, along with the permanent road they built leading straight to the entrance.

A view from the bus as we drove up to the island.

When you enter, it's like a bustling medieval street, tight and winding, full of shops and people.

A lovely little street near the entrance.

The abbey had a prison where prisoners were occasionally used as hamsters to turn a giant wheel that would pull cargo up the side of the Mont by pully.

And there were also small chapels, dining halls and a scribes' room (which had lots of windows so the scribes could take advantage of the light). There was also another church on this small island, I suppose to accommodate all the people that eventually lived here. Now, all the houses have been turned into shops, restaurants and museums. But that little church is still there, and still functions (as does the abbey).

Joan of Arc at the door of the church.

There are some great views from the top of the Abbey, too. It's really a beautiful location.

We had a lovely tour of the inside of the Abbey, and then went to a restaurant with a view out onto the water for lunch. That was a lovely day. We're going back to the coast in a couple of weeks for a trip to the Normandy beaches.

From Mont St Michel

Monday, October 29, 2007

Interesting things I've eaten lately.

Because I haven't even tried to load my Mont-St-Michel photos onto my computer yet, I am here to write a little something that doesn't require pictures. I was sitting down waiting for the door to open to one of my classrooms this week when I pulled out a pen and paper and started writing a list. So here it is:

Gratin Dauphinois, which is a fantastic version of potatoes au gratin with crème fraiche, emmenthal cheese and spices which I unfortunately don't remember. And it was homemade by M Riey.

Fennel. I ate fennel as a vegetable. Also prepared by Monsieur Riey, this was the Florence (or sweet) variety as opposed to the fennel usually used as an herb. I was unaware that sweet fennel existed, but I was happy to find out that it is tasty.

Tea. Okay, that's not terribly interesting, but I bought a cuppa from a vending machine (the French have very high-class vending machines), on which I pushed the 'thé fort citron' button, but forgot to reset the sugar to nothing. So, what I ended up drinking tasted like a warm, liquid lemon drop. I think it was that lovely liquid lemon drop that inspired this list, in fact. I had another the following day (hey, it was cold outside).

A quarter roasted chicken. The only real reason this is an interesting dish is because I eat it regularly, whether in a Parisian café or a down-home American restaurant. And that's because it's almost always fantastic. In this case, it was in a little restaurant with a view of the English Channel in Mont-St-Michel. It was especially good this time because it was served with fries, and because it was a nice warm meal and a cold day.

Bounty. It would appear that in France Mounds candy bars are called Bounty. If it isn't the same exact candy bar, it's really darn close. Kind of like how a Mars bar is like a Milky Way in the US.

Uncle Ben's Curry, out of a jar. Yes, Uncle Ben makes curry. Hey!- it goes with rice, and that IS his specialty. I didn't have any chicken, but I did manage to boil some rice to go with. Somehow, it didn't taste at all like the rice I remember making in my now-defunct rice maker. When I get a new apartment back in the States, a rice cooker will be the first thing I buy.

Shark fin soup and Thai beer. I went to the Parisian version of Chinatown (which is kind of a joke next to the one in New York), and had a nice dinner with friends on Saturday. Christina misses her dad's cooking, especially the shark fin soup, so we had a little of that. I found that it tasted a little like gravy. It was almost thick and a little oily, sort of like egg-drop soup, except brown. The beer from Thailand was a nice light lager that tasted a lot like my American beer of choice, Bud Light.

That is, of course, only a part of my diet here in France. I eat a lot of yogurt for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, fruit for dessert. Tonight I'm gonna try to makes something with lentils, spinach, rice and shredded emmenthal cheese. With a hotplate and a microwave, we'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A little behind

The day before classes started (that's a little over two weeks ago now; sorry about that) I went to a concert. I hadn't heard of the band (the New Pornographers) but a bunch of people I know here were going, so I went too. The band is originally Canadian, but apparently some of them live in NYC now.
The concert was really nice. It started out with a French band that sang in English, then a French woman all by her lonesome who also sang in English, and who was incredibly nervous. The amazing thing was that people were sitting on the floor during these two acts, and when the songstress came on, some of the crowd hushed those who were talking. Absolute silence. It was really something I had never seen before at a concert.
And then the rocking started. And the jokes about French (since the group was Canadian and those Canucks have a special relationship with the French language). It was a blast. I also don't believe I have been so sober at a concert since I turned 21.

And then school started. And everything's going fine, except that I'm stressed out, but what's new there?

I have been trying to take advantage of the lovely city in which I live, so I took a stroll on lovely day with some friends... through a cemetery. Well, to be specific, Père Lachaise Cemetery, where Jim Morrison is entombed. It's a beautiful place to take a stroll, and there are some influential people resting there... for all eternity, or at least until their lease is up.

I went to see Edith Piaf's grave, which I don't think I saw the other times I've been there. I'm sure I was prompted this time by the fact that I saw the bio-pic of her earlier this year, and I was very moved. If you haven't seen La Vie en Rose, I highly recommend it.

I also took a lovely stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens. I actually took a look around the place this time, instead of just jogging through it. I noticed how nice the plants looked, even though it was getting cold. And the palace is nice too.

On the first Sunday of every month, the national museums in France are free. Woohoo! So, the first Sunday of October, I went with Caitlyn to the Centre Pompidou and saw some interesting modern art (read interesting as either odd or actually intriguing). There was also a nice view of the sunset from the top floor of the center. It was a nice afternoon followed by dinner at a fantastic Indian restaurant that we found near the museum. I'm guessing that we will be returning to eat there again, since that was our second time there.

This is one of the weird ones.

Check out this room.

I guess what I liked most was that there were so many 'interactive' displays. Videos, special rooms to enter, etc. were everywhere. Very cool.

And then there was the sunset. It was a very nice view, but unfortunately the windows got in the way of a good shot.

From Paris, Fall 2007

So, check out the other pictures in my Picasa album.

I also went to the Museum of Romantic Life, which is a museum mostly dedicated to George Sand and her entourage. There were jewelry and other artifacts that belonged to Ms. Sand, Chopin, and her children. There were portraits of George and her family, and drawings/ paintings done by George and her family. It was all set in a lovely little house with songs by Chopin playing quietly in the background. Very quaint. And of course romantic. Unfortunately, no pics of this one. For some reason, I didn't feel that it was the kind of place where one should take pictures. Maybe it was just that all the older people there weren't taking pictures, but that tends to be the case with French people. They are more interested in what is going on than taking pictures of it. But, then again, they can just visit again some time soon- they live here. So, I reserve my right to take pictures of whatever whenever, even sometimes when there is a sign saying not to. Then I just ask first.

Until later...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Week Off

Well, I had a week off before starting classes, and I just spent a lot of time walking. I didn't have my camera with me much of the time, but I did snap a shot or two with the good ole camera phone.

I registered on Wednesday, and afterwards I walked all the way from Rue Censier to the Opéra Garnier - which is a long walk, I assure you.

View Larger Map

During my walk, I went past some fountains and sculpture on the boulevard leading up to the Luxembourg Gardens.

In other cities, this would have just been some green space, a median with bushes or trees to make it look pretty. But I'm in Paris; so here, there's art in the streets.

I also spent some time in the same area (or at least the part North of the Seine - which is la rive droite, for those of you not in the know on Parisian geographical terminology) when I spent some time with a Parisian woman I met who was interested in practicing her English in exchange for French conversation practice for me. We visited the Palais Royal, which I had never seen on the inside. There's a large garden and a sculpture that takes up a whole courtyard.

I only got out to jog twice during that week; first it was too cold to go out, then it rained non-stop for like three days. The weather is not so good at the moment either, though there is a little bit of sunshine out there today. During my jog, I took a moment to sit and rest and observe; what I saw was a pigeon who seemed to really be looking for something. I stayed long enough to see that in fact, that pigeon was looking for some grub, possibly literally - it was looking for worms. And it actually found one while I was watching it. What a hard little worker; it just wouldn't give up.

From Paris, Fall 2007

The most important thing about that week off was getting scheduled for classes, but I didn't really think that was noteworthy enough in a visual documentation sort of way, so no pictures. So, finally I know what classes I'm taking this fall - contemporary narrative fiction, medieval poetry with a focus on François Villon and Grammaire du texte (which is, obviously, a grammar class, but it's one that focuses on how grammar effects content). I'm attending the University of Paris III, otherwise known as La Sorbonne Nouvelle, and my grammar course is at the Sorbonne. So, I am actually attending classes in the Latin Quarter. Centuries worth of students have studied there, and now, I am too. Lucky me.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Out on the Ville

So, I'have had the chance to go out a few times here in Paris. I went to the theater, to dinner and to have drinks in some interesting places.

This is the lovely theater where we saw a "spectacle" (the French term) with four musician/comedians. They played a wide variety of music - from Renaissance, through classical to modern music - with two violins, a viola and a cello. There was a blues song that they played all together on the cello - the cellist played as normal with a bow and the strings, another guy plucked the strings, the third guy held his bow to the bottom of the strings to make them give off a more metallic sound and the last guy sang while occasionally using his bow on the long, thin piece of metal that was the base of the cello. I only wish I knew the name of the song they played, because I know I recognized it.

(Sorry for the quality of this picture. I tried to get a picture of the posters by the entrance of the theater, but the spotlights on them made the poster half white.)

(Voilà, the poster half covered in light.)

I went out to dinner the last day of the introductory French classes with the other American and Canadian students in the group. It was a buffet, and I would just like to note that the manner in which the American students attacked the food as soon as it was brought out is really no different than what the French would have done. I saw a buffet of French people first-hand in Montoire, and at that buffet I had to worm my hand around a few people at the corner of the buffet table just to grab some cheese and fruit. Also, there were three of the teachers from the courses we had just finished, and the oldest lady was pretty much as bad as the students - trying to get to the food as soon as it was brought out.
We had a good time, even though not everyone got very much food or wine. It was all tasty, and, of course, it was a good excuse to get together and hang out.

The restaurant was down this "passage" - it was actually called a passage and not a street or boulevard or anything. And if we hadn't been very alert at the time (because we ran into two other MICEFA students who were convinced that we had already passed it) we would have walked right by it. It looked like a big doorway to a courtyard or something. Paris is full of little nooks and crannies like that though.

And here I am with two of my new-found friends, Jennifer and Christina, at the Bistrot du Passage. (And no, I didn't spell bistro incorrectly. Sometimes, the French spell it with a T on the end.)

After dinner, I went with a bunch of New Yorkers to the main street by the restaurant, and miraculously there were wine and wine glasses!

We passed around a few bottles, someone went to buy some more, people were singing, someone bought pizza... and then there were a few other things that happened that are just too wrong to mention. I would like to say that I did not sing or drink too much. But I did block someone from view while he did something inappropriate in public. I tried to balance integrity with being a team player, and that is just what happened.