Happe Paris (PART UNE)

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An awesome drawing by one of my preschool students, a ‘bon voyage’ gift of sorts.  There we both are, right next to the Eiffel Tower!  

Bonjour, mes amis! I apologize for the long hiatus from posting, but never fear – the blog is back! Despite how it may appear, I really am still committed to sharing stories and photos from my amazing journey with you – it’s just been so much busier than I imagined it would be! (It’s a good thing I’ve been keeping a journal to help keep the memories fresh). So without further ado, I’ll dive right in and pick up where I left off…

 

After my bittersweet departure from beautiful Nepal, I arrived in Paris with a week to kill, a small to-do list, a guide book, and of course, a bit of jet lag. I took the train from Charles de Gaulle to Gare du Nord (lugging my many heavy bags along the way), and caught a taxi to the 11th Arrondissement where I was renting a friend of a friend’s flat for the week. I was immediately struck with what can only be described as ‘reverse culture shock’ – how strange it felt to be in such an orderly and clean city! What’s this? Stoplights, crosswalks, lanes? What strange land have I found myself in!? It felt odd and a bit disconcerting to be back in a ‘Western’ society, and I was struck by how quickly humans can adapt to new cultures; how quickly what used to be ‘normal’ can seem strange and unfamiliar.

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The flat was on the sixth floor of an old Parisian building on the rue Saint-Sebastian, and was very cute…

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And yes, those six flights of steps were definitely a bear at the end of the day, but it was worth it for the flat’s small balcony with a view of Parisian rooftops and the tip of the Eiffel Tower in the distance – I enjoyed many dinners, glasses of wine, and sunsets there, indeed…

 

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Look closely and you’ll see the tip of the Eiffel Tower during the evening light show…

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I spent the week running a few errands to prepare for my upcoming residency, wandering the streets of the city, and recovering from jet lag and ‘reverse culture shock.’ (Hot showers, fresh salads, and sushi were instrumental in my recovery from the latter – oh, how I missed these things in Nepal!)…

 

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Most days I’d choose a neighborhood on the map, and wander off in that direction, staring up at the beautiful architecture and moving in and out of boutiques and fresh-air markets…

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In Paris, I noticed how much more I had to point my camera UP than when I was in Kathmandu. This shift in scale was jarring at first, and made Paris feel a bit cold and distant, as opposed to the crowded intimacy of the Kathmandu streets. Still, it’s hard to argue that the architecture of Paris isn’t absolutely beautiful…

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Check out this ‘green’ wall… Love it!

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These bike rental stations are all over the city, and seem to be widely used.  Genius!

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I loved the displays at this button/fabric boutique…

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This little vintage shop on Montmartre was decidedly less organized…

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And Paris is packed with open-air markets for fresh flowers, fruits, veggies, and much more…

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My bounty from the market near the flat…

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Of course, all this walking around gets very tiring!  Fortunately, Paris is packed to the brim with charming cafés where you can take a little rest.  I spent many hours during the week sitting at sidewalk café tables, writing in my journal, plotting my next move with my guidebook, and watching Parisian life pass by.  Of course, this is a huge part of Parisian culture (and the larger French culture in general) – I just love that drinking a glass of wine in the sun and people-watching counts as a ‘cultural experience.’  Sign me up!

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Café culture is so ingrained in France, even American-as-apple-pie McDonald’s can’t fight it…

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After a day or two of touring Paris, it became clear that the quirky and creative shop windows are some of the best little surprises the city has to offer…

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There’s something funny about Barbie dolls and mannequins together…

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And I’m just not sure what to say about this…

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Best window for a hardware store EVER…

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Check out this amazingly carved cow skull that I found in one window…

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Geez.  Put some pants on, man!

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This guy too?  Seriously.  Put some pants on.  I’m not sure how being pant-less will help you sell shirts…

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Do any of these long-lashed-yet-hairless mannequins freak anyone else out?

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Oh, how very FRENCH…

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Talk about snobs… These ladies just turn their noses up at everyone!

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And the city’s walls are covered in street art, no matter the neighborhood. I’ve included a few pictures here, but will publish more in a separate post to follow – there’s far too much of this incredible work to share in this already-too-long post…

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But it doesn’t stop with guerrilla VISUAL arts on the streets of Paris. There are street performers all over as well, singing, dancing, playing instruments, and on and on. This was one of my most favorite aspects of the city, and I loved to stop, watch, listen, clap, and laugh with them – definitely worth a Euro thrown into the hat!

Break dancers at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Élysées…

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VIDEO (and YES, the dancer in this video had blindfolded himself – wow!)

A singer performing and peddling her CD on Montmartre…

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And although the following two performance groups weren’t passing around the hat, I was happy to catch them in action…

A French rock band filming a music video in the 11th Arrondissement…

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VIDEO (And fun fact: I heard this very song on the radio a few weeks later while in a taxi in Marnay-sur-Seine.  I had no idea the band was actually famous enough to be on the radio when I saw them filming!  Unfortunately the cab driver didn’t know their name… If by some crazy chance you happen to know, please pass it along!)

And then there were my all-time favorites: The Michael Jackson Kids!  I found this group of French teens sheltering from a light rain inside the Wall for Peace Monument (at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and, I suppose quite intentionally, just opposite the Military Academy).  They had a boombox blasting all kinds of MJ hits, and were dancing their butts off.  They were unapologetically enthusiastic, and having the best time – they had choreography and everything!  And one boy was even in MJ costume!  They weren’t exactly stellar dancers, as you’ll see from the video, but their adolescent awkwardness and clear love of The King of Pop overshadowed that fact by far, and made them all the more charming.  I wasn’t having a wonderful day, and seeing them brought the first real smile to my face in hours…

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VIDEO (Hang in there through the ‘stomping’ section of the song – it gets so much better after that)…

Of course, in addition to my aimless wanderings, I did my fair share of Touring (with a capital “T”). I figured it was unlikely that I’d do much of it when I return to live in Paris this Spring for another artist residency, so I thought it would be best to take advantage of this free week in the city. Unfortunately, I’m… well… a terrible tourist, and often don’t know much about what I’m seeing. My history teachers would be appalled, I know, but I often get lost in the visual and sensory elements of a place, and tend to be less focused on the ‘what happened to whom and when’ aspect of it all. So though I can’t give you much factual information about most of the following sites, I’ll at least try to name them accurately so you can look up all the ‘what, whom, when’ stuff if you so desire…

Place de la Bastille…

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Hôtel de Ville… (I’ll be living down the street from here when I return to Paris in the Spring!)

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Walking down the Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville with views of la Conciergerie and the Eiffel Tower.  Vendors line the sidewalks selling postcards, souvenirs, and all kinds of antique books, magazines, prints, music, and trinkets…

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Pont des Arts, a pedestrian bridge that runs across the Seine.  The chain-link railings are almost completely covered with padlocks.  Apparently, some years ago couples began writing their names on locks and throwing the keys into the Seine as a romantic gesture – the trend caught on and continues to this day!

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The Institut de France…

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More views from the banks of the Seine…

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Place des Voges… (I’ll be living just down the road from here in the Spring too!)

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Archives Nationales…

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Centre Pompidou…

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l’Église Saint-Eustache…

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Le Louvre des Antiquaires, an incredible high-end antique mall… Oh, there were so many things I loved that I will NEVER be able to have.  Many of the vendors refused to let me take pictures, which was a bummer, but I managed to get a few…

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Le Palais Royal and Gardens…

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Et bien sûr, le Louvre!

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When playing ‘tourist,’ it’s impossible not to take lots of pictures of…well… people taking pictures.  It makes me wonder how many photos of myself are floating around out there in the family albums of strangers…

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le Jardin des Tuileries…

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Place de la Concorde Obélisque…

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Palais de Chaillot, la Tour Eiffel, le Champ de Mars, and the Wall for Peace Monument…

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Hôtel des Invalides and Gardens…

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I couldn’t decide if their courteous attempt to camouflage the scaffolding made it better or worse…

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Opéra national de Paris (Palais Garnier)…

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The Champs Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe…

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Crossing the traffic circle to the Arc in an underground tunnel…

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Looking down on the many, many stairs I had just climbed up to the top of the Arc…

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Looking down on the radiating boulevards…

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The hilltop ‘village’ of Montmartre…

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FINISH READING THIS POST IN  ” Happe Paris (PART DEUX) “

 

One thought on “Happe Paris (PART UNE)

  1. Brenna, your photos are all so sunny and crisp. We were in Paris last November and all our shots are gray and flat! Once again, you’ve captured the feel of the place through your photos and words. Thanks for the trip!

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