2012-04-11 - 4:13 p.m.
I was almost too lazy to look up the word "lazy" in French - it is paresseux.
So...je suis paresseux.
Anyway, as some of you may know, my darling daughter Elizabeth treated me to a mother/daughter trip to Paris - LAST April! That's right 2011. And it's taken me this long to write about it. I tell myself it's because I wanted to keep the fond memories all to myself, and, to some extent, that's true. But, yeah, un peu paresseux, aussi.
In a nutshell,it was une escapade belle,complete with perfect weather, non-stop laughs, delicious food and wine, shopping, art, gardens, fountains, walking, and TALKING, talking, talking... Totally divine!
To start, I was happily surprised to discover that, despite propaganda to the contrary, not ALL French women are thin, effortlessly chic, and impeccably groomed. Thus, I was not the only chubby little saucisson in town. Just sayin'"
I'm sure I've forgotten lots of details, but here's a day-by-day recap to the extent that my sieve-like noggin can remember it all. I'm sure Elizabeth will fill in the gaps with some wise-ass comments and corrections.
Thursday, 4/21/11 - Au revoir, New York. Late night flight on a packed plane, middle seat, with Elizabeth to my left and an elderly woman to my right. We called her "Boca woman," as she was overly tan, displayed obvious signs of nip/tuckery, and was dressed to the nines in a tailored "lady suit" with a little boxy purse on her lap. During the entire seven-hour flight, she never removed her shoes or changed positions. The minute the dinner trays were removed, she put on her eye mask and sat bolt upright, asleep. As I am paranoid about DVT (deep-vein thrombosis), I like to get up and walk around every hour or so, go to the bathroom, check out the other passengers, talk to the flight attendants, you know. Well, "Boca woman" was NOT happy about this. Every time I tapped her shoulder to let me out she gave me a loud breathy "Ugh"and grudgingly stood up, then waited, standing up, till I returned, so she "wouldn't have to get up again" she says. It was hilarious, but I was gooned on Xanax, so whatevs.
Friday, 4/22/11 - Bonjour, Paris! Beautiful sunny morning. Took the RER train from the airport directly to our stop - Saint-Michel. Elizabeth had rented a little apartment in the 5th arrondissement on rue de la Huchette in the famed Latin Quarter, and, since we had some time before meeting the owner Chantal to get the keys, we stopped for an early lunch of Croque-Monsieur and champagne at Caf� Saint-Severin. Chantal was tr�s agr�able, and our apartment was charming and perfectly situated � walking distance to Notre Dame, Musee D�Orsay, Sainte-Chapelle, Jardin des Plantes, Jardin du Luxembourg, Berthillon�tous!
Some views from our apartment:
Rooftops seen from our Paris apartment
Elizabeth captioned this: "friendly neighborhood 'nutsack'"...
First thing we did was walk over to Notre Dame, where we viewed the exterior only. As it was Good Friday, there was a long line and being very lapsed Catholics we chose to seek out macarons and ice cream instead, which were not difficult to find.
In front of Notre Dame, though you can hardly tell
The famous "flying buttresses" behind Notre Dame
We walked along the banks of the Seine for a while�just people-watching and eating our cones. Then we walked over to the Jardin du Luxembourg and ate our first macarons while sitting on those little iron chairs in the late afternoon sun.
On the way back to the apartment, we picked up yogurt, fruit and snacks to stock our fridge�and a bottle of ros�, which we drank while unpacking. Then it was off to dinner at a little restaurant just up the street from our apartment, Le Bourbon, where we received a warm reception from the owner�almost a little too warm. Actually, he just about molested me (but in a fun way!). Anyway, we had lovely salads and shared a fondue�all of which were perfectly delicious. (FYI, recently I looked up Le Bourbon online, and it received almost unanimous BAD reviews for food, attitude and a dirty bathroom; however, we experienced none of this.)
Here's a restaurant on our block where we did NOT eat. Elizabeth noted that somewhere in the world there is a restaurant catalog that actually sells "shawarma" lamps!
We never went here either...though it was tempting
Saturday, 4/23/11 � This was a jam-packed day! We got up and out early-ish because Elizabeth wanted to hit up the Vanves Flea Market, which is smaller and more intimate than the Puces de St-Ouen (Clignancourt). We liked this idea. We bought our daily Mobilis pass for the Metro, and headed to the 14th arr. (BTW, we used the Metro constantly, and it was fast, efficient, and safe�even late at night. We never took a taxi.)
A NYC city subway girl appreciates the Metro
Near Vanves we stopped at a little boulangerie, where we picked up some coffee, a doughy boule, and chaussons de pommes (apple turnovers). Food is always our first priority. The market was filled with great oddities, including medical appliances, toys, fabrics and lace, dinnerware and serving plates, cutlery, books, paintings, prints and posters. E. picked up a lovely little painting and a Vasarely poster from the 60s.
Here are some things we noticed at the flea market�and throughout Paris in general. People fart out loud with impunity. Public farting is just okay, as is coughing and sneezing without any attempt to cover your nose or mouth.
After dropping our flea market finds at the apartment, we headed back out and found a great open air food market, where we bought berries and apples and bread. We stopped in a fancy cheese shop where we were admonished for picking up wrapped wedges to sniff/squeeze. �Ne touchez � rien s'il vous pla�t. Que voulez-vous?� We selected a mix of hard and soft cheeses and walked over to the Jardin des Plantes for a picnic. Some of our most wonderful dining experiences in Paris were impromptu picnics. As we are both vegetarians, fancy (meaty) French cuisine is sort of lost on us. We spent a leisurely hour or so eating our bread and cheese and fruit amidst the trees and flowers in the glorious sunshine.
Lounging around at the Jardin des Plantes
Later in the afternoon, we headed to the Hotel Costes perfume shop. Elizabeth is obsessed with fragrance, and was seeking Eau Baptiste #8 by Iunx, (notes of orange blossom and honey), which is not sold in the States. Mission accomplished! Whilst in the perfume shop, the sales agent shared a fragrance trick with us. When smelling several fragrances consecutively, one can �refresh the olfactory senses� by sniffing the inside of the elbow. Some perfume shops provide coffee beans to clear the nose�but this gentleman insisted that was an unnecessary gimmick.
As we left the perfume shop it started to rain, so we ducked into an outdoor caf� on the covered rue de Rivoli and decided to wait out the rain with champagne and plates of mixed olives and pommes frites. It was the perfect way to rest our weary legs, chat and laugh, and watch people pass by. When the rain stopped, we walked across the street to the Tuileries and the Louvres (again, exterior only). This was a perfunctory visit (must return), but we had fun taking silly tourist-y pictures �pinching� the pyramid at the Louvres (ha, ha�get in line!). The post-rain sky was gray and beautiful as evening fell.
Yes...I DO have the best daughter in the world!
Okay, we know this is lame and tourist-y, but you have to admit it's a cool effect
In the Tuileries after the rain
For dinner that night we ate at a totally forgettable Italian restaurant near our apartment. The pesto was sub-par and the penne Norma disappointing, but so what.
After dinner, Elizabeth met up with her friend Maris and some other young people, and I struggled with one of those crazy Euro bath/showers with a hand-held spray. It was like a really bad cartoon�water spraying everywhere�me freezing and half-submerged in the narrow tub�a mess!
Sunday, 4/24 � Easter Sunday was a mish-mash day. We went to the Marais district specifically to experience the famous falafel at l�As du Fallafel . Despite the global praise, E. and I hated this falafel, which contained weird burned eggplant, so we tossed the sandwiches into the nearest bin�and went looking for more FOOD. Hur�, a boulangerie we were dying to check out, was closed�but Patisserie Pain de Sucre was open, and we bought fruit tarts and pretty pastel pastries and macarons in many colors/flavors and basically gorged ourselves.
While roaming around the Marais we stumbled into the courtyard of the Hotel de Sully, where we discovered this whimsical sculpture.
Me: "Why would a seal be stuck in a pile of mud?
Elizabeth: Um, it's a MOLE... you know...in a "molehill." Get it?"
Then we headed over to the Pompidou Centre and sat outside in the courtyard enjoying our sugar haze and debating whether to go into the museum or not.
Pompidou Center avec photo of Georges Pompidou
We watched with great interest an Asian family with two young boys who were running wildly around the Pompidou courtyard�wearing helmets, as if this were normal play attire. The parents just sat and chatted as the boys ran off way farther than American parents would have allowed without helicoptering over them. This was making me very nervous, so we decided to actually check out the museum.
While modern art is usually NOT my thing, the space was wonderful and the exhibitions amazing. I was mesmerized by a painting of a woman in a red canoe. Don�t ask me the name of the painting or the artist. And there were several whimsical mobiles and colorful soft sculptures that I feigned being deeply interested in/knowledgeable about. Um, yeah�
I LOVE this painting
"Okay, how long do I have to stand here and pretend to be fascinated by these shaving mirrors?"
Later that evening we made the requisite trip to the Eiffel Tower, taking the Metro to the Champ de Mars stop. Walking though the narrow dark streets, the Tower suddenly loomed above us like Godzilla. I�ve heard that Parisians hate the post-Millennial blinged out tower, but I thought it was pretty damn dazzling.
Suddenly the Eiffel Tower just looms above us...like Godzilla
Yes, that's me in the shadows in front of the Tower
We wandered around and under the structure, but did not wait in line for the elevator to the top because a nighttime view is like who the hell cares. Everywhere we turned Senegalese vendors were selling miniature Eiffel Towers�SIX for 1 Euro. How is this possible? E. stopped at an ice cream truck (Monsieur Soft-ee, peut-�tre??) for a strawberry-vanilla swirl cone.
Monsieur Softee! And, of course the cone is color-coordinated with E's dress.
We walked all the way back from the Eiffel Tower (more than four miles) along the twinkling Seine with its tourist-filled bateaux. We passed the Pont de l�Alma tunnel where Princess Diana bit the dust. We passed many historic statues and monuments, including the Algerian War Memorial with the names of the dead in trippy neon lights, ticker-style.
Bateau at le Pont Neuf
Algerian War Memorial
It was a beautiful night, very still. All we could hear were our footsteps crunching along on the gravely quais. By the time we reached Bd. Saint-Michel at 1 a.m. we were STARVING, and the only place open was our old favorite Caf� Saint-Severin�so it was Croque-Monsieur sans jambon and chocolate chaud pour deux.
Monday, 4/25 � Today we walked across the Petit Pont to Ile de la Cit� to visit the Gothic Sainte-Chapelle, featuring the most ancient stained-glass windows in all of Paris. I wasn�t wild about climbing the dark spiral staircase to the upper chapel, but it was worth it to see the magical effect of the sun streaming through those windows. Wowsers!
The rose window at Ste. Chapelle
We cracked up at this WARNING SIGN at the entrance...
"Um...be sure to leave your giant forks and monkey wrenches at home before visiting Ste. Chapelle."
After that, E. wanted to check out Galeries Lafayette, but we discovered it was closed for �Easter Monday.� Note to self,: don�t visit a Catholic country during Easter week.
We stumbled into a sort of mass-market candy shop called La Cure Gourmande, which turned out to be a great place to pick up non-perishable gifts of cookies, caramels, and hard candies in pretty little tins.
We hit up a few Zara shops (yes, we know they have them in the States), where Elizabeth found some great sandals and some very cute things for Virginia. We also found some little purple Mary Jane sneakers for V. at Du Pareil Au Meme, which only just wore out a few months ago.
Later in the afternoon we shlepped out to Montmarte to see Sacr�-Coeur. We walked down a very dodgy street, rue Poulet (that�s right, Chicken Street!), which was chock-a-block with African hair-care emporia�wigs, weaves, extensions, etc. By the time we got to the LONG set of stairs leading up to Sacr�-Coeur, I said �Sacrebleu��and sent Elizabeth off on her own while I waited down below at a little caf� called Au Soleil de La Butte, where I had my first BAD glass of wine in Paris (a lukewarm Chardonnay in a dirty glass served by a rude waitress), whilst seated in the epicenter of the entire smoking world!
The staircase I just couldn't deal with. What's French for "Oy vey"..??
Back in our nabe we had mojitos at a little tapas bar called Esmerelda. Then we opted for Indian food at Safran on rue de la Harpe. The meal was absolutely delicious, but Elizabeth got the �sad-lees� (teary and homesick), so we went back to the apartment and called Mike and Virginia. E. went to sleep, and I stayed up, indulging my late-night Linda weirdness�reading, writing postcards, looking out the window at neighbors' apartments, and watching French television.
Mojitos at Esmeralda
Tuesday, 4/26/11 � Our last full day in Paris�so we had to cram a lot in. Strolled over to the Mus�e d�Orsay, where, in addition to their permanent collections, there was a special Manet exhibition, which was magnifcent. We waited in line for more than an hour, but were happily entertained by mid-western tourists, Euro-babble, and a would-be model with an Eastern European accent who spent the entire hour posing for photos. As we say in Brooklyn, �She really thought who she was!� Anyway, she had the rotting gray teeth of a bulimic, and she seemed completely oblivious to the fact that EVERYONE was agressively goofing on her. Even funnier, she wasn�t even an exotic Slavic refugee; it turns out she was with some school group from Florida!
After the d�Orsay we headed to the Champs Elysee for a leisurely stroll�and to get our daily macaron fix�this time at the legendary Laduree.
Photography is forbidden at Laduree (weird!), but Elizabeth managed to take a stealth picture with her �handbag-cam.�
Ceiling at Laduree from E's "handbag-cam"...Shhhhh
We stopped for lunch at Le Grand Corona on the place de l�Alma and watched les femmes d'affaires on their lunch breaks. They were very well-dressed, well-groomed, and well-Botoxed in this part of town. Lots of menopausal anorexics, too!
After lunch, we looked for the Palais de Tokyo, which was on Elizabeth�s agenda. We thought we�d found it; but, in fact, had stumbled into the Mus�e de l�Arte Moderne de la Ville de Paris instead. We asked several people if they knew where the Palais was, but they feigned total ignorance even though it turned out to be basically in the same building (�Je ne sais pas� � my ass!). Evidently, the MAM, which occupies the eastern wing of the building is owned by the City of Paris, while the Palais de Tokyo, which occupies the western wing, is owned by the French state�so like a little Gallic competition going down.
Turns out the Palais de Tokyo was under construction, so there were like three pieces of art in there, and we were in and out in ten minutes.
One of the three pieces of art at the "under construction" Palais de Tokyo
In the courtyard of the Palais a group of skateboarders were attempting jumps and turns, and they were the worst skateboarders EVER, but, as E. pointed out, they were very cute and had great bods so who cares.
So, these sk8erboys didn't have the moves, but...
The Palais/MAM building itself is separated from the Seine by the Avenue de New York, so we took some goofy photos under that street sign.
Das right...I'm a New Yawker. You wanna piece o' me???
Time was ticking away, and as we had to meet Chantal back at the apartment at 6 p.m. to get our security deposit back, we ambled back to rue de la Huchette. On the way we popped into Aubert, which is the French equivalent of Buy, Buy, Baby. I can�t remember if we actually bought anything.
After Chantal left we polished off our remaining bread, wine, cheese, and pastries�and we began to pack (*sniff*). After that we took a long last walk around our cobblestone nabe, then made a late-evening stop into Monoprix, a chain of amazing stores that are a combination of Duane Reade, Sephora, grocery, wine shop, and JC Penney�all under one roof. I picked up some terrific Nuxe skincare products, a lipstick, and some mandarines�and E. found a couple of bras, I think. Definitely a weird/fun retail experience. Who needs Hermes? (I'm kidding, Liz!)
Sunset over the Seine
Observations, Myths and Commentary
French body odor is NOT a myth; though, in fairness, this probably goes hand-in-hand with the fact that air-conditioning is not as Arctic as in the States, and because the weather was unseasaonably warm for April (70-85 degrees every day).
There is a paucity of pigeons. I don�t know how they manage this. Even in the most popular parks and squares, there is a tolerable pigeon population.
Elizabeth noticed that very few French women had �spray tans� and thus looked somewhat pasty compared to their American counterparts.
Harem pants were EVERYWHERE. This was not a trend we saw in the States in Spring 2011, and we hope NEVER to see it again...anywhere...ever! Harem pants are universally NON-flattering silhouettes created by women-hating designers.
Pedestrian traffic is a kill-or-be-killed situation in Paris. There is no sidewalk courtesy, no logical traffic pattern. The French WILL knock you down if you don�t move over.
I did not get to Cimeti�re du P�re-Lachaise because time ran out�and next time I would like to visit Versailles, too. Just puttin� it out there�
My packing SUCKS. My suitcase weighed a ton (5 pairs of shoes!), and I basically wore the same things every day. Elizabeth, on the other hand, had one small suitcase and looked perfectly turned out every day�in her femmy little dresses and ballet flats or chic shorts with tailored lace tops. One day as I was getting dressed, we had this exchange:
Me: �Should I tuck this in with a belt, or leave it out?�
Eliz: �Um�you�re wearing a skull t-shirt with capri jeans. Does it even matter?�
One thing I get right: I�m always prepared with a little �sweater roll-up��i.e., a small cashmere cardigan that easily fits into your tote and is ready to ward off evening�s chill when you�re out all day. Also crinkly cotton scarves for the same reason.
Elizabeth observed that French mothers of two children always looked impeccable while their child-free counterparts often did not. Since returning from our trip we have noticed several books on French parenting, e.g. Bringing Up B�b�, which might explain this. French parents are not nearly as OBSESSED with their children as American parents, and thus have time to actually pay attention to their own appearance.
Alors, mes amies...I will end here. As Elizabeth pointed out, "Mom, it�s a BLOG entry�not a piece for 'Vanity Fair.'"
��� la prochaine�..!!
5 comments so far
previous - next
UNE ESCAPADE BELLE - 2012-04-11
Ooey Gooey Good... - 2010-12-07
Say WHAT..?? - 2009-07-09
THE MENNONITE SCHLEMIEL - 2009-05-30
HARRIET, DAH-LING! - 2008-08-19