Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cruising the Seine

It may very well be the most touristy thing I've done so far, but taking a boat ride along the Seine at dusk was well worth the stigma of being called touriste.

Jan, Mom and I packed a delicious picnic of bread, wine, cheese, chorizo and strawberries.  Due to technical difficulties (Mom had quite a bit of trouble opening the wine and one of our cups had a huge hole) we were off to a bad start...But once the sun dipped into the horizon we were entertained by the following loveliness...

They say a picture is worth a thousand words...


Reims: Champagne and Cathedrals

While my mom and Jan were in town we took a trip to Reims to visit a couple of champagne caves and walk around the old town center with its historic cathedral.  The plan was to leave early Monday morning and come back Monday evening to have dinner in Paris.  Unfortunately, I missed the train (long, boring story but basically I forgot my tickets at home...) and had to catch up with the ladies after their first tour.  The good new is they both agreed the first champagne producer had horrible champagne!

Here are some pictures from our visit.  It was a really nice day spent outside of the city!

French TGV trains get you anywhere in a snap!

 I'm convinced Paris has an obsession with carousels, but maybe it's all of France?

Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Reims

Magnums of champagne

After the tour we had to walk up several hundred stairs for the champagne tasting.
Definitely worth it!

When we got back to Paris I took the ladies over to the Canal St Martin for an aperitif.  It's a fun and trendy area of bars that frame the canal and make it a great place to go and have a drink outside when the weather is nice.  We definitely enjoyed a relaxing ending to our long day with a nice cold glass of white wine ... ahh!


Saturday, May 29, 2010

First visitors in Paris!


As some of you already know, my Mom and her best friend Jan came to visit last week.  I know full well that they were only using my sojourn here in Paris as an excuse to travel to the city of lights, but I don't mind.  I would probably do the same myself and it was great having them here and playing tour guide to a city I have only lived in for nearly a month now.  We had a blast and did so much during the time that they were here.  I'm still recovering!

During their whirlwind week in Paris the girls and I visited the main sites like the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysees and walked around the entire city until we had blisters.  We took both a boulangerie and chocolate tour.  We attempted to visit the Catacombs (closed due to flood for the unforeseeable future...).  After we dined very well every night.  We went to Saint Chapelle and saw Notre Dame and walked along the Seine.  One night we packed a picnic at dusk and took a boat tour down the river for its picturesque views.  Another day we visited Reims and toured champagne caves and indulged in tastings.  It was an amazing time!

Here are some pictures from the ladies visit:

Mom and I at the Jardin du Luxembourg

 Palais du Luxembourg, where we stopped for a quick glass of wine and some people watching.

 The secret garden the Frenchie introduced me to...

 Jan and I picking out apartments...

Mom and Jan peaking out of their hotel window.  That was a lovely hideaway!

Relaxing after some Berthillon ice cream on the Ile St Louis

Cruise on the Seine at dusk with a picnic of wine and cheese . . . priceless

A memorable and unexpected breakfast in the sun.

Mom and I having an much needed aperitif.

Girls last dinner in Paris

Thanks again for the visit, it was wonderful to have you here in Paris and to share this time with you both!!!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Exploring Belleville

A couple of weeks ago, I spent the day with a friend of mine exploring Belleville.  It was one of the last days of chiller weather before the sunshine and warmth finally found its way to Paris.  Walking around the 19th and 20th arrondissements with stops in cafes for coffee kept us warm and energized and it was a really great day overall.

We started by meeting for coffee at a cafe near the end of Canal St Martin.  The canal empties out into the Bassin de la Villete, which is a very serene pool like area of water that almost appears as if it is another larger and much more calm canal.  There are large areas on both sides of of the bassin, perfect for picnicking and playing petanque (French bocce ball) or ping pong.  Once we got to the top of the bassin we crossed to the other side to check out a gallery space that had just opened.  It was still in preparations for more gallery spaces to open, so we just peeked around a bit and decided to come back again once it was up and running.

Next, we explored Parc des Buttes Chaumont, a beautiful mostly man made park situated in the 19th arrondissement of Paris.  It was an amazing park, very hilly, and great views (especially from a look out tower high at the top of the park).  After having walked this much we were famished and needed to refuel so we decided to stop for lunch at Rosa Bonheur, a very hip and trendy cafe/bar in the east side of the park.  In the summer this park is filled with locals and lots of young Parisians.  Rosa Bonheur is their clubhouse and I could definitely see why as even on a chilly day in early May the inside cafe and outside picnic tables were full of twenty somethings.

An empty statue podium provides a perfect photo opportunity.

After exploring the rest of the park apres lunch we decided to warm up once again with another cafe (espresso).  Then it was onto more of Belleville and another stop for an amazing view at the Parc de Belleville.  Wandering beautiful Parisian streets and looking at gorgeous views and interesting street art will make you thirsty and at this point we deserved a beer.  Then off again to hear my friend play in his ukulele open mic night with some of his friends. 

View from the top of Parc de Belleville

 Oh, Paris!

 Who knew a open ukulele night could be so much fun?!?

I was especially excited when I heard that my friend's group would be preforming Oh Paris!

This was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.  Sitting in a cozy bistro listening to music and having something to eat while the wine kept flowing for hours.  Oh, I nearly forgot, then we went to this old French guy's apartment for more wine and a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower and its hourly sparkling light show.

Oh, Paris indeed!


Sunday, May 23, 2010

My home in Paris

Not too much time to write today as I have my first visitors to Paris here this week.  Mom, Jan and I have been running around the city doing lots of fun activities that I will have to tell you about later...

For now, here are some pictures of my place in Paris.  It is a flat share with a French couple and 3 other international roommates (at the moment they're from Norway, Canada and the UK).  We share 2 bathrooms and a kitchen.


6 Impasse de la Baleine, my apartment building.
I'm on the 3rd floor which is the 4th "American" floor- but we have an elevator!

Beautiful mosaic wall art in the entryway (yes that's me in the reflection)

My bedroom, notice the twin bed and the amazingly large window.

The desk and shelves now happily contain many of my books and mementos.

I'm loving all this storage space!

The view isn't too bad either...

I hope you all enjoyed your weekends!


Thursday, May 20, 2010

The 11th, my home away from home

How do you describe a neighborhood so vast and eclectic as this one?  I have been living in the 11th arrondissement for almost 3 weeks now and part of the reason why I haven't written much about it yet is because it isn't an easy place to summarize.  Needless to say, I love the area and am very happy to be living in this section of Paris.  I began to settle in and feel at home here very quickly, maybe because the neighborhood reminds me a lot of the East Village.  Actually, that's a good way to start, picture the French version of the East Village and we will go from there...

I have to admit that it is sometimes difficult to compare neighborhoods in Paris to ones in New York, and I don't really like to either, but I was hit with an overwhelming sense of ease and familiarity by the 11th.  It must be all the people my age hanging out in the numerous cafes, ethnic restaurants, bars and music venues- all with a very Parisian feel mixed into a grungy, up and coming neighborhood on the fringe vibe.  Ah, home sweet home!

The best part about this arrondissement is that there are two distinct sides to it.  There is the area to the south, around Place de la Bastille, which is a bit more touristy and well known by foreigners and then there is the area to north, around Rue Oberkampf, known for its bars and throngs of young Parisians enjoying a night on the town or a lazy afternoon on a cafe terrace.  Snaking through the whole neighborhood is the tree lined Boulevard Richard Lenoir, a wide Haussmann boulevard with multiple small parks and free wifi, that holds weekly art fairs and biweekly produce markets.

I'm living in the north eastern part of the district, close to Belleville and the 20th arrondissement.  The 20th is a lot more residential, but is quickly gaining popularity with younger, more artistic Parisians that have been priced out of trendy areas like the Canal St Martin in the 10th and Bastille in the 11th.  Hmm...what neighborhood could that possibly remind me of back home?  My street is actually a dead end, Impasse de la Baleine or Dead Whale, with a school across the street from my apartment building.  When you come out of the dead end, you can walk a few blocks right (up a slight hill), past a few cafes and even more Muslim shops, to the metro station or a few blocks left, past many bars and cafes, towards Boulevard Richard Lenoir.

Here are some pictures to go with my rambling description

arrondissement map
Boulevard Richard Lenoir

 market day on Boulevard Richard Lenoir

 Metro entrance on Boulevard Richard Lenoir

 There are a mix of apartment buildings in the neighborhood

Also lots of street art (which I love)

 store front street art

lovely cafe signage

 Prayer time in the square by my house
room with a view (from my dead end)

I hope this gives you a feel for where I spend my time when I'm not off gallivanting around the rest of the city!