Category Archives: paris

Last Day in Paris

So it finally happened, the sad day of May 15 went I took the train to Paris from Valence for the last time. The final two days in Valence went by so quickly and were such a blur of packing that I find it hard to remember them. But I remember saying goodbye to the friends who were still there and having a drive around Valence at night with one of them so that I could see the lights of the city one more time. When I first got to Valence, I couldn’t imagine that I would miss it. It seemed small, sequestered, and unremarkable. But then I made friends, discovered the amazing Saturday market, started traveling around Provence, and it grew on me. Still, I know it wouldn’t be the same once all the assistants had left.

My “responsable” picked me up at the foyer and took me to the TGV station, where I loaded my giant suitcase, backpack, laptop back, and snowboard boots on the train. Luckily, a kind French gentleman lifted my huge suitcase into the only available luggage slot, or else I might have dislocated my arms. Then we sped off to Paris and next I got off at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Here’s where a snag showed up in my plans. I had written down only that I was staying at the Ibis Hotel, not realizing there were THREE in the airport, all with the same name. The information desk was completely unhelpful and there was no internet to check my reservation, so I just guessed on the one closest to the RER station and was miraculously correct. I left all my luggage in my very own hotel room (this is novel for me) and then took the RER into the city where I was going to meet up with my friend Lauren, who had been traveling with her mom and happened to also be in Paris.

While waiting, I took shelter from the rain in a cafe overlooking the Seine with a view of the Eiffel Tower and ordered a cafe creme. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t go near such an expensive place, but this was my last day in Paris! Well, last is relative, I always seem to claw my way back. Anyway, once Lauren showed up we wandered through the Marais and decided to go to the always delicious l’As du Falafel. After, there was more exploring and we meandered over to Bastille and had an ongoing competition of spotting Space Invaders. Oh, Paris, I miss you.

Eventually we had another coffee at a brasserie near Les Invalides so that we could use the wifi to find Lauren a hostel. Once that was all arranged, we saw the William Blake exhibit at the Petit Palais. I had no idea Blake did art, only knowing his poetry. Embarrassingly, the first thing that came to mind was “Dead Man,” but I would be validated at the end of the exhibit where they were playing clips from the movie. Anyway, it was an excellent exhibit and I was impressed with the work, although I think he was a better writer than artist.

That night, we had crepes with a bottle of cidre and then walked along the river. I was reluctant to leave watching the lights from the boats stream across the water under the stone bridges, but I didn’t want to take the RER too late at night and had to think about my flight in the morning. So we said goodbye in a metro station and I went back to the hotel. The next day I flew from Paris, to London, to Chicago, to Oklahoma City, where my brother picked me up from the airport.

A Last Weekend in Paris

Paris Space Invader, going fast.

Paris Space Invader, going fast.

I got to Quartz Mountain this Monday and have been meeting the other 26 counselors and helping set everything up before the students arrive on Saturday (today!). Don’t worry, there will be pictures and blogging. But right now I’m going to go back to the weekend trip I took to Paris at the end of April/beginning of May to visit my friend Helen.

LInstitut du Monde Arabe.

L'Institut du Monde Arabe.

I first met up with Helen at the Nick Cave-themed creperie where she was working and had a mushroom and goat cheese crepe before taking the metro to L’Institut du Monde Arabe (Institute of the Arabic World). My tour was pretty quick, because although the building has a stunning exterior, I wasn’t too engaged by the rugs and artifacts inside. However, the exhibitions on science, particularly astronomy, were very cool and I would be interested in spending more time in the non-museum parts of the Institute.

Admiring an off-screen taxidermy head at Deyrolle.

Admiring an off-screen taxidermy head at Deyrolle.

I met back up with Helen at her charming and stair-intensive apartment and then we ventured over to Deyrolle, a taxidermy shop started in 1831 which continues to sell stuffed zebras and pinned butterflies to rich and discerning Parisians. Pictures were not allowed, but I slyly took one in the only hidden place.

Deyrolle window display.

Deyrolle window display.

Unfortunately, there was an awful fire in the shop in 2008 that destroyed much of the shop’s collection. Haunting pictures of charred taxidermy animals were hung around the shop, but they seemed to have already replenished much of their stock. I could imagine spending all day there just opening the cabinet drawers to see what exotic insects lay numerous inside.

Bird market.

Bird market.

I’ll skip ahead to Sunday morning and our visit of the bird market. It was kind of strange, as most of the people buying and selling the small canaries and finches were men who looked like they belonged in the mafia. They were all standing around the little colored cages and trading the birds in and out of their large hands. I was almost afraid to take pictures because I thought they might break my camera.

Toy boats for rent in the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Toy boats for rent in the Jardin du Luxembourg.

I can’t believe how much we walked that weekend. I think we only took the metro a few times because we just kept exploring neighborhoods and streets on the way to our destinations.

Boats in the Jardin du Luxembourg fountain.

Boats in the Jardin du Luxembourg fountain.

We ended up cutting through the Jardin du Luxembourg where they were renting these boats to children. They could push them with sticks across the fountain.

Musée Zadkine.

Musée Zadkine.

Near the Jardin du Luxembourg is the Musée Zadkine, which exhibits art by the Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine. We didn’t pay to go into the museum, but admired the outdoor sculptures, most of which had someone screaming in cubist agony.

Fontaine des Quatre-Parties-du-Monde

Fontaine des Quatre-Parties-du-Monde

What I love about Paris and what continues to bring me back countless times is the exploring. There are so many arrondissements that I have yet to see and even the ones I have visited are still full of hidden streets, buildings, stores, monuments. For example, this lovely Fontaine de Quatre-Parities-du-Monde was on our walk from the Zadkine Museum to the Cimetière de Montparnasse. It’s probably a distance most people would cross by metro (and my feet might have preferred it that way), but watching the buildings and feeling the atmosphere change through the blocks is so enjoyable.

Grave of Samuel Beckett.

Grave of Samuel Beckett.

The Cimetière de Montparnasse, like the other big Paris cemeteries, has a few famous names that draw the tourists. So with our free map, we tried to find a few who we knew, including the above modest grave of Samuel Beckett.

Serge Gainsbourgs shrine/grave.

Serge Gainsbourg's shrine/grave.

Unfortunately, the map didn’t make a lot of sense, and had roads marked where we could only find passages behind tombstones. Still, we did discover Serge Gainsbourg, César Baldaccini, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Charles Baudelaire. Sadly, Man Ray was impossible for us to find.

Ingres Puzzle at the Louvre.

Ingres Puzzle at the Louvre.

It was the first Sunday of the month, so all the museums were free, including the Louvre and the Orangerie. We spent a little time in each before getting worn out by the crowds. I think it might be a good idea to have an express area of the Louvre where visitors could take a moving sidewalk by the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory, a large French painting, and an Egyptian artifact. This might clear out the rest of the museum just slightly.

Librairie Alain Brieux.

Librairie Alain Brieux.

I don’t remember if it was Saturday or Sunday night, but we did see a concert at L’International in Oberkampf. For anyone going to Paris, I really recommend it. They have free indie/rock concerts almost every night and the one we saw was surprisingly good.

On Monday we stopped by the Librairie Alain Brieux, a medical library. It was small, but had some interesting old doctor’s kits and maps.

Crowd at the Sacre Coeur.

Crowd at the Sacre Coeur.

We worked through the crowds in Montmartre by Sacre Coeur and then walked back near Helen’s neighborhood by the canals. There we had a delicious picnic and watched the sporadic boats and hipsters.

View of Paris from the Parc de Belleville.

View of Paris from the Parc de Belleville.

I still had a little while before my train back to Valence, so we hiked up the hill to the Parc de Belleville. And yes, the whole way I had the Triplettes de Belleville song stuck in my head. It’s a real place, though, with a great view of the city. We sat in the grass and enjoyed the sun until it was time to go to the station.

Paris Weekend: Day 3

Snow at the Canal Saint-Martin.

Snow at the Canal Saint-Martin.

I was exhausted after my day of museum hopping and had considered getting an earlier train back to Valence, but when I woke up to snow falling on the ground I knew I would want to stay in Paris as long as I could. I first walked along the Canal Saint-Martin that was just outside the hostel and it was spectacularly beautiful with the snow falling over its green bridges. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a feeling of walking through an old postcard.

Snow at the Place de la Republique.

Snow at the Place de la République.

I don’t think anything will get me out of bed as fast as snow. It transforms everything and makes even a parking lot picturesque. And when it snows in Paris every landmark or street corner is as captivating as it will ever be.

Snow at the Cimetiere de Pere Lachaise.

Snow at the Cimetière du Père Lachaise.

I wrote a lot of poetry in high school and twice went to the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute to participate in an intensive poetry class. Full of teenage angst as I was, my poetry could be summed up as this: it’s always winter and there’s always a war. I hope that I’ve progressed a bit, although winter is still my favorite writing backdrop. And one of those hot poetry summers I wrote a piece called “Père Lachaise” where I imagined that the last place the snow would melt in Paris would be in Cimetière du Père Lachaise and I thought about how that snow would change the cemetery. So when given the opportunity to actually walk through Père Lachaise in the snow, I had to do it.

Ravens in

Ravens in Cimetière du Père Lachaise.

I was one of the first people to walk in the cemetery that morning and almost all of the snow was free from footprints. I wasn’t looking for anyone famous and just explored the silent tombs and enjoyed the peacefulness. It seemed to be just me and the ravens. Unfortunately, I discovered that my boots had a hole in them and my feet were quite cold, but I kept walking for a while before looking for the exit. While looking at a map, I felt something brush against my leg and looked down to see a giant longhair cat. I bent down to pet it and it instantly jumped into my lap and pressed its head against my stomach and started purring. Maybe it was cold, as my cat Raffi was always extra friendly when it was freezing out, but I appreciated the company anyway. It wasn’t my day to stay in the cemetery forever, so I had to move on. But when I got to the exit I found it was locked. So I went to another and the guards there told me the cemetery was closed and I had to leave, which I was doing anyway. I guess that shortly after I’d gone in they’d closed the cemetery due to the snow and ice. That would explain why no one else was there.

Galeries Lafayette.

Galeries Lafayette.

Once I was in the metro I realized how wet and cold I was, so I decided to stay indoors and go shopping. The snow was all melting, and now there was only icy rain. I started with the Galeries Lafayette and looked at their beautiful ceiling and the bizarre designer clothes I could spend thousands on. Then I went to Printemps and did some wandering through equally expensive clothes. Finally, I went to H&M where I got some pants for 7 euros and an owl shaped coin purse. Those are things I can afford. Another thing I can afford is a quiche, which I got afterward.

Mus

Musée d'Histoire de la Médecine

I had some time before the train, so I decided to visit two museums located in the medical universities. The first was the Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine (Museum of Medical History), which has a collection of historical surgery tools. It is in what looks like an old library and it made me appreciate our modern medicine. I had no idea anesthesia was a relatively recent invention. I also liked the prosthetic metal hands.

Then I went across the street to the Musée Dupuytren. This is not a museum for those with a weak stomach. You have to ring a doorbell to be let in and then you are lead to a room that is packed with cabinets full of wet specimens, wax casts, and bones. Upon closer look, you can see that they are all human and none of them are normal. The museum is from a collection started in 1835 for “morbid anatomy.” Each object represents a deformity, malady, or disease, ranging from conjoined fetuses to a skeleton of the most contorted spine you can imagine to a hand ruined by arthritis. There are tumors and cancers cut out of every organ. There are brains and stomachs and waxes of faces blotted out with growths. I didn’t pay the 8 euros to take pictures, but a photographer on flickr has a good overview of the museum (don’t click on the link if you are easily disturbed). I’ve never been so appreciative to have been born with the right number and shape of organs and bones. There was a somewhat eccentric man working in the museum that was knowledgeable about each specimen and that really added to the visit, although I’m sure there are so many stories I didn’t hear. There was a point where he realized that the fetuses had been moved and that they were not in their right spots. When they jiggled in their jars as he picked them up I did feel a little sick. However, I still might go back. I’ve really never seen anything like it.

Lion in the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Lion in the Jardin du Luxembourg.

I walked through the Jardin du Luxembourg before taking the metro to the Gare de Lyon and waiting for the train to Valence. I found out that there is a waiting room at the Gare de Lyon where you can read graphic novels, so the time passed quickly and I was soon speeding through the night on the rails.

I’m off to Berlin tomorrow!