Saturday, March 25, 2017

Miss Manhattan in Paris

I found out I was going to Paris nine days before I got on the plane. It was for work, to write about different aspects of the trip (more on this after the articles come out!), but I also ended up having a nice amount of time to myself to wander the city aimlessly, which is usually my favorite thing about traveling.

My first day there, we landed at about 9:30am, and my free time began shortly after that. I set my sights on a touristy option first, a visit to Shakespeare and Company on the Left Bank, and then resolved to amble about in hopes of not looking like an annoying American after that. Visiting the English language bookstore,  named similarly but not actually related to the one in New York, would cross another literary establishment off my list, right behind City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.

I resolved to take the Metro there, as it was a shorter trip than it would be from my house to Union Square, and huddled in front of the ticket vending machine, hoping I did not look like a tourist. But the line I used, Line 1, was very easy to understand, and I shoved my tiny Metro tickets into the entryway like a non-tourist (I hoped, anyway). Shakespeare and Company was a lovely space, with a practically ancient staircase, twisty, turny bookshelves, a piano, a designated bookstore cat, and spaces for their legendary Tumbleweeds to sleep.

I had asked HanOre if she wanted me to bring her back anything from Paris (she lived there for a semester while in college), and she had only one request: "I would like you to leisurely eat a fresh baguette, preferably in some garden or park, and have the time of your life." So, after Shakespeare and Co., I discovered by way of the website Paris By Mouth (recommended to me by another gal on the trip), that the baguette voted the best in the city in 2016 was a mere seven-minute walk away at a bakery called La Parisienne. I walked in and waited in line for one of their baguettes, asked in French for un baguette, s'il vous plait, and was answered in English. Well, I tried, at least. I got a traditional white baguette for about 1.2 euro, and wandered out of the store. It was a Monday when lots of things are closed, so unfortunately the nearby fromagerie was not available. I bit into the baguette and it crunched under my teeth in a way that no attempt at a baguette in America ever had. Its insides were fluffy but chewy and just a little bit eggy in flavor. It was nice to know what a baguette was really supposed to taste like.

I made my way past Notre Dame, crunching along as I went. It's funny, but at the time I forgot that the French actually sit and eat their meals in places like humans, not like Americans who want everything on the go. So I perhaps looked my most American as I crunched over the bridge past the famous cathedral and through Ile St. Louis. To my credit, there was a gentleman walking out of La Parisienne crunching on a baguette as he walked down the street when I got there...but hindsight is 20/20 and he may have been American, too. Le sigh.

I decided I was finished crunching my baguette as I found myself in front of the The Hôtel de Ville, which is not a hotel, but the Parisian city hall. If only New York's city hall could be such a feat of architecture, people might actually want to go. I was on my way to Kilo Shop, another recommendation by HanOre, where consigned and vintage clothes are sold by the pound. Miracle of miracles, I ended up with an '80s hot pink leather jacket for 16 a mere euro, a feat which would never, could never happen in New York.

Time before my evening engagement was winding down, I had a baguette in my purse, and a plastic bag filled with a leather jacket, so I made my way back from whence I came. Not before sitting and enjoying a latte as the French do...though if I'm honest, I was jonesing for a hot take-away beverage all day. They don't do those in France, silly American, unless you go to Starbucks, and j'ai patently refusé. Coming all the way across the Atlantic just to have Starbucks, can you imagine? My soul was crushed simply thinking about it.


The next time I had a moment to myself, I went to Jeu de Paume. Though 'jeu de paume' actually was a ball and court game that was a precursor to tennis, Jeu de Paume is a museum that's set up in a former 'jeu de paume' court outside of the Tuileries gardens. It's dedicated to modern and post-modern photography, video, and cinema work. While I was there, I was able to see the work of surrealist and documentarian Eli Lotar and video artist Peter Campus.

As I left the museum as the sun was setting, the Eiffel Tower and Roue de Paris in the distance. I stared and whipped out my camera, not worried for once about my tourist tendencies. I watched the blue sky fade to orange, then hopped back on the Metro.

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