You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
…I love how in Paris in the briefest moments, you can end up having random conversations with absolute strangers in a way that leaves you with a smile. This happens to me more in Paris than in any other city, and even extends to the seemingly rigid and soul-less guards that protect President Hollande’s residence.
The moment I’m referring to traces back to last Sunday, when my best friend and I, with our tired wobbly legs, were returning from our running group’s 10km affair (another thing I love about Paris: running groups that force you out of your lazy slumber). We decided to make our return along the ultra posh Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré, because we were, after all, dressed in our ridiculous running clothes, and sometimes we enjoy breaking convention by making a scene :-).
Along the way down “designer lane,” we approached the president’s residence. Before passing by, we were stopped by one of the guards. I wasn’t surprised, as we certainly stood out, but when we told him of our Canadian and Mexican origin, he immediately seemed to warm up to us (maybe “President Dump” can learn something from this…).
The next thing I knew, we had become best friends with this guard, sharing our hopes and dreams, he in his perfect French, and me with French sentences spoken in Canadian tones. He didn’t seem to mind.
His name is Thierry.
Thierry composes music in his free time.
Thierry hopes to one day write the musical scores for films produced in France.
Thierry is a dreamer.
Now for all you cynics out there, you’re probably wondering how Thierry can protect the president and surrounding citizens, when he’s busy telling my friend and I all about his hopes and dreams. It’s a common concern, but let me assure you that while Thierry’s eyes sparkled as he shared his most profound wishes, those shining eyes never once stopped surveying the scene around him. And his hands never loosened their grip on his intimidating automatic weapon. So take heart, concerned Parisians, Thierry understands his responsibilities. I hope I see his name in the credits of a film one day, because even though he’ll otherwise always be a stranger, for a brief moment, through Thierry we accessed the hope that lives in all people. And it’s something that happens to me often in Paris…
…Wow, that was a long love note. Thierry is clearly an attention whore. Well the rest of my notes are much shorter…
…I love how when it’s cold in Paris, and your nose is running from the cold, and you know you have a long way to walk, and you have every opportunity to be miserable, you’ll encounter some beautiful part of Paris you’ve seen many times, only that then, in that specific moment, in the right light, and with the absence of a crowd…what your eyes observe will silence all your bitchy complaining. There are many beautiful cities, but when it comes to the abundance of beauty, this quality is specific to Paris, where seemingly around every corner, there lies some stunning architecture, or a charming street, or endearing shops, and I could go on and on…
…I love how Paris is an emotional-eater’s paradise, a place where at a moment’s convenience and for just a few euros, you can stuff your face with all manner of viennoiserie, and let yourself be enveloped in amounts of butter that will make you forget about unpleasant things, like elections and the horrifying people they represent, and…as long as you can remember to go for a 10km run so the butter doesn’t find a permanent home on your ass, well…I’ll call it guilt-free emotional support at its finest…
…I love that when you put on your coat at midnight, because you think you’re about to leave a quaint little French party, it’s suddenly 2am, and you’re in the kitchen, having the most laugh-out-loud addictive conversation with people you’ve just met, even though you’re still ridiculously wearing your coat. I love how at last you’ll realize that it’s time to be rid of the coat, because of course you’re not going to leave, as the champagne flows and the laughter flows along with it. I love how at these various parties and gatherings and wine bars and apéros, you can arrive a near stranger and leave with new friends. And I love how it always somehow happens that in Paris, these friends take the form of people from everywhere; France, Spain, Ireland, Singapore, England, Colombia, India, Brazil, the US, and on and on and on. I love that in Paris, I always feel like a citizen of our common home, which is earth, a place where no one should feel unwelcome, and I love that when I’m in Paris, I never, ever do… ❤
Well…yes, no, no, and no (did that cover everything?)
Nothing is forgotten, but the streets of Paris seem full to me, and the only danger I’ve encountered so far is temporarily forgetting that drivers in Paris are always trying to run you down with their cars or scooters or giant looming buses. How had I forgotten this obvious fact after living in Paris twice? Perhaps the streets of Canada had made me a bit complacent, because in Canada the symbol for “walk” means “hello pedestrian, you dear sweet pedestrian, please enjoy this time frame, in which you are the king of the world.” You can skip, dance, or even crawl across the street in Canada, and the driver waiting to make the left turn has to sit there until you’re done.
Fast forward to Paris in 2016, and I found myself as a very comfortable pedestrian. That is until…4:30pm today, when I was nearly flattened like a human pancake on Rue de Rivoli.
This gentle “flattening” reminder is one that I will never forget, and one that I’ll interpret as follows: don’t trust anything with wheels in Paris (except for those attractive cops who roller-blade in the streets and smile—but only in summer, I think).
The other main aspect of returning to Paris revolves around the upcoming half marathon (only 12 days away!), and I, the non-runner type, who is registered to make it to the finish line.
In the last seven days I’ve run four times in Paris, with fitness levels ranging from “I’m going to vomit into that garbage can” to “Hey, that actually wasn’t bad!”
It started with 4km on day two in Paris, went up to 9km on Sunday, and was a cool 7km this afternoon. Through it all, I’m starting to slowly convert the naysayers who laughed when I said that I would do this (well not all of them…you bastards). Most importantly, I’ve started to build my biggest motivation, courtesy of the greatest competition of all…which is myself. As I outlined in my previous post, I am a hyper-competitive person, and that’s all the motivation I need. And so, as long as I can push myself to the finish line, I’ll be pretty ridiculously happy, but you won’t be able to see my face, since most of it will be buried inside the 6,000-calorie brunch I shall enjoy soon after I finish.
And the best part of all about the race? My teammates and I are raising money for a damn good cause (the Red Cross). I talked all about that in my previous post, but here’s the link to donate if you’ve somehow forgotten, because forgetting is the only reason you wouldn’t have donated yet, right? RIGHT??? (http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserPage.action?userUrl=FootstepsinParis&isTeam=true)
Aside from all the running I’ve been doing this past week (look at what a cocky running snob I’ve become!), I’ve been reconnecting with the people I call my “Paris family,” and every single moment has filled me with happiness. I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, but even when I’m on my own, remembering a dinner I had, or a recent conversation, or a sunny stroll with a friend, I’m filled with an immense sense of gratitude (oh god, this is so cheesy). Maybe it means that Paris is magical, or maybe it means that amazing people gravitate towards other amazing people, and we are all just so fucking amazing (and humble too). Or maybe…maybe it just means that home is where the heart is. If that’s the case, then Paris sure feels like a special kind of home right now.
Now that I’ve filled this post with so much cheese, I will tell you that this past week in Paris, I had blue cheese, and I actually loved it! This is significant, because before that moment, I had never even liked blue cheese!!! I can’t remember the name of the cheese at this particular moment, but it was orange with flecks of blue, and it was absolutely delightful (Paris, eh? The new experiences never end…)
Someone I used to know right down to the soul but who I don’t even talk to anymore (great gossip teaser, right?) once said to me: “Don’t come back to Paris next year, that’s boring. Go somewhere new.” My first reaction was: “bitch pleeeeeease…you don’t even KNOW me,“ since I’m very confrontational and also an Aries. My second reaction was to slightly agree with this idea of going somewhere new, but my third reaction was a fist pump to my deeply thought-out artistic and “next project” reasons for returning to Paris, all of which are cited here.
So I returned…and it’s been three and a half weeks…and it’s been so damn great that I haven’t even had a chance to blog or tweet about it properly…the horror! (there’s a lesson in here about stopping to smell the roses, and I’m happy to report that I stopped to smell the literal roses in the Rodin sculpture gardens this past Thursday).
Take last week for example: some visiting Canadian pals and I walked 50km in Paris over the course of five days…this is a conservative approximation. Meanwhile, Paris has a 10km radius from east to west, so…not large by any means. MEANWHILE…throughout our jaunts, we kept experiencing new and different things! This is the beauty of Paris, my friends…good old-fashioned DENSITY. There is always a different café to try, always a random museum you haven’t been to, and always a cool new bar where you and the bartender make a deal that every cocktail must include a complimentary shot. It never gets old, and if I’m somehow to remember this all for the purposes of a future Paris-centric book aimed at future Paris travellers, I need a comprehensive spreadsheet that incorporates the categories, the neighbourhoods, and the detailed personal impressions.
So yes…my latest book is being drafted within the confines of a spreadsheet, but I assure you it is pivot-table free. I’ve never drafted a book in such a weird rigid format, but somehow it’s very freeing, because as soon as I plop it all in there I’m free to experience the next thing, and I know I can organize it later. Like the bakery with no name on the front that sells the most amazing coconut ice cream that has ever hit my lips. PLOP. Or that corner café in the 10th arrondissement where the price is good, the tourists are non-existent, and you can actually taste the coffee through the froth of the café creme (instead of the plain old milky warmth that many cafés dish out). PLOP. Or this random little bar in the 4th arrondissement where you climb the stairs and you’re suddenly in your own secluded lounge, right next to a window overlooking the street. PLOP. So many plops! I’ve barely even scratched the surface in this post, but fear not, my spreadsheet knows all…
Another added bonus (which isn’t even spreadsheet-related) is making new friends on a second jaunt in Paris, when you didn’t even expect to make new friends, since you were already returning to people you know and love. And yet…within the aisles of Paris Ikea (not very Parisian, I know), you find yourself growing closer and closer to a friend of a friend, and thinking “How have we not been friends our whole lives?! Let’s hang out EVERY DAY!!!” Yeah…Paris seems to have a knack for new encounters (as long as you’re not a socially-awkward shut-in who blogs…wait, what?…)
I should probably get back to doing my Paris thang, but not before including some photo action below. Oh and by the way, remember when I shared the first ten pages of a screenplay I wrote this year, and said I’d be happy to advance in just one contest? Well somehow I made the top 20 finalists of the 2014 Script Pipeline contest, out of over 3,500 entries! I found out I made it three days before my flight to Paris, so let’s just say it was one big high before another. The best part of all is that the finalists get an over-the-phone script consult and actual assistance in shaping their work for potential industry introductions. There are no guarantees, of course, but even in the few e-mails I’ve exchanged with the contest director, I can safely say that the writer dream lives on…or maybe it’s not even a dream, I mean I’m doing it, right? Needless to say, I’m so glad I didn’t give up on writing after spending last year in Paris; in fact it was only the beginning…
The café from the movie “Before Sunset.” Yes it exists and yes a glass of wine is reasonably-priced and yes the co-owner who works there is the nicest lady with the biggest smile, so who said Parisians weren’t friendly?!
Many people think “doing” the Eiffel Tower means climbing atop it and checking out the view of Paris, but if you haven’t had a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower until the wee hours, I’m not sure if you’ve actually done it right (and if you think French people don’t like the Eiffel Tower, let me tell you that 90% of the conversations you’ll hear during a nighttime picnic will be in French—> you also may or may not be serenaded by Corsicans with guitars…)
When it comes to day trips outside of Paris, if you don’t hate crowds, you’ll probably end up in Versailles. If you do hate crowds, you’ll find yourself here, at amazing Fontaine Bleu.
On a crisp sunny day last year in early May, I made my way to Paris with a suitcase full of dreams. As a wide-eyed newcomer to Paris, the following six months would prove to be nothing short of a soul-replenishing experience…
Is that cheesy enough? Are you grossed out too? I almost made myself dry-heave.
So here’s what really happened: didn’t know a single person, got lost, forced myself to randomly meet people via awkward meet-ups, got lost, ate a lot of pastries, stopped getting lost, proved the “negative Nancies” wrong by making friends with actual Parisians ( they’re just as friendly and ready to laugh as anyone else), ate more pastries, got to know my Left Bank home pretty well, ate a lot of other food/came up with a list of favourites, joined a running club with a group of locals so I wouldn’t gain a hundred pounds, celebrated Bastille Day in pure Parisian fashion, firemen’s ball included (see: outdoor nightclubs for a two-euro cover charge, with handsome firefighters as the primary entertainment), picnicked on various grassy knolls throughout the summer (then compiled a list of favourite grassy knolls), wrote my next book, published my next book, and ate more pastries.
It was a fabulous six-month stay (with its share of personal moments that don’t need elaboration), but I will say that going into it with a book-writing deadline influenced a lot of my stay, in terms of locking myself away to write when I should’ve been strolling around Paris, and thinking a lot about plot lines and character arcs, when I should’ve been taking note of certain experiences in greater detail. I don’t begrudge the wine-induced, “talking to myself” writing nights one bit (and thanks for reading book 3, everyone!), but it left me with a bit of a Parisian deficiency. This deficiency equates to a slightly incomplete historical record of my experiences in Paris.
SO I’M GOING BACK TO PARIS FOR THE SUMMER!
It was the only logical conclusion.
The big difference now is that with last year’s experience behind me, I have the benefit of jumping back in from the moment I return to Paris. The other big difference is not worrying about a deadline. And so, 1 + 1 =…living on the Right Bank this time, and at least five hours a day of strolling, interacting, consuming, revelling, and taking notes (could’ve been ten hours a day, but I need to catch up with with old mates, you see). By the time I finish, I’ll have so many thoughts and so much information on Paris, that it’ll only be a matter of organizing it all. This is really for my own future reference, like if I go back to Paris thirty years from now and realize I’ve forgotten everything. At that inevitable point, I’ll easily reference everything from the handy book on Paris I wrote, along with the moods and ambience that characterized those experiences (Will the tone be flowery? No. Blunt and sometimes embarrassing? Yes). I guess that’s what bugs me about Paris books, as they are today; the entire experience isn’t centralized. Like first I have to read a whole memoir to get in the mood, then I have to read a guide book to learn about good places to eat, and then I have to read at least a dozen blogs, depending on what I’m looking for (i.e. ten croissants from different districts face off in a battle royale, but only one can survive (insert “Hunger Games” joke here; oh wait, I kind of already did, and it wasn’t good. Remind me to never apply for “Last Comic Standing”). By taking all three of the above categories, and putting as much of each into a single book, I will have myself an inspirational yet efficient reference for when I’m elderly, forgetful, and uninspired. It’s a time capsule, made my me, and gifted to me. If anyone else wants to read it, that’s cool, as it will be published like all my other books, but it’s rooted in that all-important writer’s jumping off point: write something you care about!
Well I should go; only two weeks left ’til my return to Paris, or in other words: two weeks left to diet and work out like crazy, to prepare myself for a summer of eating whatever the hell I want…(red flag: my dieting plan will be challenged by a road trip to DC for the next four days, which aside from checking out a few monuments, will be entirely centred around eating. This can only mean one of two things; either A: “Hard body in two weeks” is an unrealistic expectation, or B: next stop, bulimia express!
PS: I share this picture way too often, but I can’t get enough of it, and I plan on finding those 2013 birds when I return…
PPS: I will pepper this blog with updates direct from Paris throughout the summer; stay tuned!
My seven-week anniversary of living in Paris is just days away, and it’s right about the time when my existence here feels more established. And so I will bestow you with some highlights and favourite things.
The first is an inexhaustible highlight; it regenerates day after day (depending on the weather), and much like the renewable resource of bio-fuel that’s used to power at least some of the city buses in the greater Toronto area (as far as I can remember since Toronto seems a distant memory), it won’t run out until the earth is destroyed by an asteroid, and the human race along with it.
It’s sunsets in Paris by the river.
The sun sets at a weirdly late hour in Paris (what is this, Iceland?), but I don’t mind, because to me it equals better odds of making it in time for the view. One evening, as I was leaning against the bridge, watching the sun do its’ disappearing dance, I totally lost track of time. It was beautiful and nearly tear-evoking (if only I wasn’t made of stone…just kidding I’m like a wailing infant most times), and if not for my peripheral vision which alerted me to a strange man standing beside me and giving me hungry eyes, I’m sure I would’ve stayed for a twilight view. Maybe next time.
Another highlight (though much less gorgeous as it involves two sweaty middle-aged men) occurred when two French businessmen from outside of Paris asked me for subway directions. In French. And I actually knew where they needed to go. And I knew exactly how to say it. In French. That was the big, big highlight of last week, which is shocking because aside from sunsets I only expected to have food-related highlights in Paris.
When it comes to a few of my favourite things, these will be exclusively food-related (I knew there was a reason why I didn’t have food in the highlights section). There’s this Lebanese place in the Latin Quarter called Topoly, and it, in my opinion, sells the best chicken pitas in Paris. I’ve had the one in Marais that’s renowned as the best place around (for falafels, at least), I’ve made the mistake of trying one of those pitas stuffed with not only meat but French fries, from one of those Greek food stalls in the Latin quarter that all look the same (it was dry and horrible!), and I’ve even enjoyed the spicy chicken kebab pitas by the Oberkampf metro station, but nothing beats Topoly! And why? Well it’s all about the bread! These angels of food service don’t give you a pita out of a bag, oh no! They actually roll the dough out in front of you, and cook it on this giant metal dome before your eyes! The result is the thinnest bread which is truly the key, just like it’s the key for a good thin-crust pizza. I cannot extol its virtues enough; go to Topoly and ask for a “Poulet pita au four”, less than six euros my friends!
This next one is the most unassuming, “couldn’t have predicted that!” kind of thing. It falls into the dessert category, and while you’d think I was getting ready to talk about a velvety chocolate mousse or an irresistible crêpe, you’d be totally wrong. Because I’m talking about…good ol’ American apple crumble. In Paris. I’m dead serious. Beginning at Montmartre, you’ll slowly wander your way down from Sacre Coeur, along the charming cobblestoned streets of Rue Norvin, and you’ll find yourself standing in front of The Consulat. The people-watching opportunities on the terrace are some of the best, and its exterior is the famous subject of many postcards. But no one knows about its’ apple crumble! The dollop of whipped cream, the scoop of vanilla ice cream, the hot apple crumble where the apple’s not sweetened too much (like with all apple pastries in Paris compared to North America)…c’est parfait! Tell them I sent you.
My third favourite thing is the simplest of all, and I discovered it at one of the nearby food markets. It’s at Place Monge in the Latin Quarter, open Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. On my very first visit I was on a singular mission: to find strawberries that weren’t disgustingly over-priced, the way they are at all the chain grocery stores in Paris. Well, not only did I find twice as many as I’d usually buy for two thirds the price, but they came direct from a family farm that grows strawberries and rhubarb. People were snatching up the rhubarb stalks like they somehow contained the secret to eternal youth, but since I’ve only heard of rhubarb being used in rhubarb pie and I don’t have an oven, I refrained. The strawberries though? They smelled magnificent (i.e. I started to open the fridge and untie the bag just to smell them; long hard whiffs. It’s like cocaine, but less side effects).
Once Paris is all said and done, I will certainly compile a formalized list of the best (and maybe the worst?) for the Paris book that emerges out of this experience, but I know that what’s listed here will make the final cut.
I’ll continue to explore and see what I encounter, will report back soon…