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…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… ❤
If you’ve spent any time in the last month on my Facebook page, you’ve seen me talk about the impending book release inspired by my two stints in Paris (as well as by this blog). As of this moment: it’s alive, it’s out there, but all I care about now is sharing some of it here. Sharing is important when it comes to this book, since this book is my attempt to write something that’s in “some way” a guidebook, but that’s in another way a jaunt, a fun escape that has nothing to do with being practical and planning a trip. The fact that it’s indeed useful when planning a trip to Paris (with over 130 places vividly described along with a summary), well that’s just the icing.
And so, what I’d like to focus on now is the “meat” of the book, and who doesn’t love a slab of meat with their icing? So here are some meat slabs and meat shreds, which represent what this book is all about: being there, seeing it through my weird-ass eyes, and living it through my weird-ass tangents (kind of like this blog, now that I think about it…)
Read on and enjoy!
On trying to make your first French friend at a quiz night:
“The French woman and I were on the same team, and one of our teammates was a very intense mega-dork. I’m sorry but there’s no other way to put it. Like he would accuse nearby tablemates of copying our answers, slam his fist on the table when none of us knew the answer to an obscure question on cinema, and one time I even caught him foaming at the mouth. As all this was happening my eyes would go wide or I’d raise my eyebrow or I’d roll my eyes; basically I was having a lot of eye-related reactions. Letting you know I don’t like you via my eyes is one of my biggest flaws; I just can’t hide it, so it’s a wonder I got a business degree and spent several years in the corporate world. Little did I know that the French woman was having a similar “eye-related” tic, and when our eyes finally met, I knew right away that we’d be friends. Mutual distain for other people; it’s the cornerstone of all great friendships.”
On the sort of intense poser you’ll see on the Seine River boat ride:
“The consistency of the posing on the boat ride impressed me, as the wife always had her one thumb in her jeans pocket, I guess as a way of saying that her face might be stern, but she’s pretty casual and likes to have fun.”
On resolving not to like a falafel place just because Lenny Kravitz liked it:
“The word of Lenny Kravitz’s endorsement must’ve spread, since this one always has a bigger lineup than the one across the street. Did he even go there? I don’t know; it’s all word of mouth at this point. Even if he is the official ambassador for L’As du Fallafel, is his endorsement enough to sway me? I think not. Like I will NOT “go your way,” Lenny Kravitz, not until I’ve tried it for myself.”
On meeting new people at a wine-tasting, particularly a French man with murderous “laser eyes:”
“With each new wine we sampled, either I was getting fatter or he was getting fatter; what else would explain how our bodies kept getting progressively closer? Weird. The other thing of note was that he’s one of those people who not only stares directly at you the entire time he’s speaking, but also stares directly through your eyes and out the back of your head. Like why are you trying to kill me with your psycho laser eyes? (Oh I’m sorry; did you think this was turning into a tale of Parisian romance?)
Not long after that, the tasting concluded, and as I gathered my stuff from the basement, laser-eyes cornered me and asked if he could take me out for ice cream. All the various wines I’d tasted added up to a full bottle, so I was really in no position to be having a sexy cold dessert with this man I’d only just met. That’s the thing about Paris; adventures aren’t hard to find, but it’s always important to check yourself before you wreck yourself. I mean come on, ladies, none of us wants to be drunk on a first date. Class before ass. That’s enough sayings for now.”
On trying to reconcile the outrageous price of a simple dessert at the restaurant beloved by “celebs:”
“I was tempted to ask our super-model waitress if perhaps the berries had been pickled in unicorn tears, thus explaining the hefty price.”
On drinking wine by the canal versus drinking wine at the riverbank:
“The area by the canal gets very crowded on summer nights, and as it’s pretty small in width, the buzz of conversation tends to permeate the air. The difference here compared to the river, is that here it’s mostly just friends hanging out, with less of that insidious agenda defined by “trolling for ‘hos” (see: riverbank drinking at night).”
On the group dynamic you’ll encounter in the Catacombes ossuary:
“Once you’re inside and down the many stairs, you’re basically left to your own devices. They let people inside in small groups at a time, so it’ll just be you and a handful of people navigating the tunnels together; let’s hope they’re not A-holes.”
And later…the conclusion of the group dynamic in the Catacombes ossuary:
“The picture-taking reflex is normal, but the standing in front of skulls, hugging your boyfriend, and smiling as someone takes your picture? Smiling whilst posing amongst the dead? What the hell, boys and girls? These two posers were a couple of the people in my “group.” I guess there are two A-holes in every bunch.”
On the strangeness of the TV subliminal messaging at the Japanese/Chinese buffet:
I can’t forget to mention something very weird about Matuya Panda. In the back of the restaurant, there’s a flat-screen TV mounted to the wall. The volume was muted, but over and over on a loop, this infomercial for a weight-loss contraption kept playing. It was one of those scenarios where you can actually lose weight by being a lazy turd, via a vibrating elastic band; all you have to do is wear it around your belly for like an hour a day. So there we are (this time it was Carlos, Tara, and I), eating a huge Japanese buffet, while this super-model woman in the infomercial (who is clearly not the same woman in the “before” pictures”), looks all hot and sexy, due to this vibrating elastic band she’s wearing around the house. She wears it while she’s reading the newspaper, watching TV, painting her nails…she wears that stupid band and it gives her a six-pack of abs. As I ate the fifteenth chicken dumpling, I started to wonder if a conspiracy was afoot. So their plan is: I’ll eat the buffet, feel guilty with that infomercial playing in the background, run home and call the number, order myself a vibrating weight-loss band, and then Matuya Panda will get a 10% kick-back from the manufacturers. You sly devils.”
On my close-call with Bradley Cooper at the Luxembourg Gardens:
“Twenty-four hours after one of my “lie in the sun” recovery days in the gardens, I learned that Bradley Cooper was now lying on that very same lawn. I’m pretty sure some of my alcohol sweat that was still attached to the lawn had now absorbed into his body.
Bradley Cooper IS WEARING MY DNA.
This sounds like a very random fact I shouldn’t care about, but listen my friends, in the summer of 2013, Bradley Cooper was a big deal in Paris. It had nothing to do with his movies, and everything to do with him being the official spokesperson for Magnum ice cream bars. I have no idea if this advertising contract extended to North America, but in Paris at least, he was on bus shelters in every neighbourhood in Paris, wearing a tuxedo, looking at me seductively, and offering me a Magnum ice cream bar. And to think I missed him lying on the grass by one day! In these times of “missed connections,” one can’t help but ask oneself: with just one different decision on how I’d chosen to spend my time, could my life have gone in a completely different direction? (And yes, I’m completely ignoring the fact that he was lying on the grass with his girlfriend)
Picnics on the lawn and soaking up the sun; these two things are relaxing. Yep, that’s basically what I was getting at.”
I hope you enjoyed what you read so far. If you’d like to buy the book, the links are below; it’s a full-length book of 79,000 words (i.e. 70 times more what you read right here), so definitely some good bang for your buck. If, alternatively, you’d like to start by reading the first few chapters for free, you can do that on Wattpad here. And if, alternatively, you’d like to eat a sandwich, you can do that too (there are no fixed options on my blog; I believe in freedom).
I’ll return to the blog in the new year, but now I am rather excited to bake cookies and brownies and other sweet-tooth things, to be merry, and to catch up on my reading; it’s what the winter solstice is for…
À bientot in 2015!
Amazon US link (also available at all international Amazon websites):http://www.amazon.com/Vicarious-Paris-account-insights-nightlife-ebook/dp/B00R3RZ6RA/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1418821869&sr=8-5&keywords=romi+moondi&pebp=1418823072163
Epub version for you Nook or iPad at Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/502498
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!
Hemingway had the right idea when he decided to live in Paris to write his books…the cafés, the Seine river, the energy, the anticipation, the calm, the periods of reflection helped along by stunning views, the writers that surround your life…decades couldn’t change these attributes of Paris, so let it be known: Paris is a damn good place to write in!!
But let it also be known: all these wonderful things can be the devil in disguise! That’s right, just as easily as Paris can inspire you like no other place in the world, it can also sweep you up into the vortex of new experiences and great memories, a vortex that tosses your pen and notebook out the window, distracting you from the very task you came here to accomplish.
Right now I’m doing okay, because along the way I have always had a self-awareness for the ebbs and flows of Parisian distractions…or the “outside of Paris” distractions (like running off to London last weekend!). Today I must’ve spent a good ten minutes talking about the freshness of baguettes from Eric Kayser Boulangerie, particularly at the unexpected “freshness hour” of seven p.m. (part of the conversation with my equally stunned baguette-eating friend: “HOW is it so crusty on the inside and so soft in the middle? Oh my god!!“). Then there’s those times when I take detours on the way home, so I can walk along the river for a while, and simply watch the ripples of the water. That’s another twenty minutes gone. I can’t help it, I mean it’s PARIS goddammit, and I’d be a fool to ignore my surroundings just to crank out the word count; I mean really, what’s the point of being in Paris if I’m not even going to see, smell, and taste it?
Indeed, but then how do I beat this devil dressed in pain au chocolat and endlessly beautiful sunsets?
Like this: I make workback schedules, I freak myself out over how little time there is to finish, rewrite, and edit my book, and then, suddenly, from the negative reinforcement called the fear of failure, the words will flow.
I made the schedule after I got back from London this weekend, and according to said schedule, if I don’t finish the first draft before I leave for my three-week Europe vacation in fifteen days, I will fail in making my self-imposed publication date for book three. Which means I will have failed as an over-achieving Indian-Canadian.
And excuse me, but over-achieving Indian-Canadians were not made for failure.
So I’m on it, for those of you who’ve been reading the Year of the Chick book series; I’m on it! And book three will be released in the end of September!
Part of this pact means the regularly-scheduled blogging I’d originally intended will not be so regular in the next two months; I think that’s okay though, because maybe it’s better to spill the best of my “Confessions from Paris” after the dust has settled; take some time to reflect and all that.
I’ll still blog from time to time this summer, to be sure! But for the most part the season of crazy book-writing is upon me, so you can follow more regular updates on my Facebook Author page, sound good?
PS: Here I am in London this weekend, being a tourist and so NOT being a writer…