Archive for the 'Offbeat Adventures' Category

Sneak Peek of The Peninsula Paris

An artisan working on restoration of The Peninsula Paris (photo courtesy of the Peninsula Paris)

An artisan working on restoration of The Peninsula Hotel (photo courtesy of The Peninsula Paris)

For the curious, Paris proves an unending playground. Hidden courtyards, secret gardens, covered passageways.

Even structures in plain sight hold countless stories. I’m not exactly dispensing an amazing revelation to say the City of Light is architecturally stunning. Simply walking through certain parts of town I think that each building might be famous.

One of my favorite pastimes is dipping into experiences that are normally far from my daily life.

And so it was that I stumbled out onto Avenue Kleber a few weeks ago and stood before a soon-to-open luxury hotel.

Staff lined up to greet invited guests at The Peninsula Hotel.

Staff lined up to greet invited guests at The Peninsula Hotel.

Why I’d received an invitation to a pre-launch press conference, I hadn’t a clue. But did I want to see the fancy hotel? Indeed.

I felt like something of an imposter as my name was checked off the list. I was sought out immediately by the director of communications and handed a glass of champagne and a selection of sweets to enjoy on the outdoor terrace.

Peninsula Outdoor terrace

I soon settled in and pretended I belonged. After some mingling we were ushered into the Grand Lobby for a presentation, then given a private tour of the hotel.

It’s gorgeous.

Continue reading ‘Sneak Peek of The Peninsula Paris’

Carnaval Tropical in Paris

Carnaval Close-up
Last time I wrote to you, I was still in Guadeloupe. I’ve been back in Paris for awhile now, but as busy as a bee.

Today I could easily have forgotten just where I was as the Carnaval Tropical paraded literally outside my front door.

Carnaval

The event could be likened to the West Indian Day parade, though along with many island contenders (such as said Guadeloupe and Martinique), there were also a lot of other groups representing places as diverse as Bolivia, Vietnam and…Saint Malo?

Brittany's great but I don't usually think of it as tropical.

Brittany’s great but I don’t usually think of it as tropical.

I was delighted by whoever danced by. Fill the streets with music! Fill the rues with drums! I loved the colorful spectacle, especially against the overcast day (thank you, Paris sky for *mostly* keeping the rain away).

Guadeloupe blue, Carnaval

Bolivia, Carnaval Tropical 2014

Shiny white, Carnaval Tropical 2014

People-watching is probably one of my all-time favorite activities. Give me an event like this and I don’t know where to look. I’m as interested in the reactions of the crowd as the costumed participants.

Continue reading ‘Carnaval Tropical in Paris’

International Pillow Fight Day + Literary Flash Mob

Looking for something original to do this weekend?

Tomorrow, Saturday, April 5 is International Pillow Fight Day. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a whole bunch of people get together in one place and battle with pillows. From Seattle to Seoul, cities across the globe organize this quirky event.

The Paris version ups the ante by asking participants to also come in costume. I’m not sure how I feel about that part (a pillow fight seems enough – and isn’t the horse head prop in the video from last year a little creepy?)

In any case, you know I love random events. I participated in a flash mob pillow fight years ago in New York and had a ton of fun. Check out the website to see if there’s one happening near you.

Meeting point in Paris is Place de la République at 3 PM.

ALP Paris Book Mob

If you’re looking for something more civilized, the American Library of Paris is organizing a literary flash mob next Saturday, April 12 at 5:30 PM.

Participants are asked to bring a book to the Eiffel Tower, spread out on the Champs de Mars, and at the appointed time strike a reading pose and freeze for 3 minutes. They’ll be filming, so get ready to look the part of literary star.

For more details, check out the Paris Book Mob page on the ALP’s website.

(The freeze flash mob in Grand Central station that inspired ALP is pretty cool, too).

Have a great weekend! And let me know if you get up to any hijinks!

Culture Shock, Early Paris Days, and Crepes for Chandeleur

The day I arrived in Orlando to start my stint as the writer-in-residence at the Kerouac House, the project’s director drove me to the supermarket as soon as I dropped off my bags. Even if Central Florida felt a world away from France, I was glad one thing remained the same: food is a top priority! (That, and t.p. – not one roll left in the house!)

Pulling into the Publix parking lot, however, I realized, Toto, we’re not in Paris anymore.

Continue reading ‘Culture Shock, Early Paris Days, and Crepes for Chandeleur’

Summer Scenes: 2013 Edition

People don’t actually fall off the face of the earth.

For one thing, there’s gravity. For another, we’re always somewhere, doing something (until we’re not).

But you’re forgiven for wondering just where the heck I went. (Thanks for caring!)

Did I end up in some strange desert?

IMG_9205

Or get lost in the woods?

Montjuic graffiti

Am I in a land where art is larger than humans?

Fundació Joan Miró

Or houses look like they’re made of bone?

Casa Batlló

Well friends, I’m still in Barcelona – and all those photos above are from Barca, too. Which is just one more reason in a list of many that I can’t tire of this place. I’m constantly discovering something new.

This is not a love song

Well, actually this *is* a love song to the city

I’ve been here nearly 5 weeks now, and those photos were all taken in just the last few days. I’ve wandered through a cactus garden, past Miró’s constellations, across the mountain Montjuic, and inside (and around, and on top of) Gaudi’s amazing Casa Batlló all within the few days since the program where I taught ended.

And, oh the program!

I had incredible students this summer. I cannot even begin to tell you what a pleasure and a privilege it was to get to know them. Again I learned far more from them than they did me, but I’m pretty sure they had some fun along the way.

Creative Writing Minor Class 2013

My goofy expressions sometimes come in handy

Pedralbes Park with Major Class 2013

My incredible major class. 6 days a week and always interested, curious, and in good humor.

We visited ballrooms and Roman amphitheaters

Casa Castellarnau in Tarragona

Casa Castellarnau in Tarragona

Tarragona

Did Poetry Machine workshops and wrote about stunning photographs

The Poetry Machine

Sarah at Chema Madoz exhibit (I was thrilled to discover this photographer this summer - incredible work!)

Sarah at Chema Madoz exhibit (I was thrilled to discover this photographer this summer – incredible work!)

Both classes produced a literary journal and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

Literary journals, 2013

On the last day my major class surprised me with a gift. Delicious chocolate, and even more precious, a poem:

“Ode to Sion”

Eyes bright -
vivid and deep -
sparkling with youth and adventure

Smile wide and welcoming;
make her laugh and you’ll feel the warmth of summer

Kindness comes with her words,
poetry follows her pen:

delve into the depths of her notebook,
unfurl the web of ink
and lose yourself….

My amazing major class on the rooftop of La Pedrera

My amazing major class on the rooftop of La Pedrera

Yes, indeed. I cried. (Maya, Alexis, Sophia, Kiarra – THANK YOU! I will never forget you all!)

Now, I’m taking some time to rest and recuperate, though you can’t stop the brain from churning when inspired, either.

Sitges

Sitges

And I’ve found the perfect cafe, which I will now visit daily, Spice Cafe in Poble Sec.

Spice Cafe in Poble Sec

Spice Cafe in Poble Sec

In other news, I’ve made my first film appearance.

ScreenshotHeartOfBrunoWizardCameo

You may remember back in September I visited London to see a dear friend and be interviewed for a documentary about him. Well, The Heart of Bruno Wizard premiered at The East End Film Festival in July to a sold-out crowd. I couldn’t be at the premiere because it was the first day of classes, but it was quite the event! I hope the film will be picked up for distribution everywhere…and soon.

HeartOfBrunoWizardScreenshot2

And so that’s the quick summary. There’s more, of course – there always is! But for now, you know I have not fallen off the face of the earth. No, I am living rich, rewarding days – just off the screen.

How is your summer going? What’s the sunshine in your life?

Parc Floral de Paris

“Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.”

-from “A Blessing” by James Wright

Lake and red and yellow flowers at the Parc Floral, Paris

Lake and ambitious flowers at the Parc Floral, Paris

This past weekend I stumbled into the Parc Floral. It was something of a spontaneous trip; it was not the original destination, but then it just appeared.

It seemed a bit of serendipity, too, as it had been suggested by the winner of the Quiet Paris giveaway. (Thank you everyone for entering and for your great ideas!) I’ve been to the Bois de Vincennes before, but for some reason never wandered to that part.

It was indeed quiet – an oasis! I think it may have helped that it was chilly again (witness the winter clothes in the photos) so not many people were out. Add that to the tips for finding tranquility: brave the gray and cold!

Presenting the Parc Floral de Paris

Presenting the Parc Floral de Paris

Despite the weather, I do feel as if I’m blooming again. So many new things are happening; I’m holding tight to see how things evolve.

Last week I started a new job; it’s only a short-term contract for a couple months, but I’m full time in an office again. It’s been a few years! I’m excited about the content project, but I see long days ahead. Because of course as soon as I’m back to the 9-5 I have a million creative projects clamoring for my love.

May is a great time to start work, though – there are four holidays in the month! First one is tomorrow. Vive la France!

Flowers at Parc Floral

And so, already the weekend, and what a wonderful surprise it turned out to be. I went wandering with my new beau (yes! more newness!) and think the Parc Floral may now be a favorite.

TropicalParcFloral

It was lovely and lush, even with full spring still lagging behind. My favorite part: the trees. At certain moments I felt as if I were in a magical forest.

MagicalWoodsParcFloral

There were waterfalls and waterfowl, totems and bonsai trees. Even peacocks which I never knew sound like strange distressed cats (meow!)

Continue reading ‘Parc Floral de Paris’

Quiet Paris (Giveaway!)

Quiet ParisAs if in answer to my pleas, the sun finally appeared in Paris this week. Starting Sunday, spring burst forth fully formed. The city sighed collective relief.

The long walks I alluded to last post obviously bring even more joy now.

In a bout of perfect timing, I also received a new guidebook that champions the wandering approach. The introduction to Siobhan Wall’s Quiet Paris has her musing: “walking around, I wondered whether we are now less familiar with losing our way and coming across places by benign accident rather than preordained design.”

Wall seeks the calmer side to cities, you see, places off the beaten track. Previously she has produced Quiet London and Quiet Amsterdam. But is it really possible to escape the hustle and bustle in Paris, the world’s most popular tourist destination?

I always approach anything promising a “secret” City of Light with a slice of skepticism. Luckily, this sweet little pocket guide soon swiped away any hesitation. It delivers.

While some old standbys certainly appear (the elevated leafy walkway known as the Promenade Plantee was packed this weekend, for instance; ditto, I imagine, Parc Buttes Chaumont), plenty of entries were new to me (the Musee Bourdelle in the fifteenth? The Bibliotheque Marguerite Durand devoted to French women and feminism?)

Author Siobhan Wall

Author Siobhan Wall

After the elegant intro, the guide is divided into 12 sections: museums, libraries, parks & gardens, places to relax, places to worship, shops, restaurants, cafes, bookshops, galleries, cultural centers, and places to stay. At the end is a handy index of places by arrondissement. There are more than 120 listings in all.

Continue reading ‘Quiet Paris (Giveaway!)’

L’Amour (or less…)

Montmartre, Paris (I love you wall)

One of my favorite things in the world is to play matchmaker.

I’m not responsible for any romantic connections, mind you. But I have fixed up a fair number of friends. A flair for platonic pairings, if you will.

Ah, you’re interested in X? So is my friend Y. Let me introduce you two!

I love putting people together who I think might click.

Not long ago, I introduced my screenwriter/actress friend Jennifer to Alexis, a director/writer, recently moved to Paris from LA. Though I had only met Alexis once before, I knew the alchemy was right for a rendezvous. I arranged that we all go to a vernissage together. (And then eat cheeseburgers afterward. Le classe!)

Long story short, I knew Jennifer and Alexis might hit it off, but I had no idea how much. The past month they (and now a whole cast and crew!) have been hard at work on a new project.

L’Amour (or less…) is a web series that explores what happens when people from two different cultures try to make a romantic connection. Each episode features re-enactments of actual dates between expatriates and the French. Some of the true stories are charming, some are distinctly not, and some are just bizarre.

Let their video here tell you more:

Fittingly, they launched L’Amour (or less…) live in Paris on Valentine’s Day. If you want to see this web series get made, head over to their kickstarter page. They’ve written 12 episodes already, but need some funds to bring the stories to the screen. Why not show them some love?

L’Amour (or less…) kickstarter page.
And the website.

Seeing people go for it; yes this is another one of my favorite things. The idea to collaborate on L’Amour (or less…) sprouted just at the start of January; Jennifer and Alexis have been running full steam ahead ever since. In only a little over a month they’ve assembled a host of talented folks, shot all over the City of Light, and written episodes which I can’t wait to actually see. Kind of dizzying all the activity!

These two remind me: you can decide to just do it. Oh, and I’m reminded, too, of the delight of serendipity. (My favorite word). Of bringing people together. The beauty of momentum. The power of putting your all into a dream.

Now if that’s not a love story, I don’t know what is.

The Pillow Project

David Barnes of Spoken Word Paris reading while a member of the Pillow Project riffs

Hello friends,

Here’s your helping of a random (art) happening around town.

This past Tuesday The Pillow Project paid a visit to Shakespeare & Co. The Pittsburgh-based troupe plays “freejazz,” an improvisational form they describe as “using the body as the instrument playing visual notes.”

The experimental group is starting to forge deeper ties to Paris. On hand for this week’s event were members of the city’s active spoken word scene.

For non-French speakers, there’s a lot of blood and torture in the text!

Continue reading ‘The Pillow Project’

Bike from London to Paris! (And Other Wild, Realizable Goals)

I haven’t heard much fanfare about it, but I recently learned that a cycling route between London and Paris opened over the summer. L’Avenue Verte is a 406 kilometer (252 mile) low- to no-traffic itinerary linking the two capitals (via the Dieppe-Newhaven ferry; they haven’t figured out biking on water yet!)

The route winds through a changing landscape of pretty villages and past picturesque chateaus. On the French side, the shortest line runs from Paris to Dieppe, with part of the trip following the old Paris-Dieppe railway line. An alternate option passes through the Oise Valley toward Chantilly and Beauvais before heading to the Normandy coast.

The British side uses small paths already in place from the National Cycle Network allowing riders easy access through the English countryside. The former railway lines on this end include the Forest Way and the Cuckoo Trail. The ferry from Dieppe to Newhaven takes about 4 hours and allows bikes (with a “bicyclette” fee).

While I’m not much of a cyclist, I like the idea of this “Green Avenue.” It also got me to thinking about how great it can be to have a goal – especially when it’s achievable! Maybe this will motivate people to say, hey, why don’t I bike from London to Paris – and then do it!

Continue reading ‘Bike from London to Paris! (And Other Wild, Realizable Goals)’


paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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