Archive for May, 2011

Belleville’s Portes Ouvertes

Any guesses as to where this photo was taken?

If you said in the middle of Paris’ 20th arrondissement, gosh you’re good!

I, for one, was surprised (and delighted!) to come upon this patch of woods behind a very unassuming door in the city.

These sorts of serendipitous discoveries were numerous this weekend, as Belleville’s annual Portes Ouvertes took place over 4 days. Nearly 130 artists’ ateliers were open to the public.

I have to admit, finding interesting passageways and cute spaces was as much, if not more, my goal than looking at art as I set out. I just love stumbling into different nooks and crannies of the city, discovering spaces that are often hidden from sight.

Cutie-patootie courtyard

I started out on Rue Denoyez, which is definitely not a secret. It’s a popular street for graffiti artists and it changes by the day. It’s always a good bet if you need a riot of color.

I then went wandering at random. There was a list of all the different artists showing work, but I liked the idea of just popping in and out as the spirit moved me. Much of the arty scenery was simply found by walking around the back streets.

My favorite discovery was a little area around Rue des Cascades and Rue de Savies. It felt like its own private neighborhood – and the neighbors made us feel that, too! Many of the people on the street looked at us like we didn’t belong there and a woman yelled at us not to take a picture of her bar.

We went in to places, anyway. It was “portes ouvertes” after all!

Can't begin to describe how, ahem, interesting this studio was

On the lookout for those who don’t belong!

Rue des Cascades/Rue de Savies

Trying for an arty shot to go with the event:

Pouty Sion in Paris painters' forest

And me in my more natural pose (Can’t. Contain. Laughter.):

A great little stroll!

If you’re in Paris, there’s still time to visit. Today is the last day – Portes Ouvertes from 2 – 9 PM.


“Paris Movie Walks” Winners!

I’m pleased to announce the winners of a free copy of Paris Movie Walks: Congrats Jen, Chris, and Susan!

And thanks to all of you for the great movie suggestions. I have many to add to my viewing list now!

It’s not a movie, but next up I’ll have a more visual post for you. Have a great week and stay tuned!

Paris Movie Walks – Free Giveaway!

I count myself lucky to have found home in two of the world’s best “cinematic” cities. Both New York and Paris have been captured on the silver screen myriad times. The thrill of recognition never fades for me. Each shot of a corner, street, or landmark that I know in real life makes my heart beat a little faster when I see it on film.

Author Michael Schürmann’s Paris Movie Walks: Ten Guided Tours Through The City of Lights! Camera! Action! offers detailed information for those of us who want to live the location, be on the set. Ten detailed itineraries follow in the footsteps of some of the most famous films that use Paris as backdrop.

Though is Paris ever just backdrop? We know it’s actually a star.

The author does, too, as he meticulously maps his way around the City of Light, pointing out everything from the major monuments to hidden gems that have appeared on the screen and putting them in cinematic context.

It’s hard to decide which the book makes you want to do more – watch all of the movies or take a stroll around Paris.

The book is really a great marriage of the two.

Besides specific and straightforward information on the movie locations, Schürmann also drops in short, useful sections like “May ’68: The Modern French ‘Revolution’” and “The Story Behind Sacre Coeur” to add to an already informative guide.

The publisher has offered to give away free copies of Paris Movie Walks to three lucky blog readers.

To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment below or sign up to receive this blog by email if you haven’t already. Feel free to let us know your favorite French film, though a simple “I want to win” is always acceptable, too.

Entries are open through Sunday, May 29. I’ll announce winners on Monday, May 30.

Good luck!

For more information on the book and author, check out the Paris Movie Walks website. Word is that a Smartphone app for a few of the walks is also in the works!

Reality Check

Today as I was climbing the many steps of the above ground Jaures metro station, a guy stole the cash right out of my backpack.

I felt a little something and quickly twirled around. The man was standing too close, but nonchalantly brushed past me.

I immediately opened my bag and saw my wallet, camera, and phone still there, so I wondered if I had imagined it. I looked in my wallet and all of my cards were still there, too.

It was only a little later when I went to pay for something that I noticed all of my cash was gone.

I consider myself pretty street smart and I usually keep my bag in front of me. But sometimes – just walking up stairs on a normal Friday afternoon outside of rush hour – I guess I don’t always clutch my bag as I should.

Sigh. Must be on guard every single second.

What gets me is that as soon as I turned around, I immediately wanted to say “WTF?”

But somehow in the split second I remembered I was in Paris and couldn’t remember how to say WTF in French. (Note to self: just say WTF in English anyway. Not that it helps matters, but I would have preferred calling him out, rather than feeling so passive).

Continue reading ‘Reality Check’

Meat and Morals

I spotted this car parked in my neighborhood and squealed:

How cute! Look at all of those adorable animals!

Cutie-patootie car

It became a little less cute when I saw the back.

Oh. Boucherie. (Butcher’s shop).

They kill the cute animals.

Good marketing ploy, though. It stuck with me.

For the record, I’m not a strict vegetarian. I just went to a new BBQ restaurant in Paris last night, for crissakes. (More on that later!)

It does always bring up issues for me, however. I consider myself a pretty principled person, but when it comes to eating meat I seem to have slightly wayward morals.

Continue reading ‘Meat and Morals’

Bring on the Bubbles/Sunshiney Happy People

Birthday girl blowing bubbles in Buttes Chaumont

In the depths of a Paris winter, it’s easy to forget the existence of any color aside from gray. Beautiful city, yes, but sometimes the sorry sky seems dressed up in gloom alone.

This is why at the first sight of sun Parisians fill up outdoor terraces, grab their picnic ware and head for the park in hordes.

I am one of these people who follow the light’s lead. I’ve noticed, however, that the warmth of the sun doesn’t much matter to people here. No matter what time of year, if the clouds have parted, an outdoor apero is called for gosh darn it. Freezing? Temperatures be damned we’re sitting out here anyway.

On Saturday I went to Buttes Chaumont for my friend Dani‘s birthday. The sun shined on us (and look at those puffy clouds!), but it was chilly. Brr!

We did our part in pretending it was a perfect day for outdoor frolicking. It’s mid-May and there’s sun. We will picnic in the park!

Five hours on the deeply slanted slopes with a lovely mix of people – all talented, creative folk – did me good. (I’m pretty sure we were the loudest group on the grass – always a danger of an overwhelmingly expat crowd.)

By the time dinner time rolled around, though, I was looking forward to seeking warmth inside. I met up with several former colleagues from Expedia. They had traveled from Canada! Germany! London! just for our little reunion.

Presented with even more incontrovertible evidence that it was cold (sun’s gone! goosebumps on the arm!) we still ended up on the outdoor terrace. A bit hard to enjoy the meal to the fullest as I was in full-on shiver mode.

Bubble Machine at Cafe Titon

In perhaps an unrelated note, I’m also noticing bubbles! Yes! I passed by a local cafe that had a bubble machine! (And a white picket fence, too. Both fence and bubble machine seemed set up for a special occasion as I’ve passed Cafe Titon tons and never seen either).

Bubbles in the air, whimsy's alive

All this faux warmth and bubbliness. City-wide delusion? Wishful thinking? Whimsy?

Well, we often see what we want to and Paris especially caters to the dreamers.

Catharsis Catalogue

Hi friends,

Usually I try to respond to every comment left on this blog.

I have been so humbled by all of your warm and supportive comments on my last post, however, that I was rendered speechless.

Thank you. Gracias. In every language, merci.

Know that I have read, re-read, and will continue to cherish, all of your encouraging words. They have touched me so; I’m sure they will be gems I return to many times. (You made me smile and cry at the same time. I am becoming the master of smiling and crying simultaneously. I’m coming to kind of dig this ability, actually).

As I mentioned, I have my heart set on gratitude, beauty, and compassion as much as anything during these shaky times. You all have confirmed by about ten million (10,000,000!) why I am so thankful. Wow, I also feel joyful and amazed!

I never wanted this space to become a record of a breakdown (and hopefully it won’t now, either!), but I thought I’d share a bit of my journey over the past several months in song-form (ahem, other people’s songs. I have not suddenly gained the ability to sing, though that would be awesome!)

Continue reading ‘Catharsis Catalogue’

Mademoiselle Again

I’ve been struggling with how best to say this, something so quiet and private, a thing that hurts to even name.

There’s no easy way, so I’ll just dive in. Jerome and I separated. Tomorrow will be the first step towards making it final.

I’ll meet with a divorce lawyer (ay, that word, divorce, still cuts me like a dagger). Soon, both of us will go together. We’ll pick up a pen and sign papers and have a record of an official parting. It will be another stage of mourning; I’ve cycled through quite a few already to arrive at this point.

Continue reading ‘Mademoiselle Again’

In Love with Istanbul

Cruising along the Bosphorous

Sometimes when I travel I feel as if I’ve just lived an entirely different life. Of course, we travel for new experiences and to immerse ourselves in other cultures.

But I mean there are a few instances where I sink into the new place so deeply it feels as if it’s become my whole reality. An inexplicable feeling grabs hold; I’m full with the sense that some part of me belongs even as everything is also foreign and unknown.

Ceiling of the Blue Mosque

On rare occasions – Paris was such a case – this feeling does presage a new life.

It’s been awhile, though, since I’ve felt thus transported.

Well, add Istanbul to the list. I can’t believe I was only there for a week; it felt like its own small lifetime. It helped, I’m sure, that 1) I was with my family so I truly was with people from my “real” life and 2) we had an extraordinary homebase that made us feel like we already had family there.

I don’t usually stay in hotels when I travel. I couchsurf, stay with friends, do apartment swaps – these feel like they put me in closer connection to the true city.

For our reunion, though, I wanted to join my family where they were comfortable and we chose a modest hotel in Sultanahmet in the Old City. We couldn’t have chosen better.

View from Hotel Peninsula

It’s no luxury experience. No. It’s a basic hotel but it has Ruhat at reception who by the end of the week was part of our clan. When I had to move for the final day, in fact (I stayed an extra day alone and the hotel was full), I still used Hotel Peninsula as my base and felt as welcomed as if I lived there. The man who served breakfast each morning literally told me I was family now. He looked as if he was going to give me a hug when I left.

And that’s sort of how the whole week felt: like an intimate, familial gathering – no matter that we were strangers.

We stayed mainly in our area, which, yes, is very touristy. We barely scratched the surface of the big, sprawling city. But when the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya, Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bazaar are all a stone’s throw from your hotel, it’s hard to get further out at first – so much to see on every corner!

None of those sites are what did it for me, though. (To tell the truth, I had to flee the Grand Bazaar and felt a bit let down by Topkapi). No, it was the vibe of Istanbul that drew me in. Laid-back, friendly, international, intriguing.

We hopped on a ferry to Asia one day in what has to be the easiest inter-continental commute in the world (and only 1.75 lira to boot). Cats roamed everywhere – over ancient ruins, rooftops, cobblestone streets. The Muslim call to prayer rang out 5 times daily, punctuating time with a strangely beautiful soundtrack.

Business, socializing, wooing were all conducted over tea – I can’t count the number of complimentary cups I was offered.

A grungy, cosy nightclub with a view played French, Spanish, American, Turkish, and gypsy music and a relaxed international crowd (no dress code) got down. Bustling crowds at Taksim Square bristled with energy. This might be the easiest way to say it then: Istanbul is alive.

Continue reading ‘In Love with Istanbul’

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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