Archive for the 'Offbeat Adventures' Category

Bastille Day Bonanza

Friends!

Happy Bastille Day. Or as we say here, the 14th of July.

This is not Bastille Day, but rather a random summer Saturday. Jazz night! Parisians dressed as flappers! Dance! A fun time.

After a week of gray and rain (some downpours historically torrential!), the skies cleared up for France’s national ball.

In case you can’t make out the name of this restaurant with its patriotic flag decor: Food. Hmm, yes. Descriptive! (Actually supposed to be quite good!)

As per usual, it seems I’m spending more time gallivanting and less time checking in. So! A few snapshots of goings on!

Flame throwers in front of Notre Dame. But of course!

Waiting for an outdoor poetry event to commence.

I’ve had to do some administrative stuff, too. I stumbled into this hidden office space village. Wouldn’t mind working on this private canal!

No big deal. Just last year’s Pulitzer Prize winner, Viet Thanh Nguyen, at Shakespeare & Company.

I’ve also had some personally touching moments. Do you remember when I started Write-in Paris (WIP), the writing salon I hosted in my home? Yes, that was one of the best things I created during my time in the City of Light. When I gave up my apartment in search of new adventures, my friend Christine asked if she could take over WIP. Mais oui! I was so delighted that the tradition would continue.

Christine invited me over for the final meeting of WIP before summer break. It was so lovely being a part of the writing salon in its new incarnation.

View from Christine’s living room. Yes, that’s the dome of the Pantheon you spot there. On the other side of her apartment is a sunny balcony overlooking Rue Mouffetard.

I also got to meet a writer whose work I adore. You may remember when I interviewed Naomi J. Williams upon the release of her fantastic novel Landfalls. We became online friends and this week we finally got to meet in person. She’s doing research for her next novel (yay!) which she’s calling Akiko in Paris.

Naomi had just arrived after retracing the Japanese poet’s trek from Tokyo to Paris (including an epic journey on the Trans-Siberian railway! Really, check out her account.) We grabbed coffee one day (at the adorable Cafe Lomi near where she was staying), then ventured out the following day to the launch of Freeman’s Journal featuring book critic extraordinaire John Freeman, and super famous, fabulous authors Edwidge Danticat and Marie Darrieussecq. SWOON!

Naomi and I waiting for the reading.

John Freeman, Edwidge Danticat, and Marie Darrieussecq.

I would be neglecting another big news item if I didn’t mention that the US prez* paid a visit to Paris for Bastille Day festivities. I felt it my duty as both an American and French citizen to stop by the anti-Trump protest last night. Yes, of course there was one! (In fact, there were three!)

Pretty clear message.

Also to the point: Trump idiocracy.

Macron wined and dined 45 and I’m sure he was impressed. I mostly ignored the ignobility of his visit here.

I also missed most of today’s morning celebrations because 1) I sleep late and 2) military parades are not usually my thing. But I tuned in just in time! The brass band busted into a tribute of Daft Punk. Wha?? So cool! (Video below).

So, I’m stepping out on the lighter note. Less than 2 weeks left of my summer sojourn here (sob!) so soaking it all up while I can. Outdoor movies start next week. Day trips always a possibility. Mostly just seeing friends.

Which, speaking of, friends – YOU! – I’ve just started a newsletter I’d love for you to subscribe to if you’re so inclined. I’ve been thinking there’s lots of other fun things I’d love to share with you all that aren’t always Paris-related. Publishing news! Big moves! Silly stories! There will be a splash of Paris thrown in, too, of course, but it will be more of a free-wheeling digest.

It’s also going back to my roots. I used to send monthly musings via email to everyone I knew and I loved the more intimate form of letters (even if they are digital). A complement to the very public web.

So, I will keep posting to the blog, too (which you can also subscribe to!), but some special content will appear only in the newsletter. I hope you sign up for Sion’s Sparkle Desk . (Yes, a random name; I’ll share what’s up with it in the newsletter).  It’s all a fun experiment at the moment and I look forward to sending my first one soon.

Until then, raise a glass for the fête nationale. Enjoy your weekend!

“In this garden we speak French.”

Paris Summer Update

Friends!

I’ve already fallen off duty in documenting my forays in the City of Light. Turns out I’m too busy relishing my time in Paris to sit down and report on it. Sometimes life is to live!

The days are fun and full (how could I forget how much I adore the long nights, light still in the sky until 11 pm? And my, it has been many months since I described my days as “fun”).

Shall I tell you about attending a quirky film event called Kinoma at the National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France)?

We saw some excellent short films, sat through a random sketch about dating (I think), awkwardly congregated in the lobby (the audience was instructed to leave the cinema while the film jury deliberated and invited to dance while DJ Metrosex spun tunes in the meantime. True story! DJ Metrosex!). Then we returned, awards were handed out and accepted as informally as if we were in someone’s living room. I loved the casual vibe.

At one point, after a long discourse by one of the invited guests, Ericka and I turned to each other and mouthed: this is so French! It was almost as if we’d forgotten how much this is a country of talking and debate. (Bonus tidbit for long-time blog readers: this is the same Ericka who received her doctorate in French cinema by defending a 600-page dissertation in French many years ago. She is also now based in the States but back for her Paris summer. We are obviously both discussing the possibility of returning).

Grand prix awards ceremony! (Photo courtesy of Kinoma).

Anyway, it was all random and interesting and really wonderful. These kinds of unexpected, offbeat experiences are my jam.

Other awesomeness! One of my besties (who took over hosting my writing salon, WIP) celebrated her birthday with a treasure hunt, petanque at Place Dauphine, and a fete on Pont Neuf. I met the beautiful new baby of another. There have been picnics at the bassin near the Bastille, coffee along the canal, and above all, time with my beau and long catch-ups with good friends.

It’s been wild how easy it’s been to slip right back in. That ease has been delightful and is obviously a comfort that I feel at home. Though on the other hand it makes me wonder: have I not grown at all since I left? I thought I might be further along on a new path. Wasn’t the idea to discover who I am away from Paris? What’s my identity when it’s not tied to the City of Light?

But perhaps that’s missing the point. I will always be tied to this city, it will always be a part of who I am. And this journey of discovery is a constant, a lifelong pursuit. Always ongoing, always unfolding, always evolving.

Last week, France endured a heatwave, with the hottest night recorded since 1872 (!) The canicule collided with Fête de la Musique, an all-night musical festival in the streets (and bars and churches and everywhere). Some experience this as a magical evening and others think that, particularly when paired with scorching heat, it approximates some version of a very noisy hell. But it falls on the solstice and is a true marker of Paris summer.

Continue reading ‘Paris Summer Update’

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Eiffel Tower Excitement

So you know I’m committed to offbeat adventures and seeing the City of Light in new ways. But I watched this video and wondered: would I be willing to do this?

(Email readers, you’ll have to click to the blog to view. You might want to turn down your sound if you’re at work, too!).

In honor of the French Open, Perrier (of sparkling water fame), erected a zipline from the Eiffel Tower that has you hurtling up to 55 miles/hour at 375 feet high. (Apparently tennis balls reach a similar speed. Um, yeah. Interesting connection).

You can practice your French with this video showcasing more stunts from the Iron Lady:

So, question of the day: Would you test this zipline?

This exciting experiment is free, but only open until June 11. (Which, phew! I’ll just miss it so you won’t know if I’m too timid to try!)

My Paris Decade

sion-by-jade-maitre-128

“I Am Running into a New Year” by Lucille Clifton

i am running into a new year
and the old years blow back
like a wind
that i catch in my hair
like strong fingers like
all my old promises and
it will be hard to let go
of what i said to myself
about myself
when i was sixteen and
twenty-six and thirty-six
even forty-six but
i am running into a new year
and i beg what i love and
i leave to forgive me

Lily pond - wow!

Friends, today is my birthday. It’s an occasion I like to think of as a rebirth, a chance to ponder changes for my new year ahead.

Truth be told, I play at these “fresh starts” often (which probably says something not so flattering about my follow-through). The rentree with its bustle after the slow summer vacation is usually that kind of time. My birthday, too. New Year and then Chinese New Year about a month or so later (I never quite manage to have made good on my January 1 resolutions.)

But this post is to share that a major change has indeed come to pass, and it may come as a shock.

Friends, I left Paris. At least for a little while.

I gave notice on my apartment, gave most of my stuff away. I returned to the town I grew up in, where I haven’t lived in nearly 20 years.

A path in Chapel Hill, NC. (Photo by TranceMist on Flickr Creative Commons).

A path in Chapel Hill, NC. (Photo by TranceMist on Flickr Creative Commons).

Whoa, whoa, WHAT? you may be saying.

I know. It’s a lot.

When last I wrote you, a move wasn’t even in the mix. But things changed quickly and I hopped on the ride.

Continue reading ‘My Paris Decade’

Aeroflorale Flying Greenhouse Machine! (Do you Believe?)

A canicule across France this week with temperatures topping 100 degrees. People may be near hallucinating from the heat, but certainly I did not hallucinate this.

Aeroflore

Today, I lunched along the Canal de L’ourcq at an impossibly cute venue (possible post later) with friends from NYC passing through town. After, despite the chaleur, I decided to stroll my old ‘hood while they went in search of air conditioning.

As I approached the Villette, I saw first one, then another adolescent jump into the canal. Green, and with bits of garbage floating in it, the questionable nature of the water proved no deterrent for energetic teen boys needing to cool off.

I don’t wilt easily in heat, but I was feeling faint and knew it was time to head home. How happy I was to cut through the park and come upon a scene!

First view AerofloreYou can see for yourself the immense installation, an industrial-chic structure adorned all around with plants.

Several people in khaki uniforms were scaling and rappelling (!) from it, and naturally, a small crowd was gathered.

Qu’est-ce que c’est ce truc? I wondered who I could ask what this thing was, but I waited patiently in the sun to learn more.

One of the uniformed people was making a show with a separate contraption. Affixed to the contraption were regular party balloons, which it seemed he wanted to launch into space using the strange device. After much ta-do and several turnings of wheels…a cord snapped and instead of being launched, the balloons stayed right where they were.

actor aeroflorale

“That’s never happened before!” he said.

More adjustments were made, and finally he freed the balloons from the machine with a scissors. He held the balloons aloft then let them go. They floated into the sky. The audience applauded.

(Um, that guy simply let regular balloons fly away. Is that really a feat?)Actor Aeroflorale

What’s going on here? I have a new question now, and I scan the crowd for someone who seems most likely to have answers. I see a white-haired woman speaking to a few teenagers. She’s nodding confidently. I scoot closer to her. She looks like one of those people who makes it her business to know other people’s business. Just the kind of person I’m seeking.

“…it was in Madagascar,” she’s saying, as I slide closer to her.

“No!” says a young woman. “That’s where I’m from. That’s far away!”

“And it will fly to Iceland next,” she continues.

Two young men laugh good-naturedly. “No, Madame. That’s not possible.”

“That’s what they said. I live right across the street. I didn’t see it one night. Then the next morning, it was here! It landed!”

“No,” look at it. “It’s decor, Madame. Decoration!”

Continue reading ‘Aeroflorale Flying Greenhouse Machine! (Do you Believe?)’

Hot Diggity: Sun Therapy & L’atypique

Rue Alexandre Dumas - springA surreal Sunday scene: I’m walking down Rue Alexandre Dumas, my familiar street made new when it’s washed in spring’s bright light. I fall behind two young French girls – they couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10 – on the corner near Conforama. One has an iPhone pressed to her ear, her blond tresses nearly covering the device. She’s speaking into it seriously, while her friend patiently waits.

When her serious talk is through she hangs up and becomes lighthearted again, and the two friends begin chatting and laughing. By this time, I’ve passed them, my long legs carrying me much faster than theirs.

Then, from behind me, I hear:

“I like the way you work it. No diggity, I got to bag it up, bag it up
I like the way you work it. No diggity, I got to bag it up…”

And the girls are singing along! When Dr. Dre starts rapping, they even keep pace with that, too.

A deep look of confusion has overtaken my face, then my lips spread into a huge grin, even while I’m shaking my head. How in the world do these little French girls 1) know this song twice as old as they are (1996, baby!) 2) keep up with the lyrics (do they have any idea what they’re saying?). I’m surprised and slightly disconcerted, too.

They cross the street and I lose the Blackstreet song and their voices rising to meet it. I continue on my way.

La Jardin de la Folie Titon

La Jardin de la Folie Titon

The lawn of the Jardin de la Folie Titon

We’ve been basking in a whole string of warm, sunny days. Sun therapy isn’t reliably available in Paris, but my, no better option exists if you can get it. The default belief that the sunshine won’t last (the sky here so much more accustomed to a palate of grays), promises outsized excitement with its appearance. Each day for a couple weeks now, it seems, I wake and look out the window. It’s sunny…again? I simply can’t believe the good fortune. It’s impossible to ever take for granted the sun.

Church near the jardin de la folie titon

I’ve been making daily trips to a neighborhood park – my destination when I ran into the rapping girls – and I even made a recent trip to my favorite Parisian outpost, Buttes Chaumont. Another flashback to earlier times. It had been so long since I’d seen the Sybil Temple above the lake, and laid on its sloping hills.

Chilling in Buttes Chaumont

Chilling in Buttes Chaumont

I usually stick closer to home, though; I like anywhere I can walk. Yesterday, on my way back from sunbathing, I noticed a shop, its window crowded with colorful clothes and vintage jewelry, shoes and boots. How is it possible to follow the same route over and over and still discover you’ve completely missed something right in front of you?

window of the l'atypique

“Are you open?” I peek my head into the door, already ajar. Sunday, sunny, open store? It did not compute.

Continue reading ‘Hot Diggity: Sun Therapy & L’atypique’

(Extra)Ordinary New Year

Bare winter tree created from dirt on a wall in the 11th

Bare winter tree created from dirt on a wall in the 11th

After the warmest year on record in France, a cold front has moved in. My apartment relies on individual electric heat – piddly little units to warm each room. Penny pincher that I am, I rotate: turning the one on in the living room where I work during the day; switching on the one in my room at night.

That leaves the hallway, kitchen, and bathroom to glacial conditions. This does little to motivate me to start cooking more, though it’s perpetually on my to-do list. And going to the bathroom feels like a courageous expedition. Seriously, I don’t think ice in the toilet bowl would surprise me.

(These rooms, of course, do have their own little heating units. The one winter I treated myself to a toasty apartment, my astronomic electric bill made my blood run cold in my warm body so I reverted back to piecemeal heating and bulky sweaters).

If it's going to be cold, might as well wear funky tights.

If it’s going to be cold, might as well wear funky tights.

Still, I’m not minding this winter so much. The sun shines much more frequently than I ever remember. This is the season that habitually conjures the dreaded grisaille (unending gray skies), yet here we are often with sun! I like the artificial light lamp I gifted myself for my birthday, but honestly, there’s been enough of the natural stuff that I’m not certain I needed it.

Tonight I took a brisk walk to the butcher’s. I called around 4:30 just to check they were open – one never knows during this holiday season. I reserved a roasted chicken (yes! I’ve just learned recently to reserve coveted items at the butcher and boulangerie ahead of time so they set them aside!)

I headed out the door soon after to catch the last light of the day; some stunning pink played across the baby blue sky.

When I arrived at the butcher’s 15 minutes later, there was already a small line. But I was asked immediately what I needed.

“I called and reserved a poulet roti?” I said. (Even after all these years, many of my statements still come out sounding like questions in French. Will I ever be sure?)

“Oh.” the butcher says. “There’s a problem.”

Continue reading ‘(Extra)Ordinary New Year’


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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