Posts Tagged 'paris'

(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 Street Art Tour + Happy Holidays

An iconic, long-standing work of street art by Jean Le Gac in Belleville

An iconic, long-standing work of street art by Jean Le Gac in Belleville

For the past six and a half years, I’ve lived on the border of the 11th and the 20th arrondissements. I’ve long known that these 2 districts have the highest concentration of street art in Paris.

But my specific neighborhood isn’t the hot center for seeking out these ephemeral works. For that, I need only hop on the metro a few stops. Yesterday, I did just that to join a street art tour.

Led by photographer and poet Richard Beban (and husband of my new writer friend Kaaren Kitchell; the pair produce the blog Paris Play), the tour began on rue Oberkampf.

La Maison de la Plage is an arts collective on Paris' most famous street for street art, Rue Denoyez.

La Maison de la Plage is an arts collective on Paris’ most famous free zone for street art, Rue Denoyez.

A cold December day, we spent a little too long at the outset standing in one place. It was easy to understand why, though. Richard is a font of knowledge and provided an excellent historical overview of why this particular area birthed the street art movement, backed by rich Paris history.

Once we got moving, we covered a lot of ground. Some works I’d seen before, but a great many were new to me. Of course, the very nature of street art means the landscape constantly changes. Weather, the elements, other people or the city itself covering up the works are just a few reasons works disappear from view. (A landlord can ask the city to paint over anything from ground level up to 3 meters high. Anything higher is at the landlord’s expense to cover. A reason many artists aim above the 3 meter mark).

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What a great boon to have an expert guide for mapping a lively itinerary and offering valuable background information. I learned so much about the different artists and the context, including political roots. And we were led to some incredible surprises!

Continue reading ‘Paris Street Art Tour + Happy Holidays’

Paris to Ferguson Protest at Trocadero

Paris to Ferguson rallyAs photographers, tourists and anyone else wanting to see the Iron Lady in all her glory know, Trocadero offers Paris’ best viewing spot of the Eiffel Tower.

Trocadero is also site of the Palais de Chaillot where in December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed by the United Nations.

This confluence of the scenic and the symbolic serves as a compelling assembly point for many gatherings.

On Saturday I learned at the last minute about a peaceful protest called Paris to Ferguson organized to show solidarity with those speaking out against police brutality. I hesitated for just a second – my thoughts, my heart, have been tuned to the events happening in the United States. Does it matter to hold signs and raise voices here in the City of Light?

Continue reading ‘Paris to Ferguson Protest at Trocadero’

Thanksgiving Love and Tears

A recent fall walk through the Jardin des Plantes.

A recent fall walk through the Jardin des Plantes.

Since living in France, Thanksgiving has always been an improvised affair. Some years I’ve gathered in the apartments of friends who are much braver than me – they hunt down the obscure cranberry, shove large turkeys into tiny Parisian ovens, spend small fortunes on the fixins’, many of which are foreign foods here.

I’ve been to lively potluck parties and more intimate dinners, and sometimes, not even celebrated at all. It is just another Thursday in L’Hexagone.

The past few years, Thanksgiving has unwittingly become an unofficial marker of my relationship, too, though my beau probably knows I think this only now that I write it. A couple years ago, we had only just started seeing each other, so new it was that when people at that Thanksgiving referred to him as my boyfriend, he gently corrected them (but since there’s no French word for dating, I’m not sure what term we were then. Just curious about the other, I guess).les jardins des plantes, close-up

Last year, I was with my family, a rare occasion, and I was grateful to have the time with them. Just before the holiday, though, I got to experience that special bittersweet twinge unique to romantic partings. When I left Paris, it wasn’t just to return home for the long weekend, but to go to a long writing residency at the Kerouac House; my beau and I were saying goodbye for 3 months. I was moved to feel how greatly we’d both miss each other.

Continue reading ‘Thanksgiving Love and Tears’

Birthday Time (and the best gift from you)

My feet (and the rest of me) in Dieppe on my first birthday in France

My feet in Dieppe on my first birthday in France (the rest of me is there, too)

Happy midterm elections, USA!

Ahem. Yeah. Doesn’t the world feel in such a sorry state these days?

You’ll forgive me if I’m focused more on the personal than the political today. Because…it’s BIRTHDAY TIME! Woot!

If I look a little dazed here, it's because I am. I'd only been in France for a month and a half at this point. Ah, so many years ahead of you, sweetcake! A lot is going to happen.

If I look a little dazed here, it’s because I am. I’d only been in France for a month and a half at this point. Ah, so many years ahead of you, sweetcake! A lot is going to happen.

I received a package from my mom last week with 3 wrapped presents and tried waiting to open them until today. (I’m like an impatient kid in this respect and could only last until the weekend before succumbing to my curiosity and peeking early).

Besides the thrill of gifts (thank you, mom!), this marks a triumph, too. It was the first package that has arrived safely from my mom IN YEARS.

Dipping way back in the archives, I once declared La Poste my number one nemesis. So many packages had gone missing (and I heard from a chorus of readers who experienced the same thing), that it seemed someone was sneaking away with the goods. And so I sacrificed the comfort of care packages from home forever (sniff!)

A 2014 portrait of me by Richard Beban. Looking a little more clear-eyed here :)

A 2014 portrait by Richard Beban.

My mom would heroically try again from time to time to no avail, but this time, holy miracle! It arrived. Let’s take this as a great sign for the year ahead.

I thought to do a little pampering for my birthday (France has taught me the value of self-care), but part of what I wanted was not to get bogged down planning anything.

So oops! Couldn’t get an appointment today for my little treats. That’s ok: I now have a salon appointment on Friday for a hair cut and a massage on Saturday. I’m more than happy to stretch the birthday out all week.

I’ll be seeing my beau soon, then have a little fete with my writing workshop tomorrow.

With any luck, I might even run into some colorful festivity such as this forró flashmob in Paris.

A simple celebration and I couldn’t be happier.

(Oh, actually I could! I love receiving your comments. Thank you for reading – it’s the best gift ever).

Update: wow, package from my dad just now arrived, too. 3 delivered packages from the post in a week? Amazing!

The Pleasures of Routine

“Be regular and orderly in your life…so that you may be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert

The rentrée used to make me jittery. Perhaps counterintuitively, August has always been my favorite month, not despite, but because of how it changes the face of the city: shops close, streets empty, Parisians flee to the countryside for month-long vacations. Left in the wake is more space, a slower pace and time to properly indulge.

EVERYTHING gets in on the rentree action, including...artificial plants?

EVERYTHING gets in on the rentree action, including…artificial plants?

When everyone comes pouring back in September, the flurry of activity after the calm of summer jolts me. The very air brims with nervous energy on overdrive. The start of school, the return to work, signups for everything under the sun from gym memberships to classes through the mairie.

This year, though, I truly joined in the spirit of the rentrée. I’ve realized that it spells renewal and opportunity. Setting new intentions. Creating a new schedule. Really, the rentrée is more important than New Year’s for making resolutions.

Continue reading ‘The Pleasures of Routine’

**BOOK GIVEAWAY!** Deer Hunting in Paris

Deer Hunting in ParisIf the title doesn’t tip you off, I can confirm that Deer Hunting in Paris packs a ton of surprises.

Recently awarded the 2014 Travel Book of the Year by the Society of American Travel Writers, the tale follows a Korean-American preacher’s daughter from Paris, France to Paris, Maine where our liberal, long-standing vegetarian author falls in love with a conservative carnivore and learns to cook everything from moose liver to deer heart. “Julia Child prepping roadkill,” one reviewer quips.

As someone who leans toward the secular end of the spectrum, steers clear of firearms, and has always been confounded by hunting’s appeal, the book’s subtitle – A Memoir of God, Guns, and Game Meat – announced I would be entering very foreign territory. The fact that I laughed out loud on the first page (and that the funny one-liners kept coming) reassured me that I’d be in good hands for the journey. Deer Hunting in Paris is surely the most unique book I’ve ever found filed in the French travel section!

Paula Young Lee holds a doctorate from the University of Chicago and writes frequently on subjects related to human-animal relations. The author of five books and over 25 scholarly articles, she also contributes to Salon.com and similar venues. She splits her time between Wellesley, Massachusetts, and West Paris, Maine.

I’m delighted she’s on the blog today – and that she’s offered to give away *2* signed copies of the book! Details on how to win at the end of the post!

Continue reading ‘**BOOK GIVEAWAY!** Deer Hunting in Paris’


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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