Friday, July 29, 2011


Guys!  How clever is this?
Do you know about the Velib system in Paris?  It's bike sharing - you sign up for a year or whatever and then you can take out bikes when you need them and return them, etc.... it's a great idea.
Well, now Boston is doing it!  I'm so excited! (Like you couldn't tell from the exclamation points)
They talk about it here.
I'm so proud of my city!

(Velib photo from here)

The Beginning of the End

Today was my last day of classes at the Alliance, and the first day of the long and odious process of packing, made more so because I do not want to leave.  Walking home after class today, through the Jardin du Luxembourg and by the Panthéon to the river, it feels like the city has become part of me.  That is why I don't want to pack (though it may have something to do with the fact that I have six months of clothes to get into a suitcase or two).
One thing, though is for sure - it's going to be hard to get everything back to the states.  We have a couple of boxes of books (maybe three) and clothes for five people, not to mention breakable things found at flea markets or painstakingly crafted at home.  It should be interesting.
Boston friends, I'll see you in about three days!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Burning House

The Burning House is a website in which the creator asks people (artists, students, anyone) what they would save when there house was burning down.  It's clever; the stuff that people save is incredible and sentimental and makes you think about what's really important.  People save their cats and their wedding dresses and their laptops and their favourite clothes.  They save presents from their loved ones and the things that hold memories for them.  It's pretty cool.
When I was a junior in high school the house next door to ours caught fire.  I woke up and saw out the window of my sister's room three stories of orange flame - that eventually caught on to our house, but that's a story for another time.  Seriously, I put on a skirt and a coat (it was November) and ran out of the house with my family.  We have three cats, but they weren't what I was thinking about.  I was thinking about how I wanted the people I love to be safe.
So I can answer this, as it's happened already.  When I left our burning house I didn't take anything with me.  It was three in the morning.  What I took was my family.  And that's all.
What about you?  What would you save in a fire?


There were days when I would sit in the back of my mother's closet, tucked between the crates of scarves and winter hats, with the hems of special-occasion dresses brushing my head, wishing desperately to get to Narnia.  I would dig my heels into the floor and make sure the door was tightly closed, the lights off, pressing the back of my head against the too-solid wall, sure that at any moment it would give way to cold and prickly branches like in "The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe."  I wanted to play chess with the ruby-eyed knights at Cair Paravel and sail out to the world's end in the Dawn Treader with Caspian, reaching the wall of water that stretches to the sky.  I didn't want to be there for the Last Battle, to see the destruction (though I still don't understand why poor Susan wasn't in Aslan's Land at the end), but how I longed to visit the Dancing Lawn or the high barren Ettinsmoor where the giants lived!
Did you ever want to visit an imaginary place?  Was it Narnia?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Paris Plage

Have we talked about how ridiculous the French sometimes are (I mean this nicely so please don't yell at me)?  Well, if not, we should now.  Sometimes they do silly things like build over-the-top ornate opera houses while their citizens are starving or have balls at fire stations (which admittedly sounds pretty cool).  But then they do this thing called the Paris Plage.
This is when the government decides that what the people of Paris really need in the summer months (the rainy and cold and perfect-for-running summer months) is a beach.  I am not kidding, they cart sand in and create a beach on the cobblestone shores of the Seine.  There are little striped changing huts like you might see in an E Nesbit book (the one about mermaids) and lounge chairs.  There is a sand castle made by the Disneyland Paris folks, and ice cream and bocce and all sorts of beach things.
I grew up in Boston, near enough to the water so that we would go to Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea every summer (at least once) and to Plum Island even in the winter when the beach was frozen (that's a story for another time).  I love the beach - bracing water and sand that burns your toes.  When we were in cloudy Finistère we rolled up our trousers and waded into the North Atlantic waves.  But for me at least, the beach doesn't make much sense without the water - or at least, without water you can run into.  And it seems to me that the idea of the Paris Plage is at least a little bit ridiculous.  What do you think?
(photo of a poster (by I think Sempé - it at least looks like his style) from here)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Moving, or Lack Thereof

We return to Boston in less than a week, and none of us are ready to leave.  It just seems like we haven't had enough time here, like it was only yesterday that I flew into Paris on my own and sat quietly in the apartment on Denfert-Rochereau with all the lights on, feeling small in a big city without my family around me.  How I have changed!  My French has improved hugely, and now this shining city feels like it's my own - I know the Métro now, and the girl behind the counter at the bakery, and the old man who watches soccer in the corner store.  There are parts of the city where the street names are strange to me, where I don't know the people and feel unsafe, or like a foreigner stopping to look at the maps in the bus stops, but in my Paris a waiter at a café cheers me on as I go running in the mornings and the benches and bridges are familiar friends.  In my Paris there are people who know what I will order before I say anything, and the boy who says "quel sourire!" when I walk by.  I won't ever know the whole city - I am not even familiar with all the quiet streets and personalities of Cambridge, where I grew up - and that's okay.  But I'm not ready to leave.
I am not ready to go running by the Charles yet, to reacquaint myself with supermarkets and the fewer bridges and subway stops.  I'm not ready for the surprise of everyone speaking English (will it be like an onslaught, where you can understand every word, every sentence, of conversations overheard in cafés?) and streets with no fountains built into the sides of stone buildings, where there are no statues on the street corners or submarine roofs soaring above the city.  I might even miss the cigarette smoke.
None of us are ready to leave, and the apartment in the Marais reflects this: there are no boxes of clothes marked for the US or books separated from the bookshelves.  My desk is its usual clutter of paper and Chapstick and contact solution.  My brother's fancy chef's apron hangs in the kitchen, and our toothpaste is in the bathroom.  None of us are ready to leave - emotionally or practically.  And I would say that perhaps we should wait a little longer - just a week or two more perhaps - but I miss my friends, and, as much as it doesn't sound like it, I miss my city.
When you have moved to a new place, or back home, was it hard?

Breton Stripes

Striped shirts.  They seem French, right?  And kind of super-chic?  My brother disagrees with me on this one, but I think that somehow those Breton stripes make a plain long-sleeved T-shirt seem a little more on-purpose, a little more put-together, no?
Those stripes come from Brittany, where fisherman used to wear them (and then yachtsmen borrowed the idea).  When we passed through the little town of Dinan, we picked up shirts for my darling sister and me, and I love it!
What do you think?  Do you think that the stripes are chic and French, or, like my brother, do you think they look like prison stripes?  Let me know in the comments!
(Also, Audrey Tautou wears them.  Photo from here)

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Ends of the Earth

On Saturday, we left Paris.  We got into the rented car with a carry-on bag in the bag and five umbrellas, a map of Brittany, and some jazz CDs.  We left the city on the A10 headed up towards Chartres and turned west, towards wild and medieval Brittany.
We spent the rest of Saturday exploring Breton villages, sampling a crêpe or two, before coming into the incredible fortified town of Dinan, where we spent the night.  But for me, it was Sunday that was incredible.
On Sunday we drove to Finistère, the far western point of Brittany.  We drove through a national park, bypassing Huelgoat (the high forest) and through moors with rocky tors rising from the heather and misty grass.  We hiked out to the incredible Château de Dinan, a rocky outcropping separated from the mainland by a natural archway.  We waded in the sea and watched the mist roll in over the high fields and walked through bright purple and green heather.  It was pretty incredible.
Have you been to Finistère?  What did you think?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wanderlust: Corsica Edition

There's a restaurant in the fifth called "Le Cosi" which serves food "provencial et corse."  For a couple minutes last year we thought that meant "coarse and provincial" but about a half-hour later we were proven wrong.  It was Corsican food (and food from Provence).  And it was delicious.
Earlier that summer, when we were living in Switzerland, I was considering attending a sailing camp (am I a nerd?  Yes) in Corsica, and I spent some enjoyable afternoons lying on the couch in Lausanne and daydreaming about sailing on the Mediterranean in ultra-sleek, ultra-cool catamarans.  I didn't end up going, but the daydreams didn't go away.
Since then, I've wanted to go to Corsica.  Is Garance a reason?  Perhaps.  But it's beautiful there - just look at the pictures!

Cities built into the cliffs....

Sunsets on the water...

And hiking and medieval villages inland!  What's not to love?
Have you been to Corsica?  What was it like?

(photos from here, here, and here)

Métro 6

Today my father and I went out to our old apartment at Denfert-Rochereau to pick up our mail and took the 6 back.  The Métro has something like fourteen lines, but the 6 is my favourite.  Taking the 6 from Denfert-Rochereau to Place d'Italie means that you're aboveground for most of the trip, high over the roads on aqueduct-like arches, coming into stations like Glacière made of delicately curving steel and glass panes above the trains.  I love the elegance of Parisian industrialism, the arabesques of iron beams and the many-paned glass roofs.  Somehow the French have made it into a combination of functionality and light, and it's lovely to just ride the train, hands full of mail from the States, and look out the window at the shining city.
(photo from here)

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Occasionally we all need special treats.  And occasionally we disguise these special treats as gifts for our dearest friends and family.  I'm guilty of doing this on multiple occasions - once I got one of my best friends to come with me to see Julius Caesar at the ART (and the academic dean saw us there with his wife and thought we were dating, but that's a story for another time) and another time I took Ursula to Ladurée and another time (today) I took Caleb to the same place.
For those of you who haven't been, Ladurée is a haven of green-and-gold Parisian opulence on the Champs-Élysées with delicious tea and macarons.  As my darling brother is a bit of a connoisseur about his tea, it's a pretty good place to take him.  And, since we don't hang out just us as often as we should, his birthday present/special occasion/present to me is always a good time to do so.  It was lovely to see my brother make a face of amazed happiness as he bit into an orange-flower macaron and another of mock-outrage when a woman answered her cellphone and proceeded to have a loud conversation (in English) while having tea with someone else.  And it was really nice to walk with him there and back and just talk.  We talked about everything - books we had both read, how we're not ready to go back to America, our first memories of houses and places we'd been.  I highly, highly recommend Ladurée as a place to "take someone out" to talk and drink good tea and eat delicious pastries in a Belle Époque setting.
Thank you so much, Caleb!  We should go again soon...
(photo from here)

Masks with Ursula

Yesterday my darling sister and I went to BHV to buy some cardboard masks and glitter and the like...
And this was the result!

Ursula made this beautiful colourblock one with sequins....

And I make this papier-mâché one with some white paint and a coat of glittery glue.
They're beautiful, right?  Such a lovely project for a rainy day and it was so lovely to hang out with my little sister and do something together.  They looked like Russian princesses to me and I know that when I look at my mask I'll remember that lovely afternoon of painting and giggling and trying on our half-finished projects.  
Thank you, Ursula!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Royal Tenenbaums

Today I watched the Royal Tenenbaums for the first time.  Have you seen it?  There were parts I liked, and parts I didn't (at times it felt quite contrived) but one of the things I loved was the city around them.
In documentary filmmaking (which is something that my darling brother is reading a lot about these days) there's a type of film called a "sensory autograph" - a movie that gives you the idea and the feeling of a place and the people.  It's something that he and his friend J will try to accomplish when they go to Rwanda (now in August), and it's something that I think Mr Anderson does very well with New York, or at least his version of the city.
In this piece on Flavorwire (the post that inspired me to watch the movie in the first place), they talk about how Mr Anderson, originally from Texas, had a picture of New York City that he'd pieced together from the New Yorker and the like - a New York that wasn't exactly New York, but was his own version that he then tried to recreate in the film.  So in a way, The Royal Tenenbaums isn't just about a dysfunctional prodigal family but also a sensory autograph of this other New York, a place that Texas kids dream about when it's too hot out sitting in air-conditioned hallways with their bare feet against the other wall (at least, maybe, in my overactive imagination), a place that is pieced together from Talks of the Town and movie reviews and the captions beneath cartoons.  I get that.  I've been to New York properly just once, on a class trip in eighth grade (the other times I've been through catching a bus to Philadelphia), and since then my picture of New York is also mostly New Yorker articles and vague recollections from June when I was thirteen - a restaurant with flowers on the table and a tour of a tenement house reenactment on the Lower East Side.  And I combine those pictures with "The Shitkickers of Madison Avenue" (one of my all-time favourite Talk of the Town pieces) and reviews of restaurants and other people's blogs who happen to live in New York.
So, real New Yorkers, is your New York City like the Royal Tenenbaums?  Do you find your city in magazines and on the Sartorialist and Salinger novels?  What is the city like?
(photo from here)

Monday, July 18, 2011


So today I tried to go register for two weeks of classes at the Alliance Française before I return to the US, but they were full for this week, so I guess I'm on my own for a couple days.
Which brings me to my main point: French verbs that they don't teach you in school but turn out to be useful.
In high school and at the Sorbonne, we went over the Important Verbs: être (to be) and avoir (to have) were the two big ones, with faire (to do) and mettre (to put) and prendre (to take) and then random ones like venir (to come) and danser (to dance) to remind you of the verb endings.  But there are really cool ones that they never teach you until you're reading a book meant for French twelve-year-olds and realize that you don't know ANY of the words and then go look them up and you're amazed at how quickly your world in French grows, because people actually use these.  Like bouder, which means "to sulk."  To sulk!   Or hurler - to howl.  On one hand, there's no reason to go over "to sulk" in any grammar class, but on the other - now you know how to say that someone's sulking or howling.  How cool is that?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wanderlust: Meteora Edition

So this is a town - barely - not a country, and it's Saturday rather than Friday, but it's been ages since I did one of these and the BBC had an article on this.
When I was twelve I went to Greece with my family for my uncle's wedding, and my parents and siblings and I ended up traveling around the country, going to the places we'd read about in myths and stories (Nestor's Palace, Olympia, Delphi) and places I'd never heard of.  One of those places was Meteora, monasteries suspended on precarious rock spires.  The very name "Meteora" means "suspended in the air" and the monasteries themselves are full of icons (flat-looking, with no vanishing points) and incense.

I remember climbing up those crazy rock formations, in a long skirt (you have to wear a skirt and cover your shoulders in the monasteries) to reach those beautiful buildings in the sky.  It was magical.
Have you been to Meteora?  What did you think?
(photos from here and here)

Friday, July 15, 2011


Last night we went to Montparnasse to see the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower (the closest we could get) and they were amazing!  I hadn't seen proper fireworks in years and yesterday they were incredible - it was kind of scary at first, when the tower went black and nothing happened for a couple minutes, and then they really started in earnest.
This weekend, now that my father's home, we'll hang out and maybe hit the Soldes (still going on - yay!) and see the flea markets out by the periphery!
Happy weekend, blog readers!
(photo from here)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Bastille Day!

Hello, blog readers!
Today marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison by an impoverished population that wasn't too keen on the bit where Versailles was eating off of gold plates and they had no bread.
Today in Paris there is a parade down the Champs-Élysées, fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, and firemen's balls all over the city (that's the part I'm excited about).  It's a little sad, since my father won't be back in Paris until tomorrow, but I'm quite excited!
Do you guys celebrate Bastille Day?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Harry Potter and the Architectural Digest

So... not a book title, but still.
Have you seen this article on the sets of the Harry Potter films?  It's so cool!  I love all the Gothic designs present in the boathouse and the Headmaster's Office.....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bastille Day

I recently realized (and by recently I mean "this morning, when I actually looked at a calendar for the first time in a while") that Thursday is Bastille Day!  I have to say, I'm super-excited.  I haven't seen fireworks in God knows how long (um, that'd be about three years) and it's kind of incredible that I'm in Paris, living just blocks away from the Bastille, for Bastille Day.
So my darling brother and I are trying to put together a dinner (for Friday, because my father won't be back from the States until then) that epitomizes Frenchness and summertime and... any suggestions?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Good Morning, Monday

I thought I'd share this papier-mâché teacup with you this morning.... isn't it pretty?
You can find the tutorial here.

Friday, July 8, 2011


On the seventeenth, my darling brother and his friend J are going to Rwanda to film a documentary.
I'm more than a little jealous.
This is the film that Caleb started filming way back in 2008, when he was just thirteen and not yet in high school (good lord he'll be a senior this fall) and is about soccer (or football, depending on where you live) opening a window onto the lives of the people who live in the village. It's a clever idea, and I'm confident that they'll come back with beautiful footage and the loveliest of narratives that will then be shown on NOVA, or something.
There's just one problem.
I would love to go with them.  I suggested this to Caleb a couple of times ("Hey!  Guess what?  I took film in high school - I could be really helpful!") but he chose J (who is a real live filmmaker who knows what he's doing) instead.  Hey, I would love to go if they decided they needed someone to hold the microphone or round up people to interview or to just get them tea every so often.
I loved living in Rwanda.  At fifteen, I think I grew up the most - seeing something so different from Boston, learning a ton about hospitals and people and society and how the world works outside of the US. And I would love to go back, to grow up a bit more, to see more of the world before heading off to college in August.
But J and Caleb are going instead, which is okay.  J has never been to Africa, and I think that he'll love it, and grow up, just as Caleb will grow up, and they'll come back with something they can share with the whole world.
Have you ever wanted to go on a trip that just wasn't meant to be?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Who Would Like Popsicles?

I know that my darling sister is hungry (is she the inspiration for this?  Yes.) and to me, popsicles just seem like summer.  I remember sitting outside with them dripping onto my bare legs and the steps outside our kitchen, or colouring the grass raspberry in the park...
Here is a recipe for blackberry, honey, and yogurt popsicles from Lottie + Doof, and they look delicious.
(Photo by Lottie + Doof)


Guys.  Go read this.  It's one of the truest and sweetest things I've seen in a bit.
(The photo is of a park near the new apartment)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Our New Home

Today has been spent slowly exploring our new neighborhood!  We have a lovely book by Thirza Vallois called "Around and About Paris" that talks about the history, easily fusing the Paris of the past and the Paris of the present.  For example, the Knights Templar were really the "founding fathers" of the 3rd - I had no idea that their temple sat at the site where I watched an outdoor concert on Friday, or that a Queen's lover lived on the street where I buy bread in the  morning!  I highly recommend the book, which comes in volumes, to anyone interested in Parisian history.

Now that I have only a month left in Paris, I am amazed at what I get to see every day.  Every street corner has a fountain or a statue; every door is crooked or brightly painted or set with a giant brass knob the size of my head.  Beautiful stained glass and elaborate lettering herald the boulangerie that smells delicious when you walk by; even getting on the Métro here means descending steps beneath a fairy-tale Art Nouveau sign.  I am worried that Cambridge, for all of its charms, might not live up to its predecessor.

(photos of thistles in a pretty blue jar inside the apartment, and the inexpertly shot view from my parents windows, both by me)

Exploring the New Neighbourhood

This morning I got up early and wandered my new home, the third.  No one was up - it was about nine - and the streets were oddly silent, with only a couple of commuters and homeless people.
Usually I'm really self-conscious about taking pictures in the city (I don't like to be thought of as a tourist) but today I did manage to take some photos, so here are a couple pictures from my morning wanders....

This is the gate to the Marché des Enfants Rouges, so called because of the orphans dressed in red who once lived near here.  Later in the day, it's full of people doing their shopping in the covered market, maneuvering between the fruit stands and the poissonerie.  

And this is the flower shop just inside the gate....

Enjoy your morning!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fake It 'Til You Make It?

Do I pretend to be a real Parisian?
Oh yes.
But at this point, five months and five days in, don't I count?
Maybe?  Just a bit?
After all, I do a lot of the things on this list that Flavorwire put out.
So... do you pretend to be a Parisian?

(Clock from the Musée d'Orsay)


Hi guys, sorry for the absence for the long weekend!
My family left Paris for Burgundy on Sunday and spent all of Sunday and Monday out in the countryside, which was absolutely amazing!  Wine-tasting, medieval villages, delicious country food....
What did you do for your fourth of July?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Moving Day! And Rome

Today is actually moving day!  And yesterday both my mother and my darling sister came home from the United States and Rome, respectively.  My mother came home with her brand-new computer, which I have had lots of fun playing with and setting up (it's her first Mac ever!) and my little sister came home with stories and a snowglobe and presents for the rest of us (I got a scarf.  It's gorgeous.  Thank you, Urs!).
In the meantime, have you been checking out Prêt à Voyager's Tour de France feature?  She finds bloggers who live all over Paris and get them to talk about their arrondissements.  For anyone interested in the city, I HIGHLY suggest checking it out.  I've lived here for five months now and I don't know a fifth of the stuff her writers put in their posts.  It's a way to experience the city through new eyes, and if you're like me and constantly in the mindset for travel, it's perfect.  Today she talked to I Heart Paris about the 18th - Montmartre - go check it out!