adventures in france

just another american living abroad. i like art museums and hidden cafes. join me as i spend a summer in paris.

August 31, 2014 at 4:59pm
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the quote i just reblogged has to do with today. i went to the cinema today with kevin! i haven’t been to the cinema in ages. sometime ago, i convinced myself i don’t like movies—i always told myself that my attention span is too short and i prefer television shows. and i do like tv shows! but movies are great too. we saw guardians of the galaxy (in english with french subtitles) which stars chris pratt, who is from parks and rec, one of my favorite shows. i loved avengers and gotg fell into the same category—action film, superheroes, funny one-liners, and for some reason, only a single female lead character. the theater that we went to in montparnasse was really nice!

after the movie, i went to saint-paul to meet up with jiao who sadly leaves paris tomorrow.

we had so much fun over the last two weeks—i can’t believe i’ve only known her for two weeks! it feels like forever. i must have seen her at least 12 times. we went to an arabic bakery in the area around le marais and i ate baklava! after scouting out some vintage shops (her favorite), we went to another bakery where i bought and ate my first macaroon. 

the area is really beautiful! there are a ton of falafel shops including L’As Du Fallafel, perhaps the most famous falafel shop in paris. the line stretched down the street!

4:38pm
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Reblogged from tilthe

You don’t know anyone at the party, so you don’t want to go. You don’t like cottage cheese, so you haven’t eaten it in years. This is your choice, of course, but don’t kid yourself: it’s also the flinch. Your personality is not set in stone. You may think a morning coffee is the most enjoyable thing in the world, but it’s really just a habit. Thirty days without it, and you would be fine. You think you have a soul mate, but in fact you could have had any number of spouses. You would have evolved differently, but been just as happy. You can change what you want about yourself at any time. You see yourself as someone who can’t write or play an instrument, who gives in to temptation or makes bad decisions, but that’s really not you. It’s not ingrained. It’s not your personality. Your personality is something else, something deeper than just preferences, and these details on the surface, you can change anytime you like. If it is useful to do so, you must abandon your identity and start again. Sometimes, it’s the only way. Set fire to your old self. It’s not needed here. It’s too busy shopping, gossiping about others, and watching days go by and asking why you haven’t gotten as far as you’d like. This old self will die and be forgotten by all but family, and replaced by someone who makes a difference. Your new self is not like that. Your new self is the Great Chicago Fire—overwhelming, overpowering, and destroying everything that isn’t necessary.

— Julien Smith, The Flinch (via phivelorum)

(Source: tilthe, via phivelorum)

8:35am
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daily update: 8/31

this morning, i went to marche du centre ville with pierre. the main market in antony which occurs every sunday, it was packed and there were all kinds of stalls, from those for fruits and legumes to boucheries and poissonneries! we bought two baskets of food and it was a lot of fun. all the shopkeepers know pierre and they talk as he buys the different items. we even got to sample some olives and dates! i love outdoor markets! they’re so personal and friendly and just plain entertaining. 

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(by the way, that is pierre on the far left on the photo)

7:54am
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daily update: 8/30

after saying goodbye to babs, i made my way to the 8th arrondissement where ana patricia was apartment-sitting for some friends of hers. jiao had already come over so i joined both of them as we listened to music, chatted, and put on face masks. 

i was exhausted and ending up sleeping there—jiao did too. i totally forgot to inform my host family and they were really worried as to where i went! i woke up to a slew of texts, messages, and calls from kevin and florence along the lines of “are you OK? are you alive? where are you?” i felt really bad! and i will never make that mistake again.

jiao and i were supposed to meet up with irene and her friends to go a chateau to the southeast of paris. unfortunately, my phone died—as did hers. and we got really confused at the gare de lyon station and decided to just go have a picnic on our own. we went to the couleé verte by bastille and got some drinks at a cafe nearby. as i learned the hard way, limonade is not lemonade—it’s sprite. a lemonade is un citron pressé. we were both so sleepy—i think no matter how long you sleep at a friend’s place, you will be exhausted. so we both went to our respective homes.

in the evening, pierre, francoise, kevin and i went on a night tour of paris! being the last saturday of august, the roads are not too congested yet (many people are still on holiday) and we were able to be there in around half an hour. we explored the west of paris by car—driving along the seine river and seeing such sights as the eiffel tower,  arc de triomphe, place de la concorde, place vendome, the bridge where princess diana died, and the louvre at night. 

here is kevin and me at the eiffel tower. we’re right in front of pierre’s car! pierre said he has never had such a great parking spot in paris. i love my host family! they are so sweet and fun—not to mention great cooks :)

7:20am
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Musée du quai Branly

friday after work, i met up with babs, one of the students i met at the meetup a few weeks ago. he told me that he had never been to an art museum—and i told him i love art museums so he agreed to come along with me to visit the musee du quai branly. as it turned out, it’s not really an art museum, more of a ethnography museum, but it was great all the same! the museum features indigenous collections from africa, asia, oceania, and the americas. the african collection is the most impressive, considering france’s colonization of west africa. walking into the museum, there is a collection of instruments from around the world with accompanying music. when i happened to walk in, it was a tabla playing! i was pretty excited. my favorite thing was the collection of vietnamese propaganda posters. i love propaganda art, thanks to a week devoted to this topic in my chinese art class.

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the vietnamese posters draw upon chinese and soviet precedents with the use of color (lots of red!) and a heroic central figure. the art’s purpose is to showcase the importance of the state. most of the pieces were created using lithographic prints (and therefore mass produced) and apparently most of the propaganda artists were actually women who were held in high regard. 

the exhibits were really interesting but we spent most of the time just talking to each other. babs knew hardly anything about hinduism so while in the india exhibit, i tried to teach him the basics. he comes from senegal where the majority of the populace is muslim so we talked about the little i knew about islam. i asked him if he ate halal meat and he said that until he left senegal, he had no idea there was something like halal! after all, all the meat in senegal happens to be halal. after the museum, we decided to get a bite to eat after the museum closed at 9. (most museums are open late at least once a week! this is great to avoid the crowds and really get to see the pieces) the quai branly is right by the eiffel tower so everywhere was really overpriced/crowded. we saw a place where a hamburger was 17 euro! we finally found a little cafe with sanwiches around 5 euro. “wow, this is great!” we thought. however, we were very wrong. the food was terrible. the absolute worst food i have had in paris. babs agreed.    

anyway, definitely visit the museum if you have the time! the collections are impressive and very accessible. (also don’t forget—if you are under 18 or a student studying in the EU, it’s totally free!)

August 28, 2014 at 4:50pm
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the other night, jiao and i met up for a couple hours in paris! we decided to go to the eiffel tower because despite being in town for a couple weeks, neither of us had made the effort to get over to the 7th arrondissement.

it was quite beautiful—and as the most recognizable landmark in paris, it was crowded with vendors and tourists both.

ever since i moved out to antony, i don’t get to explore paris in the evenings as much! it’s about a half hour train into wherever i need to be in the city—which isn’t much at all. but i like eating with my family here and spending the evenings reading in the garden. also coming back late means the bus runs less regularly and i have to walk the fifteen minutes home in the dark—plus i’m exhausted for the next day. i was supposed to go into town yesterday—but bailed.

tonight was actually jonathan’s birthday! he turned 11 and there was a little party with his grandparents, godmother, and older brother all visiting. we literally ate for three hours—first out in the garden and then later, several courses in the dining room—including two cakes and ratatouille! the french love eating as i’ve discovered. they also eat their meals “out of order” according to american fashion. the main course is followed by the salad and then the breads and cheeses and finally dessert. sometimes fruit comes before the main course. i am always so full after the salad that it’s hard to keep going! but yet i always manage to. francoise and pierre both are excellent cooks!

9:10am
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i love interacting with someone that you know you’ll never see again. not the kind of interaction where you ask an elderly couple for directions but the kind where you meet someone at an event, take some time to talk about what brought you here, what you love, and where you’ve been, and you say goodbye to them. you won’t miss them. you hardly knew them. but you just might remember them someday—when you’re talking about relationships and you tell a story about a polish-malaysian couple who met in virginia and moved to paris to be together and work in the fashion industry. or maybe when you’re talking about hitchiking and remember the estonian guy who hitchiked from the netherlands back to his home country after running out of cash. i love stories. i love people. and while traveling, i am able to appreciate the truly random succession of events which bring us together, whether it be for 20 minutes of conversation or for a summer of adventures.

August 27, 2014 at 5:09pm
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we need to know if your school provides you health insurance. i mean it really doesn’t matter—you’ll be taken care of. it’s a socialist country. but just for our records.

— (casual conversation with my boss today)

August 25, 2014 at 4:48pm
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French ministers quit in economy row →

just what’s brewing in france right now

4:39pm
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Louvre

so i went to the louvre on saturday, as i mentioned earlier. let me just tell you—this would be number one on my list of things to not do. the louvre is no fun on a saturday. thanks to my student ID, i didn’t have to pay for a ticket so i was only there for about an hour. i will be going back—either on a wednesday or friday night when the crowds are few and the sheer mass of people snapping photos isn’t overwhelming.

after entering, i decided to seek out la joconde or the mona lisa—because why not? i’d seen her before, around 5 years ago, but i figured one of the most famous portraits deserved to be admired twice. wrong. it takes quite a while to get up to the mona lisa and once i was there, i couldn’t really see her anyway! there was a huge mass of tourists surrounding the painting (which is quite small in fact) and i didn’t have the patience to fight through the crowd. i decided to check out a different section—arts of islam. manu had just sent me pictures of her visit to humayan’s tomb, one of the greatest examples of mughal hybridization, in delhi and i was inspired. (in fact, hybridization wasn’t limited to north india! great hindu kingdoms such as vijayanagara adopted islamic aesthetics as well. for a great example check out the lotus mahal in hampi, king krishnadevaraya’s capital city. the arches are influenced by islam while the top level with the tiered roofs evokes a hindu temple’s shikhara)

i love the blue and white color scheme that is so defining of islamic arts. this color combination is universal—from chinese ceramics to delftware in the netherlands, it’s a beautiful contrast. because islam didn’t originally allow for the human depiction, it is calligraphy and geometric designs which cover buildings and pottery. image

at some points, the calligraphy becomes so stylized that it’s almost impossible to read! i have only studied islamic art within india—from the time of the delhi sultanate (qutb minar and quwwat-ul-islam mosque) to the end of the mughals (aurengzeb’s rather unappealing bibi ka maqbara). so there was quite a lot to learn! i was really excited to see some excellent example of miniature paintings. this one is so typical of the mughal time period: the cool color scheme, the different parts of the painting being physically divided by the use of architectural elements (the blue arch for instance), and the use of patterned paper to create the frame for the painting. sorry for the terrible quality! it was under glass and hard to capture.

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i am especially interested in rajput painting and how political affiliations were conveyed through style but the asian collections were quite far away so i didn’t have a chance to look at them! i will next time.