A big nosed plastic roman soldier guarding the entrance of the cinémathèque

Les lieux speciaux de Paris

I recently visited a friend who’s working as a barista on weekends and because she was busy took a little walk in the Bastille area. Not far from the little coffee shop there’s a cat café!

I also came across rue de Lappe, which has a lot of restaurants and bars. Shuttered for the day they look quite interesting.

Among them is a Caribbean restaurant where you can get a Bokit – a sandwich in fried bread.

And a bar called only rum that has the interior design of a jungle. There are fake plants and vines everywhere, you have to duck below them to get to the bar. The place is lighted entirely in green and has a citric smell to it that was still noticeable in my clothes the next day.

The drinks are served in preserving jars and are good, but nothing special, but the atmosphere definitely is. Unfortunately the bar keeper is a grumpy bastard who put up a sign that asks you not to tutoyer him i.e. not use the informal tu when talking to him, like duzen in German. There are other signs around telling you that you don’t have the right to touch this and change that.

Last weekend P visited Paris for the 4th time. I’d been seeing ads for the Goscinny exhibition on the metro for a while but as it’s in the cinémathèque, I always assumed that it’s in fact a show of films by Goscinny. There’s even a boar on a spit in front of the cinema. Turns out it’s not just a cinema, the cinémathèque also has an exhibition space. I’ve been living across the place for 9 months now and never even noticed it! We went to “visit our childhood friends” like P. called it: Goscinny drew Asterix, Lucky Luke and Petit Nicholas.

Afterwards we had coffee and cake at the cinematheque’s café, together with a dozen screamy children and their parents for Sunday brunch.

I had been telling P about Poké bowls and Buddha bowls. They have become fashionable a few months ago and I finally tried a Poké bowl in summer – It’s a Hawaiian dish consisting of raw fish and vegetables on rice. The Buddha version is vegetarian and sometimes the rice is replaced by other grains.

We wanted to have a Buddha Bowl lunch on Friday in a place recommended by a friend not far from Saint Lazare. But we left home so late we arrived after all the lunch places had closed – In France it’s still very uncommon to eat outside of meal times and especially lunch places close at 14:30. We ended up finding a place with good tartes and spent the rest of the afternoon walking to Montmarte. We came across a small Colombian shop selling Colombian coffee. It was tiny and you had to ring a door bell just to get in. Inside were two tiny women speaking rapid Spanish with each other. We also saw a chocolate place that had monkeys made from chocolate in the shop window.

A monkey made from chocolate
We went inside to check out their chocolates and ended up buying a cookie, a quinoa energy ball and a sweet on a stick consisting of meringue and gianduja covered in matcha frosting. The back of the shop was partinioned off by a glass wall and behind it you could watch the sweets being made by the chocolatier and we all know how much I love watching people prepare food.

On Sunday night we went to a pizza place that has fried pizza. They claim it’s a neapolitan speciality, but I’m not so sure I believe it. Gergö had to have it, of course, and it wasn’t bad. “It’s just like filled langos”, was P. comment and I think she might be right.

A golden brown bit crescent of fried dough.

I only added the photo to keep up my food photo quota.

During this dinner our Italian friend A mentioned that there is a Mozza Bar in Paris, where you can try different kinds of Mozzarella cheese. I’ve started to make a list of places I want to visit and cafés and restaurants I want to try. The cat café and the Mozza bar are on this list, together with a place that has minus 8 degrees and this list of the best desserts of Paris.

I already went to one on the list: the Japanese French Patissier. They have everything in a matcha version, but I actually took the yuzu tarte. I couldn’t have said if it’s any different from a lemon tarte, but it was a very good lemon tarte and very good green tea, in a fancy fancy little tea salon surrounded by chocolate with black sesame and matcha.


A graffito of a girl crossing her arms in front of her body like in a defense move

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Shortly after the rentrée (as everyone calls the return to work after the summer holidays, but also the start of the school year) Gergö and I went to the parc de la villette. I’d heard from my Pokemon Go playing colleagues that there are always lots of raids going on.

It was a beautiful summer day. I’d been to the park once before but forgotten about it. In the sunshine the big globe of the science museum’s imax cinema is really impressive. They also have a u-boat on display and an enormous toboggan. There were only kids in the line for the toboggan, so we didn’t try it out. We might have to come back at a later time, when the kids have gone to sleep. There’s also a big event hall and under the canopy there are people doing breakdance, practising acro yoga and other impressive feats. I always wonder how they agree on the music to play in a place like this. There was also an elderly lady pushing a pram with cold drinks around. We also walked past the concert hall, la philharmonie and looked at the canal st martin.

On another Saturday I went for a walk with my friend, took photos of street art and had a Pokebowl. I was only a little disappointed that it has nothing to do with Pokemon Go. It’s a Hawaiian dish with fresh vegetables and raw fish over rice and it was delicious.

The Menu of the Poke bar with photos of their bowls

Poke Bar that has nothing to do with Pokemon Go.

The first September weekend Gergö’s dad came for a visit and we did a few touristy things – the tour Montparnasse. It’s one of the few skyscrapers in central Paris. They say after they saw how ugly it was Paris decided to build no other high rise buildings in the city, but it actually has more to do with the statics of the city.

We also went to visit the Louvre – a first for Gergö, I think. We spent a few hours in there. It amazed me, again, how few people check out the Egyptian collection. Even in the room of the Venus of Milo it is comparatively calm compared to the mayhem that is Mona Lisa. Very fittingly we overheard a group of American tourists say: “We saw the Mona Lisa, Ah think we’re done here.”

Once a month (except for the summer) we have lunch together at work and this time we went all the way from the sad ugly part of St Ouen to the artsy part at Paris’ biggest the flea market.

 


Alea iacta est

After our little trip to Austria we had Gergö’s brother visit for a few days.

He was really motivated to do some sightseeing, so we went on a walk of the petite ceinture. It’s a lot like the promenade plantée – a raised disused railway line that used to connect various Parisian train stations. And it’s called ceinture, because it goes around Paris like a little belt.

Even though the little belt went around most of Paris at one time, only parts of it are now open to the public. We went to a section in the 15th district which led directly to Parc Georges Brassens. Apparently there’s a book market there – we could see the empty stalls.

We also went to Centre Pompidou again. I hadn’t been in a year, and A. wanted to see the David Hockney exhibition. I usually visit the 5th floor, with the permanent exhibition of modern art and then I am too tired to look at much else. This time we looked at Hockney of whom I had only a vague idea and then Walker Evans who I’d have sworn is an actor who plays super heros.

This time I also took some time to look  at the contemporary art as well and I liked a lot of things. Last time Gergö and I loved the big pile of shredded money and a room that was extremely quiet. It was insulated with wool all around. Very strange feeling.

This time there was a former record shop that the owner, Ben, had turned into a museum of everything. I was impressed enough to try to google the art work with only this information. I found it on the Centre Pompidou website. There’s a picture of the whole thing, go look at it!

I also saw the meat dress for the first time. The one Lady Gaga got into trouble with PETA for wearing. I didn’t recognise it at all at first, because it’s all dried and odd looking.

But we didn’t only look at art, we also used almost every meal to have fancy food and drinks in nice locations. And most of it wasn’t too crowded because Paris really is empty in August, except for a few tourist hot spots.

In between all the food and apéro I managed to play quite a bit of Pokemon Go – There are raids now, where several people have to fight an arena boss together in order to defeat them and to get a chance to catch them. During the last couple of weeks legendary pokemon were released this way. These are birds that don’t occur in the wild, so your only chance of getting one is a raid. You need  about 8 people or more to defeat them. So if you are not in a group of players, you show up to centrally located raids and hope other people will show up too.

That’s what I did for a raid in my neighbourhood and because it’s the summer there were enough people in the middle of the day to defeat the boss. Then a few people decided to go on another raid, across the river and I tagged along. It happened to be in the rue René Goscinny. I’d been there once before, where I took the photo of “Ils sont fous, ces Romains!”. Turns out there are more of those signs along the street and a tile on the ground with one of the more famous quotes attributed to Julius Caesar.

The last free day I spent playing Pokemon with a friend who was passing through the city. We wandered around town looking for rare Pokemon and raids.

In other news, the elevator still isn’t repaired. I though the notice inside said August 1st-31st in order to be on the safe side. But it really takes this long, apparently. Every time I leave and every time I come back, I hopefully push the elevator button. Since Friday it glows green when pushed, but nothing further happens. By the end of August I might get used to the 7 flights of stairs (I won’t).

 


En cherchant la Joconde

My mum came to visit us here in France again. January might be cold, but it is a good time to do sightseeing. The queues are noticably shorter this time of the year.

We walked a lot, like the last time she was here. This time we explored the Jewish quarter of Paris. The area is great, lots of interesting shops and signs and restaurants.

I’ve been in France for a year and a half and I still hadn’t visited the Louvre. I wasn’t that interested in seeing Mona Lisa in person and the queues were always daunting. Plus none of my visitors expressed an interest. My mum finally asked me to get tickets ahead, because the only thing that’s worse than queueing is queueing while it’s 5 degrees and rainy.

I had to give the Louvre my birth date and address and pay 2 € extra for the privilege of printing out the ticket myself. I even complained about it on twitter, because with every click i got a generic error message. And I mean that literally:

The Louvre sent me a private message to explain it’s necessary that I enter my birthdate because it’s necessary and that they will take care of the error. They haven’t.

Enough of my rant, the offline Louvre is great. In both size and content. We also didn’t have to queue at all, because it’s January. I grabbed a map and went right to the French painters, where I expected the Mona Lisa to be. It took me two floors of paintings to realise my mistake and find the Italian painters on the map.

At least we saw a few gems on this little unscheduled detour.

Once we were in the right wing of the Louvre there were arrows pointing the way and people to follow. Mona Lisa is in a large room with lots of other paintings that go mostly ignored. There are 2 types of barriers separating the throng of tourists from the painting and two very bored guards on either side. People take selfies with the image all the time and there are queues for good selfie places.

I already knew that the painting is fairly small and didn’t expect to be impressed. And it felt like it was a matter of duty, seeing Mona Lisa in the Louvre :-)

Afterwards we had coffee and tackled the rest of the museum. I had no idea the Venus of Milo was also in the Louvre and the room she was in was almost empty.

We had tickets to go to Reims for the next day. So we got up early and went to Paris to board the TGV to Reims. It’s only a 45 minute ride with no stops because the train goes over 300 km/h. My mum was really excited about the velocity, but didn’t want to act too touristy. I totally encouraged her to get up and take a picture of the sign that displayed the speed. I take pictures of anything and everything, I very much understand the impulse :-)

Reims is a pretty town, not too big to walk. A lot of it was destroyed in WWI, so many houses in the center have art deco façades.

It also has a giant cathedral in which most of the French kings were crowned. Some of the stained glass windows were designed by Marc Chagall in the 70s. We missed the opening times of the palace de Tau, which houses the coronation museum, so we wandered on to the basilica.

Reims is also the place were Alfred Jodl signed the unconditional surrender of Germany on May 7, 1945. When my mum mentioned that I had to laugh. I only know the name because of the Hitler reacts to meme and he is one of the people who stay in the room. I tried to explain the meme to my mum but retelling YouTube memes doesn’t really work.

I was confused. All French towns appear to have a rue 8 mai, why not 7 mai? It turns out, the surrender was signed on the 7th in Reims and then signed again in Germany in the presence of the Soviets on May 8. In Russia the end of the war is considered to be May 9, because it was already after midnight Moscow time.

We visited the museum dedicated to this event. It’s in the former headquarters of Eisenhower next to a school. It was a small museum but I found it really interesting. I don’t need the uniforms but I liked the contemporary newspapers and the original war rooms with all the maps.


La maison à l’enseigne du mouton

Most museums are free on every first Sunday of the month. So on Sunday a friend suggested to go to the Picasso museum. We forgot to take into account that two of the biggest museums of Paris were closed because of the flood (the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay) and that tourist season is in full swing.

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The queue was pretty long and not everyone who was going to join us had arrived. So in the end we jumped ship and went for a walk in the Marais instead.

ma raie

ma raie means my parting or my sting ray, according to the dictionary. Also a good band name, I think.

We were joined by a fellow Austrian who has been studying in Paris for a while and she took us to the oldest half timbered buildings of Paris. One of them has a plaque saying it’s the “Maison à l’enseigne du mouton”

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I think enseigne means teaching, so this would make it the house where sheep were taught in the 14th century. I’m fairly sure I either have the vocabulary wrong or I’m missing an important bit of information. I really want to believe this building was a sheep school, so I’m not going to look it up.

While we were admiring the ancient crooked little building and imagining a room full of lambs learning to spell mèèè there were a couple of people holding sheets of paper, looking at something fixed to the cellar window grate.

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After they left I took a picture. I think it’s a treasure hunt by the same people/person who invented the treasure hunt at the Louvre and it actually sounds pretty awesome. Note to future visitors: I’d totally be up to doing a treasure hunt!

Even without a map and clues we found a lot of pretty corners, like this beautiful courtyard.

jardin

(Sorry for cutting you off, Gergö).

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I also had to stop several times on our little walk to take pictures of things that are only funny for German speakers with a childish sense of humour:

Pamela Popo

It’s just a restaurant name, nothing to do with butts.

And that’s just another sharing economy website / app. I swear!

lulu dans ma rue

It’s also a really apt name for the scent of the streets of Paris, but I dont think that’s what they had in mind.

After the Marais we wandered down to the Seine, to gawk at the flood and take pictures. It really is quite impressive.

flooded Seine

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We were all ready for a cup of coffee at this point, so we headed for the Institut du monde Arabe. It’s a very interesting building with a museum, library, offices and, most importantly a rooftop terrace with café.

The façade is made up of these windows who open and close based on the light

The façade is made up of these photosensitive windows

At the moment, there's a exhibition about gardens in the IMA. It looks really intersting from above.

At the moment, there’s a exhibition about gardens in the IMA. It looks really intersting from above.

At the rooftop café I had the most expensive coffee to date. It was almost as expensive as a small beer in a city center brasserie.


Le tour des musées

Last Saturday we had a guided tour through Centre Pompidou, offered by the organisation who runs my French classes. There’s a separate entrance for groups at the Centre Pompidou, so while we waited because we arrived early, we didn’t wait in a queue – somehow this still feels way better than any actual queueing I have to do to see any sights.

That's what the entrance of Centre Pompidou looks like without a queue, by the way. I'd never seen it like that before, so I wanted to document it.

That’s what the entrance of Centre Pompidou looks like without a queue, by the way. I’d never seen it like that before, so I wanted to document it.

We got a chance to go up the many escalators to the fifth level, where the modern paintings are. The view is pretty good from up there.

The Pompidou escalators

The Pompidou escalators

The security queue from above. Going to a museum is fun. Going to a museum without the queue is twice as good!

The security queue from above. Going to a museum is fun. Going to a museum without the queue is twice as good!

You can even see montmartre and sacre cœur from the top of the center.

You can even see montmartre and sacre cœur from the top of the center.

The tour was really interesting, the guide did a great job, I thought. She picked a few works and got us to talk about it. If you could be anywhere in this picture by Kandinsky, where would that be? It was quite an interesting approach. I also liked how she was never fazed when the four young African men who were part of the group wandered off to look at different things. She just asked them: why did you look at this picture, what do you like about it? I liked how she managed to include them without losing a beat or appearing annoyed. And for the group as a whole it didn’t matter if we talked about this Kandinsky or any other of the works in Pompidou.

The second part of the tour we looked at contemporary art, which is on the fourth floor. We could have stayed even longer, but we were so tired we decided to come back at another time. Instead we found a beer store and bought a few specialty beers, among them one brewed with basil and one with verveine. Gergö didn’t like them – he thought the taste was too subtle but I found them perfect.

In the evening we went back to Paris for the long night of the museums (only it’s called differently here, and it’s free). We managed to agree on a couple of small places, a strategy that always worked in Vienna. We started out with the musée Marie et Pierre Curie, then ended up drinking a cocktail, followed by a late dinner in a great Japanese restaurant. Somehow we never managed to visit the forgery museum, before we had to catch the last train home.

I didn’t take any photos except for this one:

Yep, there's a shop selling Dirndl and traditional Austrian clothing in Paris.

Yep, there’s a shop selling Dirndl and traditional Austrian clothing in Paris.

Dire Lire, where I take my French classes, will have a end of semester celebration in June. My teacher who studied in Graz for a year encouraged us to dress in the clothes traditional for our country, because my Vietnamese colleague had written about the traditional dress. Then she tried to talk me into wearing a Dirndl, and when I said I didn’t have one, she offered me hers. She is much slimmer than me, but I didn’t even know how to say that. Thankfully I won’t be in Palaiseau on that weekend, so I could bow out, without having to explain why I don’t want to squeeze into a far too small Dirndl.

On Monday our next visitor arrived and although she said she wanted to keep it low key and not do any hard core sightseeing, we ended up breaking step counter records every day.

First we visited the Galeries Lafayette. I was aware of them, but somehow missed how spectacular they are. The Galeries are three department stores close to the Opera. The oldest one is the one with the fancy art deco architecture. They are full of tourists, of course, and even have a dedicated Japanese customer service department, advertised in Japanese and English.

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Wednesday we dedicated to Musée d’Orsay. We went with a friend and spent about 5 hours inside and I finally got to see Starry Nights and the Henri Toulouse-Lautrec room. Last time I mostly looked at the architecture and the Impressionists. This time we saw a lot of sculptures and most rooms. We had very fancy cake and coffee in the fancy restaurant, and again didn’t eat behind the clockface on the 5th floor. I might have to go back a third time.

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M pointing at things.

K pointing at things

K pointing at things.

Shortly before we left, we just wanted to have a real quick look at the Olympia, but couldn’t find it anywhere. So I ended up asking a museum guide, who not just told us she was on loan, but also to where (Moscow) and when she’s be back (July). Another guide overheard me speak and asked if I were Swiss. When I said I’m Autrichienne, he started talking about how much he loves the country and somehow managed to seemlessly lead to a complete history of his family in Speyer and Worms, the Second World War, anti-semitism, Salzburg, the Sound of Music, the election results and so on.

I was paralysed, completely unable to to anything about it, while M and K looked at the remaining paintings and the photo exhibition. Maybe I couldn’t stop him because I was so happy I understood so much of what he was talking about. Maybe I was just too tired to put up a fight. He wound down after ten minutes or so, with M and K watching from a safe distance and grinning at me, not without schadenfreude.

I let our visitor explore Paris alone the next day, but we met up at National Libary of France in the evening. There’s a freemasonry exhibition at the moment that M wanted to see. The National Library are 4 large towers looking like open books around an inner courtyard that is a forest.

free macon symbol

The secret free mason alphabet was a pretty simple substitution cipher.

The secret free mason alphabet was a pretty simple substitution cipher.

Struwwelpeter is called Pierre L'Ébouriffé in French, I found out

Struwwelpeter is called Pierre L’Ébouriffé in French, I found out.

Forest in the courtyard of the National Library. They planted 20 year old 15 m high trees when the Library was built.

Forest in the courtyard of the National Library. They planted 20 year old 15 m high trees when the Library was built.

After the library we wandered to Bercy village, through this lovely park, where I saw yet another heron.

After the library we wandered to Bercy village, through this lovely park, where I saw yet another heron.

Gergö went to Versailles with M on Friday and took lots of photos, so I hope I can talk him into another guestpost soon. Today it’s raining, so we’ll stay at home and rest our feet. There’s more museums planned for tomorrow after all.

 


La culture néerlandaise

After all that time spent on coffee and cake, I decided to check out some culture. I visited the Strijp-S. It’s a former Philips production facility that was closed down. Instead of letting the space go to waste, they decided to create a new urban district with, yes, lots of hip cafés and shops, but also some cool features like a community garden, vertical gardening and all these things that come along with gentrification.

So that was a week of Eindhoven. My mum’s coming to visit this week, and we’ll be doing lots of sightseeing.


Arrête! C’est ici, l’empire de la mort.

I did some more touristy things last week with my visitor. We went to see the Cité de Science – the Science museum. After visiting a decent number of them, the visual proof that a2 + b2 = c2 doesn’t excite me as much (though it is cool). They had an exhibition on cats and dogs that was cute, but a bit too childish, even for Gergö and me. There was an indoor garden that looked promising but then didn’t deliver. I think it’s used for teaching.

On Monday we visited the museum of the middle ages, mostly because they exhibit a tapisserie “The woman and the Unicorn”. It’s their most prominent exhibit. I sadly forgot to take a picture of a unicorn wearing headphones. It’s what they use for the audio guide. Unicorn Headphones would be a good album title for my imaginary band, though.

Another day we visited the catacombs. When we tried that in summer the line was huge, basically once around the entire building that houses the entrance. February is good for impatient visitors, because we waited for zero minutes. The catacombs are really interesting. For one there’s some information on the strata that make up Paris and how they were formed. Then some history on the catacombs and finally, “The Empire of Death”. Lots and lots of bones and skulls. They are stacked along the path in alcoves based on the cemeteries they were dug out from.

Watching thousands of bones while an unidentified liquid drips on you is a bit creepy, I can tell you. It was raining outside and according to an attendant, the rain water filters through the ground and then drips on everything. There were even tiny stalagnites on the ceiling.

We rounded off our day of the dead with a visit to Père Lachaise cemetery. The weather was fittingly grey and dismal. The cemetery is big and old and still in use. Lots of famous people are buried there. The most famous is probably Jim Morrisson, who we visited as well. According to the Internet(tm), the grave is also one of the most popular tourist spots in Paris, but again, not in February.


La vie continue

This weekend we went to the palais de la découverte – the science museum. In my head I always translated découverte as uncovered, as in, doesn’t have a ceiling and said something like that to Gergö. He said: “Yes, uncovered, like, you know discover.” All these years, I never noticed how discovery, Entdeckung, and now découvert all have the same meaning and root.

That was the first time that not just my bag was checked, but they also checked me with a magic metal detector wand, like at the airport. I could leave on my shoes and belt, though.

The museum is fun, even though we couldn’t see the “rat school” show, because it was already full with kids. We always joke about how we are usually the only people without kids at these places. This time it was even more apparent than usual. But now we have figured out that it’s a better idea to go early on a Sunday. Early, for people who don’t have kids and who like to sleep in is probably 1 pm. It gets much busier after the kids had their afternoon nap.

I also had a chance to find out that the entrance fee is really free for unemployed people, so yay for that! I can return some other time, when kids have to be in school and check out the rats all by myself. I also saw leafcutter ants and there were termite colonies to see. And there’s a room dedicated to π.

The dinosaur exhibition was pretty cool, too. First I saw the sign and thought “aww, how sweet, they try to scare us!”.

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Then, I saw this:

There was also an Archaeopteryx, which was much smaller than I thought they were. All exhibit’s signs had a human in a different position next to a drawing of the dino, for scale.

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In related news: Archaeopterix Jazz Hands will be the name of my next band.

After the museum we wanted to catch a bus on Champs Elysées. It made me feel all Christmassy, what with the Glühwein stalls, the heavy traffic and pissing rain in November. Or maybe I was coming down with the stomach flu, difficult to tell the difference, really.

Next week will be pretty busy, because what I thought was a one day course in job application, turned out to be a 4 day course. I really need to stop skimming stuff. And the invitation only mentions that it beginns at 9 am, but not how long it lasts, so I’m fearing the worst. Maybe these courses are better, if I don’t understand much of what’s going on. The clerk at the unemployment office said I don’t need to bring my computer, though, how good can it be, really?