Day trip : Bordeaux and Arcachon (41 – 43)

This is going to be short and a bit scattered, but I think I only slept a total of 6 hours the past two days so bear with me.

Friday was relatively low-key, as I wanted to make sure I got a decent night’s sleep before waking up at the crack of dawn on Saturday. Due to staying on a skype call/meeting longer than I should have (yes, I take full blame for this), I did not get to sleep until around two, giving me only to hours before I had to get up and get myself ready to head to the train station.

That’s right everyone. I got up at 4am.

‘But, Effie,’ you, being a reasonable person are probably asking, ‘why the hell would you need to get up at the ungodly hour of 4am?’ Good question. My answer is that the train my friends and I were taking left from Massy-Palaiseau, not from one of the many, many TGV/SNCF stations within the city. Massy-Palaiseau for those who do not know, is south of the city on the RER B commuter line, aka at least an hour away from me. As I had to be there thirty minutes before my scheduled departure time of 7:30, the 4am wake up seemed like a reasonable idea. And it was. Except for the not sleeping thing.

Anyway.
I’m not going to talk about the train ride because I spent the whole 2.5 hours of it attempting to sleep. Needless to say, my breakfast of a croissant, tartine, orange juice and café crème upon arrival in Bordeaux (all for the low price of 6.50eu, the first sign we weren’t in Paris anymore) provided a very welcome burst of energy.

The plan for the day was, after eating a quick breakfast, renting a car and making our way to a few sights in the Bordeaux area. As we were lucky to have a sunny, pleasant day to work with, we opted to go by the sea – because really, how many more chances would we get before fall/winter chills really set in?

That song from La La Land is stuck in your head now. You know the one I mean…
 
First stop was Arcachon, a seaside town about 45 minutes away from Bordeaux. If it weren’t for the light breeze in the air and the occasional sweater sighting, you’d think the summer season was still in full swing. Everyone was enjoying lunch en terrasse when we arrived, and as it was the middle of lunch time, we parked ourselves at a table at one of the many restaurants lining the seashore and tuck in to some fresh, and very tasty bivalves.
Month ends in an -r : must be oyster season.

Afterwards, we strolled along the beach for a bit, and I found a few more specimens to add to my shell collection (although I do wish there was some sea glass around as well):

Honestly, there were so many shells littering the shoreline, I could’ve made one of those weird lamps with them if I wanted.

It was a good thing we had a satisfying lunch (yes, we ate things besides just the oysters) because our next stop would pretty much exhaust all of our energy.

Behold, the Dune du Pilat:

Well, more like a very small fraction of it.

This is the tallest sand dune in Europe, and naturally draws a lot of visitors, given its close proximity to Bordeaux and Archachon (only 10 minutes or so from the latter). Although there were clearly visible stairs we could have taken to reach the summit, we opted instead to trudge up the old fashioned way. The view from the top, however, made it all worth it.

Forest on one side…

…sea on the other.

In case you were curious, yes we did climb down to walk along the shore, and no, there were no stairs to help us get back up to the top again (which we had to do in order to get back to the entrance where we parked the car). As we wanted (well, I wanted) to get back to Bordeaux before the sun fully set, and as our legs were all already exhausted, we chose to abstain from walking the entire length of the dune, although this was something a few other groups of people seemed to have opted for.
Alas, even with our careful planning, a traffic jam on the road back meant that daylight would pretty much be almost gone by the time we dropped our things off at our hotel. I was a bit disappointed by this, as I only had one day to see Bordeaux, given I had to be back in Paris by noon today, but I did manage to get a couple of decent-ish looking photos.

Cathédrale Saint-André

Bordeaux by night

After a late dinner and a quick stroll by the river, we headed back to our rooms to turn in, whereupon my two girlfriends and I (who were sharing) found a rather…interesting design feature on the bathroom door

It’s like they heard the word ‘bathroom’ and immediately thought ‘Yes, saloon doors.’

This morning, I was up again at 5am, and after a quick shower was on my way back to the station to catch the 7am TGV back to Paris and my Shakespeare monologue class. And let me tell you, working on Shakespeare while only partially coherent is a rather…enlightening experience.

I of course rewarded myself with food. First, a croque monsieur and noisette coffee at Ten Belles : 

Their bread is going to be the death of me; it is so good.

And then with a black sesame éclaire from Boulangerie Utopie:

Black sesame might be a weakness of mine.

Any guilt I had about consuming these (especially the éclaire) was immediately assuaged by the fact that I walked from my class to Ten Belles (so Opéra to Canal St Martin), Ten Belles to the boulangerie, and then the boulangerie back to my place (and this bit involved going uphill). 
I think to give my body a bit of a break, I’m going to forego setting an alarm for tomorrow, and just spend the day reading at home (oh and grocery shopping). We’ll see how that goes.

They say exercise is good for a cold (40)

Another marathon study session – this one in the reading room of the Arts de Spectacle department at the Richelieu site of the BNF – another burst of energy that must be walked off. 

And honestly, the timing could not have been better.

I think one of the things that really cemented my love for Paris was how easily walkable it is. Now, some people after hearing that I don’t really mind regular crosstown walks tend to look at me like I’ve lost my mind. After all, why would anyone choose to walk when there is an extensive metro system? 
My thoughts tend to clutter me though, especially after several hours of thinking. Rooms start feeling stuffier, and with that comes an almost uncontrollable itch to clear out, find something more open and just let a part of me other than my brain do the heavy work. 

Sun is fine, but Paris is really lovely under grey skies.

One thing about my walking habits has changed recently, however. Normally, if you see me walking down the street, I’ve got headphones plastered to my ears, listening either to a podcast or one of my many Spotify playlists. As much as I have mentioned regaining a sense of ‘ownership’ over the media I consume post-breakup, music has, so far at least, been the one thing that has evaded me. It’s not just the (very strong) memories associated with almost every song that comes up that affect me; it’s just all too orderly. Too rhythmic when I want the sounds I take into myself to be as random, disordered, chaotic, scattered as my current state of mind sometimes is. Besides, I like taking in the city more, and not just all the traffic noises. Yesterday, for instance, I walked past a nondescript building and heard a woman praticing an aria a few floors above me. 

Hello again.

I closed out my walk with a visit to Shakespeare and Co, partly to browse around the theatre section, partly because I’m still getting over a cold and needed to find somewhere a bit less damp for a while. Having not been inside for a couple of years, I was a bit lost initially, given that they moved the theatre section from where I remembered it was, but in the end I was able to get a decent bit of browsing in (honestly, the fact that I went into a bookstore and resisted buying something is like a new record for me). 

39

I know that popular opinion still hails Paris as one of the food capitals of the world, but sometimes I wonder if maybe we need to rethink that… 

I know you know what the difference between a burger and a pizza is, Paris. I’m just confused that you allowed these things to happen at all…

My favorite thing about this is that little reminder to practice regular physical activity written at the bottom of the ads. It’s cute.
In other food-related news, today was one of those days where sitting at the library reading for longer than my usual 4ish hours was just not going to happen. Coupled with a somewhat sour mood that has been nagging at me for the past few days – this may or may not have something to do with the cold I’m currently getting over, as well as the general feeling that can only be described as a screaming ‘blegh’ that comes with the realization that the partner that would normally help care for you is not there and you have to make soup for yourself while dealing with the sinuses from hell -, I felt like I deserved a treat. After all, it’s Wednesday, the middle of the week, and sometimes it’s nice to make yourself feel a little good.
So I trekked over to Blé Sucré, a boulangerie I usually stop at for a croissant or kouign aman if I can get there early enough in the morning (seriously, if you ever get the opportunity, get the kouign aman. Buttery, sweet, sugary goodness. I get cravings just thinking about them). As I arrived just after 4pm, the majority of the viennoiserie were gone, but thankfully a small stack of cookies in the display case caught my eye.

Yes, I ate this while walking. There’s a Parisian taboo I do not mind breaking.

Originally, I thought this was a chocolate chunk-macadamia nut cookie, but after taking a bite, realized that what I thought were macadamia nuts were really almonds. It was a nice surprise, though. I love almonds.
Of course, I’m not planning on making these cookie trips a regular thing (granted I did walk pretty much all the way across the city after eating this, so I’m not too worried about it ‘going straight to my hips’ or anything). But I’ve started to readopt a habit I first cultivated when I was doing my masters here, namely, putting the books down and letting myself be in the world, allowing myself to enjoy a little of whatever indulgence without feeling guilty about it. One of my professors when I was at Reid Hall made a point to tell us at the beginning of the year how important it was to ‘go outside’, even if the work we did regularly confined us to the inside of libraries. With all the walking I do, I guess you could say I didn’t need much convincing in order to adopt the idea. 

And because it’s always good to end on a positive food-related note, this evening, I had some delicious bibimbap in the company of good friends. I’ll save those strange pizza/burger/things for another day. 

37 – 38

A question to think on : Que perdrait-on si l’on perdait le théâtre? / What would we lose if we lost theatre ?This is the question that’s been nagging at me for ages (thanks Genet…), and will probably continue to nag at me for the rest of my life. When Genet first posed this question in his essay L’étrange mot d’… / The strange word urb[anism]…, theatre was up against film and television, and consequently, just as painting did with the advent of photography, had to adapt, reassess itself, find what it was that made it…theatre. I wonder though, with the popularity of virtual media and all it encompasses in terms of spatial/communal dynamics, if theatre still has a chance for renewal, for a redefinition of its necessity, or if those of us who practice it only continue to defend it so ardently in part due to sentimental reasons or attachments. 
Anyway, these are things I think about after reading Derrida in coffee shops. 

I blame this chai tea latte

35 – 36

My neighborhood makes some great art.

Honestly, with the amount of speakeasy bars that seem to pop up every five seconds in Paris – and always with a line of patrons waiting to get in -, it’s a wonder that the term can still mean something. 
Granted, that doesn’t mean I don’t still enjoy going to them because while the ‘speakeasy’ concept has surpassed its origins as part of the underground of Prohibition-era America, the cocktails at these Paris bars are usually rather good. And, yes, sometimes the concept behind the bar itself can be kind of cute.

The pumpkin spice obsession not being one of the trends that has crossed over to Paris (thank goodness), I get my fall fix with pumpkin purée in my cocktails.

Last night, I met up with a friend at Lavomatic, a speakeasy bar hidden within an actual working laundromat (hence the name). As we arrived during apéro hour, the wait wasn’t too terrible, although we unfortunately did not get there in time to score a table with a swing for a seat (of which there are, I believe, two). Laundry-themed decor dots the interior of the small – yet very cozy – bar, and the noise level didn’t get too crazy while we were there, even with the cramped space. As for the drinks, I really enjoyed my cocktail, and I’m curious to go back again and try some of their other creations as the menu changes seasonally. Price-wise, they run anywhere between 9 and 13 euros, with most coming in at either 10 or 11 (they’ve also got some wines by the glass on offer for a cheaper price, think 5/6 euros). 
Also, they’ve got some rather amusing bar stools : 

Rough translation : “I get upset when, while at a restaurant, I overhear idiotic conversations, but I console myself in thinking that those people could have been at my table.”

After finishing our drinks, we headed over to Boca Mexa for some tacos – and, for me at least, some actual mouth-burning spicy salsa, yay -, and I was once again left pleasantly satisfied by how much easier it is to find good Mexican food here now than it was when I first studied abroad in 2011 (hell, when I came back again to start my M.A. a year later, El Nopal was still pretty much the only worthy place for tacos in town).

Today was, theoretically, going to be a day of traipsing about outside, considering it was the annual Journée sans voiture (day without cars) *, but the light mist hanging in the air all day made the thought of staying outside for prolonged periods of time a bit less appealing. Not that this stopped me from walking to my Shakespeare monologue class near Opéra this morning.

The urge to jaywalk is very strong.
Or sprint down this hill, even.
Can it be no car day every day…?

The class runs at the somewhat awkward time of 12 – 2, so it’s a bit too early to eat lunch before going, and then a bit too late to be thinking about lunch when class lets out. Normally, I would have headed home to have some leftovers, but the cozy potential of the grey sky was just too good to not take advantage of in a café somewhere. Unfortunately, I forgot that it was fashion week, meaning all the usual – tiny – places I would hit up for my hot beverage fix were filled with folks in town for the big event. So I ended up just going to Wild & the Moon because 1) it’s bigger, and 2) I figured I could get a specialty coffee for my pains.

Charcoal latté. Black like my soul….or something.

Really though, no one should be surprised that I chose something black. 

So…my apartment might be haunted. (34)

As if there weren’t enough nonsense in my life…
This morning, at around 7:30, I was woken up by what sounded like light tapping, as well as muffled voices. The tapping I almost shrugged off as probably coming from my neighbor – a musician who I have heard rustling about at that time of morning – but the voices were decidedly not coming from the same source. After lying half-awake for a few minutes, it occurred to me that given how repetitive it was, perhaps the knocking was not coming from my neighbor, but from my front door, though that would not explain the voices. Slowly, I get out of bed – by this time the knocking had stopped but the voices were becoming more distinct and…childlike – open my bedroom door, and discover that my television is turned on to some cartoon program.

I can say with 100% certainty that I did not turn on my television last night before going to sleep and forget to turn it off. So either there was a weird electrical glitch that caused it to turn on (which would explain why the oven clock keeps resetting), or my apartment is haunted by an asshole ghost. 

Needless to say, after checking every nook and cranny in my apartment for possible intruders (unlikely since, you know, top floor/no elevator, and I verified that my door/windows/shutters were locked), I headed straight back to bed and slept until 11. Thankfully, I had planned on doing my reading from home today, so the day was not entirely wasted.

And things did pick up in the evening when I went to another performance, this time of Genet’s Haute Surveillance (Deathwatch) performed at the Studio Theatre of the Comédie Française. There’s an almost delicious sort of irony in the fact that Genet’s work is now part of the repertoire at the C.F., and to be frank, I was a bit worried about this show at first because of the institutional weight that’s attached to the venue (and also because the C.F. can be a bit too nice, or ‘clean’ at times). Turns out, my worries were, for the most part, for nothing, and especially compared to whatever it was that I saw last night, this performance made for a very engaging evening of theatre. Again, going through every single detail is slightly pointless, especially since the show is closing soon, but if I had to pinpoint one or two elements that, in my opinion, contributed to why I think it worked so well, I would have to attribute it to the lighting design as well as the use of space. With regards to the former, there was a point during the beginning of the show where the three principle actors – playing Lefranc, Maurice, and Yeux Verts (Green Eyes) – were standing downstage in a line, engulfed in darkness save for a small square of light sharply ‘cutting’ the left sides of their faces, bringing them into bright focus. The result was that it seemed as though those parts of their faces were at once part of and a-part from their bodies, existing both as concrete parts of a body as well as small floating ‘screens’, or windows into the prison cell where the play is set. In any case, it’s an interesting way to think about translating Genet’s manipulation – and later destruction – of semiotics/the sign into a theatrical medium that is not necessarily rooted in the individual actors’ performances, or even the text itself.
As to the use of space, the Studio Theatre is a bit odd in that instead of an almost black box style that one would expect from a studio, the room consists of a shallow and almost squat stage, with narrow stadium seating for the audience (and by narrow, I mean there were probably no more than 10 or 12 seats per row, and perhaps at most 15 or so rows themselves). Even before the performance started, the space itself felt very imposing, almost claustrophobic, and once the lights went down and the actors appeared – and I’m not sure whether this is due to the shallowness of the stage, the layout of the house, or both – , their bodies seemed to be almost too big. They were imposing, engulfing the space, just as the darkness and shadow was always threatening to engulf them. In some of his later works – notably The Balcony – Genet made explicit reference in his show notes to the use of cothurni (a kind of platformed shoe worn by actors in Ancient Greece) to elevate the actors and make them appear almost larger than life (or larger than human in any case). Whether that reference was on anyone’s mind when the show was being designed is a mystery, but the coincidence would not leave my mind as I watched these giant-like bodies move about in deliberate gesture on stage. Then again, that impression may have just had to do with where I was sitting (three rows from the back, house right).

I will say though that this confirms what I thought last night, namely that yesterday’s performance was going to end up setting the low bar for this season’s theatrical excursions. Hopefully, there will be more Genet to come as well.

Now I just have to deal with this potential ghost problem.

Paris theatre : Une Hache pour briser la mer gelée en nous (32 + 33)

Right.
So before I get into discussing the show I just returned from seeing, I thought I’d start off with something pleasant, calming, pleasing to the eye. Like these photos I took while visiting the Dior exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs yesterday : 

Elegance
Symmetry, clean lines…so pleasing.

Behold all these gowns that I could never hope to afford.

As an aside, the exhibit runs through at least mid-January I believe, so if you are in the area during that time, I highly recommend checking it out (be sure to buy your tickets online though; the line was insanely long for non-ticket holders).

Now onto this evening. 
I think I mentioned in my introductory post (or in one of those early posts in any case) that part of my research involves going to see live theatre in the city, and trying to see what – if any – trends seem to be making headway. Because of this, I will periodically be posting my thoughts on what I see because it’s always good to share and open a discussion on live theatre, even if its ephemerality means that no one who is reading this will probably ever see the show(s) I am talking about. In any case, I’m not sure if it’s the slight optimist in me that is managing to peak out again just a little bit (surprising considering last evening was…not good mentally to say the least), but I am really hoping that tonight’s experience is a sign that things can only go up from here.
Because if not…then I am in for hours of misery and annoyance.
Tonight’s performance was an adaptation/reworking of Georges Feydeau’s Occupé-toi d’Amélie (Keep an Eye on Amelie, 1908) titled Une Hache pour briser la mer gelée en nous (literally : an axe to shatter the frozen sea within us), directed by Grégoire Strecker and performed on the main stage at the Théâtre des Amandiers, Nanterre. I had chosen to come to this show primarily because the blurb I read on it in A Nous, Paris, emphasized that the potential for disorder and chaos that underlines Feydeau’s work would be brought to the forefront, and that the mise-en-scène would see the action extracted from a turn of the century bourgeois setting to something more closely reflecting modern sensibilities. 
Now look, Feydeau is fine, I suppose. He is not my favorite writer, but his plays do still carry some humor in them that can still translate well to a modern audience. Would I go out of my way to see a production of one of his plays? No. But, when I first studied abroad as an undergrad, I remember going with my theatre class to see two of his shorter works and having an enjoyable, if not particularly theoretically stimulating, evening. 
Why do I say this? Because I think a reworking of Feydeau that emphasizes the trouble lurking beneath the surface, the tension that threatens to boil over and consume every one, could be an excellent way not only to revive his work, but rethink it even in its own context of théâtre du boulevard. What it does not entail, however, is 3 – yes…3 – hours of what can only be described as a frenetic mess of a play that was not even sure what it wanted to be. Oscillating between affected/stylized and more ‘realistic’ performance styles – hell, there were even some sci-fi elements thrown in with an inexplicable giant orb that showed up towards the end of act one and then just…hung out – the production struggled to find its footing for the majority of the evening, making it difficult to connect with anything that was happening. People were talking over each other at times, making the few crowd scenes almost impossible to follow, scenes involving characters switching back and forth from French to what can only be described as vaguely Slavic gibberish were set so far upstage, I almost wondered if we were supposed to be following what was happening. But, for me, the biggest offense came towards the end. One of the final images of the play is intended to be rather violent : Amelie gets manhandled and has very rough, I would say consentually ambiguous, sex with the valet of Leprince-Collette while the latter watches. Normally, something like this – especially considering that what happens immediately before is her sham(?) wedding, and so she comes before the two men in a wedding gown – would deal a final punch, but in order to do so, work had to be put in building the tension on everything that came before that moment : lingering on certain gestures, speaking deliberately, conscious of the rhythm of the words coming out, aware to an extent that it is only through personal willpower that the snap into chaos is kept at bay. Unfortunately, this work did not happen. There was, in fact, a lack of urgency or energy through much of the evening, resulting in moments meant to act as energetic bursts of built up tension reading as nothing more than following a stage direction to yell. Hell, the fact that the audience was unsure about when to clap at the end – not out of wanting to keep the suspension of disbelief hanging on for a bit, but out of genuine confusion – should say more than enough.
On the bright side, the theatre at least did provide shuttles back to Châtelet, so getting home was not as annoying as it could have been.
Tomorrow, I am actually seeing play number 2, this one hitting a liiiiiiiiittttle closer to home. Hopefully, it is an improvement on this evening.
In the meantime, here’s one last picture from the Dior exhibit :

Yes, it’s all multiple choice. Yes, it does last 3 hours (31)

When people talk about culture shock, usually it has something to do with local customs/ways of doing things that are unfamiliar to us – styles of dress, dining habits, what exactly counts as personal space, to name a few. But something that many travelers/immigrants (maybe at some point I’ll talk about why I’m trying to move away from the term ‘expat’) don’t get to experience is the cultural interactions and confrontations that arise in the classroom, specifically when it comes to styles of testing.

In France, the big exam is the baccalauréat, which is probably most akin to the AP test(s) in that students are asked to prove competence primarily through written essays – although, if I remember correctly, there were some multiple choice questions in my AP English and French exams. Consequently – and I say this from my little bit of experience teaching at a high school three years ago – the students are taught in ways that emphasize the importance of written arguments and succinct analysis. What they are not taught is how to tackle a seemingly endless scantron sheet, which poses a problem for those who want to go to the US for university. Back in California, we were basically ‘training’ for the SAT for ten years, what with STAR testing, and although the SAT still has its stresses and demons that must be conquered, sitting down to take it does not feel particularly strange or unfamiliar.

I had the first meeting with the SAT students today, and of course because I enjoy being evil – apparently – I had them hit the ground running with a diagnostic test. 40 minutes, 24 questions. Some of them finished, others skipped a few, but the most popular reaction in the end was one of shock and disbelief. Shock at the unexpected density of the thing, disbelief at how fast the time ticked by. Of course, there’s the added pressure that comes with taking a test that’s not in your first language, but the majority of them seemed determined to stick it out, even after I had just run them through the gauntlet (realizing that French could help them with some of the tougher vocabulary in the  reading texts helped as well, I think). It’s crazy to look at their faces and think about how that was me ten(!!) years ago, nervously waiting to confront what I thought then was the most important test of my life. Thank goodness these kids know very little/nothing about the GRE, MCAT, GMAT, LSAT…

After the class finished and I had answered more questions about Harvard than I ever have in one sitting, I jettisoned over to Le Comptoire de la Gastronomie to meet with a friend, her mother, and friends of my friend for dinner. The food is still excellent, but they have redone the space since I was last there three years ago and I’m not sure what to think about the new design. A bit too modern, perhaps? I think keeping the red fabrics that once covered the chair cushions instead of the turquoise ones that cover them now could have helped in offsetting that. 
Then again, when you have a beautiful steak tartare staring you in the face, you sort of forget about interior decorating (as well as remember that, as far as culture shock goes, food never really presented that problem for you). 

The universe might like me today (30)

You know what’s awful? Getting good news, and then the minute you think about who you’re going to tell first, the thought slams into you that that person is not there anymore, that the position they formerly occupied is now vacant.

And then you recover from getting the wind knocked out of you – again – and you wonder if that blip of excitement, the one that comes only when you have something good, small or big, you just have to share with someone, will come back and stay a little longer.

So I’m just going to tell you lovely people. All…5 or so of you.

One of the things I did when I first moved back was reach out to the school I where used to teach English/run a theatre club to see if I could start the latter up again (I had it on good authority that there would be interest among the students). What they offered me was the opportunity to teach an SAT prep class, as well as run a theatre club. The catch was that for the club to happen, at least five students had to register. 

And because the universe likes me just a little bit…I got exactly five. Hooray for me! 

25 – 29

So I’ve been a bit MIA lately (so much for the daily posting…), but in my defense, I think I have a good excuse.
I’ve been eating. (Prepare yourselves for some rapid-fire restaurant commentating)

The Normande galette from Wednesday’s dinner at Breizh Café. Behold that beautiful Camembert…

I figured that since we had already gotten the museums and sites and whatnot out of the way, I’d devote my mom’s last few days here to taking her to as many different restaurants as possible (so…three), ticking off the boxes in terms of Parisian/French ‘must-tries’ that she had not yet experienced – and would quite frankly be hard-pressed to find back in the states. 

One of these things were Breton-style crêpes, and in particular the savory buckwheat galettes served with a pitcher of crisp, dry (my personal preference) cider. Normally, I would have taken her down to Josselin near Montparnasse for this, but as I didn’t want to chance a wait (the rain was being finicky that day), I opted instead to take her to Breizh Café in the Marais, a place that I had been keen on trying for a while but had yet to make it to. As far as crêpes go, the menu offered the traditional ‘completes’ of ham, cheese, and egg, as well as some more interesting combinations like the one I chose, which came with prosciutto, camembert and a salad. Overall, I think I still prefer Josselin to this place – crêpes are more filling, and the prices are a tad friendlier, though even in the Marais, crêpes have not gotten too exorbitantly priced – but for the ease that came with being able to reserve a table (highly recommended), I would gladly come here again.

And really, it was a good thing we did not overstuff ourselves because Thursday’s dinner was a trip to what is still my absolute favorite place to go out to eat in this city : Chez Gladines

If you aren’t smothering your duck breast in Roquefort sauce, are you even living?

Now, Gladines has a few locations around the city, but the original restaurant in the Buttes aux Cailles neighborhood in the 13th arrondissement is still the best of the bunch. The fact that its a bit tucked away from the main tourist areas of the city means that it still retains a lot of the lively spirit and soul of the immediate area – which, coincidentally, happens to be frequented in large part by students living at the Cité Universitaire, my old graduate residence, and only a short tram/metro ride away. As the photo above suggests, portions are incredibly generous, but prices are definitely reflective of the budgets of most of the clientele. And yes, the fact that the dinner crowd – especially later in the evening – is comprised primarily of 20/early 30-somethings means that it can get rather…jovial…in there after a certain hour, but this energy becomes rather infectious, especially when it is evident that the staff is having just as much fun as the patrons. The fact that the food is also delicious – those potatoes are still some of the most beautiful, garlicky, fried things I have ever consumed, and the salad still makes me laugh with its attempt to add a bit of ‘health’ to this atomic calorie bomb – and wines by the glass start at around 3/3.50euros, almost makes you never want to leave.

Finally came Friday, my mom’s last night in Paris, and thus a night for some more…’typical’…parisian dining. 

Not many places do the ‘radishes and sea salt’ thing as a complementary offering. Pity.

Le Temps des Cerises is a bistro located in the 4th arrondissement, off a side street just down the road from the Place de la Bastille. The bistro itself has been around for a while – I think the building, which looks like a little house, may have conservation status – but it hasn’t fallen into the trap of resting on its years to the detriment of the food, as some other historical eateries have. There’s a small dining room downstairs, and when we arrived, I feared that we’d be waiting a while, even though we had made a reservation, as all the tables were full. Fortunately, we were ushered up the stairs to another small room on the upper floor, this one a bit quieter than the bar/dining area downstairs. And maybe you can glean this from the photo, but there was an unmistakable warmth and coziness that enveloped the room and almost made me want to curl up in my chair and fall asleep, perhaps with a large mug of tea. Thankfully, I had had my afternoon espresso earlier that day, so I was able to stay wide awake for my meal.

We split an order of escargot to start, followed by chicken and fried potatoes for my mom, ray, mashed potatoes, and micro greens for me, and then finished with a tarte tatin for dessert, all of it washed down with a lovely carafe of white wine (and I didn’t note which one we chose, but I believe it was a Languedoc…). A stereotypical bistro meal, I guess you could say, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to add this place to my rotation of eateries I take people to when they visit me.

And then Saturday (yesterday) morning, I dropped my mom off at Charles de Gaulle, leaving her with one last treat for the long trip back to San Francisco : chocolates from Jacques Genin.

She was worried security would try and confiscate these. Of course they didn’t, but I did tell her if they tried to just eat them all…out of spite.

Last night also included a visit to the Experimental Cocktail Club, another place I have been meaning to try since I was last living here, as well as marked another personal first : going to a bar alone. Okay, this one might not count because the reason I was there alone was that I was waiting for my friends to arrive, but saddling up to the bar, ordering my cocktail – as the name suggests, their menu changes frequently with new creations, so the fact that I had something called an Old Cuban last night will probably make no difference should I, or any of you reading this, choose to visit this bar in the future – and people watching for a bit was not as awkward or uncomfortable as I originally thought it might be. There’s a part of me that would maybe consider doing something like this again, but perhaps next time I’ll do it on a weekday…oh and bring a book.

All this brings us to today which consisted of going to a drop-in acting class, seeing the French entry for this years foreign language Oscar race (120 Battements par minute / 120 Beats Per Minute, a film centered around the Paris chapter of Act Up and the French government’s (non) response to the AIDs crisis in the 1990s), and then heading to La Fontaine de Belleville to do some reading. Tomorrow it’s back at the BNF where I will continue with the super fun task of continually convincing myself that my project is a good idea (that is, assuming I get a better handle on the thing). Dissertations are a bitch.