Friday, February 27, 2015

Running A Fowl at Square du Temple

Show off...

Ever since last year’s World Cup, Paris has had a very odd couple living in one of its parks. The Square du Temple, in the upper Marais, just south of Place de la République, is green space dedicated to playing children, summertime sunbathers, and bench lovers. Man I love a good bench.

But after the World Cup, allegedly, a local who had purchased a rooster, France’s team mascot, let the bird loose in park. Later, feeling sorry for the lonesome fowl, someone bought him a hen, according to an old Frenchman who explained this to me a few months ago while I was staring at the birds.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Budapest: The Paris of the East

Parliament from across the Danube...
The so-called Paris of the East, the Hungarian capital made for a wonderful February escape. Though temperatures were no warmer than in Paris, sunshine and cheap prices (1 euro = 305 forints) more than made up for the cold.

We spent three nights wandering, eating, caffeinating, and generally soaking up the vibe of this city that I hardly knew at all. It’s in eastern Europe, so generally themes of destruction during World War 2, communism, and populist uprisings were in there somewhere. I also had the keywords "thermal baths" and "paprika" in mind, but other than a few quick Google searches, I let fate guide us (along with the recommendations of a few reliable friends).

The result? An experience well-beyond my expectations and hardly a dent in my Parisian wallet.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Monkeying Around in Paris

A new friend....
Target practice? Oh, tranquilizer darts...

How many orangutans have you met in Paris? It’s a question we ask ourselves almost every day, and finally, I can stand up and say, proudly, “I’ve met two, yes two orangutans in Paris.”

During last week’s event, “Paris Face Cachée,” Paris showed its hidden sides. I’d ignored this event before because, like all major events, they draw crowds. And I hate crowds. I will only voluntarily join thousands of people in the street when we can run 26 miles and eat bananas for hours (yes, the marathon is coming up in April, and I’m prepping).

But for whatever reason this year I clicked on the program to see what was happening, and decided to join a backstage tour of the Menagerie, the little zoo in the Jardin des Plantes. It was on a Friday afternoon after my class, conveniently up the street from the zoo, so I paid 30 euros for two tickets, and I dragged my partner in crime (as well as sanctioned, legal events) to the zoo’s entrance. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Living History in the Marais: An Encounter

Marais-scape...you  never know who you'll meet...

Paris miracles. They do happen.

I was walking along rue Rambuteau in the Marais, showing some tourists the many pastry shops, trying to convince them that they needed more sugar. They had hit their limit. Oh well.

One of them stopped in front of an Asian restaurant – one of those traiteurs with lots of choices – and asked what they served. He realized pretty quickly, so we were about to move on when an older Frenchman stopped us. He was impeccably dressed, with piercing eyes to match his baby blue scarf.

“Are you American?” he asked?

I thought we were about to be berated for looking at the Asian food.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Extra! Extra! A Post-Charlie World

That elusive paper...

It’s funny how a silly green newspaper can mean so much. I don’t regularly do much at 6AM, on account of the sleeping and all, but this past week I couldn’t not get up early. I had a mission.

Paris won’t go back to normal. What does normal even mean anyway? While the city will recover from the terrorist attacks on the weekly satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, it’s just not going to be the same here. The scar will stay.

But that’s OK. This is France, the land of revolution, coups d’état, and protests (and amazing over-the-counter cosmetics to cover it up). Things rarely stay the same, anyway. In the 1800s alone they went through two emperors and three kings as well as two republics. That’s a lot of change.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Unprecedented Paris Rally: A City Unites

A look up Boulevard Magenta, reportedly backed up to Gare du Nord

Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions showed up in Paris for a unity rally following the recent terrorist attacks. The AFP reported that more than 2.5 million people were marching in France, with perhaps 1.3-1.5 million in the capital. Official numbers were impossible to ascertain.

Since I live right next to the meeting place, like literally a few steps from the square, I was excited to take part in the event, as a hopefully-future-Frenchman myself. I made it out the front door, but not much further than that. The streets all around Place de la République were completely full by 3PM, when the march towards Nation was set to start. Police and news vans were all I could see in the distance over the heads of hundreds of people. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

#JeSuisCharlie

After attacks at the weekly satire publication Charlie Hebdo in Paris, 12 are dead, and with them, the dream that a free press can exist securely and peacefully has also been taken from us. 

While the nation is shaken, citizens have rallied with no delay. Hundreds gathered at the Place de la République tonight to show their support for the lives lost and to rally against this terrorist act. 

Chanting "Charlie" and "Liberté de l'expression," the crowd raised pens in solidarity and lit candles on the statue in the middle of the square, with lights spelling out "NOT AFRAID."