Monday, December 15, 2014

Provins: Medieval Christmas Market and Other Oddities

Something out of a Game of Thrones episode, or nearly.

Nothing says Christmas like wenches and codpieces – or at least that was the impression I was getting. Provins, a little town just southeast of Paris, is known for its annual Medieval Christmas market one weekend each December. This past weekend, it all happened.

I had been waiting for years to find the right moment to go to Provins. I’ve read about and to me, it was a secret little vault of miracles just outside my front door. But alas, I had procrastinated. But being Christmas, and needing to get into the spirit, I decided it was the right year, month, and day.

An early train on Sunday whisked us away, and in just over an hour, we were there, walking back through time, mostly, through the streets of Provins. I mean, they’re not stuck in the past entirely – they have a Monoprix, after all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Studying at the Sorbonne: Making Money

Work hard, play hard. No need to sacrifice everything if you're earning pennies...

How does a student survive in Paris? I’ve been getting this question a lot lately, and I thought it might be useful to share a bit of info to dispel any notions that we students are all funded by our parents. That is certainly not the case for me and nearly all of the international students I know.

Clearly, it is very possible to live in Paris as a student. Why else would it be the top city for students, in this year’s QS rankings? 

But here’s the thing – nothing s handed to you, and no one will give you the answers if you don’t ask. So since so many people have been asking me, I thought I’d give back a bit of insider info in a nice, convenient, English-speaking manner. While no means exhaustive or universally-applicable, this list should get the ball rolling for any student wannabes in France.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

[Old] Orléans, A Joan of Arc Fandom

Heading back to the Middle Ages...
It’s was a Wednesday. I wasn’t working. The sun would be out, so really, all signs pointed towards a daytrip outside of Paris. But where to go?

The destination was selected thanks to SNCF, France’s national train service. Using their website, I found 20 euro round-trip tickets to several towns. After a quick look on WikiVoyage, I kept coming back to Orléans, about an hour south of Paris, on the Loire River.

Now, we had spent a significant amount of time in the Loire this summer, but I had never been to Orléans. More than the namesake for the “New” version in the US, and with less gumbo, it is a hub of medieval history where Joan of Arc famously led French troops into battle against the English.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

True Happiness in Paris: Princess Crêpe

Yes, in Paris.

I kicked myself for coming to the Marais on a Sunday afternoon. Of course the lines for falafel were too long. Disappointed in myself, hating everyone around me, but more importantly hungry, we headed down rue des Ecouffes to a little Japanese place called Don’s. It was a good value for some simple bento and rice bowls, but my tummy wasn’t ready to quit.

But this is not a post about Don’s. That was just the beginning of my Japanese day on a street in Paris that caters almost exclusively to both Jews and lesbians. You know, the usual type of Sunday.

Finally, after more than three years, I decided it was time to try the creperie just down the street, called Princess Crêpe, opened in 2011. Hardly news, but it's a shop that's proven itself. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

When Technology Taints Travel

My newest enemy...

Back in 2006, I called my parents from my semester abroad in a phone booth. I had a little digital camera and a phone that could only text and make calls. There was – gasp – no camera on the phone. Twitter had just been born but Instagram was four years down the road. I didn’t have a Gmail account.

Life was good.

Living in Paris and backpacking across Italy, taking weekend trips to Stockholm, or planning spring break in Prague were all done in the most rudimentary way possible: with paper and people.  It was a hipster approach to travel without even trying to be hipster. I was just broke. I had invested in or borrowed a few guides, but I mainly relied on people in the places I went to visit to find out the things to do.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Famous Haunts: A Walk in Père Lachaise

I’m not obsessed with cemeteries. In fact they creep me out. But stepping into the Père Lachaise cemetery is different. It’s like walking into some marvelous wonderland where someone decided that humans should be buried. It’s like if there were a graveyard put in Disneyland – it’s out of place, but you couldn’t blame anyone for wanting to rest everlastingly there.

Père Lachaise has the same thing going on. It’s gorgeous, peaceful, and full of celebrities. So what if they happen to be dead?

I like to walk through it in the autumn, preferably with a pair of boots to crunch on the leaves falling from the orange and crimson tinged trees. I’ve got some friends there that I visit, like Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf. I mean, sure, tons of people head to their graves, but I know they’re waiting for my visit each fall. It’s like trick-or-treating for me, even though I really do love Reese’s Cups.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Art and Chocolate: Keeping Things Interesting in Paris

It's all about chocolate, right?
The takeaway message from this weekend is that Paris can still surprise me. That’s the happy part of this story. The other part is that it took chocolate butt plugs to get to that point.

I should probably explain…

Paul McCarthy, the American artist who made headlines by inflating a giant butt plug-shaped “Tree” in Paris’s Place Vendôme, has an exhibit at the Monnaie de Paris. This gallery, the historic mint for French money, reopened this past weekend, October 25th, as a home to contemporary art exhibits. The first show – McCarthy’s deliciously titled “Chocolate Factory.”

Since the exhibit was free this weekend, of course I went, and I absolutely loved it. I am not ashamed.