Panda in Paris


london and so many other things

Posted in France by parisianpanda on May 2, 2010
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I haven’t put anything here in almost a month and a lot has happened. Generally I write long posts full of word vomit, so this time for the sake of my sanity and yours* I will break things up into shorter posts over the few days**. The first thing is my trip to England over “Easter vacation” which was actually two weeks after Easter because of the breaking up of France into vacation “zones” so everyone doesn’t go on vacation at the same time, and also because France only pretends to be a Catholic country.

Parliament and Westminster Abbey from the Eye

Most of the time I was in London visiting Ben, who is a very nice young man who lived here in Paris for a couple of months and invited me to visit him when he went home.

This is what he looks like.

I went to London during the Toussaint vacation the year I was in Paris as a student and I’d already visited most of the major tourist sites, so while Ben was at work I did a lot of walking tours of areas I probably wouldn’t have visited on my own and learned interesting factoids.

This church was the inspiration for the first tiered wedding cake!

This is the church Shakespeare attended!

This bridge wobbled too much when it first opened, so they had to close it until a team of New York engineers fixed it. We saved them, just like after the war. ***

Seeing as the last time I was here the weather was less than stellar, I also spent a good amount of time in parks.

Tulips!

Tulips and the London Eye

Seriously, what is it with Europeans and squirrels?

Probably the most interesting part of the trip was going to Brighton, a seaside town in the south, mostly for an event at a little independent gallery where various artists/journalists/professors talked about reality as a concept, but also the sea!

Carnival rides on the pier

Gazebo on the beach at night

Chocolate-truffle-peanut-butter milkshake from a place called, I kid you not, Choccy woccy doo dah.

Overall an excellent trip with an excellent host who took excellent care of me.

Back in Paris, things are starting to get sad because I’m on my last month here (at least for the summer) and people are starting to go home. Katarina is back in Australia, and David’s gone to Frankfurt to start a real grown-up job. Determined not to write about grad school here until I’ve actually gotten acceptances/made a decision, out of fear of jinxing it. At least Matthew is here. He moved into David’s room for the month and he talks a lot, which drowns out all my neuroses bouncing around in my brain.

OK@+!

*I realize it’s narcissistic to assume this blog affects your sanity or even my own.

**I can’t promise this. I have a lot of free time now that my job is over but I am also very lazy.

***I don’t really think this, I just say things like this because in case you haven’t heard, I’m hilarious.****

****I am probably not hilarious.

paca pâques

I went south for Easter  weekend with David.

First we were in Toulon…

He is happy because he's not in Paris.

Place de la Liberté

Then we went, on the recommendation of one of the English teachers where I work, to Ile de Porquerolles. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and the only reason I can think of that it wouldn’t be as touristic as some of the other places in Cote d’Azur is that it’s off the coast of some of the uglier cities in Cote d’Azur (Toulon? Hyeres? Eh…) If it was closer to Nice and Cannes, it would probably be packed all the time. It would be nice to go sometime when there’s actually beach weather and bike around the little paths…

Pretty!

Me being saucy (Before you get too jealous, it wasn't really warm enough for me to be barefoot with no jacket...)

Steps from the beach to the bike path

The island is mostly known for beaches, bike paths and parks. One of its only monuments is a little windmill called “Le Moulin de Bonheur,” or the Windmill of Happiness, which is supposedly how the owner sarcastically named it in 1971 when it was a ruin and he was placing an ad in the newspaper looking for a wife.

GET IT! HE IS DON QUIXOTE BECAUSE HE'S SPANISH! (This was his idea, not mine.)

The place in Hyeres where you have to catch the ferry to and from Ile de Porquerolles is called La Tour Fondue…

Does it look like a melted tower?

The next day we got up early and took the train to Nice…

Beasts of the fountain

Cote d'Azur, being azur

Bittersweet graffiti

He's thinking about Nutella.

We took a detour to Villefranche, which was beautiful before it started raining…

Cute little passageway...

Villefranche right before it started pouring...

…then back to Nice at night. There are seven statues of men in different sorts of meditation positions that glow and change colors at night. The “seven” are supposed to represent the seven continents, which sparked a long and heated debate on why in America we learn there are seven instead of five. David thinks we don’t consider “America” to be one continent because we don’t want to be associated with South Americans. He is just jealous because America is the center of the universe and all Spain has is ham and matadors.*

USA baby. U. S. A.

Our last day was the only day during which the weather was actually beach-appropriate. Cannes was somewhat overrated…it has a nice enough promenade but it’s not as pretty as Nice or Villefranche, and most of the beaches are private.

Private beaches in Cannes. Marylin Monroe is also arbitrarily on everything.

My parents told me to take this because there is a picture of me on this carousel as a baby.

We finished our trip in Antibes, which had nice beaches and a fantastic view of the Alpes.

I got more sunburned than I'm proud to admit considering how short of a time we were actually in the sun.

Other things:

1) My inability to find summer employment means I’m going back stateside at the end of May. I would have liked to stay the summer, but most of the people I care the most about here will be gone by then anyway, apart from my small handful of friends who are actually French and never seem to have any free time. This means I will probably get to go to Washington in June to see my friends before they all graduate and disperse, which I’m pretty happy about. I am a little bit worried about wasting away jobless at my parent’s house in July and August, but then I will start grad school either at Madison or here in Paris, and everything will be okay.** I’ve applied for a summer job in Portland, but I have learned not to expect much from such things.

2) Places I would like to go before June:
a) London
b) Marseille again
c) Frankfurt when David moves there? Maybe?
d) Somewhere Latin with a coast (Portugal? Italy?)

3) Now that it’s getting warmer my students have gotten in the habit of remarking how sexy I look. This job has been good to me but I’m still pretty happy it’s ending.

*In case this is the first time you’ve read this blog, that’s a joke and not actually how I feel.

**Or I will be rejected from all the grad schools I apply to and will starve in the street.

some german things

Posted in France by parisianpanda on March 3, 2010
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Photo dump:

Piece of the Berlin Wall

Matthew buys candy

Marx and Engels, hanging out in Berlin

Reichstag Palace/Parliament

David outside the zoo

Tiergarten park

Brandenburg Gate/Paris Place!

A feral German child. I gave him a 50 cent piece and told him to invest it wisely. It was the least my bourgeois heart could do.

Charlottenberg Palace

Jesus

Perhaps an oversimplification?

Gate to Sachsenhausen concentration camp: Work makes freedom?

Electric fence and Sachsenhausen

Travel buddies in Hamburg!

Hamburg town hall

Church in Hamburg - the middle was bombed out in an air raid by the allies

March 1st: Hamburg decided Christmas is over

Jazz! On a boat!

Beer!

Obervations:

1) German is a hideous language.

2) One of the English teachers at my school told me she didn’t like Berlin because she thought it had “no soul.” I don’t think this is entirely fair. It’s definitely not a beautiful city the way European capitals are generally advertised as being, but the cheap cost of living has created a community of young people that doesn’t exist in a lot of big cities.

3) Call me the PC police, but concentration camps = maybe not the best place for Facebook photo ops? “Oh, crematorium! SMILE! Check out that blood stain still on the ground from when the Nazis would pretend to take people’s heights, then shoot them in the back of the neck! OMG THIS IS TOTALLY MY PROFILE PIC!” Slightly tasteless.

4) German food was too beefy and greasy and mostly gave me stomachaches, however: Kebab in Germany = WAY better than kebab in France. We went to a kebab place for dinner one of the first nights in Berlin out of desperation and I was a little disappointed, because kebab in France is generally something I eat because I am hungry and nothing else is open, not because I enjoy the way it tastes. How wrong I was! In addition to being a few euros cheaper, kebab in Germany is grilled to perfection, not too fatty, full of vegetables and doesn’t end up half on your plate at the end of it. French kebabs have gone from being disappointing to basically inedible in my book.

5) Hamburg is pretty!

6) We spent all night Saturday at a club called Magnet in Berlin, which was especially fun because:

a) They played music I actually enjoy (The Pixies! The Postal Service!)
b) The alcohol was actually affordable and
c) The crowd was full of people who mostly look and dress like I do.

This is a sharp contrast to clubs in Paris, where:

a) They mostly play David Guetta and a lot of this nonsense
b) 5 euro beer! 10 euro cocktails!
c) The crowd is full of men in their 40s hitting on 17-year-old girls while all the girls who are not 17 stand around the perimeter of the room making judgey faces at anyone who looks like they’re having fun.

David (who is particularly vitriolic against the lack of sociability in Paris) said as we were leaving, “Look! You see how much fun we had! We almost never have that much fun in Paris. That’s every weekend in Madrid!” I thought about this, and told him that I like Paris because I like taking walks around pretty buildings and listening to people speak French, and that maybe I’m willing to sacrifice a more fulfilling and more affordable social life for that. He thinks I am ridiculous. I would probably be a happier person if I didn’t have such misplaced priorities. Oh well.

7) Here is a Takashi Murakami-produced music video that was featured in a Pop Art exhibition we saw in Hamburg. You will enjoy it if you enjoy cutesy Japanese things, vaguely racist double entendres and Kirsten Dunst.

obligatory post-vacation post

Posted in France by parisianpanda on November 8, 2009
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Here are some pictures of some things I saw on my trips to Barcelona and Marseille:

Gaudi house

National Museum of Catalonian Art

Beach!

Dali museum

Cliffs around Cassis (France)

Thibault, my host brother in Marseille

Sunset on the cliff

Famous Marseille carousel next to the Stock Exchange

If anyone is considering using a break to go to Barcelona, I can give you this advice:

– I can’t recommend highly enough the Albareda Youth Hostel. It was reasonably priced, centrally located, social without being out of control and the cleanest hostel I’ve ever stayed in – they changed the sheets every day and you could practically eat off the floors.

– Most of the Gaudi stuff is extortionately priced but the Battlo house was totally worth it, even if the audio guide was a little bit hyperbolic. “This is the MOST MODERN ROOM YOU HAVE EVER BEEN IN.” “This is the most BEAUTIFUL MODERN WINDOW YOU WILL EVER SEE.”

– Avoid the big clubs around the Barceloneta if you are a girl because Spanish men are even worse than French men about grabby hands and inappropriate comments and assuming you’re easy because you’re a tourist. Kama is a small Brazilian samba club I wandered into with some of the hostel people which was way more fun than the famous megaclubs.

– The train to Figueras takes two hours and there is nothing much in the town except the Dali museum, but if you have a good chunk of time to spend in Barcelona it’s really worth the trip.

On Marseille:

– Rabbit is actually really delicious but looks gross with eyes and no skin.

– Most people I know who love Paris hate Marseille and insist that it’s really dirty. I really like Marseille and generally try to counter the argument that it’s dirty, but when I was there this time the garbage men in the city had been on strike for six days, so there were huge mountains of trash everywhere on the sidewalks. I want to defend you, Marseille, but you’re killing me here.

– Staying with a host family I hadn’t seen for three and a half years was strange. They were just as friendly and hospitable as I had remembered, but my host brother who was thirteen when I last saw him is now almost seventeen, taller than me and has a real man’s voice now. Time marches on I suppose.

On not being in Paris:

I liked it more than I should have. Barcelona was almost like Olympia (the hippie town where I went to college) in that you can never feel too out of place because there is always someone to out-freak you. The difference was not as marked in the south of France but I was generally treated like a regular human being and not bombarded with the disdainful “why” questions I constantly get in Paris even from my closest friends here. (“Why are you eating that?” “Why are you wearing that?” “Why are you doing that?” “Why are you going there?” “Why are you like this, Yankee circus freak?”) It is slightly frustrating to have invested so much time and money and education in a language and a culture and a city that refuses to let me feel more than slightly integrated. I wonder if my life would be easier if I was like a Parisian girl with perfectly tailored black clothing on a lithe little body and I could puff clouds of cigarette smoke out of big, pouty lips and look down my little button nose at everyone from on top of my high horse and say bitchy little things like “T’es con ou quoi?” instead of the way I am now, which is an awkward girl with an American face who falls up and down the stairs in the metro.

French girls, in general

French girls, in general

Me, in general

Alas, alack, forsooth, and merde alors. But I try not to take things to personally, because Parisians like looking down on fun people and considering Americans stupid. Yet whenever I leave I’m always anxious to come back. It’s a strange and masochistic relationship I have with this city.

Also, I went out with Katarina yesterday for a slightly-too-expensive-for-someone-who-just-got-back-from-vacation-and-still-hasn’t-payed-rent-or-gotten-a-paycheck drink and had a nice, satisfying rant about a slightly-juvenile-but-still-too-personal-for-this-blog issue that has been escalating in my life for the past couple of weeks and she knew exactly what I was talking about, which was very nice because I’ve spent so much time speaking my second language lately and worrying that whatever comes out of my mouth is just an approximation of what I actually want to say.

Eric is probably on a plane on his way here as we speak, which should mean less ranting and more photos in this blog in the near future.

in which my roommate is the coolest person ever

Posted in France by parisianpanda on October 6, 2009
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Tonight my roommate told me she was leaving for a week on the 17th to go to Jordan. I told her I had two weeks of vacation when she got back but that I wasn’t sure I would have enough money to go anywhere – between the hit I took replacing my iPod and, due to what (I think) is a ridiculous bureaucratic mixup, I may not be getting paid for October until the end of November, (though that isn’t sure yet – the Spanish and Arabic assistants might stage a coup with me if that happens)  the pot is going to be a little dry this month to the point where I may have to dip into my CD account early. To which she responded “That’s ridiculous. You’re here to take advantage of opportunities in France and Europe. If you’re not here for 15 days you only pay half your rent.” I am still not sure I’m leaving but half my rent is probably how much I would spend traveling anyway and I’m pretty happy to be living with someone who feels that way about it.

My school is working out pretty well so far – all the English teachers are very nice (even though more than half of them speak with ridiculous French accents a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and they all seem like reasonable people, although it’s a little sad that they constantly talk about how dumb the students are. It’s not the worst suburb – not one with burning cars and gang violence that Fox News likes to talk about – but still a community of underachieving working class kids. Some of the mistakes they make are pretty funny (one teacher showed me a response to an analysis of a Captain America comic that said only “To be bad is sad”,) I’m not sure going into a classroom assuming the kids are going to fail is a good approach. (I know about these things because I watched Season 4 of the Wire.)

Improv classes have been going well – the teacher we’ve had for the past two weeks is German, and certain things he says are 130% more hilarious because he says them with a German accent (“I love hugging barrels,” “This bar is a meat factory.”) The teacher for the next two weeks is Danish, and I’m not sure there are as many hilarious things to be said with a Scandinavian accent, but it remains to be seen.

I went out for Nuit Blanche on Saturday, which is a night in which Paris is at least theoretically open all night and there are big artistic events in all the parks. I didn’t take my camera out of lingering paranoia from the iPod incident of going out with it amongst huge crowds, but my new and really awesome Australian friend Kat-sur-Seine was there (and will perhaps post pictures?) Mostly I saw multicolored lights in the pond at the Buttes Chaumont and a lot of red umbrellas at three in the morning and the whole thing felt like an acid trip, not like I would know what an acid trip feels like.

This post is incoherent but I have to get up early tomorrow for a full day of boring orientation in a town more than an hour away so this is the end.