Dirty Artists, Women of the Night, and A Really, Really Big Hill

I slept until noon today, which is completely unheard of in my world!
The plan of action was to immerse myself in my Parisian neighbourhood, which I think I did a fine job of.

The first couple of photos are my Villa! That is actually what it’s called. It’s a secluded little apartment complex tucked away off the street. I’ve also included photos of my elevator, which is ancient, and more than a little scary. Very, very tiny too. I know now why Europeans invented Ikea furniture, though I still don’t know how you’d get a couch up here!

I sallied forth into the hood, in search of brunch, and had a quiche lorraine in a cafe around the corner where I met my first rude French waiter. My friend Lenni told me if you treat them like you’re going to crush their balls, then you have them in the palm of your hand. I think that’s good advice. Period. The coffee is really to die for here. I will never spend another penny on over-priced Starbucks crap, because that extra change can go into a bank account to bring me back here toute suite. The produce here is ridiculous too. Even the greens they throw on the side with your meal. It tastes like Jacques went to the back of the restaurant, where the tiny garden is of course hidden, and ripped the leafy greens from the ground with his own two hands. After assuring my evil waiter that he would NOT be getting a five euro tip, I set off again.

First I poked around in several incredible neighbourhood shops. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is the greatest retail experience I have ever had. Anyone who knows me, knows I take shopping VERY seriously, and there is literally nook after nook of the most gorgeous treasures. Among my favourites today were a dollhouse shop full of tiny furniture, a gourmet food shop that had the most exquisite looking chocolates that I have ever seen, two separate baby/kid lifestyle stores where the parents can buy very fun stuff for mommy and daddy too (Parisian parents are the biggest hipsters I’ve seen. Queen Street West has NOTHING on them!) A seriously adorable lingerie store (yes, I WILL be heading back there!), the most abundant and gorgeous flower depot your brain can imagine, a street market full of painters, a lovely stationary store, and the weirdest little shop near Cemetere Montmartre that sold antique odds and sods and bits of ephemera. Their specialty seemed to be amputated doll parts and ladies’ powder tins from the turn of the century. Of course, I loved this.

I went to Sacre Coeur, and lit a candle at the foot of the shrine to the Virgin. It was Sunday after all, and I was very pleased that I didn’t burn up on entry. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been to church, and I wasn’t sure what would happen. It was so peaceful and beautiful. Churches everywhere have a very distinct, very similar smell, which immediately chokes me up. I think it makes me nostalgic for the time when I was a little girl, and completely mesmerized with it all. I was so open, and so eager to believe…

I got entirely hustled by a street artist (despite warnings from every travel guide there is) who drew my portrait. He was incredibly charming, and full of flattery. Among my favourite lines were “You have the body of a Brazillian.” (Imagine this in a French Accent) “Small perky tits, and a big, marvelleux ass.” When my eyebrows shot to the back of my head, I think he thought I was insulted by the small tit remark (I was just shocked by the whole statement, and it takes a lot to shock me) so he went on to say “Don’t worry, small tits are great. When you’re older, they won’t sag.” As it turns out, he thought “Tits” was the proper English word for breasts. But still…
As you can see, the drawing looks NOTHING like me, but he did somehow manage to channel my mother as a young woman, which I really thought was amazing. He promised to draw me for free, (which was a crock, in case you didn’t realize that) but I negotiated a decent price for his work, and the highly amusing experience. He said he would use the money to buy me wine, and would be my slave if I would return later to have a drink with him. I advised him to buy a sandwich and spend more time reflecting on Jesus.

I also saw a street performer, who was doing the human statue thing. He was dressed as either a saint, or perhaps the Virgin Mary, and would come alive in a very slow gesture of pious gratitude whenever an offering was made. I’ve decided that when I move to Paris, I will make my living as a still mime. It seemed to be quite lucrative.

I took a lot of photos at the Cemetere Montmartre. People find it difficult to understand my love of old cemeteries, and I’m not going to try to explain it. I just think they are unbelievably beautiful. I’ll post those in a separate entry.

There is more of Montmartre to be had, so I will investigate further if I have time later this week, and it’s the perfect place to pick up all of my petite souvenirs. I couldn’t linger any longer. I had a date!

I journeyed (on the Metro, all by myself!) to Cour St-Emilion to meet Miss Lenni, and we went to the French answer to the big movie Multiplex. It was tres luxuriant; the chairs were unbelievably comfortable, and it was all very sophisticated. Not the shouting teenager, ringing cell phones escapade that you get in North America. We saw a very classic, very French type of film starring Robert Downey Jr. It’s called Iron Man. I highly recommend it, if it ever comes to Canada.

After that, we had a lovely little supper at a cafe. I had a delicious salad piled high with all manner of seafood, and of course a glass of wine. Dogs are not only allowed, but also very welcome in Parisian restaurants, which I find hilarious. If I lived here, I would always have a date, and more often than not, he’d have four legs.

I then took the Metro back home (once again successfully), and I’m now planning my tomorrow. I think I will visit the sprawling antiques market at Porte de Clignacourt, and then perhaps check out the Champs Elysees, and the Arc Du Triumph.

But now, to bed. I will set my alarm tonight, because I don’t want to waste a single moment with frivolous activities like sleeping. Yeesh.

Le Premier Jour

It’s 9:32 Paris time, and 3:30 Toronto time, and I’ve been up since yesterday at six a.m. I’ve spent over 12 hours trying to fly to another corner of the globe, and I’ve discovered that I can’t sleep on a plane without some kind of drug-induced stupor. Which I didn’t have this time, so this will have to be brief, because I’m crashing. How lame!

I began to gnash my teeth and give up hope of ever getting to our destination, when the French country side finally came into view from the airplane. Acres of farm land looked like a child’s elaborate play thing, perfectly pieced like patchwork. Then, a delicate spire rose from it all, as if someone had plunked a little, finely-carved chess piece atop the greenery. I gasped. It was involuntary, but there it was. In among a couple of scattered high-rise buildings dotting the landscape (which seemed very strange) was the Eiffel Tour. I got a little bit misty.

I booked it here in a taxi, where I saw the colour of the city, and the horrors of Parisian traffic unfold before me in a riotous fashion. Just as I was starting to think that all major freeways look the same around the world (The first thing I saw was Ikea!) we were burped out into Montmartre, and all of it’s wildly ethnic glory. Motorcyclists and Scooter drivers rule the streets here, and nobody is safe. Cyclists weave in and out of traffic like nobody’s business, and I didn’t see a single helmet all day long. I did however see a dude with his cat riding on his shoulders.

Montmartre is rough around the edges, but it’s mixed with the most beautiful old architecture. It feels like New York made me feel – vibrant, eager to be out among the people, and unsure of what to expect. Montmartre feels like New York’s highly romantic, very street savvy, definitely Algerian girlfriend. Perhaps you can see what I mean from the photos taken from the cab above.

Sacre Coeur is a two-minute hop, skip, and jump from my doorstep. I intend to hang out in the hood tomorrow, and will take more photos, but I gave you a little taste (before my battery died!) The carousel is at the base of Montmartre. I’ll also take photos of my courtyard tomorrow because it’s absolutely darling. The apartment is tiny, but it’s very clean, and has everything I need. Well, almost everything.

I met my lovely friend Lenni Jabour www.lennijabour.com at the steps of Opera Bastille, and she and I went for a big wander around her neighbourhood, stopping for a snack, and a Kir (a lovely little drink made with creme de cassis and white wine) at the Cafe Divan. Then we wandered to la Place des Voges www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Place_des_Vosges and then toured around Le Marais. Le Marais is incredible. I wish that photo of the wisteria were a little more clear. The whole area was filled with surprises like that around every corner, and people were all sprawled out together having naps in Place des Voges like an overgrown kindergarten class. I can’t even imagine that in High Park! We sniffed perfume, touched pretty clothing, went to the most meticulous home organizing store I have ever seen (my friend Amanda would die!), and then I had to bail because I could scarcely keep my eyes open. Before she left me, Lenni kindly showed me how to use the Metro, and even demonstrated how to purchase (and use) Carnets. I am now confident enough to explore on my own.

I thought I was in for the night, but my tummy is now growling, and though I am so very, very, sleepy, that tiny bistro around the corner with the flickering candles and darling little table cloths is calling my name. With a sexy French Accent.

A Demain!

‘Twas the Night Before Paris

I’m going to barf.
And I’m certainly NOT going to sleep!
This insane level of excitement can only be compared to the absolutely sleepless Christmas Eves we had as children. Sadly, there is nobody here to stay up with all night whispering loudly to. Not-so-sadly, my parents aren’t in the next room yelling at me to go to sleep. No matter what, there will be something fabulous under my tree tomorrow. I feel like I should be leaving out milk and cookies.

I’ve re-packed my suitcase three times. It’s very full. I was going to save space in case I needed it for my purchases, but I just can’t seem to pare down my contents. I’m sure I won’t end up wearing half the stuff I’m bringing (like the bathing suit, for example) but I would hate to be unprepared! I have at least three versions of the perfect evening out dress, four different “I’m cute, it’s spring” numbers, and only one pair of pants. It seems really wrong to wear pants in Paris. Laugh if you must.

Thank you to all of my friends and family who have generously loaned me various gadgets and who-dads to make my travel experience more enjoyable. I notice nobody ponied up with any sedatives, so I guess I’ll have to fly au naturel. I’ve received no less than three different versions of how to get proper rest and avoid dehydration on the plane. If I were to combine all three, the end result would be me escorted off the plane in cuffs at ‘ol Charlie De Gaulle.

I will admit to being scared. I’m not sure what I’m scared of, exactly. I think it’s the vast unknown. Definitely the possibility of being lonely. Most certainly of having to be on a plane (I still don’t understand why or how they work). I’ve got a little anxiety over being alone at night in a strange city. Perhaps drinking wine from a baby bottle will help with all of this. (yes, there’s a restaurant where you can actually do this. I’m not sure why…)

My mom has been doing this very cute thing each morning this week, where she emails me a different image of Paris with a little count-down of the number of sleeps left. It’s sweet to see what Paris looks like in her imagination. Lots of beautifully composed photos of famous landmarks.

Above is a little taste of what it looks like in mine…


This is my current theme song. If you’ve never heard it, you should find a copy, stat.

Peter Sarstedt
26/02/1969 – 4 weeks at #1 – 16 weeks on chart

You talk like Marlene Dietrich
And you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire
Your clothes are all made by Balmain
And there’s diamonds and pearls in your hair, yes there are

You live in a fancy apartment
Off the Boulevard Saint-Michel
Where you keep your Rolling Stones records
And a friend of Sacha Distel, yes you do

But where do you go to my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head, yes I do

I’ve seen all your qualifications
You got from the Sorbonne
And the painting you stole from Picasso
Your loveliness goes on and on, yes it does

When you go on your summer vacation
You go to Juan-les-Pins
With your carefully designed topless swimsuit
You get an even suntan on your back and on your legs

And when the snow falls you’re found in Saint Moritz
With the others of the jet-set
And you sip your Napoleon brandy
But you never get your lips wet, no you don’t

But where do you go to my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
Won’t you tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head, yes I do

Your name, it is heard in high places
You know the Aga Khan
He sent you a racehorse for Christmas
And you keep it just for fun, for a laugh, a-ha-ha-ha

They say that when you get married
It’ll be to a millionaire
But they don’t realize where you came from
And I wonder if they really care, or give a damn

Where do you go to my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head, yes I do

I remember the back streets of Naples
Two children begging in rags
Both touched with a burning ambition
To shake off their lowly-born tags, so they try

So look into my face Marie-Claire
And remember just who you are
Then go and forget me forever
But I know you still bear the scar, deep inside, yes you do

I know where you go to my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
I know the thoughts that surround you
‘Cause I can look inside your head

(Thanks Miss Alex!)

Exfoliating All the Way to the Champs Elysees

Four more days.
Can you believe it?
I can scarcely contain myself.
What I also can’t believe is that the entire lower half of my body is smeared with splotchy orange streaks that are actually getting darker as each day passes. Thank you Kiehl’s.
With spring in the air and all of my favourite skirts taken out of storage, it occurred to me that my legs are not unlike the pasty, clammy flesh of a freshly plucked chicken. So on Saturday, when I ran all of my last-minute trip errands (on foot, thank you very much) I added some very expensive self-tanner to the mainicure, pedicure, and…er…other bits of grooming that took place.
I got home, read the directions, and even consulted the internet, applying liberally here, and sparingly there, and low and behold, I look like one of those unfortunate souls with a pigment deficiency. Splotchy, Sexy, Good…
A dear friend (who is also very pale – but on her it’s lovely!) suggested hydrogen peroxide, but guess what? It doesn’t work either.
Perhaps someone has a belt sander that I could borrow?
On the up side, a very kind Facebook friend, (who barely knows me, but who must be psychic) sent me this link! Guess what I’ll be doing next Monday morning?