Category Archives: Paris

The Land of Balisto

I arrived late Thursday night in Paris and so I didn’t do much. My first full day consisted of sleeping in (something that would characterize the majority of my recent trip to Paris) and then headed out into the city. First I went to Saint Denis to buy some slacks for my upcoming appointment at the Louvre, but after that was taken care of, I took a long walk along the Seine. There are a bunch of vendors set up along the river selling old books and it was fun to leaf through their moth-eaten pages. I ended up at Notre Dame as the sun came out and I sat in the gardens around the back on a bench in the sunshine. I walked to the other end of the island to have an early dinner at a restaurant recommended by my guidebook. I sat next to the window sipping French onion soup and watching the sunset behind the cathedral. It was so beautiful. As I left I heard a clarinet/guitar duo playing on the bridge that really hit the spot. I wish you had been there.

When I got home, Elyse and Hugo took me out to a bar that the local preteens frequent. I made a friend on the bus ride home and interviewed him using a twix candy bar as a microphone. (Don’t worry. He was not a preteen.) The next day, I was feeling a little under the weather and slept in again. However, I was determined to see the Musée d’Orsay. So, I turned on my iPod, tuned out the other visitors, and gazed at paintings I have only seen on flash cards. A dream come true!

Me with Manet's Luncheon on the Grass at Musee d'Orsay

Five hours later it was back to Asnieres where I met up with Hugo and Elyse. We then headed back into the city for some much-needed greasy food. Cuisine of choice? Chinese, of course. Hugo led us to the best Chinese restaurant in Paris, Chez Shen. It’s located at 39 Rue au Maire near the Arts et Metiers metro station and it’s absolutely imperative that you dine at this fine establishment when in Paris. I ate there nearly everyday and have no regrets. After dinner we walked to Hotel de Ville, which is where the mayor lives. There is currently an ice skating rink set up in front of his modest home. Elyse, Hugo and I watched wide-eyed as the most talented ice-skaters I have ever seen in person (this includes many years of attending Disney on Ice at Arco Arena) engage in a game of sharks and minnows. It was insane. We found ourselves rooting for strangers and pointing out close calls. We left as soon as there was blood on the ice. Ick.

The next day, we failed to wake up early enough to go to Versailles, so I headed out to the Pompidou instead, which is a modern art museum. Sadly, the 1905-1960 section was closed, which was really what I came for. That means no Matisse, no Picasso, no Rauschenburg. The disappointment goes on and on. I was pleasantly surprised to find an entire floor full of works by women artists. This featured Eva Hesse, the Guerilla Girls, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Krueger, Louise Nevelson, etc., etc. Needless to say, I spent hours at this museum as well. One memory ingrained in my mind: a video of a nude woman hula hooping with a hoop made of barbed wire. She was a damned good hula hooper, that poor girl.

Elyse and I at Chartres Cathedral

The next day consisted of another failed attempt to go to Versailles, but this is because it is closed on Mondays. Soooo not our fault. Still feeling the itch to get out of the city, we took the train one hour to Chartres, home of Chartres cathedral. I read in my guidebook that as you get closer and closer to Chartres, all the eye can see for miles and miles is wheat fields and the cathedral poking out over the top of them. Apparently, you’re not even supposed to notice the rest of the town until you’re practically in it. Lies, lies, lies. I saw no wheat fields. I saw town and lots of it! Stupid guidebook. Aside from the disappointing lack of wheat fields, however, Chartres was amazing. I’m a much bigger fan of small-town France than I am of Paris. The cathedral, which is the town’s main attraction, was our first stop. It was actually really creepy. Most churches have added a lot of artificial light, which really modernizes the viewer’s experience with a church. Chartres cathedral had just a few very dim lights added, which made it seem very close to what you would have experienced at the time it was built. It was dark and dusty inside. It smelt like old, if you know what I mean. Even the chandeliers and pulpit were covered in plastic gathering dust. It was eerie to say the least. It felt like an authentic gothic encounter to me.

After exploring the church, Hugo grabbed a map from the tourist office and took us on a walk throughout the town. Chartres looks a lot like the town that Beauty and the Beast takes place in. I had “Look, there she goes. That girl is strange-no question.” stuck in my head the whole time. We crossed the cute little river a few hundred times before it started to rain. We found a pub for shelter and played cards before hopping on the train back to Paris.

Ready to research!

The next day I had to wake up before noon because I had an appointment at the Louvre for special research. I met my escort, a cute, short old woman with glasses, frizzy hair and clogs, at Pavillion Mollien where the Department of Greek, Roman and Etruscan Antiquities is housed. I started out by apologizing that I don’t speak French and she said that she didn’t speak English……. As it turned out, she did speak a little English. We weren’t having serious, deep conversations or anything, but we were able to communicate when necessary. She first took me to the storage facilities where MA 412 has been sitting in a crate awaiting the reorganization of the Greek, Roman and Etruscan wing. I saw so many famous sculptures boxed up and plastic-wrapped. It was like an artwork graveyard.

MA 412 all boxed up

The next stop was the Wounded Gaul, but wait! I’m sorry, Rick Steves is filming in that room. You’ll have to come back later. So, it was on to visit the Venus Pallas of Velletri which now stands across from the Venus de Milo in a long corridor. Since they are remodeling the antiquities, these were the only two sculptures in the room save for a headless togate figure. I think few people have ever found themselves alone in a room with the Venus de Milo. Okay, so I wasn’t really alone. Agnes, my escort, was there and so were some men fixing light bulbs, but it still made my heart skip a beat.

Way back there is the Venus de Milo

I next visited the Captive Barbarian duo taken from the Forum of Trajan before heading back to the Wounded Gaul. Ahhh, Rick Steves has vacated the building. Another empty room at the Louvre. Incredible. It’s an experience I will never forget.

The Wounded Gaul and company

After finishing up the research, I popped by the opera house before heading back to Elyse’s place. That evening Elyse and I took the metro to Moulin Rouge and then went on a walk to the Arc de Triomphe, which is pretty damn far. Then we forced our tired legs to take us up many flights of stairs to the top of the Arc for a 360 degree view of Paris. It was beautiful, but windy and it was soon time to head back to Asnieres for our homemade fiesta–fajitas, guacamole, salsa made from Uncle Sil’s recipe and mojitos a la Hugo.

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe

The next morning I was able to drag Elyse and Hugo to my fourth and final museum of the trip, the Pinacotheque de Paris, for the Edvard Munch exhibition. I’m getting very tired of writing and you’re probably tired of reading, so suffice it to say that it was great. They had the Madonnas Julia and I so loved freshman year.

Pinacotheque de Paris

After the exhibition, we did a little tourist shopping and I came out with a beret. Then we sat together in front of Notre Dame watching children scare the pigeons. My trip had come to an end.

Beret + Notre Dame

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Filed under Asnieres, Chartres, France, Paris

Food Retrospective

I’ve decided it’s time for a virtual exhibition of culinary delights that have passed through my digestive system in the last year. We’ll start with the most recent and work our way back in time.

FYI: You can click on the photos to make them larger and more appetizing.

Rome: Delights prepared at home.

(AKA I’m a badass who can cook.)

Damon and I prepared this last night. It’s asparagus with roasted pine nuts, red pepper and fennel risotto and mussels cooked in dry white wine and heavy cream. We also made bruschetta (not pictured here).

I made this a few days ago for Damon because he’s never had brussel sprouts before. It’s polenta with sauteed mushrooms and steamed brussel sprouts. A word to the wise: If you think you hate brussel sprouts, you’ve either never tried them or you overcooked them. No biggie, just give them a second chance!

Leisha and I used to make shoyu chicken all the time last quarter when we were sick of pasta, but I’ll be honest. It was really Leisha who did the making of this dish. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I was successful without her guidance. Just add rice!

The Roman Culinary Experience Outside My Kitchen:

One food that I have absolutely fallen in love with here in Rome is the chestnut. Roasted, turned into a savory sauce, baked into bread, or candied–all delicious.

Castagnole are currently on my mind because they only come out during Carnevale. They’re kind of like doughnut holes, but oh-so-much better!

A typical Roman dish is Carciofi alla Romana, Roman-style artichokes. This was the appetizer to a lovely meal I shared with Dan and Oana their first night visiting Rome.

How could I neglect the open-air market right outside my front door? I can’t. So, here it is: fresh fruits and vegetables daily, people.

Paris: Dishes I cannot pronounce.

Well, I finally had authentic French creme brulee, but I have to say that Mama Skeers’ takes the cake… or the cream… or something. It’s good.

In reality, I ate a lot of finger food to save money while in Paris. Here’s a spread that Elyse prepared for us one night.

Greece: Food as divine as the gods.

This is just some pasta thing I had in a tavern in Athens.

Breakfast is delish in Greece. Fresh fruit and honey on top of a waffle in Santorini.

Dessert is also yummy. Here is some baklava. Man, honey on everything!

However, lunch was the best. Chicken souvlaki is definitely the most delicious thing I ate in Greece and a contestant for the best meal I have ever had in my life. You’ve never tasted chicken so tender or tsaziki so flavorful. *mouth watering*

Tübingen, Germany:

So, I ate the traditional pretzel and beer, but I couldn’t help but crave some Asian. It had been a while…

So, we made Pho from an instant packet and it was absolutely disgusting. Sure, it looks alright in the picture, but I’ll never do it again.

Salzburg, Austria:

Knödel smothered in sauce and mushrooms. Love it!

Prague, Czech Republic: Feeling a bit adventurous…

So, I ordered rabbit. It was interesting. Yes, it did taste a bit like chicken, but with every tender and delicious bite, my mind wandered to Chester… to Cottontail… to all those fluffy friends I loved growing up on the farm. Sorry guys!Lamb is still pretty adventurous for me, but not as crazy as the white rabbit.

After letting myself go out on a limb with a few orders, I decided to go with an old safety for lunch– the best bagels east of New York… Wait, I’ve never been to New York. Hmm. Best bagels west of Seattle that I’ve tasted. Haha

Copenhagen, Denmark:

This is Hallie eating a Danish in Denmark, which they actually call Viennese Bread there. It wasn’t that impressive. I didn’t get a picture of the hot dogs, which were much better, but ridiculously expensive.

We ate open-face sandwiches or Smørrebrød outside of the Hamlet castle and they were delish. I ordered a second! They had this odd, yet scrumptious tartar sauce type thing on them.

Budapest, Hungary:

Mmmmmm. Hungarian sweets!

Whoa, you could smell these from miles away. As soon as we stepped off the train, our noses were filled with the smell of their dough. And then we got to see Hungarian funnel cakes being grilled right before our eyes! You could choose to have yours plain or rolled in toasted almonds, powered sugar or normal sugar. They were so huge, I could hardly finish mine.

Munich, Germany:

Munich was the first place that I had the traditional German Bier Garten experience. Here is some curry wurst, a pretzel and a glass of Radler, which is beer mixed with lemonade. It’s quite a treat on a warm summer day.

And then there’s Käsespätzle, which is kind of like mac ‘n’ cheese only a million, billion times better.

Vienna, Austria: All things hearty

In Vienna, nearly every meal is a total gut bomb, but grease is delicious, right?

So, this is the most famous Viennese dish: Wienerschnitzel (breaded and fried filet of pork) with Erdapfelsalat (potato salad) and Sommersalat (veggie salad with tomatoes, cucumber and onion). This is the meal that we prepared ourselves at IKI, our school in Vienna.

Here’s your classic sausage + sauerkraut combo. I absolutely love sausage and Vienna has the best! I even liked sausage in Vienna better than sausage in Germany.

Okay, so I can’t remember what this is called, but just look at it. Whoa. What the hell is that? Well, it’s egg and potato and craziness. That’s what.

Here’s another one of those mystery meals. This is called Shaufel, which means shovel. As you can see, it’s served in a shovel. It’s basically whatever is left over in the kitchen, cooked up in some grease and put in a shovel. Genius!

On to the desserts:

This is another one of those really famous Viennese things: Sacher torte, the most expensive chocolate cake you will ever eat. Yum, yum.

Another very Viennese thing is Kaisershmarrn, ripped up bits of pancake with plum sauce and powdered sugar on top. Sounds irresistable, but Andrea and I decided that it’s just okay.

The things that really top my list as the best Viennese desserts have everything to do with ice cream. This is a Schneeball or snowball. It’s a ball of ice cream covered with hard marshmellows and served with a raspberry sauce. There are two other versions: Eismarillenknödl, apricot mouse surrounded by vanilla ice cream rolled in chocolate cookie crumbs and essentially the same thing, but it’s raspberry mouse and regular cookie crumbs instead. Great, now I’m craving ice cream dumpling.

Last but not least is this tricky little dish. Is it spaghetti? Is it ice cream? You’ll never know until you take a bite… or until I tell you! It’s both! They put vanilla ice cream through a strainer and top it with raspberry “marinara” and coconut “parmesan”. How creative!

Anyway, that is a sneak peak into the things I have been eating. The things I have been missing are great and many, but at least I have this to hold me over until sushi town.

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Filed under Asnieres, Athens, Austria, Budapest, Copenhagen, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Munich, Paris, Prague, Rome, Salzburg, Santorini, Tübingen, Vienna

Ce n’est pas comme ça.

Disclaimer: Prepare yourself for art dorkiness. I apologize if some of my ramblings don’t make sense to you.

After months of waiting, weeks of worrying and days of preparing myself with movies set in Paris, I finally arrived last Wednesday night! Elyse and her Parisian boyfriend Hugo met us at the bus station and escorted us all the way to Asnieres, the suburb where Elyse lives as an au pair for an adorable family with triplet 5-year-old boys. Since it was a late flight, we had a little wine and cheese, pulled out the futon and called it a night. The next morning Leisha and I met up with Mia at St. Denis. An amazing little church that spring boarded some of the Gothic architectural style’s claims to fame, namely ribbed vaulting. After exploring the church, we walked through the flea market and nearby stores where I purchased my first set of heels that aren’t attached to some kind of event, such as prom. We decided to continue our heavenly theme and headed towards Notre Dame. We met up with Elyse here for some lunch before exploring the depths of the church. It was so beautiful. I hope to go to the top next time I am in Paris.

Notre Dame

Mia and I at Notre Dame

On a tip from Mia’s dad, we headed over to Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, which is where they filmed a scene from Before Sunset. The walls were stacked floor to ceiling with books and the entire store was a labyrinth of literature. My favorite part was the small reading room on the second floor where there were books to be borrowed, not bought. After downing some crepes we walked up to the Pompidou and then to the shopping center…

The next day Leish and I met up with Mia at the Louvre. Wow, a full day at the Louvre for an art historian is like heavenly torture. It is ecstasy seeing things you’ve written about and studied for years. Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but imagine only having seen something on a 3×5 flashcard suddenly blown up to 20 feet wide on the wall before you. It’s so surreal. Anyway, we spent hours looking at art. I made some progress on my research and in general filled my heart with happiness.

louvre

Mia, Leisha and I at the Louvre

After the Louvre, we mustered up enough energy to walk the Champs Elysees, seeing the Vogue cover sidewalk and doing some shopping before ending up at the Arc de Triomph, which is way larger than necessary, in case you were wondering. That evening when Leisha and I returned to Asnieres, Elyse had prepared a wine, cheese, bread and fruit spread for our dinner. Yum! Later that night Elyse took us to meet another one of her friends who attends the most prestigious school in Paris. There was a bit of a party at the school, so Hugo, Elyse, Leisha and spent the evening meeting Parisians.

I spent the next day getting some well-deserved rest. In the evening we went to Belleville, which is like the international district of Paris. We ate at this Chinese restaurant called Salon de The Wen Zhou, which I read about in a magazine article. Afterwards, Liesha, Mia and I went to see the light show at the Eiffel Tower. Then we met up with Hugo and Elyse again and went to a bar with some of Hugo’s friends.

On Sunday Leisha, Elyse, Hugo and I visited Pere Lachaise, the famous cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried. His grave is actually not very impressive. My favorite gravestone was that of Oscar Wilde. Going against tradition, I did not kiss the grave, because being an art nerd, I know that lipstick is destructive towards stone.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde's kiss-covered gravestone

After Pere Lachaise, Leish and I headed to Sacre Coeur. A scene from Amelie, the one with the carousel, was filmed here. We also went inside the church where booming organ music was playing. I sat and ate roasted chestnuts and we watched some street performers. We ended the evening at KFC (for you, Mom!).

Monday morning was my dress-like-a-professional-and-pretend-you-know-what-you’re-doing day. In other words, I headed to the Louvre with the intention of visiting the research center. When I reached the offices, the receptionist did not speak English and I do not speak French. After a few minutes of confusion, he called my Louvre contact, but she didn’t answer. I waited for an hour and a half, but she never showed. So, I decided to visit the galleries again to catch all the things I missed. Yes, one day in the Louvre is not enough. I also learned that two days are not enough. I still haven’t seen the Egyptian collection, which is about a quarter of the museum! There’s always next time I guess. After lunch I met up with Leisha and she took me on a surprise trip to the park where Before Sunset was filmed. We walked through the park and then caught a bus back to the Notre Dame neighborhood for dinner. We had a three-course meal in a rustic-lodge themed restaurant that began with French onion soup and ended with creme brulee. I still think Momma Skeers makes the best creme brulee!

Fun Eiffel Photo

Elyse and I goofing off at the Eiffel Tower

On Tuesday, it was finally time. Elyse and I headed to the Eiffel Tower. It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day. Dare I say, the perfect day to visit the Eiffel Tower. We had fun goofing around with our cameras and making jokes about other visitors and the city below. Leisha met up with us afterwards and we visited the bridge from the opening scene of Last Tango in Paris. We ended our half day in Paris with a crepe and then said our goodbyes as we headed toward the airport. It was a wonderful week away from Rome, but I was also very grateful to be back in my beautiful city.

Eiffel Tower

At the Eiffel Tower

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