Euro Top Ten : #6 – A weekend in Paris

#6 – A weekend in Paris

There’s nothing quite like meeting Paris for the first time.  Or being there when your friends do, which was the case for half our party on this recent adventure.  Yes, it’s touristy and such.  But it’s also beautiful and truly romantic and steeped in so much history that you can hardly breathe.

Shakespeare and Company - a tribute to the famous ex-pat bookstore beloved by Hemingway, Stein, and Fitzgerald

Shakespeare and Company – a tribute to the famous ex-pat bookstore beloved by Hemingway, Stein, and Fitzgerald

My favorite moments in Paris this time around were the moments, not the big scenes.  We didn’t go into the Louvre or Notre Dame (though I kind of regret it).  Instead, we walked down small streets and into old courtyards.  We hunted down the best chocolate shops.  Katie and I arrived and immediately ate one of the best three-course meals of my life, from the salad to the boeuf bourguignon to the crème brûlée (parfait!).  We walked by the Seine, even getting to a place where we saw more than a few rats and realized we should probably turn back…. but couldn’t find a staircase to exit the embankment. (Don’t worry mom, there were a few other people around!)  We picked “our cafe” and ate breakfast there multiple days.  We navigated ourselves around our neighborhood based on our proximity to an iPhone 6 sign posted on the side of the police headquarters.


Our breakfast spot (we managed to avoid Paul, since they have that here in the US!)

My friends did indulge my touristy side a bit by agreeing to go on the Sandeman New Paris walking tour with me – I love this company and have been on their tours in Berlin and Amsterdam too.  I think it’s a great way to see a small slice of the city within a set structure – no one needs to worry about watching the time or holding the map (though we did get totally separated at the end and almost have to just go home without each other…).

Kate at the Louvre - please note the people behind her posing for the exact same photo!

Kate at the Louvre – please note the people behind her posing for the exact same photo!

It took us all over the city, to the monuments and bridges and parks.  We learned about the kings and queens and the French government’s attempt to keep their culture intact through actions like trying to come up with a French alternative to “selfie” (good luck!).  We also visited the Pont des Arts, which was made famous by Carrie and Big’s kiss in the final scene of Sex and the City and which has essentially been destroyed by tourists since then.  The idea is to add a lock to the bridge to symbolize your eternal love for your sweetheart and throw the key in the river (dozens of vendors sell locks nearby in case you didn’t plan ahead) – but our guide pointed out all the combination locks, which he said were from coy French lovers who make promises to women, then come back and collect their lock again the next day to re-use it on their next date.

Locks on the Pont des Arts

Locks on the Pont des Arts

It was a whirlwind trip – I think I could stay in Paris for at least six months and not get tired of it, even though our Airbnb was the size of a small camper.  The bubbling fountains and historic buildings – the late dinners and uneven streets – the artists and bookshops and museums galore – and these friends by my side, at sunset at the Eiffel Tower.

Best friends in Paris!

Sunset at the Eiffel Tower

What’s your favorite part of Paris?  I’ve still never been to Sacre Coeur and could spend an entire week in the Musee d’Orsay, which I’ll aim to do on my next trip back!

Katie and I also took a detour to Versailles – read about it here!

The #6 is brought to you from the street of our Airbnb in Paris.

All photos are my own unless otherwise stated.

Click here to read the other posts in this series.

What I’m reading

As this winter drags on forever, I’ve started to dig further and further into my bookshelf and Google Reader, and have found some pretty cool things to read.  Here’s what I’ve been picking at lately – what about you?

  • Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg – I just started this and it’s already making me seriously think about the kind of world us women are setting up for ourselves.  Is calling something “work-life balance” and putting those two words at odds with each other any different than calling one movement “pro-choice” and the other “pro-life”?  Did I judge my classmates too harshly for decisions I would have applauded had they been male, even in our women-dominated college?  Am I really sitting at the table?  I’m definitely going to keep thinking about this – let me know what you think of her ideas.
  • This article about how Downton Abbey is just a retelling of Fiddler on the Roof.  OR, is Fiddler just the best way to tell the story of modernization, cultural understanding, and the inevitability of pissing off your parents?
  • The New York Times section that features MY SISTER, Kat (see the Judge John Hodgman piece on the far right).  This page is kind of a mish-mash of weirdness, but the important thing is that a) Kat got into the NYTimes magazine (beating me even though it’s part of my five year plan!) and b) that she won her argument with her friend.
  • This article that simplifies just how crucial the Supreme Court’s ruling on Prop 8 could be.  I still can’t believe that decades after we had the same exact argument about interracial marriage, people still have to fight to be with the people they love and have that relationship recognized by the government.  So ready for us to grow up as a nation and start treating people as we say we do – “with liberty and justice for all.”  Follow the case on HRC’s website for up-to-date information.

What I’m reading

I don’t really have words for the insanity for the last month, so let’s pretend that we already discussed it and are now ready to dive into March, however untrue that may be.

Thanks to a jam-packed bookstore in DC, I’ve had a few good books to read in the last week, but now I’m craving more.  Here’s what’s on my shelf (and my Google reader) right now – what about yours?

  • Jurassic Park – After reading this, I am NEVER going to watch the movie.  I’ll stick with the MAD magazine parody instead.
  • Get Real – I love me some Donald Westlake, and combining his mysteries with reality shows is a slam dunk.
  • Dreams of My Father – Since I actually finished the first two already, this is what’s currently in my purse.  That Obama dude – he sure knows how to write.  I wonder if he’ll go anywhere… (and honestly, given how raw he is about some things in this book, I am a little shocked that he has!)
  • Double Decker Days – This gal in Australia is renovating an old double-decker bus to LIVE in.  I’ve been following her forever, but the work is almost done now, so check it out asap!
  • Pigtail Pals – If you’ve heard me rant about pink legos or be upset about people thinking my cousin’s baby was a boy because we bought her a fish themed beach ball, this is the source of my anger.  Feel free to join in the outrage against sexism, as perfectly described by the gang at Pigtail Pals.
  • Fooducate – For all the things you never knew you needed to know about your food and the food industry.  This blog is fascinating and just reading it (while I eat Girl Scout cookies) makes me feel healthier.

Et tu?

Summer fun for penny-pinchers

It’s going to hit 90-degrees today.  I ate ice cream for lunch yesterday.  Yep, summer has definitely arrived.

My summer plans involve sun (and sunscreen!), good food and drinks, and as much free fun (and air conditioning) I can manage.  Here are my top recommendations for free fun in Beantown:

  • Scooper Bowl – Happening right now at Boston’s City Hall, the Scooper Bowl is a chance to support the Jimmy Fund and cancer patients while trying a bajillion kinds of ice cream, just $8 for all you can eat.  If you go, try the key lime sorbet – it’s ridiculously good.  (Ends tomorrow, don’t miss it!)
  • Free Fun Fridays – all around the state, museums, gardens, and zoos are opening their doors for free admission on Fridays.  Check out the full schedule here – highlights for me include the Museum of Science and the JFK Library and Museum.
  • Author readings at Porter Square books – cool authors, a neat local bookstore, and free A/C.  The Fonz was there this past weekend – proof that the owners have good taste.
  • Classic movies at the Somerville Theater – this is two inches from my house, and I am excited about all these films (though I probably need someone to hold my hand during “JAWS”).  If you go for a daytime matinée to beat the heat, it’s only set you back $7.
  • Shakespeare on the Common – This year’s play is “All’s Well that Ends Well” and if last year is any indication, it should be spectacular.  (My Yelp! review of last year’s production was just highlighted in the latest Yelp! newsletter – check it out!)
  • Book sales at the Boston Public Library – I love these things, and haven’t missed one yet this year.  More on this month’s treasures soon…
  • Concerts at the Hatch Shell – the Landmark Orchestra, KC and the Sunshine Band, and more, all for free and within walking distance of the T. (Thanks, Jess, for telling me about this!)
  • Free evenings at the ICA – Check out the latest contemporary art exhibits for free from 5-9 every Thursday night.
Did I leave off any Boston summer treasures?  What awesome things are you doing this summer?

Reading List

Books du jour:

  1. Appetizer: The Amazing Journey of American Women by Gail Collins, which I pick up randomly to see how us gals will get further in life.  This book was a little hard to get into, but now it’s really rolling.  The section on how washing machines changed the role of women forever and the part about the role of women (and the roles women were denied) in the Civil Rights movement literally made me gasp out loud.  I bet the people on the train with me would have been shocked to know I was making such faces about history rather than over a racy love story.
  2. Main course: Thursday Next and the Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde.  I’ve read this series before years ago, but now that I’ve picked it up again, I can’t put it down.  It’s literary dorkiness at its finest: a kind but more sour than sweet detective protecting books from terrorists and inadvertently changing the course of history.  It stars the Cheshire Cat, Ms. Havisham, Captain Nemo, and is ripe with political drama as well as literary puns (at one meeting, everyone is waiting in vain for Godot).  I have “accidentally” stayed up until 2 or 3 am reading this series.
  3. After dinner: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.  I’m usually too “full” to pick this one back up, especially because it’s so heavy.  But it’s fascinating, and incredibly well written.  Diamond goes into great detail about why the history of the world unfolded the way it did, and answers questions I never even thought to ask.
  4. Dessert: we finish with a sweep dollop of the latest Cosmo and Glamour, updating me on the latest news on women’s health, the best dress deals, and how to do anything better.

And a new book related obsession: GoodReads.

Kat introduced me to this website where you keep track of the books you’ve read and what you thought of them, make a list of the ones you want to read next, and offer reviews to help readers like you find their next indulgence.  It’s really interesting to see what other people thought of books you loved and hated, and how you compare with your friends.  Anju noticed that “we started out as the same person with the exact same taste in books, and then somewhere around middle school, something went very very wrong.”  Now, we only overlap on the classics, while my bookshelves are riddled with romances, memoirs, and crime dramas, and hers are filled with sci-fi and post-colonial novels.

If you’re on Goodreads, find me!

[Shout-out to Jen whose latest post reminded me that I had bookish things to share.]

Can a book save your life?

The right book can make you laugh, make you cry, make you scared of every shadow or inspire you to try something new.

But can a book save your life?

It works for Thursday Next in The Eyre Affair, which I was reading just last night.  She’s left for dead but saved by a copy of Jane Eyre placed in her breast pocket that catches the bullet and leaves her with only bruised ribs.  It’s the perfect literary moment oft-repeated in books and film – but how realistic is it, really?

That’s what the guys at Electric Literature wondered.  So they put the latest and thickest books to the test to see how they would fare against a handgun.  Watch and see if you still want to put your faith in paperbacks and hardcovers.

As much as I hate to see books destroyed, I love this.  I just want to throw a few more solid classics in there to see the results.  And maybe my college Con Law book, while we’re at it.  I feel like the quality of the cardboard and the density of the paper must factor in there somewhere, and I don’t want to give up on the power of books just yet.  Sequel, please?