I've gone twitchy. It's official.
Leaving tomorrow means I have so much to do and I'm getting foiled at every turn.
I look up on the Poste's website about shipping, find out they have a wine-bottle-box. Great.
I go to the Poste, and it's not legal to ship alcohol to the States. Thanks, America.
So now I have two options: drink it all tonight/tomorrow morning, or wrap it up in bags and wrap it up in clothes and pray it doesn't break in checked bags. Thanks, America.
Then I went to get my laundry out of the laundromat, and I only started one of the washers because I was thinking about the booze conundrum. Thanks, me.
But then I ate an eclair so I felt a little better.
But I've gone all emotional again, and while I'm stressed out and stuff, it shouldn't be that big of a deal.
Maybe I'm just upset I'm leaving.
But I think I'm going to say "screw this" and go to the Louvre this evening. I don't need sleep, right?
So, I spent three nights in Amsterdam, then three nights in Bruxelles.
Both were truly, truly amazing.
It's true what they say about Amsterdam. There are lots of tulips, lots of canals, lots of stores hocking ugly wooden shoes (no worries, I didn't buy them), and lots of bikes. LOTS of bikes. With some pretty intense bike lanes everywhere. Like I told Liz, I was most worried I'd hit a bike. If you don't look around you and run into a person, you feel retarded. If you get hit by a car, you really hurt. But if you walk into the path of a bike, you really hurt and you feel retarded. So my main plan was to avoid that, and I succeeded.
I stayed at a hostel in the red light district, which is wild. I mean, you walk down an alley at like 2 pm on a weekday, and prostitutes are out, strutting their stuff. And it ain't always stuff you want to see. When I arrived at the hostel, I found out there was someone with my last name staying there.
Guy: "Haha, is Elizabeth Anderson your sister?"
Me: "... ... ...yes? But I don't think she's in the Netherlands."
I went to the Van Gogh Museum, where I learned a lot. Christ was right- it's a really fantastic museum. I also saw the gay pride canal parade, which was completely insane, but magnificent. I went to Cannabis College, which had lots of different facts about marijuana and hemp and stuff, plus they have a "garden tour" where you can see a plant in full bloom. I also went to the Heinekin Experience, which is AMAZING. It teaches you how they make beer, but it also has mini-rides, like what it's like to be a beer bottle getting filled and labeled and stuff, and other stuff. It's a multimedia extravaganza. You can watch old ads, some of which are from 1989 and super cheesy. Plus, for ten euro, you get three beers along the tour and a really cool bottle opener at the end. Fantastico!
The last morning, I went to the Anne Frank Huis which was really interesting and really sad. When you walk behind the secret bookshelf, it's really creepy. Those stairs are *steep.* Most interestingly, the decorations Anne put up on the wall in her room are still there.
In Amsterdam, I essentially ate French Fries for half of my meals. Seriously. It's like $2.50 for a "small," which isn't, and a sauce of your choice. They like mayonnaise, which I did try (I'm a big girl!), but I prefer my chedder cheese sauce. Don't trust what they call barbecue sauce-- it tastes like BBQ mixed with sweet and sour sauce. Not bad, necessarily, but WEIRD.
Then, I went to Bruxelles. I was only going to spend a day and a half there and a day in Brugge, but I wound up falling in love with the city completely and stayed for two and a half days. There, I stayed in a really nice hostel in a 6-bed room. It was really funky, clean, and inexpensive.
As I was walking there from the train station, I got the weirdest cat-call ever. I was standing at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to change, when a garbage truck pulls up. Three guys jump off to grab garbage nearby, and I can tell one is staring at me. Well, I stayed looking forward, but as the guys jumped back on the truck, the staring man whistled at me. I turned my head at the noise, and he flashed me a "winning" grin. I laughed at the absurdity of the situation, but thankfully the truck drove off before he had a chance to try to proceed further. I mean, seriously.
My first day, I just wandered. I went to the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, which was yummy! A lady there did a demonstration of how they make truffles, and we got to snack on some of the extra shells. Mmm. Then I went to the Belgian Brewer's Museum, which was less exciting but also had a sample, so that's cool. Both were in the Grande Place, which is possibly the most beautiful square in the world. I mean, it's truly magnificent.
Afterwards, I was meandering toward the Mannakin Pis, the fountain of an eternally peeing little boy, but I somehow took a wrong turn. Happily, I wound up at the Fondation Jacques Brel, which I had hoped to visit. For a couple Euro, you got to watch a concert and interview on the big screen, plus see a few other fun things, like a recreation of his dressing room at L'Olympia. I bought a few things there, but one was a book of his lyrics for about $12 US, which I'd wanted here for $40, so I don't feel so bad. Plus, I picked up a Brel in Brussels map, and got to run around to places he played and bars he hung out at. And a few postcards. And a poster of one of his notebooks with handwritten lyrics to "Bruxelles." But it was still like 15 Euro, so it wasn't expensive.
Then, I found the Mannekin Pis, and wandered back into the Grande Place just in time to see a parade! But not a normal parade. A crazy BELGIAN parade. It's for Meyboom, whatever that is. But it involves people on horses, marching bands in colonial outfits with white powdered wigs, old folks in top hots and sashes, stilt-walkers, and people in crazy costumes. All of whom hold sticks with leaves. Swear to god. I took pictures. Ridiculous.
That night I followed the Brel map, and was giddy. One day, and already Belgium was the greatest country in the world: beer, chocolate, waffles, Jacques Brel, peeing fountains, cat-calls from garbage men, and old people with leaves. (I saw some later, and people who saw the top hat and sash folks would applaud them when they walked by. WILD.)
The next morning, a boy from my room was leaving, but gave me his number and email address, because he was coming to Paris and wanted to get together when I got back... no one in America bloody hits on me, but everyone in Europe does. Frustrating! Anyway, this kid is named Sammy (Samir), and he's Algerian, but lives in the UK for now. Haven't decided whether or not to call him yet.
Then, I went to the Centre Belge des Bandes Desinees (Belgian Center for Comic Strip Art). It was wicked cool. They talked about the process of how comics are made and had info on some of the Belgian greats. For example, Tintin is Belgian, but I didn't know that the Smurfs were! Or rather, the Schtroumpfs. They also had rough drafts dating back 60 years for some comics, plus statues of famous characters and funny little things, like Smurf exercise equipment and stuff. It was a really fun time, and I learned a lot.
That afternoon, I was back wandering the streets when a guy came up the sidewalk in the opposite direction and there was one of those move-left, move-right moments where no one goes anywhere. So I laughed at the awkwardness and moved on. He kept going in the opposite direction, but then I saw him cross the street back toward me. Oye.
So, my tour guide for the afternoon was Raphael, for such was his name. We went back to the Grande Place, where he gave me a history lesson. Those bloody Europeans are slick. Cheesy as hell, but slick. One favorite quote from Raphael, which sounds even slicker when it's in French:
Me: I love the Grande Place. I think it's beautiful.
Him: I think you're more beautiful.
Me: You're making fun of me.
Him: Why? Because I prefer people to stone?
Double oye. Also classic was him saying "Bruxelles is small, but cute... like me." Hahaha. Bloody Europeans. Cheesy, but charming.
After the Grande Place, he took me to the Palais de Justice, where the view of the city is beyond incredible. Kudos to you, Raphael. But he was far too old for me. He gave me his number and told me to call him that night, but I may or may not have "misplaced it" in favor of hanging out with a hot Australian who was sharing a room with me at the hostel. Sorry Raphael, but you're 32, and Clay was hot. And you were my height, and he was 6'4". It helps.
Clay is an Aussie getting his phd in engineering, focusing on car safety. He's only 25 or so. Like me, he was named for the tv-- his mum watched a soap with someone named Clay on it. He and I wound up chatting that evening and when he asked what I was doing, I said I was avoiding a 32-year-old Belgian, so he offered to walk around with me, which was nice. I showed him the Grande Place, since he'd just arrived, and summed up the earlier history lesson. We ate more waffles, which let me tell you are the greatest things in the world. Screw you, Dutch french fries, I had real Belgian waffles drowned with real Belgian chocolate. Oh man. Amazing.
We then went to a bar called Celtica because it's "happy hour" was 1 pm to midnight, and was wicked cheap. So I got my beloved Strongbow and some Belgian beer to fit in with the boys. Er, boy. It was really fun. Also, if you ever find an Australian, make him say "bad ass." They can't say the hard a's, so it sounds hilarious.
That night, some more enjoyable people came into the room, and five of us plus one other guy all wound up spending the next day together. Only one of us (Raul, a very quiet Spaniard) didn't come. Instead, it was me, Clay, Brooke (a girl from San Diego), V and Jen (two Canadians), and Daniel (a sophomore from Dallas). We went all over the city in the pouring rain, including back to the beautiful view spot, since I had my camera this time. We wandered through a Royal Palace and the nearby parks before getting lunch. I got a group snapshot (the only photo of me thus far) before heading to the train station that evening.
Sadly, my trip ended on an icky note, when I was followed by a man in the Bruxelles train station for like an hour. He always stayed about fifteen feet away from me, pretending to be interested in something else, but sometimes our eyes would meet, and *shudder.* I've never been so terrified in my life, literally. There were lots of people around, so I wound up not going to the police desk, but everywhere I went he was there, watching. Some white guy, around 40 or 45, round wire-rimmed glasses, and a royal blue baseball cap. Never tried to talk to me, just followed and stared. For an hour. After he finally disappeared, I just kept seeing blue baseball caps everywhere and panicking. (Might have to get rid of my blue caps. Uuuugh.) But, I wound up getting some good writing done about it afterward, which will work for one of my grad school apps. Perhaps I'll post it later when I've edited it.
So, I got back to Paris and curled up in my room, freaked out as hell. Hopefully I'll get over it soon, but it was a lot more terrifying than it sounds.
Love to you all!
I'm in Brussels, and despite horrific rain, am alive.
I'll update tonight when I'm back in Paris.
(PS: Mom- sent some postcards today. Will send more in the next two days. May beat them back... oops.)
I've really fallen behind on posting! Yikes.
Then, yesterday we went to Epernay, the Champagne capital for those of you playing at home. We had a lovely time, once again touring Mercier and Moet et Chandon. However, this time the Moet et Chandon tour guide was much more amusing and informative than Mercier. (It was the same cute Mercier bloke, but he seemed just so bored! I mentioned it to the Moet girl, and it turns out she's his roommate, so she said she'd pass on that I loved him last time and missed his enthusiasm. :)
Today was a very, very full day for me and Brandon. We got up early, and went literally all over the city. We hit Saint Sulpice (where Silas the Monk kills the nun in The Da Vinci Code) and saw the rose line. Then, we went to the opposite side of the city to see Sacre Coeur and Montmartre. Wow, there are SO MANY STAIRS, but the view is beyond incredible! Then we ate lunch at Quick on the Champs-Elysees before going to the Centre Georges Pompidou. I love that place so much! Also incredible views.
There I bought a few books, but here's what's true: one is on New Wave Cinema, a topic discussed in two of my classes next semester (on sale from 20 E to 5 E, about $6), a filmography and analysis of Truffaut films, one of my classes in total next semester and part of a second (only 14 E), and a book analysing key scenes in a number of films from Rebel Without a Cause to Saving Private Ryan, each discussed with an actor in the scene or the director (on sale from 50 E to 14 E). I feel that each will help me in classes/my career, so it's an investment in my future, ma. :)
Then, we hit St-Merri, an extraordinarily beautiful church by the Pompidou.
Then we had time to kill before dinner. Now, all day long it had threatened to rain, but each time it started, we were already at the Metro station to go to our next stop, where it would be sunny and dry until (you guessed it) we were leaving. Yeah. Not until we were meandering before dinner did it decide to POUR on us, and we had nowhere to go, poor souls.
One restaurant we wanted to try was closed, another one we couldn't find. But we stepped under an overhang to look at my Paris guide, and a girl who was smoking under it told us that the restaurant we were right by was delicious.
And it was. It was a real American diner, folks. Owned by an American filmmaker in Paris. Co-founded by the writer of Con-Air, director of Runaway Jury, a director from Friends, and others. How cool is that? It was tasty and inexpensive.
Then Brandon and I took the Metro back, not wanting to get soaked again.
Up for tomorrow: a croissant in the Jardin de Luxembourg, seeing Notre-Dame, a visit to the cemetary at Montmartre to bring flowers to Truffaut's grave (he is the man who made me want to go into cinema, after all!), walking past the Moulin Rouge, and then a trip to Rouen to see Joan of Arc stuff and the Museum of Gustave Flaubert and the History of Medicine. Yes. That is one building. I don't know why.
So, last time I updated, I was in London.
The rest of London was just as awesome as the first half. Brandon and I spent the next morning around Buckingham Place, where we saw a bit of the changing of the guard, and then we hit Westminster. So beautiful! I loved seeing where Henry V is buried (my favorite English king, thank you Billy Shakespeare), and Poet's Corner was super interesting. After that, we walked past Big Ben, which is utterly stunning in person, then along the river a bit and had yummy soft serve that tasted like frozen cool whip. Delish! Then it was a very early dinner at a pub. I had a yummy jacket potato with baked beans. Quel British.
That night, we saw a production of Boris Godunov at Covent Garden. It was the Bolshoi company, and they were truly phenomenal. The cast was incredible, and the opera house is beyond gorgeous. It was four hours long, but it really flew by. And the tickets were waaay cheap, which was a plus.
The next morning, we ran around Harrod's, which is huge but very very cool. We looked at $700 jeans designed by Victoria Beckham (aka Posh Spice), and gorgeous wedding dresses, and baby kittens. I bought several presents, including one for each of my doggies. Yay!
After that was a trip to the Globe where we saw The Comedy of Errors from the mosh pit, er, I mean yard. Normally, as some of you may know, I despise plays involving twins. Because they never, ever look like twins, unless you have infinite casting possibilities or infinite makeup budgets. Case in point: the Shakes production of Twelfth Night. Lovely acting by the Emilys, and hair and makeup did what they could, but they just don't look at all alike.
But, this was truly hysterical. The twins looked pretty good, and the whole show was played slapstick, including drumrolls and cymbal clangs when people got beaten up. Even a really cute young guy who played something like "Guard #2" and a funky guy who played the one-scene Doctor (complete with mystical jewelry and a braided beard) totally hammed it up and rocked the joint. Only one actress bothered me, and that was clearly a case of bad direction, not bad acting.
Also, there was fabulous audience interaction! There's a chunkle where a servant is telling his master that a fat lady is like a globe, and the master asks where different countries are, and the servant makes witty retorts. At one point, the master said "And where is..." Well, I guess he paused a bit too long, because an audience member yelled out his own country of choice. Everyone cracked up, including the actors, but they ran with it and it came out very well. A highly enjoyable production. Very very nicely done, Globe. I even think Brandon enjoyed it. ;)
Then, we ran around Covent Garden, this time for shopping. Brandon bought a very cute lion for Chris, and I bought a very cute bear for... me. Like the lion, he's dressed like a poet from the 17th century and I dubbed him Billy Shakesbear. He's soft and snuggly.
Then it was dinnertime (more jacket potato and Magner's cider from the White Nag), and an early bedtime, because we had to leave early the next morning. And by early I mean oh my god so early.
But then we got back to Paris safe and sound, and spent yesterday doing little beyond housekeeping and grocery shopping and catching up on our rest.
Today, Brandon and I went to the Sainte Chapelle, built by St. Louis, who I studied a lot in Art History. The chapel's small, but absolutely stunning. The stained glass windows are phenomenal! They're huge, and each section depicts an entire story or book of the Bible. The first huge window tells all of Genesis in glass that's about 15 feet high and 5 feet wide. And when the light hits it, it's just incredible!
Then we got crepes for the first time in Paris. He got Nutella, I got Grand Marnier, but we also got to nibble on each other's. And then we bummed around, looking at gift shops on the two islands. And got rained on a lot. Oops, left the umbrella in the apartment. We also went to the Deportation Memorial, which was just as touching the second time. It was hilarious, an American lady came up to me and asked "Parlez-vous anglais?" in the most horrific accent I've ever heard, and I just responded "Yeah, I'm American too." She said she was sure I could tell from her terrible accent (ha), and asked me if someone who's claustrophobic would tweak out inside. Silly Americans.
We were going to go to a service at Notre-Dame de Paris, but my back started tweaking out (nerves twitching painfully), so we headed back to the apartment for me to take my pain pills. Once I was sufficiently wonktastic, we found a restaurant for dinner, which was a cute little Mexican place on a teeny-tiny back road. Very yummy! I <3 guacamole. Avocados make me less homesick.
Then, we saw Stay, which is that Naomi Watts/Ewan McGregor/Ryan Gosling flick that came out a while back in the States. It was actually not craptastic like I had heard. I mean, I have no idea what happened because it was totally confusing, but the acting was decent (for a movie of this type), and the director had a really cool style. I enjoyed his shots, the quick pacing, and the cool, crisp editing. (Sounds like a Doritos ad, I know.)
Also, I found a copy of an Agatha Christie book for only .20 Euro-cents. So, converting to American makes it about a quarter. Into the collection it goes!
Sleepy time now for the cousikins. Overall, it's been a productive few days, with souvenirs purchased for Mom (1/2 of it, anyway), Uncle Steve and a few friends. Plus, I partially know what I'm going to get Uncle Jack. Now, I gotta figure out the rest...
Love, from Paris! I promise I'll update more often, darlings. (Flicks to Betty Sue!)
So I realize I haven't posted in ages, but I've been busy, friends.
Day before yesterday, Brandon and I flew from Paris to London, then took the train up to Stratford-upon-Avon. It is the sweetest town EVER. Our hotel was lovely, and we stayed in the "As You Like It" room. We ate an incredible dinner there before seeing 1 Henry IV, which was long (Brandon has a short attention span!) but INCREDIBLE. The use of space was absolutely phenomenal, and I was blown away by a lot of the cast. The lighting and sound design was splendid, and they used both holes in the floor and ladders and ropes from the raftors to really utilize the entire theatre. Incredible.
Then, we had breakfast at the hotel and spent the morning running around Stratford again, hitting Shakespeare's birthplace and the church where he's buried. It was my little pilgrimage. I wound up buying a Who's Who in Shakespeare's Time (on sale for very little indeed), a bio of my boyfriend Kenneth Branagh, a pic of him from the RSC's Henry V when he was a baby (23!) for me and one for the Shakes fridge, and a Shakespeare CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT. Let me tell you, he is so, so, so cute. (Sorry ma, I want to spend all my money on Shakespeare. LOVE.)
Then we took the bus (excuse me, coach) down to London and arrived early yesterday afternoon. We took the underground to the hotel, which is in a great location, and settled in there before hitting a production of Hay Fever. If you don't remember (or didn't know me then), that's the show I had my first lead in in high school. And this production was incredible. The set and costumes were phenomenal. The acting was spot-on for everyone, but especially for the lead couple, played by the illustrious Peter Bowles and DAME JUDI DENCH.
Dame Freaking Judi Dench! I love this woman! LOVE! She was beyond perfect every second of the show. I was completely blown away. Love, love, love for Dame Judi.
This morning, we got up early, grabbed a bite and went to the Tower of London, which was cool. Proving I am a hybrid of my non-birth-mothers, Jenny and Anns, I was a girly girl and drooled over the crown jewels, then went all eight year old boy when I hit the armory. Dude. Pointy!
Then Brandon and I walked over to the Globe theatre to try to get tickets. Antony and Cleopatra was sold out, but we got cheap groundling tickets for Comedy of Errors which should be amusing. That's on Friday. We ate lunch at their cafe there (or I ate lunch, Brandon ate cheesecake), and it was exceptionally delicious for not much money.
We then went to the Tate Modern, which is free to celebrate the Queen's golden jubilee, so hoorah. We spent a long time roaming. The collection has everything from Duchamp's urinal to Andy Warhol's brillo pad box, not to mention Jackson Pollack, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Guerilla Girls posters. It was awesome. Truly cool was a big four-screen display where a man took clips from films and melded them together to create a sort of symphony of sight and sound.
I bought lots of souvenirs today (for OTHER people, not me!), so that is good. Today alone I got things for Hales and Becky and Jenny and Anns. I have to keep restraining myself from buying everything in the world for Lizzy, though!
Alright, catch y'all on the flip side. <3<3<3!!
Today, we got groceries (produce for Captain Picky), and then went for a long stroll around the two islands and such. We popped into the Musee Carnavalet, but the good stuff was closed, so we'll have to go back.
Then we came back here for lunch, which was, um, pasta and sauce for me. Pasta and produce for him.
After lunch, we went shopping on Rue de Rivoli. I need to find a dress, because the one I brought doesn't fit, but I didn't find anything. Darn, I'll have to shop more tomorrow...
For dinner, we went to Le Paradis de Fruit, where we had a daquiri and/or pina colada, and food and a fondant for dessert which was the greatest thing in the world. Then it was back to chez nous.
Tonight, we went to a great bar called the Cubana Cafe. The interior is designed like a little house in La Havana. It's got leather couches and chairs, fake windows lit from behind, palm trees, etc. I had a Cuba Libre, and Brandon and I tried Cuban cigars, because hi, how often do you get to do that? We got Petit Julietas, made by Romeo y Julieta, which were delightful but strong. We couldn't finish them. But, I learned that I have mad skillz at blowing smoke rings. Go me! I win!
Up for tomorrow: omelettes (I eat produce!), the Arc de Triomphe, and the Champs-Elysees for more dress-shopping. SWEET.
<3 to you all!
Company! And he speaks English!
Anyway, we went to dinner after we got back from the airport. It was delish, and I think Brandon really likes kirs. For good reason. We had gnocchi, which was amazing. Then we strolled around and saw fire-twirlers in front of Notre-Dame. It was awesome!
Tomorrow, we're going to get croissants from the boulangerie, and then we're going grocery shopping, because apparently Brandon doesn't like to live off of pasta and jarred sauce like I do.... standards are for losers!
Then, who knows.
Dear readers: It's funny how things work out.
I arrived in Milan yesterday around 11 AM after a short flight into Bergamo and a short bus trip into the city. I spent the day wandering, looking at expensive shops, eating gelatto, and admiring the Duomo. The Duomo is beyond spectacular, completely breathtaking.
Well, as I went back to the airport, they asked if anyone would put off their flight for a day because of overbooking. Not being one to miss out on an adventure, I said I would. So I stayed last night at a cheap but clean hotel, which was extraordinarily difficult to find because of bad signage. But, the guy at the desk was adorable and pleasant (even if he kept calling me Jennifer!), so it was a-okay. Wound up crashing early after the long day.
The next morning, I checked out, and began meandering ag ain. I went to one of the most beautiful museums I've ever seen, the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana. While the many paintings and things were cool (they have Da Vinci's "The Musician" and the gloves Napoleon wore at the Battle of Waterloo), the actual architecture of the place is amazing, including a marble spiral staircase with glittering mosaics.
After that, I ate a nice meal. Now, part of the travel experience is to try interesting local specialties. But let me tell you something, reader: that is not my job. My job is to make sweeping cultural generalizations and prove them true, and let me tell you, those Italians make a damn good pizza! Seriously, delicious. Oh, and in a four-flavor comparison, pistachio gelatto in Italy is easily the greatest thing in the history of the world.
After that, I wandered into every bookstore I could find looking for Harry Potter. Couldn't find it and I eventually gave up. (I did find it at the airport bookstore eventually. So Harry Potter in Italian was my one souvenir from Milan.)
Now, here's where it gets interesting.
My feet were tired, so I decided to catch an early bus back to Bergamo and just chill in the airport. I grabbed a random seat on the bus. After a minute, I heard a voice from behind me ask in a delightful British accent, "Sorry, is this the bus to Bergamo?" "Yep," I said, not really turning around. A few seconds later: "That's a great idea, pen in the hair. Always know where to find them. I lose mine." I turned back and a saw a very cute British boy with short dirty blonde hair. I grabbed at my hair and found the pen I'd not been able to find all day.
We started chatting, and eventually the bus was full except for the two seats next to us. A pair of women got on and lookde throughout the bus. "Shall we sit together, then?" he asked. "Sure." He moved up and sat next to me. He told me was getting to the airport early after a couple of long days, and I told him I was doing the same.
We talked about movies a lot-- his favorites are Cool Hand Luke, Spartacus, and American History X, so clearly he was deemed acceptable to befriend. Oddly enough, he favorite play of all time is Kit Marlowe's Dr. Faustus. I would like to inform you all that, in the 10th grade, I was utterly obsessed with the Faustian myth, including, but not limited to, Bedazzled, Damn Yankees!, and Marlowe's Dr. Faustus. He's a Russian major, so we talked a touch about that, but alas, I know more about film than Russian...
Eventually we got to Bergamo, where he offered to help me with my luggage, though I had none. We had quite a long time until I had to check in, so we sat on the floor and talked. He bought me a bottle of water, but when I tried to return the favor, he refused, saying he couldn't accept money from girls because he was too "old-fashioned and kind of chauvanistic." We had a great chat about everything from our life plans to politics and stereotypes. (Interestingly enough, two of his dreams in life are  to own a field and a donkey, and  to visit America and eat a realy huge burger.) He hates hates hates mayonnaise and ketchup, as do I. Thumbs up. Although he derides me for liking eggs.
We talked about siblings, and when I said how close Liz and I are, he complained that he goes to the third best uni in the countyr, and his little brother had to upstage him by going to Oxford. He asked me what my parents do, and I told him, but when I asked him about his, he was a little embarassed. Turns out his dad is a priest for the Church of England.
After four hours of non-stop talking, I had to leave, but we exchanged e-mail addresses, and he promised to buy me a proper pint next week in London... hope so!
I shared a beer with a dead man.
Well, he didn't really drink much of it. Neither did I, to be fair.
Anyway, I went to the Cimitiere Pere-Lachaise, where I hit a few key graves like Jim Morrison's and the memorials for the Deportees and the Mur des Federees. Mostly, though, I went for two people: Sarah Bernhardt and Oscar Wilde.
The beer was for Oscar. I left a kiss on his grave, as is tradition, and thought a beer would be nice for the man who said that work is the curse of the drinking class. So, we had a nice chat. (He mostly listened.)
Then, I was going to see Tristam Shandy, but I got out late, so I wound up catching Quinceanera, or Echo Park LA, as they call it here. It was exec produced by Todd Haynes, so hey. It was alternately great and kind of bad. Some of the dialogue and acting was special. But! There's a gay Latino gangsta who was totally amazing and made me sob at the end. Loved him. And a gay British man who looked freakishly like Kyan from Queer Eye.
Today, I'm just lurking in the room because my sunburn hurts. It's just that the skin's so dry that it's pulling tight so it hurts. Bah. So I'm hanging out, drinking lots of water, and moisturizing with this aloe vera/chamomile/moisturizer stuff.
Maybe I'll go out tonight when there's no sun...
For it is not called Bastille Day in France. Trivia for you.
So, today I got really drunk, smoked crack, got pregnant, and ran through the streets of Paris naked. Didn't go too crazy like I promised, Ma!
Actually, I got up early-- way too early-- and I watched the parade, which featured all manner of military folk, including les pompiers. Yes, in France, firefighters are part of the military. It also featured tanks, jet formations, a blue white and red ribbon in the sky, singing sailor in funny hats, and a building wearing a sash like a person. And an army man who falls off his motorcycle while standing still.
Plus, there's a branch of the military that has skis. If ever I need to join the military, I'm going with the Ski Bunnies, or whatever they call themselves to preserve their dignity. Good exercise, great views, and hot chocolate by the fireplace after a long day.
Then I got some food and went to the Champs de Mars, where I tanned fifty feet from the base of the Tour Eiffel. And, yes, by tanned I mean burned. But seriously, I would fall asleep in the hot afternoon sun, a French "Marie-Claire" on my stomach, and wake up staring at the top of the Tour. How good is my life? (But really, remind me to get aloe vera tomorrow. I better have a sick tan after this.)
Then, it was a waiting game, as people filled the Champs de Mars waiting for 22:30, when the fireworks would start. Let me take this moment to mention how much I love fireworks. And crowds of people waiting for fireworks are almost as fun. A pair of beurs (that is, French people of Algerian descent) brought instruments and played rai, which has a very cool Middle Eastern feel. Three African men played drums, and two drunk Brazilian men danced wildly in the dirt, yearning for the applause of the masses. American kids revelled in the sights, squeeling "Oh my God. I can't believe I'm by the Eiffel Tower drinking Orangina on Bastille Day!"
Meanwhile, I ...fluctuated. I alternately people-watched, occasionally making awkward eye contact, and read, keeping to myself. I put down my Leroux book to ask an American couple to watch my bag while I got water, but later denied my ability to speak the language to avoid talking to con artists. They don't notice that I'm reading Middlesex.
As time crawled by, the crowd became more excitable. Cheers erupted when it got dark enough for the Tour Eiffel to light up. Then when it hit 22:00.... my god. 20,000 special-occasion lights began to sparkle, possibly causing seizures in small children, but mostly delighting the disco ball fanatic in us all. I don't know that I've ever seen anything so beautiful in my life. The lights danced in the nearby windows.
And then the fireworks. My god, the fireworks! They were set to classical music and super-coordinated with colored smoke and everything. Then at one point the whole Tour Eiffel was lit up bright pink. It was amazing.
Then, on the way back to my place, I got my favorite cat call of the day. A group of homeless guys were having a party down by the Seine (homeless party!), and I as I walked by, I got a "Bravo!" followed by "I like it like that!" That's right. Homeless guys like me. I'm that hot.
So, today was MIND-BLOWINGLY HOT. I mean, horrific. Really bad.
First, I went to the Musee Picasso, which was cool, but not in the upper echelon of what I've done so far. But they did have one of my favorite statues, The Orater.
Then, I ran around to different shops, like Fauchon, the land of OH MY GOD gourmet. Although I was looking at their wine (not buying, too expensive!), and after I left the champagne area, a saleslady actually went in to see if I had stolen stuff. I almost asked her if she wanted to check my bags, but I thought being snotty wouldn't help. But seriously. I'm not dumb enough to try to steal an 800E bottle of 1966 Dom Perignon, people.
I also hit a shoe store and bought two pairs. No worries, Mom. July is the month of sales in France, and they totalled 16 Euro. And they're hot.
And I bought used books on the street. LOVE. I got En terre entrangere (Strangers in a Strange Land, for y'all playing at home). The book tells me it was translated from American. Good to know. I also got Dix petits negres, or And Then There Were None, for the Agatha Christie collection, and Gaston Leroux's Le Mystere de la chambre jaune, which I've never heard of, but I like Leroux and I like mysteries, so why not?
Then, tonight, I saw Paris, je t'aime, which was really cool. It featured 18 short pieces by different directors, all set in different parts of Paris. I disliked two of the pieces, but the rest I loved. All are stories of love, be it familial or romantic. Some of the directors are Gerard Depardieu, the Coen Brothers, Gus Van Sant, Gurinder Chadha, Alexander Payne, Alfonso Cuaron, and Wes Craven. Among the illustrious cast were Willem Dafoe, Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Natalie Portman, Fanny Ardant, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Nick Nolte, Emily Mortimer, Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara, and Elijah Wood, plus a few fun cameos from three directors. Some of my favorite stories include: an older man with a woman who has snuck out on Gaspard, who is running her life; a pair of mimes that fall in love in jail; an older couple getting a divorce; a tourist on the Metro who makes eye contact!; a man and the woman who comes to his aid; a blind man who gets dumped by his actress girlfriend; a possible romance with religious differences; and a man who is going to leave his wife when disaster strikes. It was a very cool, very unique film with a lot of talent.
Then I got to walk back along Montparnasse at midnight, with the wind blowing and restauranteurs sweeping up. Quelle romanesque!
Oh, and I found La Closerie des Lilas of "French in Action" fame. Sounds like I gotta go have a whiskey (for Hemmingway) and a kir (for French authors). If you haven't seen FiA, don't ask. Oh, Mireille and Robert.
Anyway, j'aime Paris, it's true. But j'aime all of you guys, too. :)
On tomorrow's schedule: BASTILLE DAY. Woohoo!
On Tuesday, I went to two of the coolest places that most people don't go to in Paris.
In the morning, I went to the Maison Victor Hugo. It's an apartment he lived in for many years, which is very cool. Beneath that, there is an art gallery with art of and by his family (his grandson was a great artist), letters to his grandchildren, and art inspired by his work. And it's free. It's a very pleasant and insightful hour at the beautiful Place de Vosges.
Victor Hugo was a likeable guy. Not that I knew him, of course, but in all of the statues and paintings of Victor as an old man, you can see it. He's weary, and tough, but he was loved. It's amazing how that can shine through a 130-year-old painting.
Note to self: if ever want to make esoteric films, use street cellist. Awesome.
That afternoon, I went to the Musee Carnavalet, which is most notable for its huge collection surrounding the Revolution. There are models of the Bastille, and the KEY to the Bastille, which is so cool. There are paintings of people involved, and of the rights of man, etc. Also interesting is there "art and literature" collection. Those are paintings and statues of famous actors, composers, singers, writers, etc. And bedrooms. They have several famous writers' bedrooms. Want to see the bedroom furniture of Marcel Proust or Anna de Noailles? Go to the Musee Carnvalet. Again, this one is free. And the mansions it is in are stunning.
Plus, at one point, I was literally followed across the street twice by a guy who wanted my number... He was cute. A little short, but cute in a Eurotrash way. He just wouldn't give up.
Yesterday, I started out at the Musee d'Art et d'Histoire de Judaisme. It was interesting, but I mostly went for its current exhibition on the Dreyfus Affair, when a man was set up to look like a traitor simply because he was Jewish, and he waited years in solitary confinement on Devil's Island waiting for a retrial, and it took two retrials for the truth to come out and Emile Zola was exiled over it. It's a really, really cool exhibition, but only if you are interested in that sort of thing. Which I am.
Then, I went to the Centre Georges Pompidou for the afternoon. Oh, man. Besides seeing pieces by Miro (who I love!), they had some craaazy exhibitions. There was a bunch of welded statues by David Smith, some of which were amazing (look up "Star Cage"). There was an exhibition on Los Angeles artists, which was way cool. It had everything from red fiberglass squares (pretty, but what?) to photographs. And videos of performance art.
If you haven't seen John Baldessari's videos, you should. Try "Teaching a Plant the Alphabet." Or "I am making art," which is like twenty minutes of him moving slightly to a new pose and saying "I am making art" and then a new pose "I am making art..."
But, let me tell you, Chris Burden is my new favorite thing ever. This is the guy, you've probably heard of him, who had his friend shoot him in the arm with a 22 rifle. They took photos of it, and called it art. To be fair, he didn't even flinch. I'm impressed. I also like the one where he stayed inside a locker for five days. Or where he kind of held a TV station hostage. (Not really, but there was a knife and threats, and such.) Or the one where he layed on the back of a VW bug, and they nailed his hands down, through the palm a la Jesus. Or if those are too intense, try the one where he just stayed in a bed in a museum for 22 days, never speaking, and not leaving other than to pee. I don't pretend to understand why he calls it art. But I kind of love it.
Plus, there were some REALLY bad movies, John Waters style. Let's be honest, that's my favorite style. I only watched one, but I'm going to have to go back just to watch the others! I saw "Garage Sale," which involved a hero named Hero, and his beautiful but estranged wife, Goldie Glitters, played by a drag queen named Goldie. My favorite moment was when a man who had just killed himself lip synced to "Yesterday's Ice Cubes." Oh, man.
There was also a huge exhibition on the Art of the Moving Image, which had some great stuff. I loved Mark Lewis' "Two Impossible Films," which are the opening and closing credits of two films that were tossed around but never got made. One is a love story with the main character of Freud. Yeah.
So, I've had two long but very cool days. I have no idea what I'll do today...
The man wrote in "Me Talk Pretty One Day" about how he goes to American movies in Paris all the time.
Today, I caught a late showing of Bullitt, which I'd never seen before. (Plus, for under-26-ers, it was less than $4 American...)
Dear Steve McQueen,
I don't know how you do it.
Your well-placed only-expletive-in-the-film was brilliant.
You made some pretty craptastic dialogue pretty awesome.
You manage to make a turtleneck sweater look remarkably ungay.
Your car chase was a-freaking-mazing. And I hate car chases 90% of the time. But dude, driving in San Francisco is tough anyway, so going that fast with the back of your car steaming must be wicked. And hi, flaming men at the end of it? Edge of my seat. (Even if you totally passed the same green bug four times on one street.)
So, I forgive you for the ridiculous good cop/bad cop scene that ate my soul.
Your rugged manliness and casual delivery more than make up for it.
PS: I'm sorry no French people laughed at the few jokes/moments of irony in that film. I thought they were funny, promise.
Every time I see a French policeman I hvae the urge to run up and flirt with him, saying "Bonjour monsieur! I love the little red cord on your sleeve! May I pull it?" Somehow I don't think they'd find it too cute.
I love to get up early and walk around, rather than taking the Metro. There's truly nothing like the city in the morning, when the tourists are all asleep and I meet the real characters of Paris. As I pass Notre Dame, I see a young priest and nuns, hunched over, and realize I'm in a country that is 90% Catholic. I love to watch the fat little men who run cafes, as they push their groceries on hand carts as tall as they are.
But my favorite, my absolute favorite early-bird Parisians, are the middle-aged men on motorcycles. It doesn't matter what they look like, beacuse they always say the same thing-- "Bonjour mon petit," which is short for "mon petit chou," my little cabbage. I love walking down the street after a rainy night, my full skirt blowing in the wind, and having a middle-aged man called me "mon petit." Of course, you must never let the men know you like it. Smiles or even a slight glance in their direction will only encourage the old scoundrels.
But as soon as my back is to them, I smile.
So, today I spent all day at the Louvre. I bought something called the Carte Louvre Jeunes which makes me a member for a year so YAY unlimited visits. (Plus, Brandon, two nights a week I can get you in for free for the last four hours of opening.)
I wasn't floored by the Venus de Milo. Maybe that makes me a cretin, I don't know. But La Victoire de Samothrace was incredible. Her rega wings blowing in the breeze... I loved it. But the most incredible was La Joconde/Mona Lisa... being in the room with her was like coming near magic. Something about her is so imperfectly perfect that just to be near her gives you goosebumps. She is what all art should be.
My other new favorite is "Le Bouffon au luth" by Frans Hals. Look it up. I want to be that guy.
So, yesterday I went to the town of Epernay, which is in the champagne region, only an hour away. It's a town of about 50,000 people, and cute as can be.
I went on two cave tours, first for Mercier, then for Moet & Chandon, makers of Dom Perignon. I had a brut, a brut premier cru, and a rose at Moet & Chandon, but I much preferred the Mercier, where I tried three vintages, a 1997, a 1998, and a 2000. (Also, at Mercier, they give you a little souvenir tasting glass, and your tour is on a laser-guided car. Sweet.) (Brandon, we might have to go there when you're out.)
When you give me three glasses of champagne and push me into a gift store, I'll buy anything. (Sorry mom.) I got a bottle of the 1998 Mercier to bring home to crack open when I graduate next year. It was kind of expensive, but truly, truly delicious.
Plus, now I know a hell of a lot about champagne. Up next: red wine! Bring on Bordeaux.
Also, I've decided that I'm going to be a wine expert. That's a good career, yeah?
Love to you all. I'm headed to the Louvre.
I'm about to beat the jet lag. I've been going to bed later and later as the days go on. (The first day, I sat down on the couch at 2 pm and woke up nine hours later.) So, yesterday, I decided to catch a movie that started at 9, so I'd have to be out late and not fall asleep on the couch.
In honor of Independence Day, I went to a tiny, gorgeous movie theatre to see "An American in Paris." Tres apropos, non? It's funny reading the French subtitles and catching all of their changes.
And afterward, I strolled through the Latin Quarter, where I live, and the Italianos everywhere were going crazy because of the World Cup match. They were honking horns as they drove with Italian flags flying out the windows, and bands of them were singing "Campione, campione..." It was unbelievably joyful, and all of the French people were very nice, rather than acting like rivals. They were patting each other on the back, and asking the Italians the score. It was another one of those "Oh yeah. I'm in Europe." moments. Like out of the movies. Really, really awesome.
And already I'm at the point where I'm like "That's two miles away? That's cool. I'll just walk it." (It helped that it was two miles to the best chocalatier in Paris. I bought a bar of dark chocolate with orange and bergamot. OH MY GOD. Also, a pistachio chocolate pastry-ish thing that I haven't tried yet. Brandon, remind me to take you there. It's expensive, but Pierre Herme is a genius.)
The reason my legs hurt so much yesterday? I calculated it, and I walked about 11 miles in a great big circle without really stopping. No lunch or anything. And we all know I'm a lazy ass, so walking that in the humidity really killed me. Someone remind me to buy tylenol.
Plus, you all know how much I hate sweat. Remember my declaration about never marrying anyone who sweats through a shirt? That can't be true if I live in France. Because even I sweat through shirts here, and I don't sweat.
Today while I was walking to the grocery store, it started sprinkling. It felt so glorious, I didn't want it to stop.
Love to you all! I miss you! It's weird not really talking to anyone except the occasional boulangere or shop girl.
So, around noon I set off. I went through the Ile de la Cite, past Notre Dame, and then walked along the Seine. I passed the Louvre, then went to the Chanel store. Mmm. (Is it bad that I desperately want to get $20ish eyeliner from Chanel? I really liked it.)
Then I went down the Champs-Elysee. I got to try Berthillon ice cream, which is a-fricking-mazing. I went into the huge Sephora, but it was like a zoo. There were two things I wanted to get Liz from Louis Vuitton, but alas, I didn't have 50,000 Euros on me. (For the record, it's a 131 carat amythyst ring [seriously] and a doggie-carrying purse in turquoise leather.)
Then I went up the Arc de Triomphe. Which is really high. Remind me not to do that again. Those stairs made me want to die. However, the view was fan-freaking-tastic.
Then I walked toward the Eiffel Tower, but the top level was closed, so I didn't go up. I'll have to save that for another day. I don't think I realized quite how big it was until I was right in front of it. Gooorgeous.
Then I walked to Berthelemy, but it too was closed. BUT I did find the Gallimard bookstore, which was awesome.
Remember what I said about my legs hurting yesterday? SO worse today. It's getting old.
I'm going to weigh like three pounds when I get home because all I do is walk all the time, but it's too hot to eat, and even if I were hungry, I drink so much water that the hunger is supressed. Except this morning I rolled out of bed and drank a ton of orange juice. I think my body was like "NO SCURVY."
I've crossed 8 things off my "Must Do in Paris" list. I win!