How to be a Parisian

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What you’ll need: a baguette, a beret

Songlist: April in Paris or any of these

Further reading: A Moveable Feast…or any of these.

Everyone has their own Paris.

My parents will be going to Paris in a few weeks, and everyone has advice for them. You must see this! You must eat here! You must! You must! You must!

Paris is the most-visited city in the world, and thus it’s not surprising that so many of their friends have visited, revisited, and made lists for themselves and acquaintances of what must be done in the City of Lights. But, of course, all this is a testament to the fact that you can’t go wrong in Paris. While those of us who have visited only a few times would recommend the few places we’ve been to, those who have lived in the city know that there is no one view of Paris. Each story written on the city is unique. We may think that the city itself is the story, but that is an illusion; Paris is impervious.

And so too, I think, are its inhabitants. How else could you deal with the influx of tourists, the requisition of so many public spaces for photo-ops and souvenir sellers?

This past April I flew to Paris to meet up with a friend studying in Fontainebleau, a town just 45 minutes to the south. I ended up spending only about 5 hours in the city itself. I’d been to Paris twice previously, spending about a week both times. I’d seen the Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower, Moulin Rouge, even the Catacombs. So this time I planned visits to the Palais Garnier, the Marais district, and Notre Dame, which I’d only seen from the outside.

When I got back to Fontainebleau I flipped through a book of photographs of Paris from the air. I was amazed then to see so many gorgeous sights–French gardens, museums, palaces–that I’d never seen, never even considered visiting. I understood then that you could spend a lifetime walking the streets of Paris and never see everything.

Do you appreciate it if you’re Parisian? Do you notice that everything you pass by would be the most-visited tourist site in any other city?

One can only hope that the answer is yes. That day I spent in Paris this past April was cold and rainy, and my boots were soaked through immediately after exiting the Metro. But at the end of my few hours, I emerged at Cité, the Metro stop nearest Notre Dame, and found myself surrounded by a flower market. It was unexpected and breath-taking. Instead of going to the Cathedral right away, I strolled through aisles of hydrangeas, pressed my nose into roses, took pictures of lime trees and birds-of-paradise. I don’t think I could ever not love this.

Emerging from the Metro with the flower market behind

 

Of lions and dreams

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One side effect of travel that I’ve often noticed is crazier dreams than usual. Last week, before beginning our road trip through Germany, I had a dream that we had a lion for a pet. In the dream I realized how neglected our poor lion was: I never let it outside since it would scare the neighbors, and I knew I hadn’t been feeding it properly. When the lion stood, I saw that its back legs were severely arthritic and it was dying.

I would’ve forgotten the dream except that I saw a lion statue the next day. And I’ve seen some representation of a lion every day since. Lions, as it turns out, are the symbol of southern Germany. And so, since my dream, I’ve felt a strange connection to this part of the world and all of its aging lions.

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If it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it

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Every time we’ve gone into a Baroque building I’ve said this joke, my favorite line from Beauty and the Beast. I swear it doesn’t get old.

Here’s my favorite, the Salzburg cathedral:

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May Day in Munich

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It’s strange to travel to a place that lives up to all of your stereotypes.

When we arrived in Munich we were delighted to see a couple or two wearing dirndls and lederhosen. And then suddenly we realized they were everywhere. We decided this could either be because it was May Day and therefore all the kids were pulling their traditional garb out just for one day of the year, or this is now the retro-chic thing to wear in Bavaria. I prefer the latter explanation.

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Bach that rach up

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After a 6 hour drive from Paris to the Rhine river in Germany, my friend Marissa and I ended up in a small town named Bacharach. We quickly understood why this is such a tourist town: it’s impossibly charming and fits most every German stereotype.

We stopped in to a lovely restaurant that serves local wines and each ordered a wine flight, which consisted of 6 full glasses of wine. Oops! We learned that the wine that comes from the steep slopes along the Rhine is best–something about the slate directly underneath that holds more of the sun’s warmth and let’s the grapes stay on the vine longer.

The following day we saw those vineyards in action as we cruised up the Rhine. The plots are tiny and precipitously placed all along the cliffsides, which made us more fully appreciate how much work went into every single glass of wine.

Well done, Bacharach.

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2 days in Paris

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When I was traveling from Minnesota to Paris fellow travelers asked me one question: “Is this your first time visiting Paris?”

I can understand the question: I’m young- and perhaps idealistic looking. But when I answered that it wouldn’t be my first time in Paris, but that I’d also be visiting Germany and it was my first time there, they’d invariably be disappointed. By the third time I realized I should just lie and say, yes, this will be my first time in Paris and I’m so excited to see the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower in person. There is, after all, a magical quality to Paris that seduces all without exception.

My fellow travelers need not have worried: Paris is a city that never ceases to amaze. After an arduous process meeting up with my friend who lives just outside of Paris I went into the city again the next day. I visited the gorgeous Palais Garnier and finally went inside Notre Dame. And my favorite moment from the whole day was emerging exhausted from the Cite metro station and finding a huge flower market in the middle of the main island of Paris.

That’s the thing about traveling: as much as we can plan for wonderful experiences, it’s the unexpected ones that take us by surprise and linger on in our memories.

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How to road trip around Europe

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What you’ll need: Euros

Songlist: The Muppets singing Movin’ Right Along, From Paris to Berlin by Infernal

Further reading: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

I don’t know a lot about this topic yet, but I will soon since I’m flying to Paris in a few hours. After a few days in France, I’ll take off for a road trip in southern Germany to see mountains, medieval towns, and a metric ton of castles.

Thus I’m going to temporarily highjack this blog while in Europe and make it a travelogue. Hopefully I’ll be able to write brief updates (on my iPhone, so they’ll be very brief) and post a few pictures along the way.

Dilettante will resume as normal on May 8th when I return to the USA. Frankly, stories and pictures from Europe will probably be more exciting. Á tout à l’heure!

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