Au revoir, Paris!

Today is our last day in Paris, and I feel like there's so much we haven't done yet. It can't possibly be time to leave, and yet leave we must. New adventures beckon in New York City. I have a backlog of Paris-related posts I haven't had time to write or edit yet, so there should be a trickle of Paris into early December. Also, once I've got a faster (and cheaper) connection, I hope to post some photos. But for now, it's time for one final pain au chocolate, one final spin around the neighborhood, dodging dog poop, trying not to get run over by crazed scooter drivers, and taking in the sites of the Marais, the river, the islands, the Hôtel de Ville, and the Notre Dame. Then it's onto the RER and au revoir, Paris, à bientôt! 😦

Lenny Kravitz doesn’t know shit about falafel

Lenny Kravitz doesn't know shit about falafel. There are several falafel take-out shops on the Rue des Rosiers in the Marais district of Paris. Since it's quite close to our apartment, I've had many falafels while I've been here. One place, "L'As du Falafel" sports a recommendation from Lenny Kravitz outside its door. But don't believe it (well feel free to believe it, the falafel was quite good), the falafel across the street (at the corner of Rue des Rosiers and Rue des Ecouffes) at "mi-va-mi" is even better. For €3.50 you can get a giant falafel to go, on fresh pita (made in-house) and every time I've gotten one, the falafels have been crispy, fresh and hot, with an almost creamy inside. It's filled with veggies too, and makes for a large, filling meal for even those with hefty appetites. I only finished one once. Best €3.50 you can spend for food, and it puts those dry, crumbly, American falafels to shame.

Funny Parisian store names

Many stores in Paris have funny names. Often they're some strange English mixture of words which sometimes make sense and sometimes seem a little ill-advised ("Pussy, pussy, pussy"?). After all my travels 'round the town, my favorite is "Mouff tarte," a patisserie on the Rue Mouffetard. Runner-up: "Diasporama," the shop for all things Diaspora, in the Marais.

War and Peace and Invalides

I've been reading War and Peace the entire time I've been in Paris (it's 1,500 pages afterall) and I couldn't have chosen a better book to read while here. Aside from the fact that I love long 19th-century novels, the use of French scattered throughout (which in my edition isn't translated) is more easily understood now that I'm learning more French. Reading of battles (e.g. Austerlitz) and knowing that they're also the names of Paris train stations or Metro stops hints at their outcome before Tolstoy reveals it (since my Napoleanic history isn't quite what it should be, I don't know who won which battles). So it's been really neat to read while I'm here. But the highlight of reading War and Peace in Paris was our visit to Invalides.

The Hôtel des Invalides was built in the 1670's by Louis XIV for wounded and homeless veterans. It now contains many things military, including Napoleon's tomb, the tombs of other French military leaders, and several museums. The Musée de l'Armée (Museum of the Army) is the largest, spanning several floors and covering the military history from pretty much the beginning of time through World War II. We spent an entire afternoon there and didn't see more than half of it. Highlights for me:

Everything from Napolean, which included outfits worn by French soldiers during the Russian campaign, cannon balls, sabres and daggers, leather folders and satchels in which secretaries and adjutants carried communications, and even a stuffed horse ridden by Napolean at some point along the way. All the outfits helped flesh out my imaginations of the battle scenes in War and Peace significantly. It was really neat to actually see the real stuff from that time period. There was even Napolean's "camp" — the tent he occupied while on campaigns, complete with bed, writing desk, stool, rugs, trunks, etc.

Another highlight was the section of the museum devoted to World War II. It was a powerful blend of objects, video, pictures, and story-telling detailing the events of the time. Objects even included an American Jeep, all kinds of uniforms and weapons from the various Allied and Axis troops, and most distressingly, a collection of leather shoes from victims of the gas chambers at an extermination camp. Throughout, one could hear tapes of DeGaulle's speeches encouraging the French to continue to fight and resist the German occupation. The entire experience was so sad and uplifting at the same time.

The March of 3 Marchés

or the March of 3 Markets

The following is a description of a lovely long walk that will take you through some lively, wonderful parts of Paris and perhaps, if you're lucky, make you feel slightly Parisian as well.

Notes before starting:

  • To be undertaken on a Sunday. If not, there may be no markets.
  • Don't do this in the rain. It won't be any fun.
  • Start early, by 10 AM or so, otherwise the final market may be closing up by the time you arrive there. (They seem to start closing around 2 PM, more or less.)
  • Bring a map since I'd hate for you to get lost if the directions are a little confusing.
  • This is a long walk, but filled with (what I consider) very Parisian sights and has several Metro stops along the way at which you can give up and head "home".

The March:

Start at the Place de la Bastille (M° Bastille, lines 1,5,8) where you will find Marché #1 stretching for several blocks along the green median of the Boulevard Richard Lenoir. Loop through the market, being sure to observe the endless supplies of fresh produce, meats, cheese, fish, and wine interspersed with odd kitchen gadgets and cheap clothing. If you haven't had breakfast yet, now's a good time to grab a pain au chocolat or a brioche.

The end of your loop should bring you back to Place de la Bastille. Almost directly across the monument is the Port de l'Arsenal, a small off-shoot of the Seine filled with boats and barges. Proceed down the ramp at the edge of the Boulevard de la Bastille and walk along the water, enjoying the site of old men fishing along the water's edge. As you reach the end, climb up one of the staircases and head for the nearest bridge, to your south-east. This is the Pont d'Austerlitz.

Cross over the Point d'Austerlitz and head into the Jardin des Plants. Proceed down the stately rows and enjoy the order and majesty of this lovely botanical garden. At you approach the Museum of Natural History (Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle) at the end of the park, take the path off to your right that cuts between two giant greenhouses and wind your way out of the park at the NW exit at the corner of Rue Cuvier and Rue Linné.

From this corner, you should be facing Rue Lacépède. Proceed on Rue Lacépède until you arrive at Rue Monge. Turn left and head down Rue Monge to Place Monge and Marché #2. Though smaller than the market over in the Bastille, it's filled with similarly enticing foods and vendors and people out shopping. At this point, if you wish only to visit two markets, the Metro (M° Monge, line 7) is available to whisk you to another destination. But you risk missing the fun of Market #3 if you go now.

For those wishing to press on, continue down the Rue Monge until you reach the Rue Epée-de-Bois. Turn right and wander down this street until you reach Rue Mouffetard. Turn left and meander down the slight hill and into the glorious markets of Rue Mouffetard. Unlike the other two markets, this street features many permanent shops which open and expand out onto the street. Aromas of fish and cheese and meat blend in the air with the bustling sounds of transactions and purchases.

Mixed in with the many markets are restaurants and cafés where you can grab a bite to eat or partake in a restorative cup of coffee. At the base of the market, next to St. Médard church, we were lucky to stumble upon some sort of concert. Across from a lovely bubbling fountain, a woman was signing "Que sera sera" while people of all ages danced and many other observed. Somehow this struck me as exactly the thing Parisians would do while out on a Sunday at the market. Keep your eyes peeled for similar sights.

After your third and final market, you have two choices for metro stops: either continue south down Rue Mouffetard onto Avenue des Gobelins until you reach the large intersection with Boulevards Arago and Saint Marcel. There you will find M° Les Gobelins, line 7. Your other choice is to wander from Rue Mouffetard around onto Rue Censier and back up Rue Monge to the M° Censier-Daubenton, line 7 stop. Either way, your camara should be full of lovely photos and your stomach grumbling for something cooked up with all the lovely food you've just seen.

Route in full:

Place de la Bastille to Boulevard Richard Lenoir to Place de la Bastille to Boulevard de la Bastille across Pont d'Austerlitz to Jardin des Plantes to exit at corner of Rue Cuvier and Rue Linné to Rue Lacépède to Rue Monge to Rue Epée-de-Bois to Rue Mouffetard.

The rules keep changing

Why do the French mess with me so? Part of the progress I feel like I've made here has been with knowing how things work. And then things go and change, e.g. last night at dinner. We ordered le menu which gives one a choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert. We know from previous experience that you order the app and entree at the start, and then when you've finished, they come round and ask for your dessert selection. At least, that's how it works everywhere but the place we ate last night. Luckily my French has improved enough for me to flag down the waitress (after we patiently waited 15 minutes for her to come see if we wanted anything) and ask if we could choose our dessert. She mumbled something, seeming annoyed that we wanted dessert . Oh well, not our problem I decided. We try to play by the rules, but they keep changing them.

The horror of an American accent

I hadn't realized this before but American accents are just plain terrible! When I go without hearing much American English for days on end (aside from our conversations, which I somehow don't notice), overhearing that nasaly twang of an American accent makes my ears want to bleed. Eavesdropping on a nice British accented chat is so much more pleasant, regardless of the topic of conversation.

Apologies to Steven Johnson

Sometimes you write something on your weblog and you think the tone seems light-hearted and joshing. Then you re-read it a week later and discover, to your horror, that the tone is not light-hearted and joshing but could be seen as snooty and mean-spirited, which was not your intention at all. Then you explain to everyone that there should have been a winkie 😉 or a smiley 🙂 at the end of your post. Hopefully they all understand.

Byrd vs. US Gov

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va, speaking against the creation of the Homeland Security bill in the Senate last Tuesday:

It is long past time for us to finally do our best to prevent another deadly strike by those who hate us and wish us ill. Terrorism is no plaything.

Political service is no game. Political office is no place for warring children.

And the oath of office which we take is no empty pledge to be subjugated to the tactics of election-year chicanery perpetrated on a good and trusting people.

Though I've been a bit removed from the proceedings myself, I can't help but wonder how the creation and merger of 20-odd agencies into one bohemoth governmental organization is going to do anything towards making Americans more secure. Corporate mergers rarely work. Why would public service mergers work any better? And when critical work needs to be done (in the armed forces or in companies), SWATs are organized — small groups of excellently-equipped people given the resources, clearance, and leeway to do whatever's necessary to accomplish clearly defined goals. The Department of Homeland Security seems to be a step in a very different direction.