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April 30, 2006 (A)

This was my last week of French class.  On the whole, I would say that class was a worthwhile experience.  It gave me just a taste of what it would be like to be in the classroom again.   With class winding up, I’ve had more time to really concentrate on my research for our up coming two-week trip through France.  At the end of last week, I was 65% of the way through reading the entire Lonely Planet guide to France.  This week, I’ve finished reading and notating, have set about narrowing down the regions of interest, and began drawing up the itinerary.

This last week in review:
Wednesday, I returned to the Louvre to explore more, and found myself being less than enthused about spending my day there.  I had reached the conclusion that there wasn’t all that much in the Louvre to interest me.  It dawned on me, that perhaps I should buy a guide to the Louvre since I was finding myself a bit at a loss as to where to go exploring next.  Unfortunately, this idea didn’t hit me until I was just about to leave the museum, so I made the purchase on my way out.  That night, after a thorough examination of the “highlights” of the Louvre, I concluded that my original instincts were on target.  The Louvre contained mainly older works of art from antiquity to about the 1800’s.  It was a bit like the British Museum and British Gallery combined (as Erik had noted).  It had a lot of stuff for you if you were into old painters or treasures from imperial conquests.  I however, was not particularly a history buff.  So thanks to 17 Euros well spent, I was able to save myself from visiting the Louvre yet again.  (I must say though, that the Ingres temporary exhibit was well worth the Euros paid.)

Friday, I decided that I had enough of Museums and wanted to check out the local gallery scene instead.  (See what current art scene had to offer.)  I saw a bit of everything, some mundane, some child-like-simple-rudimentary-even (but not in a charming way), and some pretty nice.  Nothing particularly impressive, save for a little toy/model store on gallery row.  I liked it so much that I planned to come back with Erik, and show him the store.

Saturday Erik and I went to visit the aforementioned toy store (Pixie and Co).  It was a small little shop, filled with collector’s models of cartoon and comic book characters – ancient and new.  Many of the characters were new to me, like Tin-tin, some strange bird like characters that looked like balloons on sticks, and some familiars like Smurfs and Barbapapa.  The upstairs was a mini-gallery filled with several dozen large and small dioramas of collectable figurines, each of them individually hand painted.  There was also the painter’s studio, set up like a jeweler’s table and we glimpsed a modeler guy at work on his next piece.  The models that were for sale (downstairs) didn’t come cheap either, at 200+ Euros a pop, one had to be a serious collector to want to take the plunge.
Diorama Buildings

Next it was off to the 18th district, in Pigalle for a taste of the red light district.  Unfortunately, as our guide book had indicated, this district had long since ceased be truly cutting-edge-seedy and due to its popularity had become more mainstream-seedy, with big loud lights and tourist shops everywhere.  But, nevertheless, it was worth it just to go and get a photo in front of the famous Moulin Rouge. 
Moulin Rouge

Besides, were there for a reason:  to check out le Musee de l’Eroticisme (the Museum of Erotic Art).  All in all, I would give the museum a pretty strong recommend.  It had a lot of interesting artwork, a portion of which was refreshingly new.  The proprietors definitely made an effort to distinguish their exhibits from the trashy plastic and latex shops that were a dime-a-dozen up and down the street.  (Think Off-the-Wall in the U-district.)  That is to say that they made efforts to exhibit that which was in someway art, and interesting to look at (not just use).  But at the same time, it was a very fun museum, they didn’t take themselves too seriously.  The gallery consisted of seven floors, with the most interesting stuff being on the first four floors, and in between the floors on the stairwells.  There were all kinds of statues, and objet d’arts, including tribal figures, explicit dioramas, moving mechanized sculptures, nut crackers, cork openers, and even some drawings by Edgar Degas.
Musee de l'Eroticisme

Fountain Nut Cracker .

May 1, 2006 (A)

Happy May Day!  It’s Labor Day in Europe, so everyone including Erik, gets the day off!  Whoohoo!  We had yet to visit Paris Chinatown, so today was the day.  We took the metro to the 13th district, Chinatown or rather little Saigon. 

As my French teacher had informed me, in Paris, all of the Chinese food is actually made by Vietnamese.  Because of the strong ties between France and Vietnam – a former colony, the asian imports were, by in large, Vietnamese.  Hence, to go into a Chinese restaurant to order Chinese food is a bad idea in Paris.  One would do better to order the Vietnamese menu items instead. 

We were on a mission to find and check out Pho 14, a restaurant that my French teacher had been raving about for the past month, every time the 13th arrondissement came into discussion.  The scene at the restaurant was packed and very asian – always a good sign.  The food was excellent (we both ordered the Beef Pho) and the service was quick, the only wait was for our seats.  They had all the standard add-ins, including my new favorite – plum sauce!  (Finally!  It was nice to have real Pho, after trying to muster up a poor rendition in my apartment, with my still rudimentary knowledge of the good Paris-asian food markets.)  On the way back, we indulged and stopped by starbucks to soak up a small piece of home and sit and sip while I continued to do draft up the plans for our France trip.

Our friends Kim and Jeff showed up this evening, returning from their trip down the south of France.  They both looked marvelously tan, especially Kim!

May 4, 2006 (A)

We wished our friends a safe journey home as we rushed out the door this morning, Erik, on his way to work, and me, on my way to Euro-Disneyland.  That’s right!  I was on my way to meet my dancer friend Erica and go see her at work, in the Disney live production of Tarzan.  The metro and train ride to Disneyland totaled about one hour.  Erica was going to get three of us in to see her show, myself, and two of her other friends.  When we arrived, we met one of the Tarzans of the show, Willie, who was nice enough to give three of his free spots to help Erica get her friends in for “gratuit”. 
Disneyland Paris

We spent the better part of three hours, wandering around checking out the sights, standing in Fast Pass lines, and browsing the shops.  Some of the highlights were the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House Exhibit and seeing the Skull Shaped cave next to the Pirates of the Caribbean exhibit.  There were great sets and best of all a lot of the plant life was real.
Pirates of the Caribbean 

Finally, it was time to see Erica in action!  The stage for the show was in a covered open air setting.  The seats filled up fast, it was a full house.  The show was a spectacular combination of dance and tons of acrobatics/gymnastics.  There were two dueling high bars which stood on either side of a trampoline.  An acrobat “Monkey” (most of the cast was dressed as monkeys except for Jane and Tarzan) would swing around the high bar, onto the trampoline, and spring onto the opposing high-bar – all the while avoiding the other “Monkey” that was swinging in direct opposition to him.  What sights to see – there monkeys tumbling, doing cool things on ropes, nets, and the trapeze.  There, in the middle of it all, was Erica, doing amazing “tumbling” up and down and around on the net, grandly performing a bunch of floor work, scratching herself (as monkeys often do), and of course always smiling her sunny smile.  The show was a lot of fun and captivating to watch, especially the trapeze duet with Jane and Tarzan, but the icing on the cake was getting to see my friend shine on stage – especially after all the hard work and rehearsal bruises that I’ve heard tell of!)  Bravo Erica!  I would recommend catching the show.
Erica In Tarzan


After the show Erica brought us backstage for lunch and we got to meet more of the cast.  It’s the most times I’ve ever done “faire le baise” in the whole time that I’ve been in France - every time she introduced me to a guy, instead of a handshake, we would do the press-cheeks-and-kiss greeting or “faire le baise”.  It was very cool to share in such a very French custom.

May 3, 2006 (A)

Another beautiful day in Paris!  I’ve finally finished my preliminary work on our France trip!  Reservations, reservations!  The B&B’s, hotels, trains, and car rentals have all been finished, I’ve become a verifiable travel agent over the past 3 weeks!  And I believe that my work is going to pay-off well.

This was the last day that Jeff and Kim were going to be in town, so we celebrated Erik’s B’day a little early.  We packed up a picnic dinner and tromped off to the Luxumberg Gardens for a lovely dinner by the pond.  I presented Erik with a petit bateau, which piqued his interest right away and which made him eager to get back to the apartment to try it out.  Back at the apartment, after some debate, the boys figured that the best place to try out the bateau was in the shower basin.  So, after figuring out the proper way to plug up the shower, Erik had a nice little pond.  And five minutes later, all 4 of us were hanging out in our dinky apartment bathroom, awaiting the fire-works with great anticipation.  And it worked!  The little steam-driven bateau putted around at a nice clip, make clicking noises as it went.  The boys were thrilled.  Score one for Amy and her gift giving powers!

Everyone in the bathroom

May 5, 2006 (A)

Eiffel Tower
To celebrate his special day, the birthday boy and I had a nice quiet dinner at home, and then went out after sunset to catch the evening lights of Paris.  We ambled along and eventually found our way to the Eiffel Tour, at which point, I decided that I’d like to go to the top and see the view.  What better place to kiss and celebrate than on the top of Paris’ highest “birthday candle”?  The lines weren’t too bad, my only complaint was that we didn’t get to walk up the stairs to the top!
Eiffel Tower From the center up Eiffel Tower

On our way back we saw a horde of bicyclists being escorted by police and several smaller hordes of bladers.  The next day we read that Friday nights they actually have a three hour, police escorted, skating tour of Paris.  Only in Paris would they take an impromptu skating event (that grew in popularity since '93) and legitimize it with a police escort.  I love it!  So unlike the cities back in the states, where anything fun is pretty much outlawed, once it becomes popular enough.

A short walk along the Seine and we were back.  We got home sometime after midnight and had yummy birthday cake, to top the evening.

May 7, 2006 (A)

Saturday, was a lazy day.  We got up late, and decided on taking a tour of the city in search of toy stores.  On our way, we saw a pretty cool chocolate shop that had a stiletto pump made entirely of chocolate.  Erik offered to get if for me, but alas, it wasn’t my size and the shop was closed.  One of our target toy stores was closed for repair.  Fortunately the second one was not, and we got to see some pretty neat puzzles and games, which we noted down for future reference.

Today was yet another lazy day.  We left the house around noon to make it to the open air market in Bastille.  This time the market extended past both sides of the Bastille statue, I do believe that it had doubled in size!  We only stayed for a brief period, exploring mainly the food and produce section.  I bought a pineapple, which I had come for (the best pineapple that I had bought in Paris was from this market).  Alas, we were unable to find the Paella stand that we had walked past, on the last occasion that we were at the market, so we opted to by paninis instead for lunch, instead.  I also bought a Nepalese coat and an Indian made shoulder bag.  I have always found Nepalese wares to be colorful and intriguing.
Bastille Market

We returned to the apartment after lunch for a bit of a siesta, then it was off to go exploring again.  We walked to a park near the Notre Dame d’Ile de Paris (apparently the Notre Dames are a dime-a-dozen in France, much like the name Jean Jaures is used as a road name in almost every French city, of any remark).  We stopped at a near by park where I started working on the plans to my next comic, and together we watched the pigeons attempt to eat garbage and, when they weren’t doing that, courting.  Most of the city garbage cans consist of a metal ring attached to a post, and then a garbage bag is draped over the metal ring and held in place by a bungee.  Simple and cheap.  It works so long as the pigeons and other birds aren’t sitting underneath the bag, stabbing at the bottom to get to its goodies.
Later on, we had dinner at a Belgian creperie and called it a day.

May 8, 2006 (A)

Yet another lovely day spent walking around in the sunshine – despite a morning heaviness that forebode of drear.  We had woken to the ping-ponging of rain resonating off of the metal gutters, and echoing through the thin walls of our apartment. 

We finished off the majority of our office like tasks in the morning.  Then I gave the downstairs neighbors a good percussive concert while doing my mid-morning workout.  (Gotta love Jane Fonda, she’s the greatest – she runs the combinations as if she was super-high on crack – the perfect pace for some nice high-impact aerobics!) 

The afternoon was free to play!  We sat down for some sandwiches at one of the many sandwich shops in Odeon, and then headed off to walk along the Seine.  We walked East along the Seine all the way to Bastille, stopped at the Bastille Starbucks and caught some of that good ‘ol Seattle essence – Mocha, Frappaccino, and a sofa (of course).  We hung out for a while and I did some more comic strip sketching.  After a bit, we were off again, and decided to walk back along the Seine again.  Then it was back along the Seine towards Notre Dame.  We ambled through the Musee des Sculptures en Plein Air (sans bums this time).  We were among many couples, and young families with children.  There was the most idyllic pair of old-men playing together on their Accordians.  We paused for a space to listen to them.  We passed near the Centre de Pompidou, and I took Erik over to show him the fountain menagerie (with the various whimsical twirling, and dancing fountains) in the courtyard.
Accordian Players in Paris

May 12, 2006 (A)

This is my own Parisian Cow Parade zoo.  I have been collecting photos of some members of the Parisian arm of the cow parade.  For the complete worldwide cow parade (works of which are meant to benefit needy in Africa) see www.cowparade.com.  There are some from St. Germain, several from Bastille, and even one on rue de Sevres.  Some of them have seen better days, having been unfortunate victims of vandalism.  Nevertheless, here they are.
Cow Cow Cow Cow

Cow Cow Cow Cow

A few remarks as I leave le ville des lumieres (the city of Lights):

The people here ARE better dressed.  That is not to say that every single person is wearing the very latest in fashion, although a lot of the younger ones are.  Rather, everyone, including their mother looks well kept, well put together and presentable.  Nobody is wearing baggy sweatshirts, baggy sweatpants, flannel, or ugly oversized T-shirts, or icky and passé urban pimp/ho gear.  As I was reading on one website, that commented on the “terrible American” syndrome (a state of being American, poorly dressed, loud, obnoxious and ethnocentric), in many cultures, it is a sign of respect of others for one to dress well.  Anyways, it was very refreshing and uplifting to see that the majority of the people here care about their appearance!  (Here I will wax poetic. )  One’s body should be treated as if it were a temple of worship!  It’s simply self respect to keep it in good order, good shape, and above all dress beautifully.  Why should one wear clothes if one is not going do so in a manner as to create an oeuvre d’art (work of art)?

Dog poo IS everywhere.  But, I have seen, with my own two eyes at least two Parisians pick up after their pooches.  Conscientious Parisians DO exist – but only in a minority.  For example, the Parisian couple who let their dog pee on some one’s parked motorcycle was NOT a paragon of thoughtfulness.  If that were my motorcycle, I’d drain some of its motor oil and pour it onto the owners’ heads, in reparation for their generous dog-raffitti. 

There IS a God!  It was the most wonderful opportunity for me to have experienced art history by seeing so many significant works of art in person. 

The French must be admired for the lengths to which they will go in order to preserve great works of art and history.  We are all the beneficiaries of their restoration work, and diligent maintenance.

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