Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Continental Plans

Next Thursday I am going to Paris; city of lights, love, fromage and everything worth mentioning. I have never been this time of year or even when I was of age, and I want to believe it is just as I’ve seen in the most romantic movies I know (the ones in my head): blustery, sparkling, boots clicking, eyes cast in smoky cafes, pens in mouths, fingers stained with ink, brilliance solidified with each stroke, meeting of the minds, that sort of thing.

Of course, my brother, bless his teenaged heart (“K, no offense but your taste in music kinda blows. I mean you don’t even have the first Linkin Park CD!”) may cramp my fantasy itinerary just a touch. Unless we possess a shared and yet-to-be discovered love of absinthe and Christian Dior, I imagine we won’t exactly be spending every moment together. Nor with my parents, as this is a family vacation we’re talking about, spending Thanksgiving in France (my parents: cool but weird, right?).

So other than dusting up on the nearly ten years of French I lost in the months that followed, I’m doing clandestine research. What could be good? For all of us, or maybe even just me? Can I wander the streets by myself and discover things that are not simply meant to be shared? Is this the next phase of social experiment, me, on a pretty and romantic quest all by myself?

As always, I could really use your help, suggestions, advice. Have you been to/lived in/studied near Paris? And other than the usual, can you tell me where I should go? Do you have a place, a friend, a restaurant, anything that I can look up? Or even just your own take on carving out some time alone on a trip with others, where I could map my novel, sketch the sky, take a leap from navel-gazing and turn to something else entirely…


Anonymous said...

I hear the hot chocolate near the Tuileries is the best in Europe. Check that out!

Adrienne said...

From my experience there it is totally natural to be by yourself in pretty much every cafe, restaurant, etc with a pen, paper and drink. In terms of carving out alone time while traveling with the fam- Paris is really esay to get around in- just tell them you'll meet them later and walk away :)
Have fun!

Ha Ha Sound said...

Paris is amazing. There are a ton of great places to go and see and whatnot. I have a very close friend who lives there. Feel free to email me if you want his info.

Have fun!!

Finn said...

I was in Paris a year ago and fell in love with the city. My favorite thing to do was to wander the streets, soaking it all in. I felt so comfortable and at home there. I miss it. You will have a fabulous time! I took my journal with me everywhere. Wow, I want to go back right now! Have fun!

blacklightblue said...

I used to live there. It's changed a lot since 89/90, but it's still beautiful. Being alone is not a big deal there, just avoid the metros and RERs late at night alone. The 19th arrondissement can be a little iffy by night (and even by day), but the Marché aux Puces (flea market) there is incredible and you can find some absolute steals there. Pack light if you like rummaging for bargains.

Walk as much as you can. I often think of the title of one of Hemingway's novels: A Moveable Feast. That's what Paris is to me. The Latin Quarter is nice, the 14th arrondissement is very homey and manageable (very residential), the 16th is very quiet but there are some great corners there too. If you do the Louvre, prepare to be overwhelmed and exhausted in just a few hours. Try a chausson aux pommes — I eat one every day when I'm there. Order a 'grand créme' to have the most wonderful café au lait you've ever had in your life, much better than our 'lattés'. And you'll impress them with your French. Actually, don't try to impress the French, ever. The only way to gain their respect is to act just a little bit haughty, all the time. Leave your American niceness here at home, it's not appreciated there and will only make them dislike you more.

This is a good time of year to visit Versailles as well. A short metro trip, low crowds this time of year and not to be missed. I would recommend making that an all day trip and if you want to visit the incredibly beautiful grounds and gardens, do rent a bike, it's exhausting to do it on foot - trust me on that one, we attempted it this summer. Next time we'll rent bikes. Go see Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon and Le Hameau, the farm village she had built for herself to escape court life. It's in remarkably good condition and if you're lucky, you'll see her ghost.

Have a wonderful time. Paris, je t'aime!

Anonymous said...

Write this on a small card and carry it with you:

انا الكندي

"Je suis un citoyen canadien"

Stop shaving.

Follow your nose, but the first two above help if you wind up at the end of the RER E line, near 'nuf to Clichy-sous-Bois.

There is always the George V, like Ferris said: It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.


Anonymous said...

didn't you just go to Paris??

K said...

Thanks for all the great recs guys! (and last anon--I was actually in Provence in the summer-I know how ridiculous that sounds...).

Slice of Pink said...

Oh, Paris! What's not to love about Paris?

Have a wonderful time.

b said...

As a half-Frenchie myself, I'd be remiss if I didn't leave a comment here. There's way too much to see/experience (ahem, like NYC), so don't pressure yourself to soak it all in. It'll make it that much easier to justify a return trip. If you need any concrete suggestions, or any cool Parisians to chat up, do let me know - happy to oblige. And the comment about acting slightly haughty, not true. Don't be the overbearing, loud American tourist and you'll be fine. Really. Just remember the French will readily open up only when sitting down and with drink/food/smoke to keep their minds active.