Slow. Real slow.
Summer is the best time to be a flaneur in Paris. It’s also the best time to stop and smell the geraniums. Or stop and do nothing.
While you’re at it, eat two tarts simply because you can’t decide between the raspberry and the strawberry. Soak up twilight. Open the cherry red door to see what’s behind it. Fall asleep in a park. And most of all, forget the plans.
This is part of the Paris in July celebration. See more here.
It’s July, and we’re going to Paris.
By we, I mean a group of fellow writers. And you, of course if you want to come along for the ride.
Paris in July – a month long celebration of Paris – is in its fifth year, and the co-hosts Karen, Tamara, Vicki, Bellezza and Adria have invited me to participate. There will be books and reviews! There will be food! There will be decadent French butter (oh c’mon, you knew I was going to throw that in), and there will be many stories, memories and must-see lists.
When it comes to my own point of view on Paris in July, my photos above sum it up pretty well: seasonal fruit, terrace hopping, flower markets, hazy views and twilight drinks.
To find out more about Paris in July (or to participate!), read the kick off post here. The more the merrier – I’d love to see your posts.
Happy July all!
Thanks to late spring rains, the grass was bright and lush. Perfect for kicking back.
You know that moment when you discover your crush likes the same band as you? The same ice cream flavor? The same precocious, irreverent 19th century boy-poet?
You know, the little things.
On our second date, midway through a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream, Evan and I bonded over a mutual affinity for Rimbaud, especially the opening lines of “A Season in Hell”:
Once, if I remember well, my life was a feast where all hearts opened and all wines flowed.
One evening I seated Beauty on my knees. And I found her bitter. And I cursed her.
I armed myself against justice.
I fled. O Witches, Misery, Hate, to you has my treasure been entrusted!
I contrived to purge my mind of all human hope. On all joy, to strangle it, I pounced with the stealth of a wild beast.
I called to the executioners while dying to let me gnaw the butt-ends of their guns. I called to the plagues to smother me in blood, in sand. Misfortune was my God. I laid myself down in the mud. I dried myself in the air of crime. I played sly tricks on madness.
And spring brought me the idiots frightful laughter.
You know, your standard, garden variety romantic puff piece. Who needs “roses are red” when you can play sly tricks on madness while gnawing off the end of a gun?
Only people of a certain disposition would find romantic kinship in a piece of writing like this. Evan and I were of that disposition.
And apparently we’re not alone.
Last week, I was caught off guard when I rounded the corner onto Rue Ferou and discovered Rimbaud’s equally dark poem, “The Drunken Boat,” meticulously hand-lettered on a wall. A clear labor of love. The 100-line poem takes up almost an entire city block, the grand scale mirroring the grand themes he explored in the work.
It was overwhelming not only because I love the poem, but because I felt an immediate bond with the artist or artists who rendered it. It’s fun to think about how Rimbaud would have reacted to someone romanticizing his anti-romantic work.
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Lewis Carroll.
People in Paris lounge, and they lounge well. They remove shoes and socks, shed cares and settle in. In New York, people often have one foot off the grass and back in the office. That momentary respite on a bench in Bryant Park or on a blanket in Central Park feels temporary – phones remain in hands, eyes wide open and settled on screens.
In Paris, people close their eyes, fall asleep and make out. A lot.
I hate to admit it, but as much as I want to adopt a Parisian lounge attitude, I can’t. It’s not because I haven’t tried. I’ve often shop-hopped and bought cheese and bread for an imagined half day picnic – determined to enjoy hours of unstructured time. But an hour later, I’m restless, and this vague sense of “let’s go” pulls me to my feet. It’s absurd, because I want to sit, yet feel compelled to go.
It’s the opposite of Waiting for Godot. It’s Rushing to Godot:
“Yes. Let’s sit”
Are there any professional loungers out there? What’s your secret?
Yesterday, my friend Amy and I battled blinding wind and rain on our way to La Cuisine Paris for a macaron class. Our umbrellas were all but useless, even when positioned as a shield. By the time we arrived at 80 Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville, I could no longer see out of my glasses, and my pockets had collected rain. Nice.
Soaked and traumatized was not how I imagined meeting Jane, the owner. We connected through mutual friends years ago, and I’ve wanted to take a few classes. My tight schedule in Paris doesn’t often allow for socializing or leisure, but I was eager to meet Jane and learn to make macarons.
After peeling off our soggy jackets, we climbed the stairs to the beautiful kitchen which overlooked the Seine. Better.
There were eight of us in the class, hailing from America, Chile, England and Australia. From the beginning our instructor Diane had us laughing and chatting like old friends. First we learned to make four fillings: chocolate ganache, pineapple rum, vanilla pastry cream and coffee buttercream. Amy and I made the coffee buttercream, though I also tuned in to Diane’s pastry cream tips. I’m determined to master French pastry cream so I can make my favorite French dessert, the Raspberry Tart.
After completion of the fillings, we let those chill out in the fridge while we tackled the macaron shells. We learned both the French and the Italian method. The Italian method, though a bit more difficult due to the sugar syrup process, was my favorite because I preferred the texture. The French method, Diane explained, was easier on the front end with fewer steps, but was more temperamental. I think I’ll experiment with both at home.
Amy and I, both professed neat freaks, exchanged looks of horror after the suggestion of mixing batter colors. I had envisioned perfect shells in one glossy color, and the thought of a misshapen blob of pink on top of green, or messy marbled shells sent chills up my spine. Everyone else seemed into the idea, so we had to defend our pristine batter. In the end, we lost and did end up with a rather motley assortment of colors. But you know what? They tasted great, and I learned that I’m definitely a purist (boring?) and don’t think I’ll be experimenting with blending shades in the future.
If you’re planning a trip to Paris, I recommend taking a class. I tackled macaron making, something until yesterday I thought I should leave up to the experts.
La Cuisine Paris
80 Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville
Cemeteries by their nature aren’t happy places, but I’m always happy to visit the them in Paris. They’re packed with beautiful sculpture, architecture and a melange of memorabilia ranging from sweet (a thick book stuffed with photos in a plastic, weather-proof case) to strange (a fishbowl).
It rained early this morning, and the cold mist and leaves left no room for debate whether autumn had arrived. I could smell change in the air, and that feeling of no turning back – the end of a season – set the tone for the walk. The entire cemetery seemed to be mourning that loss, shutting down until spring, saying goodbye.
About halfway through, I spotted a large orange cat sitting in a bowl. Most of the resident cats in the cemetery bolt when they see you, but not this guy. He jumped down and followed me around for fifteen minutes. He seemed to be waiting for me to toss him a treat, so it’s clear the neighbors take good care of him. In fact, all of the cats are giant, indicating either an abundance of rodents or friendly cat lovers nearby.
Another highlight was finding a spiderweb that seemed to be either spun with or held up by a pair of stone hands.
The leaves are brown and the light is gold.
It was a busy summer, and we are a bit behind schedule, but the latest volume of the Paris Journal is live.
Volume Two takes you to the twin islands at the heart of the city, the Île St. Louis and Île de la Cité. The day begins moments before dawn at the Cité train station, followed by a long, leisurely stroll along the banks of the Seine – a story of light, shadow and water.
We hope you enjoy it!
We’ve already received a lot of wonderful feedback, and we’d like to thank you very much for that. Our main driver for the project was your experience. We wanted to deliver something that mimics what would catch your eye on a walk as closely as possible, so you could take a break and escape to the streets of Paris whenever you like.
Currently, The Paris Journal is available for iPad and iPhone. We are working on making it available for Kindle, Galaxy and Android.
Thank you so much for your comments and support. We really hope you enjoy the virtual escape.
To provide a little background on how The Paris Journal came about, I wanted to share a little of the long process that lead us here, including a few failures along the way.
Although there are many things about this project that are breaking new ground for us, the aesthetic point of view behind it hasn’t changed since Nichole first started posting photos in 2009. The aim then, as it is now, was to take the viewer to Paris on a vicarious walk around the city.
While Nichole was shooting the Paris Color Project, I was with her every step of the way. Because of my background in film, I was thinking about video as a narrative vehicle, and how it could compliment the intimate details she was photographing to bring the viewer as close to Paris as possible.
The first foray into video was a series of test videos called “One Place, One Time,” shot around Montmartre and the Marais, and partially shared on the old blog at the end of 2009. The idea was to keep them unedited and un-hosted in order to create a direct, voyeuristic experience. The hope was that a series of these unedited, one-minute snapshots would cumulatively capture the essence of a neighborhood.
But the videos were, well, awful. By refusing to edit, they had no real point of view, and by being formulaic, they had no story. However they made it clear that if the videos were to create the sense of walking around a neighborhood, they would need to be:
1. Focused. You can’t capture the essence of a place by filming everything.
2. Chronological. 50 videos of 50 street corners don’t add up to a cohesive story of a neighborhood just because you shoot them the same way. You need to create a sense of time.
3. Local: If you want to deliver a human experience, think on a human scale. Go for a slow walk and see how much ground you really cover. It’s less than you think.
The real revelation happened about a year ago while working on a potential project about Paris Light for Chronicle Books. I realized that Nichole’s photography and my videos could work together to tell a simple, intimate story of a walk if they were actually structured like a walk – linear (morning to night) and local (where we walked during that time). Each book would only cover one neighborhood over the course of one day.
Along the way, there were many more experiments, including writing commentary as if it were an actual journal. In that case, we found that the more we editorialized, the more it became about our experience instead of yours. The story had to be exclusively visual.
Creating The Paris Journal was a very slow and sometimes frustrating process: Years of trial and error, seven trips, months of editing and compiling, and some pretty steep technological learning curves (apps!), but it was worth it. We are really thrilled with the final concept and with the first volume. 125 photos and 14 videos are integrated into a digital book that tells the story of one day in one Paris neighborhood, from morning to night. It’s a true labor of love, and we can’t wait to share it with you this Tuesday.
After many months, THIS is happening in two weeks.
Coming to iPads and iPhones May 14.
We can’t wait to show you more!
The Pont Saint-Louis is no stranger to entertainers. From a lone guitarist to jazz bands, there is usually something or someone to listen to should you want a place to pause and polish off your ice cream.
A few days ago, we were on our way back to our apartment and this gentleman was setting up for a show. Or so we thought. For the next ten minutes, he rolled the piano back and forth over the bridge, would pause, pose and start rolling again. He would sometimes stop and situate himself on the chair, position his fingers for playing, then jump up and move the piano ten to fifteen feet and do it again.
I looked around for a photographer or videographer, figuring perhaps it was a photo shoot. None in sight. So this goes on for about ten minutes. He never played, he never stopped moving and fidgeting.
Then after about the twentieth reposition, he picked up the (then clear to me) fake piano and carried it down to the Seine.