graceless

Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Off and away

In Uncategorized on June 7, 2010 at 2:57 pm

The feeling in my stomach as the plane lifts off the ground is addictive. As soon as you’re in the air you feel your troubles rest behind you as you’re carried off by the deafening engine of big white bird. Same with rolling through the countryside on a train. Everything is passing, ephemeral and inconsequential. Reality will be a hard hit when I return home in July, but part of me can’t wait.

I am going to miss this city and the people I met here a lot. What’s sad isn’t that I won’t see them again, as I’m sure that I will. The sadness comes from knowing that the setting will never be the same: no more living in the same corridor, shopping in the same supermarket, walking to the same class, sharing a drink and going to a nation, hardest of all no more living in the same place.

Our room looks like a tornado hit right now. We are cleaning, packing, getting vaccinated, cooking, cleaning, blogging, writing papers, packing… I’m packing my laptop away and shipping it home. Jason and I will be on the road for the next month, backpacking through Italy, southern Greece, then Istanbul. That means you will see no new posts from me until July 13. Of course, there will be updates galore when I return home.

Douse yourselves in summa rays! I will be doing the same.

Shits and giggles
winks and tickles,

Grace

I leave you with some Silverstein and some pictures.

Rhyming couplets

Keep your coins, we want CHANGE

In Uncategorized on June 7, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I saw a gypsy dressed in a gorilla suit under the Eiffel Tower. Later, she was yelling at another gypsy. I didn’t know that King Kong had been on the Eiffel Tower too.

One morning while in commute, we witnessed what Jason claims to be “everything that’s wrong with the Paris Metro.”

We saw a man pee on the side of the stairs while descending into the metro station. Then we saw a family of gypsies with a crying baby and another young son. The young boy walked up and down the car asking people for change while the baby howled – I’ve never seen such disenchanted eyes in a child. As if he knew what he was doing was fruitless but it was all he knew to do anyway. Later, he started to help rock his baby brother to stop the crying. His parents got off at different stations.

After we transferred lines, another man came inside and made a short and sorrowful (but apparently very common) speech about how his life took a turn and how he asked for change because he just wants a meal. When he got off at the next stop, an accordion player  came in and started playing. At this point, the generous souls on the train had already emptied their pockets and the accordion player left in disappointment. He was really quite good.

Jason and I later had a discussion about who we would give change to if we could only spare change once a day. It’s impossible to give change to everyone who asks it of you, even if you wanted to. Soon it becomes a very disillusioning relationship between the asker and the giver. But we tip our cabbies and toss coins into wishing fountains, so we should all be able to afford to spare change on the street.

The question of amputees came up – they seem to be the most needy because of their disability. But a lot of passersby are frightened or repulsed, and when others give them a few coins is it just to clear their own conscience? I bet each of the beggars has rich stories to tell, but no one asks to hear them. How much does a euro help somebody who has no legs? More than no money at all, I suppose.

I think that everybody has a different view on who they would give change to – that’s great, because then there is a bit to go around for everyone. We decided together that we would prefer to give to street performers. It seemed fair that those who worked to learn a skill could get paid to entertain others with it. The next day, while we were walking in a huge morning market next to the Bastille, we gave change to this talented man, and he made us smile.

I think the Opéra must be one of the liveliest squares in all of Europe. It reminds me of the VAG (Vancouver Art Gallery) – people just sit on the steps and soak in sun.

We also tracked down the one meal that I HAD to have in Paris: Moules et Frites!

We also saw this man drawing on the sidewalk twice in two different places, with his little wiener dog sidekick.

During our last day in Paris, we took it easy. Visited the catacombs in the morning (for the third time; they were closed both days prior).

And spent the rest of the day shopping for beads in markets (my favourite!) and then suntanning while eating my demi-baguette with cheese next to a fountain in Places de Vosges (where Victor Hugo lived).

Oh yeah, we also ate some delicious steak et frites and caviar d’aubergine at Café Hugo. (Teehee, Jason looks so goofy.) And then we hung out with Jason’s friend Sarah from UBC for the rest of the afternoon – she was on exchange in Paris all year. So jeals.

La fin!

Gussy

In Uncategorized on June 6, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Random news: my photo of the memorial in the Moscow subway was published online in Reuters “Your View” – and it was one of the best of May 7, awww. Hahaha, yay exciting!

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Gustav Eiffel designed the Eiffel Tower (and the framework for the Statue of Liberty as well). When the tower was first built as an entrance to the 1889’s World’s Fair held in Paris, many criticized it as an eyesore. Now it is the most visited paid monument in the world – perhaps the most recognized romantic architectural structure that ever existed – and all thanks to Gussy.

Go, Gussy!

My most memorable liftoff in a plane will probably always be flying off into the Paris sky at night when we were leaving the city. For a long time, I could look down and amid the flood of lights I’d see the Eiffel Tower with it’s 11pm flashing light show and bright searchlights scanning the city skies. Beautiful.

The tower has it’s own little carousel! I do love me a colourful carousel, but the last one I rode in Barcelona taught me that they are only exciting for the first minute… ESPECIALLY if you’re the only big kid on it and you’re friends are just watching and laughing from the side. Bums.

We walked all the way to this random fountain because Jason says Jackie Chan jumped into it during Rush Hour 3 or something. But I didn’t mind, as I am quite a fan of fountains myself.

The mid-jump disappearing ghost trick. Neato!

I saw the MOST AMAZING ADVERTISEMENT in the Paris Metro!!! It was for a Russian folk dance show… that I watched in St. Petersburg in April!! I even recognize the faces of the dancers – they are the exact performers we saw – how crazy that we found this underground in Paris?!

Le Sacre Coeur – it has so many visitors but the pews are surprisingly very serene. We spent a lot of time here just sitting and enjoying the kind of revered peace you can only find in a house of worship.

I had a huge kick feeding pigeons while in Paris (unlike Dave, who actually kicks pigeons)! I’ve never tried it before but it is ridiculously fun. I think Jason and I had half the pigeons in the park surrounding our bench for a while staring at us anticipating bread crumbs. The little birds are always the fastest – they take the piece of bread and fly away with it. The big fat pigeons just poke at it on the ground with their beaks, shake it around, and chase after it again after flinging it out of their own beak. So adorable!

Feeing pigeons in St. Mark’s Square in Venice used to be a very popular activity for tourists, but now it is ILLEGAL because the city spent too much money cleaning bird poop off their buildings. Oh no for Grace, who is travelling there in 2 weeks!

My favourite building in the world is Paris’s gorgeous Opera House, commissioned by Napoleon. I absolutely am head over heels in love with the interior. The building itself should be a part of the show! It has the most magnificent library ever – the kind with inefficient tall shelves filled with old books – just the kind that I want when I grow up.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to walk into this a hundred years ago with a huge crinoline dress to watch the opera while rubbing elbows with the most important statesmen of France – swoon!

Another astonishing building was the mall – Les Galleries Lafayette. Pretty much every other Asian lady in Paris was in here lining up to buy bags at Louis Vuitton.

One day, when we were walking along the Champs Élysées, we saw a huge protest break out. Everyone was wearing keffiyehs and holding Palestinian flags.

Jason and I were sadly not keeping up with current global affairs at our pay-for-Internet hostel so we had no idea what was going on. Only that the riot police were armed and ready to go and we were on the wrong side of the shields!!

We managed to quickly rectify our position in the crowd, as the police shouted at me to stop taking photos. But I just couldn’t.

There was a lot of yelling; eventually some smashed bottles, tear gas, and a broken police van window. But we got out of the way for all of that. Of course, we found out about what happened to the flotilla in Israel later that night. It made me a little nervous about travelling to Turkey in July, but Istanbul is the Cultural Capital for Europe this year so I can’t pass up the opportunity.

We moved away from the protest because our stomachs were growling. After eating, and wandering through a MASSIVE Sephora on Les Champs Élysées, we stumbled on some street performers doing hip-hop dance. As soon as they were done and started walking up to people with their hats for change… man, I’ve never seen a crowd disperse so fast. Way more effective than having riot police!

Finally, at last we made it all the way to l’Arc Triomphe. Very windy up there. You can see the whole city – stunning!

Look whose relative I found inscribed on the wall of l’arc!! It’s Rémy’s great grandfather or something!

Much more exciting than the unknown soldier because I actually know someone who knows him, kind of sort of maybe. Will need to confirm if they are actually related.

Okay, so after than excursion, we took a lift up to check out the view of the city at night from the Eiffel Tower. Pretty damn cool.

For some reason, there were big styrofoam cups on display on the first level of the Eiffel Tower…

I’m kidding, they’re not styrofoam cups, though they look like they are. It’s actually a temporary biodiversity garden on the tower to celebrate the International Year of Biodiversity (didn’t know that, didya?). Those cups are big flower pots that light up at night.

Blah blah blah. Night on the Eiffel Tower. Romantic, exciting.

Next up: Versailles! (Wow, we are really speeding along, aren’t we?)

Hall of Mirrors. I had imagined it to be a long hall with mirrors on BOTH SIDES, but this hall only has mirrors on one and windows on the other. I feel like I got gypped?

My favourite part of Versailles was when Jason walked on the grass in the gardens. To be fair, it was sectioned off with red tape. But the garden cops totally freaked out! Especially since everybody else started following him. The poor French lady’s whistle went berserk!

I don’t get it – you make us pay to see your grass but you won’t let us walk on it? Je ne parle pas le francais? Quoi? Ahhhh, the pleasures of rebellion.

Walking around Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet was so much fun. It was like a magical scavenger hunt. The gardens there were like a little maze of endless discoveries of gazebos and bridges and random rock things and caves!! I could’ve spent hours in here but I was wearing disco flats and they aren’t good for walking long distances. Some couple was getting their wedding photos done here – a brilliant idea.

When we left Versailles, it was raining cats and dogs AND my feet were hurting like crazy. We were very lucky to be able to catch a “Petit Train” back to the castle – those who were less fortunate got soaked through and through.

City of LURVE

In Uncategorized on June 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm

J’aime Paris!!

I wonder if they call it the city of love because there is a giant metal phallus in the centre of it. If I have learned anything from English Lit, Freudian psychoanalysis and city design/landscaping, it is that long/high narrow objects can always be compared to giant phalluses used for ostentatious display of masculinity and power.

This huge thing is the friggin symbol of the city! Ahhh but it is a beautiful symbol for a fabulous city.

Of course, many of you have already visited Paris. If you haven’t, you probably know a lot about it – more than you think! For a tourist, it’s not a city full of surprises – you see the big things one after another. I think it is a city that reveals itself to you very slowly, after the initial shock of grandeur. I wish I had more than a week here – not so. But Jason and I are used to having a week to see everything everywhere we go, and we manage to squeeze most things in okay, and with a little extra time to spare.

I lived in the Latin Quarter; the setting reminded me a lot of the Red Light District of Amsterdam, minus the obvious. It’s a very lively restaurant/bar quarter for locals with a crêpe/panini stand every half a block.

I visited my first French boulangerie/patisserie and it was heavenly *cue singing angels* – so the rumours ARE true, European pastries are infinitely better than North American ones! How do they get their croissants so damn flaky, soft, and scrumptious?

Being in Paris for the first time, I was so eager to check the important sites off my list. First stop, the Panthéon: a fancy mausoleum for distinguished French citizens (Voltaire, Hugo, Rousseau, Zola, Braille, Marie and Pierre Curie… etc etc) and home of the Foucault pendulum that demonstrates the earth’s rotation.

Next, the Notre Dame!! Sometime last year I had a random epiphany: Notre Dame translates into “Our Lady” – DUH! It was always just the Notre Dame to me, I didn’t think that it meant anything. How that never occurred to me before is bewildering. In front of the famous cathedral, I saw none other than Victor Hugo’s famous and immortalized Quasimodo.

Like, in real life.

As we were entering the cathedral, Jason found something cool. Maybe you can spot Headless Nick too?

It’s a gorgeous gothic church.

In front of Hôtel de Ville, there were giant screens that were playing games from the French Open! Around it there were all sorts of tennis-related activities and booths. It kind of made me wish I was more of tennis fan. Oh, hey, Serena Williams, what’s up?

Then, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the national museum of modern art – also my new favourite modern art museum. It has a crazy exterior, comparable with it’s crazy interior pieces I suppose.

Yes to colourful tubing and pipes and random tree forts!

Yes to funky fountain décor! (Across from the Centre – La fontaine Stravinsky, conceived as an invocation of his music.)

Yes to post-mortem sex changes!

Yes to large vagina installations!

Yes to floor silhouettes!

Yes to male inferiority! Ahahahaha! (Never spite a smart girl who knows how to get published.)

We once walked into a random church only to discover that we had intruded upon a bilingual wedding ceremony! It was actually the first wedding I’ve ever been too – I was giddy at first, it was so exciting and a bit frightening. Gosh, it’s an awfully long ritual, isn’t it?

Then, I visited an absolutely MAGICAL FANTASTICAL world of everything I want and need!!! Not Disneyland, but La Drougerie – a wonderful little cave filled with craft supplies!! Beads, beads, BEADS, fabrics, feathers, buttons, I wanted to fall into a craft coma. I spent like 2 hours in here while Jason wandered around outside so that he could breathe because there was too much estrogen in the air.

We took another fountain photo in front of the Louvre. Yes, all our fountain poses are the same.

The newest and final addition to Jason’s Sleeping in Paris Facebook album.

Look what I got to play with! This was the first day the iPad was released in Paris and people were lining up to pay 499EUR for it. Wow.

How does one experience the French lifestyle? By wearing a beret and having fondue and wine for dinner, of course.

Next day, we continued with the tourist route. Musée d’Orsay, home to about as much Monet and Manet as I could handle. Seeing some Rodin pieces totally made my day though. Somehow Jason and I managed to get into all these attractions for free by showing our Swedish visas and telling them we were long term residents of the EU – who’da thought?

Then marching around in Hôtel des Invalides and seeing Napoleon’s tomb. Man, that guy has left his mark in some way or another in almost every corner of this city! It was unreal to get to be near his dead body… or maybe his body isn’t even there, who knows. I’ve seen so many tombs that I can’t help but be skeptical about whether the real bodies are even there or if it’s all just a conspiracy for dumb tourists…

While walking around in the Jardin des Tuileries, I snapped a totally paparazzi photo of these French boyscouts. Berets are a part of their uniform – so cute!!

Then we saw a bunch of elderly people in the garden and they all had helium balloons tied to them. I thought maybe they were with a tour group and the balloons were so that they didn’t lose any senior citizens (hey, it’s a good idea)! But actually they were volunteers for a reading program or something.

Another supa-French photo in front of the Louvre. I couldn’t help but realize this place was not how I imagined it to be while reading The Da Vinci Code.

Saw the Mona Lisa, kind of. The other stuff was better.

Woohoo!

Napoleon had a nice crib.

I was actually really excited to see Hammurabi’s Code. When I read about it years ago, I imagined it being like a massive column – very authoritative and commanding. The real thing is about the size of me. So underwhelming.