Archive for March, 2009

Another day come and gone in the city of lights – how time flies when you’re having fun…  We spent the morning out at La Defense, or “modern Paris”, an area full of glassy skyscrapers and huge retail buildings.  I’m still amazed when I see the Grande Arche – how does this work?


We filled up on a hearty helping of steak frites for lunch, then headed over to Montmartre to spend the afternoon wandering around this neighborhood’s twisty, narrow streets.  We eventually made our way to the top of the hill at Sacre Couer – yet another breathtaking beauty.


But what captivated us even more than this centuries-old chapel was the guy outside the church doing some amazing stunts with a soccer ball.  No Photoshopping here – he really is hanging off the side of a lamppost, twirling a soccer ball balanced on a stick that he’s holding between his teeth.  Nuts!


After hiking around Monmartre for awhile longer, we headed back to the apartment for some rest, and rejuvenated ourselves just in time to make it down to the river to watch the sunset.  There are few things more romantic than sitting on the tip of Ile de la City, watching the sun set behind Paris.


Had an amazing dinner at a little sidewalk cafe (a crepe filled with cheese, potatoes, and smoked pork belly for Shane; a salad Provencale for me), topped off the night with a couple of scoops of gelato from a little shop down the street, and we are now full, happy, and tired.  Cheers to another fantastic day.

This morning we took on the Pompidou.  Fueled by fresh-baked pastries from a corner boulangerie, we raced toward the museum, wanting to be at the front of the line when it opened, excited about our first real day of museum-going in Paris.  We spent the entire morning wandering among the galleries, and as I stared at my favorite pieces by Giacometti and Dubuffet, I was reminded why this museum was the place where I really fell in love with art.  So many paintings and drawings and sculptures full of so much expression and depth – I probably visited the Pompidou over 15 times during my year in Paris, and I never tired of seeing the same pieces over and over again.  It is an amazing feeling when a painting reaches out and grabs you for reasons you can’t explain.  It is also exhausting to be bombarded with so much thought-provoking art, so after we left the museum, we got some lunch and then grabbed a seat at a cafe terrace table in the sun to veg out and enjoy a drink.  We chatted and people-watched for awhile, then stared curiously as a group of leotard-clad men and women gathered at the corner of the plaza in front of us.  Turned out we had front row seats for a practice session of a group of 20 or so circus performers.  We spent the next hour watching these people do backflips, juggle, and bend their bodies in all kinds of mind-blowing ways (one girl was able to lean backward from the standing position and put her head between her knees – yes, this looked just as strange as it sounds).  It was quite the show.  I love these little unexpected events – we’ve had wonderful luck so far at being in the right place at the right time.


The rest of the afternoon was spent cruising around the city, soaking up the sun and the sights.  As I listen to Shane snore beside me, I realize that I really ran him ragged today.  I’m pretty beat myself – would love to write more and share a few photos, but I think the combination of all that walking, a super-rich dinner, and that last glass of wine has done me in.  So, ciao for now.  Stay tuned for more Parisian adventures!

I woke up at 6:30 this morning, unable to contain my excitement over getting out to experience more of the city.  We started the day off right with a pain au chocolat from one of the few boulangeries that is open on Sunday, then headed over to the 5th Arrondisement to check out the outdoor market at Place Monge.  Piles of fresh fruits and vegetables, sausage stands strung with links of all sizes, cheese counters stocked with creamy wedges of brie, big hunks of gouda, and cute little rounds of chevre, and a tower of fresh baguettes that drew Shane in like a moth to a flame.  I could have spent several hours wandering among the different stalls, absorbing the different colors and smells, listening to the friendly exchanges taking place in French.  But we’d already burned off breakfast with all of our walking and were eager to satiate our need for some bread and cheese, so we picked up one of those lovely baguettes and a nice little round of chevre (and a couple of oranges to delude ourselves into thinking that we were putting together a well-balanced meal), and walked over the Arenes de Lutece for an impromptu picnic.  Shane nearly fell over with delight when he took that first bite of cheese-smeared baguette (crisp on the outside, perfectly light and airy on the inside), and I discovered that the way to this man’s heart is through a big hunk of freshly baked bread.  While we were sitting on one of the benches in the old stone arena (built in the first century AD, restored in the 1900’s – wow!), a pick-up game of soccer began in the sandy open space of the arena and so we sat for awhile longer and watched the guys play.  The whole morning was lovely and relaxing, and felt so genuinely “Parisian”.



I am worn out and ready for bed, so I’ll have to leave the rest of our day’s adventures for another post, but needless to say, we ate some crepes, we saw some art, we drank some wine, and we fell more in love with this city.  Bonne nuit!

It is a wonderful feeling to be somewhere and think to yourself, “There is absolutely no other place on earth I’d rather be right now.”  Shane and I arrived at Charles de Gaulle this morning, weary and jet-lagged from the 12-hour flight, but as soon as we climbed the steps up out of the Metro station and onto the sidewalks of Paris, I was instantly rejuvenated.  One quick glance at the streetscape and I knew that this city is every bit as beautiful as I remembered it to be.  After a short bout of panic at the bank when we found that we couldn’t change our traveler’s checks into Euros for our apartment’s security deposit, we arrived at our place on Rue Pastourelle (where before we could explain our currency dilemma, the landlord shrugged and said, “Nevermind.  Don’t worry about the deposit.”  So French.)  The apartment is quaint and comfortable, with a great view of the surrounding Parisian rooftops and the courtyard of the Archives Nationales.  I could get used to opening my windows onto this every morning:



We quickly unloaded our stuff, freshened up, and before you could say, “Bienvenue”, we were back out the door, ready to enjoy the city.  Got lunch at a corner brasserie, wandered for a little, realized that we were both feeling a little zombie-like, and returned to the apartment for a much-needed nap.  That was two hours well-spent.  We woke up hungry and grabbed a wedge of brie, a few slices of salami, and a baguette and had a simple (but quite delicious) dinner at the apartment before heading out for a glass of wine and some dessert.  Ended up snagging a table on the terrace in front of Les Philosophes in the Marais.  It was a chilly night, but the heat lamps, the carafe of red wine, and the chocolate espresso cake set before us made us quickly forget about the weather.  The terrace was packed – this is one of the many things I love about Paris: no matter the weather, the time of day, or the state of the economy, people here always find time to grab a seat at one of these tiny sidewalk tables and linger over a drink with friends.  We polished off our wine, chatted for awhile more while we waited 30 minutes for our bill (when in France…), and decided to take a short stroll across the river before heading back to the apartment.  Stood in awe of Hotel de Ville, glowing in the night; reveled in the splendor of Notre Dame; and grabbed a couple of crepes in the Latin Quarter to warm our hands and satisfy our craving for a second dessert.  And then, we were pooped.  Ready to turn in for the night.  Can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds…


Our bags are packed, our reservations are confirmed, our batteries are charged, and tomorrow we leave for Paris.  I’ve looked forward to this trip for the last 4 years, and so the thought that we are actually going still makes my head spin and my heart flutter.  Is it really possible that in less than 48 hours, I will be roaming the streets of the most beautiful city in the world?  This city is home to some of my fondest memories – it is where I fell in love with art, it is where I acquired a taste for espresso, it is where huge seeds of confidence and independence were planted in my soul.  I’ve been reading through some of the old journals I kept while I was in Paris 5 years ago, picking out names of my favorite cafes and art galleries, and tonight I came across this entry, written on July 4, 2004, my last day abroad:

“45 minutes before I leave for the airport.  Am wandering around in a bit of daze, not wanting to come to terms with the fact that my year in Paris is about to become a memory.  Am sipping a cafe creme, looking out over Place de la Bastille, trying to muster up some excitement about returning to the familiarity of home.  I’ve had to say good-bye to people I love before, but never really to a place.  Not sure how to do it.  Can’t very well give Paris a big hug, wave, and say, “I’ll call you when I get home”.  Can say, “see you later”, though.  Alors, a bientot et merci.  Tu vas me manquer…”

And so “later” has arrived!  The best part about it?  This time Shane comes with me.  As much as I cherished my time in Paris, the fact that we were apart often kept me from fully embracing my experiences abroad.  I can definitely be a bit of a loner, but I really do believe it’s so much better to share a place so beautiful with someone you love.  So cheers to a much-anticipated, well-deserved, totally romantic get-away.  Ciao.

I struck another item off the list today when I finished the Mercer Island 10k.  Now don’t let the title of this post fool you – “victory” does not signify any sort of record-breaking time.  It just means that I was able to run (translation: jog) the entire race without having to stop at all to catch my breath.  I was able to hang with the “recreation runners” and ended up finishing ahead of a little more than half the women there.  Shane ran too and did really well – he has become quite the hardcore runner these days.  Despite the sense of dread that set in last night at the thought of having to get up early and run in the rain, I am so glad we did this.  I’m proud of us, and it’s nice to feel like I’ve earned my Sunday afternoon nap and bowl of ice cream!  I have been asked by a couple of friends to run a half-marathon with them in June, but I’m remaining non-committal at this point – my jello-legs are telling me that it would have been impossible to run two of these 10k’s back-to-back.  Maybe with enough training – we’ll see…


Below are a few more food paintings, done for my art class which ended on Thursday.  It’s fun being “outside the box”.  My mind is still brimming with all kinds of new possibilities.

This one was done on rice paper, with curry powder sprinkled over tea and a small seaweed accent (can you tell I went a little crazy at the Asian food store?).


Pod outlined in tea on soy paper (I totally scored when I found these brightly colored wrappers) and sprinkled with cinnamon.


Flower shape cut with an X-acto knife out of dried seaweed.  Smells fishy, but looks pretty.



Seed shape painted with red wine and dashed with cinnamon, for good measure.



Seed outlined in pencil (I cheated a little), filled in with olive oil, and dotted with soy sauce.  Simple, but the color of oil-soaked paper is beautiful.


Rice paper soaked in water, dribbled with soy sauce, and laid out to dry.  I love the translucency of the paper and the way it wrinkled and cracked.


Lemon slices soaked in wine and used as a stamp.


I’m ready to switch back to regular paints for awhile now, but I expect I’ll revisit edible art-ing again someday.  It’s good when art-making feels like playing.

Schizophrenic weather today – a cool drizzly morning, a quick but intense afternoon wind/rainstorm, followed by a glorious sunbreak, and now we’re back to a cold, rainy night.  I guess I’ll keep that wool coat at the front of the closet for awhile longer…  But I’m taking solace in the fact that Spring is just around corner, as proven by my quickly-sprouting daffodils.  I had forgotten that I’d popped these bulbs in the ground last fall, so it was a nice surprise to see these nice little chutes of green growing out front – can’t wait to see what color the flowers end up being!   I expect that when we get back from our trip in mid-April we’ll be greeted by a Seattle full of budding leaves and blooming floors.  I love the changing of seasons – although I wouldn’t dare to complain about the year-round sunshine that I often enjoyed down on California’s central coast, there was monotony in the perpetual warmth.  And so I’ll endure the rain for a couple more months and look forward to another one of those Seattle summers that makes it all worth it.


Departure in T minus 16 days, and the major stops on our European itinerary are set – plane tickets and hotels have been booked for the following:

Saturday to Saturday:  PARIS.  We’ve rented an apartment near the Marais for the week, just a few blocks from the Place des Vosges, which is about as Parisian as a place can get.  Can’t wait to spend an afternoon or two there sitting on the grass, munching on a baguette, sharing a bottle of wine, listening to the sounds of all the French-speaking passers-by.  We’re keeping our Paris itinerary pretty loose, just looking forward to waking up each morning and saying to each other, “What amazing thing do you want to go do today?”

Saturday to Wednesday:  Porto, Portugal.  Our good friends from Seattle, J and L, will be flying in on Sunday and we’ll be spending a few days with them as they begin their two-week tour of Portugal and Spain.  I still don’t know too much about Porto, other than:  1) It’s extremely old and unbelievably beautiful, and 2) There’s a lot of good Port wine there, ready for the drinking.  Really, what else do you need to know?  We might rent a car for a day and drive out into the wine country – a day in the Portuguese vineyards definitely sounds like something I could do.  Also really looking forward to seeing the Casa da Musica in Porto.  This is an iconic piece of contemporary architecture, designed by OMA/Rem Koolhaas (who also did the Seattle Public Library).

Wednesday to Friday:  Madrid, Spain.  We found super-cheap tickets via RyanAir, and J and L were already going, so we said, why not?  Madrid sounds cool.  Not sure yet what we’re going to do there (except that Shane just discovered there is going to be an awesome Francis Bacon exhibit at the Prado while we’re there – that’s definitely on the list).  And maybe a quick bus trip to Toledo?  Spain is our oyster (for 3 days, at least…).

Friday to Sunday:  Back in Paris, to drink a couple more glasses of wine, to savor a little more beauty, to eat one last pain au chocolat, and to make any last memories that will have to tide us over until our next trip back.

Clearly, we’re still working out the details, though trying not to go overboard with our planning (any good vacation has room for relaxation and spontaneity).  All I know is, in a little over two weeks, I could be walking along the Seine, one hand holding Shane’s hand, the other hand holding a crepe filled with Nutella.  A glorious thought…

Today marked the end of another intense cram session and test-taking adventure, so Shane and I headed out to Quinn’s on Capitol Hill this evening to celebrate with dinner and a drink.  I’ve been wanting to visit this place for awhile (see number 6 on the list), and was immediately taken with the urban vibe and the rough-yet-refined interiors.  Deciding what to order was easy – one of their notorious burgers and a glass of red wine, please.  The burger was good, the wine was fantastic, and the chance to sit and leisurely enjoy a meal with my husband was priceless.  I’ve been a bit of a stress mess lately, and so we haven’t had the chance to catch up with each other in awhile.  It was nice to chat, to talk about our upcoming trip, and to just relax.  It also felt good to pull my camera off the shelf and blow the dust off the lens – I’m trying to get back into a picture-taking routine.