September 18, 2012

last taste

On my last day in Paris, I decided to go wander around Montmartre and the Sacré Couer. I'd been before, but it's one of my favorite areas in Paris and seemed like a good idea for another summer-like day. I was on the hunt for a croque madame, one of my favorite dishes, but never found anywhere that looked and felt especially right for it. I wanted to find a "good" one. As usual, the park and steps in front of the Sacré Coeur were full of people and it was a festive atmosphere. Most were watching a seemingly endless show by this guy standing on a post doing tricks with a soccer ball. His performance continually escalated, and eventually he was climbing and doing Cirque du Soleil style acrobatics on the light pole - still with the soccer ball! I went to meet my friend Eric for a beer afterward. We were both hungry so we walked to get some food. He suggested a Chinese place we were in front of, but he must have seen me hesitate even though I agreed. He clearly had a new idea in his head and asked if I was up for going to a different part of town. Of course I was. We went and got bikes from the rental stalls on the street, and the next thing I knew I was on a bicycle riding through Paris traffic and across the Seine. We ended up at a place called Le Relais de l'Entrecote in the Latin Quarter on the Rive Gauche. They serve only steak frites. It has a few locations and is hardly hidden or secret, as there were clearly tons of tourists there. But the steak frites were worth the crowds and the wait, as was the ice cream and sherbert dessert he ordered for us. I may never have gotten my croque madame, but I did get a unique and adventurous taste of Paris on my last day.

September 16, 2012

a coffee

I've learned that "a coffee?" in Paris can often mean a lot more. So when my friend Eric, who I met on my first trip here in 2006, messaged me yesterday morning to ask if I wanted to have a coffee, of course I said yes - even though I don't even normally drink coffee. I hadn't eaten, so we ended up wandering until we found a corner café where he had his coffee and I had some lunch. Afterward, we wandered some more. It turns out that this weekend is "les Journées Européennes du Patrimoine," or European Heritage days, where all kinds of government buildings and historical sights or interesting places all open their buildings that are normally closed to the public for free. As we walked around, we would stumble upon all kinds of places and just wander through, sometimes just the garden areas, not wanting to wait in a queue to go inside. I was amazed how many people were taking advantage of the event - I don't think it would get such a response in the States. It was a spectacularly warm day, so everyone was out all over town to take advantage of the weather. We stopped for a while to lay in the grass (like many others) in the Tuileries, then continued on and ended up back at a bar for beers, where the crowd filled the street outside for happy hour. Afterwards we stopped for a late dinner, and yes, coffee. It was a great full day with one of my favorite people - no better way to spend a Saturday in Paris.

September 14, 2012

after dark

With chilly cloudy days in Paris, its made it all too easy to stay inside and waste the days (which I'm good at anyway); the only silver lining to it yesterday was getting to see the magic hour light and sunset from that view. So after chastising myself plenty for doing what I do all too often, I finally made it out and about for some beers and a late night dinner. Of course it could be easily argued that Paris is even more magical after dark anyway.

September 13, 2012

mais oui

So my journey has finally led me to my final stop: Paris. After only a few minutes back in Paris, I always get that Carrie Bradshaw feeling and remember why its easily my favorite city in the world. I'm sure it helps that I took French in school, so have enough basic language skills to be comfortable here (though trust me, its still pretty rough!) - and maybe that has helped me to not run into the stereotypical attitude others have said they find here. I don't know, but I've just never found it. But I am always impressed by the levels upon levels of beauty here - like the rooftops and chimneys from my apartment: omnipresent and seemingly endless. What I love best is that you can walk out your door with no plan and walk in any direction and you will see interesting and amazing things. As usual, I have no plan here. The first day was mostly just wanderings and the usual errands like grocery and yes, another haircut. Perhaps a football match on Friday? We will see. It almost doesn't matter. I could sit here in the apartment gazing out at the rooftops and listening to the constant sound of the scooters below and just be happy.

September 11, 2012

the view

As I mentioned in the last post, I joined my friends Frank and Norbert for a ride in one of those "fastened" hot air balloon rides over Berlin yesterday. (Its attached to a cable and just takes you up for a view and then back down.) They were taking advantage of a groupon they had, and I was just along for the ride. (After all, why not?!) It was perfect LA-type weather, so a nice afternoon to be up above Berlin, giving us good views of everything from the Tiergarten to the Reichstag to the collection of Trabants below us. The balloon is located right next to the new Topography of Terror site, so afterward we spent some time looking through that as well. No matter how many times I see history of the wars and divided Berlin afterward, it is still hard for me to comprehend how recent that world was for many. And even harder to picture that city below me divided so harshly into two worlds.

September 10, 2012

no plan

Just some assorted random shots from the last few days in Berlin... As expected, its been a whirlwind (what? another street party?!) and I've worn myself out. I've gotten to see more friends than I expected, but also missed a lot that I know were in town or saw too many for too short of a time (often my own fault, admittedly.) Of course, I made a couple new ones, too. I tacked an extra day onto my planned time in Berlin almost as a day to recover from the weekend, which meant a change of apartments. The bonus to that ended up being killing time sitting at a cafe on a corner for a while soaking up the nice warm afternoon and watching the parade of people pass by. Later I met up with my friends Frank and Norbert, and took a bit of an unexpected detour for a fun pseudo balloon ride with them, so maybe I'll have some pics from that tomorrow. All in all the low/no expectations plan for Berlin worked out pretty well for a weekend that has often been a frustrating one for me.