Tag: Paris

A Brief History Review and a Puzzle

“Accordingly, I determined to pass that by as unknown, and to proceed at once to treat of his character, his deed, and such other facts of his life as are worth telling and setting forth, and shall first give an account of his deed at home and abroad, then of his character and pursuits, and lastly of his administration and death, omitting nothing worth knowing or necessary to know.”
– Einhard

He’s the first Holy Roman Emperor, and yet we have no idea where he was born or even precisely how many siblings he had. He conquered huge tracts of Europe, founded the first great institutions for learning and study since the fall or Rome, but remained almost entirely illiterate. He had masses of illegitimate children and refused to allow his daughters to marry, but let them carry on with their paramours and common-law husbands and enjoyed the bastard grandchildren they gave him openly. He campaigned against the Moors, who most people don’t know sent their armies deep into France and Germany in the 8th century and might have taken the continent but for him. Despite being absolutely brutal in warfare, he became renowned in the later age of chivalry for his deeds. He was crowned emperor of the Romans by the Pope himself, mostly to try and shake claims to the Byzantine Empire’s claims of cultural and authoritative inheritance, but which largely contributed to the destabilization of both the East and the West in the end. His power and commitment to art as well as war ushered in the first (of several, for what it’s worth) Renaissances.

So could somebody please explain what Charlemagne is doing with this highly unexpected piece of domestic equipment in this Paris statue? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Saturday Night In Paris: A Short Trek and Sean Penn. Seriously.

“Paris is the only city in the world where starving to death is still considered an art.”
― Carlos Ruiz Zafón

After a gorgeous day at Versailles, we convened at Katie and Adam’s quite-nearly-as-gorgeous-and-only-slightly-less-gilded hotel room to pick a place for dinner. It was a bit late in the day to be sorting this out but Katie (as ever, the best travel planner I have ever had the pleasure of frolicking around a major European capital with!) had already created a whole list of recommendations and hot spots. We settled on a restaurant that sounded promising and, after trying and failing to make a reservation online, got the brilliant idea to ask the concierge service to make a reservation for us since we figured a top-notch restaurant would be more willing to accommodate the request if it came from the front desk of the Le Meurice hotel rather than tourists. We we right. We know our cultural limitations, and how to work them, kittens.

Reservation made we made the trek across the river, found the right area, and then got a bit lost since we’d marked the address on a map but believed that we left Katie’s all-important list in the hotel room, containing the precise address. As it happened, we found the list the next day. In my camera bag. (Thunks head on her desk. I’m wincing just remembering it. Carry on, I’ll meet you at the next paragraph.)
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Anyway, we were late for our reservation, but managed to find the joint Le Coupe Chou, which might be one of the most ambiance-rich place I have ever had the pleasure of dining in. I’m not surprised we got a bit lost, really. We were in the Latin Quarter, the old medieval heart of the city. The ruins of the Abbey of Cluny (once the largest building in the world, and the site where the Crusades were first kicked off a thousand years ago) was a mere stone’s throw away.

Don’t let the humble exterior lull you into a false sense of security, Le Coupe Chou is fearfully and wonderfully made within! In it’s 17th century past it began its current incarnation as residential spaces, which means that you have to be led through multiple rooms and levels of dining, drinking, and lounging spaces to get to your tables; complete with old wooden stairs, knocked through stone walls, heavy stone fireplaces, delftware tiles, and dark timber beams in the ceiling. The effect is very cozy and elegant at the same time.

Apparently both medieval and Roman site elements were discovered during upgrades and renovations. Which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, it’s rather par for the course in a city as ancient as Paris, but excites me all the same. The remains of a 16th century well can be found in the basement along with 12th century pottery, and a piece of graffiti from the Revolution has a place of honor behind the bar. My little history heart was melting with contentment.

Late as we were, we were shown to our table and got to peruse the menu and talk all we wanted while waiters kept the bread and courses coming. Jeff chose best with the veal, by the way, which we both heartily recommend. At one point Adam excused himself from the table and when he came back, he was wearing an expression of complete delight masked by false nonchalance – a sort of widening of the eyes with the corners of the mouth turned up ever so slightly against his will.
“Guys, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Sean Penn is sitting three tables away.”
Naturally this meant that throughout the evening (spaced well apart) we all excused ourselves to confirm or deny the news.

And team it’s confirmed. I googled it later, just to verify we weren’t blinded by the Romantic lights of the city (or perhaps still slightly winded from our dash to find the restaurant in the first place), but yes. Sean Penn was in Paris, and he was definitely sitting thirty feet away from us that evening. More googling later informed me that other notables to have dined at this spot include Brigitte Bardot, Marlene Dietrich, The Beatles, and most of the great and good of French theatre over the last half century.

I herewith surrender any rights to complain about my life being uninteresting for the next six months at least. If I do, minions are encouraged to slap me across the face.

Friday Links (A Week After Paris, Edition)

“There is but one Paris and however hard living may be here, and if it became worse and harder even—the French air clears up the brain and does good—a world of good.”
― Vincent van Gogh

Have I really been back from my fly-by-night vacation for a week? Time flies, kittens.

This week, while I’ve been regaling you with tales and photos from Paris, I’ve had a bit of a stressful schedule. I’m still finding the balance for my new temporary work reality (particularly in terms of late nights and lack of adequate sleep) but I think I’m figuring things out. I also welcomed a new freelancing client from a recommendation (huzzah!), submitted some pieces to the editor of a site I’m wild to write for, and spent yesterday coworking with the whipsmart and borderline intimidatingly savvy Alanna.

You may remember I met Alanna at the Levo League event from a couple of weeks ago. She’s a freelancer and social entrepreneurial consultant who has worked on some incredible campaigns, just chatting and hanging out with her was inspiring. It was probably the most focused and productive 6 straight hours of freelance work I’ve put in all week. Editors, entrepreneurs, and socially conscious citizens, take note of this woman.

It’s amazing the influence other people have on you when you work for yourself…I sense a blog post in the near future.

In any event, stay tuned for more tales from Paris this weekend, but in the meantime here are your links. Do add anything worthy of the minion coterie’s time and attention, plus tell me what you’re up to this Friday, in the comments!
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I’ve only mentioned Paris about a gazillion times, haven’t I? I would say I’d shut up about it, but that would be a lie.


An important, interesting question that’s not often considered: what makes something ugly? Form? Function? Intent? Exposure of inner bias? Bad taste? It’s actually a pretty complex process to declare something grotesque.

Nazis, a recluse, and over a thousand works of art. You’d think this was an Indiana Jones plot pitch, but it’s just glorious history.

Subtle shifts in perspective on major historical and cultural landmarks.

Speaking of perspective! Families posing with literally everything they own. As an accidental minimalist myself, this isn’t just fascinating, it’s also eye opening. How much junk and clutter and stuff do you think the average American family has?

My love for pineapples is well documented, so it should be no surprise that I’m flirting outrageously with the idea of adding this charmer to my desk.

Friend and friend of the blog Caitlin Kelly is back from her work with WaterAid in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the West. Her post on some of her reflections is well worth a read.

Oh for the love of…people, really?

Gloria Steinem turned 80 this week. I love her sum up from this piece in the New York Times: “When asked whether she has any regrets, Steinem says: ‘Well, actually it’s not so much what I would have done differently. It’s that I would have done it much faster.’”

Words can’t express how much I want to see this (by the way, the This American Life live show from last year, which was wonderful and everyone should watch, is a great place to start learning about this enigmatic woman. It’s how I first heard about her).

Sunday In Paris: Museums, Towers, Hotel Rooms

“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.”
― Thomas Jefferson

On Sunday we woke up, packed our gear up in our hotel in Monmarte and hopped on the metro to meet up at Katie and Adam’s hotel…which was right next door to the Louvre! They were staying in the Le Meurice, a gorgeous 5-star establishment on the Rue de Rivoli across the street from the Tuileries gardens with amazing views that I took pictures of obnoxiously from their balcony windows on multiple occasions. Admittedly our own view wasn’t terrible, between the two of us, I think it’s safe to say we can brag a little about our locations (though Katie wins, hands down. Her suite was easily the most sumptuous, gorgeous one I’ve ever seen in my life and I would have snapped pictures of it if it wouldn’t have been so terribly weird to do so)!
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Just around the corner from our hotel…
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Just…outside the window of Katie’s hotel. I’m throwing in the towel here.

The British Museum may hold my heart, but the Louvre is still my favorite place on earth. You could spend days wandering its corridors – believe me, I’ve done it. But since this was a flying visit, Jeff and I planned our attack carefully. We took in the magnificent Greek and Roman statues (with a dose of Renaissance Italian thrown in for good measure) before heading to the Spanish, French, and Dutch masters.
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Later we reconvened for lunch at a lovely bistro before Jeff and I headed off to do the obligatory ogling of the Eiffel Tower and eating of crepes before taking a final turn around the city in the Spring sun.
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Finally, we all ended up back at Katie and Adam’s hotel suite. The boys relaxed a bit with watching basketball – which I will say nothing against, after all we were on vacation – and Katie and I went out for a pastry and chocolate run at the famous Angelina just down the Rue de Rivoli. We returned laden with delicious things and then all talked for hours until Jeff and I hopped back on the Metro (after one last photo opp out of Katie and Adam’s window) to head to the Gare du Nord and thence back to London.
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Never fear, the Paris posts are far from over. Come back this weekend after the Friday Links posts for tales of more crepes, celebrity sightings, and misadventures in map reading.

A Day At the Palace (Or All Gold Err’thang: A History Lesson)

“Marie-Anoinette: This is ridiculous.
Comtesse de Noailles: This, Madame, is Versailles.”
– Marie Antoinette, 2006

The palace of Versailles is just a hop, skip, and a half hour train ride outside of central Paris in a way that belies the income, cultural, and geographic divides of the 18th century it represents. In the 1700s it was a mere 12 miles outside of the city but an entire world away.
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The private domains of the last three kings of France, the brain child of Louis XIV who styled himself the Sun King and developed a court structure and architecture that literally revolved around himself, and no small contributor to the eventual Revolution itself… Versailles is just a bit much. In that glorious Rococo sort of way. Perhaps it’s just me, but wandering through the gilt laden and marbled inlaid, well, everything really, I can’t help looking around and thinking to myself, “Yeah, I would absolutely have revolted too.”
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Versailles was a gigantic feat of social engineering as well as building design. As chief gravitational force of his own private solar system, Louis XIV literally required his nobles to up sticks from their estates to come and wait on him personally hand and foot 24/7/365. Instead of living on and working their properties, managing their own affairs, or contributing in substantial ways to the French economy, the nobility lived almost entirely off of incomes supplied by the King’s government and existed in a perfumed, periwig-ed cocoon of privilege.
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“Come now,” I imagine Louis XIV said of an earlier incarnation of this room, “there is simply not enough gilt and cloth of gold here. What am I, a peasant? MOAR GOLD!”

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The Queen’s, er, equally restrained and tasteful bedroom…

Meanwhile, outside of the (literally) golden gates, wars, economic collapses, and famine were doing their level best to flatten the commoners – who of course paid for all the upkeep since the nobility and clergy were exempted from taxes.
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The justifiably famous Hall of Mirrors.

Our trip to Versailles started off a bit sodden as the morning was gray, rainy, and quite chilly. But by the time we made it through the palace and out into the gardens the sun had burst out to warm us all up. We trekked to the Grand and Petit Trianon minor residences and meandered through the false hamlet built so that Queen Marie Antoinette could play at being a peasant maid (complete with Sevres china milk buckets of course), and then back along the grand canal where crew teams and romantic pairs were rowing on the once royal waters.
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The gorgeous colonnade from the Grand Trianon.

The last time I was at Versailles was about 8 years ago (*clutches self a little to realize that*) when my mother and I came here on a girls only vacation, so it was great to get an updated view of the site. a number of restoration projects are underway and new rooms have been made available to the public since my last visit. It makes for an excellent day trip, but do book tickets in advance if you can – especially if you go in the high tourist season! Katie, our expert traveler, booked tickets for all four of us in advance and we got to swan past the throngs of other tourists waiting in line.
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It costs under 10 Euros for two people to get to the Versailles Rive Gauche station on the RER-C line from the Notre Dame Metro stop, and the palace is a 5 to 10 minute’s walk away.

There are simply too many stunning photos for one blog post so keep an eye on my Instagram feed for more snapshots of our meanderings through Versailles this week.

First Night in Paris

“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Friday afternoon I met up with Jeff at King’s Cross St Pancras station after a week apart, him in Peterborough, myself in London, and ready for a weekend away. We’ve been in Britain for over six months now, but this is the first travel we’ve been able to manage due to work commitments. Jeff had also never been to Paris before, which was something that obviously needed to be rectified at the first available opportunity.

With a duffel bag between the two of us and a camera in tow, we hopped on the Eurostar straight to Paris. One or two indulgent selfies (in which we both proved out singular lack of ability to time our blinks and smiles in sync) and two hours later we were in la villelumière herself!
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Thanks to the modern delight that is 24hour concierge services, we hopped off again at the Gare du Nord and made straight for the Île Saint-Louis, the second of the two natural islands in the Seine river that make up the historical heart of the city, to meet up with Katie and Adam at their recommended restaurant, Le Caveau de L’Isle (make sure to check out the gallery on the site!) where we had the first of a series of amazing meals and snacks.
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Katie is a natural travel planner (as well as working with hotels professionally) and she had combed friends, insiders, and blogs for the best local recommendations. None of which disappointed, for either location or food quality! Le Caveau’s main eating area is small, candlelit, and bedecked with exposed timber beams that date back goodness knows how long. The chimney is from the 17th century, the hidden vaults are at least as old (the name itself means the “vault” or “cave” of the island). Above the beam nearest the wall hung a Middle Eastern dagger that I hope held some kind of historical or cultural significance, but I was too stuffed with a delicious cut of beef to ask.

The dinner options at Caveau are incredibly affordable! Like many other restaurants they have a handful of “set” options that you can choose from to customize a meal in addition to the shifting menu. We each plunked for a two course option and indulged in both good food and great conversation.
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After a rich meal (and fistfuls of glorious French bread), we set out for a long walk along the river and through the sights until late at night when we finally stumbled off to our respective hotels at a deeply undignified hour.

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Which, as it happened rather set the tone for the whole trip! The whole weekend was a dense rush of adventure and not enough sleep from start to finish, from which I am still recovering two days later…and I couldn’t be happier about it. Long before we planned on Paris, Katie and Adam have become two of our favorite people to hang out with so getting to meet up with such fabulous friends in a fabulous city made for a wonderful weekend.

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Padlocks, memorials to love and friendship have spread far beyond the original bridge they bedecked to at least three that we saw. Touristy, yes, but you can’t fault a testament to love in a place like Paris! It’s hard to beat Paris during the day, but Paris at night might give it a run for its money.

Bright and early the next morning we shot off to Versailles…

London Snapshot (Apres Paris)

“London has the trick of making its past, its long indelible past, always a part of its present.”
― Anna Quindlen, Imagined London: A Tour of the World’s Greatest Fictional City
Paris posts are coming, ducklings, but it’s been an exhilarating whirlwind of a weekend and a jam packed full Monday getting back into the swing of things. Ergo like the traveling tease I am, you have a wait another day to see the evidence of our adventures. In the meantime, I bring you this peace offering: a first of the morning view from Craven Street just off Trafalgar Square and glancing down at the Thames.

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Friday Links (Nevermind, I’m In Paris Edition)

“When good Americans die, they go to Paris.”
― Oscar Wilde

What I week! On the one hand, there’s been large degrees of stress and late nights, and doing my best to develop new schedules and positive habits to get me through what promises to be three crazy months. I’ve also have a few doses of emotional wringing and exhaustion and one or two genuinely dark patches due to some cultural issues.

But on the other, I started some volunteer work at the Benjamin Franklin House Museum which I’m outrageously happy about, I’m working on some hugely exciting freelance projects launching next month, plus as many of you read this we’re on a train to Paris for the weekend to play with Katie and Adam, I believe that means that in spite of the occasional harumph, everything’s coming up Milhouse!

I’ll be back next week with updates from our Parisian jaunt. Plus on Sunday check back for a tale of tacos and my first real invitation to a notable shindig. In the mean time, here are your links and let me know what you’re up to this weekend in the comments. And do, for the sake of the minion coterie, link to anything that we need to know about!

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All will become clear on Sunday. I’d try to be cryptic, but it’s hard with that graphic.

Irreverent, yes. Pearl-clutchers avoid. But I’m surprised to admit that Putin wins this catwalk.

Big news from the realm of theoretical physics this week. The math is beyond my understanding, but I’ve been hooked on studying more about the history, science, and theories of spacetime and universal origins after watching the series Fabric of the Cosmos a few years ago. It’s on youtube, start here.

Books that end in the middle of a

If you’re in need of a rather judgey (but sometimes wholly accurate) t-shirt to wear out and about, may I recommend this one?

Speaking of t-shirts, this article about the rise of Fast Fashion – something I’ve personally done my level best to swear off entirely since reading a book on the subject a couple of years ago – is well worth the read. h/t Xarissa.

The headline of the week might sound like an existential crisis but it isn’t.

Oddly haunting photos of an abandoned cinema in the most unexpected place.

Do you need some affirmations in your life, care of a late 80’s cartoon? The internet is here to oblige you. (Also, when Jeff showed this to me, he told me the story of how he had a He-Man sword in childhood and how he used to hold it aloft and yell, “I have the power!” while running about having imaginary adventures. He followed up with, “Which, in retrospect probably wasn’t a great thing for a little while boy to be saying.”)

And if you wrong us, do we not revenge?

Nearly two decades out of childhood and I still love dinosaurs. Also, “chicken from hell” needs to be a band name.

Friend and friend of the blog, journalist Caitlin Kelly is on a rather amazing assignment in Nicaragua at the moment and her posts on her trips really are wonderful – go see what’s she’s doing!