Sunday, August 28, 2011

Devil Shoes

Four bandages in total and, yes, that is blood.

These shoes hurt so much, I see stars.  I keep thinking they will be better next time... but next time will likely be on someone else's feet.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Stuff on Walls #43

Care to elaborate?



I really want this horsey for my place.

 Kill your stencil.

Maybe my favorite thing ever.  Evidence of pigeon is apparent.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

American Frenchie

We went to Frenchie Bar a Vins* last night, and this entry is not going to be about the food.

You are right to wonder.

Well, I can’t not mention it, so I will tell you what we ate, just to get it out of the way.  We had cured pork belly from a black pig (this was sliced thin and was like eating butter) served with rosemary-infused crispy flatbread.  Then smoked trout with… honestly, I can’t remember all that was with it, but the presentation was beautiful and the levels of taste divine.  (I should have just taken a picture, but I didn’t.  More on that later.)  Then we had burrata with peaches and balsalmic.  Then we had tete de cochon, which was chunky and magical and covered in mustard seeds.  Then we had napoleon cheese (sheep's milk) with truffle honey and shaved summer truffles.


Needless to say it was worth the 20-minute wait outside and another 20 minutes inside standing (but now with wine!) to experience these tastes.

But the clientele that had me conflicted.

How to say this without sounding like a hypocrite?  Or maybe I just embrace the hypocrisy of it and say... that it was way too American for me.

Now here's the hypocrisy.  I am American.  And I love being American.  My French is passable, at best, so sometimes it is a comfort to converse with a Parisian in my native tongue.  But I was thoroughly irked by the fact that every table, every person in the place was speaking English natively.  (Except for the waiter/bartender.)

I realize that Paris is a foodie destination, and that many foodies are from the United States.  And that good restaurants attract foodies from all over the world.  Frenchie is a destination restaurant, for sure. (According to TripAdvisor, it is ranked #1.  Yikes.)  But why does all of the English-speaking lessen my experience?  Because I am in Paris, I suppose.  And because I crave authenticity.  And a room full of English-speakers in Paris does not an authentic environment make.

(Again, I must state that the food was amazing.)

But I am conflicted because this is my tongue and these are my people.  I saw at least three groups that I knew were on holiday.  And how lucky am I that I live in a city that people choose to visit?  I knew that if we didn't get into the wine bar last night, we could come back next week... or the week after... or whenever we damn well pleased.  But for one especially dolled-up group, I knew that last night was their only shot.  (Did I let them have my place at the bar, though?  No.  First come, first served!  But I would have felt bad if they had been turned away entirely.)

And, oh yeah, about the lack of photos.  I didn't want to be another "tourist" snapping away over my plate.  Usually, I photograph my food with no problem but the environment made me want to act as authentically Parisian as possible.  Not that I was putting on, and not that I won't go back there.  Because if you come visit, we should totally go.  If only so I can photograph the delicious offerings next time.

* Frenchie is a hot resto in Paris that books out months in advance.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


It’s a shame that such a meaningful place has a name that sounds like a cartoon character. (I have already started concepting the Picpus in my head.  I picture him with long tusks like a walrus, a bowler hat, and a love of cream pies, if you must know.)

But back to Picpus, the cemetery.

This all started because we watched a documentary on the Marquis de Lafayette the other night. Most Americans are at least familiar with his name thanks to it being laid on countless roads, schools, and towns.  (Fayetteville being my favorite. I love how they dropped the La- to make it more, uh, local.)  I knew he was a great friend to our country and used to kick it with guys like George Washington (the only George Dubbs worth anything in my book), but beyond that…

Here's a quick summary of the Marquis de Lafayette’s life.  He was a rich kid who was orphaned young and with a large inheritance (as a rich kid would be).  He married Adrienne de Noailles, who was also richy rich, and decided to head over to the United States (while his wife was pregnant, no less) to help in the new country’s efforts against the British.  This departure was mostly motivated by his wanting to stand for the ideals of the United States but also by his wanting to make a name for himself on the battlefield—any battlefield.  (He was, like, 17 at the time.)  But as he was accepted into the US army and moved up the ranks and became a trusted confident of (and like family to) General Washington, his want for fame fell to the wayside.

(Another interesting note was that he was one of the early proponents of abolishing slavery in the United States and in France.  He proposed to start this on several model plantations in America, and even enacted this himself on his own farm in Guiana. How different could our history have been if the powers-that-be listened to Lafayette at the time?  Think about that for a minute.)

At one point during the war, Lafayette came back to France to petition for more French help against the British.  He was promised a fleet of ships, which appeared just in time as Lafayette had Cornwallis and the British troops pinned in the battle of Yorktown.  So if I may break it down, the French came in to ensure our defeat of the British.

Do you hear me?  THE FRENCH.

Funny, no one seemed to remember this during the “Freedom Fries” embarrassment/backlash of our recent history.  And there are still many Americans who disrespect the French and possess a general misunderstanding of them.  These are the same Americans who come over here for vacation but act disrespectfully when the culture is not the same as their own.

But I digress. Growing up American, I heard over and over how many times WE saved the French during WWII (and WWI for that matter).  But, honestly, if the French hadn’t saved us during the Revolutionary War, we may not have been around for WWII.  Am I being a bit dramatic?  Yes, but it’s worth it.

Because when I saw that American flag flying above Lafayette’s grave, I felt a little choked up.  This guy loved our country as much as his own.  He loved it enough to risk his life when we were just a fledgling.

He is even buried with dirt from George Washington’s grave.*  It’s not bad company to go into the ground with.

So here I give you some photos from the Picpus cemetery, which itself has a special story. But you’ve had enough words for now, so I’ll spill it with the photos.

More than 1300 victims of the "Terror" of the guillotine were laid here in mass graves.  It was actually Lafayette's wife who was instrumental in founding the cemetery.  The bodies of these 1300 victims were thrown here at night, so people had no idea where the bodies of their loved ones had gone until Adrienne de Noailles and her sisters wanted to find where their mother, grandmother, and sister were buried.

They realized that all of the victims had been buried in haste and given no religious ceremony.  So they decided to create a place of meditation and prayer to honor their memory.

They brought in the Sisters of the Sacred Heart to look after the chapel and make sure the prayers were perpetual.

Each victim's name is inscribed in the chapel, along with their occupation.  From 14 June to 27 July 1794, these 1306 people aged 14 to 90 years were executed.  Most of the victims came from the people, but there were also nobles, soldiers, priests, and nuns.

The two mass grave sites are outside this gate and unmarked in the grass.  This is the little cemetery for the families of the victims.

It is unremarkable, really, though there are some old gravestones.  I guess I just mean it's not one of those gothically beautiful European cemeteries.  But it is beautiful and peaceful (and has some killer ivy!) nonetheless.

And here he is, in his own little corner of the Picpus Cemetery.

Should you want to read more about Lafayette, here's some wiki for you.

* This is what the documentary tells me anyway.  Because I also read that he's buried with dirt from Bunker Hill.  So you can decide for yourself.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stuff on Walls #67

90 minutes de PURE PASSION

This thing rocks St Malo every Friday!

This guy's got it bad.

See, I told you.

Check out this 3-D picture of Dave Grohl arm wrestling that guy from The Prodigy!

Go, Grohl!

Fall Shoe Frenzy

Feeling a splurge coming on...

The Miu Miu fall shoes enthrall me.

But maybe these Alexander Wang kicks are more... uh, practical?

And these metallic beauties are from YSL.

But really, if I had to pick just one pair for fall, it would probably be the bejeweled guy on the right (also from YSL).  I think large multi-colored rhinestones are what have been missing in my life.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Begging Dogs: The Investigation Continues

The investigation has begun.  I mean, I knew I was onto something when I first wrote about the begging dogs.  But now I know just how big this thing is.

And I want to blow it wide open.

My morning-evening walks to and from work are my prime surveillance opportunities.  I watch and take mental notes, all the while being careful not to look for too long or make eye contact so as to be guilted into throwing some cash their way.  (I have a strict no-handouts policy.  Though I probably could start mustering some dog treats.)

I have tried to dig up more information on the interwebs, but all I could find were the following three "facts":

1.  Bums with dogs get more coin.
2.  Bums with dogs are not allowed in shelters (except for this temp winter shelter on the Seine).
3.  About 600 people per year are hospitalized for injuries sustained from slipping on dog shit on the sidewalks.  (This was reported by the NYT in 2001, apparently.)

This is investigative journalism at its finest, people.

Anyway, here's what I'm on to.  The bums remain the same, but the dogs are changing.  For example, this little lady is long gone, but her bum is still a Marais mainstay--now with a new dog.  And I've noticed it with some of the other guys closer to Republique, too.

So what is happening to the dogs?  They are not puppies, so surely there is no market for their sale.  Besides, who would buy a raggedy middle-aged dog from some street hustler?  I have a couple of theories, one of them easier on the emotions than the other.

Maybe there is a big meet-up spot (I imagine it something like a bum commune) where the bums congregate during the non-begging hours and, well, they just trade out the dogs.  In that case, maybe my little girl is still around, but now she's with a guy that runs his game in another part of town.  And the new dog that's suddenly appeared with my favorite (because he's the most stylish... boy, can he rock a paisley sweater) bum was formerly with another bum unbeknownst to me.  This is the hypothesis that's easiest to swallow:  the dogs are just moved around and I can't keep up with it.

The other thought that comes to my mind is that these dogs meet a cruel fate at the hands of the bums, so that a newer, cuter pup can be put in their place.  *shudder*

In my internet "research" on street dogs in Paris, I also learned of another troubling phenomenon.  Apparently, many Saudi families summer in Paris.  While here, their kids beg for a summer pet and since there is no stigma surrounding dogs here, the parents relent.  But then their stay in Paris is up, and they can't bring the dog back with them to Saudi, so the dogs are left to die/survive on the streets or simply put down.  At least those post-Easter bunny rabbits are usually brought to shelters in the States.  These poor dogs aren't so lucky.

But back to the bums and their dogs.  I would like to think that they develop an affection for their doggie companions (though I did see one pup sent to howls when smacked with a frozen pizza by his arsehole bum-dad), but if that were true how could these guys just "off" their dogs?

So I have no real conclusions, and my lack of interaction/conversation with these bums will probably stymie my "investigation"... but I know that I'm on to something.

Stay tuned for more news as I dig it up.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Como Video

Boat races.

Cloon-dog's house.

All you can see is green, but I swear it's in there!

Lago di Como

It really doesn't get much better than Lake Como.  Especially when you can spend a long weekend there with a group of friends and live like locals (because one of them is a local).

I felt like pinching myself on more than one occasion... though the nips of the mosquitos were a reminder that, yes, it was all real.

The view from the window of our b&b.  The bell tower is just out of sight to the left, but I assure you that it was praising the lord at the unholiest of hours--before 9 am!  (Doesn't Jeebus want to sleep in??)  And with only 3 notes, its "songs" were redundant before they even began.

Our ship came in...

and it brought some great views...

and this guy to the right.

At least he wasn't in the "banana hammock" that was de rigueur for men of his age/build/nationality.

F and J, all covered up to protect against dive-bombing mosquitos.

 Mosquitos drowned in olive oil.  It was that bad.


B making his now-famous salsa.

Did I mention that we ate like royalty?  J's famous chicken wings, L's ribs marinated in honey from her dad's bees, delicious burgers and salads and a homemade green sauce that Alice Waters would have dreams about.  Oh, and limoncello and grappa and prosecco and...

But eating well means putting a rumble in the tummy of the neighborhood scrap-cat, affectionately known as "Garfield."  He really charmed me but I was instructed not to sneak him any foods, as he tends to potty in naughty places, like our friend's basement.

But look how cute he is!

 Ribs, salad, salsa, Pimm's...

And Garfield gets closer and wills you to give him just a little something, anything really, please, please.

Water history.

So here it is.  George Clooney's (or just "George" as he was known all weekend) house.  (I mean, really he lives on the same street as our friend.  So we were definitely on a [one-sided] first-name basis.)

Though try as we might, there was no George (or Matt Damon or Leo) sighting.

We even looked from the boat (his is the dense green patch at the middle), but he's quite covered and clearly wants his privacy.


I can tell you that George probably has some pretty funny footage of us nearly pushing his bell and haranguing him on the way home one night.  Oh, George.  Next time come over for a limoncello so we can make it up to you?

It seemed everyone had a dog to beware of.  And most all of them had the same realistic sketch of a German shepherd on them.  But this guy, now he's intimidating!

 Pretty view in Bellagio, which was way too touristy for our tastes...

but did provide this awesome parking note.

Thanks for teaching me how to call someone a name in Italian, you bastard double-parker!

Really this note was much nastier than the prior one, as far as we were concerned.  Thanks for the surprise 10 am checkout (and the lack of bottled water), Georgio!

Just to remember YOU to let us know you don't take credit cards, either!

Many thanks!

Cards at the old man coffee shop.

Sadly, I didn't see Max Spastics or his crew all weekend.

Razor light.
So arty.

Toe bling.
So Italian.