Friday, November 13, 2015

Paris, mon amour…

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

Postcards for the loved ones who had to stay home

Have you ever travelled with your parents? I mean, after you had passed the age of 15? I can highly recommend it. My mom tends to drive me nuts with all her questions and her treating me as if I had the savvy of a four-year old, but travelling with her has proved to change our relationship deeply and to the better.

Take your parents on holiday and they might go shopping with you to the Galeries la Fayette

The beautiful Opera House

Shopping in Paris 

The idea to invite her on a trip came to me about two years ago when she asked me to help her with her English homework. It was a very intimate and somehow touching hour we spent. I practiced irregular verbs with her and felt proud when she managed to do it right, just as she might have about twenty years ago. This change of roles makes me somewhat melancholic. It shows how we age and how our parents will soon depend on our help, us being the “responsible” ones. The thought does not fail to freak me out again and again, feeling like the helpless and shy teenager I used to be. But I guess this is what growing up is all about, taking responsibility for your loved ones, your family and your friends. (As a friend recentyl pointed out, in case of an emergency we always look out for an "adult", not realising we are the adults now.) Feeling touched about the earnestness my mom showed to learn the English language and this cats-in-the-cradle-moment about time passing, I wanted to spend some quality time with this woman who had grown so much apart from me during the time of my teenage years. And also I wanted to show her one of the most exciting cities in the world, London. She could make use of her English there and see that holiday can be great -  even if it does not involve lying on a sunny beach. Last August we spent some days in London together and as we had so much fun and my mom showed so much enthusiasm about it, I suggested to visit Paris this year.

Arc de Triomphe

I had only been to Paris once, five grey December days and still – I have a major crush on Paris to this day. The city reminds me of an intellectual, sensual lover, always exciting and teaching you so much every day. Full of history and also very up to date, modern and traditional, ugly and pretty, with a lot of self esteem, which might make it so sexy.  I have always wanted to come back in summer, when you could sit outside and watch the city walk by.  August did not prove to be the best time though, as the buzz is mainly created by tourists and the real Parisian is away on holiday. Still, Paris is Paris. If you like walking and enjoy a good drink and formidable food, Paris is your city. The city of light lives up to it’s name: At night, the city sparkles with a thousand lights and the Eiffel tower shows why it is the setting of so many love stories. It is a romantic and melancholic city. While wandering the small streets near the Seine, or watching idleness in the Jardin des Tulieres, enjoying some éclairs in the streets, I started to think about life and about my life in particular. Is this it? Have I taken the right routes? Is my life where it is supposed to be? I guess it is a curse of our generation: wondering.

Notre Dame

Oh, Champs Élysées

Paris definitely called out to me. I wish I could say it was “Je ne regrette rien”, but it was more like “Go where you want to go, before it is too late”. The older we get, we sometimes feel far from our dreams, because when you are young, you can still tell yourself: I am going to do that later. But when you are 30, you feel like that later is “now”, which can be scary. The few days in Paris helped me to gain some perspective onto what I want and the thought of diving again headfirst into my passion for movies and media theory is making my heart spin. I want to be closer to the person I dreamt of being when I was 20, and I guess I love Paris all the more for making me see that more clearly. Remember what you wanted to be like when you “grow up”? How far from that ideal are you? And are you ok with it? If you ever wonder what you should do with your life, I recommend you some days in this city of lights.

On the banks of the Seine

Board on the banks along the Seine

But apart from all the deep thinking I was doing while in Paris, I would like to tell you about our trip and maybe you'll find some of the stuff helpful on your next trip to this beautiful city.

Hotels in Paris are a joke. The last time we went there, we lived in a nice area, in Montparnasse, but we paid heaps of money to stay in a hotel with paperthin walls and a less than mediocre breakfast we didn't even eat most of the time. So after having used airbnb for Estonia around New Year's I decided on checking it out for Paris. You can find all kinds of apartments or rooms on airbnb, where people lent the space they don't need. On our winter-trip to Paris I had missed having a bit of a kitchen to at least make some tea in the evening. We decided on a studio apartment near Gare du Nord, where we also arrived via Thalys. (I absolutel recommend taking the Thalys, it was comfortable and didn't take too long). It is not the nicest area of Paris, but my mom and me were never even spoken to on the street. In fact, all people we had contact with were extraordinary nice and friendly, plus all the groceries were quite cheap in our area. Our host, Dominique, was charming and did everything to make us feel at home. On our last day, after check out, he watched our luggage in his apartment till our train left. The apartment was small, but very light, with a comfortable bed, a small kitchen and a rather roomy bathroom with a bathtub. Most of it had been redecorated. It was great for summer, but as the windows didn't really shut I am not sure how cold it might be in winter. You have a great view over the city and can even see the Eiffel tower, although it is quite far away.

Apartment on top of Paris

My mom tends to be the more touristy person of us. She wanted to visit the Louvre, as you would when you are in Paris. I am not a great fan of art though and especially not of long queues. We went to the Louvre, had a look around and after I had read her from our traveler's guide that it would take up to three months to have a look at all the exhibits, my mom agreed that this would not be a wise adventure if you only have three days. Hehe. So, we took a lot of strolls along the beautiful streets of Paris instead, went shopping, walked up to Sacre Coeur in the early morning, were disappointed by the tent they put on the Montmartre Square in summer and most of all, had great food. Being a foodie in Paris is like a dream. In German we have the saying if you live well you live like "God in France". Very true, if you ask me. Even the smallest café had delicious cuisine and of course, Paris is pricy, but it depends very much on the location.


Sacre Coeur

I remember one night, when we sat outside of a very chic café on the Boulevard St. Germain, enjoying great wine and some fresh baguette with cheese. It was so peaceful and pittoresque. My mom and me we are both walkers. And by that, I don't mean zombies from the Walking Dead, but we like to walk everywhere. My fitness tracker on my mobile phone ran hot, while we walked more than 20 km every day. Along the Seine, which is especially nice in summer, as they put all kinds of restaurants and bars along the banks of it, where you can sit and enjoy the weather.

On one of our many walks, a guy with a baguette crossed our way (I guess this happened more often, as we were in Paris), we were both hungry and figured that the bakery must be somewhere near. And yes, it was the bakery that had won the prize for best baguette in 2013 it was I think. And my advise to you: put some trust into those Prizes, the baguette must have been the best I ever had!

I had always wanted to visit cemetery Père la Chaise, so we went there. You find all kinds of old graves and tombstones there, famous families, famous historians, writers. They have a map on the cemetery, which tells you where you can find which dead person. Pretty weird if you ask me. We managed to find the grave of Oscar Wilde though. (It was put into a glass container, so that it isn't covered in kisses anymore. If you ask me, Oscar would have loved the colourful statements of his fan's admiration) I love Oscar Wilde, he is a fascinating figure for me and his wit is timeless.

Me at Oscar Wilde's grave

You can see all the kisses for Oscar

My most favourite garden in Paris is - and was in December - the Jardin du Luxembourg. The French do it right: they put loads of chairs into the park so that everyone can sit down and enjoy the sun. Before we went to the park, we got some (very expensive) cake in the Japanese patisserie Sadaharu Aoki, whose cake looks almost too good to eat. But we were brave and ate it anyway. I love that about city trips, just to go where the natives spend their day, sit down and see life float by.

Le Jardin du Luxembourg

Chillin at the Gardin

A visit to Paris wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. We went to the top (not the highest up, it was too windy) enjoyed the view and took a lot of pictures with my new camera. Then suddenly the space under the Tower was evacuated. They had found a pink backpack without owner. The military police was there immediately and more and more police were coming. After Charlie Hebdo in spring, this reaction is understandable and blowing up the Eiffel Tower could be high up on the agenda of some terrorists. It was a frightening , but in the end sadly a quite normal sight. Afterwards, thinking about it, I find it mostly depressing. People believing other people are threateing to blow them up. It is a weird and often disgusting world.

View from the Tower

It was windy up there

If you go to Paris and you love books you definitely have to visit "Shakespeare and Company". It is beautiful! Full of books in every corner, with a cat on the first floor and even a fire (surrounded by all the dry paper, that seems like a "play with fire" if you know what I mean. I couldn't believe it at first) Their whole attitude is positive and mindful, check out their website, you will know what I mean. Even their bags are inspiring! They have lectures there on a regular basis and you can sit down in cozy armchairs to have a good read. I loved it! If I lived near I would definitely go there often for lectures and nice evenings with tea and good books.

Paris in the middle of summer is - crowded. And not with Parisians, but with tourists. We experienced that especially when we wanted to visit the catacombes. We were there half an hour before the doors open and still had to wait quite a long time. One warning: Go to the bathroom before you get in line or even during standing in line as you cannot once you are downstairs. My mother learned that the hard way. Down there you are just amazed how many bodies are buried there.

Les catacombes

Thousands of Bones

Our most favourite part of Paris was the Latin quartier with it's many small streets, less traffic and nice bars and restaurants. We found a café. the Café Latin, with such nice staff and good food we even returned there for another evening.

On our last day, rain had found us, so we decided to do a very touristy thing at last: a hop on - hop off- bus tour. I can recommend it in Paris, not only did it have the most beautiful Paris cliché music, but also the information about the historic sights are quite interesting and very exciting. You know most of the stories about the French Revolution for example, but the way they tell it when you are at the Place de la Concorde, you get goosebumps, it suddenly seems so real.

Paris is definitely one of the loves of my life and I will be back soon.

Life is too important to be taken seriously- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A whole lotta knitting going on...

Hey folks,

what have you been up to?

Autumn is finally here and that means: knitting time! I have several gifts to knit and while I am having a week off work due to some collected overtime, my knitting time has expanded big time. Accompanied by Big Bang Theory on Netflix (I know alost all of the episodes, but this way I do not miss anything while checking out the pattern) Lisek and me have been whirling the needles, so to say.

The pattern I am mostly knitting those days is called Water for the Elephants. I haven't made any of those for myself yet, but they are gorgeous gifts and especially nice in cold winter nights. A lot of people around me have their own elephants-socks now. I love the pattern's Indian-Hippie-look! As it is only two colours it is not too complicated. I even knit these on the train, with the pattern on my lap.

Water for the elephants - red and black
Water for the elephants - blue and white

Lisek is watching my knitting. I might make something for him someday, just for fun. He does not need any clothes, neither do most of the dogs around. I would probably be ashamed if I had to walk a dressed dog in the streets.
 I bet Lisek agrees with me on that.
It might be funny to make him something for christmas though. Due to his very unconventional shape (let's face it, he is shaped a bit like a sausage), most jumpers you could buy for dogs would be too short for him, so if I ever want to dress him up, I probably have to make it myself.

The only socks I have ever knit for myself are made out of leftovers from yarn skeins. I divided them into two and then tried to knit two socks that look the same. Well, it sort of worked, but as I am only wearing them inside, to warm my feet. I am pretty happy with how they turned out. Plus, they are made from material that would have otherwise been thrown out. Try it, they are made really fast and you will have warm feet all winter long...


Warm feet everyone!