Friday, May 09, 2008

Our Little Corner of Paris

For some reason all my holiday photographs uploaded randomly. I was depending on the sequence of photographs to help me piece back together the things we did on what day and in what order, particularly since I didn't take the time to write a daily blog this trip. If a photo of a street scene or a painting showed up between two photos in or near the Musee D'Orsay then it coroborates that the street or painting must also be in or near the Musee D'Orsay. This doesn't work when a photo I took in the morning shows up next to a photo I took the next day next to a photo I took the night before. Argh.

I'd decided to do things differently from my previous trips and post in themes instead of chronologically this time, but I'd at least have liked things set up chronologically in my own records to jog my memory as time slides by. Basically, I'm reduced to the equivalent of hunt and peck typing to find each picture scattered here and there amongst thousands of postage stamp sized images. This makes it extremely difficult to find all the photos I remember taking that might fit a particular post theme.

Still, this doesn't explain the gaps in things I was SURE I'd remembered to take photos of this time around. It's not that I think I'm missing a SD card or anything. It's that there were so many things I thought "I should take a photo of that" followed by a distraction or a "I'll do it on the way back through this evening" and somehow I just never followed up. Grrrrrr. Arghhhh.

Well, that settles it I guess. I'll just have to go back. Again. Sheesh. The things one must do to be a good blogger.

Until then, I'll have to make do with the bits and pieces I managed to bring home this time. Today I thought I'd show you our home base, or at least those wee bits I remembered to photograph.

We stayed in the Bastille District, which is in the 11th Arrondissement. We were between Place de La Bastille and the Places Des Vosges to the west of us and the Père Lachaise Cemetery to the east. It was nice because it was more of an everyday, working class Paris neighborhood and free of most tourists. (we were there to bother them of course.) It was nice to get out of the crowds from time to time.

This is Place de la Bastille. It's another tall monument sticking up in the air, the French seem particularly fond of thin, tall monuments, that marks the location of the original Bastille fort/prison/whatever it was. Now it's a busy traffic circle with metro connections, restaurants and shops, and a large opera house who's steps have been taken over by and littered by teens and young adults. And I do mean "littered" - with trash. It was one of the few places we saw where I wanted to yell at the loitering locals, who all seemed the right age to be one of my kids, to "PICK UP YOUR MESS!". At least they kept it all to right around the steps.

We were actually about a ten or fifteen minute walk from there, depending on whether I was walking with or without my hubby. He's got these long legs, I've got short ones, but he always walks slow. Maybe he trained himself long ago to slow down for kids and shorter people (which to him, is almost everyone) and he can't break the habit now.

Here's Kyla walking down our street. It's very narrow, we'd call it an alley here in the states. There were a few garages (although I never saw how one actually managed to make the turn required to fit in or out of one) and on occasion a car would slide up the passage, just barely fitting between the potted trees, to pick up a family for some outing. But mostly it was for pedestrians, bicycles, motor scooters and motorcycles. The bottom floor had a few garages and private apartments, but mostly were made up of ateliers, meaning workshops and businesses, some that had customer entrances and some that were private or had doors that opened to another street. Above were apartments and they were (from our curious study and occasional glimpses through a window) a mix of tiny studios and larger apartments. It was a scruffier side of town, but there were as many hidden gems and beautiful courtyards as there were basic housing.

I loved this woven tree in front of one of the doors on our street. It wasn't leafed out yet, I hope it's still alive. Pretty regardless.

Remember, instead of staying in a hotel, we rented a studio apartment. It had many potential benefits, all which ended up true. It was cheaper. We had our own kitchen so we weren't forced to eat out every meal, saving us more money. It was quiet and more private. And we now have the pleasure of truthfully saying we "lived in Paris for a while." We had an address, a key, we had to make my own bed and do our own dishes and stock our own refrigerator. Therefore, we lived in Paris. Granted, two weeks is a short while, but we don't have to mention that.

One of the reasons we got a reasonable price on our rental was because of this. Many flights of stairs and no lift. Hubby assured me he'd be fine with it and I remembered William and I sucessfully tackling our own lofty accomodations on our last trip. Besides, I knew it was likely we'd only ascend them once or twice a day. It was.... puff, puff, gasp, rest.... a challenge. I managed to get to the third floor before I had to stop, a ten or fifteen second rest before forcing myself slowly up the last two twists. By the end of the trip, I had it down to a two to five second pause and then a more typical pace up that last floor. (But I always had the key in the door and my purse and coat off before hubby made it up. I took an evil smugness in this fact after he went on and on before the trip about how he climbs stairs at work every night and he was obviously in superior shape than me.)

It turned out that when they said they were on the fourth floor, they meant an American fourth floor, so we did only have four stories (eight turns counting the half story landings) to climb. There was a top fifth floor. I didn't bother checking it out. You can get just a small feel for how worn and uneven they were in this photo.

About halfway through our stay hubby mentioned how annoyed he was that someone kept turning the stairwell light out on us, sometimes before we reached the top. He thought perhaps some of the local tenants resented us and were purposely playing tricks on us. I laughed and explained that the light was on a timer and went out on it's own accord - we were just slow going up the stairs.

The studio was small but had everything you could need. Well, almost everything but yes, everything we needed this time around. There were other apartments available with more amenities and next time I'd make sure we had a photo and wi-fi. I didn't need wi-fi because I didn't bring my laptop, but it would have been nice to be able to go online at night instead of carving out a piece of the day to find an internet cafe. Too, the internet cafe's were more expensive than I remember them being a couple years ago, so I might as well have paid more for my lodging for the use of my own computer and been rewarded with the flexibility and extra time online. I had hoped we'd have our own washer/dryer, some apartments came with them but not this one, but figured we could wash in the sink and hang dry. We did, a bit, but it was overcast and humid most days so we couldn't depend on things to get dry. Fortunately we had a laundromat, a laverie, at the corner of our street. We spent a lot of time chatting with locals and felt like we were part of the neighborhood the evening we used it. As for the phone, we eventually figured out how to use our cell phones, but it would have been cheaper to buy phone cards and use a land phone for calling back home.

I took photos of all the corners of the studio but they mostly come across as "a bed", "a couch", a shower". The entire apartment, from furniture to cutlery, was furnished in IKEA. This counter was sort of "studio center" and gives a feel for the whole thing. There's our lovely breakfast bread and our boxes of tea and sugar cubes. The door in the photo is to the toilet. When you opened the door, you had to take four or five steps down to sit on the toilet, which was both odd and sort of .... fun? A closet and the door to the shower and bathroom sink were behind me in this photo. You get a glimpse of the couch (which folded out into a very comfy bed for Sam and Kyla and they're thinking of getting the same one for their home visitors) and the door to the stairwell was to the right of that. To the back right was the kitchen table, our bed, lamp, and a small table with a new television. To the left was the kitchen, which is the only other photo I'll share.

Isn't it cute?! That's the whole thing (the refrigerator is beneth the counter in the right foreground), just enough room for two people to stand or one person to work, but it had everything you needed to make a cup of tea or a dinner for eight. I can't believe I didn't get a photo of our view. We had two windows, both looked out (and down) into the inside of the buildings, no street view. It wasn't spectacular, just other people's windows and rooftop gardens, but it was our view and I'm sad I forgot to capture it.

This wine bistro was just around the corner and down the street. It was always packed with people at night. I liked how the grapevine grew up and over the awning. This turned out to be something that was done a lot throughout the city.

They lined old bottles up in their side window. I liked the bottles and I like the reflection of the buildings on the opposite side of the street in the reflection.

We had a bus stop and metro stop just a few blocks from the apartment. This was the intersection of the first large boulevard, on the corner of Rue Charonne and ..... I'd have to look it up, but it doesn't really matter. We eventually took to popping back home on the metro or bus, which brought us steps away from this cafe, where we stopped for dinner or, if we'd eaten already, a boisson et dessert. Jeff almost always had an espresso. I had tea or wine and was the one that most often ordered a dessert, usually something chocolate. I was particularly fond of this cafe's chocolat moelleux, a dense, individual, chocolate cake that morphs into mousse in the center and is covered with a white cream sauce. Let's not look up the calories on that one, shall we?

The words on the china below - Maison Richard and Cafes Richard - wasn't the name of the cafe (which was Cafe Limon), it was on a lot of the serviceware everywhere we went and was obviously the name of a china type or company. I'm going to have to google that.

Sipping, eating, chatting, people watching, outside. Pretty much sums up my favorite things about the entire trip, and a lovely way to end the day.

Not ready to leave Paris yet? Over in Laume's Studio today you'll find a small tour of the Musee D'Orsay.


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