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reality bites: “quatre jours”

quatre jours : four days

For whatever reason, every article I read seems to cite quatre jours as the appropriate amount of time to spend in Paris.  Mon avis would be five days minimum, as I think it takes about 3-4 jours to move beyond all the things a person doit voir, and to actually begin to enjoy oneself.

Cependant, a close friend asked me what she should do in Paris in…(shocker)…four days.  So I suppose that, rather than fighting it, c’est le moment to draft my own four day itinéraire.  If you follow my lead, you won’t climb the Tour Eiffel, but you’ll absorb a bit of the city’s beauty and culture quotidienne.

These four days can (and should) be exchanged and rearranged to one’s liking.
Fais attention à
the hours and days that certain sites are open (markets, museums, etc.).

**All addresses can be found on my Paris guide**

Place d’Aligre

Journée 1: La culture BoBo
(“BoBo” stands for bourgeois-bohème.  See: a hipster/artsy/off-the-beaten path vibe)

1. Place d’Aligre (12e)
On commence à Place d’Aligre, one of the most-loved Parisian markets.  (Daily, except Monday.  Best to visit 9am-1pm)
Check out the varied commerçants in the covered market and surrounding lanes.  I highly recommend grabbing some bread or pastry at Moisan and some cheese from the covered market  If you’d rather go sweet than savory, the nearby Blé Sucré has amazing flaky pastries and sacks of bite-sized sweets.

pain libanais (au thym)

2. Place de la Bastille (11e)
If it’s a Thursday or Sunday (7am – 2pm), and you’re not marketed-out, I recommend a quick jaunt over to the rowdier Marché de Bastille (11e).  If you’re still hungry grab some pain libanais or olive fougasse.  This market is a bit more cher than the outdoor vendors at Place d’Aligre, but the products are top-notch, more varied, and well worth the gander.

3. Vélib (11-10e)
Work off your morning munch with a vélib ride.  The bike path along Boulevard Richard Lenoir is one of the safest in the city – and has enough bike stations along the length of the route to ensure that you’ll find a place to park.  If there isn’t a bike immediately available at Place de la Bastille, head north on Blvd RL towards Bréquet Sabin.  (I also highly advise the purchase of the Paris Pratique map-book, which has little purple “V” dots noting the location of all the bike stations in the city.  But it’s also a better map than anything you’ll get for free at your hotel, etc.  You can also access an online map of all the vélib stations here).

Canal Saint Martin

4. Canal Saint Martin (10e)
Once you’ve got your velib, follow Boulevard Richard Lenoir north to the Canal St. Martin.  Park your bike at Rue Alibert if possible, and check out the boutiques on the Quai de Valmy/Quai de Jemmapeslike Artazart or Antoine et Lili. (And there’s always the famous Pain des Amis at Du Pain et des Idées).

5. Haut Marais (3e)
After checking out the neighborhood surrounding the canal, head back towards Place de la Republique.  Leave P de la Rep via Rue du Temple, and head towards the Square du Temple (3e).  Hip shopping can be found all along Rue de Bretagne, and near the Carreau du Temple.  Spice lovers shouldn’t miss Goumanyat, and Photographers/Designers should check out Ofr.  Once you’ve léché quelques vitrines around the Rue de Bretagne, head down the Rue Vielle du Temple.

Marais living

6. Marais (4e)
Follow the Rue Vielle du Temple to the Rue des Francs Bourgeois.  Head left, and you’ll soon hit the gorgeous Place des Vosges, where Victor Hugo once lived. (In fact, it is said that he wrote Les Misérables about the community that frequented Rue des Francs Bourgeois) .  Exit the Place des Vosges out the SW corner, through the garden of the Hotel Sully.  You’ll now be on Rue de Rivoli.  Head right, and when you reach Metro Saint Paul, head right again, towards the Rue des Rosiers.

7. Quartier Juif (4e)
Rue des Rosiers is at the heart of the Jewish quarter, where golden loaves of challah and legendary falafel shops compete for customers.  If you’re in the mood for what the New York Times called Europe’s best falafel – check out L’As du Falafel.  Near the falafel shops is the unassuming “Vintage” store -also worth the gander, if you’re into 5€ dresses and other frugal finds.

The view of Montmartre from Centre Pompidou

8. Centre Pompidou (4e)
From Rue des Rosiers, exit west, back onto Rue Veille du Temple, and head north.  When you reach Rue des Francs Bourgeois, head left (the road will turn into Rue Rambuteau).  If you skipped the falafel and are craving something to grignoter, Rue Rambuteau is filled with wonderful shops.  Two favorites are the sandwiches at Hure Boulangerie and the guimauves at Pain du Sucre.  Continue west until you see a colorful, modern building that seems to be made of pipes.  That is Centre Pompidou.  Head around to the far side of the building to reach the entrance.  Those who aren’t interested in visiting the Modern Art collection (or in paying for a museum) should still head to the top floor for ma vue préférée de Paris.  To get the view for free, head to the elevator just left of the main entrance/line.  Tell the guard you want to grab a drink at the cafe on the top floor.  He will send you upstairs, where you can’t access the galleries, but you will have a glorious view of the Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame and Montmartre.  If you’re lucky, you’ll arrive right around le coucher du soleil.

9. Et après?
For dinner and nightlife, consider taking métro line 11 from Rambuteau to Republique and then heading towards Parmentier.  For dinner, I’d check out the very reasonable, old-fashioned bistro Au Pied de Fouet.  Then head to a bar on Rue Oberkampf or Rue Jean Pierre-Timbaud.  My personal favorite is the live music at Alimentation Generale.

(Journée 2; 3 et 4 à venir)


mon avis > my opinion

minimum > minimum

jours > days

doit voir > must see

cependant > however

c’est le moment > it’s the moment

itinéraire > itinerary

Tour Eiffel > Eiffel Tower

culture quotidienne > daily culture

fais attention à les horaires > pay attention to the hours

BoBo/bourgeois-bohème > middle-class/bohemian (children of wealthy persons who choose to live a hipster lifestyle)

on commence à > we begin at

commerçants > vendors

pain libanais > lebanese flatbread (I prefer mine with thyme, salt and lemon)

fougasse > a fluffy web-like bread stuffed with olives, bacon, anchovies, or other odd bits

cher > expensive

vélib > bike

pain des amis > bread of friends

léché quelques vitrines > “licked a few windows” (licking windows = window shopping)

grignoter > nibble

guimauves > French marshmallows, which are fluffier and all-natural (unlike chamallow, which are like American marshmallows)

ma vue préférée de Paris > my favorite view of Paris

et après? > and after?

journées deux, trois, quatre, à venir > days 2, 3, 4 to come…



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reality bites : “rigoler”

rigoler (v.) : to laugh

It’s been over 10 days since I touched my blog, which I suppose is a bit of a creative slump (or a sign of over-commitment elsewhere) for me.  Two exposés, two dossiers, one vacation and and a slew of interviews have launched me back into something resembling “real life”, after a scandalously paresseux beginning to printemps.

Yet despite this spike in academic and other activity, life (as always in Paris) has had its fair share of fun and games.  In fact, in the past 10 days I have had quite a few causes to rigoler – surprisingly loud in public places (like the good American I am) – due to a fairly steady succession of oddities.

It started in Hendaye.  We had taken the train from Paris to Biarritz, then Biarritz to Hendaye, and were trying to buy tickets for the wobbly, Disneyworld-ish Euskotren to San Sebastian.  In the Hendaye train station, everyone was speaking French – we were in France of course.  But then you cross the street to the  Euskotren office, and the ticket booth man doesn’t speak French – even though you’re still in France.  This already elicited a small gloussement, and general confusion – that would only grow once on the train, as a group of men in kerchiefs embroidered with the letters E.V.J.G. stepped into our car, accompanied by their pleather chaps and chains wearing friend.  Apparently this stands for Enterrement Vie (de) Jeune Garçon (burial of the life of a young man) – and this was a bachelor’s party.  As the train wobbled on its merry way, we were treated to a little Village People-esque strip show – and it was only the first of many bachelor parties that we encountered in San Se that weekend.

The language difficulties hinted at in the Euskotren station would become the primary source of weekend hilarité – the pinnacle of which was our evening at the local bar Etxebe Pub.  We took it upon ourselves to befriend the Spanish and Basque speaking bartender, via a range of enthusiastic gestures and grimaces.  A few free mystery shots into our vocabulary-free friendship, this barman decided to offer up an odder on-the-house treat, whipping out a brand new Pepperidge-Farms-looking cookie tray, and pointing his finger in our direction.  No one else at the bar was offered cookies;  in fact, it did not seem that food was even an option at the bar.  All we could conclude was that he had offered us his own personal snack stash, so we munched and danced happily, wishing free cookies would accompany free drinks all the time.

The entire trip to San Se was marrant to say the least, from sandstorms to mystery meats to overnight train rides.  But upon our return to Paris, the hits kept coming.

After a recent Saturday snack of a brat and a bière at the berliner bar Udo, we decided to swing by l’International, an Oberkampf bar known for its free (if debatably entertaining) concerts.  The first two bands were your typical sub-par rock, but then came Malkhior.  If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing Jesus in concert, habillé in a silk leopard bathrobe, tight leopard underwear, and talons – accompanied by a back-up singer well in need of an exorcism- Malkhior is for you.  Ridiculous lyrics, shameless crassness – bref, Malkhior quickly filled the basement with enthusiastic onlookers.  This was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time.  To top it off, upon leaving the bar, we were invited to the Reims rugby gala by a couple of men in kilts.

Truth be told, weekends in Paris are generally pretty humorous.  But that was why today, Monday, I was particularly shocked at the continuing parade of randomness.  On the sidewalk of Boulevard Saint Michel, one of the SDFs got a little creative.  In the place of the ubiquitous suffering puppies that the homeless use to arouse our compassion, this fellow’s pet of choice was a lapin in a box.  Now, I understand how one would come across a stray dog to adopt, but I’ve never seen lost bunnies traipsing around the streets of Paris.  All I can conclude is that some sick and twisted character decide to donate this poor ball of fur, or that the man stole it from somewhere.  From there, I stepped on the bus to find myself next to a pair of jumeaux rouquins.  Red heads are rare, perceived a bit oddly by the French (apparently they “puent” and are bad luck) – so it was interesting to see them x2…Except these weren’t actually twins.  When they started holding hands, I realized it was a couple homosexuel of redheads that had decided to dress identically, glasses and all.  Let’s hope it was for a costume party, and not some weird egotistical sex-fetish.

Last but not least was the bike riding “Texan”.  At around 9:30 pm, I was heading home from the launch party for Paris by Mouth on my vélib, when I came up upon a ten-gallon-hat wearing cowboy, weaving back and forth across the two-way bike lanes.  I almost ran into a car trying to get around him, and judging by his obnoxious rires, was fairly certain he was a drunken American kid.  That was until he approached me at the feu rouge, and his prepubescent gueule offered, “Meuf, t’as été presque tué par cette voiture là” (Girl, you were almost killed by that car).  I was about to ask him why he was dressed like a south-western sheriff, but decided it would be better to pedal off seule into the sunset.

I suppose ce soir, I’ll end of dreaming of  a red cowboy-hatted, bike-riding bunny.  But then again, I wouldn’t expect anything less of Paris.


exposé > oral presentation

dossier > paper (written paper to be handed in)

paresseux > lazy

printemps > spring

gloussement > chuckle

hilarité > hilarity

grimaces > faces (in the sense of “to make a face”)

barman > bartender

marrant > funny

bière > beer

habillé > dressed

talons > high heels

bref > in short

SDF > “sans domicile fixe” (without a fixed residence), homeless person

lapin > rabbit

jumeaux rouquins > redheaded twins

puent > smell

couple homosexuel > a homosexual couple

vélib > public bike

rires > laughter

feu rouge > red light

gueule > face (crass)

seule > alone

ce soir > tonight

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