The Doors of Paris

I can’t really say I’m fresh off my trip to Paris, since it’s been over two weeks since we’ve returned home. But as befits the Fall of Travel, we’re heading out again tomorrow, and I thought I’d at least tie up the final loose thread from Paris before we leave again!

Paris is so full of beauty that you may only be able to comprehend it by choosing very small, limited things to focus your attention on, so as not to become overwhelmed immediately. For me, it was doors. Something that seems so pedestrian in many locales, but was unsurprisingly breathtaking in Paris.

Enjoy!








And the most Parisian door of them all…

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Small Differences Between NY & Home

As inspired by Mighty Girl’s travel series (Paris, Barcelona, Hawaii), here are a few things I noticed on a recent trip to New York:

  • People wear sunglasses a lot less in NY. I was there on sunny days, some of the hottest and muggiest of the summer. Despite that, I saw maybe one in every 20 folks with sunglasses on. It even affected me: in LA, I tend to automatically pop sunglasses on my face as soon as I venture outside, but by my third day there, I forgot to wear them till past lunchtime!
  • I was expecting a faster pace of activity, and gamely brought walking shoes and tried to keep up with the flow of foot traffic on the busy sidewalks. As such, I ended up getting to almost all of my meetups on time or early… and would then wait for 10-20 minutes. New Yorkers are meant to be impatient and to-the-point, but I guess that doesn’t always translate to punctuality! My suspicion is that everyone was stuck with “just one more thing at work” syndrome.
  • A black-and-white cookie is not a cookie, but a cake. Not a difference, I was just a bit (actually, a lot) boggled by that.
  • Half the people I saw standing on sidewalks (so… a lot) were smoking. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone smoking in LA!
  • I can count on one hand the number of streets I saw/crossed that were two-way. And yet, even though I knew they were all one-way, I could never keep myself from checking traffic the wrong way too… just in case. I kept hearing my parents’ voices in my head, saying “be sure to look both ways!”
  • Performances are just a part of life in NY. You can ignore them, smile and watch, or openly scoff, but it seemed pretty normal to see in any given week a subway dance troupe, breakdancers, and a Hare Krishna parade. I actually saw all of those things in just three days!
  • People would talk about money more openly. Granted, this may be affected by the people I interact with in LA (I don’t have a ton of friends in the entertainment industry), but I was part of many more conversations in NY that involved how much people made, how much rent was in that area of town, how much that vacation cost.
  • Coffeeshops were so so so small! It’s a good thing that there would be four on a block, because it’s very possible that the first three wouldn’t have any open table spaces.
  • Speaking of crowded blocks, spotting three or four of the same service on a single block probably means that you’ll get pretty good value at any of them, due to competition. When I found myself on a block with three nail salons, I did a Yelp search for the best-reviewed one. I ended up with an AMAZING manicure for $8.50 that included a one-minute back massage while my nails dried (is this standard?? If so, two points, New York.)!
  • I missed NPR. I remember as a kid hearing that New Yorkers loved their newspapers because they were perfect for reading in the subway, and Angelenos loved radio because they were always in their cars. I saw not one newspaper on the subway this trip — everyone was on their phones instead (doing something that doesn’t require consistent cell service, I guess?). But I did very severely miss having the presence of radio news in my life.
  • Everyone talked about the weather, which, to be fair, I feel like people do everywhere in the world. But in NY, unlike in LA, it’s actually worth talking about — I experienced two of the hottest, muggiest days ever (and I’m from Cleveland!), followed by a dark, cloudy day that featured two huge thunderstorms. Dramatic much, NY?
  • And finally, one big similarity, a big city thing, I think: every New Yorker has a very different New York. While, just like in LA, there are things that unite all the city’s denizens. But there are also things that are integral parts of one person’s life and complete mysteries to another person, even if those two folks have essentially lived side-by-side for years. NY example: the Chinese car services. LA example: $15 one-hour massages. (both of my examples are Chinese because I don’t know anyone else’s secrets.)
  • (Photo of me with a NY bagel in a NY park, but still with my LA sunglasses and chipped LA manicure very much intact.)

Alamo Drafthouse

Ahh, that was a refreshing break!

So: I’ve never been to Austin, or any of Texas for that matter. I am definitely self-selecting my info here, but based on five seasons of Friday Night Lights, the surprising (to me!) diversity of Houston, and here, the awesomeness of the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater in Austin… I may have to reconsider my previously dismissive attitude!

I love the phonetic misspelling guesses the best, because I am totally a bitch about that stuff.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1L3eeC2lJZs%5D

Paris!

When we decided to try for a child, one major thing that I had to reconcile was saying goodbye to travel for a while. I mean, I anticipated plenty of trips to see family, and after a few years, it’d certainly be fun to take our kid on child-friendly vacations, if for nothing else than to see her surprised by new experiences and dazzled by cartoons come to life, ready to give her a big friendly hug.

But I thought for sure we were saying goodbye to non-family travel for a while, and even after we had Zoe, it made me shudder to think of wasting precious time in the world’s capitals dealing with toddler meltdowns or trying to find a decent place to change her. Or sitting in the hotel room with a passed-out child, cursing jet lag and the fact that probably no country allows you to leave your sleeping child alone in a locked room (KIDDING, don’t call CPS on me!). For some reason, I never thought about continuing to travel, just without her.

Silly, silly me. I couldn’t have foreseen that these days — almost two years after Zoe’s birth — I’m in a job that requires two (domestic) trips a year. They may not always be the most glamorous locales, but are still fun, happening cities where I can pretend to be a childless adult for a few days. And now, lo and behold, we’ve received an offer, the type of which is impossible to turn down: Evan’s been asked to moderate a panel at a conference… on his birthday… in Paris!

So we “discussed” it for about two seconds, and after we lined up reliable childcare for the week that we’ll be gone (thanks, Mom & Dad!!), we did a little dance that possibly involved too much butt-wiggling, and bought our tickets. Bonjour, Paris!

I’m beyond excited and also a bit overwhelmed. Evan and I have both been to Paris a few times, but not for over eight years (wow, nothing makes you feel old like counting the years…). That amount of time seems like forever, obviously not in Paris’s history, but definitely in ours — I mean, we can probably afford meals from real restaurants this time! Plus, the internet is such a different place than eight years ago, and as with so many topics, it’s now an overflowing repository of idealized, interesting Paris experiences, which is probably part of what’s overwhelming me.

So, I turn to you: I want to know everything — where should we go, what should we eat, what is a DEFINITE can’t-miss, and how do I avoid getting pickpocketed? Ooh, and what are the books/blogs I should be reading to get in a Paris frame of mind?

Some notes: we’ve been to most of the big tourist attractions on previous trips, but we probably won’t be able to resist at least a quick walk to the Notre Dame and Eiffel Tower anyway. I’m surprisingly feeling a bit “eh” on a Louvre trip, since I’ve visited it at least twice. And I do want to incorporate some sort of very delicious, very fattening food goal, something akin to seeking out the best croissant in Paris — which will obviously take lots of evidence-gathering!

What else, what else, what else? Taking all advice, starting now!

Merci beaucoup!!

(Photo of the Paris landmark that flashes into my mind’s eye every time I think of the city, the Fontaines de la Concord, courtesy of Inside France Ukraine)