My birthday rocked! With pictures. And videos!  )[profile] kyliemac
 treated me to a delicious birthday lunch at El Sol y La Luna, and our friend Francine came, and we were ladies who lunched and everything was delicious. Then K and I hung out at the 47 bus stop to go to Censier-Daubenton, but it was freaking late, but that was part of the WIN of the day because K sang many songs to me - including tunes from both the English AND the French version of Once More WIth Feeling, and it was awesome, and I am dying that I didn't get it on video, but I think we're going to have a repeat. Possibly involving a slumber party!

     
You seriously cannot tell from these pictures how adorable this woman is and they are pretty cute pictures.

Then we gave up on the bus and took the metro, which was fun because I was too busy enjoying the extreme goofiness of us to get all wacked out by how much I do not love the subway in Paris. I was slightly late to my seminar, but not too late to sign the book and to earn a quirked eyebrow from the professor, who doesn't like me much anyway so whatever.

The seminar was deeply painful. It is two hours long, there is rarely anything in it that I didn't learn in one of the four paleography courses I've already had, and the entire lecture is read in a way that makes it easy for the students to write down every single word. Imagine that you are giving dictation of a book to people who are not writing in shorthand. How slow would you have to talk? How long would you have to pause after every three words? For two hours. For the first hour it made me sleepy. For the second hour it gave me a screaming case of the I'm so bored I'm going to scream and I might not be able to stop until the paramedics sedate me. It's a kind of hell.

And as we all know, nothing makes paradise more delicious than a quick side trip through the bowels of hell! Our next stop was Laduree, where we had amazing sweets (I had the plate of 4 mini-macarons - caramel beurre-salee, cassis-violet, chocolat noir, and pistache. Honestly, they were all pretty amazing, but the cassis-violet was so delicious that I think I experienced a kind of mild seizure. All of my other senses shut down for a second while Taste commandeered all the channels to announce: OMG YUM. I think I need more cassis (aka blackcurrant) in my life. I was a little hesitant because I've tried violet liqueur and it was soapy tasting. But backed up against the lush berry of the blackcurrant, the violet was more scent than taste, and the two merged beautifully. Really nice. Evidently Pierre Herme also makes a cassis-violet macaron that he calls "Envie" - I'll have to try it next time I'm in Saint Germain-des-Pres. And I got presents! Julia gave me a gift set from L'Occitane, all wrapped and pretty. She is the sweetest ever. SRSLY. I am moving to Moscow.

We had a moment of total hilarity when my coffee arrived and wasn't coffee. We'd wondered what "cafe blanc, saveur des aromes agrumes" etc was going to be all about - I imagined a cafe au lait in which the coffee beans had maybe been intimately acquainted with some citrus peel? But what actually came was a bunch of citrus peels in a teapot. I pulled on the bag to take a look to see if there was anything remotely coffee like - maybe untoasted coffee beans? I dunno, why the hell is my white coffee totally clear? And the way I did it cracked Julia up so bad that she ended up with tears rolling down her face while she mimicked me doing it over and over again, giggling something about l'Americaine barbare, which got me laughing, and eventually the waiter came back and I asked him why there was no coffee in my coffee. And he told me that my coffee was citrus peels. And I said isn't that normally called an infusion or a tisane? And he said yes. And I said what makes it coffee? Did you put caffeine in the water? And he's like uh NON. Then he said you know, there is dark chocolate and white chocolate which has no color. And I said yes, but they are both actually made from the cocoa plant. There is no coffee in my coffee. And then he offered to bring me some coffee and I said yes please and when I looked back at Julia she was laughing without making any noise and then we cracked up some more. We must have been nearly hysterical with relief to be out of that goddamn seminar, because we sat there and laughed about *everything* for about an hour and a half. I told her about the weird people I saw in the library yesterday (a guy whose research tic is to snap his jaw shut like a bear trap, which is actually a really cringe-inducing noise - and a lady who smelled really good, and it was driving me crazy to not be able to place her perfume, so I finally asked her what it was (yeah, don't do THAT in Paris, evidently it's a really intimate question) and she looked at me like I'd asked her what kind of bra she wore because her boobs looked great! And I just beamed at her with my big round American face and said "I like perfume!" in my Friendly Village Idiot/Foreigner Voice and she relented, smiling - and then held out her hair for me to smell. HER HAIR. Which was long. And I kind of leaned in and smelled (clearly I wasn't going to stick my nose in her actual hair) and she told me it was amber. Amber oil? Non, un parfum a l'ambre. Which went *great* with her hair, I have to say. And when I told Julia that this woman had held out her hair for me to smell she just totally fell apart again, and then when we went into Guerlain she kept spooling out her long blond hair and holding it out at me and wiggling her eyebrows and saying "C'EST DE L'AMBRE" - it was completely hilarious.

 
So right, then we went to Guerlain. There was a freaking mob scene on the Champs-Elysees, and we thought there was some movie filming, because there was this whole thing set up on one side of the street, and we were like "the hell with this" and jazzed across illegally to go around it, and bam - there was Guerlain. We wandered around and she let me go on and on and on about various Guerlain perfumes, and their history, and their notes, and then solemnly gave her verdict on each one: "grandma", "great-aunt", or "handbag of great-great-aunt" - those were the three options. She's not wrong. Saying Guerlain smells like your grandma's grandma is totally not at all wrong. But it would be equally correct to say that it has a vintage perfume quality in the sense that those perfumes actually were formulated around the turn of the 20th century. And I like them! But I suspect Julia was not wrong in speculating that they don't do much for the sex appeal. I even tried her on Quand Vient la Pluie: no dice. Also, no samples. The saleswomen were totally not buying me as a potential customer of a 260+ Euro bottle of perfume and didn't do any kind of salespitching. Which was fine, because we could just run around the store sticking our noses in everything and I oohed and aahhed over the bee bottles, and then we came across the section with the home fragrances, and there was one called Hiver en Russie and Julie gave it a very thorough critique of how not Russian it was, much less Winter in Russia. I actually really liked it - it mostly smelled like tea and orthodox church incense. I think it would be a pleasantly contemplative scent to study or read by. But you know what? For 75 Euros I'm going to pass. I suspect that I can duplicate the scent by melting down a black tea-scented candle, adding a teaspoon or two of Comme des Garcons' Incens Avignon, and repouring the candle. Because I'm ghetto like that. Anyway, while we were upstairs in Guerlain's gorgeous atelier, Paris turned on the Christmas lights! So I got to see them come on from the second floor of the Maison Guerlain. It was one of those perfect, gorgeous, beautiful moments. We left to go back outside and Julie decided the lights were not pretty. I thought the lights were awesome, because they include these TOTALLY ridiculous ropes of lights which are just like those drippy green phosphate characters that spooled down computer screens in The Matrix! It is a Very Matrixy Christmas on the Champs-Elysees. I asked Julia if she would take the red pill or the blue pill. Julia said she preferred romantic movies with Julia Ormonde. I took lots and lots of pictures and a few came out, and also a few videos. We walked back to Georges V and got on the metro which was ridiculously overpacked with people, and separated at Concordes.

 
I bought some sushi around the corner and came home and took a shower, and read lots of happy birthday messages on facebook and felt loved, and ate my sushi.

Julia is leaving in two weeks and I'm fairly despondent. This Sunday we will have our last runabout, and I am treating her to dinner at an Italian restaurant (TBD - I'm reading reviews).

Blurry because I was holding my camera above my head - but that round part in the distance? IS A FERRIS WHEEL. I am so on it. At some point.

This picture does a slightly better job of demonstrating the extent to which the Christmas lights on the Champs-Elysees look like they are celebrating the arrival of our new alien overlords rather than Christmas. Also, I'd like to just say that I'm kind of over white Christmas/fairy lights. They were awesome when they were all new and fresh in the 90s, but I'm kind of ready for color to come back in.

People were pretty much walking out in the middle of the street to take pictures, and then other people were walking even further out to get away from the shutterbugs, and I had to contribute to the problem, because: Arc de Triomphe thingy. Which, I have to tell you: I am so freaking grateful that there is at least one national monument left in France that they have not decided to turn blue at night. YET.


Bonus: previously promised photos actually being posted!

La Sorbonne. I climbed this staircase to get to the room which contains the lady who writes the library cards for the 3eme cycle (doctorants etc.) researchers. I loved how wide and grand the staircase was, but I don't mind telling you that I was feeling a little fatalistic about it by the time I got to the top. Rickety, yo.

 
I ate in this restaurant and didn't die of food poisoning. Amazingly.


As seen from my bus-stop!


Morning traffic.

GIRL YOU GOTTA WERRRRK THOSE LEGWARMERS! As seen on my bus! Those are legwarmers. Over blue socks. With open-toed black flats with giant bows on them. Candy-striped sweater. Gold lurex and black scarf. Skirt so small I could not see it but got plenty of panty shots while I attempted to get a focused picture, and those I think nobody needs to see, I nuked them. Sadly, this photo does not capture the intensity of this woman's completely day-glo makeup. Day-glo, neon = acide in French. And seriously. This lady was rockin' her own personal style to the beat of her own personal entire percussion section of the Met. And also seriously: GOOD FOR HER. Frankly, after seeing hundreds and hundreds of perfectly coiffed chic black-clad Paris bitches stomping the sidewalk runways, I could have kissed this lady for daring to be fierce. Because seriously, she was fierce. I was kind of dying to talk to her and find out what she does for a living and stuff, but I didn't want her to feel like a freakshow.

Video! In the courtyard of the Sorbonne.

Another totally twisted French advert:

This woman is holding a butcher knife and contemplating a rack of live rabbits. One of them looks at her desperately. "I am a fashion victim just like you!" "1 vest = 20 rabbits. 1 purse = 4 rabbits. TO WEAR FUR IS TO WEAR DEATH."
 

Guerlain was soooooo pretty.

 

 
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Because nothing says "FNEH! Vee speet on zees economeek crisees!" like festooning your symbolic economic center of gravity with a whole lot of headshop giftwrap.

The French version of Wall Street, simply called "La Bourse" (The Bank) has its classical pillars completely encased in psychedelically bright Indian comics. I haven't been able to figure out why, exactly, but of course I now suspect that it celebrates some sort of French/Indian conspiracy to drive Americans insane via call centers that deploy French attitudes and Indian voices doing American accents (badly). To see closeups of the images, see the set on Flickr.



I liked this knife block, seen while I was wandering around licking the windows. That's what the French call window shopping: lèche vitrine.:



How can the French be so freakin' sour but also so much the lovers of whimsy? SRSLY.

The Fragonard perfume museum was pretty much a total waste of time. I'm going to the Osmothèque asap. The much-vaunted "perfume organ" housing a kazillion of bottles of scent components was just a mockup. I think they should probably mention that in their promotional literature. Myself and another perfumista found ourselves standing in front of it in total dismay. It was a very thin veneer of museum that led to a large gift shop full of Fragonard perfumes and products which smelled, in conjunction, incredibly piercing - nearly caustic. Like lye soap scented with violets. Ugh. I read about the museum in a few online sources, but none of them really captured tge fact that it's a few sparsely populated rooms on top of a large Fragonard gift shop. Of course, one can't expect too much from Fragonard. It's not one of the great houses.



I did like this thing though. And also this toilette-for-the-car.

Still, I had a great walk all over the center of Paris this morning - it was cool and quiet and calm, perfect for an ambling reconnoiter.

My damn camera batteries died when I was only one room into the Musee des Arts et Metiers, but my admission came iwth a free return ticket, and I'm really looking forward to going back there when I've got a relatively free day, maybe this Thursday or next weekend. But I did get off a couple of pictures of this loxocosm:



I've now been here for five days, four if you only count the ones wherein I was mostly conscious, and I'm settling in fine and so far I've done something on my desiderata list every day, so it's been eventful. I head back to the Sorbonne tomorrow or maybe Tuesday to try and get some action at the ENC. I emailed my contact there and my contact back at the Newberry in the US, so hopefully I can get past the gatekeepers the next time... Which is why I should probably wait until Tuesday. However, there *is* a seminar on tomorrow that I'd like to see (if the schedule on the Web site is current, which I totally and completely doubt, given the givens) so I may just go ahead and wander into it and hope that the prof treats me like less of a random/crazy/presumptuous interloper than did the secretaries. If it's actually on.

It's also time to get back to the library. Settle into a weekday routine at Richelieu and start knocking out some work, for heaven's sake. :-)

The jet-lag is getting better - the fact that there's hardly any sun (ever) is probably making it harder than usual. I've been following Hilary's advice and drinking tons of Evian (2 liters a day) and last night I had a case of the midnight munchies in which my tummy demanded food it NEVER wants at that hour: I had a salad with lemon dressing, salmon, and... I ate an entire red bell pepper while I was waiting for my salmon to saute. Like it was an apple. Like I was a woman possessed by some kind of vitamin-seeking alien entity. That's comforting.

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Today I walked around 5 kilometers. Frankly, that's more walking than I've done in a day in awhile, but I figure that since I'm going to be sore for a few weeks due to the new and exciting experience of climbing more stairs in a day than I usually do all week, I might as well do this thing right. Besides, I hate the Paris mosh pits metro. A lot. And I still need to get my hands on the bus schedules.

Good news: the insanely loud Americans are either gone, or were just visiting friends that one night, or have been cowed by my evil eye. Because it's been nice and quiet - that first night seems to have been  a one-off.

Bad news: My freebox had a meltdown and I don't know how to communicate with it. A man with the last name of Sarrazen is coming to fix it, and is it wrong that I picture him as Lawrence of Arabia? Anyway, no more TV for me until Wednesday. Merde.

That is OK. I have other things I should be doing besides glazing over in front of Fashion TV and bizarre children's programming on Al-Jazeera. Such as glazing over in front of, oh, say, MY BOOKS. The ones I schlepped thousands of miles and haven't opened in, um, awhile. But not tomorrow. Nope. Because why? Because tomorrow is Saturday. And you know what that means? That means fleamarkets and brocantes and vides-grenier, you guys. A vide-grenier is an "emptying-attic" and of course, it's a boot sale/garage sale/thing. And I am going to some. I am going to strap on my bouncy maryjanes and see what I can see.

The nice thing about having this whole camera-attached-at-all-times-to-my hand thing (I was keeping it in the bag until I missed a totally priceless shot of a woman in an avant-garde squaredancing costume running hellbent for leather down the street in my direction, probably on her way to Fashion Week somethingorother, and seriously I could have died that I didn't have time to whip out the camera and catch it) is that I'm way more likely to not feel like I have to BUY every single cool/weird/random/interesting thing i see. I can have the image of it, and I'm guessing that in most cases that will be perfectly satisfying. And when it's not, I'm going to feel fine about plonking down a few euros for whatever.

I particularly need some damn sunglasses, and hope to find some nifty couture knockoffs at St. Ouen. Also, to eat something out. I've been doing all my own food prep so far but enough is enough. Mama needs a roquefort-and-swiss croque monsieur with a side-salad at a minimum. I probably won't go to any actual restaurants until my Mom gets here, because I am living as frugally as is sane - I'm still feeling some apprehension about my experience with the Sorbonne secretaries today (detailed in an earlier post) and hope like hell that there's no delay with my paychecks.

Nobody seems to really notice or mind the camera, though I am treating it like an outdoors toy and putting it in my bag when I go indoors. With the exception of this button shop, wherein I wheedled the proprietress to let me take some photos. It took a little begging, but finally she relented, mostly I think because I was having Jerry Lewis-style vocabulary meltdowns trying to explain WHY it was I wanted to take pictures of her buttons. PARCE QUE C'EST ETONNANT HYPER SUPER ENORMEMENT BEAUCOUP DE BOUTONS, that's why. These pictures even totally fail to capture the sense of being nearly drowned in buttons when you walk in. They're everywhere. Zilliards of them.

Un bordel de boutons. )

Also, I got a REALLY dirty look from the woman whose shop was beneath this sign. I wanted to say to her: don't be giving me no yeux de merlons frites, babe, it's the SIGN I'm interested in, not your illegals sweat-shoppin' away in your fabricant vende-au-gros establishment! Shersh. But the sign is awesome:

Street signs. )

And this, folks, is some uptown graffiti street art who the hell knows what, but it looks kind of like that guerilla advertising thing that got those guys arrested in Boston but for the actual, not the mercantile. I think it is a message from Paris to everyone who is not Parisian:
Paris to world: GTFO. )

Some more pictures of the corners I turn walking away from my apartment on rue au Maire:
Le coin. )
Things I hated to see:
Ick. )

Things I loved to see:
Yum. )

Before the Sorbonne, the faculty of Paris taught in the courtyards and buildings of rue de Fouarre. William would have walked here:
rue de Foulle )

Crowds not visible. But here they are:
Notre Dame de La Foule )

It's crazy out there today. It's not tourist season - but Nuit Blanche is tomorrow, and it's Fashion Week, and I guess Paris has about 600,000 extra people in it this weekend. And it feels like it, too.
Shiny streets. )

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I'm not going to keep a separate blog for the Paris trip, not least because I'd rather keep a journal than a blog per se - these entries will mostly be made public (the journal is otherwise friendslist-only and privatized) so friends and family who aren't on LJ can see them if they want to read it, but won't be visible indefinitely. They'll be up for about a week or so and then privatized again, mostly because I don't like being googlecached. So if something seems to disappear on you, that's why! If you haven't seen any of my entries in the last few months and now you see this, the lack of access to prior entries is because we don't have a reciprocal friend thing going on. Just to be clear.

Parisian minutiae! )
Now for a brief tour!

View from my window: not eventful, but charming enough:


The rest... )
In other news: a professor at a decent private university wrote to me asking for a copy of my NSF proposal. He is applying for an STS grant and he wants to see winning proposals. Why mine in particular, I don't know - his rationale on that was so flimsy that it made me uncomfortable. I'm thinking that the right answer is no, sorry, the proposal is not being circulated because it contains my preliminary research. And because he's a professor at the same university where the only academic currently publishing material on William works. I can't imagine how it would be a good idea to give it to him.
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