Saturday, November 8, 2008

Going to the Movies in Paris

So tonight I decided to go to the movies. There are several big theaters on the Champs-Élysées and since I was over in that area, I decided to see the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace (which apparently isn't out yet in the US???).

Anyhow, before anyone gives me a hard time about going to the movies in Paris... let me just say that my quest in coming here for a month was to experience what it would be like to live here. And if I lived here, going to the movies on occasion is something that I would do - not something someone would likely do here on vacation. So it seemed like a perfectly logical way to spend a Friday evening! Ok, I'm done being defensive now ;-)

So a few observations from the experience:

I never realized this on any of my previous trips to Paris, but most of the new American film releases that are shown here are actually shown in English, with French subtitles! The way you can tell for sure is when you look up at the movie posters on the theater, if it says VO (standing for Version Original) somewhere down at the bottom, then that means it's in English. I can't believe I never knew that!

So tonight I saw the new James Bond movie in a very large theater filled with several hundred French people and as I watched and listened to the movie normally, they all had to read the subtitles. Wild! I guess with the new releases, there isn't time to get them dubbed? Not sure - I'll have to Google that to find out more ;-)

The theater itself reminded me more of one you'd see a concert in than a movie. It had a stage and curtain. The seats were semi-stadium - tiered, but not as much as at home. And the seats didn't recline or have cup holders, but... they were very cushy and more like living room chairs that movie theater seats. When the lights dimmed, the curtain opened and there was a full 25 minutes of fluff. Only two movie previews, the rest was regular commercials for everything from perfume to travel offers. Once the ads were done, the lights came back on and the curtain closed. Then a few minutes later, all the lights went out completely, the curtain opened and the main feature began. A bit peculiar. But nobody seemed confused by what had transpired but me, so I 'think' this is normal in France.

One thing I found really interesting was that people did NOT tolerate talking - which was great! Every time you'd hear a peep, people would loudly shoosh them. But that was actually quite odd given the fact that most of the people in the theater were reading the dialogue, not listening to it. I guess going to the movies is a great way to learn English and/or improve your English skills!

p.s. The Bond movie was good - not excellent. TONS of action (as you'd expect), but the storyline was a little lacking.

Click here to view all of today's photos (11/08/08)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Castles of the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley excursion lasted about 14 (wonderful) hours. I will post extensively this weekend - I promise - with tons of pics of the castles! I know I am falling far behind in getting photos up - I'll try and get caught up this weekend. But for now.... here's one shot of me in front of the Château de Chambord from yesterday. More later!

Click here to view all of today's photos (11/07/08)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Les Catacombes de Paris

Have you ever seen that show "Cities of the Underworld" on the History Channel? Something I've wanted to do for years is visit the Catacombs of Paris. I tried to a few years ago (I think on the trip here with Sherri), but they were closed for repair. Finally, today I was able to see them.

First off, very spooky. You have to go down a very deep and narrow winding staircase that seems to go on forever. When it ends, you are in a vast maze of underground tunnels below the city streets of Paris that are filled with the remains (bones and skulls) of six million people. The bones were moved there in the late 1700s, early 1800s due to a concern that where they were buried was a danger to public health. In the pictures you'll see the bones all neatly stacked. Believe it or not, this was done recently but happened back around 1810 during the time of Napolean I. I'll post more photos later, but for now I wanted to give you a sneak peek! If you are interested in learning more about the history of the catacombs, click here to visit the Web site.

I set off through the tunnels at a quick pace but after a few minutes got a little scared when I didn't see anyone (alive) in front or behind me! So I slowed up until I could hear the people behind me and always stayed within earshot of their footsteps! This afternoon was a very unique and different Paris experience.

Have to cut this short tonight and get to bed - early day tomorrow! I have to be up and out by 6:30am for a tour I'm taking. I'll be spending the day a couple hours outside of Paris in the countryside of the Loire Valley to see castles - the kind fairy tales are based on! I'll be visiting three of the most beautiful château over the course of the day: Cheverny, Chambord and Chenonceau.

Click here to view all of today's photos (11/06/08)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

An Afternoon at the Palace of Versailles

It was such a beautiful day today - 60 degrees and sunny - that I couldn't bear the thought of being inside. So I decided to take a day trip to the Palace of Versailles, about 40 minutes outside of central Paris. It's pretty easy to get to Versailles, the Metro (RER C line) goes all the way there and it's just a 10 minute walk from the train station once you arrive.

I have been to Versailles before, but it has been many years. Admittedly, the grounds and gardens are much more beautiful in spring and summer when the fountains are running and the flowers are in bloom. But even in the autumn, the château and its grounds are awe inspiring.

I spent the afternoon at Versailles then made my way back to Paris. On the Metro, I was sitting across from a Vietnamese couple. The woman spoke to me in French (that's the second time that's happened in the past two days - I take that as a compliment that I'm 'blending in'). Anyhow, when I told her I didn't speak French, she spoke to me in broken English. She said that she has lived in Paris for the past 15 years. And then like the guy last night, asked me about the election. She acted concerned that I was here on election day but was relieved when I told her that I had voted early before coming to Paris. She too mentioned she hoped Obama would win.

And if you were watching CNN today, you saw that they did a segment live from Paris where there are big election parties going on. The French are almost as excited as we are!

On the way back home I got off the Metro at the stop where the Paris Opera House is - so beautiful! And then walked behind it a block to "the" department store in Paris - Galeries Lafayette. They (3 stores) were all lit up for Christmas and were totally packed! So much energy, so much to see - I was like a kid in a candy store. I only bought a few things - this time ;-) One of the things I got was a CD of French Christmas carols/music.

I'm sort of embarrassed to say this but I actually stayed there almost as long as I stayed at Versailles this afternoon! I heard on the news (Sky News out of London) this morning, that Europe is officially in a recession. From the looks of things at the Galeries Lafayette tonight though, I don't think the people of Paris got that memo....

I took tons of photos at Versailles and at the Galeries Lafayette and will post them later tonight on my main photo site. I'll add a link here once they are posted!

Meanwhile... it's already after midnight here and it's still an hour or so before the first polls close in the US (two hours before Florida's polls close). I don't want to miss any of the action, but I may have to take a nap in the middle of the night in order to be awake to hear the result! It could be 7 or 8 am here (1 or 2am Florida time) before there's a winner - or later, God forbid. It should be an exciting night! I'm going to pick up a copy of the Paris newspaper Le Monde on Thursday (and other European papers if I can find them) to see how the world reacts to who wins.

Click here to view all of today's photos (11/04/08)

Election Day

Election day is FINALLY here - woo hoo! Many of you have asked if they are making much of the election here. Does this photo answer the question? Yes, it is a HUGE deal here and all across Europe.

As I walked to Monoprix earlier, a man came up and asked me a question in French. When I politely said, "Je ne parle pas francais," he asked what language and I said English. He then started speaking to me in English and asked if I was from the United States and who I was hoping would win the election. I said Obama and he broke out in a huge smile and said, "We can only hope!"

A little further down the street I walked past a store window where the whole theme was the election, depicting it as a heavy weight boxing match.

I taped some of a French news broadcast tonight (see below). I didn't have the volume up loud enough though, so it may be difficult for you to hear. I will cut a better segment tomorrow during the election coverage. But for now, click on the slide below to watch:

From Movies

Monday, November 3, 2008

L'accident: An Update

So after the shower incident on Friday night, I spent all day Saturday in the apartment with my foot up alternating between ice and compression. By the time it got dark I was starving (and more importantly had run out of Diet Coke), so I hobbled (literally) across the street to the market to buy some food. (Note to self: remember to only buy as much as you can carry AND as much as will fit in a tiny mini-fridge!)

Saturday I kept off the ankle until mid-afternoon and then I just couldn't take being in Paris and being locked away in my apartment for another minute! So I put on my old-school hightop black sneakers (which were GREAT because they totally supported my ankle) and I went out exploring!

I walked close by to the Rue Montorgueil which is one of Paris' oldest market streets. It's pedestrian only and full of shops and cafes. Then I walked over past the Louvre, across the Seine, over to Notre Dame Cathedral, back over the Seine, through the Marais district (w/a pit stop at a crepe stand for a piping hot crepe fromage) and then back to my apartment - about 4 hours of walking. I know, I know... but it was such a nice afternoon! Anyhow, resting my ankle all day Saturday and wearing the hightops seemed to do the trick. I was a little sore when I got home, but by this morning, my ankle is almost feeling normal again - yeah!

So tonight I went to Monoprix - kind of like a Super Target, but tiny so imagine a Micro Target! I couldn't find a mat for the shower of death, but I found these little suction cup fish. Of course when I took a shower tonight, the fish started moving. Or were they swimming...

Who knew that the most dangerous thing about living in a foreign country would be taking a shower!

Click here to view all of today's photos (11/03/08)

Photos of l'appartement - Part Deux

Photos of My Building

Here are a few photos I took today of my apartment building (outside and in).

Sunday, November 2, 2008

History of the Rue du Croissant

How's this for coincidence... or is it a sign of some sort??? Not sure, but I find it quite interesting that I should come all the way across the ocean to this large city and of all the places I could have found to stay, the apartment I have rented to live in is in the heart of what was once Paris' historic newspaper district dating back all the way to the French Revolution and having historical significance relating to the press all the way through the asassination that took place there on the eve of WWI...

From a few Web sites I found:

"Home to the free press of Paris... by 1840 this had become a working-class neighbourhood in the heart of the capital, dominated by the teeming bustle and din of the press industry, which had first settled here during the Revolution, when Père Duchesse published a lewd, anarchical paper on rue de Damiette. It was in the tiny area enclosed by rues Saint-Joseph, du Croissant and des Jeûneurs that the political destiny of France was largely determined."

"Rue du Croissant (seventeenth century) is a street of ancient houses and the chief newspaper street of the city. Paper hawkers crowd there at certain hours each day, then rush away, vying with one another to call attention to their stock-in-trade. At No. 22, Café du Croissant, at the corner where this street meets the Rue Montmartre, journalists assemble, and there the notable Socialist, Jaurès, was shot dead on the eve of the outbreak of war, July 31st, 1914. The sign at No. 18 is said to date from 1612."

"The next door la Chope du Croissant, on the corner of rue du Croissant, was one of the papermen's hang-outs. On 31 July 1914, at 9:30pm, Jean Jaurès was having an animated dinner there with fellow journalists from his paper l'Humanité, when Raoul Villain shot at him twice through the window for having opposed the breakout of World War I.

"It was Jean Jaurès, who on April 18 1904, signing the first issue of the journal. His first address is 110, rue Richelieu, in the Second district of Paris. The place is occupied by the newspaper until 1909, when the writing moves at 16 Rue du Croissant (this is my exact building!!!). On the pediment of the building, you can read "Printing Press". This is the address of humanity between 1909 and 1915."

"Ironically Jaurès became the war's first victim, whilst his assassin benefited from the 'confusion of the time', in other words, from the prevailing nationalist hysteria, and was acquitted. The café's name has since been shortened to le Croissant, but Jaurès' table is still there, with the victim's blood stain that never came off. There is also a copy of the next morning front page of l'Humanité announcing the death of Jaurès along with cuttings from other papers."

"Sale of evening papers in the Rue du Croissant"
Illustration from 'La Petite Gironde, 1899.

Click here to view all of today's photos (11/02/08)