Fête de la Musique 2010

26 06 2010

This past Monday, June 21st, was the big music festival all around Paris.  (I think they also have this in other cities.)

Every year, on the first official day of summer, Paris opens its streets to musicians of all shapes and sizes.  The Élysée Palace (where the president lives, right across the street from my apartment…!) even opened its courtyard to the public for a musical program.  Tobias and I started there and listened to a steel drum band play some pretty cool, funky music.

We went back to our apartment, had some dinner, and then went back out on the town.  We walked to the Tuileries garden, to the Louvre, and then along a smaller street to the Marais.  Along the way, we saw a drum group, a cheesy choir singing Edith Piaf songs, a jazz band with a tap dancer, a few wannabe bands playing classic rock, a cheesy-sounding gospel group, an American Indian group in feathers and costumes, a techno deejay on a balcony, more techno in the GLBT district of the Marais complete with drag queens and muscle men with no shirts, and some other random groups along the way.  There was quite a lot of variety!

Tobias treated me to some frozen yogurt at mÿ berry and then we went to Selina’s apartment to hang out and toast her birthday at midnight on the 22nd.  Happy birthday to Selina!

It was a very fun night.  It was hard to get up at 5:30 the next morning, and I was utterly exhausted at work that Tuesday.  But it was worth it.  You only live once…and Fête de la Musique is only once per year!

One day, I’ll get myself a better camera that takes better videos.  The sound quality is just so bad on my poor old Nikon Coolpix P4 VR.  It just hasn’t been the same since I dropped it that one time at Christmas…three years ago.  I bought it just before going to Paris for study abroad back in 2006, so it’s quite old as far as these little point-and-shoot cameras go.  Anyway, camera talk aside – I made a little video of the performances we saw at Fête de la Musique.  Its not high-quality or anything, but I wanted to have a little video memory of that night!

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En grève

25 06 2010

Yesterday, France was on strike.  It was a national strike against the proposed change of the minimum age of retirement from 60 years to 62 years.  (Whatever, France, it’s 65 in the States.  It could be “worse”.)

The worst thing about strikes in France is that when someone else strikes, usually so does the RATP – the Parisian transit system.  That resulted in extreme delays and cancelations for metro trains, buses, and intercity trains.

This is especially bad when you have to go to the airport on strike day. Tobias had to fly back to Hamburg.  (Luckily, his flight wasn’t canceled, as some were!  I’m surprised, though, because if anyone would strike, I would think it would be Air France.  However, his flight did end up being delayed by an hour, in the end.)

C’était le bordel

It was a complete mess.  Line 1 of the metro wasn’t so bad until we got to Châtelet to transfer to the RER B.  We already knew there would be less trains (and therefore, it would also be more crowded) because the info on the RATP website said there would be 1 train out of 5 for the RER B during rush hour.  But then we get down to the platform with all his luggage, and there is a sign on the computer screens that normally say the train schedule:  NO RER B TRANSFER AT CHÂTELET.  Really?  Crap.  So we had to go back up with his suitcase and take a line 4 train to Gare du Nord, setting us back about 12 minutes.  And of course, because of that, the train was packed.

So then we got to Gare du Nord, and instead of going down to the RER platform, we had to go up to the actual train tracks to take the RER from quai 33.  We got on the train and felt relieved that we were finally on our way.

But then, just outside of Paris, at the Stade de France stop, just as we were pulling away, the train lurched to a sudden halt.

Someone had pulled the alarm.  Maybe it was an accident, but we had to sit there for at least 5 minutes (maybe more?) while we listened to the alarm sound and the driver (or whoever) checked to make sure nothing was wrong.  Of course, this delayed not only our train, but also the trains behind us, I’m sure.

Well, we finally made it to the airport.  And then it was fine from there.  At least we knew of the strike ahead of time, and we had left much earlier than necessary.  Good thing we did.  It was just crazy.

Going home

After Tobi left to go through security, I went outside.  I thought, “Maybe the Roissybus will be better than taking the RER back.”  Perhaps it would have been, but I realized that it wasn’t when 9 or 10 buses passed by our stop, waving “no” at us when we tried to get them to pull over and pick us up.  Though it was annoying to wait so long (I waited 45 minutes), it was at least nice to be out in the open air and sunshine.  I just read my book and continued to wait.  The bus that finally came was full already, such that I had to stand the entire way back.  I was very tired by the time I got back to Paris.

I went to Starbucks on the way home and treated myself to a frappuccino.  I drank them a lot last summer when I worked at Sofitel, because there was one just across the street, up one block from the hotel.  But drinking my frapuccino and walking back home to my apartment in the sun made me think, finally, “This is summer.”

Hopefully, nobody will be striking on the 30th when I leave France on a train to Hamburg.  That’s 5 days from now! Can you believe it?





Eiffel Tower

23 06 2010

As our last time in Paris together draws to a close, Tobias and I have been trying to do Paris-y things.  I’m sure it won’t be our very last time in Paris, but I’m also not sure when we’ll go back again.

Tobias and I had never gone to the Eiffel Tower together except to see the fireworks on the 14 juillet.  So on Sunday, we took a walk to the most iconic Parisian monument and paid (a discounted fee) to climb the stairs to the second tower.

It was a very cloudy day, which made the city look very dramatic from up above.  We climbed the steps, walked around the tower, and took many pictures.  Tobias treated us to a snack in the café on the 2nd level: waffles and lattes.

We had a really lovely time.  It was so special to go do that together.  More photos below!

Read the rest of this entry »





Willy Ronis

4 06 2010

I do cultural things every once in a while.  Last week, I went to the Willy Ronis exhibition at the Monnaie de Paris museum with Libby.  I had seen the posters in the métro and wanted to go see it, so when Libby asked if I wanted to go with her, I gladly accepted.

Many of you have surely seen this famous Willy Ronis photograph on a postcard or a poster.

The photographer

Just to give a little background, Willy Ronis was a photographer who was born in Paris in 1910 to a family of Jewish immigrants.  As a young boy, he got his first camera and became interested in photography.  After working in his father’s photo studio, he decided to become an independent photojournalist. He did numerous photo reportages and is famous for covering the Citroën strikes and photographing workers in factories.  During WWII, he had to flee from Paris to the free southern zone and did various jobs there.  His extensive portfolio includes Vogue, exhibitions at MoMA in New York and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and numerous reportages in Europe.  In 1972 he left Paris to live in the south of France and teach at the École des Beaux-Arts d’Avignon.  He won many prizes for his work, including the Grand Prix National des Arts et des Lettres.  He died in Paris at the age of 99 on September 11, 2009.

(Biography information from the exhibition program)

Charles Bremner from the New York Times has written an interesting article about Ronis, if you are interested about learning more.

The photography

To me, his Paris pictures were the most interesting part of the exhibition.  Here are a few of my favorites:

"Le Nu Provençal" 1949

"Amoureux de Bastille" 1957

"Place de la Concorde, un soir en passant" 1957

"Autoportrait aux flashes, Paris" 1951





MIKA

30 04 2010

On April 27th, Tobias and I attended MIKA’s concert in Paris at the huge Palais Omnisport at Bercy.

It was THE most exciting concert I’ve ever been to!  Mika sure knows how to put on a good show!  Wow!  I took a few videos (okay, 27 of them, *cough cough*) and wanted to share them here for you just to give you an idea of how AWESOME the concert was.

If you only watch one of them, watch the last one – the grand finale.  It was incredible.  Enormous colorful balloons bouncing amongst the crowd, gold confetti and rainbow streamers rained down on us.  People were jumping, clapping, singing along.  Here it is:

And you should watch the intro.  That boy sure does know how to make an entrance!  (I have a video of my own of Mika’s entry on stage, but this one by Mobilboy is longer and much clearer!)

If you enjoy Mika, even just a little bit, I do not care what measures you have to go to, but go to one of his concerts, seriously! You will not regret it.  No matter the cost, no matter the travel.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience with an incredibly eccentric but talented artist.

Unfortunately, my camera has pretty bad sound quality.  Try to imagine it with music that is 1,000 times clearer.  And I should probably also mention that if you get motion sickness or have epilepsy, it’s probably not a good idea to watch them.  You’ve been forewarned.  😉

The rest of my videos of the concert can be seen here, on my youtube page.  They’re only short clips of most of the songs, because I didn’t want to spend my time videotaping the whole thing.  I wanted to dance!  As Mika said, “Ce soir, on va s’amuser.” – Tonight, we’re gonna have fun! – and we sure did!





à la radio

26 03 2010

This evening (US Eastern Time 1-2 p.m.) I will be participating in a friend’s sister’s college radio show.  We will be discussing the recent French regional elections.

Click on the image to go to the webpage to listen! (Then click on the radio picture on the top left corner, which will open an .mp3 to play in iTunes.)

If you are free from 1-2 p.m. EST, or 6-7 CET (for my France friends), listen for me!  I’ll be on in the first half hour.

Politics isn’t one of my strong points, and it’s usually not all that interesting to me.  But I have heard (and now read) quite a lot about these elections, and it has been fun to do something more intellectual than planning lessons on “How are you?” and “What is your name?”

Please come listen!





Good news!

5 02 2010

Finally…finally…on Tuesday, I received my pass éducation!

I’m so excited…I can finally get into a large number of museums and national monuments for free.  (And discounted entry for a lot of others that aren’t on the free list.)

Ironically, as if the story couldn’t get any better, THEY SPELLED MY NAME WRONG.  So it’s technically not even me.  🙂

Oh, the French.  How very special you are.








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