Leuchtturm 1917 Softcover

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Here’s another one for the paper lovers out there: the Leuchtturm 1917 softcover notebook. In my last papery post, I mentioned that I consulted the wisdom of The Pen Addict, Goulet Pens, and The Desk of Adam when I needed a new notebook. After using Moleskine for years, I was no longer happy with the paper quality and started looking for something with an equally simple design, better paper, and in softcover (it’s lighter and therefore encourages me to tote it around more often).

I finally settled on the Leuchtturm softcover in “medium” and I’m very pleased with it. The medium size is 145 x 210 mm, slightly shorter and a little wider than its Moleskine counterpart . Mine is ruled, but it also comes in squared, blank, and dot grid, this last of which is my favorite but was unfortunately sold out at Skripta. (more…)

Place Settings #37: April 13, 2014

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Eat: Pain au chocolat in the park. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, but I live about half a block from a beautiful older park with a pond and lots of ducks and geese, and about two blocks from a brand new park, which is where I ate this morning. I decided it eat outside today to get out of my cave apartment.

Drink: Lemonade (don’t worry — I had a coffee earlier at home). (more…)

Galeries d’Anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie

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When I was six years old and living in Bavaria, my parents took me to Vienna for a short trip while my dad gave a talk at a university. I have a number of vivid memories from this trip — including a traumatic episode in which I didn’t want to eat a crab cake because my tooth was about to fall out and I was afraid to chew anything — but my favorite was the Naturhistorisches Museum. I have no idea if the museum is still like this, but at the time it was itself a specimen of the Victorian period: room after room of vitrines and dioramas containing perpendicularly arranged fossils, minerals, and taxidermy animals, labeled by Latin name in ornate calligraphy on yellowed cards. There were no interactive displays or animatronic dinosaurs, but I loved it. I remember my mom lifting me up so I could look into the rock and mineral cases and being mesmerized by the orderly, endless rows of information. In many ways, I never want to go back to the real Naturhistorisches Museum in case it has changed or, as is more likely, in case my memory is selectively exaggerating and erasing parts of the museum.

When I shared this memory with my friend and Paris native Laurène she said we had to go to the Galeries d’Anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie. Located in the 5th arrondissement, the gallery is actually part of a pretty little complex of buildings, gardens, and a small zoo that collectively form Paris’s Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle. Laurène said that this particular building had a similar Victorian sensibility, and so we made plans to go together. (more…)

Place Settings #36: April 6, 2014

Place Settings #36

Eat: Asparagus season is in full swing and you can’t go anywhere in Paris without seeing bundles of thick green and white stalks for sale. I picked up a fistful of spears in La Grande Epicerie, a magical food store that I’ve mentioned before. I steamed these for a few minutes, coated them in butter, and topped with a poached egg and a bit of salt.

Drink: English breakfast tea with honey.

Read: After I finished Bird by Bird, I looked at my stack of books and hesitated before selecting Girl with Curious Hair. Part of me wanted to take a longer break from David Foster Wallace (I finished Infinite Jest at the end of February), not because I’ve grown tired of him, but because I didn’t want to binge on him.  (more…)

Musée Rodin

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Yesterday I ended up at the Musée Rodin by accident. I took the Metro to Champs-Élysées Clemenceau and climbed out without a plan in mind; it was quite warm yesterday so I thought I might sit by the Seine and read or write. By the time I surfaced it was quite overcast and none of the river perches caught my fancy so I kept walking. Two white-haired German men paused in front of me by the Passerelle de Solférino to consult their travel guide and, seized with this sudden inspiration to render myself a tourist, I crossed the river to go visit Le Penseur.

I should add that I know basically nothing about either Rodin or sculpture, but I did remember the scenes from the museum in Midnight in Paris and it seemed like a pretty place to pass a Wednesday afternoon (is this an embarrassing cultural reference?). I was not wrong. The Paris museum consists of a small indoor collection in the Hôtel Biron, an early 18th century townhouse in which Rodin lived for many years, and a gorgeous garden full of sculpture, including Rodin’s most famous thinking man.  (more…)

Place Settings #35: March 30, 2014

Place Settings #35

Eat: Scrambled Camembert eggs, breakfast sausage, buttered toast. Not very French, but very satisfying. I think I’m going to start going out for Sunday brunch (or taking brunch picnics, now that it’s 70F here) because it’s so dark in my apartment that I can’t take pictures. Side note: last night I made a tuna melt with Camembert, which is now, as far as I’m concerned, the only way to make a tuna melt.

Drink: What do you think? On the subjects of drinks though, I feel like I have to give a shoutout to Juice It, a cold press juice bar in the 1ème that I visited yesterday. It has all kinds of healthy green juices, but most importantly it has something called a “chocolac.” It has several ingredients, but this is basically chocolate hazelnut milk. As a lactose-intolerant Nutella lover, I loved this drink.

Read: I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird wayyyyy back in middle school when I attended Duke’s Young Writer’s Workshop one summer and everyone talked about how this was the best book on writing ever. Over the years it slipped off my radar, but the other week someone in my Paris writing group brought an excerpt to our attention and seeing as I remembered not a single thing about the book, I decided to re-read.  (more…)

Listen to This: Jan-March, 2014

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As I was pulling together my April 2014 playlist the other day, I realized that I haven’t done a “Listen to This” post in a really long time. I’ve actually been listening to a lot more music this year (I think because I have a lot more time on my own, instead of working in an office), so I thought I’d do a little round-up of my favorite albums so far this year. Some of them are 2014 releases, some are catch-ups from last year, and one is much older than that.

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Jardins du Ruisseau

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On Sunday I visited my friend Emily at the Jardins du Ruisseau, a community garden at the very north end of Paris by the Porte de Clignancourt. The gardens run alongside a stretch of defunct train tracks, with a bee hive at one end and a coop full of fancy chickens at the other. As I mentioned the other day, I’m worried that Paris is turning into a city of blind habits for me, instead of remaining an endless supply of visual stimulation. This is, of course, no fault of the city, but of my own mental laziness. So when a friend invited me to a garden in a corner of Paris I hadn’t seen yet, I picked up my camera and headed out the door. What follows are somewhat pedestrian photos of flowers that nevertheless injected some much-needed visual awareness into my life.

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Place Settings #34: March 23, 2014

Place Settings #34

Eat: Toasted pita, hummus, avocado, red pepper flakes.

Drink: Nespresso. I am counting down the days until I am reunited with my full coffee set-up.

Read: I have a confession to make. I’ve been hopelessly sucked into the original Law & Order, all of which is available on Netflix. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was my original police procedural love; I’d only seen random episodes of the original series. One day about two weeks ago I was bored and browsing through Netflix for something to watch and thought I’d just watch an episode or two. I’m now in season six, so you do the math (but don’t tell me; I don’t want to know). (more…)

Looking through Lenses

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I’ve been in Paris for two and a half months now, and I am ashamed to admit that I have already felt the force of habit creeping into and obscuring my vision. The first two weeks I was here, every moment I spent outside was full of amazing things to see. Even something as mundane as the grocery store was packed with interesting details; I wanted to look at every single product and label. I was never afraid of whipping my camera out to photograph something I found beautiful or fascinating or funny, which covered pretty much everything I saw.

But of course, this doesn’t last. Even the flakiest people have habits, and the force of habit is a strong one: “We commonly live with a self reduced to its bare minimum; most of our faculties lie dormant, relying on habit; and habit knows how to manage without them” (Proust, 235). I have a Paris routine now, full of places I like to go, foods I like to buy, restaurants I like to frequent, and so on. Slowly the details that charmed me at the beginning are becoming invisible to me. Somewhat symbolically, I don’t take my camera with me as much anymore because it’s heavy and bulky; I no longer look at Paris through the same lens. (more…)