Home again

I feel like every time I return to Paris after a visit home, my heart gets that bit heavier. I mean physically. I can feel it sink that closer to my stomach. It’s not that I don’t love it here but the time away from my family and friends is definitely the hardest. When I do get back to Ireland, it makes me appreciate it that bit more. Here’s a few things I miss about home (and a few shameless plugs to encourage ye all to visit)

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The sea – this is a particularly idyllic and tranquil spot in Laytown, Co. Meath

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The walk from Malahide to Portmarnock and back

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Portmarnock beach

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First time I’d seen starfish on the beach – there was a whole colony of them

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Scampi and chips from Beshoffs after a nice long stroll

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Finding the beauty in the simplest surroundings…so Drogheda is not Paris, but it came up nice when the sun eventually came out of hiding

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A walk around Drogheda (where I lived briefly as a child and don’t remember)

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The River Boyne (comes in third place after the Seine and the Liffey)

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Discovering new places in my own country (well not really “new”…Laurence’s Gate is a few hundred years old)

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Mini bite of Ireland – churches, rivers and rolling hills

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A scone and jam in my local cafe after a trip to the dentist 🙂

Have any of you ever been to Ireland? What do you like most about it?

Slan go foill!

Sunday strolls (Musuems and McDonalds edition)

Yesterday’s Sunday stroll took me to Porte d’Auteuil where I discovered the Jardins des Serres d’Auteuil or the Botanic Gardens. Strolling around the gardens, I felt like a lady of leisure back in the day when women wore large frivolous hats and long flowing dresses and parasols. Of course I was wearing none of these but I did have my brolly on me as luck would have it, it began to lash out of the heavens. Luckily I had time to get a walk in around the gardens before hand and admire the gargoyles, the wonderful variety of flowers (in all colours imaginable) and the classic greenhouses that provided the backdrop.

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Later on in the afternoon I decided to visit the Museum of Architecture at Trocadero (Le Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine). This was an especially unique museum as it basically features the facades and scaled down models of some of France’s most famous architectural masterpieces. It was a really interesting use of an indoor space to showcase features of buildings that we are only used to seeing in an outdoor setting. Plus, the view from the windows, especially on the 2nd floor where the space is dedicated to the evolution of more modern architecture, is not only amazing (see below) but also very fitting, as can see the variety of iconic buildings across Paris, from the Eiffel Tower to Invalides to Tour Montparnasse.

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And what would a day at the museum be without a stop off in McDonalds to end another fun Sunday in Paris. 🙂

Hope you all had a nice Sunday! x

Saturday (and Sunday) strolls continued…

Yesterday I decided to make the most of what looked to be an otherwise dreary day in the capital and ventured out to the town of Rambouillet. Making the most of my free transport within the Ile de France during weekends and bank holidays, I did some research and found an alternative to Versailles in the Chateau de Rambouillet. Although, nowhere near as grand as the Chateau de Versailles, the Chateau de Rambouillet suits anyone looking to avoid the masses and take in the naturous surroundings whilst discovering what is frankly a hidden treasure. Rambouillet is only 40 minutes from Paris Montparnasse (if you get a train with no stops throughout, an hour if you don’t) and boasts a 13th century manor, formerly home from home to Louis XVI who came here mainly for hunting. The grounds are huge and are home to forests, lakes and even sheep! Louis XI had a dairy built here specifically for Marie Antoinette, which she didn’t use that often but all the same, is beautifully decorated with “medallions” of cow inspired illustrations. The chateau is the summer residence of the French president and it’s not hard to see why.

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Saturday (and Sunday strolls)

The only thing better than a weekend in Paris is a bank holiday weekend in Paris. Three days to further explore this city which I am still getting to know in more detail.

Friday got the weekend off to a good start as we got to finish early so of course, with the sun shining, I let my feet guide me to les Jardins des Tuileries.

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On Saturday I decided to wander by La Defense and Neuilly sur Seine. This stroll was inspired by the previous weekend, where I took the bus to Beauvais to catch my flight home for a couple of days in Dublin. Whilst I wasn’t overexcited about a long trek out to the airport after a long day at work, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw on the way. The bus took us from Porte Maillot and made it’s way by Neuilly sur Seine (the Blackrock of Paris), then out to La Defense, taking a turn to the right which brought us along a part of the Seine I hadn’t travelled before. Whatsmore the weather was gorgeous and I made a mental note to come back and venture by these parts when I would return.

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Doing just that, I got off at Pont de Neuilly metro stop (line 1) and walked up to La Defense (sneaked into Quatre Temps) for about an hour and continued strolling until I realised I was in Courbevoie!

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Luckily, the Eiffel Tower was in my eyeline and I eventually found my way back to the centre. However, completely missing the walking along the Seine part of my stroll, I returned again on Sunday, this time getting the metro to Porte Maillot and walking through the tree lined avenues of Neuilly sur Seine centre.

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Neuilly sur Seine town hall

Once I finally came to the Seine, I took a right and walked along, in the cool shade of the trees by the road side and eventually crossed over to the sunnier side and descended on to the river bank, taking in the rays.  

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To be continued…

Sunday strolls – Jardin des Plantes

One of my favourite places to go in Paris when I want to take it easy and either stroll around or read a book is Les Jardins des Plantes. No matter what the season, whether it’s Autumn with the golden and crimson leaves crunching beneath my feet, Winter when the trees glisten with frost and I’m wrapped up nice and cosy in my woolies or Spring… (I will let the photos beneath explain)

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Comedy, Springtime and my failed attempt at baking

On Monday night, I started the week off on a fun note but going to see How to Become Parisian in an Hour. This is the best selling show in Paris and it wasn’t hard to see why. Within five seconds of arriving on the stage, Olivier Giraud had the audience (a mixture of French and overseas visitors) in fits of laughter. His impression of Parisian life and encounters in the metro, restaurants and shops was so spot on that it was hard not to find it hilarious. Honestly, Paris is such a great city but there are aspects of living here that do sometimes get to me such as the miserable faces in the metro every morning or the rudeness of sales staff but Olivier explained this so well that at the end I nearly empathised with them (I stress ‘nearly’!). This show is a must see for anyone visiting or living, or even passing through Paris but I would say it is particularly relevant to those who have been in Paris long enough to no longer be amazed by the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower and the one sided view of Paris we experience as a tourist. 

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During the week, I went to the park by the Champs Elysée and enjoyed the warm weather. I was amazed at how suddenly Spring had hit the park. Suddenly there were cherry blossoms that seemed to have bloomed out of no where and flowers of every colour planted all around. 

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It was especially nice on Tuesday so decided to walk home.

Yesterday, I attempted to make brownies as I was at home sick for the day and had planned to come back to work next day with yummy Nigella inspired brownies for my colleagues. Everything was going to plan until firstly, I realised I was 100g out of butter just as I had melted the butter and chocolate together. After running out to the shop across the road, I managed to throw the remaining butter into the mix without any trauma. I continued by adding the eggs and the sugar, then the almonds and walnuts. After folding the mixture into the mini baking tray I had bought specially (as I have a mini oven) the ultimate despair took over as I attempted to slide the tray into the oven only to realise it didn’t fit! I must have turned the tray diagonally, hexagonally, vertically but alas it was not meant to be…I then transferred the mixture to the smaller tray I had (which is really supposed to be a “crumb tray’, bunged it in the oven and hoped for the best. When I took it out 25 minutes later (the recommended time) it appeared to be cooked on the outside and “gooey” on the inside just as the recipe stated. However, even when left to cool, it remained “gooey”…even this morning when I opened up the plastic container I stored the mound of gloop in…so alas, no brownies for my colleagues today 😦 And my hopes of becoming a domestic goddess will just have to wait another while longer…Image

 

How deceiving!

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I tried

So yea…it’s fair to say I’ve sickened myself off chocolate now without having eaten any of it. Plus I’ve to get a refund on that baking tray now…

x

 

Salon du dessin contemporain 2014

Yesterday I went to the Salon du dessin contemporain or Drawing Now as it’s also called. For those who don’t know, it’s an art fair dedicated to contemporary art in the form of drawings and sketches. This is my favourite form of art but then again, I’m biased as this is the type of art I practise. This year was the 8th edition of the fair and took place in three different venues around the 3eme arrondissement. I went to two of those venues – le Carreau du Temple and les Espaces Commines. The exhibition space was much larger in le Carreau du Temple where there were two floors, showcasing a variety of different styles from international artists. Some pieces were highly intricate with an enormous level of detail (and time put into them) whilst others were childlike and imaginative. Others were intentionally humorous with one particular artist whose work comprised primarily of life like nude portraits of women (in various positions), they were so life like they could almost be mistaken for photographs. But then beside each woman there was a cartoon like creepy guy with his arm around them in each picture. The beauty of these young women being malled by a crudely drawn man (the artist’s take on himself)  was funny and startling to look at. Below are some of my favourites from the fair.Image

Can you believe this detail?

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Look at the skill!

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Now this is what I can putting a post-it note to good use

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Thought this one was particularly clever…each object is drawn in letters, making up the word for that object

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These figures are even more interesting to look at when cut out and placed side by side

The space in Espace Commines was smaller and dedicated to young artists. By that stage, I had a creative overload and had stopped taking pics but so far I am feeling more inspired and even did a little doodling earlier, in the spirit of spring time and all the cherry blossoms I’ve come across lately.

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Happy Sunday!

Que Sera Sera

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Do you believe in fate or do you believe you can control your own destiny?

I am a big time believer in fate but I also believe that we can control our own destiny. Basically life is a mixture of fate and the willingness or effort we go to to make something happen. For example, this time last year I had my heart set on living in Paris. I had been called for an interview for a role in Paris but was then offered the role in New York. Whilst New York is obviously an amazing opportunity, my heart was never fully in it as I had always been in love with France and its language and culture and after studying it in college I just always assumed that’s where I would go straight after my studies. I was so nervous about going to New York that despite filling in all the necessary documentation, my visa eventually got delayed and I felt a sense of relief that I wouldn’t have to go so far away. As New York was then rescheduled for the following year, I became more adamant on improving my French while I was still in Dublin and attended language exchanges in the meantime and watched French TV and film. A few months after starting my role in Dublin, I had expressed my interest in being relocated to France the following year, if possible or incase there was any visa trouble for New York. A week later I was told that I could go to Paris the following year and was even put on a French course which only motivated me further for going to France. It was so surreal to me that this had even happened (although my Mam always told me that when you visualise things enough that you want to happen they eventually do become reality). This particular point in my life convinced me that if something is really meant to be, it will happen and it may not always happen when or in the way you expect it to but if you want it bad enough and take steps to make it happen (or just chance asking like I did) you will get to where you want to go.

This post was inspired by Daily Prompt

A dose of culture in Paris

The last few days have been some of the most enjoyable I have had since moving to Paris. A friend of mine was over and with two days off work, we set out to do Paris as the Parisians do. On Sunday evening we went to see a film/docufilm called La Cours de Babel which followed a classroom of international students who all recently came to France for various reasons and showed their journey of learning French throughout the school year. This film was very like Entre les Murs in ways but as it was real life it was less dramatic but was just as compelling to watch as we saw students with real life problems such as making friends, dealing with learning difficulties and general cultural differences. 

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Yesterday my friend suggested that we take a walk along La Coulée Verte, which is a ‘secret garden’ style walk that goes along the old train line in Daumesnil (10eme) all the way to Bois de Vincennes. I had walked past these viaducts at least twice before. They now accomodate cool art and antique stores but I had never realised that there was a pathway above these viaducts which give an elevated view of the busy streets below whilst walking through rooftop gardens with arched trellises. 

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In the evening we went to a jazz show (hopefully the first of many) in a club called New Morning, near Chateau d’Eau, also in the 10th arrondissement. The artist was Mohamed Abozekry who plays Middle Eastern styled music with three other musicians on a mix of bass, guitar and percussion. My friend and I were completely mesmerised by the unique sound and raw talent of the group especially Abozekry who hails from Egypt and for such a young age has the skill of someone with years of experience.

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Today we wandered around St Michel, spending an hour or so in the Gibert bookshop. I forgot how great these bookshops are, they sell more books than I can handle and at very affordable prices (thanks to the abundance of second hand books for sale in very good condition). We then crossed the bridge to Hôtel de Ville where we went to the Brassai photo exhibition ‘Pour l’amour de Paris’ which showcased a variety of Brassai’s black and white stills of Paris, from the city of lights at night to couples getting close in the capital as well as images of the circus and female nudes. 

I would like to dedicate this particular post to my colleague and now good friend who I had an amazing few days in Paris with and who has been fantastic company and whose kind words and encouragement have motivated me to continue with this blog and other creative endeavours. Thank you! 🙂

 

 

Weekend of “Salons” in Paris

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Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend two fairs (or ‘salons’ as they call them in France), one for my own interest and the other for work. Le Salon du Livre or Book Fair was on in the Porte de Versailles and has received constant media coverage since opening on the 20th March. I decided to set aside a good two and a half hours to explore this fair for the first time and that was just about enough. The Salon du Livre is more than just a book fair as it groups bookworms, authors, publishers, and those with special interests such as cuisine, comic books and art under one roof. Upon entering the exhibition space, I was rather overwhelmed by the size of the space (in technical terms, it’s HUGE) and the amount of books everywhere, from every theme, author, nationality etc. To put it short I was a kid in a sweet shop…or more simply, myself in a giant book shop!

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Particular highlights for me were the destination stands such as Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia who each had their own space dedicated to authors from those regions as well as cookbooks and “beaux livres” or beautifully illustrated coffee table books. There was also an exhibition area dedicated to the French author and illustrator Sempé who is best known for children’s series Le Petit Nicolas but has also illustrated for The New Yorker. His works were on display as well as some “beaux livres” and charming postcards with magical illustrations of Paris and New York. The ‘gastronome’ section was a particular delight as there were great bargains to be found among recipe books. I picked up a book by Elle à table on roasts, which I will now put to use after finally buying a mini-oven just a fortnight ago. It was also interesting to see a number of independent publishers and e-publishers there promoting their services to budding writers. With the emergence of electronic reading devices and the internet as means of discovering new authors, it is definitely encouraging to see the available options for when I finally get round to writing my book.

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Bargain at just €6!

Whilst I didn’t see the point in buying books for the sake of it at the fair (especially as many were not at reduced price) I did buy a second book on home beauty remedies which can be made with stuff lying in your kitchen cupboard.

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Straight after the Salon du Livre, I made my way across to the Salon du Tourisme (France’s largest holiday show) for work purposes. This was my second year to take part but has never felt like work to me. I relish in the opportunity to speak face to face with the public and encourage them to visit our beautiful country. It also provides me with the chance to visit other stands and plan my own holiday wish list. I love seeing the other stands such as those North African countries where there is live music and people in traditional clothing and the chance to taste world delicacies such as baklava and delicious mint tea! 

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This week the Salon du Dessin will open in Paris on the 26th of March and although pricey (€15 entry) it is only once a year and as drawings are my most favourite aspect of visual art, I am eager to go and see what kind of creative inspiration it may bring.