Monday, January 31, 2011

the weekend

Saturday late morning, I accompanied the Garmons to the Musée d'Orsay. ( ) Since I am a student between 18 and 25, I get to go to most museums in Paris for free! That was a very fun fact to discover.  The museum was amazing.  Unfortunately, they didn't allow pictures to be taken, but let me try to create one for  you.  The Musée d'Orsay used to be a train station, so imagine just a large rectangular building with a domed ceiling, splendidly carved, reaching from end to end (like a cylinder on its side).  There is an enormous gilded clock at the front.  Much of the art in this museum is from the Impressionist period, and also includes naturalism and art nouveau (my favorite!).  So pretty much art from about 1848-1914.  I saw SO many paintings that I have in books at home.  My aunt Kelly gave me so many art books when I was growing up, and I was always very much interested in impressionism and pointillism, which I saw so much of at this museum.  There was a hallway full of Van Gogh paintings, and wings full of Degas, Renoir, Monet, Manet, and Bouguereau, among many many others.  Bouguereau always reminds me of my Rachel, who has done several reproductions of his works.  I saw Renoir paintings that I was obsessed with as a child, as well as Cirque by Seurat.  It was incredible.  I almost go into a meditative state when I'm at a museum.  We decided to have lunch at the restaurant inside the museum.  And, since I saw some people take pictures in here, I decided to take a few of my own.

A small corner of the ceiling in the restaurant

Marcie and Woody Garmon, who are taking VERY good care of me!

Looking out the windows of the restaurant, and across the river

 I had a little vegetarian tart that came with some thyme sorbet, which was very refreshing and cleansing, but I couldn't have eaten the entire tiny scoop because it is exactly how you could expect thyme sorbet to taste.  The Garmons have been spoiling me, and I have gotten used to drinking very delicious wines at meals.  At this particular meal, I had several glasses, and I decided to stay behind at the museum as they walked home.  I have to say, my art appreciation lenses skyrocketed even more (if that's possible), and I was almost in tears at some of the pieces of art nouveau :)

But seriously, even without the wine, there is so much beauty here that I am frequently almost in tears, even after so small an act as taking a bite of warm creamy goat cheese sprinkled with pine nuts, or turning a corner and seeing an intricately carved tower, like this one:

Saturday night, the Garmons took me to dinner at La Fontaine de Mars.  Apparently, Barack and Michelle Obama ate there the last time they were in Paris, and the entire block was shut down so they could eat there in peace.  Anyway, the Garmons took me here so I could try this famous French dish called Cassoulet, which is a dish made of white beans, duck, and sausage.  Kind of like a gourmet chili & beans (although I'm sure the French would love to hear me say that)!  But it is very much a comfort food and was so nice to eat on such a cold evening.  For dessert, I got to try some vanilla crème brûlée.  It was delicious and creamy and unlike any crème brûlée I have ever had in my life--it was perfection in comparison.  Little specs of vanilla beans were apparent inside.

Later that night, I went to a birthday/going away party of a friend of Ben's.  The theme was to dress up as something that started with a "d" --at first, I was just going to be a doll, but since it was WAY too cold to dress like one, I just threw together one of my feather headbands, my fringy moccasin boots, and braided my hair into pigtails and was a Dakota native american--it's a stretch, but it's really all I had.  At the party, there was a dinosaur, a bunch of dancers, a dalmatian, a diplomat, Dionysus, Diana (goddess of the hunt),  a tube of toothpaste (dentifrice in French), a girl who wore a mardi gras mask and had a question mark and was devine (the French word for "guess"), and many others.  Everyone was SO nice, and if I was anywhere near a group of people talking, they would immediately start speaking English to accommodate me, which is extremely courteous, but at some point I want to improve my French!  It was at this party that I was reminded of the way that the French (and many other Europeans) greet each other, with a kiss on each cheek.  It kind of surprised me at first, and then I remembered learning about it in French class, it's called the bise, and the greeting of the little old lady in southern France that Rachel and I stayed with on our trip.  Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and I learned several popular French songs.

Marcie made pancakes and bacon on Sunday (late) morning.  Around noon, Ben and I went for a walk.  Turning a corner, I saw a sign for Saint Séverin cathedral, one of my mother's and my favorites.  So, of course, I went there.  Here is a picture of the back of the cathedral:

Saint Séverin Cathedral
Now, I really wish I had a good photo from the front and from the inside, however, as I was taking a picture from the front, my camera started making a really bizarre noise and wouldn't stop--so I had to remove the battery.  And, since it was Sunday, mass was going on, so I didn't want to go inside and take pictures, but I'll go back, I promise Mom!

A few steps further, and this famous cathedral was in front of us, and my camera started to behave again:

Notre Dame

Crossing a bridge

We had a very delicious lunch at a bakery.  I had a tartine with sauteed spinach, warm goat cheese, and pine nuts.  I also had a bite of Ben's croissant, my first croissant in France this time--so yummy!  I can't wait to learn how to make them myself!  Then we ordered hot chocolate, which is definitely not what you are thinking about, it is certainly not hot water with some chocolate flavored powder.  This was thick and viscous and not too sweet, and it came with macarons, which are a very famous treat here.  They come in all sorts of flavors, but the flavors I got were rose and pistachio.  I bit into the rose one expecting strawberry, but it was SO delicious, I don't know how they capture the flavor so exactly, but it was just like eating a rose might taste like--or if you could eat the smell of Mimi's rose scented perfume.  Absolutely incredible!  And the pistachio one, of course, was delicious as well, especially with the lovely hot chocolate.

Ben keeps making me ask for the check because it's good practice.  The waitstaff at restaurants here are nothing like those in the united states--you can go hours without getting eye contact.  So, for shy little me, it is quite difficult and a bit scary to be assertive enough to get the attention of someone, in a different language, who isn't even looking at me.  Anyway, we were there quite a while before I worked up enough courage to ask for the bill.  I suppose it is good practice.  We were sitting next to a window so people watching was very easy to do.  I have come to believe that every woman in Paris who owns fur wears it on Sunday.

After leaving the bakery, we came across the Hôtel de Ville (which is not, in fact, a hotel, it's a government building), and there is ice skating, a carousel, and cotton candy vendors in front of it.  It's so beautiful!  I learned that "cotton candy" in French is la barbe à papa (Daddy's beard--although it isn't colored, it's just white so it looks kind of like Santa's beard).

l'Hôtel de Ville

Carousel in front of l'Hôtel de Ville

Ice skating!
We considered ice skating, but decided we would go again another time when we were wearing the appropriate socks.  So, the walk continued, and there were so many more beautiful monuments around every corner.

Entrance to a courtyard inside the Louvre from the back

A small part of a wall inside the Louvre's courtyard

Walking through gardens in front of the Louvre

Ferris wheel!  (You can see the Arc de Triumph on the bottom right of the wheel)

A view walking home

 Right now, I'm enjoying some jasmine blossom tea and shortbread with Marcie--it's lovely!


  1. Jessica, it sounds like you are having a WONDERFUL time!! Your descriptions of the museums and the things that you are seeing are so perfect - I can see exactly what you are describing! When do your classes begin? We are in the middle of packing. Allan's first Sunday is this weekend. I will drive down for that and then come back to San Angelo to be here for the movers. They come to begin packing on Monday but it will probably be the following Monday before they unload us. We have way too much stuff!!
    Take care and have fun
    Love you so much

  2. Hi Kelly! It's so nice to hear from you! I guess today is Allan's first Sunday then, I know it will be great. My classes start tomorrow--I can't wait!! I know exactly what you mean about having too much stuff, I think it runs in the family :)

    I hope you know how much you have influenced my love and appreciation of art and things beautiful. There is so much of it here and I know I wouldn't see it the same way without what I have learned from you.

    Love you,


  3. I'm really enjoying your blog! So wonderful to see you realizing your dreams and having a good time.