50 Shades of Paris

Touring Paris is not for those afraid of heights. This afternoon, I met up with a friend at Luxembourg Gardens and from there we travelled to Sacré-Coeur, a cathedral at the highest point in Paris.  The cathedral was gorgeous in the way that all European cathedrals are: breathtaking size, artistic stone detail, and the Roman-Byzantine architecture definitely made this a site to see. Sacré-Coeur is at the top of butte Montmarte, which offers fantastic views of the city below. Actually, the park at Montmarte looked like the gardens in Haifa!  (It's starting to look like my grandmother is right about every place reminding me of somewhere else...)

Whichever way you turn, there's something beautiful to look at!  Including a Cirque de Soleil performer clinging to a light pole while dribbling a soccer ball to Adele's "Someone Like You".

After soaking in the sights, we walked down to Pigalle, also known as Paris' "Red Light" district. Pigalle is full of sex stores and vendors on the street trying to coerce you into purchasing fake Louis Vuittons. It was like Hell's Kitchen. Or 6th Avenue below 14th St. I could describe the area as seedy, but this is Paris, and everything is lovely.

We stopped for a quick lunch of Mediterranean food, which is surprisingly popular here!  I was told that being a vegetarian may be tricky in Paris, but so far not eating meat hasn't been a problem-- each meal is better than the last! (Skip to the end of this post for more deliciousness. Spoiler alert: Nutella).

We walked down to the Moulin Rouge (no Nicole Kidman in sight) and further to the Musee de l'erotisme.  Paris' Erotic Museum is similar to the Museum of Sex in NYC, only more artsy, with prints, paintings and sculptures, and fewer sex toys for sale in the gift shop. From ancient marriage manuals to 1920s films, the seven floor museum had a lot to see for only €6.

Remember the super cute vintage navy oxfords I bought yesterday?  Well, as comfortable and cute as they are, after many hours and who knows how many kilometers of walking through Paris, I was forced to take them off and walk in my socks back to school for a film screening.  This was not a very chic Parisian thing to do.  However, the city is just so unbelievably clean that walking barefoot felt perfectly acceptable!

After the film, we stopped at a crepe stand on the street for dinner. I enjoyed a panini with smoked salmon, mozzarella, tomatoes, and herbs with a Nutella crepe for only €4.50! East Village prices, Parisian flavors, I could get used to this!

Due to popular demand, we returned to the infamous Teddy Bear Bar, which I previously failed to mention is decorated wall to wall in leopard print carpet.  The Teddy Bears stapled to the ceiling complete this elegant look.  Who needs Versailles when the height of beauty is just a few blocks from home?

I remember when I travelled to Peru in 2009, every time something strange would happen we would shrug it off as, "Oh, it's Peru!"  Well, the same goes for Paris.  And some weird shit goes down here.

1) A man brought his dog into the bar (no, this is not the beginning of a joke) and sat with him at a table while nursing a pint of Guinness.  Men of the world, this is brilliant.  A canine friend is your best wingman.  Seriously.  This guy was popular.

2)  Why did the waitress cross the street?  To serve a table full of rowdy French friends ordered Korean food from her restaurant. On fine China.  Yes, they had a three course, full service restaurant meal catered to a dingy toy-themed bar.  Well done, Parisians.

After sipping a round of beer cocktails that can only be described as I-would-pin-this-on-Pinterest-but-never-make-it-for-people we decided to follow the screaming outside and find a place to watch the Euro Cup.

We ended up crowding into a British sports bar to watch the England vs. Ukraine game.

Sports are not my thing.  I've enjoyed a handful of Cubs games at Wrigley Field and watched a few college football games on TV, mostly because I was coerced by food, drink, and company.  I'm not one to willingly flip on ESPN because I could be doing, like, anything else. However, watching the Euro Cup in Europe is one of those experiences that's hard to pass up.

Three of us and our pints of cider crowded in with angry Brits shaking their fists and screaming at the bar's widescreen television. "Feck!" "Shyt!"  "Geh to 'ell bloody bastards"! "Break his legs!"  It would have been vulgar, but the accents made it charming. Plus, hearing English in public was slightly refreshing.

After England scored a goal and the bar exploded in a song that apparently all English people know, we decide to say goodbye to English football star Rooney/RU-Nay and head to a quieter destination in search of deep thoughts and profound conversation.

Or more drinks.

In the Paris drizzle, we walked past our Maison to Café de la Rotonde, an elegant red and gold eatery with a spacious outdoor seating area, complete with heat lamps hanging from the awning.  An ideal venue for a rainy Paris evening!  We enjoyed wine and olives while reading to the sound of Parisian rainfall.  I love that in Paris reading is an activity!  You can go out at midnight to read!  What a novel idea!

Only later did I learn that this cafe is famous for hosting starving artists, like Pablo Picasso. I love the history and culture embedded in so many Parisian establishments-- you go somewhere because it appeals to you and only afterwards do you discover that the great artists of the western world had your same tastes. Clearly, I'm on my way to artistic fame...