Natural Beauty: Winter in Paris, Part Deux

If you want to see an intimate side of Paris, pay a visit during the winter.

This isn’t the first time I’ve shared this sentiment. Last year I shared this post full of my favorite photos from our last winter living in Paris. Every time I look at those pictures, they bring back a sense of calm and peacefulness. Paris felt like it was ours, devoid of tourists and full of true locals hunkering down for a season of chilly weather and overcast skies.

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Canvas-Worthy Paris, 2014 edition

{Canvas-worthy} A characteristic bestowed to a photograph of exceptional quality to indicate it might be pleasing enough to consider making into a canvas and hanging on the wall. See additional notes in the Canvas-Worthy Paris post of 2013.

Example: Michael: Look at the photo I just took of the Eiffel Tower!
                   Sara: Wow, that one might be canvas-worthy!

This year I was much less discriminate when it came to narrowing down my favorite photos Michael and I have taken in Paris (18 instead of last year’s 10!). Thankfully, I am only committing to sharing them with you and not actually purchasing canvases for my home yet. So take a look and help weigh in on which were the best of 2014! (Or else I’m going to need to save up a lot more for a larger house with more wall space!)

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FIAC 2014

Paris had a lot of art to see. There’s a reason that the Musée du Louvre is just a synonymous as the Eiffel Tower in evoking images of the city of Paris. Art is important to French culture, and there’s plenty of it to go around.

One thing I appreciate about Paris is that while there are numerous art museums throughout the city that charge an entrance fee, there also is a spirit to make art accessible to everyone. This manifests itself in a variety of ways, but one is the cultural events the city sponsors. 

Autumn brings about one of those events to town, called FIAC (Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain). This international art festival holds its main event in the Grand Palais (which took place this year from October 23-26). I’ve never been inside for the event because the hefty 35 euro entry fee is a bit steep for me. Luckily though, the festivities are accessible for those unable or unwilling to cough up the dough. The festival exhibits installations “hors les murs” (outside the walls) namely in the Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin des Plantes, and a few other locations throughout the city that are free for the public to see and enjoy.

Last year I absolutely loved exploring the Jardin des Tuileries and admiring all the artwork on display. This year, the festival raised a fuss when the unveiling of the installation in Place Vendome created quite the scandal. (Read more on the outrage over the green “Christmas tree” on France 24’s news article here, and why the artist got slapped in the face three times...)

Controversial art aside, this year I honestly wasn’t as impressed with the art I saw during my walks through the Jardin des Plantes and Jardin des Tuileries. But I still want to share with you some of my favorites. And even though I didn’t find the selection of art as interesting this year, I do have to credit the event for getting me out on a lovely afternoon just to enjoy Paris in autumn, and also gave me the motivation to see two beautiful sunsets.

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Resolution...Starting Now

Bon lundi!

I hate New Year’s resolutions. Not only do I never keep them, but I don’t understand why wait until an arbitrary date of January 1st to decide to make a change. I’m all for being aware of things to improve on all year long and then striving to meet those goals.

I’m not even talking about big picture things, like revamping behaviors or starting up an intense exercise plan. I’m thinking about the little things that seem insignificant but add richness to life. Like sunsets.

I was in the Jardin des Tuileries two evenings in a row for various reasons at the end of the afternoon. (Sunset is now around 5:24pm as the days get shorter.) Standing there, watching the sky turn bright orange before evening settled in over Paris, was just so beautiful, peaceful, and inspiring all at once. And I got to do it twice in a row to solidify my resolution firmly. I want to make a concerted effort to see more sunsets!

It's not a huge resolution, or an overhaul make-over of sorts. And maybe it’s part of getting older and learning to appreciate making time to not fill with busyness. But it’s one thing I hope to witness more because it adds richness to my life and is a simple mercy that God allows me to take pleasure in.

Do you have anything you hope to do or accomplish starting today?

Falling in love, or failing to love, Paris

Bon lundi!

I was going to write a typical, short Monday post with a picture to show you just how beautiful Paris is as autumn is settling in. But then a string of incidents hit, and I decided instead to get some things off my chest. If you don’t want to read my embarrassing tale, I included three photos, instead of the standard one, just for you. 

For those who want a laugh, or a Paris-reality check, let’s have a glass of wine and laugh this off together.

The trees of the  Jardin du Palais Royal hanging onto their leaves for just a little longer

I love Paris. But I don’t want to skew reality and portray only la vie en rose. Paris is sunsets at the Seine and picnics in the park, but it’s also crowded metro rides and dog droppings on the sidewalks. If you've been following me on Instagram, did you notice halfway through the summer that I stopped showing picnic pictures on the Île Saint-Louis and relocated to Canal St. Martin? Let’s just say Remy and friends moved in on my spot. But unlike the movie Ratatouille, he isn’t doing the cooking - these rats are waiting for me to bring an extra treat.

Anyway, onto this past week. You need to know the backstory of how I somehow broke a power converter and nearly electrocuted myself on a massive spark. I tripped the circuit breaker and Michael had to leave work early to fix the mess and replace the broken fuse.

Imagine what his coworkers thought the very next day when they heard Michael’s end of another phone conversation: “No, if the carbon monoxide alarm is going off, you MUST leave the apartment. Right now.”

Yup, the carbon monoxide alarm that we hooked up in our apartment went off. And it was loud. Extremely.

Now for a confession. I have a bad habit of drinking coffee and doing work on the couch until I fully wake up, afterwards showering and getting ready for the day. So although it was mid-morning, I was still in my pajamas and about to take a shower. And I certainly didn't have time to deal with a disruption due to the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning.

I opened the windows, threw on clothes, and left. I then had to stumble my way through an apology to the artisan who has a work space in my building directly under my windows. (I’m telling you, this alarm was BLARING.) Once Michael came home, yet again, to deal with another mess, we determined we had to call the pompiers (firemen) because we had no way of knowing if there really was a problem or not. 

Luckily I support the firemen by buying champagne each year at their ball over Bastille Day weekend. But since this is the second time they've had to come chez moi, I think I owe them a drink next year.

I called, failed at communicating the problem in French, and then tried again in English. Then they showed up….to the wrong address….because apparently I did not make that clear enough. Try #2 they arrived to our house - and where most girls would be thrilled to have three pompiers in her bedroom, I was less enthralled in that moment. It probably had something to do with my bed-head and unbrushed teeth. 

Anyway, despite being a bit confused why we owned a carbon monoxide detector (especially when we only have electric) they gave us the clear. We were not in danger after all of poisoning. So I was good to proceed with getting dressed for the day.

If you ever need an occasion to check yourself and be humbled, just move to a country where you don’t speak the language.  It’s been a rough week (coupled with French bureaucratic paperwork we’ve had to deal with) and it’s been one of those low points of living abroad. But I can be grateful that Paris has been exceptionally beautiful this week (and that I was not harmed by carbon monoxide inhalation), reminding me of why I persevere to live here. And just like that, I’m under Paris’ spell again.

A September day in the Jardin des Tuileries

So...who’s laughing with me? At me? 

Something Old, Something New

I love that Paris encompasses a mix of historical sights alongside new concepts. There is a timeless beauty to this city yet it isn't stagnate, but breeds inspiration to create and innovate. 

Take the Jardin des Tuileries for example. These gardens between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde were originally created by Queen Catherine de Medicis in the 1500's. Fast forward to the present where the gardens still exist (albeit different in style) and hosted part of a contemporary art fair on its historical grounds.

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