Monday, July 28, 2014

Les Soldes de la Sirène

Several weeks ago I was wandering around central Paris, probably between students, when I noticed that I started to see the word "soldes" in various windows about town. Because I frequently make thoughts far more complicated than need be, my brain totally glossed over what the word soldes meant and therefore what was happening in Paris. It was actually my Japanese student who, when I asked what her plans were for the weekend, mentioned that she was going to hit the sales. Oooooh right... the Sales. 

As far as I know, in the U.S. stores can choose whenever they'd like to have a sale based on their own needs and desires. In France, on the other hand, sales are government regulated. Two times a year, once in January and once in July, there are epic sales that traverse the streets of Paris. It's apparently a red-taped hassle to have a sale outside of these time periods, so all the shops hop on board and the prices are progressively slashed lower and lower as the weeks go by. Not only that, but we're talking about regular merchandise here. It's not just the end of season leftovers that hang in a little corner for overworked and underpaid derelicts to pilfer through. From couture down to cheap chains, the discounts abound and everyone takes advantage. 

In true Parisian fashion, stores glimmer with beautiful signs heralding their bargain buys. Parisians don't care for ugly and they certainly won't have some grotty sales sign destroying their regal facade. Some of the less unique establishments roll out their stock signs, but most of the smaller boutiques take the time to create displays that beckon all the passersby to enter. Like a siren call from a seductive mermaid, I don't think anyone can remain immune to the sound of the sales throughout its impressive run. I myself bought a bag, a flowery romper, and a white eyelet dress. None of them cost more than €20 and all were stunning and essential... says the bargain-intoxicated fashion zombie blinded by the radiance of the soldes...

Happily, the sales are just about at an end until the new year dawns and they shine their great beacon down on Paris once again. In the meantime, we have the memory of their glow in the pictures and products we cherish.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lights, Crêpes, Action!

The final day of my visiting Mother/Daughter combo's amazing tour de Paris last weekend began with a hangover and ended with wine. That's generally how my life proceeds when I have visitors of any kind... or just how my life often proceeds. After a 4am bedtime post-Moulin Rouge, I dragged myself to a student in the afternoon, then struggled through a nearly two hour commute home because the metro was trying to destroy my soul. As the heat of the week continued to plague the city, I was very happy to see the possibility of rain slowly increase. The only downside was that our afternoon/early evening plans included a boat ride down the Seine on the famous Bateaux Mouche. As touristy as it may be, it really is an excellent way of seeing some of the major sights and enjoying the nautical breeze. 

As I waited for my lovely ladies to arrive, the skies did in fact open up wide and a waterfall of grecian godlike tears cascaded down. Happily, it was a passing storm, not intent on destroying our Seine-faring plans. The seats on the boat were covered in water and the clouds insisted on sputtering little fountains of rain down on us here and there, but since we so wisely bought some overpriced wine before venturing aboard, we were quite happy to enjoy the cool air and relish in the Parisian landscape.

After the boat ride, we made our way back to the 5th arrondissement where we had met the first night of their trip. This time, we were on a mission for crêpes, or galettes, as the case may be. My dear father had brought me to a specific spot back in the fall, Crêperie Josselin, so I knew there would be a line but that the final product would be worth the wait. When we finally sat down at our welcoming table, we viewed the long list of yummy options while also taking in the sight of our yummy waiter, a delightful French lad who certainly had no problem flirting in whatever language I chose. He was the one to tell us that ordering wine was not the way to go, and rather steered us to the in-house cider that I was mainly interested in because of the pitchers it so daintily flows from. When it was dessert time I was so full, I decided on another small cider rather than a crêpe (mainly because the baby pitchers were the cutest thing EVER!) and when I demurely reminded him that he had forgotten mon petit pichet, he apologized and said it was on him, as he winked and grinned like only a Frenchman can.

Our farewell task was to take on Paris by night, something I will gladly do any day of the week. There's a very good reason why Paris is called the "City of Light", and it can of course only be appreciated once the sun finally goes down. It's like another world, whispering memories, wishes, romance, and mystery. The city was glimmering as we wandered over Pont Alexandre III, and proceeded down the Seine, all the way up the Champs Elysees and to the Arc de Triomphe. En route we took pictures as only theatrically trained, dramatically inclined ladies can. We then had a commemorative cocktail to honor our final moments as we took in the scenery and wished each other à bientôt...

I will not go into detail about the fact that my transportation karma continued after my adieu. Needless to say, I attempted a bus rather than pay for a taxi and ended up on the other side of sketchy-at-night Bois de Boulogne, only to approach hysterical tears before realizing that there was a concert taking place nearby and therefore taxis to be found... Yup, only me... And next on the agenda? Back to Ireland to frolic in the Aran Islands, tra la!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Movie That Describes My Soul

Baz Luhrmann's film "Moulin Rouge" came out in 2001, over ten years ago, and from that moment on I referred to it exclusively as "the movie that describes my soul." I really couldn't care less what other people's opinion on the movie is because just as I wrote in the last monologue of the cabaret I performed in NYC right before coming to Paris: "what could possibly be better than singing about love in a giant elephant, dancing beneath a serenading moon, and completely forgetting any obstacles that your brain so often throws like pistol-carrying psycho-parisian dukes into our heart’s blissful serenity?" Costumes, songs, love, ridiculousness... Done, done, done, and done... I have since learned that there was in fact a giant wooden elephant behind the real Moulin Rouge when it first opened, though of course nowadays it has morphed into a massive tourist spot, less for frustrated men to spend a night in Dionysian decadence, more for travelers from around the world to enjoy a good spectacle.

As I mentioned in my last post, my awesome friend from L.A. and I shared a love for this film when we studied abroad, mere months after the film came out all those years ago. We would frequently drink too much (or really not at all) and act out the scenes in our apartment, at parties, on sidewalks, who really cared. I was in love with Ewan McGregor, she was in love with Nicole Kidman, and we would sing "Elephant Love Medley" like our life depended on it. The logical conclusion was of course that at long last, I would check out this famous spot with her, despite my wallet practically shrieking in my ear to walk away. My heart slash soul, on the other hand, was belting "Come What May" out my mouth and into the cash register. 

Clearly we couldn't go to the Moulin Rouge in every day summerwear, that would just be ludicrous. So I chose the sparkliest dress I could find in my current wardrobe, and my friend decided it was high time I tried out her hair extensions. She is a master of wigs, hair pieces and all the rest, and very thankfully we are both blondes. All dolled up for the evening, we took a stroll around the neighborhood for a lovely dinner spot. Well, first we tried with all of our lingering brute strength to get the door to their apartment to shut while her mother took pictures. THEN we wandered around, at which point I remembered that Montmarte is mainly uphill and cobblestone-encrusted. The high heel glitter shoes had to be removed about a block away for fear of death by fashion. After a delightful dinner we approached the Moulin... Bright, bedazzled, beckoning our names as we took pictures with the glowing mill behind, not realizing that the line to get in was already extending down the street and around the corner. Nevertheless, us three hot blondes waited in line with our tickets, entered through the magnificent doors, and were escorted to our balcony seats. 

Now, you are NOT allowed to take pictures in the Moulin Rouge, or at least not while the show is going on. It remains unclear whether or not we should have at all, but my friend is the queen of ballsy picture taking and we got some great shots regardless. With each ticket you get a half bottle of champagne, so we were quite excited for our night of splendour. I will say that when the show first began, I was a little worried. The cheesiness factor was a bit out of control and the male dancers, who by the way NEVER take off ANY of their clothes, were not even dancing in sync. They are clearly props for the ladies to hold on to and sets for the ladies to dance in front of. Lip syncing was used throughout and some of the songs made my ears bleed. However, there were different acts in between the grand numbers, clearly giving time for the girls to change out of their crazy headdresses and costumes. There were also some truly talented tumblers and acrobats wowing us with their physical feats. And in terms of the ladies themselves? I'll be quite honest in saying that anyone who has a body like that probably SHOULD run around topless. Go ahead, rule the world bitches, because you certainly know how to walk across a stage with 5 pounds of feathers on your heads. The big numbers were the most stunning and it's quite an experience being in that old theatre. My favorite was of course the traditional can can, kicking up their heels to the sky and making all the colors from their frou frou overwhelm the stage. 

We went to the second show of the evening, so we had the luxury of being able to take photos as the audience was leaving and workers were cleaning up. Obviously, we took the opportunity to go right up to the stage, even sitting on it for well-posed pics. On our way out, we took even more photos, relishing in the decorations and pure showmanship of every single moment. I think I would have preferred if they did more traditional numbers, and I could certainly do without the lip-synced lovesick ballads. But in the end, you really can't beat that scale of spectacle. While I am quite happy with my hobbit-like stature, if I was a foot taller and lost 300 pounds I think I would gladly strut my stuff around the stage, topless or not.