Soon after we moved to Paris, I responded to a Craiglist ad from a 30-something French woman looking to do a French-English language exchange. We met in a bubble-tea restaurant in the 9th arrondissement, and bonded over cat-ownership, love of asian food, and being only children.
So P really digs the theatre – plays, music, dance, mostly contemporary stuff. She even went to some crazy play this spring that was 11 hours long that was last performed in 2003 . And lately she’s been telling me about this very original dressage show coming soon to the Tuileries. The thing is, it’s called Lever du Soleil which means “sunrise” and which also means you must be there at 5 am. Funnily enough she’s having problems finding company for that one.
However, she has also invited us to less-extreme but still very original events, such as the dancing Buddhist Shaolin monks we saw last Friday at the Theatre du Chaillot, in the Palais du Chaillot (for those of you who’ve been to Paris, you’ll know it as the massive art deco structure opposite the river from the Eiffel Tower.) Who woulda thunk Buddhist monks could be so adept at sabre-wielding and baton-brandishing? Perhaps this is how they purge themselves of any excess passion before comitting themselves to a lifetime of Zen….
The audience behaviour was also interesting. The show was a bit late to start, so some started to clap rhythmically as their way of saying “Get on with it, already!” No one applauded during the show, not even when little-boy-Buddhist executed a series of sommersaults and round-offs right across the stage. And at the end, while some people gave a standing ovation at the end, it was not the automatic audience-wide reaction as it has for every opera and dance I’ve seen in Vancouver. Instead, people stamped their feet and made a lot of catcalls, and the cast took about 5 bows while grinning crazily. It sounded like a stampede, not a Parisian theatre in the sedate 16th arrondissement.
My trusty hybrid bike, which I relied on almost daily to get me around Vancouver, now sits neglected in our cave. And I have stopped buying monthly metro passes.
Why? Because along with the arrival of double-digit temperatures and sunny weather came my annual subscription for Vélib (Vélo + liberté), Paris’ short-term bike rental network.
There are well over 1000 Vélib stations in Paris, including one mere steps away from our apartment building. The best thing about it (aside from it being free for the first 30 min) is you can take a bike from point A and drop it off at point B. This means I can bike from home to the metro station just across the Seine, park the bike there, then ride the metro to my French class. No worry about theft, or of having to lug my bike up & down our building’s stairwell.
And it’s not just for locals: if you have a credit card with a microchip (which I strongly recommend to anyone travelling in Europe, regardless) you can get short-term subscriptions for 1 or 7 days, which cost 1€ and 5€ respectively.
✱ Freedom, that is, until you:
a) get to your destination across town and realize you forgot to check where the nearest Velib station is and so spend the next 10 minutes cycling up & down random one-way streets hoping to find one.
b) get to the station and find it has no empty stalls left so then you must lurk until one frees up, or return to (a).
Here’s a more thorough explanation of how it works. Don’t be put off by the narrator’s voice (it’s kinda amusing, really), because the vid is well done.
And for those wondering how Parisian kids handle growing up without backyards, real forests, or parks where you can walk on the grass, here’s how (keeping in mind these weigh over 20 kg and don’t have shocks):
Just got back from 4 days of snow and cheese down in Chamonix. Thanks to the rather posh tastes of our friends’ friends, we stayed in a old chalet that had been disassembled and completely rebuilt just outside the town of Chamonix, and which featured, among other things, a steam room and multiple raclette & fondue devices.
HerrKaa & I are both now getting over colds so instead of trying to write any more through the haze of nasal congestion, I’ll just post links to our pics: