Category Archives: France

The Time I Skied to Switzerland

Sorry, it’s been rather quiet around here lately.  Please direct all complaints to the Astronomical Institute Anton Pannekoek at he University of Amsterdam.

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There comes a special moment in every young woman’s life who skis when you are struck by the urge to ski to Switzerland.  This moment is roughly defined by the moment you first hear this is possible, and it is if you head for a weekend to the Portes du Soleil just south of Lake Geneva.  It is the second largest ski area in the world, with 650km of ski pistes, on both the French and Swiss sides of the border, and this massive network has a circuit that goes through all the main areas.  Sure it’s 20 miles (32km) of skiing, and sure it takes a full, long day to complete, but there was the urgent matter of deciding which side had superior fondue and scouting out the route in case enemies attacked Europe again (be they Nazis or Tripods…).IMG_1584

Now it turns out it is rather easy to ski to Switzerland from France and vice versa- I was based in Morzine, the biggest village in the Portes du Soleil, and you just follow the signs pointing to Switzerland once you get onto the mountain.  Eventually you reach a chairlift that grandly says it goes to Switzerland (the one in the lower left of the above image- the French-Swiss border follows the ridge line in the first picture of this post) and admonishes skiers to make sure they have photo ID to enter Switzerland at the top.  Turns out you aren’t checked at all, just deposited by a rest house at the summit with a cheery red Swiss flag flapping in the wind, but that’s just the letdown nature of most border crossings in Europe.  You sorta expect a pat on the back or at least a stamp to show your efforts, but instead just admire the view and press onwards.

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Of course, border crossings might be more low-key these days in Europe (there wasn’t even a sign when returning later in the day to France!), but that doesn’t mean you don’t spot differences even in a few miles.  Geographically, the view changes to mountains towering above green valley floors in Switzerland, and the little villages you traverse have buildings exclusively made out of wood (the French villages are almost all wooden, but the French still use stonework for their churches and chimneys).  If you are curious about any differences in the skiing itself, there is one- for whatever reason, the Swiss side has several T-bar lifts in places that these days would be replaced by chairlifts elsewhere, which can take several minutes to go up very steep slopes and require an effort of concentration to manage without incident. (I fell once the entire day… while trying to grab a T-bar.) Maybe the Swiss just assume everyone knows how to ski?  Either way, it’s impossible to complete the circuit without them!IMG_1593

Now here’s something also worth noting about the Portes du Soleil circuit- it is exhausting.  Not because it’s technically difficult, mind- at no point do you need to do any expert runs, and most are fairly flat pistes cutting across mountainsides… but when it’s 3pm and you realize you still have a few hillsides to traverse before the chairlifts stop, and the runs are rather icy with inadequate snow cover, well let’s just say you stop noticing the scenery around you so much as concentrating on not falling.  And, of course, pondering just what sort of dinner you’ll have in between your plans for a long soak in the tub and sleeping like the dead.IMG_1596

All told, though, it was a very epic journey that I’m glad I did, involving 2 gondolas, 12 chairlifts, three t-bar lifts, and two short little bus transfers to get from one side of a picturesque village to the other (and Alpine Replay tells me was 19.4 miles and 18.9k vertical feet of skiing).  Just what you’d expect from something as crazy as skiing to another country for the day!

That time I saw a Protester Climb the Eiffel Tower Lattice

Now picture this: it is a weekend trip to Paris (because if Paris was only three hours on the train from where you live you’d keep feeling like you ought to go more often too), and the weather is rather sunny for November so it seems an excellent idea to cycle past the Eiffel Tower.  Like many others I am a fan- it’s essentially a structure that serves no purpose other than to show what cool things people can build, and I get to practice my memory of French mathematicians/scientists by looking at the names on it, so what’s not to like?  Seems like a good day to take in the view, so I join the tourist queues to tackle the steps.IMG_1420

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I last tackled the steps by the way in 1998 on a family vacation when I was 12 years old, and I distinctly recall thinking of the entire endeavor as something akin to a death march… meaning I was rather surprised to bound up the steps in half the estimated time, passing many a tourist group along the way.  I then remember that I was a bit of a wimp at age 12, and take solace in how I’ve left behind a large fraction of that in the intervening years…

Anyway, touristy moments done it was time to find lunch, when I took one last glance up and noticed a fellow on the outer scaffolding on the Eiffel Tower.  He was pretty high up on one of the legs and I confess at first I thought he was a cleaner (I’d just admired a postcard of a precariously perched one) until I realized wait, this was not normal, not normal at all…IMG_1427

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He was a protester of some sort, who had somehow managed to climb up on the leg and up on the framework quite a ways, and was now busily trying to tie a banner onto the iron struts. (He was not, however, thinking far enough ahead to make the banner or lettering big enough to be seen from the ground, so he gets an A for effort but F in execution for getting his message out.) I and the two other tourists were in fact getting really nervous watching him move around so high up with nothing to secure him whatsoever, and we realized this was kind of weird that no one in a position of authority was paying any attention.

I looked around, and saw three French police officers busily chatting with each other not fifty feet away.  This seemed odd in itself so I went over to say excuse me, but don’t they see the man up there…?  The annoyed looks at my interruption turned to a look of horror as they saw where my finger was pointing, and minor pandemonium broke out as they ran off to their positions shouting into their walkie-talkies.  Ah, the French!

Now that my civic duty was done I had no real interest in watching a man accidentally fall to his death should it happen, and more importantly I was pretty hungry, so I went off to a corner cafe nearby.  Ended up having a rather nice chat with my cafe neighbors as the police, fire, and medic cars kept turning the corner where we were sitting while heading towards the tower- it turned out they were American expatriates who lived in the neighborhood.

“Does this happen often?” I asked, as they were only mildly interested in the uproar.

“Oh yes!” the woman told me.  “It’s an internationally recognized monument, of course, so I’d say the Eiffel Tower has something like this happen every few weeks.  They shut it down a few times a year for bomb threats too, of course.”

Some onion soup, foie gras, and wine later I headed back to the Eiffel Tower where the fire department was packing up, and they told me they got the protester down without incident.  Paris, as she has for centuries when the politics of her people unfold, shrugged her shoulders and moved on.

Chamonix Skiing

When people ask me why I love living in Amsterdam I always tell them truthfully that it’s because I could do anything I can imagine wanting to do here… except for alpine skiing.  So to remedy this situation somewhat, I took a long weekend to go skiing in Chamonix, France, which turned out to be a most excellent idea-
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2011: A Year in Review

When I think back on 2011 it will undoubtedly go down as the year where I did more in 12 months than most people do in a lifetime.  If I didn’t personally already defend a thesis, become a published author, move to a different country, and explore 20 countries on 4 continents along the way I would accuse myself of lying because I’m tired just thinking about it.  But I apparently did because I lived through all of it! Continue reading

At A France vs USA Soccer Match

Now let me ask you this- can you think of a better way to celebrate 11/11/11, ie Armistice Day, then going to a France- USA soccer match?  Me neither! Continue reading

Sampling French Food in Paris

I read a book once in which the main character had a French mother who would cook up a storm whenever she and her husband visited.  The girl would always say about all the meats and cremes and everything “mother, you’ll be the death of us,” to which the mother retorted “can you imagine a better way to die?”  Indeed.

It’s hard not to love France because good food is everywhere, even in a tiny convenience store.  See this sheep cheese?  I bought it in a tiny convenience store that had a better selection than a gourmet shop in the USA would for cheaper than it would be here!  It’s just so much easier to eat well in Europe honestly… and yep before anyone asks, the cheese was delicious.

But of course the food only gets better from there.  For starters, who can resist a crepe in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower?  Banana and chocolate in my case, cooked while I waited so there was the additional benefit of a piping hot snack on a cold day.

Another great street food on a cold day- this is one of many, many roasted chestnut vendors in Paris.  It is a great sadness that the concept of roasted chestnuts is nonexistent in the USA because they are absolutely delicious so whenever I see a seller abroad I can’t resist buying some, served straight from the fire in a sheaf of old rolled newspaper.

Ok, off the street and into the cafes!  Things get interesting because as a traveler you should always go into places that only have menus written in the local language, and even if my name implies I should I don’t speak French.  The thing is by this point I can read it and all the other romance languages pretty well due to a combination of a year of French in 6th grade, several more later of Latin, and the simple fact that we know most international foods by their names anyway.  So when a waiter slaps down the daily specials board next to you clearly expecting you to know what the hell is going on you pick one that sounds like you have a chance of knowing what you’ll get because whoever heard of bad food in a French cafe anyway?

The above result is what happened when I saw the word “pesto” and figured I should go for it- the pasta was tossed with pine nuts, prosciutto ham, and cheese that melted as you ate it.  Tres bien!

A side note by the way- see the Kindle on the left?  I got one for Christmas this year and brought it to Europe with me to see how it would fare while traveling, and in short I recommend it because in addition to the weight factor you get free wifi everywhere!  So it was great for quick email checks during the day and looking up details plus had the additional factor that every French waiter got really excited and struck up a conversation as I guess they’re not sold there yet.  It probably won’t last long, but even the most huffy waiter seemed to melt at the prospect of inspecting new technology.

Lots more delicious meals along the way but I’ll just stick ahead towards the last night where I treated myself to a beefsteak, aka steak tartare.  It’s definitely one of those foods that you either love or are horrified by- raw beef?!- but I honestly don’t see how people can embrace sushi and not this stuff.  Plus trust me, it’s delicious!

So what we have here is a “before” and “after” picture of the tartare I got in a swanky Parisian cafe-bar because there’s definitely a do it yourself quality to the meal. (Yep, they just crack an egg on top of the raw meat and give you various things like onions and spices to mix in.) The strangest thing to me was how this giant plate arrived without the traditional toast or in fact any other starch product to spread the meat on, as whoever heard of just eating this stuff by itself?  That might make you sick actually… Anyway I made my complaints to the waiter known, and after being a little confused he brought out a few slices for me.  Sooooo good…Last but not least, the chocolate mousse.  I’m not sure why but I’m not much of a dessert person- I guess my sweet tooth just isn’t terribly developed- but one huge exception to this rule is chocolate mousse.  How can you resist?  Particularly when you still have some French red wine left and happen to know that chocolate and red wine are superb together?

Now with that you’ll have to excuse me, as reliving all these delicious meals has made me extremely hungry.  Time for dinner!

Versailles Palace and Gardens

Continuing my Spring Break in France series of posts…

There’s something to be said for being a French monarch.  Sure you’re the last one holding the debt your head gets chopped off, but on the bright side you get to live here!

I came out to Versailles on the train from Paris that swiftly takes you out of the city and deposits you a five minute walk away from the palace, which is just enough space for touts to warn you that you should sign up for their tours to avoid the lines.  They do this all over Europe at the main sites (such as the Vatican Museum) but I knew from my prior European romps to not pay attention in March- I’m sure it’s terrible in summertime, but how many people do you see around me in this picture?  That’s right, enough to sort out tickets and the audio guides in five minutes!

The thing about Versailles is it has played such a huge role in the history of the world that it’s hard to say something incredibly unique.  After all, it’s big.  It’s ostentatious.  It’s a place filled with so many details both in decor and history that you get overwhelmed trying to take it all in.

Take this room, the famous Hall of Mirrors, which was originally a ballroom but then took on a scattering of functions such as the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.  Not only are we talking about a room literally fit for kings, we’re talking about the one where World War II and the fate of the world was set in motion!

The view from the second floor of the king’s private chapel, which only he and his family would use.  If you were lucky and a favored courtier you might be permitted to hide up here on a second floor side balcony.

What I really liked about this chapel was a picture of a photo exhibit currently going on at Versailles which was showing important moments since the palace has been a museum. (Which, it’s curious to think, it has been much longer than it was ever a palace.) This picture took place towards the end of World War II and showed American G.I. soldiers who had liberated the palace.  What I loved about it so much was the expressions on their faces that was a mixture of amazement and awe, as the bunch of boys off the farm clearly hadn’t even considered that there might be places in the world such as this.  But there are, and the amazement of the modern age is we are all allowed to see them.  As long as you have about 20 Euro that is.

Now I may get carried away by history sometimes, but forgive me as it’s kind of hard.  For example, can you imagine the absolute horror of Marie-Antoinette if someone had told her that in the future thousands of commoners would be filing into her royal bedchamber and it would be exposed for all the world to see?  And about half of them would have nothing more interesting to say then “hey Annette, look at that fancy wallpaper!  Doesn’t it look like that stuff your great and Gertrude wanted to hang in her second bathroom?” The horror!

Plus really now, the wallpaper isn’t the most interesting thing in this room anyway.  You know what is?  It’s that little door in the lower left of the jewel cabinet that looks completely hidden when closed: Marie-Antoinette escaped from the Parisian mob calling for her blood through the secret passageway it connects to during the French Revolution of 1789.

It took a few hours to get through everything in the palace, but I headed out afterwards into the garden to explore a little.  The grounds of Versailles are huge- it would take more than one hour to walk from one side to the other easily- and they’re also free so the locals make good use of what is essentially a giant park as well.  Makes me wish I had the former grounds of a palace to go biking and jogging in!

Also, it should be noted that the trivia fact of the day is the reason aristocracy trimmed their bushes so precisely like in the picture above is because it was supposed to symbolize their triumph over nature.  Something to think about next time you trim the hedgerow!  No word on how that triumph over nature thing worked out when it came to the physics of sharp slicing blades though.

There’s a fair bit of the grounds itself to see- I ended up doing a bit of geocaching as it was a perfect for it- but the best thing about the grounds of Versailles this time of year were the snowdrops.  Thousands upon thousands of snowdrops blanketing the ground and covering everything in sight.  I was in love, and can’t imagine the forests are half as pretty in summertime!

After that, footsore but happy about how the day was turning out, I headed back to the station for the ride back to Paris.  Feeling plenty hungry too, and sat down for a dinner which I’ll detail later!

Parisian Churches and a Foucault Pendulum

I’m not a particularly religious soul, but it’s hard to go to Paris and not find yourself in a church at some point and not be wildly impressed with them isn’t it?

To start off with the obvious one, Notre Dame de Paris.  What always amazes me is how long these cathedrals took to build- nearly 200 years in Notre Dame’s case- and how they started building them nearly a thousand years ago (1160A.D. here).  Talk about dedication!

And then you step inside, and you understand why.  It’s glorious, filled with light and space that leaves you with an urge for nothing more than to sit and let your eyes wander.  I was in awe and I am someone who has been to more countries than I can keep track of and plenty of cathedrals at that!  There’s no doubt in my mind that if I was born a few hundred years old without having science to explain even something like how the planets move or where humans came from, and then see a marvel like Notre Dame, that I would be a believer.

The carvings above the door you exit Notre Dame from these days, on the West side of the building.  Just amazing.

Moving on to another famous Parisian church and the national cathedral of France, the Pantheon!  (Which I keep confusing with the Pantheon in Rome, or the Parthenon in Athens. *sigh*) A bit younger than Notre Dame, dating to the 18th century, but a bit more modern in several ways.

The first thing you notice inside the Pantheon (beyond the fact that I’m apparently incapable of taking a non-blurry picture) is the pendulum- to be precise it is a Foucault Pendulum named after the French physicist of the same name.  You have seen them in every science museum known to man, and the take-home lesson is that you set the pendulum to swing one way while the Earth turns underneath it so the pendulum seems to change direction over time.

Ok so Foucault pendulums are awesome and all but let’s think about this for a second- this is the national cathedral of France.  No crosses in sight or incense or any of that, but rather a symbol of enlightenment and scientific progress dominates the scene.  We have certainly come a long way since Notre Dame, or at least the French have.

A quick look up to admire the dome that looks not unlike the one in the United States Capital Building- to be fair they were designed around the same time- before heading downstairs…

In the grand traditions of European nations, the French inter their most noteworthy citizens in their national cathedral.  An idea I have always liked to be honest and I sorta wish we had a crypt under the US National Cathedral, but no one listens to me… Anyway, part of the interest in these national tributes is the impromptu history lesson you embark on as a result, finding the plaques to Victor Hugo, Voltaire (did he have a last name or was that a pen name?), Louis Pasteur… I ran into a snag when I discovered there are not one but two Carnots interred here, one I know due to his work in thermodynamics and one who I later learned was the fourth president of France, so I payed my respects at both to cover my bases.

The picture above is of Marie and Pierre Curie’s resting place- apparently they were only moved here in 1995, but it was undoubtedly a wise move.  How could you not inter the first winner of two Nobel Prizes? (Btw do you know which it was?  Marie because she got chemistry in 1911 and her husband died five years prior.)

So those were the churches, the old transitioning into the new.  And no I am still not over the Foucault pendulum in the Pantheon- isn’t it amazing that we now know how stuff works?  Up until a few hundred years ago, the smallest fraction of the million-odd years we’ve been on the planet, you just had no chance of knowing our place in the universe no matter how badly you wanted to know the answer.  But now we do, along with a million billion other things you just plain never would have had a chance to know until recently.  We’re very lucky.

Museums and Art in Paris

One not-so-nice thing about Paris is unlike most nations where the national museums are free the Paris ones certainly aren’t- and in fact, they’re expensive!  The exception to the rule is the first Sunday of the month which was fortuitously my first day in Paris, so I was up bright and early due to jet lag and went off to see the art.

I started at the Louvre, mainly because it’s so big I figured if any museum might need a full day it’d certainly be this one.  And when you show up at 9am the line’s only five minutes long, as opposed to when you leave around 1pm and the line is snaking around the courtyard!

Finally inside!  I don’t know why the glass pyramid is considered to be so controversial by the way, as I rather like it.  I guess some of the argument is from the fact that they were hoping you wouldn’t see the structure of the pyramid itself, just the glass, but does anyone really care?  Honestly the final result looks good, and I suspect most people who don’t like it are the ones who remember what it looked like before and get that opinion from nostalgia.

Anyway, time to wander around one of the world’s largest museums…

So there are a lot of amazing things here- I think what I like the best out of it is how even the slightest collection is something any museum in the world would make a prize collection, from the Egyptian mummified cats to the 18th century bronze sculptures.  So naturally it’s filled with people, particularly at the so-decided “famous” pieces in the museum.  If you look close in this picture you’ll find the Venus de Milo (I think this was around 10am, I don’t want to know what it looked like later!), which hey is nice but it amazes me how other rooms filled with Greek statues can be completely empty sort of thing.

And I won’t even get into the Mona Lisa, as there were so many people standing around taking pictures of something everyone already knows exactly how it looks!  All because when you’re little and you ask your parents what the most famous painting is in the world and they tell you the Mona Lisa- honestly, I never heard a good reason as to why it’d be the most famous so I’m going with that.

Moving along, my second museum on free museum day was the Rodin one because I have loved Rodin ever since I first came across his work in high school.  It has to do with something regarding me not being artistic in the traditional word whatsoever- I can be creative, but the closest I get to artwork is needlepoint to be honest and I can’t draw for the life of me.  Sculpture I just can’t conceive of doing at all so I admire those who can, particularly someone like Rodin who can make it come alive!

Lots of beautiful things in this museum of course, most of which you’ve seen, but I submit this sculpture because I rather liked it and had never seen it before.  Possibly because it’s right next to a very famous neighbor, The Kiss, sort of like who in the Louvre studies the paintings next to the Mona Lisa in detail? (I did!) Anyway, this sculpture’s called The Eternal Idol, and you should certainly check it out if you ever find yourself in the Rodin museum and are waiting for the crowds to dissipate around The Kiss (which, it turns out, is a lot bigger than I expected it to be!).

Finally, Musee d’Orsay, the famous museum for Impressionists built in an old railway station.  This is another one I wanted to come back to because while in Paris half a lifetime ago I must’ve been tired that day because I recall spending a lot more time sulking than taking advantage of the opportunity, which yeah you’re allowed to do when you’re 12 but kind of annoys you later in life when you decide you like Impressionists of your own free will.

Being sulky 12 years ago or not I still had an awesome time at the Orsay.  Why?  Well because there’s a lot of funky furniture in the above floors which I’d completely forgotten about, and while wandering through I spotted a purple chair that had one leg due to leaning against the wall and thought wait a second, I know that chair! I had a memory of seeing it so many years ago but had long ago forgotten where to place it, and it’s a delightful shock to pin such a memory down.  Particularly when the memory occurred in a strange land and you completely weren’t expecting it.

Needless to say, there were a lot of Impressionists and it’s hard not to love someplace that has so many Monet paintings they can put several in a row so you can compare the nuances of each.  The one annoying thing though?  Currently the Musee d’Orsay is undergoing renovations (and will until next year sometime) meaning they only had a very small smattering of the Impressionist artworks on display in temporary rooms- still world class, but could’ve been so much better.

So that was a bit of a disappointment in a sense, but kind of freed me up in another because I still have an excuse to return to Paris someday.  I have been twice but still feel I haven’t done justice to the Impressionists!

Flashback: Spring Break Paris Trip, Part 1

If only summer rain would fall
On the houses and the boulevards,
And the side walk bagatelles, it’s like a dream,
With the roar of cars
And the lulling of the cafe bars,
The sweetly sleeping sweeping of the Seine…
Lord I don’t know if I’ll ever be back again.

I had this song, The Legionnaire’s Lament by The Decemberists, stuck in my head for the most of last semester.  Partly because the second to last line just sounds wonderful, but mainly because I decided to head to Paris during my spring break.

Why Paris?  Well there were a few reasons but mainly because I missed traveling, the joy of exploring a new city and of making friends from all over the world in a hostel, so it became more a question of where.  Anyplace would be warmer than Cleveland, but all southern destinations would be filled with drunken undergrads, so why not Europe?  And then I recalled how I always felt badly about not getting to Paris on my round the world trip last year- I’d been when I was 12 years old, right at the tail end of France winning the World Cup they hosted actually, but that was half a lifetime ago and in that half I learned a lot more European history, decided Rodin is my favorite sculptor, and decided I enjoy a good glass of wine.  So Paris it was, not exactly the cheapest destination I could have chosen but I’m ok with spending my money when it comes to a good experience.  Like remember that trip around the world I did?  Yeah, that totally sucked.

To begin, it turns out they have a rather famous tower in Paris that research has proven is the most photographed object in the world.  Maybe you’ve heard of it?  To be honest I think the Eiffel Tower is one of the best examples of humans engineering something just because they can- it really serves no purpose, other than getting tourists to come and admire it and climb around, but come we do because it’s awfully nifty-looking.

A close-up of the Eiffel Tower, included here because of a detail I only noticed on this trip- they have the names of French scientists on the Tower!  Well it makes sense as it was built for a World’s Fair and is a lovely work of engineering, but it made me happy even though I’m certain hardly anyone else notices or knows who these people are (Cuvier was the scientist who showed extinctions exist in the fossil record, LaPlace did some amazing work in classical mechanics, Dulong figured out heat capacity in thermodynamics, Chasles made advances in geometry).

It’s worth noting that I did not climb up the tower, though I certainly spent a lot of time in the area admiring it and eating crepes and what not (food deserves its own post later).  The simple reason for this is we did it when I was 12 but at the time we did the stairs instead of the elevator because the elevator line’s always so long, an incident my siblings and I not-so-fondly recall as “the death march.”  Plus it was almost 10 Euros to do the stair option, so I wasn’t particularly interested.

So this is something that’s new since I was last in Paris- the Eiffel Tower sellers.  See the jumbles of metal?  They’re a bunch of those little Eiffel Tower figurines strung up on a metal ring and these guys go around selling them for a Euro or two, sometimes rather insistently.  Definitely a common sight in Paris these days!

One thing I was actually interested in when it came to Paris was also how true the ubiquitous stories of street harassment and theft and general mean-ness are true when it comes to the city.  Conclusion?  Most are really just due to the fact that Paris is often the first international experience many Americans face, so they come into things rather naively and they can and rather badly.  I also found the Parisians to be just as nice as anyone so long as you made an attempt to speak a few words of French and they realized you weren’t going to act like an a$$hole.  But then I’ve always had a good record with the French people- they seem to assume any girl named Yvette must be a kindred spirit, or at least close enough.

Moving along here’s another famous landmark- the Arc!  And I rather like this picture if I may say so as the sunset lighting was good, almost made up for being footsore…

A much further away shot down the Champs-Élysées from the Luxor Obelisk.  I confess this is another one of those things that I remember being much more interesting in years past because now it’s primarily American chain stores, and who goes to Paris to shop at Abercrombie & Fitch and eat at McDonald’s?

In what is undoubtedly a traitor to my gender, I’m not much of a shopper.  I mean, what’s the point of buying yet another souvenir that will just sit somewhere and add to clutter you already have too much of?  So I didn’t wander towards the Paris Opera House until my very last night to check out the shopping because I like to look but will never actually spend the money, especially in the most expensive city in the world.

To be fair all the jewelry shops had some amazing things on display, as I’m not enough of a traitor to lose the magpie interest in shiny things.  Plus it’s kind of fun to try and find the most expensive thing on display (answer: a 100,000 Euro necklace!) tho I only did window shopping at the jewelry shops because they all had footmen at the doors, aka people who were in place to make sure those obviously not capable of plunking down a few thousand Euro didn’t find themselves inside.

I did wander into a few footman-less stores though, and here are some of my favorites-

Hard to not love a candy store with all its colorful tins and wrappers.  And I swear I was considering buying something here until I tried the free samples and realized they just weren’t at all tasty.

And last but not least, spotted near the Opera was the ballerina store!  Specifically they sold pointe shoes- a professional dancer goes through a pair a night so you need to keep a lot on hand.  The store also sold ballet-slipper shoes of various colors to augment the sales I suppose, and a healthy dose of leotards and tutus of course.

So that’s my first installment of my Paris visit.  Tune in later for posts on the art, the churches, Versailles, and the food!