Fête de la Musique 2015

Every year on June 21, France has a party. And I mean a big party. A music party. The entire country explodes in harmony all afternoon and evening and the experience is magnificent.

Basically, there’s a band playing on every corner of every city and you just walk around indulging in the melodies. It’s insanely fun. Free music, good friends and tons of fun define this day. And yesterday was Fête de la Musique.

I spent my afternoon and evening wandering through the streets of Paris and indulging in all that the music had to offer. Just sitting on a hill and getting lost in it all was perfection. 

 I experienced Fête de la Musique two years ago in Cannes too, and it was splendid. The whole day everywhere is a music lover’s dream.

Anyway, I just wanted to recall how amazing my day was yesterday and how much I’m going to miss this wondrous country when I move back home soon. 

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Escaping City Life: A Day Trip to Normandy’s Capital

It’s always so nice to get out of the city and explore more of what France has to offer. Coming from a small town, sometimes living in such a huge city is a bit overwhelming for me. So, whenever I have a chance to get away for a bit, I take full advantage.

Yesterday, I went to Normandy’s capital, Rouen, and spent the day walking around and eating delicious food. 

 Rouen has so much more to offer than I would have thought. We saw about three gorgeous gothic cathedrals and the Joan of Arc church as well. The Joan of Arc one was a bit odd – weirdly shaped and huge – it juts out of the city like a black sheep. But I found it intriguing nonetheless. 

           All of the buildings throughout the entirety of the small town were all Hansel and Gretel themed and just like out of a Disney movie. The girls and I took a walk down the river as well and just enjoyed being in a peaceful area surrounded by small town mentality. 

        Man, do I love an escape from the hustle and bustle.

Tackling (Most of) My Paris Bucket List in One Week

Since moving to Paris almost a year ago, I’ve had a bucket list to complete that I’ve slowly been adding to throughout my time here. And last week, I was able to cross off four more things. So, I’m almost done with my list! Just a few more things left.. But for now, I’ll tell you all about the ones I just crossed off.

  First, there’s Giverny. You’ve heard of Monet, right? Those beautiful water lily paintings? Yeah, I went to his house last weekend and it’s just as gorgeous as you’d imagine it to be. Overflowing with thousands of flowers outside the front and the hidden pond off to the side.. It was all so surreal and magnificent. I couldn’t help but just stare and stare and stare. The girls and I decided to go exploring throughout the town after his house too and found ourselves on a little adventure throughout the hills. We climbed a trail that led to the top of a steep hill and at the top you could see the wonders of nature for miles and miles and miles. It was just such a peaceful and relaxing day full of flowers and sun. 

                   

  Next, I climbed to the top of Notre Dame. Kissing a gargoyle up there has been one of the top things on my list all year and I finally did it! Obsessed with gargoyles.. Anyway, the view was glorious and breathtaking but mostly I’m just happy I kissed a real gargoyle. Even looked for Quasimodo but couldn’t find him anywhere. 

     
  Then, I climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Gotta say, this view is my favorite in all of Paris thus far. You could literally see the whole city and it started with the length of the Champs Elysées. Really just a spectacular place to go and get lost in thought within the beauty of this city. 

        
  Finally, I sang karaoke at my pub. Yeah, it might be a weird thing to have on a bucket list but it makes sense to me. The Highlander is the place where I literally spend most of my time in Paris and every Thursday night they have karaoke. Usually, I just laugh when everyone else makes a fool of themselves for everyone else’s pleasure but this time I decided to be the fool. I told Declan, the best bartender in the world, that I was going to do karaoke tonight so that I wouldn’t be able to bail. Once I told him, I was stuck. Later in the night he called me up to sing and even though I pleaded for a good 30 seconds for him to not make me actually do it, he announced to the whole pub that this was something that I had to do and that I needed to knock it off my bucket list. Thanks, Dec. Anyway, I sang Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” and I even did the Steven Tyler squeal with my voice after every line. It was pretty fun since I committed to it and sang my heart out – none of that shy, quiet I-don’t-really-wanna-do-this kinda stuff – no, I full on went for it. I feel sorry for everyone’s ears but I don’t really care, I had a blast being an idiot. And now it’s been crossed off my list.

So, there you have it. I completed four new items on my Paris Bucket List within a week and I only have about three more things left before I leave in two weeks. Here’s to its completion!

Père Lachaise: A Guide to Paris’ Most Famous Cemetery 

Have you ever had the urge to just grab a horror novel and leisurely stroll through a cemetery? Perusing the graves, book in hand, admiring the beauty of each grave? No? Just me then? Well okay.. Let’s go ahead and change that right now.

I’m about to walk you through the most famous Parisian cemetery and you can decide for yourself at the end whether or not you’d actually fancy the idea of a good scary read in the middle of a beautiful cemetery lined with graves.

Here we go.

Père Lachaise cemetery opened in 1804 in Paris and is located in the East of Paris in the 20th arrondissement. It holds over 1 million graves and inside there is located a crematorium and columbarium. In addition to many famous names buried inside, the cemetery also contains multiple World War I memorials.

Last weekend I spent an afternoon perusing through the numerous graves, finding famous souls of the past and viewing the monuments and buildings it has to offer. 

 As you can imagine, this is a vastly large cemetery and if you’re planning to visit to see one of the famous names buried there, I highly recommend grabbing a map at the entrance. The plots of well-known names and figures from history are listed alphabetically and can easily be found if you just follow the map.

I say easily.. but..

I started out searching for Chopin. He was the closest to the entrance and I thought he’d be easily found. After many hills of exploration and about twenty minutes of blind plot searching, I decided he couldn’t be found. I can only chalk this up to the fact that he’s just not there (it certainly wasn’t due to my poor navigation skills).

After failing to find Chopin, I decide Jim Morrison is up next. I’d already previously found his grave on a different date but went back again anyway because I was with friends who hadn’t yet seen it. This time I easily found my way to his blocked off grave, cluttered with gags of people around hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous rocker and member of the 27 club. His grave, notably one of the most visited in the cemetery, is buried beneath arrangements of flowers, lipstick kisses and street graffiti. All expressions of undying love for The Doors’ frontman. It’s oddly beautiful for an immense target of vandalism. You know that even though the grave is decorated with spray paint and lipstick, every single line and letter is love and admiration personified in colorful streaks. 

 

Next up, Oscar Wilde. I’d heard his grave was of extravagant nature but I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams just how extravagant. The tomb was designed by sculptor Jacob Epstein and his focus for the tomb is derived from Indian and Egyptian art for their nature of primal sexuality. The tomb is a sort of angel bird hybrid that was originally completed with full male genitalia – this bit has since been vandalized and the whereabouts are now unknown. Again, littered with flowers and lipstick prints of affection, it’s a spectacle of odd beauty. The epitaph on the back reads,

“And alien tears will fill for him

Pity’s long-broken urn,

For his mourners will be outcast men,

And outcasts always mourn.”

This is a verse from “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” a poem by Wilde. Stunning don’t you think? 

   

Finally we come to my lady Edith Piaf. In an entirely different realm design-wise, her grave was simple and elegant. If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you wouldn’t even know it was her. Just a normal grave, save for the vase situated on top with the initials “E.P.,” she’s buried with her daughter, father and second husband. I took a short moment here to pay my respects to my dear beloved lady, and what a lady she was. 

   

Among the other graves discovered were Honoré de Balzac, a French novelist and playwright, and Gilbert Morard, father of the modern French metro. Morard’s grave was incredibly interesting – it was buried beneath hundreds of used metro tickets. A spectacle, definitely. 

   

I also walked past the crematorium and columbarium, each grand and magnificent. 

   

So, there you have it. If I haven’t convinced you that cemeteries are beautiful and wondrous and the best place to curl up with a horror novel within this post, then I’m afraid there’s truly no hope for you.

Experiencing the Champs Élysées Film Festival

Anyone who knows me knows that film and cinema are my life. I’ve been a film buff all my life and horror is my specialty. I mean, Dracula is my all-time favorite novel.. So you could say death and murder entertain me quite a lot.

Anyway, I’ve always fantasized about attending a famous film festival and last weekend I finally made that dream come true. Granted, it wasn’t SXSW or Cannes – which I walked down the red carpet of two yeas ago (in off season)! – but it was still unbelievable in my mind. I was about to attend a Parisian film festival on the CHAMPS ÉLYSÉES and see none other than “The Exorcist.” Yeah, I saw “The Exorcist” at a Parisian film festival. You might be confused like, “What? I thought she said film festival.. Doesn’t that mean NEW films?” Well no, this festival’s theme this year was the history of American and French cinema. So, basically they played numerous famous films from our histories.

Walking up to the theater, there was a line all the way to the street. Everyone was waiting on a red carpet under a lit up arch to walk under. I felt so awesome walking down that carpet and through the arch for my film. Like a movie star, man.

And get this, I’d never seen “The Exorcist.” Me, of all people, had never seen the film that set the precedent for modern supernatural horror. But after seeing it, I can see why it is so famous. Even decades later, I was entirely creeped out by everything I saw. 70’s special effects aside, I was blown away. Every aspect of it was horrific. Two thumbs up, seriously.

 So there you have it, my first famous film festival experience.. The Champs Élysées Film Festival.

How A Protestant American Experienced A French First Communion

I have something wonderful to share.

On Sunday, my kiddo invited me to his First Communion. I’d never been to a First Communion seeing as how I’m Protestant, not Catholic – and it was simply beautiful.

Set at Madeleine in the center of Paris and done completely in French (obviously), it was so great getting to watch my eager little kiddo make his way down the aisle and stand up in front of the congregation. He was so adorable and happy and I felt so blessed to have been thought of in such a big event in his life.

I really don’t say this enough but I truly have the best family in Paris. They are so kind and generous and thoughtful and just make me feel welcome and loved.

Anyway, after the service, we all drove over to Le Royal Monceau – a famous five star hotel/restaurant – and had a four hour lunch. Complete with endless wine, personalized place cards and a private menu created by my little kiddo, it’s safe to say that this was the fanciest meal I’ve ever had and probably ever will have again. 

    

  

  

The entire extended family made a point to come talk with me in both English and French and the entire experience was just magnificent and heartwarming.

So, I’d just like to say again that I love my family here in Paris and am so thankful to have spent the past year of my life with them. They are so wonderful and I’m very much dreading telling them goodbye.

Sainte Chapelle: Another Parisian Bucket List Item

  Yesterday I finally ventured inside Sainte Chapelle, a royal medieval Gothic chapel, here in Paris. It’s known for its glorious stained glass windows and they definitely didn’t fail to impress. I get why everyone talks so highly of it now. Seriously gorgeous. Anyway, these photos don’t do it justice but they’ll have to do! 

       

Another bucket list item checked off!