Books

Le Marais (Monday)

The Marais is one of the oldest and picturesque parts of Paris, characterized by its unique 17th century buildings and being a centerpiece of the Jewish lifestyle in Paris. This is a lively neighborhood with, from what I can tell, a bit of hipster lifestyle scene; lots of trendy bars, shops, and eateries.

We started out the day armed with a blog print-out of all the best vintage shops in the area. Steph deftly wove in and out of the numerous alleys and quickly and somewhat dejectedly ascertained that they weren’t up to her high standards. Luckily, there were plenty of other shops with all manner of twee housewares and accessories to occupy us. The highlight of the day was discovering two paper stores, one selling fine writing sheets, pencils, and handmade blank books, the other specializing in inks, calligraphic instruments, and postcards. At the former, Papier +, we bought an album to house all our Paris pics in, in the latter, Steph bought some nibs and ink, and me, fancy postcards adorned with all manner of French delicacies I will never taste.

I was able to taste and enjoy the best falafel I’ve ever had at L’as du Fallafel. Luckily all the upscale boutiques and stylish cafes haven’t edged out all the traditional Jewish fare in the area. We sat on the curb, chowed down; best food I’ve had here yet.

The main focus for contemporary art in France is also in this part of town, at the Pompidou Center. The Pompidou Center, also known simply as Beaubourg, is all about modern and contemporary 20th-century art. To keep the exhibition halls uncluttered, the architects put the building’s ‘insides’ on the outside, with each duct, pipe and vent painted its own telltale color: elevators and escalators are red, electrical circuitry yellow, plumbing green and air-conditioning blue. Around this time we also figured out how nasty French public toilets are. Steph was unable to go there, and we had to vamoose without going into the museum, although we checked out the architecture and design store (we’re planning to go for a proper visit and lunch later in the week).

After using the modern and clean facilites in our flat, we went out to the bank of the Ile, and I wrote postcards while Steph did some pen and ink drawings with her new equipment. For some reason, several police boats sped down the Seine in front of us, occupants armed to the teeth with automatic weapons! Hope they caught the guy.

For our anniversary dinner, I tried to get a reservation at one of the best “cheap” (not cheap) places in the Latin quarter according to Gridskipper. Dining here is a touchy subject; it seems many chefs are outright hostile to the vegetarian schtick. At least I had been told as such. I figured, hey, any good place is happy to offer a basic accommodation to one customer. We walked in a few hours before dinner time and I piped up: “Est-il possible de préparer un repas sans viande? Je suis végétarien.” The host looked pained and gave his reply:

Discouraged, and we tried a place that looked a little touristy near the flat (and it was) but we had a great fix-price 3 course meal (pasta is the name of the game for me I’m discovering) with a nice Bordeaux and stayed up people watching and chatting. Bonne nuit!

Me love Bigfoot

I just nearly soilled myself reading Toronto illustrator Graham Roumieu’s Bigfoot: I Not Dead. Our friend Allie had his book prominently displayed in her home, and, at first, I pegged it for overly precious, indie “graphic novel” nonsense. I was so wrong.

It is basically short personal essays by Bigfoot about his life, and it’s hard to pick a favorite. Bigfoot is a beautiful, beguiling and terrifying creature; equal parts innocence, sweetness, stupidity and blind rage. And hunger. Bigfoot is very hungry. The illustrations are rough, beautiful messes, conveying the tender soul of Sasquatch writ in bloodstains and squiggles.

I don’t normally laugh at loud when I read things, no matter how funny. But I was laughing so hard I could hardly breathe. Apparently I was “giggling,” which Steph has never heard me do.

I’ve just ordered all three of his books. Recommended for “mature” readers, who don’t mind the occasional F-bomb and beheaded bunny.

And good news! Bigfoot’s on Twitter.

Don’t remember swallow lawn flamingo but sure happy it out of system.

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