Sunday, October 24, 2010

so long, farewell, auf weidersehen, goodbye!

Hello faithful followers,

I return from a month-long blogging hiatus with glad tidings of great joy: I have a new blog!

Yes, during the past month I haven't (only) been lazy, I've (also) been hard at work designing this: J'adork!

Is this the end of Depaysée? Not exactly. I'll definitely leave my posts up here as an archive of my extra-american adventures for the time being. However, I'll be blog-casting from my new address until further notice, so mosey on over there to check out some fresh material.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mobile moments: night edition

With company in town this weekend, we spent a lot of time enjoying the three M's of Parisian tourism: Museums, Monuments and Meals! (In reverse order of importance, of course). With that in mind, I thought I'd share another set of M's--Mobile Moments, a special nighttime edition.

After enjoying a three course French meal at one of our favorite restaurants, we led our invités to the center of Paris for a stroll through the City of Lights' best-lit tourist spots. Figuring that I would leave the picture-taking up to the real tourists I didn't bother to bring a camera, but it was such a lovely evening that I ended up regretting it and making do as best as I could with my cellphone.

We got off the métro at Place de la Concorde just in time to catch the hourly sparkling of the Eiffel Tower (in the distance, behind the Egyptian obelisk):

A view of Pont de la Concorde with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
And again, from further away:
Looking down through the leaves onto the quai that runs alongside the Seine:
A misty night by the reflecting pools outside the Louvre:
The famous pyramide looks so much more mysterious at night:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


One of my tasks at work this week was to make signs to post up around the center that will encourage students to speak French (because in theory, we're an immersion program, although the kids seem to stick to French for about a week before relapsing back in English). I was bored and took this as an opportunity to get creative with Photoshop, creating a few mascots of francophone/anglophone fusion to decorate my posters.

I called this one the Statue of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. She is armed with a (not-so-)Petit Robert, the classic French dictionary, and a baguette.

Next up, Oncle Sam wants YOU to speak French!
My last experiment in graphic design was a parody easily understood by Parisians, of the ubiquitous "Wall Street English" métro posters. The company has long been the most well known (and most obnoxious) business English program in the city, and the current campaign features, as Tom describes it, "terrible stock photos and slightly-too-old young people" with either American or British flags imprinted on their tongues:
For my version, I altered an iconic image of a more heroic smarty pants. I call him Freinstein:

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A stroll down rue Daguerre

Well, my master's exam is finally over (yay!) and my summer has passed with it (wah!). My feeling was that the exam went pretty well, but I'm still waiting on the results. In the meantime, I'm back at work at the study abroad company full-time until we get through new student orientation, when I will scale back to part-time to accommodate a couple of classes and some tutoring on the side.

As always, I'm struck by how tiring it can be to just sit at a desk for 8 hours. It's also a little annoying, after a year as a carefree student, to not be in control of my own schedule--to no longer have the ability to eat at odd hours or to take mid-afternoon naps. However, one thing that IS nice about a "real" job is knowing that when I leave the office, I'm done--no speed-reading novels, no 3am essays, no studying for exams. Throughout my years in university, the time I've spent on work outside of class has always far exceeded the time spent in class, and very few of those hours fell within the window of a regular workday.

Another benefit of my job is that it's located on the cutesy rue Daguerre, which is about a 15 minute walk from my front door and a microcosm of all shops/businesses that could be considered typically French. In celebration of my (relatively) new job and neighborhood, I thought I would treat you to a virtual "promenade" around the "quartier".

Here's the Tour Montparnasse, looking over the Montparnasse cemetery, just a block away from my work:

Rue Daguerre itself begins with a series of markets. First up are foie gras and cheese markets, as well as a handful of bakeries and pastry stores not shown. Next is a fish market:

(we actually bought a pair of those giant crabs, or rather Tom did, to try and cure my hankering for Chesapeake blue crab. Conclusion: tasty, but MUCH harder to open than my thin-shelled bluies, especially considering our lack of proper crab-cracking equipment. I had planned to impress Tom with my know-how of lifting the tab, popping the back off and cracking the body in two, but apparently that doesn't work so well with monster crustaceans. It took a good hour of butter-knife and rolling-pin chiseling to pick those suckers, which made a mess of the kitchen--and of me! Good thing they were delicious.)

Next is fruit and veggie markets:
And then Amorino's, my favorite gelatto chain, which does good business in the summertime (also, rollerblading is still popular in a big way in Europe):
This menu marks a cute crêperie that I've probably taken you to/will take you to if you visit(ed) me in Paris. At lunch time you can bask in the sunshine on the terasse (just visible at the end of the alley) and enjoy a "menu" of a meal crêpe, a dessert crêpe, and a ceramic bowl of Breton cidre, all for 10 euros:
Florists shops:
Epic stacks of ancient-smelling tomes in a used book store:
Rotisserie chickens, for sale to-go in front of kebab stores or quick-stop cafés:
My favorite little tea store, where you're invited to smell (and sometimes taste!) before you buy. I've been slowly tasting my way through their collection of (surprisingly inexpensive) loose teas. Current favorites are a grapefruit green and a chocolate and blood orange dessert black:
One of several wine stores, with bottles starting around 2.50 euros, staffed with wine enthusiasts who are only too willing to provide recommendations based on extensive personal experience:
A cute toy store, called "Alice's Cousins", whose decoration is based on characters from the popular Lewis Carrol books. It's one of those toy stores that sells eclectic little treasures. My favorite was a book called "Pablo le spermatazoïde" (Pablo the sperm) that was in their front window for several weeks, featuring the adventures of a little anthropomorphized sperm and his eventual victory in the big swimming contest...
A man smoking in one of the street's many brasseries (it's been illegal to smoke indoors for several years now in France, although as you can see, sometimes people barely make it past the threshold). If you look carefully you can also spy one of the graffiti Space Invaders, who has fallen victim to a street sign:
The shop across from our office, which is--I kid you not--an accordion store:

Its musical wares:
And finally, the two sets of iconic, ubiquitous yellow arches that mark the end of the street.

The Métro:
And the Macdo':

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mastery and mille mercis

Tomorrow is the day that I have been both dreading and busting my butt for : my Master's exam.

Yup. In six hours and who-knows-how-many essays, I will have to prove to the grading committee that I have a Master's mastery of more than eight centuries' worth of authors and their works, and the literary/cultural/historical context that shaped them.

The intensive review process this month has been both stressful and rewarding, and has made me realize how much better my speed-reading and my written French have become this year, and how much I now know. On the right, I have reposted the picture I showed at the beginning of this year, of the Master's book shelf (although, once again, I point out that there are a few doubles mixed into the collection). Guess what? I READ THESE.

I'm not really sure who follows this blog anymore, but just in case, I would like to offer a preemptive thank you to all of my St. Mary's and CMRS lit professors, who I think did more to prepare me for the critical thinking/analysis parts of this exam than any of my "read! read more!" coaches at NYU. As part of my review process, I made myself a 150-page study guide of notes pertaining to context and significance of the works, and for source material I relied heavily on seemingly-ancient hand-written notes from classes I took with some of the brainiest women I know: Gantz, Doggett, Adams, and Wooley. Despite what the popular (and trite) saying suggests, I did NOT learn everything I needed to know in kindergarten; however, I just might have learned everything I needed to know in my college survey courses.


As I left work yesterday, my last day of work before my Master's exam, I was treated to a heartfelt cries of "merde!" by all of my co-workers. When it comes to luck, the French are as superstitious as theater people, so the only words of encouragement they permit themselves is this (rather vulgar but amusing) variation on the "break a leg" idea. (My supervisor, however, followed her exclamation with a look of fear--"you do know that we say that right? Ok, good. I just realized how confusing that could be to a foreigner...") So in the spirit of Merde...

During my reviewing this month, I have permitted myself brief pilgrimages to the burial sites/monuments of some of the writers whose work I admire. I saved the photos for now, to offer as a last-minute tribute to their ghosts, who I hope will provide me with inspiration (not to mention hand endurance and cramp resistance!) in my furious writings tomorrow.

In the Latin Quarter's Saint-Etienne du Mont church, in the shadow of the Pantheon, I found Racine:
And Pascal:
And outside the same church, their compatriot Corneille:
Diderot, beneath the Pantheon's dome:
In the Pantheon's catacombs, Victor Hugo and Alexander Dumas on the left, and Emile Zola on the right:
Also in the catacombs: Rousseau...
...and Voltaire:
The entrance to the Pantheon's catacombs bears an inscription in honor of the "writers who died for France"
Flaubert, in his family vacation spot of Trouville:
Moving on now to the Montparnasse cemetary, the shared grave of kindred spirits and love and philosophy, Sartre and De Beauvoir:
Close up of their grave, bearing Oscar Wilde-like kisses:
And of the metro ticket and centime tributes left by visitors:
Marguerite Duras:
Baudelaire (who, unfortunately, was forced to share a tomb with a stepfather he hated):
Beaudelaire's tributes:
My favorite absurdist, Eugene Ionesco:
And his anglophone contemporary, Beckett:
And, last but not least, Guy de Maupassant...
...and a hand-written note of appreciation, shoved into a crevice in the stone:

Monday, August 23, 2010

No longer the City of Lights

I've mentioned several times now that Paris is deserted during the summer months, but I finally found a way to capture the ghost town ambiance on film. This is a picture of the apartment building that faces ours at around 10pm--a time when most French families would be home and finishing up dinner. The complex is generally pretty, with a whole collection of lighted windows providing distant glimpses into people's balconies and living rooms. Not anymore.I know that most countries' tourism industries have suffered during the recent economic crisis, but judging by the number of absent Parisians I'd bet that France is still doing pretty well on that front.