Want to experience Paris more fully? Ride the Velib

Arc de Triomphe

There are many ways to get around Paris, walking, the Metro, Uber, renting a car. During our trip, Kyle and I preferred the more adventurous option, the Velib. For those not familiar, the Velib (a combination of the words vélo and liberté) is Paris’ bike sharing network with over 1200 bike stations and 18,000 bikes, the second largest after China. I used to be a pretty avid rider, riding 8 miles a day to and from work, and Kyle currently rides 18 miles round trip to work on the west side. Naturally, this option fit us best.

Initially I was concerned with biking around Paris because of the traffic and my uncertainty about the streets, though my concerns slipped away quickly. Parisian motorists are quite respectful of bicyclists, most slowing or stopping for you, and were generally extremely careful. The most dangerous situations I ran into (not literally) were the tourists who would walk through the cross walks without looking.

If you derive any sort of joy from riding bikes I absolutely recommend this option. There’s a beauty and freedom to joyriding around a city that you don’t quite know, and cities don’t get much more beautiful than Paris.

(Sidenote: I took the photo above as I was riding my bike to the Palais De Tokyo. The roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe is a ton of cars and motorcycles going in every crazy direction and I was pretty proud of snapping this while I was moving!)

August 6, 2015 / By

Contrary to the stereotype, the French are quite nice

the French are quite nice

The French are mean. Ok, maybe “mean” is a bit harsh but sure, they’re not the most cuddly of cultures. Personally, I would define them as direct and to the point (but not as bad as the Germans). From my short experience in France thet simply don’t have time for your bullshit, which I absolutely respect. Do you want help? Put up your hand and “Pardon!” and “Excusé et moi!” someone until they come over. Be ready to order (in French, don’t be rude) and get to the point. I’m certain this is why many Americans are turned off by French culture.

Two stories:

Kyle and I were having drinks at Le Mary Celeste, our second time there, when a couple sat down next to us at the bar. I didn’t pay much attention to them but after about 20 minutes, noticed them again because the woman looked irked. Curious, I watched them for a bit, then realized they hadn’t ordered yet because no one had specifically came by to get their order. It was their faces though, that look of sheer annoyance at their seeming neglect, must drive French people crazy. Or perhaps they get a sick pleasure from it…

My favorite story is when we were on our way back from Deauville, a small city on the coast northwest of Paris. The train stopped, as it does many times along the way, so we sat there waiting for it to go again, when a young woman remarked, “The train has stopped, you’re going to Paris, yeah?” We nodded and she gestured and said, “Follow me.” It was obvious we were unaware of the situation yet she was kind enough to guide us to our next train, which was several tunnels and flights of stairs away. We would have realized this eventually, but I was quite thankful for her generosity.

August 5, 2015 / By

My favorite museum in Paris: Palais de Tokyo

Palais de Tokyo

Museums in Paris were kind of a nightmare. This statement might be true of any major metropolitan museum but it was especially true of our recent experience. Kyle and I rode by Le Louvre one day and it looked like a madhouse with what looked like thousand of people milling about, Coachella in Paris. We couldn’t do it. Another day we attempted the Musée d’Orsay and again we were confronted with horrible lines. Time is valuable and I didn’t have the patience (the we did wait in crazy line at Versailles, which I would argue is worth it). The workaround for this line dilemma was visting the Palais de Tokyo, which generously open from noon till midnight every day but closed on Tuesdays.

Here’s my recommendation: Arrive for dinner at Tokyo Eat, their fantastic restaurant which is currently outside for the summer, around 9pm (try the Curry Rouge, très fantastique). After you enjoy some food and drinks, simply walk into the Palais, stress free. The current exhibits featuring Patrick Neu, Justin Just, and Tianzhuo Chen were beautiful representations of contemporary art, all quite immersive as well. Highly recommended.

Palais de Tokyo

Palais de Tokyo

Palais de Tokyo

Palais de Tokyo

August 4, 2015 / By

When you eat Parisian, you hear American

Croissants at Loustic

This was a random detail I noticed as we ate and drank our way around Paris. I would estimate that nearly 95% of the places we stopped in were playing American oldies. There was Neil Young at Palais de Tokyo, Don McLean at Le Mary Celeste, or Stevie Wonder at Andy Wahloo. I (stereotypically) expected to hear French classics, like the Serge Gainsbourg or Jane Birkin, but it was *mostly* American hits from the the 60’s to the 80’s, maybe the 90’s. I suppose I didn’t realize the amount of influence American music had on French culture until visiting.

August 4, 2015 / By

Andy Wahloo crafts spirits into masterpieces

The neon sign at Andy Wahloo

If I had to recommned one bar to haunt in Paris, and this is a serious decision for me, I would choose Andy Wahloo. A kitschy, hole-in-the-wall kind of place, it’s lit with neon, adorned with a leopard print carpet and boasts an impressive selection of Japanese whisky. The bar was recommended to me by my source of truth, Hamish Robertson, who’s tastes align with my own so very perfectly.

Kyle and I visited AW on a Friday night and it was relatively chill, we assumed the locals had already left on holiday, so we bellied up to the bar and chatted up the bartenders. Kyle started out with a French 75 and I a Manhattan. As we drank we asked the younger bartender what the specialty of the house was, to which the immediate response was, “the Old Fashioned, but I’m not allowed to make it, only Kaled,” pointing to the other, more seasoned bartender. Obviously I needed to experience this for myself. The seasoned bartender was named Kaled and he spent the next 15 minutes (time escaped me) making the most exquisite Old Fashioned for me, and me alone.

He set out a glass, filled it with ice, then covered it with a napkin. Gently, he placed three sugar cubes onto the napkin and then dashed bitters and some other concoction over the top, letting it slowly filter into the glass. Repeatedly he filled the glass with ice, then a bit of Bulleit Bourbon, then removed the ice just as it started to melt, then add more cubes and more bourbon. I marvelled in a drunken stupor at his process, the artistry and the experience that was being poured into the glass bit by bit. His eyes never left his work, and he barely spoke a word as he worked. I felt like this process couldn’t be more magical until he needed proper ice for the drink. Out the bar manager came with infant sized chunks of ice, clear as glass, which he carved by hand. From a cabinet behind him came an old Japanese knife with which he sliced and sheared till it was a perfect sphere that sat cozily in it’s bath of bourbon. As if that wasn’t enough he topped it with a peel of orange rind (of course) but also a custom made chocolate spoon which was spray painted with gold. It’s purpose was to hold the cherry, that way the customer wouldn’t stick their hands in their drink to eat it.

The Old Fashioned at Andy Wahloo

Kaled handed this holy grail over to me and I was nervous to drink it. I asked, “How do you recommend drinking this?” to which he responded, “Well, it’s your drink, whatever you want.” Humility at it’s finest. I placed it to my lips and felt as if I was supping a work of art. In my mind I compared what he had done to the artisans I met in Waterford, Ireland, the master glass blowers who transformed molten hunks of glass into fragile wonders. Clearly he was a master of this drink and it was a sight to behold. I think my honest (and probably over-enthusiastic) admiration was evident though. As we paid our l’addition Kaled asked the junior bartender to set up a line of shots, and myself, Kyle, and Kaled drank together.

August 3, 2015 / By

Aventure: My thoughts and understanding of Paris

The view from our window in Paris

For the last week and a half or so I’ve been traveling around Paris with Kyle, soaking in the sights, eating and drinking all the city has to offer. It’s been a thrilling adventure and I feel like we explored a great deal of the city in a short amount of time, overall walking/biking in excess of 80 miles. During that time I also wrote quite a bit, mostly about our experiences in the city as well as recommendations for anyone interested in visiting this dazzling city.

In all honesty I’m still reeling from the experience, even while perched in a dingy, ill-lit airport lounge where I’m writing this, waiting for my connecting flight to Los Angeles. I miss the culture, I miss the tall, old buildings, I miss the people who bustle up and down the street on bikes or who quietly whisper on outdoor patios, cigarettes in hand. I miss the colors, I miss the sky staying bright so late, I miss awkwardly ordering in French. Suddenly confronted with the banal, middle American “normalcy” of this airport feels like a punch to the gut. I understand this makes me a sensitive, privileged individual, but it’s who I am. I crave the new, the beautiful, the challenges of the unknown and questioning why, why, why?

Hopefully over the next few days my stories will inspire the same feelings in you.

August 3, 2015 / By