where we've been and where we're going

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Human Rights Organizations

We took students to Geneva for our first set of site visits, which was a great success. Apologies in advance, I took no photos. I just enjoyed.

When we arrived we took students to La Terrasse, the bar along Lac Leman, which was absolutely packed with people, even on a Wendesday evening at 11pm. I was a bit taken aback. However, the students either weren't impressed, were hungry, or were tired, and it didn't last long.

I woke early the next morning to go on a long, six-mile run along the Lac. It was a gorgeous morning in Geneva, and the lake water was so still and calm, with remnants of the sunrise still lingering over the mountains. The run took me through the lakeside park, past the World Trade Organization, and into the Jardin Botanique, where I was surprised to find animals! Deer, goats (well, one goat), flamingos... It was really a gorgeous run. Oh to always run in Geneva.

We had excellent meetings at the International Committee for the Red Cross and World Vision International. The students were very engaged in the conversations and asked great, probing questions. That evening, we had a group meal at La Gruyerien, which is known for using local, fresh products. Despite knowing in advance that our group was coming, the service was among the worst I've ever experienced, though not for a lack of trying. The fondue I had was probably the best I've ever had...so creamy and smooth and light (for cheese). It was absolutely delicious. However, when I left to meet friends two hours and fifteen minutes after seating, three of our group still did not have food in front of them. Ridiculous. I highly recommend the food, but take a group elsewhere.

For drinks (and for lunch the next day), I went to an old haunt, Les Brasseurs. The brewed beers are light enough for me to drink, and I love flammenkeuches all the time. :) Unfortunately, one of our students had her bag stolen while sitting by a door there. Fortunately, we were in Geneva, where the theives were kind enough to only take her money and leave the bag where it would be found by the police. Amazing.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Group Outings and Adventures

I've been mostly working on my dissertation, getting out only for runs and grocery trips. However, I have eaten out and led group trips, so here we go.

A week ago Friday, we took students for a group dinner to Brasserie Julien, which is an establishment now over 100 years old. It is more exciting for its atmosphere than for its food. The food was quite pleasant, though not as pleasant as the price might have suggested. The room, though, was beautiful. It has all this art nouveau detailing all around the room, and you just feel like you're in Paris. But Paris where there's an old school cabaret and chanteure. Lovely.

After dinner we took the metro a few more stops to Sacre Coeur to watch the sunset. This is the second highest point in Paris (the first being the Eiffel Tower, of course), though the angle of the view leaves much to be desired. It's actually better to go to the dome of the church to see a lovely view of Paris. Nonetheless, sunset on Montmartre is an event. It's packed with people, and relatively few tourists. People blast music, sell beer by the six-pack, dance, sing, and yell. It's quite something.

On Saturday we took the group to Versailles. It was quite an adventure. We hadn't ordered our tickets 24 hours in advance, which meant David had to go out to Versailles an hour ahead of us to begin waiting in line. The rest of us headed out there later, were missing a few tickets, jumped on the wrong train, didn't realize it until we were down the wrong fork, had to change trains twice more, and finally arrived in Versailles an hour later than we had planned. Which I would have felt bad about if David hadn't JUST arrived at the front of the ticket line by the time we arrived. He waited in line over 2 hours. It's so not worth that. Buy your tickets in advance, people.

I didn't go into the grounds, and instead worked a bit at a cafe and found a place for our group to eat. We went, once again, to Pizza Capri, which is yummy and cheap. Pretty standard.

On Tuesday I decided I wanted Moroccan food and took anyone who wanted to go with me to Riad Nejma. It is on the plaza of the Centre Pompidou, but it's surprisingly not very toursity. It has an open, indoor courtyard built to replicate riads in Morocco, and it felt very familiar. They served their couscous dishes family style, which meant we were all able to try everyone else's dishes. One group ordered something with root vegetables, tons of meat, and spiced with ras-al-hanout or something. Another group ordered the couscous Fassi, which I highly recommend. It was cinnamon, raisins, chickpeas, chicken, onions....oh it was so delicious. Outstanding. Nothing was quite as spicy and delicious as we ate in Morocco, but everything was very flavorful and..morocaine. Yummy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tea with Friends and More Doors

Last year I made a new friend here in Paris, a person we hired to help the program, and I met her for tea at L'Heure Gourmande on a rainy afternoon. The tea was lovely, though not anything particularly inspiring. It was, however, a nice tearoom. Located in an alley off of a main street in St. Germain, it felt tucked away, with tables under low ceilings and populated mostly with locals rather than ever-present travelers (such as myself). I'll go again for the atmosphere, unless I can find a place with similar privacy and better tea...

While waiting for my friend, I saw a Frenchman walk by wearing a beret. I have never seen a non-tour guide wearing an actual beret, but he wore it as if it were the most natural thing in the world. If only I had captured it on film!

Paris has been typically moody as far as the weather goes. It fluctuates almost daily between raining all day at 57 degrees and being sunny and beautiful at 80. It means I have to be very certain to get in a run on the sunny days for fear of running into another rainy one, but I feel much better about working all the time in my room when it's rainy outside. So bring on the rain!

On a pleasant day I took a student to Pere LaChaise, the massive cemetery in Paris. Click here for my post the last time I went. Whereas the last time I visited I felt frantic, unable to see everything I wanted to see, this time I was relaxed--soothed by the serenity of the place and breathing in the beauty of a gorgeous day of a wonderful life. We just wandered and took a million photos. This time, I found Chopin. We also found a long wall that was lined with memorials for those who died in wars, plane crashes, and concentration camps. There was at least one memorial for each concentration camp, a memorial of remembrance, sculptures, all lining the wall of the Federalists. This wall is famous for being the site of a massacre of Federalists in a war long ago in French history (sorry...I'm scant on the details).

A slideshow of photos (click to see them bigger):

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Long Runs, Churches, and Mussels

I've been staying in most of the time working, but I have taken breaks every other day for long runs around the Luxembourg Gardens. After getting used to the broken sidewalks of Atlanta on my runs, the park is heavenly. I'd never watched for exercisers before in Paris, but lots of people have the same idea. You see marathoners and housewives and dads with jogging strollers. The loop that circles the park is about a mile and a half, so it's perfect for doing long runs without feeling like you're running a thousand circles. I am able to watch kids play soccer, old men play bocce ball, groups doing tai chi, setup for the outdoor opera, bands playing, and, of course, French lovers making out on benches. I end up not even noticing how long I've been running.

I took a student out to see some churches the other day to help her get started seeing the city. I'm only really willing to do this for the free things for now. I have a couple of friends coming through Paris while I'm here, and I want to save the big ticket items for them. But we went to St-Germain-des-Pres, which is such a beautiful old church. I love the memorials for those of the parish who have died in wars. We also wandered through the antiques market and visited Ste.-Sulpice. I'm always amazed at how bright this church is. Click the links to see the posts from the last time I visited these churches.

That night I went out to have moules (mussels) with T. We went to La Moule en Folie, which had the most delicious mussels! It's almost all they serve, but with a variety of different sauces. I had the house specialty, which were mussels in a garlic, basil, ham, and white wine sauce. And frites of course. Yum. The dessert was even fantastic! It was a chocolate truffle, but not a truffle. More like a fondant. Covered in creme anglaise. It was extremely rich but oh so delicious. It was well worth the walk to this place.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Je reviens

I'm back in Paris again for my third summer as a travel agent/computer lab assistant/camp counselor. I do so love this city. I was/am not looking forward to the trip in the same way I usually am. I adore Europe, Paris, baguettes, and even the French, but I have some pretty severe school deadlines and financial restrictions that will limit the fun aspects of this trip. However, I'll keep blogging the things that I do and see. Perhaps this year there will be more observations and less business in the blog.

I arrived on Saturday in good shape but very sleepy. (I was not, by the way, impressed with Two Lovers on the plane ride over. It was fine, but forgettable.) My room is small but much nicer than last year. I traded last year's view of the Eiffel tower for a shower in my room. I'll accept the trade. On Sunday I welcomed students, found a grocery, and worked. In the evening we took the students to the Saveur de Savoie on rue Mouffetard. It was a classic French place with specialties from the southern France area near Geneva. Of course, I had the fondue. It was fine, though nothing special. But la formule was very affordable and the food better than that price usually affords in Paris. So I recommend it for a forgettable but edible meal at a good price.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Trustafarians of Colorado

I went to Colorado last week for a work-related trip but managed to have a fantastic time in the midst of all the work. Our friend S lives in Boulder, and A lives in Denver, and I managed to visit extensively with both. I arrived in Denver with a plane full of people wearing Keens and steel water bottles, so I was already looking forward to an environment of recycling and nourishing food, though I was certainly hoping for some grit and dirt as well. Luckily, I was hanging out with these friends, the perfect ones to provide that other side for which I was looking, without delving too far into any underbellies.

We started my trip with dinner and the first round of the Western finals of the NBA playoffs in Denver at the Tavern Uptown. It was a pleasant bar of dark wood and many televisions with a nice menu of many kinds of bar food. I'm generally wary of a menu that includes burritos, sandwiches, pastas, pizzas...but the meals we had were yummy. And though the Nuggets lost that one, it was fun to be in a bar full of fans at the time. And good company makes all the difference, of course.

The next day, after a day full of rockin' productive work, S and I shared margaritas on the roof of Rio Grande in Boulder. From the rooftop one can see the Flatirons in the near distance, and though the clouds hovered above us, it never rained. We engorged ourselves with chips and delicious salsa, and my strawberry margarita was delicious. The regular margarita was beautifully smooth, but the strawberry one had real strawberries! Yummy.

After that, A met us at the Lazy Dog on Pearl Street. Pearl Street is the main thoroughfare of fun in Boulder. In the downtown area it's mostly pedestrian strolling with street artisans, musicians, etc. All kinds of restaurants, bars, and specialty boutiques line the street. We again hit the rooftop for drinks and to watch the Cards-Cubs game. The Lazy Dog is a sports bar, straight-up. We didn't order food, but the bartender was friendly and we had a great time. Love that rooftop fun.

Finally, we had dinner at an Irish bar called Conor O'Neill's (of all things, it's other location is in Ann Arbor, Michigan). It had lots of steps up and steps down to trip over, but it made for an interesting feel of the place. The kind of place that feels like Guinness sent the wood over so it would feel like a proper Irish bar. We ate between the three of us two giant platters of barbeque pork pesto quesadillas. I was entirely skeptical when S suggested this dish, as the combination of barbeque and pesto in a quesadilla sounds terrible. Amazingly, it was delicious. I'm not kidding. Delicious.

Though we'd discussed karaoke, and I'm usually hard-pressed to NOT karaoke, but I was pooped after a long day of work and play, so we hit it.

The next day we had lunch at The Sink, a long-time establishment in Boulder. Robert Redford was once a dishwasher there, and his portrait (caricature?) is painted on the wall. There are many, many things painted on the walls...ceilings... It's a dive that's clearly attempting to be a dive, but the food is much better than a dive's food. For lunch, I had the meatloaf sandwich---the only meatloaf I've had with artichokes and sundried tomatoes in it, which was yummy and very filling. We returned for happy hour and had the--get this--deep friend pickles. I was again surprised to think they were delicious, and I don't care for pickles. Amazing.

We then had chips (fries) and curry while drinking British Ales at the Scotch Corner. I know...should have been Scottish Ales. Do I like beer? I remind you...no. After a rugby game we walked up and down Pearl Street a bit and popped into the Pearl Street Pub & Cellar. We both used the bathroom and decided to skedaddle. We finally landed for dinner at the Walnut Brewery, or something to that effect. They brew their own beers, as you might suspect from the title I gave this place, but the food is surprisingly good. I had the most (positively) interesting macaroni and cheese in my life. A fantastic blend of cheeses and spices. Skip the chicken...it's not necessary. This was stellar mac 'n' cheese, and I pride myself on knowing my way around a mac 'n' cheese.

All in all, it was a great time. I'll be happy to return to Colorado, whenever that time comes. I'm sure it won't be too far in the future.