Monday, April 6, 2015

Paris and Nuit Blanche

Every time I visit Paris, I like it a little more.
Place des Vosges

The first time I went to Paris, I frankly had the preconception that the city of lights was overhyped. During that visit we quickly crossed off the biggest highlights during a 12 hour layover and left. I would have been happy not returning for a long time.

Several years and visits later, I have come to enjoy the ritual of hanging out with friends for hours at a time in restaurants and cafés more than actually sightseeing. Besides, Paris has so many museums and famous places that it is overwhelming (and personally speaking, boring after a while) to see a lot during a single visit. So now my main priority while visiting Paris to enjoy good company and food.

This time Laure and I joined our friends Marc and Andrea from Zurich.
Andrea discovered Brasserie Julien, where we had the fanciest meal of our trip.
The best part was actually the dessert.
Andrea and Marc were able to charm the waiter to bring out a last flambéed dessert although they were supposedly out of them. 

We also checked out a cool cocktail bar named The Little Red Door, which served great drinks. The seemingly (and confusingly) secret façade plus the Prohibition-era interior definitely gives the vibe of a modern day Speakeasy, which has become fashionable nowadays.

Marc in front of the Little Red Door.
The real entrance is not actually where you would expect.
Exquisite drinks in the low-lit atmosphere of a modern day Speakeasy.

Easily the most memorable culinary goodie was the croissant at Blé Sucré. Laure and Andrea liked it so much that they went back on a later day. On that second day, they met someone that was writing about the café in article for a travel magazine.
The texture of the croissants at Blé Sucré is just how it should be: crispy on the outside and soft and airy in the inside.
A distinguishing attribute of these croissants is the hint of sweetness.

As for the actual sightseeing part of the trip, we checked out Montmartre district in the 18th arrondissement. It's one of Laure's favorite areas; probably because of the hilly streets that remind her of our former neighborhood in San Francisco, Telegraph Hill.
Our book-guided tour started near where raunchy cabarets sprung up in the late 1800's.
We checked out this huge church named Sacré-Cœur.
And Laure wore the right shoes for this graffito.
The Red Windmill.
Café des 2 Moulins was one of the sets in Laure's favorite movie, Amelie.
Lapin Agile was the watering hole of Picasso and other artists as well as some crazies.

We passed by a place named Le Bateau Lavoir, which basically offered low cost shared housing for artists. Some of those artists were famous; most notably Picasso. This reminded me of the recent trend in the tech world of similar shared housing for engineers working on start-ups. I wonder if future generations will look back at those the same way we look back at Le Bateau Lavoir.
Le Bateau Lavoir once housed Picasso among other famous artists.

In addition to Montmartre, Laure and I went inside the Notre Dame cathedral, which I had been wanting to do for a while.
Notre Dame.
We also grabbed some Gyros in the Latin Quarter.
Gyros with french fries is a thing.

Andrea found what turned out to be the coolest part of our trip: Nuit Blanche. Nuit Blanche ("White Night") is an annual event where many museums, churches, and public spaces become one huge free museum of contemporary art that is open all night. The event is so large that we found it impossible to see it all in one night.
Walking path signs for Nuit Blanche were stenciled onto the sidewalks.
This church housed a projection of laser like special effects that animated in synchronization with techno sounds.
The laser animation and sounds were generated by these two "scientists" in lab coats on their computers.
Even Notre Dame displayed some artistic videos.
One of the train stations under construction was repurposed as the set of a light and sound show.
My favorite performance was this cellist playing classical music in a dramatically lit square.

I recommend Nuit Blanche to others that want to check out something apart from the typical tourist attractions in Paris. It is a worthwhile local event that encourages you to escape the confinements of a guidebook and join the Parisians.