Monday, March 28, 2011

Des Films Pour Paris

Bonjour tout le monde!
Since it's been a whopping two weeks since I last blogged, I'm going to try and do 3 posts this week. I'm simultaneously busy and lazy these days, so I'm going to wait to post about my St Patrick's Day trip to Ireland, my first easyJet experience, my happy return to the City of Lights, my new favorite ice cream place (it's Amorino, actually, so that's done) and this past weekend's trip to the Loire Valley. Instead, for this week's first post, I'm going the lazy route- photos, videos and minimum explanation!

I'm a big lover of film— in fact, one of my classes here in Paris is a cinema course. We go in, the guy talks a little, and then we watch a movie. It's pretty great.
Side note- I've learned from watching several French movies, presentations on movies, etc, that all French men are named Francois Pignon. Seriously, I've seen/heard of about 4 movies where the main character's name is Francois Pignon. The most well-known (maybe) is the on from Le Diner de Cons (our version is Dinner for Schmucks).

Anyway, aside from the cinema class, two DVDs I bought in French, and the occasional MegaVideo site, movies are rare for me these days and I'm painfully aware of it. And every once in a while, when I'm strolling around Paris, I wish I'd done a Paris movie marathon back home before I'd left, something to kick off the trip and the semester and to give me an idea of places I'd like to see most (not that there's any shortage of things to see!).
So here's the point- I love love love movies, and EVEN MORE than movies themselves, I love movie stars. And my FAVORITE movie star is Audrey Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn was the first reason that I wanted to come to Paris- she has so many good movies set here! She isn't the only one, either. So here's an unfinished list of movies I recommend watching in preparation for a semester (or even a vacation) in Paris. Hopefully the videos work, and if not, I've posted links.

Putting the top right at the top. This is by far my favorite Paris movie. There's murder, spies, mystery, comedy, a disgruntled French policeman, a nervous-eating Audrey Hepburn, and most importantly, there's Cary Grant. Cary Grant is..words don't do the man justice. Let me put it in the words of my father- if Cary Grant had been president, there would have been world peace. Anyway, it's a great movie set in Paris with a great chase scene in the metro and a climax at the Palais Royale.

(or watch here)

(Not the teenage witch.)
This movie isn't set in Paris; what is most important is how Paris is described and thought of, how it changes Sabrina (played by Audrey Hepburn), and how it affects her relationship with rich brothers David and Linus (a blond William Holden and a slightly older Humphrey Bogart). Sabrina talks about how Paris changes her ("Paris isn't for changing planes. It's for changing your outlook, for letting in La Vie En Rose.") and that's what sold me. Audrey Hepburn could talk anyone into anything, although apparently Bogie didn't like her. We can't all be Lauren Bacall. The movie's also pretty funny- it's a romantic comedy about a wallflower who finally blooms and it's also about relationships between classes. William Holden sits on wine glasses and hilarity ensues, Bogie plays the part of a seducer, and Audrey sings "La Vie En Rose" and "We Have No Bananas Today."

Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, fashion, music, and Paris. If none of that interests you, go away and watch Transformers.
If you watch this video, pay attention to the part where they show Fred Astaire on all of the stairs. THAT is a realistic depiction of Paris. There are so many stairs, EVERYWHERE.

If you're interested in Paris and/or movies, chances are you've seen this. Everyone seems to love this movie, and there's really no reason not to. It's adorable, fun and an enthralling story, and it all takes place in Montmartre, which is possibly my favorite part of Paris. Some of my friends have even visited the cafe from the movie! The star is Audrey Tautou (I'm really sorry if I spelled that incorrectly), who is beautiful and wonderful and so freakin' cute in this movie. It's a romantic comedy but it's also about doing good deeds (and we could all use a dose of that). Also, there's a traveling gnome. This one's all in French, by the way, so if you're not a fan of subtitles...well, get over it and watch the movie. There's no other like it.

Yeah, I know, it's a Disney movie. But there's beautiful music, a great story, and it's relatively disturbing for a Disney movie. I think it made me love Notre Dame even more than I would have otherwise. It's based on the book that basically saved the cathedral from being torn down, but based on what I've read one Sparknotes and the French musical, it's really nothing like the story Victor Hugo wrote. Every time I look up at the towers of Notre Dame and imagine the music playing, it just makes the cathedral seem all the more amazing, almost powerful. The one thing that bothers me is that there are no steps up to Notre Dame, and they're a big part of the movie's opening.

My top reasons for listing and loving this movie:
1. It's centered around French food (and also love and comedy) and BLOGGING.
2. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci. Everyone knows how amazing Meryl Streep is, but she and Stanley Tucci just portray this great love between Julia and Paul Child so well.
3. The themes about friendship shown in the different times.
4. Pre-Glee Jane Lynch is in it.
5. It's centered around French food...and that's really all that matters. ;-)
Make sure that you have something delicious to eat for during or after you watch this movie- you're gonna be hungry.

I haven't actually seen this, but I really want to- it's a bunch of small stories filmed and put together, all set in Paris. I imagine it's a good Paris movie to watch...also it has Natalie Portman, and if I had to choose someone to place Audrey Hepburn in a movie, it would be Natalie Portman. I'm not going to post a video because I haven't actually watched the movie, but if anyone reads this and has a link to offer feel free to leave it in a comment here or on my Facebook.


Haven't seen this either, but I'm posting it because I read the book here in Paris and it really got me excited to visit the Louvre. If the movie is anything like the book, it's worth seeing and sure to put you in the mood for an adventure in Paris! Plus it has an amazing cast, and you can laugh at Tom Hanks's hairstyle. Same goes for not posting a video.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Safe and Sound in Paris

I was going to do a teeny tiny post about being safe at some point, and now that I've read about poor Austin Bice, and have been advised "not to come home dead," I feel like this may be an appropriate time for some reminders.

The initial reason that I ever thought about posting something safety-related is that, before I left for Paris, I talked with a guy who was convinced the only thing that would happen to me here in Paris was getting mugged. And during the orientation for the program at school, the coordinator basically said "I guarantee that one of you will get robbed."
Well, it's not gonna be me. I hope.
And even if it is, the robber isn't going to get much because my account's just been leaking into sandwiches and books and stuff.

BRIEFLY ON BOOKS- (I just picked up Sense and Sensibility for a euro and 22 cents, because I've been tearing through books in English at hyperspeed- I think it's because English is becoming this completely useless, forbidden thing- and I figured I might use this newfound habit to read some classics. And who better to read in Europe than Jane Austen? Well I guess there's Hemingway, or Dickens if I were going to London or know what, never mind. I just wanted to finally read Jane Austen.)

Anyway, here are some ways one can avoid trouble in Paris, or anywhere, really. Some are things I've been doing, some are things others have done, some are just random tips I've heard. Most of them apply to girls, but guys can use some of them too.

I'm generally not noticeable. Obviously this doesn't work for everyone, but it works quite well for me. I'm short and pale, I'm usually pretty quiet (unless someone makes me laugh). I wear a scarf and big sunglasses whenever suitable, and it usually is because the French love their scarves and fashionable shades. A lot of the time I wear baggy jeans- huge pockets come in handy. And for the time being, my hair is kind of short. Okay, so maybe what I should be saying is I don't look terribly girly- that's just me.
Also, I not only AM poor, but admittedly, I LOOK it. I don't usually have a bag, and when I do, it's this cheap touristy Paris bag I bought for 12 euros last summer. I definitely don't look rich.
There's lots of other stuff you can do, though, if you want to look pretty and girlie and maybe even rich! Walk fast, look confident, and try not to go off alone too often, especially if it's really late at night, and ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE INTOXICATED. I took the metro home drunk once and was very proud of myself afterward, but that isn't safe and certainly not something anyone should make a habit of. If you have to go home by yourself, try to take a route that's well-populated (not difficult to find in Paris). If there's another group of students nearby, stay close and pretend to be with them if possible.
A little more on the metro- I heard a self-defense guy say that if you see weirdos on the subway, just twitch a little and they'll leave you alone. I'm pretty sure that would work well here, as well as singing to yourself or talking to yourself, or saying something creepy about how well you know the Catacombs (which are really awesome, by the way). But again, if you don't want to look like a weirdo, there are other things you can do. One of my friends was hassled while walking alone through the metro at night and thinking fast, she whipped out her phone and pretended to be talking to someone. They backed off. And if you're in public when you're being hassled, you can just swear at them in their native language- everyone knows that when in a foreign country, you have to learn the swear words ASAP.
In the movie "Sabrina," Audrey Hepburn says "Never a briefcase and never an umbrella in Paris," but there's nothing wrong with having an umbrella (as long as it's chic of course. Mine is red and matches my sunglasses...which doesn't really make sense, come to think of it). Plus, I've read that you're less likely to be bothered if you're carrying something, like an umbrella, that could be used to defend yourself. Unfortunately I don't think a baguette works in this capacity, but you could always try.

Additionally- as far as not being robbed, I've been lucky. And as far as people asking for money, they're generally homeless people sitting on the sidewalk, accompanied by cute puppies or bunnies. Those people aren't going to get up to bother you (and seem pretty grateful when people do choose to give them money or food). But I HAVE had someone walk over and pester me for or try to grab at food I was carrying. If someone pesters you for money, food, or anything at all, just keep walking briskly and don't look at them. Unless they try to hurt you, then make sure you get a REALLY GOOD LOOK. A good enough look so that you could, say, point them out in a line-up.

For some worthwhile tips on avoiding bothersome people in general as well as swearing at them in French:

On the "getting in shape" front- I ran a little yesterday, until my asthma reared it's ugly head. Rather than make my exercise routine "Oh, I just run until I have an asthma attack!" I think I might try again avec my inhaler. I've never been a runner, but Paris just seems like the perfect place to try it- there's so much to see! It's the furthest thing from a treadmill (tredmill? I'm so unfamiliar with that machine that I can't even spell its name) I'm gonna get. I live across the rue from the Jardin du Luxembourg, for goodness sakes! Also I just ate part of this thing which is basically a huge piece of cake in a box. But it was really cheap at the Franprix (that's the grocery store I frequent- there are lots of others, Monoprix, 8aHuit, Carrefour, etc) and I was hungry. I bought a lot of fruit too...I think I found the most delicious grapes in France.
And two things I forgot to mention that you're gonna wanna try in Paris- Speculoos (a spread that looks like peanut butter and is best eaten with a spoon or on a crepe) and the Macarons (they look like Pretty Patties!) at La Duree.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Exercise, Yoga, and Boundaries

So here I am in Paris....trying to get into shape.
Yep, amidst all the crepes, croissants, and so on, I'm trying to stay fit.
It's not working very well, probably because I wasn't terribly fit in the first place. But nice weather is coming, and there are lots of great places to run. Not that I run. But lots of people do, especially in Paris. Jardin du Luxembourg and Tuileries are both popular spots for runners, and walkers, and probably sunbathers once warm weather comes back to stay. (I'm hopeful- it's sunny out today.) The funny thing is, when we American college kids got to Paris, our program director (whose name I'm not at liberty to disclose because she's probably a SUPERSPY or something) told us that the stereotype about Americans was that we jog. And the OTHER stereotype about Americans is that we're fat.

Humanity is just full of contradictions.

Anyway, I'm definitely getting a tad rounder, and if it weren't for having to walk everywhere, I'd probably have gained about, oh let's say 50 pounds. Luckily, it's not hard to find good places to walk in Paris...but on the other hand, it's not hard to find good food to eat either. In fact, last night my American buddies and I went to B.I.A. No, not a government agency- an American diner, in France. Called Breakfast In America. (When I think of the name I kind of want to say it aloud in a comic book super-hero-narrator voice.) There were bacon cheeseburgers, eggs and bacon, milkshakes, huge chocolate chip cookies...and we ordered in English, from an American waitress. It was pretty crazy, after a month of struggling through French sentences in order to get food. I enjoy attempting to speak French, most of the time. Aside from when I'm with my friends, English feels a lot like cheating. I had a flash-forward to about 4 months in the future, when I'm back in the US, still saying "pardon" and "quelle heure est-il" and my terribly accented "a tout a l'heure" (a toute a l'heure?). People are going to think I'm either really weird, or French. I'm betting on really weird.

Unless I somehow get skinny like a French person! French women don't get fat, you know.

I'm not going to try to get skinny- I'm far too lazy for that. And I've come to realize that dieting is futile. Paris is not the place to cut back. It is, however, a great place for exercise. Walking, obviously, and everything else. Last night we passed a building with a rock-climbing wall. There are tiny gyms everywhere. And there is my personal favorite brand of exercise, yoga. I've been going to a place called Rasa (which I found through my current fave blog, New York in Paris). Classes are a little bit different than I'm used to. Not the poses- the poses are the same, and they're great! It's the teaching style. I'm not from a big city, and the yoga teachers I'm used to, at home and at school, don't constantly correct the people in the class, and certainly wouldn't touch them without permission. And any tips offered are given with patience.
So it was surprisingly hilarious when, at the first yoga class I went to, which was this relaxing iyengar class (I have no idea what iyengar means, but you're welcome to go look it up and let me know), the instructor lady seemed annoyed with all of us. Impatient too. It was pretty great, actually. She actually said to one of the people "Ma'am, ma'am, what are you doing? You're not doing the pose," and then exasperatedly showed us. At another point (I THINK she was talking to me because it was in English, but I'm not sure because I was facing downward) she said sternly, "You need to step your feet back, you're in (name of yoga pose) not Downward Dog."

Which makes me wonder if I've been doing Downward Dog incorrectly this whole time?

But it didn't turn me off of yoga, it actually made me want to do more, to get better and manage to go an entire class without being corrected. And maybe it's what I need- not only to relax, but to know I'm doing the poses exactly right. I went to another class, instructed completely in English this time, and the instructor was great, positive, challenging, etc, and had no qualms about touching us without warning, in order to help our posture. I was somewhat prepared, but I have to admit, I'm still retaining that American space-bubble thing. (If I were a REAL anthropologist, I'd probably be studying this personal-boundaries thing like crazy.)
I don't want to do air-kisses with every person I meet for the first time; I don't even want to shake hands half the time. But there's no way I'm going to say "I'm American, BACK OFF." It's culture, and pretty soon I'll be used to it and I'll start kissing everybody I meet back in the States and people will think I'm even weirder. It works.