Category Archives: Paris

Reading Winter Sunshine

Reading winter sunshine, Paris, France

2001
The night I returned home from three months in Paris I had a dream: I was arriving back in Paris and I said, “I’m back, I’m finally back.”
That winter I woke up in the evening, my roommates were gone for the break and I kept one room warm in the top of the house. Mine was the only light in the neighborhood. I would be awake the whole night, depressed, and during the day I’d sleep and I’d dream, “I’m back, I’m finally back.” I didn’t see daylight for a week.
But things got better, as they do, and I met a girl who I’d known for a year. We secretly danced in the dark under trees. We fell asleep tangled in her bed and then I’d dream about being in Paris, being back, finally back.
I’m sure I studied around this time because I remember walking to German class in the snow and swearing at it for visiting Seattle in March. I took the class because I’d met a German in Paris and schemed to go back and woo her with my painful conjugation of simple verbs. But the scheme faded as the snow melted and I kept waking up tangled with the girl on white sheets, waking from the Paris dream again and again.
I had the same dream, warmer, later in the Spring, after we fought about nothing and I walked home alone, looking up at the trees drip in the rain. We had fought about the world: I thought it was incurably sick, while she was more optimistic, and I slept alone, tangled in sheets in my warm room.
Despite her optimism, we stayed together through the summer. At her cabin we swam in fresh water. I pulled myself up the ladder to lay on the dock in the sun, the boards scratching my chest. We swung in a hammock and slept there together in coins of sunlight, and I dreamed of Paris.
In winter I woke up, untangled, alone, in Paris, I was back, finally back. I descended dark stairs to a wet, stony street and walked in the rain on a bridge. I wandered the Left Bank until I found a hotel and carried my things up dark steps to the desk. A young man smiled and motioned down the hall. I walked down the hall and stopped at a door, behind which she waited, asleep, tangled in white sheets.

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Filed under Europe, France, Paris, Stories, Travel

No lesson learned

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by Azure

We woke up yesterday morning feeling some of the residual effects of the night before. After resigning ourselves leaving the scooter at Jean Paul’s house and selling it for whatever price we got on ebay (I truly would have been happy to get half of what we paid for it) we went out to see the only American we know in Paris–a bar owner from Florida whom we met because he was the guy who bought the bar that Mike worked at in 2001. The night only ended with a reinvigorated hope and some good old American can-do attitude. He thought we could sell it here or there for this much and our eyes lit up and we thought that maybe we’d sell it easily again.

Nope. And luckily this revival of ambition didn’t last longer than 9am the next day. We really had to leave Paris ASAP and kept telling ourselves, we’re leaving today, we’re taking the scooter to Jean Paul. We’re leaving today, we’re taking the scooter to Jean Paul.

We packed up our bags and loaded the scooter for the real last time. It was a little nerve wracking because we didn’t have insurance and it was registered under Jean Paul’s name, so he was liable for us. And, as I pointed out to Mike, driving through and around Paris put us in contact with more people and police than we had seen the whole rest of the ride. We looked it up online, however and saw that the fine for driving without insurance was a mere 1500 euro fine, but no jail time. Of course our motto of the day was “No jail time!”

We made it ok, of course. We drove past the Palace of Versaille and I caught my first glimpse of the enormous place, up the side roads and made it to the “Buffalo Grill” parking lot where Jean Paul would meet us. There was one random checkpoint at one of the roundabouts, but we made sure to exit the roundabout before we got to the checkpoint. Of course my heart raced.

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When we parked the scooter in Jean Paul’s garage and he said we could leave it there until next year when we came back to pick it up, I paused and thought, well maybe… My mind appears to be completely incapable of remembering pain or fear. We still had our helmets on when he mentioned leaving it, my heart was just slowing down from fearing the police, and I actually considered it. Of course we wouldn’t do something like that because that would be a pain for him, but now I think why wouldn’t we buy another scooter? We would just go about it differently. No lesson learned.

He invited us in for a glass of wine, we got to witness the most incredible being on the planet, Morgane’s dog and later, Jean Paul took us to the RER. The next part was shockingly fast, coming from a vehicle that went a top speed of 70km/hr, but averaged more like 50. To ride the scooter from Paris to Poitiers would have taken us about 14 hours, we would have scheduled two days for it. When we fell asleep on the train out of pure emotional exhaustion, we woke up to find we were over half way there. The whole ride only took 1.5 hours. (on another note: I just don’t think you see the country the same way when your are going that fast)

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“The most incredible being on the planet”

Nash picked us up in the old white chateau car. It was good to see that some things don’t change AND that some people appreciate good old vehicles. We pulled up to find many of the flowers in bloom and the place to be just as tranquil as I remember it. I feel like we’ve been put out to pasture here to spend the remainder of our time roaming about and doing projects on the grounds.

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The Chateau car

We had dinner (Salmon topped with creme fraiche, caviar and mint, sides of potatoes, broccoli and salad and of course cheese and wine and chocolate) with Nash and Linda (the owners of the chateau), their son Syrus (sp?) and Patty, a woman I met my first time here who also cooks for guests and has made a really great part-time life here. We had great, easy conversation, though afterward I feared we talked too much about ourselves-oops. It turns out we have a lot in common, not only our living proximity to Greenlake, but our love of food and slow life and gardening and just the ability to live part, or in their case all of our lives over here.

We are staying in the building that is the back side of the chicken coop (this reference is probably only good for Kim and Adam). The chateau grounds house a small abandoned village, where all the work used to be done. There is a barn, carriage house, paper press building, a place to house the farm equipment, the list goes on. These buildings go about one city block along an unpaved road. All of the buildings are being turned into either living spaces (ours has been turned into a 3 bedroom apartment) or spaces to house events. Our room is lovely and the bed is the most comfortable we have had in a long long time.

When we walked back from dinner in the darkness I felt so at peace, so opposite of how I had felt the night before — we are already a whole world away.

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Filed under Chateau St. Julien L'Ars, Europe, France, Paris, Travel, Video

Cheap hotel, plastic bottles of wine, lesser hell.

by Azure

We are still in Paris. My meh has turned to a MEH!!! We’re not actually in Paris, just outside in a really really cheap hotel. Although we’ve ended our long and abusive relationship with Avventura, the shop that sold us the scooter, we are still in Paris suburbia hell. Mike says there are days in Seattle when he feels like he has spent the whole day doing nothing. That is our existence here. We wake up, post some ads on the french websites listing the scooter and wait for emails to arrive that we neither fully comprehend nor have the means to respond to. That doesn’t stop us from trying, but it does hinder the amount of responses that we have gotten to our replies. Or maybe not. Maybe these guys are just too lazy to write back or come see the scooter.

Here are some of the correspondences over the last week (translated to English of course).

“Hello, I am interested in your scooter. Is it still available?”
“Yes, when are you available to come see it?”
-nothing-

“Your scooter interests me very much, I propose 1000 euros?”
“Yes, that sounds fine, when would you like to see it?”
-nothing-

“40,000 miles, I will propose 800 euros.”
“No thank you.”

“400 euros.”
“Go fuck yourself”

“400 euros.”
“Sounds great, when can you come look at it?”
-nothing-

“Your scooter looks perfect, but I can only afford 800 euros.”
“Ok, that will be fine, when can you come look at it?”
“I can bring 300 now and the rest in one week.”
-we’re leaving tomorrow?-

“Is your scooter still available? I can trade a computer and 100 euros.”
“Ummmmmm”

“I am interested in your scooter, I can trade it for my diesel truck”
“Thank you for your response, however, the ad says I must leave Paris and can’t take a scooter, how will I take a truck?”

And it goes on and on and on. Not one person has looked at the scooter. If they did, I know they would driven away with it. Mike finally wrote a rant on Craigslist, but since no one looks at it here, there were no responses, oh unless you count the fake response that you get every time saying that they want the “item” and they will pay by check and also pay for shipping. Um, do you know that it is 200 pound scooter?

Today we thought we had found luck when we called a scooter shop and they said they bought scooters. When we took it out there, the guys said it was of NO value to him. NONE! We said, well is it worth 10 euros? And he said, well of course. To which we responded, well how much is it worth then. We are starting to think that people think differently here. Almost everything in worth something, especially when it has taken two people to Corsica and back with no problems last week.

As we drove back, I kept looking at people walking. I thought we should give it to an immigrant man or someone who it would be of value to. At this point it is no longer about the money. Current Azure has already borrowed the 400 euro that she is losing from future Azure that is richer and has disposable income. Or maybe she is just less cheap. We respond to the ads where people are nice, they use common courtesy words like “hello.” We want the scooter to go to a good home, since we know what it has and can do for someone.

It is a difficult situation since we no longer want to be here, we are ready to move on, it’s time to put the scooter to bed, but we don’t know how. Tomorrow, we are planning to take it to Jean Paul’s house and sell it on ebay. After MUCH worry and discussion, it seems the best option. If all goes well, that will be the end of our journey together. If all doesn’t go well, we will be paying a 1500 euro fine for not having insurance. Just a little more to borrow from future Azure I guess.

As it turns out, we might end up selling it before it gets to the house. There seems to be a few serious options that we found tonight. We can’t count on people anymore. That is the hardest part for me, not being being able to control the situation at all. We don’t have a phone and email is hard for a lot of people. There are so many queries, but no follow through. It’s like dating and I can’t tell if it is them or us. As Mike says, we love her too much to burn her, so the search continues for someone else to love her.

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Quickies of l’Arc de Triomphe

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by Mike

There’s gotta be a business in this: go out, take some photos, head to a cafe with wifi and upload over coffee.

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There are worse places to be stuck.

She likes it too
Happy boyIn the World
The Scene
The selection of AbsintheI like it
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We like this kind
by Azure

We arrived in Paris with a real “meh” attitude (meh is the noise one makes when they are whining.) The whole story is that we really didn’t want to come to Paris at all. We found out we were uninsurable soon after I arrived in Nice, but with all the paperwork, we figured no one would ever check up on it. We continued to ride because that’s what we loved doing. But, on our last day in Corsica, we got word from the scooter shop that we weren’t technically allowed to own the scooter and that it wasn’t registered. Hmmmm.

Not that we were being legal by driving it 1000km from Nice to Paris, but at least we felt like we were making an effort to be legal. Now that it is parked outside the hotel in Paris, I can breath a little better. There were a couple nights of up most of the night worry, thinking about Mike being arrested, but they passed and as soon as we mounted the scooter in the morning, I again realized that no one gives scooters a second look no matter what they are doing that is illegal.

More worry came in Pont de Vaux when a black cat crossed my path and I told myself not to be superstitious, but less than a minute later, I heard Mike swear and the scooter crash down. When I looked over, I thought everything was alright, but then on the ground was our right mirror. Crap. We drove out, worried that we would be pulled over for not having a mirror and it was a tense ride. We pulled into a couple places to see if they had mirrors, but they didn’t. We would have to go to a bigger city to find a Piaggio specialist.

Relief came when the last place we went told us it wasn’t obligatory to have a right mirror in France, only the left. Wow, lucky! We rode on, past town after town, Gendermarie after Gendermarie, each time trying to act cool. Mike would even wave at the motorcycle cops, but to no response. Thankfully.

When we got to Paris, we found a cheap hotel near the scooter shop and parked ourselves semi-permanently. We didn’t go into the city, Mike fell asleep before 10pm and I shortly after. We were exhausted from navigating our way into Paris on all side roads (it’s A LOT harder than you would think.)

Saturday we woke up and went to the shop to talk to Gilles about the scooter issue. No easy solutions, we can’t sell the scooter without a carte grise and we can’t get a carte grise without being residents, but we fiscally own the scooter. Hmmmm. We’ll either need to transfer it to our friend’s parents or to find a buyer ASAP. So, we have her up online, with URGENT: RIP US OFF PLEASE attached to the ads. We’ll see.

But not all bad things come out of being stuck in a beautiful city that has brought us much joy. We went to Mike’s favorite falafel place that he found roaming around in 2001. Every time we come here, we hit the shop, only this time, it has gotten popular. So popular that we waited 45 minutes for a falafel. We walked up Rue Rivoli and I got a new windbreaker. Later, we went out for a real night on the town. First the Absinthe bar that Anthony Bourdain had on his show. It turns out it’s totally a metal bar with Goth paintings of naked zombies and stuff. We tried a couple different kinds of Absinthe and ordered a second glass of our favorite. Then we totally college-kid’s-first-trip-abroad-ed out and went to The Moose Bar, a Canadian bar that was showing all the NCAA tournament games. We ate a burger and a stir fry and had Pastis. Mike was likened to an old Frenchman for ordering it, which I know he loved. He chatted up some youths from Maryland and we sat and watched the Huskies go down. All in all, we got back to the hotel in better spirits about being here and plans for what to do for the next few days while we figure out how to deal with our baby girl.

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