Welcome to Brunette à Bicyclettea collection of thoughts, photos, and videos; my digital scrapbook of the people and places I’ve come to love, wherever I happen to be (currently, that’s Washington, DC).
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Monthly Archives: February 2012
[caption id="attachment_902" align="aligncenter" width="512"] Mural by Jérôme Mesnager, rue Ménilmontant[/caption]
Originally belonging to the commune of Belleville outside Paris, the Ménilmontant neighborhood was first called Mesnilmautemps (“bad weather house”). The end of the name evolved into “montant” (“rising”) because of the hill that it sits on overlooking the city. Until the mid 17th century, it exhisted outside the mur des fermiers généraux (the green line in the map below), which separated Paris from its surrounding communes to regulate products coming into the city, largely for tax purposes. Because of its location outside the wall, the wine produced and consumed there wasn’t subject to the taxes associated with crossing into Paris, attracting Parisians for afternoons of drinking and creating a rather vibrant guinguette culture. Continue reading
This article was first published in VINGT Paris Magazine, an online magazine devoted to the arts in the 20 arrondissements of Paris. They’re a great resource for things going on around the city. If haven’t already, you should check ‘em out.
At first glance, the Musée du Fumeur (7, rue Pache, 75011. Closed Sunday and Monday.), a tiny museum near Père Lachaise, has a bit of a head shop feel – with cigarettes, lighters, and all manner of smoking contraptions for whatever your choice of poison on sale in the boutique. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that it also boasts an interesting little collection, appealling to les fumeurs and les non-fumeurs alike. Continue reading
I’ve had many a conversation with friends who’ve fallen for a city — San Francisco, Los Angeles, Berlin, New York, Beijing, London, you name it. They all have their own love stories: some found themselves there by chance, others never left or fell back in love with their childhood home, some followed a crush or significant other halfway around the world, and many, regardless of their reasons, worked hard to get there. One such friend, a proud New Yorker, told me NYC is like a drug. Once you get a taste of the pulse and energy that are so palpable there, you’re hooked. I don’t think she’s leaving anytime soon.
There’s no doubt Paris hooks people too. It’s the most visited city in the world. It’s inspired books, poems, blogs, films, and countless works of art. And, it hosts huge numbers of people who flock here from elsewhere in France or d’ailleurs to live, study, and work. But, I think Paris works differently. Instead of that shock-to-the-system jolt, Paris is a more subtle séductrice that romances you and leaves you pining.
I’ve fallen head-over-heels for her charms, but I have to be honest. It’s a tempestuous love that oscillates from adoring to distraught and right back again. Beautiful, exciting, and coquine, Paris sucks you in but can be downright ruthless. Frankly it comes down to the fact that Paris is something I’ve had to work for (and never lets me forget it!) She’s my fickle mistress, and she’s got me snared. Continue reading
In general I’m a work-from-home sort of person. I’m at my best left to my own devices in the quiet of my apartment, wearing comfy clothes with a pot of tea brewing. But, sometimes a particular project keeps me busy for long stretches, that trip to the gym down the street stops cutting it and I’m itching to get out. Recently, I found myself in just that spot. Final exam prep and monographies were occupying most days and I was tired of feeling like I never left my apartment. My wonderful little postage stamp in the city was becoming irksome. Study spot needed, stat! Continue reading
It’s by no means an understatement to call le sandwiche an institution in France. If people aren’t sitting down to a long lunch at a resto or café, they’re almost invariably nibbling on (or wolfing down) some sort of sandwich, the sale of which constituted a 6.62 billion euro industry last year. Le Figaro recently called le jambon beurre (ham and butter sandwich) “le sandwiche de la crise.” (Read it in English here). This cheap, grab-and-go staple, as well as sandwiches in general are rising in price due to increased food costs. On verra ce que ça va donner. Grève nationale?
So, I thought I’d add another sandwiche bon marché contender into the mix — the banh mi. Now, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m an avid fan of these sandwiches. Banh mi just never seem to get old. They’ve been the object of many a bike/subway trek in just about every city I’ve lived in, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Growing up right next to Little Saigon will do that to you, I suppose. They’ve become all the rage in the US, a trend that has my full support. The result of the melding of French and Vietnamese tastes during the colonial period — a wonderful byproduct of a rather dark era — Paris and banh mi seemed a natural fit. (If you’re interested, this WSJ article gives a short history). Continue reading