Picnic in Paris

A couple of summers ago I studied abroad in Oxford, England for a month. At the end of the month I visited Paris for three days before heading home. I walked all over the city, saw as much of it as I could in such a short time, and fell in love with the city (I know it’s a cliché, but oh well).

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Picnicking in front of the Eiffel Tower

On my last day there I decided to go back to the Eiffel Tower one more time before heading back to my hostel. I took a picnic with me: fresh bread from a boulangerie, two kinds of cheese from a fromagerie, some fresh fruit, and a bottle of juice. I arrived at the Champ de Mars (the large grassy area in front of the tower), spread out my picnic, took a couple of pictures with my food and the tower, and sat down to eat. But before I could begin I noticed a strange smell. It smelled like something nearby was rotting. Judging by the stench, my guess was something dead. In disgust, I quickly gathered up my food and moved to a new location. Satisfied that I had outdistanced the smell of rot, I sat down again, unwrapped my meal, and began to eat.

But no sooner had I lifted the first bite to my mouth than I smelled the rot again! Could it be something in the spongy grass? If it were just a dead animal in the bushes across the park, why did I still smell it over here? Once again, I packed everything up and moved even farther down the park. Again I opened the wrappings on my food, sat down, and tried to eat. And again, there was the smell! I jumped to my feet and was about to move again when I had a sudden realization. I crouched back down and picked up my block of cheese. Sure enough, the smell that had been following me around the park was in my lunch. A particularly stinky wedge of Brie.

I was relieved to discover the source of the smell, but less than pleased to find it was something I was supposed to eat. However, I made myself try some of the Brie on a piece of bread, and discovered that it was actually quite good, as long as I could ignore the smell while I ate it!

My picnic, including the offensive wedge of Brie.

My picnic, including the offensive wedge of Brie.

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This Blog’s First Trip

I took a trip to Los Angeles this past weekend, visiting some friends who moved there recently, and hoping to get to know the city a little better. I plan to move there myself in the relatively near future. Anytime I’ve visited L.A. in the past it has been to see a show or take a flight from the airport. Each one a there-and-back-again trip, I never spent much time sightseeing, let alone actually becoming acquainted with what it would be like to live in the city. When someone tells me they live in this or that part of L.A. I don’t know what they are talking about. I know that West Hollywood, North Hollywood, and Los Feliz all refer to different areas in L.A., but I couldn’t tell you what any of those places is like or where they are geographically in relation to one another. (Well, I could probably give a fairly accurate description of how West and North Hollywood relate…)

Although it would be impossible to get to know even a small fraction of the huge city in one weekend, I got a taste of some of the things it has to offer, found that the traffic really is as bad as everyone says it is, and learned where Los Feliz is in relation to West Hollywood.

My first stop on this sunny Saturday afternoon was a lunch date with a friend at Urth Caffé, reached after a long walk past designer clothing stores on Melrose Avenue (courtesy of my GPS, which deposited me several blocks East of where I meant to be). An organic coffee company, Urth also serves a wide variety of delicious meals made from the freshest ingredients. The food is a little pricey, but worth it. I had the Oven Roasted Turkey Sandwich: thick slices of turkey on rustic bread with mayo and Dijon mustard, served with a farm fresh, locally grown, mixed greens salad and balsamic vinaigrette. And it was enough food to cover dinner for the day, as well.

Sunset Blvd

Sunset Blvd

Following lunch I had a break before meeting another friend, and felt momentarily lost (figuratively speaking, as I did have a GPS). The list I’d made of possible activities for the weekend were better suited to a group of two or more people, and I wasn’t sure what to do or where to go alone. I thought about just driving around, but my unfamiliarity with the different areas of the city coupled with the traffic I mentioned earlier reduced the appeal of this idea. I decided to head to Samuel French to spend some time browsing their selection of plays. I had never been before–despite the ravings of friends who can’t get enough of the place and my own strong desire to go–and it was on my list of “stuff to do” this weekend. The sheer volume of plays contained in that shop is overwhelming. I don’t know how anyone can figure out what to pick up if they don’t already know what they are looking for! If you have any interest in plays, or books on the artistic or business side of theatre, film, or television, you must visit. (Besides it takes a fun drive down Sunset Blvd to get there!)

Atwater Village Farmers' Market

Flowers at the Atwater Village Farmers’ Market

Hollywood seems “happening” and never dull, and I believe I could enjoy spending time there, but when looking for a place to live, I think I will be more drawn to the energy of places outside of the city center. I stayed with a friend in Glendale that night (after seeing a great play called Solemn Mockeries, directed by Jeffrey Wienckowski at the Independent Shakespeare Co. in Atwater Village), and visited the Atwater Village farmers’ market the next morning. I liked the slightly slower pace and more laid back feel of these areas. Atwater Village is very cute, with small, colorful houses lining the streets that lead to the little downtown area, which sports coffee shops, restaurants, and several unique shops, all on a couple blocks of the main street. I could smell the kettle corn from the farmers’ market as I window shopped down the street, eating the honey stick I’d bought because it reminded me of farmers’ markets I went to as a child. Probably because I always associate L.A. with the bustle of downtown and Hollywood, this street was a nice surprise that reminded me of little towns I’ve visited on trips up north. I think I would enjoy living with that feeling in the midst of the vastness of L.A.

Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round

Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round

Lunch on Sunday consisted of a vegetable and cheese pupusa from the farmers’ market and oranges from my tree at home, eaten near the Merry-Go-Round in Griffith Park (another area that I think would provide a welcome refuge from busy city life). This was followed by my drive back home, occupied with thoughts of this trip and plans for another. When I do move to L.A., I’d like to find a place in one of the areas that feels a little smaller and quieter (I only drove through Los Feliz this time, but it also looked like a place I would enjoy living in), and in the mean time, I plan to make many more trips to continue my exploration.