May 18, 2014

I've moved!

I've moved! French Californian has changed hosting platforms, so go check me out at! (ps: it's the same address as before, so nothing much has changed, even I don't really understand it). But go look at the cool new design!

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May 10, 2014

Visual Diary: Rainy Days, Petit Palais, and other Life Things

The past couple weeks have been quite drizzly, blustery, and chilly. I find that time seems to be passing more quickly and naturally now - I've stopped counting the passing weekends, and stopped feeling panicky about the unknown future. The residence card should be in the works as we speak, and I've got a babysitting job lined up for the fall. I've even managed to pick up a little side job for a couple months, which will fund both my student loan payments due in June, as well as my summertime-BFF-Spain trip planned for August. I am far from having everything figured out, but who ever really does?

I was walking through a long, conveyor-belt strip in the Montparnasse metro station a while back, and noticed an advertisement that stretched the entire length of the tunnel. The Paris metro always contains ads for spectacles and temporary art exhibitions, and this particular one was adorned with Belle Epoque images of the Eiffel Tower, World's Fair, Toulouse-Lautrec posters, the Moulin Rouge... basically the quintessential historical Paris. I know I had to see the exhibition asap, because that's my time period! It was housed within the gorgeous Petit Palais and had a wide variety of both art and "cultural artefacts," if you will. Photographs, posters, paintings, garments, books, furniture, an Art Nouveau metro archway, you name it. I tried to get pictures of things, but the lighting is always impossibly low in these kind of exhibitions. We failed to buy advance tickets online to avoid the line, but in the end managed to pick a good day and only waited in the queue for about 25 minutes, and ate some pastries to pass the time!

This week was the first of my new short-term babysitting gig, so I've been out of the house more often than usual, and have focused less on my blog. However, I have been working on a new wordpress-based site design that I'm really excited about! I have a vision for this blog, one that reaches out into other realms, and I really feel that I can achieve this vision if I just keep working at it a little everyday.

Married life has also been especially excellent as of late. I've had a pessimistic, jaded, fearful view of marriage for many years, but I'm happy to say that our relationship at the moment is blatantly defying every single one of those apprehensions. I love everything about this guy, and regardless of what I do with my life, at least I have this really weird, funny, caring person next to me. <3 I will cherish this Instax photo for the rest of my life:

À bientôt mes amies!

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May 4, 2014

Art History Lesson: Impressionists you've never heard of, part 1

If you've taken any kind of art class, whether it be studio art when you were 12 years old or "Art Appreciation 101" in university, you've definitely, without a doubt, heard of the French Impressionists.   I don't even want to know how many times I've sat through lessons about how urbanisation, industrialisation, photography, leisure time, democratization of society, Orientalism, and of course, a desire to break the traditional rules of Fine Art all came together to create probably the most widely-known art movement of all time.  Don't get me wrong, I adore this kind of art;  In fact, these are my favorite types of paintings to see in museums and galleries; Musée D'orsay will always be my favorite.  However, sometimes it's nice to learn something new, to see a fresh side of an otherwise over-exhausted subject.

That's why I was so pleasantly surprised to hear of an American Impressionist exhibition at Giverny's Musée des Impressionnismes (You can see my trip to Monet's garden at Giverny here).  When do you ever hear names like Cecilia Beaux,  William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, or John Henry Twachtman?  I spent  years of my life studying these things and never once heard their names, but I like to think that I'm continuing my education on my own.  You don't ever have to stop learning , thinking, and improving.

One artist that really stood out to me at this exhibition was John Henry Twachtman.  They had mainly his winter scenes, which at first glance appeared as dull, muddy canvases, but once I stopped for a few more seconds, I realised how beautifully stubtle the colours were.  Once I researched him on the internet at home, I saw that he actually was not afraid of color. I chose the works below for their use of color.

{May Morn, 1899, John Henry Twachtman, National Museum of American Art}

What always draws me into a painting are the colours.  It always fascinates me to find that shadows aren't gray - they're actually lavender, violet, deep turquoise, sea green, and cerulean blue; And highlights aren't just white - they're soft creams, tinted grays, feathery blues, and pastel pinks.  Once you're able to see that whites aren't really white, and blacks aren't actually black, art really transforms, and you may even start to see the variation in color and light in your daily life.

The other thing that really gets me, is the atmosphere Twachtman is able to create.  You can almost feel the morning fog over the river in the picture above, and the wintery chill in the air below.

{Winter, 1898, John Henry Twachtman}

These other ones I simply chose because of their beautiful colours.  Can you see the rainbow colours in the snow of the last image??  It's so cool!! Or is it just me who thinks that's amazing? :)

{Meadow Flowers (Golden Rod and Wild Aster), 1892, John Henry Twachtman, Brooklyn Museum, New York}

{The Cabbage Patch, 1890-93, John Henry Twachtman}

{Winter Landscape, John Henry Twachtman}

I would really love to make this into a series called "Art Lessons."  I have one more planned about Impressionists you've never heard of.  What do you think of this Art History series?  Would you read it?  Honest opinions please!

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April 30, 2014

Wandering Wednesdays

Did you know that in French, one walks in a street, and not on one? I think that's quite poetic. To be in a street suggests that the road, the buildings, the trees, the people, are surrounding and enveloping you. You're not just present in a place, but part of it.

If you couldn't tell by the large title image, I'm starting a recurring series called Wandering Wednesdays. I can't say that I'll have pictures of miscellaneous Parisian street scenes every single week on Wednesdays, or that I'll literally be doing the wandering specifically on Wednesdays, but it made for a good title, so I'm sticking with it! And when I do have some lovely pictures to post, I'll post them on Wednesdays!

Okay - I think I've repeated the word "Wednesday" far too many times by now! Enjoy these pictures, most of which were taken between Invalides and Pont de L'Alma, also known as the 7th arrondissement. An exception in the first two, which were taken at the Grand Palais and on Pont Alexandre III. I've also included probably my favorite French song by Miss Bardot for your listening pleasure

Un Jour Comme un Autre by Serge Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot on Grooveshark

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April 27, 2014

Something's Brewing in Canal Saint Martin

The 10th Arrondissement has long been a forgotten neighbourhood of Paris, overshadowed by the romance of Montmartre above, and the cool vibe of the Marais below. Although it has always boasted the Canal Saint Martin, a favorite summertime picnic spot of young hip thangs from that side of town, the rest of the surrounding streets are home to multicultural establishments: African, Indian, East European, Turkish, Italian, Asian, and probably any other non-French influence you can think of has staked a claim here.

Over the past few years, the 10th has become increasingly more gentrified, and although I dislike this word and phenomenon for many reasons, you can't deny the perks that come with such an economic shift. Now bear with me, I have zero actual knowledge of economic systems, but here are my thoughts: On one hand, property values increase, driving the poorer community out, bringing in more tourists, and eventually spoiling what had made the area charming in the first place. I don't believe this has happened yet - the neighbourhood does not bring in a ton of tourists, but I will say it attracts a lot of young foreign residents. Lots of international students, bloggers, and people who work in the arts, and those are my kind of people!

One of the best results of this transformation of the 10th is the birth of new restaurants. I decided to try a few to see what the fuss was all about. What they all have in common is intimacy, good service, quality ingredients, and simple, yet cool interior design. The facades rarely have signage and look unassuming from the outside, the dining rooms are small and often have communal seating, the waiters are actually kind, helpful, and willing to speak English, unlike most traditional French establishments, and the food is usually organic, in season, unique, and health-conscious. The experiences I've had thus far have been extremely positive! Let me tell you about a few restaurants I've visited.

First, is Holy Belly, known for its changing, monthly menu and seasonal ingredients. They even stock microbrews that are made in France. I've heard that microbreweries are quite commonplace in the north of France, and I think it's time to bring that tradition down to Paris! I'm not a huge beer drinker, but I love the idea of supporting small producers.

Holy Belly has vegetarian options, but I had a dish with lamb curry and salad, as well as a cappuccino, which was top-notch quality. And can we all take a small moment to appreciate the text on the sign above that reads, "hook a brother up."

The service is outstanding, the servers smiling as they bring your food. This kind of simple kindness is so refreshing in Paris! I hope it becomes a trend outside of this neighbourhood, although I highly doubt it will, since French servers don't rely on tips like they do in America.

Next, is an English fish n' chips joint cleverly called The Sunken Chip - see what they did there?? It's more of a takeaway/fast food environment, but that doesn't mean their floors are dirty or service brusque. The man who helped us was super nice, the white subway tile lining the entire place was sparkling and bright, and the menu was straightforward and easy to understand.

I went for a cream soda with my fish, and asked for a side of tartar sauce, since I wasn't familiar with mushy peas, a staple of the English variety of this dish. I've only ever had California-style fish n' chips, which generally consists of thinner fish strips and tartar sauce as an absolute necessity (often accompanied with some white clam chowder, yum). I really enjoyed this meal though, despite the subtle cultural differences.

Another establishment that I would like to mention is the Bakery that resides next door to the Sunken Chip. It's called Liberté, and they had one of the best coffee cream puffs I've ever had. Their spread wasn't typically French - it had a slight variations on the normal staples, and a few additions I've never seen before. Not to mention the place is aesthetically pleasing. Marble and glass counter, patterned tile, rough loft-like walls, and floor-to-ceiling windows that open like shutters. Yes, just yes.

There are some other places I want to visit soon, and most of them are on Rue des Vinaigriers, or very close by. There's a vegan hippie restaurant and epicerie that sells raw cacao and aloe vera branches, and a build-your-own Korean stir-fry café, as well as a handful of coffee shops that actually take pride in the quality of their coffee, which is surpassingly hard to come by in Paris.

Here are the places I mentioned, plus more:

Holy Belly
19 Rue Lucien Sampaix
metro Jacques Bonsergent

The Sunken Chip
39 Rue des Vinaigriers

Boulangerie - Liberté par Benoît Castel
39 rue des Vinaigriers, 75010 Paris

Sol Semilla - Vegan Restaurant and Épicerie
23 rue des vinaigriers

Ten Belles - Awesome coffee shop
10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles

Jules et Shim - Korean stir-fry
22 rue des Vinaigriers

If you've been to any of these places, tell me if you liked them! And up next here on the blog is either an Art History post, or pictures of my random walks through Paris.

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