This weekend featured so many meetings of friends both old and new – from California and Paris and pretty much everywhere in between – that I felt completely spoiled by the end of it (and also very full from all the eating we did!)
It all started on Friday night, when I had the great pleasure of watching my friend Mikhail play Judge Turpin in Sciences Po’s rendition of Sweeney Todd. I thought the cast was fantastic, especially Mikhail, who nailed a character that is his total opposite in almost every way I can think of! Going into the musical I knew nothing about Sweeney Todd; now it is three days later and I still have “Johanna” stuck in my head, so I definitely enjoyed it!
To celebrate we got a beer across the street at Le Basile, which brought back so many memories of group projects and post-class drinks (this was only a few months ago now, but I am already nostalgic!) Once we finished our drinks, Danlu and I left to grab a burger at American Ouais, my favorite burger place in Paris. We were so hungry that Danlu actually left without paying for her beer, but luckily no one else wanted to join us in our burger-eating so our beautiful, responsible friend Perrine paid for her. 🙂
I like going to American Ouais because I feel like I can lend a certain authentic American character to the place, which no doubt boosts their business considerably! The names of all the burgers are in English, so it also represents the perfect opportunity to show off my flawless American accent. When I ordered my Honey Chicken Burger, the waiter actually exclaimed, “Quel accent!”, so clearly he was
Despite devouring our burgers and fries, we still had room for some gelato at Amorino, which, as always, made me a very happy camper! I cannot wait for summer to arrive so I can skip around Paris every evening with a gelato in hand (until then, I am limiting myself to once a week).
The next day I had lunch with my good friend Kara (my college roommate senior year!) a few hours before she had to catch a train for the next leg of her European adventure. I saw Kara and her friend Maria when they first arrived in Paris (we had dinner at a very hipster restaurant called La Recyclerie, which sits on top of an abandoned railway tunnel in the 19th) so it was fun to hear about all they had seen and done in the five days since. I was happy to learn that they enjoyed themselves and only experienced one-attempted purse snatching; whenever my friends or family visit Paris I am always anxious that they have a good time – and somehow feel responsible if they don’t – so on balance this was a good result! For lunch we got some yummy Indian food at Saravana Bhavan around the corner from Gare du Nord, which, although normally one of my least favorite places in Paris, was looking rather nice that day. It was probably because Kara was there. 🙂
Sunday was a cheerful sunny day and I was very proud of Danlu and I for spending a few hours actually doing some work (70% of that time was spent actually looking for a place to work and drinking coffee, but still, we were productive). A little before dinner time we set out to visit the newly redesigned Forum des Halles – a shopping complex that sits on top of what I think is the dreariest, dirtiest underground transit hub in the world. Unfortunately I spend a lot of time changing metros there, so I was excited to see what they had done with the exterior (there’s nothing that can be done down below I’m afraid lol).
It took eight years and more than $1 billion to complete the “canopy” designed by French architect Patrick Berger, and although reviews so far have been mixed (I actually giggled a bit when I read the Guardian‘s review – “Ranging between sand and rancid butter depending on the light, the yellow steelwork casts a jaundiced pallor across the scene, lending the interiors a decidedly institutional air.”), I had low expectations so I don’t think it looks that bad. It is definitely an improvement over the old construction site! The sad thing about Les Halles is that it was once the site of an ancient covered marketplace with a history that extended back to the 12th century, but they tore it down in 1979 and replaced it with an underground shopping mall. Honestly, did anything good happen in the 1970s?
Next we headed towards the Japanese quarter near the Opera to celebrate Danlu’s birthday! (Her real birthday was either last weekend or a few days ago depending on whether you follow a solar or lunar calendar. But she failed to inform me or Facebook on either one of these days lol!)
Danlu made the excellent choice of inviting us all for udon noodle soup at Kunitoraya, which (again) is one of my favorite places in Paris! Normally there is a long line to get inside but we got there right when it opened and managed to squeeze 11 people into an 8 person table. It was nice to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while and meet lots of Danlu’s new OECD colleagues – plus the udon was amazingly good!
After dinner, Danlu took us to a Cantonese / Tiawanese dessert cafe called “crazy mango”, where got our desserts to-go and ate them together on the steps of the Palais Garnier opera house. My mango rice pudding concoction was very tasty and the entertainment wasn’t bad either. The featured street performer for the night was an Australian guitarist who sang unique renditions of Knockin on Heaven’s Door and Hotel California, while some very drunk people ran around him in circles and tried to grab his guitar. I’d like to think we were the most normal audience he had all night…
In conclusion, as I ended this weekend with more friends and a larger waistline than when it started, I would say that it was another perfect weekend in this beautifully imperfect city.