Monday, February 28, 2011

Ballet, munchies and award shows, oh my!

Awesome falafel place in Marais
The past two weeks seemed to fly by in an instant. Classes have gotten into full swing. I have grammar everyday, our director's course twice a week, conferences courses twice a week (art history and theater, but possibly switching to gastronomy) and phonetics each day, every other week. Having classes taught entirely in French is getting more and more normal each day, yet comprehending everything is still a struggle. Mixed in with classes, have been a few fun experiences worth sharing.

My lunch
One day in between classes, I headed to the Marais to walk around. Marais is a great cultural melange. This part of the city has some of the oldest buildings in all of Paris, yet the vibe is hip, current and eclectic. There is also somewhat of a waning Jewish influence, but Jewish bakeries and falafel stands still abound.
The day I visited, I stopped at L'as du Fallafel, popular for its huge stuffed pitas - cheap, portable and entirely delicious.

Opera Garnier
Later in the week, we went to the ballet Caligula at one of Paris's most loved buildings - The Opera Garnier. The Opera house was regal, and I kept waiting for the lights to dim and the Phantom to emerge. Grand statues, chandeliers, exquisite tiling and gold leaf decor line the interior and the exterior architecture is magnificent as well. The ballet itself was quite good. We were scratching our heads trying to figure out the story of the ballet, but meanwhile we enjoyed the graceful dancing and beautiful Baroque sounds of the chamber orchestra (there was even a harpsichord!) playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

Inside the opera house
The day after the opera, I went to Ile-St-Louis with my friend Alexandra, to obtain some of the coveted Berthillon ice cream. I tried the pistachio and praline-orange, both heavenly. I'll definitely have to head back, as there are so many interesting flavors left to try.

On somewhat of a gastronomic adventure, we then headed back to Marais to go to a restaurant we had heard about, Breizh Cafe. They served up authentic Breton fare, mainly gallettes (crepes made with buckwheat), many served with an oeuf mirroir (sunny side up egg). Stomachs full from our backwards meal (Mom always said, Life's uncertain - eat dessert first!) we walked through Marais, by Hotel de Ville and then to the area around Chatelet. Much to our surprise, the area was flooded by lots of car traffic, gendarmes in the streets, and barricades surrounding the Theatre du Chatelet. We had happened upon the   César Awards, the French equivalent of the Oscars. We waited outside the theater until the award show had ended and the stars, mostly unfamiliar to us, came out. Our fellow onlookers helped us to identify the celebrities leaving the theater. We saw Lionel Jospin, the former French prime minister, and actor Lambert Wilson (apparently from the Matrix). Wilson came over to the barricade by which I was standing to appease some boisterous, yelling some fans, who called after him, "Lambert - Tu est très cool!" We went home bemused at our luck of walking up to such an event and with a great story to tell our friends. C'est la vrai Paris. 

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