Saturday, December 10, 2011

Noël à Paris

The Christmas lighting on the Champs Elysee.
Modern or silly?  Personally, I think they are
pretty darned cool.
Merry Christmas and Joyeux Noël my most excellent friends,

It is Christmas time in Paris and regardless of your religious, cultural or personal convictions, Christmas is as ubiquitous as winter air this time of year.  Paris has a long tradition of lighting up the city without Christmas, but during the Yuletide season the lights are especially bright.  I’ve taken a brief break from blogging and observing as I had to make yet another trip to Canada.

Many friends and readers would wonder why I did not stay in Canada to celebrate Christmas with friends and relatives.  I decided, for better or worse, that I would spend my first Christmas in Paris as let the cards fall where they may.  Hopefully I won’t spend Christmas cold and alone… <sniff>  :)

Audrey Tautou illumine les Champs Elysées par mairiedeparis

Here is my latest set of Parisian observations:

Culture:  It seems that Paris society operates between vacations and there are many.  After taking time off in October for no reason I’ve been able to understand, all of Paris will be going on Vacation for the week or so between Christmas and New Years.  I will probably stick to my North American roots and do some work during this period, but I WON’T be fencing or attending art class since those are closed for the season.

An advert for an exhibit at the Musee D'Orsay.
Do check it out!
Commerce:  I’ve noticed something missing.  I was in the Metro waiting for a train and looking at a sign for some exhibit at the Musee D’Orsay when I noticed… I was looking at an ad for a museum exhibit.  I was NOT looking at an ad for fast food.  I did a quick scan and noticed that none of the ads in the Metro featured food.  In America (or possibly Canada) the subway would be choked with Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Subway and Burger King ads. I haven’t noticed one such ad since making this observation.

Transportation:  The Metro has changed.  There are new cars on the #1 line that operate without a driver.  They seem to stop for no reason more often and start and stop a little more abruptly than the ones with a driver, but they do the job.  Another change is that the announcements are in four languages rather than just French.  You’ll also hear Metro announcements both in the stations and on the new trains in English, German and Spanish.

  • I’ve talked a lot about musicians jumping on trains and playing in the tunnels of the metro, but lately at the Chatelet station I’ve had the pleasure to hear a large string ensemble on regular occasions.  I managed to snap a picture while racing to get to art class.

A string ensemble who happen to be very good, entertains passersby
at the Chatelet Metro station.
Sport:  Fencing.  Oh, man!  Things have changed at fencing class.  I’ve advanced beyond the “noob” level and now fight with the advanced students.  This is often a painful experience.  A fencing bout goes for 5 points and the advanced class uses only the large epee.  This means that I get hit 5 times for every match and… sometimes with impunity as I am unable to hit the very, very good fencers back.  The result was a week of painful breathing with a bruised rib.  I’m getting a little more confident in my strokes but wow… This has been a tough transition.

  • I now have all the fencing equipment that I need for the sport.  I mentioned once before that a true hobby requires the expenditure of about $10,000… or 7,000€.  So far, with lessons, club membership and equipment I’m at about the… oooh… 1,200€ mark.  My equipment is very good, so I expect that it will take a long time for me to get to 7,000€…. a very long time.
  • For those concerned, I have won a match in the advanced class.  I attributed the win to blind luck, but my instructor says that “In combat, there is no such thing as luck.”  I may have mistranslated this. 

Art:  It’s the last week for art class and then I have 2 weeks to study on my own.  If you’ve ever wanted to be immortalized in a sketch, please look me up over the holidays!  I need models badly!  To be an art model, you require two simple abilities.  The first is to be naked and the second is to stay still for 20 minutes… and I mean completely still.  All models will be provided with the best possible champagne for their efforts.  :)

L'Hommage Veronese - Pencil (original) - Robyn Blaber - 2011
My latest effort in art class. 

Entertainment:  Lastly, my friends, I will be hosting a Christmas soiree at my home on December 22nd.  I hope it to be the best party in all of Paris.  Please RSVP with me if you are a friend on facebook or leave your email if you are in Paris and would like to visit/meet me and share a glass of holiday cheer.

Bon journee and have a great holiday season.

Your true friend,
Sir Robyn

Bonus Picture!
Sir Robyn makes an appearance at an
Eyes Wide Shut party at an undisclosed
location in the heart of Paris.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bath Time!

Bath Abbey, situated immediately to the right of a
place where you can get ice cream and champagne.
Allo lads and lasses,

Welcome to a very special edition of my observations.  You see since moving to Paris, I’ve really not travelled a lot.  Some might say that I’m paying too much rent, others that my champagne bills are too high.  The fact of the matter is, that I’ve been so engrossed in the city that I really haven’t thought too look around too much.  Well, that doesn’t mean that I’m incapable and I’ll tell you what I did. 

I went to Bath… the legendary city with the endlessly flowing natural hot springs.  It was built up by the Romans way back in the day, though legend has it that people have been taking baths there for thousands and thousands of years.  I enjoyed such a bath a few weeks ago. 

Here’s what I observed:

Transportation:  The most amazing thing about getting to Bath is that I left at about 8am and arrived a little after noon.  I caught the metro to Gare du Nord and from there it was a 2.5 hour ride to London through the famed Chunnel.  I did not try to send any secret codes to anyone at the instant we were going through the Chunnel and to be honest, had I not been watching, I wouldn’t have noticed when we went into it.
This lady was the first historical
thing I saw in bath while walking
to the hotel.

  • Another tube ride from London’s St. Pancras took me to Paddington Station where I caught the train to Bath.  This train seemed slower than the French trains…. but really, it was only an hour or so and there I was.  Getting off the train, I found a visitor’s bureau right there in the station.
  • The Visitor’s Bureau directed me to the hotel with a map, suggesting I should walk.  Walk???  Yes ,my hotel was less than 3 blocks away.  We stowed our gear and were in the center of the city in no time.

Tourist Sites:  OK, Bath is not a big place.  In the center of town near the Roman bath ruins they do free city-walk tours.  It lasts a little over an hour and you get to see the main sites of the city with a friendly explanation.  It’s a bit of a snoozefest, but I learned a lot about the economy of a town with a hot spring.

The Roman Baths.  This building is of course
not even sort of Roman, but trust me,
there's Roman stuff inside.

  • The Roman baths themselves are housed in a Victorian brick building.  They are kind of nifty and feature several interactive displays, that explain what light was probably like in Roman occupied times.  You can’t actually use the baths, however, this is expressly for Romans. 

  • If you want to take a bath yourself, there is the Thermae Bath Spa.  It’s a very modern facility fed by the natural spa waters.  They have a rooftop pool, a basement grotto pool, steam rooms, foot-baths, a restaurant and a treatment center for massages and all manner of lotion rubbing.  You have to book ahead for massages as you’d be very lucky to get that just as a walk-in.  The pools and baths and steam rooms are super-cool, however and if I lived near Bath, I could go there every day, I’m sure.

Inside the Roman Baths.  I detected a few Roman accents while
investigating... I kid you not!

This is a cool display inside the Roman Baths explaining the layout.

Vampires:  Vampires don’t like water.  The spa is the safest place in the world that you could be.

City Life:  The rest of Bath is very village-like.  The center of town is closed to vehicle traffic and there are a lot of interesting one-of-a-kind shops.  My favourite had champagne and ice-cream.

A gorgeous river scene.  I was lucky to get very good weather.

This is the 18th century Pulteny Bridge.  It's a favourite site for painters and
gives spectators something to google if they haven't googled in a while.
  • Because the whole town is a UNESCO heritage site, the buildings and apartments there are rather expensive to own and maintain.  The populace is therefore somewhat more… well-kept than you’d normally see in a village this size.

Perhaps the second most famous structure in Bath is the Royal Crescent.
Don't even ask how much an apartment is to rent here.
Well that's all from Bath and that's all from me.  Don't forget to share or comment or click on my poll.  See you all back real soon!

Sir Robyn

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Paris Adventures...

A canal tour boat heads through the city and
prepares to tackle the intricate system of locks.
Bonjour my friends,

Much has happened since my last post.  Without further ado, I’ll get right into it.

Sports:  I kinda knew that I would like fencing, but I didn’t know I’d like it so much.  What’s interesting is how enthusiastic I get when it’s time to fight.  One of my fights was unbelievable.  After watching this really tall guy with long arms slaughter another of my classmates, he got put up against me.  I thought about samurai training and how sometimes, you just have a shorter sword… well in this case I had shorter arms. 

I decided that I would be very aggressive and get inside close and fast.  I guess he decided to be aggressive too.  We clashed… really clashed!  We crossed swords and bumped into each other, even ending up on the other side of one another at times.  The deaths were violent. 

On one pass I jammed my sword into his chest as he was lunging toward me.  My sword was nearly bent over and I thought it would break… or go into him and I let go of the handle!  The handle flew straight up.  I caught the the blade with my gloved hand; the tip the blade still poking into his chest. 

"Touche!"  I said. 

Art:  The Stein family collection is hanging at the Grand Palais right now.  I’ll wager there is a Miller in the collection, but of course many great painters will be on display.  I’ve already heard the reviews as emotional and fantastic.  I can’t wait.

  • My art on the other hand, perhaps stirs less emotion, but is really getting a lot better.  I’m about five weeks into the craft, and getting substantially fewer critics when I post my sketches on facebook.  Here’s a few for your viewing enjoyment.

A quick 2 minute sketch of last week's model.

In this exercise, we were not
allowed to draw the model,
but only to make shapes.

Here I try to draw the model.
So close!

Fashion:  Yesterday I saw a 15 year old girl walking down my street wearing a worn pair of Louboutins.  Draw your own conclusions from that…

  • The fall fashions are out and disappointingly, the men’s fashions are identical to last year; black suits with a choice of blue or purple shirt.  Seriously?  Even I will have trouble trying to rock out that look, despite that I've been getting slim enough to wear one of these skinny-assed French suits.

Food: I’ve finally witnessed the supermarket at the Galeries Lafayette.  Holy jumped up Jesus.  I could die there.  There is every kind of delicious thing a person could ever want… and you can eat it right there.

City Life:  I still haven’t made the move to bring my car to Paris.  I don’t need a car.  I can’t imagine needing a car.  Now, as thought to mock me for even thinking I might one day need a car, the city has created new electric car rentals… much on the same principal of the bike rentals.  Anyone want to buy a used Porsche?

  • I keep discovering new things in the city any time I go for a walk.  For example, in the 10th, I knew that there was a canal complete with locks or somesuch, but I'd never seen them work.  The other day, lo and behold, was a boat going through them.  It was a spectacle.

The tour boat eventually goes into this tunnel
where the passengers are devoured by vampires.

That’s all for now folks!  I’ve been behind in my posts and have stories about Prague and Bath to catch up on.

See you soon!
Sir Robyn

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Way of the Samurai

This fuzzy out of focus portrait has been taken countless
times by Parisian tourists.  It is the Mona Lisa and
despite bad photography, has inspired artists for
centuries... and more recently your friend and blogger.
Bonjour and konnichiwa, my good friends,

If you’ve been following along in my blog, you know that I’ve been reading a lot of French literature to get a feel for the mindset of where Paris lives in the literary sense.  I’ve read many of the French greats (Balzac, Proust, Flaubert, Camus, Maupassant, and Zola) and many American/English authors that have lived in and were influenced by Paris as expats (Chaucer, Dickens, Maugham, Joyce, Beckett, Miller, and Orwell).  There are many more to read, and many more I haven’t mentioned.

The book that has influenced me most however is one you might never expect.  Even I was surprised to find myself a devotee of Miyamoto Musashi and his Book of 5 Rings.  WTF?  You might ask. It is not literature, per se, rather than an outdated and outmoded set of instructions for being a good Samurai.  How does this help a person living in Paris in any way?

Let me explain.  Fencing has been an interest of mine for years, but Paris has provided me with ample opportunities to take it up and I have.  Musashi  explains, of course, how to become a master swordsman.  Well this makes sense, but he also explains that a master in the martial arts, one must also partake in many of the other arts.  Musashi himself was a great painter and his paintings are venerated more as religions icons than works of art.

Back to Paris; is there a better city to take up the arts?  I don’t think so.  The way of the samurai seems more suited to Paris than ever I might have imagined.  My fencing is improving and so with it, my ability to create art.

Here are my latest observations:

Lifestyle:  I work on a computer all day and there is term that works very well to describe someone in my profession; obese.  I’m far from obese, but I did put on some bulk earlier in the year thanks to being sick (it was the slow recovery that was the culprit).  For the first time in years I’m relying on diet and exercise (next section) to deal with it.
  • For a man in Paris, it’s nearly essential to be slim.  For one thing, it’s difficult to buy clothing.  French fashions are simply designed with a slimmer man in mind and even if you get larger sizes, you’ll look like 10 pounds of mud in a five pound bag.  This is one city where being a woman is advantageous.
  • My Paris diet was acceptable and I’ll return to that soon, but it’s no match for the extra weight.  To remind you of the Paris diet rules: 1) Only eat food that you really like, 2) only eat when you are hungry and 3) spend more than 2 hours at any large meal and be sure it is with friends or family.  I lost a pound a week this way and got into great shape… but that was pre sickness.
  • My post-illness diet is a sort of an Atkins thing.  High protein and fat with no carbs.  That means NO Bonne Maman chocolate and caramel tartelettes!  It also means cutting back on champagne!  Lastly, it means that I will be a very happy man when this diet is over and I can return to my Paris diet.

Sport: I have been an athlete, but I would not call myself that right now.  Fencing continues for me.  It’s getting more and more exciting as the steps are becoming more natural and we are starting to hit one another with more enthusiasm.  Here are a few fencing observations:
  • It was suggested that it might be time to step up my practicing to twice a week.  One of my fellow students said “How else will you learn?”  I don’t know. I’ll give this extra day a try next week and let you all know how it goes.
  • Without considerable (any) out of class exercise, I can feel my muscles tightening and quickening in the anticipation of the next class.  I’m certain that my brain is feeding my muscles with the information that they are going to have to act quickly… and the muscles are repairing.  I’m just simply… stronger and faster.
  • Fencing is FAR more physical than I ever would have guessed.  Fencing to the first 5 points takes about (a guess) 5 minutes.  The energy I’ve been expending would exceed a 3km (2 mile) run.  Every muscle gets used and every pore sweats.  Your eyeball muscles strain to attack your opponent…
A landscape by the master samurai Miyamoto Musashi.
Note the long and deliberate brush strokes of a swordsman.
Art:  I started art class last Thursday.  I thought it was a beginner’s class because, I am a beginner.  Perhaps I didn’t understand the French on the website properly, but for 30 extra Euros or so a semester my class is a “live” class, meaning that there will be models.  Here’s what I observed:
  • When I got to my first class, a nude model was already posing and there were about 7 other students furiously sketching.  I thought that perhaps after learning to draw apples and shit for a couple of months, we’d start with the live models near the end of the semester.  Reality check!
  • Since I don’t know how to draw (hence the classes), I nervously sat down and began to sketch in the manner of the person next to me.  Disaster.  I tried my own way.  Disaster.  The instructor gave me some tips.  Disaster. Disaster. Disaster.
  • During the break, I felt that I had already been identified as the classes’ retarded monkey, though I struck up a Frenglish conversation with one or two people.  The topic of fencing came up, however, and my instructor exclaimed that he’d always wanted to try out the sport.  I gave a small demonstration of a couple of fencing moves to light applause and class resumed.
  • After the demonstration, I thought of my mentor, Musashi.  I cleared my mind and thought of the relationship between fencing and art.  The points in space, the perspective, the attack… and the result is below.  Perhaps there is hope.  Can’t wait ‘til next week.

I call this "Nude Reclining - 15th Try".  
Vampires:  I haven’t reported on vampires lately since there has been low activity.  I think they prefer the cooler weather.  I’m sure the city’s vampire hunters prefer it as well.  On the hottest days I’ve seen in Paris so far, I’ve witnessed vampire hunters (heading for a meeting?) heading through Chatelet in full leathers.  They wear thick leather to protect themselves from an opportunistic bite should a vampire get too close.  If you want to see a vampire hunter for yourself, I recommend a café near Les Halles.  Order up some champagne and wait.  You’ll see them.
That is all for now my dear friends and readers!  Please tweet, repost, facebook, comment, follow, like +1 or whatever you can do with a click to spread the word.   Many thanks for reading.

Your friend,
Sir Robyn

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fight Club

I like to dress in white... and I like to hit people.
The first rule of fencing club is:  you must dress
entirely in white and hit a lot of people.

Bonjour and welcome back!

Oh my friends I have had many developments in my life in Paris.  First, there is Fight Club.  Recently I joined the club Les Chevaliers des Blancs Manteaux.  This translates roughly into the Knights with White Coats.  How do they fight?  Well they first dress all in white (my specialty) and then they pick up swords and hit each other with them.  The purists call it ‘fencing’ or ‘escrime’ to use the French term.

Of course I’ve had the usual rash of other discoveries, restaurants, behaviours and other things that really could use mention.

Here are some of my observations so far:

Travel:  Paris is home to a number of train stations, periodically housing trains that take you a long way from the city.  I recently took a train from Paris down to Aix-en-Provence to visit a dear friend who is producing her own cooking show.  For the first time I will debut sub-observations to tell you about it.

  • The TGV trains, operated by CNCF, travel around 200km/h (125mp/h) and about 70km/h faster than the posted speed limit.  To beat a train from a Paris to another part of the country by car (sports car), one would have to do a brilliant piece of driving and risk nasty fines from the police.

TGV trains in Gare de Lyon.  Beware, to the right of this picture is a whole
other section of the station dedicated to confusing a newcomer and sending
passengers to further parts of the country.  Ask for directions!
  • Gare de Lyon is a confusing place and if you must take a train there, start at the information booth.  Once armed with information, upstairs you'll find a restaurant called Le Train Blue.  Go there!  It's a spectacle for the eyes.
Le Train Blue at Gare de Lyon.  Simply breathtaking.
  • A 1st class train ticket runs anywhere from 30-50% more than the 2nd class ticket (in stark contrast to the airlines) and is worth the money.  You get more room, better seats and it seems a less annoying class of fellow passenger in the neighbouring seats.
  • A lesson in relativity; Aix-en-Provence is the ‘big city’ to my friends, but coming from Paris it had a decidedly provincial village sort of a feel.  The streets were wider with far less people.   The town features has many very old buildings with moderate amounts of ornamentation as compared to Parisian architecture and is famous for its many fountains (one of its most famous, pictured below).
A famous fountain in the heart of Aix-en-Provence.

An example of the provincial architecture.

Sport:  I’ve become a bit of a fat bastard while visiting Canada and my Paris diet hasn’t been taking off the pounds as it did.  This may be because I’m taking the Metro more often when I could be walking.  In any case, to combat my growing waistline and just for the sake of being in combat, I’ve taken up fencing.  Here’s what I know so far about the sport:
  • Novice fencers begin by learning footwork.  It seems perhaps at first to be obvious, but I can assure you that it is not.  There are 6 possible steps; forward, back, lunge, recover (from lunge) crossover forward, crossover back.  A typical combination of steps might be forward, lunge, recover, and back.
  • Novice fencers, fight each other from the first day.  They (we) don’t know how to fence, but the object is to practice footwork.  Despite my lack of technique, I have to confess that is it VERY fun to bend my sword into an opponent… even an opponent who also has no technique.
  • Getting hit hard can really hurt, despite the fencing gear.

"Untitled", by Henry Miller.  Now featured in my
Paris studio.  Viewings by appointment.  
Art:  A good friend invited me to a gallery opening in the Bastille (Dorothy’s Gallery, which featured artists who became famous for something other than painting.  Examples included Grace Slick, Jimmy Hendrix, and Henry Miller.  The latter, was irresistible to me and I purchased a lithograph of Miller’s entitled “Untitled” from that very gallery.  It hangs on my wall now and I am quite happy with it.
  • Inspired by the artwork, the various artists I see in the city and a book by Myamoto Musashi, I’ve decided that it is time to try my own hand at painting.  I’ve thought about doing this for years, but when I heard from Musashi that painting may also help my fencing… well then I was completely sold on the idea.
  • Like so many things, my Art Classes start in October.  I’ve signed up for a year and will sketch, draw, paint and have live models thrust in front of me to immortalize with my current lack of artistic ability.  Hopefully, I will be able to rise to the challenge and create brush strokes that are somewhat related to the subjects before me.
  • Oh, if you ever get a chance to read Henry Miller, of course his most famous book is Tropic of Cancer.  I would call it a 'must read' for any ex-pat living in Paris.  If you are American, it may be difficult for you to get past the language... oh how he uses words that are not allowed on the public television stations, but I'd say that he's perhaps one of the most well read authors I've ever come across.  Writing that is simultaneously low-brow and high-brow is very difficult to do.

Well my friends, that is all I have to report for this time.  Thank you again for reading.  Please take the time to comment, like, +1, follow or put a mouseclick anywhere toward my online well-being.

Au revoir!
Sir Robyn

Friday, September 23, 2011


The ol' car, covered in bug guts from three
provinces, gets ready for yet another boat ride.
This time to Vancouver Island.
Welcome back my friends!

As many of you may know, I've had been out of the country for a while and back in my native Canada.  I didn't blog while I was there, but like any good ex-pat, every now and then I’m compelled to return to my home country to visit relatives, tell stories, and share my experiences. I've finally gotten around to writing something and here we go.

You might wonder how I feel about Canada.  Do I get homesick?  What do I miss?  You might be surprised to hear that I’ve become somewhat of a stranger in my own country.  I now look at things through the eyes of a bewildered visitor.  I wonder what changed in me to create this effect.  Has Canada changed or is it just me… or both? 

Here are some of my observations as an insider who lives on the outside:

Geography: I’m Western Canadian, originally from Saskatchewan (one of the larger provinces).  Canada is made up of 10 provinces, and 3 territories.  6 of the provinces are huge… as in bigger than Texas huge.  My former hometown of Saskatoon is very far from Vancouver and very very far from Toronto.  If these are the only Canadian cities you know… then you will have to consult google maps to find it.

Saskatoon City Hall
People: Saskatonians (those from Saskatoon) are generally a friendly lot.  They suffer -40C temperatures for several months of the year and this requires a great degree of solidarity.  Settled originally by a combination of German, Ukrainian and British immigrants, the city now boasts a far more international population, being somewhat of a ‘starter city’ for Canadian immigrants from around the world.  I feel very sorry for someone from the Middle East or Africa suffering their first day of -40C weather.

Saskatonians enjoy a day at the race track.  Featured here
is Saskatoon's Marquis Downs track... where I have yet to
bet on the right horse.
Business:  When I was growing up in Saskatchewan, it was one of the poorest provinces in Canada and this is certainly no longer the case.  Boasting rich reserves of oil, potash, diamonds and uranium, the province is going through somewhat of a renaissance.  Saskatoon is growing, and becoming the most unlikely of business hubs.

The Porsche dealer in Saskatoon, says he'll sell all these cars and
many times more this year.  Saskatoon business is booming!
Travel:  Canadians like to drive long distances.  The distance from Saskatoon to Vancouver, for example is 1,678 km. Travelling this distance at the posted speed limits would take 19 hours and 39 minutes plus rest stops.  Driving by Porsche, it takes about 10 hours.  :)

Vampires:  Blood sucking in Canada is said to be the exclusive domain of the federal and provincial governments.  Vampires that can somehow survive the cold are lucky to find any blood left in their victims.

Language:  The Western Provinces of (from east to west) Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia are predominantly English speaking.  For various reasons, the French language is actually shunned in some areas, though it is inescapable as it appears on all packaging of any product sold in Canada.  I was recently introduced by a Quebecois friend to new friends here in Paris who described me as HALF Canadian… because I only spoke English.

Mountains:  There is nothing as majestic as the Rocky Mountains.  I’m sorry they don’t have a more majestic name.  For the price of a few gallons of gas, they can be enjoyed at will.  They are a spectacle in any season of the year… and almost too grand to behold.

Enjoying a Starbucks at the commissary area
at the Tsawassen ferry terminal.
Water:  It seems that in life, I am moving to smaller and smaller islands.  I’ve lived on Vancouver Island, Oahu and now the tiny Isle Saint Louis.  Travelling to Vancouver Island and the neighbouring islands is most frequently done by boat.  For a reasonable fee (to some), one can drive their car right onto the boat, and ferry across to the neighbour island while watching the coast drift by.  As a resident I hated the bother of a ferry commute, but as a visitor I love the chance to get out on the water.

A view from one of the many BC Ferries.  This one leaving from Tsawassen
(south of Vancouver) to Duke Point (in Nanaimo). 
Hippies:  My last impression upon leaving Canada was the observation of a species I call the West Coast Hippie.  If you thought you needed a time machine to see a hippie, then you are mistaken.  Tribes of hippies still live in British Columbia and tend to prefer the islands.  They can be spotted by layered clothes of poor quality and often a knitted fabric.  The males wear full and uncombed beards and the females tend to smell of cannabis and eucalyptus oil.  Like their counterparts of 50 years ago, they can be heard quoting Karl Marx, making various references to ‘weed’, and never ever ever will they mention anything job or work related.

This was my ride back to Vancouver.  I sat right next to the pilot.
Thank you for reading my friends, more Paris observations are on the way.

Your humble friend and observer,
Sir Robyn

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Little Things

Champagne senses bubbling, I look upward to
the 3rd floor of the Eiffel Tower. 
Bonjour friends and Paris lovers,

It’s been a long time since my last blog and for good reason. I have travelled many thousands of miles in the past few weeks and have only just settled back in my Parisian home with tons of work to do!

 Like anyone with deadlines to meet, my return to Paris featured visits from friends from around the world. With guests in town, of course it was incumbent upon me to take them to the local tourist attractions… only to discover that there was more and more to learn about then than I had known before my repeat visit. The new discoveries and observations were well worth the price of admission; I can assure you my friends. Now, have a look at the latest observations and start planning YOUR trip to Paris so I can show you around.

Food: I’ve never been a huge fan of pastries since the calorie/pleasure ratio has never been high enough for me to indulge very often. You will have to trust me on this point; there is a difference between French and North American pastries. The North American variety that I’m so accustomed to assault your taste buds with a salty/sweet (Americans use salted butter in baking) explosion that is overwhelming to the taste buds at every corner, leaving little room left for what is described as the main flavour you expected to enjoy. In French pastries, the flavour comes first.

Drink: At the top of the Eiffel Tower, there is a champagne bar. I did not know this until I noticed it on the website. It’s on the top level of the third floor. I’ve walked right past it. It’s only a bar with no seating; they serve champagne in a plastic conical flute, some of which glow in the dark at night. I cannot think of a cooler place to drink champagne.

My champagne sense was correct! 

Language: I’ve had a few visitors since I've been back, all of whom were convinced that I have learned to speak French fluently. I’m coming to understand that perhaps the French one needs to order food and champagne is enough to appease the desires of my friends in particular. This does not displease me.

Travel: Last month, I discovered that for a little over 200 Euros (per person), one could get to Prague (or many other nearby cities) for 4 days including hotel. I mention Prague because that is where I went. I’ll post another blog entry about that once I’m settled.

More Language: I had my first French conversation the other day. A flustered woman asked me where the nearest bathroom could be found, while I was doing my laundry. She asked in French and rather than hearing it all as a blur… I understood every word. I even replied in French as best as I could, augmenting with a little Frenglish at the end to clear up a misunderstanding.

Even More Language: I’ve noticed that I can hear accents in my French speaking friends. I was surprised to take note that a good friend of mine and French citizen had an accent that didn’t seem to quite be… what I would expect. She confirmed my observation and explained that French was her second language after learning Spanish as a child.

Vampires: Like the rest of Paris, vampires take the month of August away from the city. Many go to Prague.

The minipalais restaraunt at the Grand Palais.
Simply divine.
Architecture: You won’t find a more beautiful convention center in the world than the Grand Palais, at the end of the Champs Elysee. Walking past it the other day, I noticed people on the balcony on the leftmost wing of the building. Assuming it to be a private party, I decided to try my hand at crashing it… walked up the stairs and discovered that they have opened a bar and restaurant there called Minipalais. I had rose Veuve Cliquot on the balcony overlooking the Petit Palais and surrounded by 12 meter-high pillars and relief sculpture. Absolutely breathtaking.

People: August 22 seems to be the magical date that the end of the vacation season here and Parisian start to return just as the throngs of tourists seem to thin.

More Food: I had the unusual luck and good fortune to pick up a little bag of macarons at the publicdrugstore on Champs Elysee. Unlike a regular macaron with a kind of gooey middle theirs were creamy in the middle and kind of squirted their juices into your mouth upon biting into them. My first, labelled rose petal released its flavour which quickly infused into my whole body… and possibly my very soul. I might describe it more accurately as an orgasm for the tongue.

Oh Climaxol!  Where were you when I was
just a girl?
Sex: Climaxol. A drug promising better orgasms for women has been splattered in poster form all over Charles de Gaulle airport. I’m quite certain that I can compete with this drug.

Sports: I’ve decided to take up fencing and begin lessons on the 12th of September, just ahead of my next birthday. I went to a fencing outfitter, expecting to fork over about a thousand Euros for a full set of fencing gear and much to my astonishment, they would only sell me a glove. 15 Euros! Apparently they have a strong belief that I’ll be back for more gear as my lessons progress and are in no rush to take all of my money now.

That’s all for now folks! Please keep looking in. There are many more observations to come.

Bisous et a bientot!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

WTF Moments

The country prepares for the Bastille day fireworks.
Bonjour and Aloha my friends,

Well another few interesting days have passed in Paris since I last posted.  My previous blog about the party in Versailles has been my most largely visited blog posting ever!  I don’t think it will make me famous however, but I was sure happy to see all the comments.  This week’s comments start right from the morning of the party.  Grab a seat and stay enjoy!

Transportation:  Finding a cab in Versailles at 5am is not possible.  If you have not arranged for a cab, a horse or some other mode of transportation, your only recourse will be to catch the “B” Train, which leaves Versailles for Paris a little after 5:30 in the morning.  If you are still in 18th century dress, well just go with it.

Food:  Bonne Maman chocolate and caramel tartelettes are a lot like sex.  Firstly, they are addictive.  Secondly, the maximum enjoyment comes near the end.  Once the pastry and chocolate parts have melted away in your mouth, the caramel hits and the effects are orgasmic.  It’s about 20 seconds of eating for about 2-3 seconds of sheer pleasure.  And then you do it again.

Bonne Maman tartelettes pictured sideways thanks to
a rare feature that will only post such
things... sideways.

Weather:  I don’t like to talk about weather as a rule, but nothing about the weather here falls within my expectations.  When summer officially arrived we had a couple of days that were in the 35C (95F) range but today it’s 17C (63F) out.  WTF?  That’s quite a range.  Like most places, they do these 5 day forecasts that are complete bullshit, though I have to say that the weather has cooperated perfectly for both the Versailles Party and the Bastille Day celebrations.

WTF: Arriving near Place to Concorde after partying at Versailles, I found a military band practicing for Bastille Day.  They had a difficult time keeping their eyes on what they were doing.

Hmm... where did these guys come from?  It's 6am!

I can still play this thing when I'm laughing... really!

Soldier!  Eyes front!  Don't look at the 18th century costumes
that are completely out of context with everything you know.

Culture:  France's national holiday is Bastille Day.  Paris, being the capital naturally gets the biggest party.  The military parades and all kinds of celebrations city wide nothwithstanding, they filled the Parc de Champs de Mars (in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower) to capacity with 1.2 million people for a concert and fireworks celebration.  The fireworks were the best I've ever seen... alas, all I have to show you is what my stoopid iPhone was able to record. 

Dusk approaches and the crowd gets impatient!

Ooooh!  Ahhh!  

More Culture:  Near the Bastille, I found a protest going on by supporters of the Ivory Coast Gbagbo regime.  OK, you are probably thinking, where the hell is the Ivory Coast and who the fuck is Gbagbo (bag-bo)?  Well he’s this African dictator dude who wasn’t much into elections… you can read about him here: Laurent Gbagbo , but you won’t figure out where the heck all these supporters came from to fill the Paris streets.

The crowd starts to get ugly, taunting police and actually hitting police cars.
The Paris police are kinda used to this sort of thing.

The police were very professional and got the crowd under control
without swinging a baton.  It was like watching a ballet.

People:  I’ve had two visitors from American this month, one an old colleague and the other, my brother’s wife’s sister’s family came from Washington D.C.  The latter was very pleasant and happy to follow me around, particularly once more through the Louvre.  I was lucky enough to see a new special exhibit with images of Christ… gotta love Donatello.  The former guest did not really take to the city, unwittingly referring to Parisians as “public nuisances”.  This was in reference to how Parisians tend to party near the Seine at all hours of the night, within earshot of my apartment at times.  I found her observation to be particularly hilarious.

Art:  I find art everywhere in the city.  In the 6th arrondissement (district) I found this sidewalk just bursting to be part of the art scene.

Look at me!

That’s all for this post my friends.  Please comment, like, +1, or whatever you can do to share the warmth.  Oh… and don’t for get to vote on my poll!  Thanks again for reading.

Sir Robyn

P.S.  Sorry that there is no vampire news this week.  Stay tuned next when when I go to Prague, which is basically Europe's vampire playground.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Party Like It's 1789

Ready to rock like Amadeus.
Bonjour and greetings my friends from around the world!

Paris wasn't the talk of the week, but rather a little town just outside of Paris called Versailles.  Versailles features a remarkable castle called the Chateau Versailles that was built over a period of nearly 100 years and started by the sun-king Louis IV.  Here's the history for any nerds reading this: Palace of Versailles - Wikipedia

The building and gardens are absolutely stunning and have been in the hands of the people since 1789.  Few parties have been held there since, though a famous treaty or two has been signed.  You might remember the Treaty of Versailles from history class when you were a kid.  I think the Germans just made the last payment on that one last year.

According to my sources... there have been 3 parties in Versailles in the past decade.  One for royalty, one for an Indian billionaire and last night's part which was open to the public... insomuch as the public that could afford the costume, tickets and transportation to Versailles.  For me this was a new record in party expense and I don't care to talk too freely about it but lets say that over 1,000 Euros fled my bank account before the night was over.

The party itself was held in the Orangerie, a garden nestled off to the front right of the castle (or back left if you think of the street as the front).  The garden is famous for it's box-planted trees and is surrounded by an indoor pavilion with HUGE vaulted marble ceilings.  The venue was absolutely stunning... astonishing... I was drunk with awe before the champagne even had a chance.

From here, my friends.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Your friend,
Sir Robyn

What?  You didn't think I'd go without a date did you?

The girls... giddy with anticipation.

Pre-party fireworks lit up the gardens.



A subtle gesture reveals that it is time to party.

Oh, don't worry about that.  I'm ready to party.

The excited guests are funneled into the hall.

Ooooh!  Ahhh!

A view from the VIP section.

Well dressed VIP's.

Sir Robyn stops to plan his next move.

The ladies conspire.

Sir Robyn: International gadfly; time traveller.

A mid-party fire show.  Why not?

One of the dancers burst into sparks and flame!

Time to mingle with the Parisian gentry.

12:30am:  Fresh gays are shipped in.

Revellers dance the night away.

A lanky man attempts to dance a quadrille.

The professional dancers enthrall.

A creative and colourful costume.

The military was present.

The dancers had several acts, each of which was quite unique.



More conspiring.

Marie Antoinette pays a visit.

The women werent' the only ones to conspire.

A scene from the VIP room.

A man in a dress insisted that I take his picture.  :)

A flirt.  A very very excellent flirt.

A baron and Baroness of high distinction.

Champagne is not to be wasted!