40 Days of Paris: Day One

When you live in Paris, you get a little intoxicated on its sheer Paris-ness, and you start to do stupid things, like take for granted everything there is to do here. You sleep in, as Parisians do. You have amazing picnics on the Seine and on the Champs de Mars. You watch the entire world go by in a couple of hours while you sip shitty coffee from a woven café chair. You stay up too late because you can, and you ride your Vélib around in the moonlight pondering how freakin’ lucky you are to have all this. You take a daily run (which eventually turns into a bi-weekly run) around the Tuileries, taking photos of the flowers, the perfectly manicured trees, the people and the fountains.

But sometimes you forget to go to the Musée de l’Orangerie. Which is really stupid when you have a freakin’ pass to skip the line and get in for free.

So welcome to Day One of my 40 Days in Paris (slideshow at the bottom of post), dedicated to seeing at least one cool Paris thing every single day. (Find out why.) The first day was a bit of routine mixed in with cultural and culinary dazzle: Bikram yoga, a trip to Musée de l’Orangerie, an indulgent cup of chocolat chaud Viennois-style at Jean-Paul Hévin (with a delicioius pastry on the side), and a trip to the center of hell (Chatelet UGC theatre) to see Skyfall with my dear friend K.

Musée de l’Orangerie:  You might be tempted to only see the Louvre and the d’Orsay if you come to Paris and skip this one because you don’t have time, but don’t. Please. Even if you just stop in to see Monet’s Les Nymphéas (water lilies) you should.  These huge mural-style paintings are on display at museums around the world, but really … you should see them here, because this is France, people; The Motherland! Especially if you’ve been to Giverny or just always wanted to go. The rooms that display them are huge, with white walls and plenty of beautiful light streaming in and big benches in the middle that allow you to just sit and stare. It’s like being at Giverny, without the 10,000 tourists breathing down your neck to take a photo. Obviously, see Giverny if you can, but then come here: it’s much more peaceful and relaxing, which is strange, but true.

Right now, you can also see a beautiful private collection of paintings that includes works by Cézanne, Monet, Sisley, Picasso, and Modigliani, to name just a few. And also an absolutely KICK ASS collection of Chaim Soutine’s work, a Russian (says the Orangerie; the Internet says Lithuanian) artist who moved to France and is known for his modern renderings of people, landscapes in the south (my favorite), and … wait for it … beef carcasses. (Really, I couldn’t make that up.) I’m now officially obsessed and am going to save my euros to buy the book full of his work when I go back to see the collection again. It’s that good.

Jean-Paul Hévin: (Scroll to bottom for pics) Maybe you haven’t noticed (or are reading from afar) but it’s freakin’ cold here in Paris, which means it’s time to begin the coveted search for the perfect cup of chocolat chaud. Jean-Paul Hévin is on the rue Saint-Honoré near the Tuilieries, so on my way to Skyfall, I stopped in for a cuppa. Sometimes it’s nice to be a single, party of one because there was a huge line of people curled up the staircase to sit down for a chocolate chaud, but I got to sail right in and sit at the bar immediately.

They have about twenty different kinds of hot chocolate, but I opted for the Viennois style, which includes some chantilly crème (whipped cream) served in a separate cup, sprinkled with chocolate. Your hot chocolate (whipped up by one very busy man, bless his heart) comes on the side in a separate cup. And if you want a pastry, order one in the shop downstairs before you go up. I had the Choco Passion, and let me just say, you should get on that if you go. (I also recommend trying a macaron – I like the crème brulee and the chocolate citron vert – and the caramels. The orange ginger caramel is my fave.)

I plan on making my way back to JP (as if we’re old friends) to try some of the other varieties of chocolat chaud, which include raspberry, caramel, apple, and some other nice and delicious twists.

And though it was delicious, I have to say, in the battle of les chocolat chauds, my Kooka Boora choco chaud slightly edged this one. I know – blasphemous! It may not have looked as beautiful, but it was slightly sweeter (not sweet, mind you; just slightly) with big hunks of not-all-the-way-melted chocolate. Maybe my chocolat chaud palate isn’t properly developed, but there it is: truth. (I still love you, JP.)

Skyfall: LOVED. This. How can you not like Bond? Especially when you see it with a girlfriend and can enjoy the splendor that is Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem? Though Javier was not in splendorous-looking mode in this particular film, he was pretty amazing in his creepy role.

Sweet holy heaven triceps and lats, THANK YOU, Skyfall.

Why 40 Days of Paris? Find out.

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