Otherworldly beauty

In Iceland the geology is primary, humans are secondary. We are used to living our lives as if we are in control, predicting this and manufacturing that. In Iceland you are aware at every turn of your smallness, the irrational, slow forces at work. The glaciers seem alive, like sentient entities. To be here is to be returned to a child’s sense of precarious awe: How on earth did this come to be?

via The New York Times Magazine / photo by me at the Blue Lagoon

Driving in Vietnam

You know, one of of those moments where you read something and it reminds you of something else? Here’s the excerpt that reminded me of that video above. It’s from Catfish and Mandala, a book that my sister has recommended to me a few times and that I’m finally reading ahead of my trip to Vietnam.

Nobody gives way to anybody. Everyone just angles, points, dives directly toward his destination, pretending it is an all-or-nothing gamble. People glare at one another and fight for maneuvering space. All parties are equally determined to get the right-of-way–insist on it. They swerve away at the last possible moment, giving scant inches to spare. The victor goes forward, no time for a victory grin, already engaging in another contest of will. Saigon traffic is Vietnamese life, a continuous charade of posturing, bluffing, fast moves, tenacity, and surrenders.

Maury will never read this

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So, I think posting this here is safe.

He is adamant on not exchanging gifts this year, but I don’t care.

Being in a long distance relationship means there’s a little treasure trove of data: cities, countries, and continents visisted; hours and miles traveled; days spent together; etc. So, I’m currently compiling a spreadsheet with this data and using various formulas and pivot tables to find some patterns or just raw totals to design an infographic. And by infographic, I imagine that’ll it be a watercolor bar graph. It looks really good in my head — how it’ll actually turn out is unclear.

A preview of the totals: 33,592 and 27,477.3 miles traveled by him and me, respectively, and about 78 and 65 hours in travel time.

For the record, he is not amused. “This is a cute distortion of data — we didn’t exactly travel this far only to see each other.” Not verbatim. Hahaha.

*Illustration above is from Jessica Durrant’s beautiful portfolio of watercolors!

Merci, Galignani

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Galignani, or “the first English bookstore established on the continent,” is my bookstore of choice in Paris. I know everyone swears by Shakespeare & Co. and I can’t really comment since I haven’t been though I’m sure it’s a lovely place. Regardless, Galignani is my favorite more so for the editions of the titles they choose, than simply the selection. Think beautiful typography, matte, embossing… not to mention the almost complete Great Ideas & Great Love series by Penguin, both of which I’m determined to acquire sooner than later. They carry both English and French titles and in addition to having a nice literature section (pictured above), they also have a pretty solid current events/politics section and an impressive arts wall with large, gorgeous hardbacks.

Anyway, there was a string of days where I’d go to Galignani everyday and pick up a new book, even if books are probably one of the worse traveling items. Galignani is on Rue Rivoli, right across from the Tuileries, so I’d usually grab my book and head over to the gardens and read by the fountain. There’s a lot of clamor around the area because of the little carnival and the fountain could be be crowded sometimes, but it’s easy to shut everything out and get lost in your book, especially if you manage to snag one of the reclined chairs. As with any anticipating ending, we are prone to reflections and such. I’ve really enjoyed my time in Paris this month* because I was able to do things I’d normally enjoy, but in a different setting. I’ve told a few people this already but instead of reading at Peet’s on Wilshire or Urth in Beverly Hills or Santa Monica, I could read in a café overlooking the Seine or with La Tour Eiffel peeking overhead. Instead of running the loop around Westwood, I could run to Parc Montsouris near my apartment or take a longer run to Jardin du Luxembourg.

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Those are the books I couldn’t resist buying. To be fair, I bought Monocle at WH Smith, another bookstore down the street. WH Smith only carries English titles and is a lot bigger, which is good if you’re looking for something more obscure, but I prefer Galignani. So, I have this habit of snapping iPhone photos of books I really want but know I shouldn’t buy. I was going to ramble about the underlying psychological or philosophical reasons for this, but realize it may be completely nonsensical, so I’ll refrain. Just know that this is a persistent habit. Also, I’ve read about half the books and am now on Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking and cannot bring myself to read it in public spaces because I may or may not burst into tears spontaneously. Anyway, this last photo is of some things I bought from the concept store, Merci. Much has been said about it and it’s mostly all true.

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*Not be to presumptuous about anyone reading older posts, but just know that I had my opportunity to dance to California Girls at Le Montana last night, though that’s another story. Merci for making it this far.

Me, Monocle & Munich

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I’ve still got a few more days in Paris, but couldn’t help get re-excited about Munich. After a bout with a serious cold and a defunct keyboard, I am finally getting better and now own a wireless keyboard that may seem like a completely frivolous purchase now, but won’t be when (by when, I really mean if) I get my iPad or the new iMac. In the meantime, my computer setup looks a little funny, but I couldn’t be happier to start having decent conversations online and to send proper e-mails again.*

I chose to go to Munich this year largely on impulse and on its #1 rating in Monocle’s Quality of Life/Best Cities survey. I remember arriving at the train station last year in Interlaken, Switzerland not knowing a word of Swiss-German — I loved it. I can’t wait to arrive at Flughafen München-Franz Josef Strauß and just die of incomprehension. I also can’t wait to arrive because I’d like to see if it rivals my love for SFO or O’Hare. Aside from the linguistical excitement, I’m mostly just excited to see some modern architecture, some straight lines, and damnit, some color!

Brandhorst Museum
Inside The Space Station
BMW World II

*Didn’t want to indulge too much in one paragraph, so I just thought I’d add that I finally caved and bought Mad Men on iTunes so I can catch up with the rest of the (sartorially-inclined) world.

Another day, another baguette

I’ve been here for a little over a month now and would like to highlight some of my favorite shops, things to do, etc. It’ll come in the next few posts or so. By no means is this an exhaustive list, nor adequately photographed. Somewhere in between Belinda leaving and Elizabeth coming, I grew tired of taking photos. Nothing really called out to me. But really, I was with two of my favorite people in the entire world, on the other side of the world. Also, can we take notice of how un-SEO optimized my headlines are? Ha.

Gerard Uferas’ Paris d’Amour exhibit at Hôtel de Ville (link): This was a free exhibit, which closes at the end of the month. I’ve been here quite a few times, once by myself and a couple of times with some girlfriends. Hôtel de Ville is the main mayor’s office in Paris and the exhibits here usually feature artists who have a direct tie with the city. While the exhibit is outwardly on wedding photography (in Paris), the underlying theme is the diversity of the city and the diversity of unions that come of it. It’s uplifting and if you’re in the area (M〫Hôtel de Ville), check it out — it’s free and just small enough to drop by before you go somewhere else. And as you’d expect from a wedding photography exhibit, it’s mostly women.

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If you’d like to see the rest of the photos, they’re on my Flickr.

“I will take you home, to Marrakech.”

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I’ve started practicing my pseudo-french haggling skills at the marché aux puces at Saint-Ouen this last Sunday. My first attempt was unfortunately unsuccessful: I tried to get Danica this framed photo of some cats and the Eiffel Tower for 5€ instead of 6€. “Combien coûte?” “Six euros.” “Cinq.” “Non.” I was too frazzled to continue and she ended up purchasing it for 6€.

However, after a few hours of practicing, I was able to get this gorgeous bag down from 80€ to 50€ by incessant ogling and touching then walking away, longingly. When I came back about three minutes later, he looked at my key necklace and asked me if it was silver. After refusing to barter my necklace, he offered it me for 50€, as well as a trip to his home, in Morocco. I graciously thanked him and hurried away.

On a separate day on my way to the Mosquée, I stumbled upon la Maison-Franco-Orientale (19 Rue Daubenton), I managed to get these two rings down from 43€ to 25€. Later that day, I also made up for my failed first attempt and scored Danica a snail/Eiffel Tower sketch for 10€ down from 15€.

Upon re-reading this entry, this entry is just an exposé of Danica’s weird (and lovable, I suppose) purchases with a lot of unnecessary euro signs. So, here are my tips for haggling, which may or may not be obvious: aim for at least 50% of the proposed price — the first price you say should be something ridiculous. In the case of my bag, I should’ve said something outrageous like 30€. If you’re planning to buy multiple items, it’s easier to bargain; in this case, try for a buy-one-get-one-free price. Belinda was able to get two wooden rings down from 24€ to 12€ by being equal parts sad and cute. If you’ve got a longing stare, use it. Try it on, keep it on, touch it a lot. Then walk away very melodramatically. Also, feel free to throw in a backward glance as you walk away and use that longing stare again. If the shopkeeper’s heart isn’t made of stone, it will melt and s/he will most likely try to offer it to you for a few euros above your original offer, but will eventually fold to your original offer. Also, don’t let anyone take you to his home in Morocco.