Saturday, December 2, 2017

Paris, France: The Wrap Up

It wasn't the best flight experience prior to arriving in Iceland (my luggage was too big and I wound up tragically discarding it), but the bear and I managed quite well. On the train ride from Charles De Gaulle Airport to Paris with leisure books of Paul Celan and Jean-Michel Basquiat, I enjoyed a tofu and spinach knish and a LARABAR (things stuffed into my bag from Mom's Organic Market). By then, my overstuffed tote bag was riddled with holes from the weight. I tried not to think about left clothes, towels, and tossed Inkkas sneakers.  I have bought some new shoes. It's just not the same.
After checking in, I headed to the Musee d'Orsay, a museum that I missed the first two Paris visits. It was always closed and unattainable.The line wasn't long and I immediately walked inside the impressively designed museum in little time. Auguste Bartholdi's small version of the gift to the United States.
Always a pleasure to see Jean Auguste Dominique Ingre paintings. He has an illustrious collection here and at the Louvre where one can see his famous The Odalisque and The Turkish Bathers. This oil painting from 1854 above is a splendid, colorful study encased in a dramatic gold frame entitled, The Virgin Worshiping The Host.
Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, Georges Clarin, oil on canvas, 1884 or 1907.
A Young English Woman, Fernand Khnopff, marble, 1898. 
The first Paris evening starts to come through openings of the grand second floor Roman numeral clock.
My dream Art Noveau bedroom.
Walking through the neighborhood after enjoying Cloud Cakes Vegan Cafe.
A beautiful orchid shop.
Shakespeare and Company is a fantastic bookstore where books fill every nook and cranny. They have spiraled stairs and labyrinth mazes that please the bookworm spirit. I spent a grand time up in the poetry section reading Sylvia Plath and Audre Lorde.
On a Friday night, I spent four hours at the Louvre, happily browsing through paintings and sculpture. I was thrilled to see Marie-Guillemine Benoist's Portrait of a Negress, which reflects a depressing time of great portrait artists rendering a specific woman of color and titling the model her race and gender as opposed to her real name. I wish they were a bit more original-- call her the brown Ariadne, a mortal portrait version of the Egyptian Goddess Isis, or some other enchanted fable deity. I liked imagining that she had a purpose, a legacy to behold. I couldn't just take a picture and walk past. I stood there idolizing every inch of her, inventing answers to riddled mysteries forming in my mind.
A tiny, blurred capture of Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. It's my second time seeing this small world famous portrait of mystery. And just like before, the vast crowd made it difficult to get a great picture, much less a proper view at the composition. In this case, the art history textbooks give better clarity.
Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, one of my favorite women painters to discuss, has many gorgeous paintings at the Louvre including this one, Self Portrait with Daughter, oil on canvas, 1789.
Hotel Josephine in Montmatre is named after famous actress, dancer, cabaret musician, and French agent Josephine Baker. I would love to stay there sometime-- not for the free Absinthe samples-- for the eclectic rooms patterned in beautiful flowers, bright colors, jazzy black and white photographs, and cozy large beds.
Every now and then, I took pictures of buildings just because the architecture astounded my artist eye.
Unfortunately, the Museum of Romantic Life was closed. I had been looking forward to seeing this former home of Romanticism painter Ary Scheffer-- a place where he used to rendezvous with author George Sand (the great female writer who was born Amantine Lucile Dupin). The two apartment also had an array of famous guests like Ingres, Eugene Delacroix, Charles Dickens, and more. It is now one of three literary museums in Paris.
A cute Montmatre souvenir shop. 
Passing through Moulin Rouge. Of course, I watched Baz Luhrmann's film later on that evening for nostalgia's sake. Plus, I love Ewan McGregor singing me to sleep.
I spent most nights at the Seine River, reading books and thinking. I found it very peaceful and quiet, the smooth ripple of the water, the sights of the boats passing to and fro. In the distance, there is Notre Dame Cathedral. I looked at the majestic gargoyles, large, grotesque, and powerful creatures that grace atop various pillars. I thought back to this Fox Kids cartoon, Gargoyles, that I used to watch with my family. It was a great idea-- statues coming to life after the sun set and transforming back to stone in the daylight.
Bringing Basquiat to the Seine.
I had the luck of having a falafel joint in the neighborhood. They had a €8 meal special (falafel sandwich, little chopped fries, and a drink). The falafel was delicious, especially the crispy fried eggplant at the bottom (really spectacular). The sesame sauce, however, was bland and uninteresting. I wish they had used some flavorful hummus.
I stopped in the Museum of the Modern Art of the City of Paris and found the most oddly constructed desk of dark gray and bright crimson red.
I also enjoyed the modest paintings of Anna-Eva Bergman. Ranging from small intimate scale to large masses of texture exploration, her works are flat oceanic landscapes with a stream of centered lines that operate as a point of temporary escape.
One of many Eiffel Tower selfies.
A quick pencil sketch. The trees made it especially challenging.
Abandoned pastel rainbow colored carousels.
I didn't get to visit the Centre Pompidou. I walked past it several times.
Views of Iceland from the window. Very, very cold yet a beauty in the ice caps, a picturesque end to a nice early winter vacation.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Un Vegan Monde: The Vegan Corner Grocery Store of Dreams

I stopped inside Un Vegan Monde, an all vegan grocery store a short distance away from the Centre Pompidou. It was an amazing sight, a store where there were no bloody carcasses hanging in freezers or dairy free cheeses mingling with the cow and goat products. It was a place that I could see myself shopping every week, swinging along my reusable tote among the four aisles. I had only heard of vegan grocery stores being a huge thing in Berlin, Germany. To see this in Paris, in a cheese and egg loving society, it was a refreshing step back.
For starters, I had never seen so many different brands of vegan cheese in one place. There were up to eight sections of shreds, blocks, and slices. With no Daiya of Field Roast Chao in sight, the only North American import was the So Delicious Shreds and several kinds of Tofutti cream cheese.
There is probably about twenty-five kinds of Violife, one of UK's most popular vegan cheese brands. Cheddar, Mozzarella, Original, With Hot Peppers, With Herbs, With Mushrooms, and Organic Style all come in wedges, slices, and blocks.
I purchased one of the Violife holiday After Dinner flavors-- a blueberry speckled creamy white cheese. I haven't tried it yet, but already imagining that it would a lovely breakfast component on a hot, toasted bagel melting alongside a generous portion of  Bonne Maman's Blueberry Preserves.
Chocolate candy delights.
Cakes, muffins, and bread loaves. Most were on sale for 10-20% off. I grabbed a four pack of croissants and apple bar cookies.
As I laid on the hostel bed munching on these delightful treasures, things that I longed to have again,  I imagined a store like this in Philadelphia, a small store in a corner someplace that sold only plant based options. Honestly, I am quite sick of Whole Foods Market's disgusting displays, or the crammed fake meats situated among the dead realities at Trader Joe's and other sad sights among my grocery store shopping. Un Vegan Monde was what I wanted to be present for the rest of my days. It's every vegan dream come true.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Gentle Gourmet For the Fancy

On a Sunday afternoon, I ventured out to Gentle Gourmet, a place I have wanting to try forever. They create the most beautiful plates of food using plant based gastronomy. 
The interior decor is sleek and elegant, letting guests know that this fine dining experience is about to get sophisticated. After my enjoyment of bar burgers and and coffee houses, Gentle Gourmet was going to be my special world class ticket into vegan refinement.
The chef’s complimentary appetizer was this delicious beet and carrot creme.
Thick, luscious small taste of delight. Not too sweet. 
I ordered the Le Fume as a main entree, a hearty soup of French blue-violet potato gnocchi and a smoked nordic broth of juniper berry, coriander, cilantro, and dill and a disc of chopped small vegetables.
The gnocchi.
This uniquely manifested dessert just knocked my socks off. I am still thinking about this six days later-- a thing of beauty and love. It's called Le Pomme- Fenouil, a dish devoted to apples in sleek and polished creativity. The bottom is a generous mountain of warm, chunky apple confit topped with a bright green apple sorbet, surrounded by light, crisp meringues and decadent creme fraiche.
The flavorful dessert also comes with a punch-y apple and fennel shot. I downed it in one swallow and consumed my apples delight, relishing each participant. All in all, a pleasing end to a meal of appeasing eye art gratification.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Hank's Vegan Burger For Great Figgy Fig Sauce & Soda Pop

Hank's Vegan Burger was everything I had hoped for. After all, this popular vegan fast food restaurant was on top of my must eat list. Nothing beats a combo meal deal. There is a kind of sophistication when considering their pride of delivering a bonafide dining experience in addition to speedy, respectable service and an amazing meal curated by their chef. With a wonderful spacious upstairs to kick back drinks, eat burgers, and maul on desserts, it makes being a vegan all the more special. This place exists-- a fast food haven with incredible food made from plants.
The spread: a Hank's burger, potato wedges, carrot cake, and organic cola.
The handmade bun is stuffed with an organic vegan steak, veggies, vegan cheese, and a choice of three sauces (mayo with alfalfa, barbecue, tomato basil, or fig). I picked fig-- it sounded very amazing.
It was epic!!! The bite of fig sauce with the firm patty, melted vegan cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickle were off the chain. I may have looked a hot mess-- thick, creamy sweet/savory drippings around my face and all-- but it was worth it!
I haven't had cola since age ten or something. Haha! I loved the Roy Lichtenstein styled pop art-- seemed funnily appropriate on this can.
Always buy fair trade if possible.
Crunchy on the outside with a moist, soft interior, the scrumptious tiny carrot cake was packed with sweet enticing flavors-- vanilla, lemon, and bits of carrot. I was more than happy to have room for this perfect ending.