Category Archives: Photos

From My Balcony: d’Août à Janvier

I am fairly certain the only reason I pay as much as I do in rent is because I have a balcony. From my personal terrace I can see all the way to Sacré-Cœur, and at night I can watch the lights dance on the facade of the Tour de Montparnasse. In the summer and fall, I spent most of my at-home time sitting outside. Breakfast, dinner, guitar-playing, reading, spying on my neighbors, all took place on my balcony.

One would think this would get boring. The city doesn’t rearrange itself and the view doesn’t change. Yet from my little terrace, I watched the world transform, summer to autumn to winter.

Here are the past six months, from my balcony:

Août Sept OctobreNovDec Jan

I can’t wait to see what the next six months will bring…

“Show me a day when the world wasn’t new.” 

—Sister Barbara Harce

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Relearning an old lesson

Last week, in my five-month letter from Paris, I said Paris’s grim and grey day-to-day life had thrown me into melancholie. As I wrote that letter, I longed for blue skies and friendly faces, but I felt they would never come. Well, ask and you shall receive, my friends! These past few days have been some of the sunniest I’ve seen all winter.

My friend Matthieu snapped these photos a couple of days ago as we strolled through the Parc de Sceaux, which I blogged about  last year. The sun was teasing us as we walked, peeking out from behind the clouds just long enough for us to notice how beautiful the park looked in its rays.

parc de sceaux 1parc de sceaux 2parc de sceaux 3

Do you see the rainbow?

It snowed a day after Matthieu took those pictures, and he went back to the park to capture it under a light blanket of snow.

parc de sceaux snow 1parc de sceaux snow 3parc de sceaux snow 5parc de sceaux snow 4

 Hm, that château looks familiar

It’s amazing how when you ask for something and actively strive to bring it into your life, it appears. I’m not just talking about sun, here. I mean that optimism and happiness I thought I’d lost. I mean friends and family who take all the clouds away. Sometimes, all you need to do is reach out to people and empower yourself in order for the things you desire to appear in your life. I’ve learned that first-hand in the past week or so, and it’s a lesson I’ll be sure to never forget.

It’s funny, though— I’d already come across this life lesson before.

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment.”

That quotation comes from Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I read over the summer. I shared this quote and many others from the book on the blog, but just like blessings, words of wisdom are things we need to continuously revisit, relearn and reapply.

As I continue to seek out positivity, now and throughout my entire life journey, I know this lesson will find me again and again. And thank goodness for it.

What are your favorite words of wisdom? Share them in the comments below, this girl can always use them! 

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

All photos are by Matthieu Surjous! Merci beaucoup! 

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Creative Chaos: 59 Rivoli

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Creative Chaos

If I were to paint the city of Paris, I would probably use various shades of grey and brown. I would dilute any primary or secondary colors with water so they’d be a little duller. Hence, my palette would include stormy grey, sickly green, frozen blue and dusty red. When I finished my work of art, I’d rub some dirt all over it for a final touch of realism. I might leave it out in the rain, too, just long enough to give the canvas that never-quite-dry smell.

But if I were to paint 59 Rivoli, a six-story artists’ squat in the first arrondissement, I would throw electric blue, ruby red, radioactive green and sun yellow at my canvas and cover it all in glitter. Or mismatched buttons. Or peacock feathers. Most likely all of those things at once, actually.

DoorDown

59 Rivoli is a living art gallery. Each level is filled with studios where the artists create and sell their pieces as visitors meander through the building. Some rooms are bare, save for a few large works of art. Others are piled to the ceiling with odd objects like severed manequins, overturned bicycles, opened umbrellas and stuffed monkeys.

feet Paint face

The winding staircase that leads to the artists’ studios is painted in murals that seem to have been lifted straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. A cardboard sign hangs from the skylight into the middle of the staircase, reading, “Come to the sixth floor! There’s CANDY!”

Brushes 2 Brushes Batman

The artists who occupy 59 Rivoli are more than happy to talk to visitors who come walking wide-eyed into their creative chaos. They can be found in every room, some of them working, others chatting with customers, the rest sipping beers on tattered sofas.

Balloons

If you’re searching for something colorful and eccentric in Paris, this is the place to go. When I went to visit the squat last week, I was thrilled to find that despite this city’s dingy exterior, there are enclaves of creativity and imagination. The sun shines and the spirit soars at 59 Rivoli, never mind the Parisian gloom.

Want to visit 59 Rivoli? 

Cost: FREE =D

Metro: Châtelet

When to go: Tuesday through Sunday, 1 to 8 p.m.

Happy arting! And Joyeux Noël to all those who are celebrating!

Bisous,

Savannah

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If You’re for Equality, Clap Your Hands

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Tens of thousands swarmed the streets of Paris’ 4th arrondissement  on Sunday  in support of gay marriage, or le mariage pour tous. The “marriage for all” bill entered the French parliament a little more than a month ago, and demonstrations both for and against the legislation have been resounding throughout the country since.

The fierce opposition to gay marriage has sent an “electroshock” through France’s LGBT community, Nicholas Gougain, the spokesperson of the Inter LGBT, told Le MondeOne month before Sunday’s demonstration, protesters mobilized nationwide to voice their disapproval, and recent polls show that the country remains divided on the issue, with 41% of the population against gay marriage and 48% against gay parents’ adoption rights. Yet as we saw in the U.S. elections, gay marriage is becoming accepted more and more, and some think it is just a matter of time before France follows suit. so french

Despite the gravity surrounding the mariage pour tous debate, Sunday’s manif felt like a party. Marchers brandished rainbow flags and musicians played big band tunes on the sidewalks. Children ran through the crowds with ribbons in their hands and friends drew hearts and peace signs on each other’s cheeks. These militants were there to manifest, but they made sure to have fun doing it.

In Gay We TrustFemen 2 Femen 1

While the demonstrators were mostly ordinary citizens of all ages, genders and backgrounds, there were a few well-known activist groups among them. Perhaps the most famous, and the most controversial, was Femen, whose participants came with their bodies painted in bright colors, forming a topless rainbow.  The women led the stream of people protesting behind them with a banner that read, “In Gay We Trust.”

Chorale Sax 2Sax

An unexpected addition to Sunday’s demonstration turned out to be the variety of music. One group sang gay-friendly versions of classical choral songs, another played contemporary jazz. The UNEF, Ile de France’s student syndicate, marched behind a band of percussionists dressed in pink. Every song sounded like the kind of music a high school band might play to rally a football stadium.

UNEFUNEF 2

Another creative feature of the mariage pour tous demonstration was the various slogans and chants. “Si t’es pour égalité, tape dans tes mains!” one demonstrator sang into a megaphone, “if you’re for equality, clap your hands!” After each line, the crowd behind her erupted with cheers. “Si t’es pour égalité, encore plus fort!,” she yelled, “again, and even stronger!”

Annoyed Balloons across the Seine

Sunday’s manif expressed the fervor with which the LGBTQ community and its allies are fighting for their rights. In a demonstration of diversity, passion, creativity and dedication, these citizens proved that they will not give up until their rights are realized.

Want to see more of my photos and hear some chants and music from the march? Check out the video above! 

To read more about the fight for gay marriage in France, check out this article from the New York Times;  take a look at this Wiki article to learn more about the country’s LGBT history.

In gay we trust,

Savannah

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An Evening with Efterklang

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Haunting, operatic sounds sneak up from behind the keyboards, sung by a woman dressed in black sheer and red lipstick. An ambiant chorus rises with the sepia fog, and the man with the bow tie walks up to meet the microphone. All the while the drums have been building, building, building, then suddenly— the stage ignites with light, the base vibrates through the floor boards, the drums kick in with a crash—

and Efterklang arrives in Paris.

The Danish band of three childhood friends— Mads Brauer (electronics), Casper Clausen (vocals)  and Rasmus Stolberg (bass)— performed last night at Café de la Danse in the 11th arrondissement. They were joined by Peter Broderick (piano, violin), Tatu Rönkkö (drums) and Katinka Fogh Vindelev (choir), and together, they brought down the house.

Efterklang 1
I had never heard of Efterklang until I received an invitation on Facebook to attend this concert. I don’t normally splurge for bands I’m not familiar with, but after listening to a few songs off of Efterklang’s latest album, Piramida, I knew this one would be worth it. Better yet, the show happened to fall upon my last day of the semester from hell! I figured that an evening with Efterklang would be the least I could do to reward myself. 

Rasmus 2

This performance turned out to be one of the most incredible concerts I have attended in my concert-going-lifetime. These musicians send their music out into their fans like a gust of wind, sweeping them up like leaves and raising them to the sky. Efterklang gets under your skin and into your spirit. Their song permeates the very air you breathe.

Katinka Efterklang 2Katinka 2

Even though I quite obviously fell in love with this band, Efterklang is one of those groups whose music is best enjoyed live. The recordings are excellent, yes. But they cannot capture the power, the ambiance or the energy Efterklang emanates from the stage, nor the thrill of experiencing it all from the third row.  Nevertheless, this band has quickly become one of my favorites.

Efterklang 3 Casper

The rest of the Café de la Danse crowd and I loved Efterklang so much that we brought them out for an encore, twice. During the second encore, the group played their acoustic single, “Alike,” which is featured in a film they made recently with Vincent Moon.  Casper, the lead singer, came out onto the stage and sat down on a box right at the edge, inches away from the audience, while the rest of the band made a half circle around him. They performed the song without microphones, without amplifiers. It was just Efterklang, the music and us.

Like any concert, this one was incredible only because the audience’s energy was just as powerful as the band’s. Music is a reciprocal art, and throughout the entire concert, we listeners were pounding our feet and clapping our hands to keep the show accelerating faster and faster. Sharing this experience with all of these strangers was one of the most inspiring aspects of the entire night. Every time I attend a concert like this I am reminded of music’s power to bring people together and create something unique. My evening with Efterklang can never be replicated, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Efterklang will be returning to Paris (at Le Trabendo) on April 26th! Wanna join me?

What’s one of your favorite concert experiences? Share your story in the comments below!

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

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