When I came to write this I realised that I had not written a Winter update, that’s how fast time seems to be flying! So I’ll combine the two here since there isn’t much to update on anyways.
First of all, let’s address the one constant in all our lives since 2019. CO-VID! My little family and I have so far been unscathed, between the three of us no one has ever had a positive test result. I’m sure we’ve all had it at some point, but we’ve never had to quarantine or anything like that. After February 2nd it was no longer required to wear masks outside, and May 11th was the day they were no longer needed in transport. It’s so strange to think that after three years of having random masks stuffed in bags and pockets I no longer need them.
On Valentines Day I hosted my first History Pub quiz at one of my favorite Paris pubs, The Pomme d’Eve, which also happens to be a gothic cellar once part of a monastery. Obviously the theme was Medieval Love and Romance and things got a little raunchy (as they often do with me) but it was a blast. There was a nice turn out and I hope to be able to do it again in the fall!
Of course I did a little time traveling partying between the early 20th century at one of the Baron de Paname’s famous parties at the Coupole and the 15th century at Les Caves Saint Sabin. These parties happen once a month and are my favorite regular event to participate in. Both are very different, but I find the medieval parties to be more festive, especially when the dancemaster gets everyone moving!
In April my daughter and I met some of my family in Florida to do the whole Disneyland Shabang. Everyone knew we were coming except my mom, so surprising her in the airport upon their arrival was the best part. I’m not a huge Disney fan and the last time I was there was maybe in 2001, but I really wanted my daughter to have the experience and six years old is the perfect age for it. We made a ton of memories, met so many characters, did a bunch of rides, and of course spent way too much money. Mickey sure knows how to empty your pockets!
And the cerise sur la gateau was running into two celebrities in one weekend. Bruno Gouery (Luke from Emily in Paris) was just strolling along Boulevard Saint Germain with an ice cream and I spotted him from a mile away. I discreetly asked for a quick photo and he nicely obliged. He even complimented my Milwaukee Brewers hat. Who knew he liked baseball?! And of course, my History Hero- Lorant Deutch. I’m not sure there is anyone I wanted to meet more. This is the guy responsible for my life of history and who I aspire to be like. Before anyone starts moaning about how he is often wrong or embellishes too much- get over it! That’s precisely WHY I admire Lorant. He is making history accessible to everyone by making it fun and relatable. I don’t want to listen to some robot preach about dates and events in front of his diplomas, I want to learn about history from someone who is as passionate about it as I am! Despite wearing a hat and glasses, when I crossed his path on Rue Saint André des Arts I immediately knew it was him. He was giving a tour to some children so I didn’t disrupt him too much, but I was able to tell him how much of a fan I was. I know I’ll see him again someday, hopefully with Stéphane Bern!
What’s Up Next? .. A new job, my first wedding at a French chateau, and a trip back to Wisconsin for summer vacation!
Built by architect Pierre Lescot in the 16th century for King Francois I (finished under King Henry II), the Salle des Cariatides is one of the oldest areas of the Louvre and a solid example of Renaissance architecture.
Originally conceived to serve as a tribunal as well as the ball room, sculptor Jean Goujon was hired to deck it out. Instead of beer pong tables and neon Budweiser signs, Jean sculpted four statuesque carytides that served not only as giant sexy focal points, but to also support 5-10 musicians who would play above the crowd like a 16th center surround sound Bosé speaker system.
Like an Architectural Mullet, he made a point to physically separate the party side from the justice side with three steps that are no longer present. Given the important role to serve both the court of law and Friday Night Fever, this space was the heart of the Louvre Palace.
The room changed roles over the years, acting as both a marriage hall for a pre-King Henry IV when he married the daughter of King Henry II in 1572 and then his funeral parlors when he got shanked by François Ravaillac in 1610.
This was also where the Le Toucher des Ecrouelles ceremony would take place, when the king would use his divine touch to poke at whatever diseased person was presented to him, make the sign of the cross, and proclaim “The King touches you! God heals you! Where’s my hand sanitiser?”
But my most favorite relevation of this room is actually underneath it. During renovation work here in 1882, remains of a room from the original Louvre fortress were found and integrated into the museum, which you can visit.
Today this room is home to a few famous Greek Gods, Goddesses, and Mythological heros including the iconic 1st century AD Artemis with a Doe. Also known as Diana of Versailles, this Roman Goddess once graced the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles before being moved to the Louvre in 1798.
Fun Fact- A miniature replica of this statue was in the first class lounge of the Titanic. In 1986, Robert Ballard discovered and photographed the statue on the sea floor near the bow section of the wreck.
Just around the corner from the famous restaurant Lapérouse coyly sits another fine dining establishment I’ll probably never have a 6 course meal at, Le Relais de Louis XIII.
If you look on the wall there is an inscription stating “Here the young Louis XIII was declared king, one hour after the death of his father King Henry IV”.
Despite the building’s old appearance, this elegantly stenciled testament to history is a bit vague on the HERE part.
Instead, HERE was actually the Grands Augustins Convent (destroyed during the French Revolution) and it was HERE that 8 year old Louis XIII- who suffered from crohn’s disease, shitty teeth, and an embarrassing studder; was given the horrible news that his “Papa” (King Henry IV insisted his children call him by this rather than the more appropriate Monsieur, just another reason why he’s my favorite King) was murdered by the religious fanatic Ravaillac on May 14, 1610.
Which went as followed (by my interpretation) “Hey kid, eh, I got good news and bad news. Well your old man kicked the bucket in a violently painful death BUT on the bright side, you are now King! Cheerz! “
While he wouldn’t REALLY wear the crown for another 7 years thanks to Mommy Dearest, the ambitious Marie de Medici, he did last an impressive 33 years as K.O.F. Unfortunately, Louis didn’t make much of a name for himself in comparison to the reigns of his father and his future sun, I mean SON, King Louis XIV.
This painting, depicting a scene not so different from one we could find today in the same location, has a cheeky hidden context.
Clutch your pearls and grab your smelling salts respectable folks!
WE’RE TALKIN’ PROSTITUTION
A reproduction of the lost original and first shown in salons in the early 19th century, artist Louis Léopold Boilly barely escaped the Reign of Terror thanks to his habit of pushing the boundaries of propriety with his “morbidly obscene” yet realistic style of painting. He continued to scandalize the slightly less rigid standards of a post-Revolutionary Paris with this scene of a seemingly normal moment in the day to day Bourgoise life of Parisian men, women, and children at the Palais Royal.
However, on further inspection there are a few clues that show this is anything but an appropriate family afternoon outing.
To start, we got a few ladies of leisure, who can be identified by their scandalously bare arms, naked ankles, and flimsy dresses. Accompanying them are upper middle class men whose reputations are high enough to afford a little afternoon delight without risking their honor or position.
On the far left, there seems to be a minor dispute. Monsieur clutches the railing, perhaps he feels the price tag of this ménage à trois is too high. Beside them we see the round rump of a girl lifting her skirts, probably giving potential buyers a taste of the goods before they commit to buy. The woman above her seems to say “for fecks sake Constance, you are giving it all away! I can see the outline of your knee through those five layers of petticoats!”
To the right, a satisfied customer grasps the waist of a visibly annoyed lady, who is probably thinking “Hell no we will not be Facebook friends. Pay up and back off, I got things to do.”
Moving along, a women is batting her eyes at potential customers, maybe trying to sweeten the deal. “You want me to put that cane up your bum? Ok but there’s a 15% added charge for sodomy”. A child looks up beside her, is it a decoy to make this scene more PG?
On the far right we have a Mademoiselle stroking a dog in a basket, held by a man who appears to be translating for his turbaned master who stands behind them looking on. The woman between them is the Pimp; her arms around them both while negotiating the price.
The garden and galleries of the Palais Royal were well known for their more libertine activities, and this was a popular hotspot for working ladies of all classes who came here to “faire leur palais”. This was even where pre-Emperor Napoleon picked up a lady who he lost his V-card with! (see related post below!)
As many as 600-800 women lived and worked at the Palais Royal until Louis-Philippe forbid prostitution there in 1830.
So you are fed up with relaxing all inclusive Caribbean resorts and ready to visit Paris eh?
Trading in those sexy sandals for practical orthopedics is just one of the many obligations I really must insist you adhere to before you are allowed entry into the world’s most meticulously detail-oriented city.
The days of serendipitous travel to foreign lands where local customs are learned through meaningful interaction and trial and error are over; the average full-blooded French citizen of 2022 no longer tolerates naive ignorance and the repercussions can be severe. (Just look what happened to their Royal Family if you don’t believe me!) Prepare yourself for total assimilation by reading the following conclusive and totally indisputable list of Paris Do’s and Do Not Even Think About It’s!
1. DON’T REQUEST KETCHUP You may have heard the controversy surrounding the derogatory “YO GARCON!” old school method of calling attention to your server, but the resulting anger that may result is just a fraction of the wrath you will incur compared to if you dare request a ketchup accompaniment with your meal. The only accepted dipping sauces are mustard (pronounced MOO-TARDE), mayonnaise, or occasionally that green garlic butter sauce your escargot has been boiled alive in. I could dip my shoe in that savory shit and eat it!
2. DO Tip Historically, this is the most controversial question that Paris tourists face, especially the generous American ones when they inevitably ask themselves what to leave as a gratuity when faced with the terminal phase of a French Restaurant meal. According to legend, the whole misconception began during the American Revolutionary War when Governor Patrick Henry famously declared “Give me Liberty or Give Me Death!” to the second Virginia Convention in 1775. Word spread quickly with everyone more or less understanding the message until the heroic (and not as fluent in English as most would believe) French General the Marquis de LaFayette caught wind of it at the end of a meal at his local tavern bar. He misunderstood the whole thing and thought the whole liberty notion Henry spoke of was a broader term to include liberty from the obligation to include a 15-20% gratuity following a meal in addition to liberty from British rule.
It didn’t help matters that across the bar and at the pool table about to pocket the winning 8 ball, Paul Revere overhead the whole thing and hastily added it to the whole OH SHIT THE BRITISH ARE COMING Midnight Ride Speech which spread word faster back to France than the American Government would displace native american tribes from their ancestral homelands in 1831. Ultimately, this could be complete historical bullshit, so I’ll leave you with the shocking result of the following indisputable scientific study recently conducted over eight years through Harverd University.
According to 100% of Parisian servers, a tip is appreciated following a meal.
3. DON’T Fondle the Fruit Remember that scene in the 1992 Disney film “Aladdin” when the naive Princess Jasmine plays palace hooky and swipes an apple on behalf of a hungry peasant child only to learn that in the real world outside the royal walls of her pampered daily life, monetary compensation is required for the acquisition of a good? Just like their Middle Eastern counterparts, burly Parisian market vendors won’t hesitate to chop off an appendage with a quick swipe of their machete if you are caught groping any melons. This is especially true at the organic markets like the one found on Boulevard Raspail where the blood curdling screams of tourists can be frequently heard as they frantically attempt to reclaim their detached fingers after they rolled away under the pesticide free grapes (pronounced des raisins) as a result of picking up an orange and sniffing it for freshness. Thank God Emergency Medical care is affordable in France!
4. DON’T Climb the Eiffel Tower If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. Don’t be tempted to scale the 1887 relic that once served as a big fancy door to the 1889 World’s Fair. Look, I get it: I’m empathetic to the struggle thousands of tourists face daily when they realize tickets to the tower are sold out weeks in advance and the lines to get up the Iron Lady sans une réservation are as alarming as seeing an erect dolphin’s penis with your kids at Sea World. What your Rick Steve’s guidebook doesn’t tell you is that each night dozens of foolish tourists are peeled off the tower scaffolding like mice stranded in peanut butter after they made the poor decision to get up to the summit and indulge in a 15 euro glass of champagne with or without a ticket. I’ll spare you the grim details, but these are the lucky ones. If you are really set on an Instagram worthy view of Paris from above, I urge you to consider the Montparnasse Tower. Compared to the 300 meters (1083 feet) of the ET, the MT has a more realistic 210 meter (689 feet) height attainable for even the most mediocre Spiderman impersonators.
5. DO Witness a PSG VS Marseilles Match Ici c’est Paris! Sure the budget of the capital city’s home team is at least twice that of their competitors, but ultimately talent has far more worth when compared to the pockets of billionaire PSG owner and Quatar ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Introduce your soccer lovin’ youngins (Watch out! It’s called le foot in France!) to a little family friendly match between bestie rivals Paris Saint Germain and Olympique de Marseille. These heart-warming games put even the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower to shame with their passionate raging fires that burn brightly from the stands, accompanied by the unexpected heart stopping explosions from home-made mazel tov cocktails as they are sent hurtling onto the field to the delight of spectators, the team, and law enforcement officers present. Don’t forget your face guards and flame retardant apparel!
6.DON’T Consume Food On The Go Paris might not be known as the friendliest place to visit, but this is just because they have more manners than you, it’s not their fault. In addition to loud noises, fun, and deodorant, French people are easily offended by witnessing food consumption that is done anywhere that is not on a chair, so think twice before you stuff your face without discretion while out and about. Originating back to the French Revolutionary War when soaring bread prices made the desperately starving citoyens viciously attack anyone seen carrying any form of edible nourishment in the street, Parisians today have an uncontrollable impulse to roll their eyes or grunt in disgust at the sight of anyone eating while not passively relaxing. Don’t be mistaken by the wide availability of food to ‘manger sur la pouce’ (literally eat on your thumb, AKA to go), this is meant to be eaten at home, or on rare exceptions in a park on a park bench. If you are unable to control your hunger pains, do what the Parisians do and light up a cigarette.
7. DON’T Wear Shorts Closely following eating in public on the go, (see above) exposing your naked legs while wearing shorts comes in second on the unofficial list of How to Piss off a Parisian. You might be thinking, “Why are legs accompanied by shorts bothersome when the French culture embraces naked boobies at the beach or public advertising with nudity?” The answer is not so black and white and may surprise you. The delicate curves of a female breast or the coy glimpse of a male derrière are respected artistically in French culture. The problem lies in your knees. Yes, your wrinkly squishy knees are as repulsive to the French as margarine and Cheese Whiz. Which is probably why you have never seen a bare set on a Parisian in real life before. As a culture they have gone far to eradicate this grotesque feature from sight, including cropping Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa masterpiece (to be fair her knees were disturbing) and ordering French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi to lengthen the robe on his original design of the Statue of Liberty before he handed her over to New York. It is important to acknowledge that some efforts are being made to challenge this rather old-fashioned notion in 2022. Shorts (denim or otherwise) are more noticeably tolerated when worn with hosiery.