STREET ART + FOOD: Paris Edition

 Louvre, Paris, France.

Louvre, Paris, France.

 Arc de Triomphe, Never thought a Dominican girl like me would reach this magical city!!!

Arc de Triomphe, Never thought a Dominican girl like me would reach this magical city!!!

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 Streets of Montmartre, Paris

Streets of Montmartre, Paris

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 Croque Madame

Croque Madame

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 dessert galore. 

dessert galore. 

  al fresco  dining in Paris.

al fresco dining in Paris.

 spotted near Montmartre. 

spotted near Montmartre. 

 the artist. 

the artist. 

 new friends! best part about traveling is meeting new people + sharing in their culture!

new friends! best part about traveling is meeting new people + sharing in their culture!

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 Musee Picasso, Paris

Musee Picasso, Paris

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How do you sum up a city that has been discovered, explored, & elevated in so many ways throughout the years? That is exactly how I am feeling about Paris. 

STILL. I MUST. 

With fears of reiterating what has already been said so many times- I really can attest to the glory that is the city of Paris. Taking the urban planning route, I hope to give readers a taste of what it feels to travel through the city of Lights while exploring what's happening on the ground. 

PARIS LABOR STRIKES

I visited Paris this past May where nationwide street protests were blocking rail lines, and making national headlines. During my visit, about half of all national and regional rail services were halted for two days of the week, which limited our travel to the famous Versailles. Alas, the strikes and protests seem to be an almost daily occurrence in Paris, a city renowned for its cultural revolutions + rebellious attitude. 

Curious as I am, I decided to dig deeper to learn more about the labor strikes + what was happening on the ground that led 1,000s+ of workers to exit their jobs. Current French President Macron was elected on a moderate platform that aimed to focus efforts on France's lagging economy. Labor unions were in opposition to Macron since his campaign focused on weakening union laws to enforce a significant move towards a more free-market agenda. 

Indeed, the proposed changes to the rail labor unions would include limits to wage increases, and make it easier to hire and fire while removing long-standing French customs of "jobs-for life-protections".

Macron's proposed plans come as yet another blow to the labor unions who have seen a decline in membership and are struggling to hold the public's attention during this crucial time in their industry. 

At the time of this post, Macron has moved forward with his plan to make the suggested changes signifying a major defeat to the labor unions in the country. 

What are banlieues, and how does President Macron's plan help or harm these immigrant suburbs? 

banlieues — a code word for the high-crime suburbs that surround Paris.

Just one hour from Paris, immigrant clusters have formed in various suburbs that are now plagued with crime and disinvestment. Looking for cheaper housing options outside of one of the most expensive cities in the world, banlieues have become a refuge for new French migrants. However, increasingly high unemployment and the constant threats of radical Islamic groups- the banlieues are finally receiving major media attention and have reached Macron's adminstration as the President aims to roll out his economic plan. 

President Macron faces a daunting task of addressing massive inequalities touching unemployment, housing, health care, and transportation. "It's true that Macron's natural inclination is towards the innovators and entrepreneurs as a real source of economic dynamism, but it will be very important for him to show he also cares about tough neighborhoods, and to acknowledge innovation is also possible there." 

French banlieues have not always been equated with despair and violence. In the 1970s, renowned architects crafted idealistic urban planning projects to house the country's working class — which morphed into Portuguese and then North- and sub-Saharan African immigrants. Thinking of banlieus, I couldn't help but draw a parallel to many of Massachusetts' Gateway Cities like Lawrence and Brockton which have seem similar disinvestment and are now thriving with new Americans. 

Much of Macron's legacy lays in the success of his economic plan, but as we see with his move to weaken labor unions, it is unclear how much attention his administration will pay to these immigrant clusters striving for a better future. 

FOOD

I had heard varying reviews about the food scene in Paris so I was truly overwhelmed by the time I arrived. Truthfully, I regarded Paris as a stuffy upscale-type of dining and was surprised when I saw the many open-patio casual cafes that lined every corner of the city. Millennial Parisians are overwhelmingly choosing more neighborhood-friendly, open-space cafes vs. the upscale environment of most 3-course meal eateries. As a tourist in the city, the options are plenty and I was overall very happy with our food choices! 

We arrived in Paris just before the start of the summer season, so this meant al fresco dining was appropriate, and made for a great way to view the city.

Proud to say I tried escargot, and LOVED IT! Roasted snails while in Paris? Yes, please!! & before you make a judgment- think of oysters but with a shell! 

Another favorite while visiting the many Paris cafes was the Croque Madame- a breakfast/brunch option widely available everywhere. The meal includes a grilled cheese sandwich- but a much better Parisian version, usually served with a sunny side-up egg accompanied wih fries + salad. Of course- don't forget the rosé! Due to the high quality + great prices of the outdoor cafes, I am thrilled to say we were able to enjoy 1 or 2 bottles of wine with EVERY MEAL. Yes- Every meal. So, best believe we was living our best life!!

 The desserts were always to die for so make sure to leave room for them in your meals! 

The best part of many of these outdoor eats is the casual atmosphere. Many of these spots did not require a reservation,which can be rare in a metropolis like Paris. Compared to NYC & LA, Paris had just as many food options at reasonable price ranges ($20 euros including wine!). 

Tipping in Paris is highly optional. As in the U.S, large groups sometimes get the tip included in all meals. 

If you're in for the Michelin-starred treats, check out the area around Champs-Élysées. Also remember, many Michelin-starred restaurants offer great lunch rates!

Here are a few food recommendations: 

- Le Sevigne, near Musee Picasso

- Le Bistrot

- Le Pain Quotidien

- Le Plomb du Cantal

- Le GQ

 

(STREET) ART

Known for its top luxe brands + 3-star dining, Paris felt like a walking mural. Every corner caught my glance as I spotted a cultural scene unlike many others.

During one of my strolls around the city, I encountered the opening of a photography showcase in one of the city's many fashion boutiques. 

I stopped by, met the artist, and before you know it we were sipping beers and trying our best to communicate through our limited language capacity. I got some recommendations on what to do that night in Paris, and got to see more behind-the scenes takes of the photography exhibit on display.  

 

You can check out her photography work here: 

Le Combat D'UNe Vie

 

I have to say I was impressed by the hospitality of many Parisians. I figured I'd be met with snarls and stares because of my appalling take at French but I was met mostly with the same curiosity. The experience really allowed me to have an open mind + to continue feeding my desire for knowledge about the world. 

Still, a bit of French goes a long way- so if you can get the basics down it will help your time in Paris, and win you a few points with the locals!  

Now, you can't come to Paris and skip out on the museums. Indeed, it was quite a feat figuring out which museums we wanted to prioritize. The Louvre was a given, and we spent a few hours getting lost in its maze. 

Next up was Musee Picasso. This one was truly impactful!

The genius that was Picasso is laid bare as you go from theme to theme, watching the artistry that manifested over the course of his groundbreaking career. 

The quiet atmosphere of the museum allows you to take in the art while not feeling rushed (ahem- no shade to the Louvre, but it DEFF doesn't have this luxury). This may change depending on the season you visit so do keep this in mind. 

Known for inspiring art's Cubism theory, the museum portrays the many styles and techniques that led to Picasso's transformation of the art world. 

The many interpretations he created opens an opportunity for each individual to draw their own conclusions. It has been said one of his portraits can be viewed & examined in more than 100 different ways. 

“When I paint a bowl, I want to show you that it is round, of course. But the general rhythm of the picture, its composition framework, may compel me to show the round shape as a square. When you come to think of it, I am probably a painter without style. ‘Style’ is often something that ties the artist down and makes him look at things in one particular way, the same technique, the same formulas, year after year, sometimes for a whole lifetime. You recognize him immediately, for he is always in the same suit, or a suit of the same cut. There are, of course, great painters who have a certain style. However, I always thrash about rather wildly. I am a bit of a tramp. You can see me at this moment, but I have already changed, I am already somewhere else. I can never be tied down, and that is why I have no style.”

- PABLO PICASSO, on his style and legacy

 

A word!! A lesson to us all to continue to push + challenge what we can become. 

Traveling through Paris reminded me of my personal life journey + how much growth has occurred in the past year mentally and spiritually.

I recall a period in my life where I let fear drown my voice. Learning to not let life just happen to me was a lesson in pushing my fear out. Pushing what I had learned through hard lessons, discarding what no longer worked, and feeling unbounded. 

FEAR IS A LIAR

Let's continue to find inspiration wherever we go. Whether its moving outside of our comfort zone, trying a new skill, or visiting a gem like the city of Paris. 

Still reeling from the amazing experience, the friends I shared it all with, and the new memories I made. Au revoir, Paris! 

 

Photo Credits: Jason Casanova

thank you for capturing so many beautiful photos from our trip. You a real one! 

 

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ABOUT WRITER

Beya J. is an urban enthusiast. Through her travels, she ensures to engage in local culture, customs + food while exploring concepts that build community and highlight themes around urban living. She is Dominican-born, raised in Lawrence, MA. IG/TWITTER: plump_lips

Have you checked out my past editions of the Street Art + Food series? See the links below! 

STREET ART + FOOD: Mexico City Edition

STREET ART + FOOD: Chicago Edition

STREET ART + FOOD: Lawtown Edition

STREET ART + FOOD: Mexico City Edition

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Mexico City allowed me to view a new side of Mexico not often portrayed in the media and in our American studies. Living everyday in the U.S- you would think that we would know more accurate history about our neighbor. Outside of the drug war and cartels, the history we've learned about Mexico has been distorted. Sensational stories have become the norm and we've been missing the gems of a country so diverse and rich in history.

I had the honor to visit Mexico City and see for myself what Mexico was about. 

 The exhibition on the Mayan empire were truly astounding. This massive remnant was captured from the 1100 d.c era.

The exhibition on the Mayan empire were truly astounding. This massive remnant was captured from the 1100 d.c era.

MUSEO DE ANTROPOLOGIA // MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY

El Museo de Antropologia covered the many worlds, kingdoms, practices, and traditions that expand the extensive history of the land we call Mexico today. 

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We began with the Stone of the Sun pictured above, which is often mistaken as an Aztec calendar. In reality the stone signifies a sacrificial altar used during fighting rituals to evoke the attention of the gods. 

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While visiting, make sure to set aside 2-3 hours as the museum really is captivating and requires time to absorb. I am so thankful for this experience because it was a reminder that humans have been here, we've failed, and we've stood up once again. Let's learn our history, and honor it as to not make the same mistakes of the past. 

 Museo de Antropologia, Mexico City, Mexico.

Museo de Antropologia, Mexico City, Mexico.

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ALELI

We visited Aleli for brunch, and it was so good! I had the flautas, pictured below, in a frijol sauce and scrambled eggs. 

The service and staff were top notch and the prices very reasonable for the portion sizes. 

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flautas = a Mexican standard, flautas come rolled in wheat tortillas and filled with either savory pork, chicken or beef. In our case at Aleli, my flautas were filled with scrambled eggs and cheese. Yum!

Aleli is perfect for breakfast and brunch as it has an airy setting and decor. Along with my breakfast flautas, I had a coconut milk latte. Very creamy and smooth and everything I needed to set off my day of adventure in the city! 

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CASTILLO CHAPULTEPEC // CASTLE CHAPULTEPEC

For this edition, we will continue to focus on historic structures as I truly believe ART is in the ordinary. With this theme, I present Castillo Chapultepec which serves as Mexico City's historical center and museum. 

Before arriving to the castle, you must spend some time en el Bosque de Chapultepec- the Central Park of Mexico City. 

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What I admired the most about my visit to the Castillo was the wide display of history which followed all the many eras of Mexican politics, culture, and revolutions. As always, I believe its important to dive deep when visiting a new place and Mexico City allows you to do that in a way I haven't seen before. All their centers were full of history, and the options were accessible at no cost, or very cheap to enter. We can all learn from their approach, as it allowed the maximum number of people to partake in the experience, both local and those like me who were visiting for the first time. 

 Castillo Chapultepec, Mexico City //Photography Credit: Y.Frias

Castillo Chapultepec, Mexico City //Photography Credit: Y.Frias

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MUSEO DE FRIDA KAHLO // MUSEUM OF FRIDA KAHLO

A major bucket list item! I could hardly contain my excitement when visiting Mexico City knowing that I would have the opportunity to come in contact with the closest living remnants of the iconic Latinx artist Frida Kahlo. 

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Visiting the Museo de Frida Kahlo brought into full image the artist's life and struggles as she lived with her disability and suffered major heartbreak through her complicated relationship with the artist Diego Rivera. 

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The museum is the former home of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera who had an on-off marriage spanning over 25 years. The museum holds on display personal photographs of both artists, with a main focus on Frida Kahlo who has surpassed her husband's fame. The artist was the embodiment of strength, femininity but also vulnerability all in one. It is a must visit!

 Frida and Diego's courtyard was so beautiful featuring a garden of herbs and flowers // Museo Frida Kahlo. 

Frida and Diego's courtyard was so beautiful featuring a garden of herbs and flowers // Museo Frida Kahlo. 

 Intimate photos of the artist // Museo de Frida Kahlo

Intimate photos of the artist // Museo de Frida Kahlo

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 Frida's struggle with infertility is on full display in this powerful image // Museo de Frida Kahlo

Frida's struggle with infertility is on full display in this powerful image // Museo de Frida Kahlo

 Frida's most famous styles on display at the temporary exhibit // Museo Frida Kahlo

Frida's most famous styles on display at the temporary exhibit // Museo Frida Kahlo

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Brunch at Lalo's is a MUST!!! The spot is synonymous with Mex City's growing hipster crowd- and it delivers to perfection. Lalo's food is fresh, organic, the coffee is pure and strong- and the service impeccable! Be prepared to wait- lines over the weekend start early. The seating is family style with long, communal tables perfect for large groups like ours. 

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The chilaquiles pictured above had fresh eggs, tortillas, and a mildly spicy green tomato sauce. 

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The food is served fresh and made to order. The patrons were kind enough to allow us to see them in action as they prepared for the upcoming dinner menu and we caught shots of their pasta-making. The hospitality of their staff, their impeccable service and food provided a total package for this new, up and coming restaurant. I highly recommend! 

Bosque de Chapultepec, Jardin Botanico // Botanical Garden

 Photography Credit: Y.Frias

Photography Credit: Y.Frias

Back in el Bosque de Chapultepec, we found a gorgeous botanical garden. The display was full of exotic flowers, and different specimens of cactus. 

 Photography Credit: Y.Frias

Photography Credit: Y.Frias

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If you are a fan of Netflix's docu-series Chef's Table, you will recognize this gem: Pujol. Owned by renowned Mexican chef Enrique Olvera, and coined as the 17th Best Restaurant in the world- Pujol was a dining experience like I had never had before. We set reservations almost 6 months in advance to get into the coveted restaurant, and were blessed to find an opening for lunch. We arrived to Pujol with our group and were greeted with a tasting menu which immediately challenged all of our expectations + delighted our palate. The menu introduced us to indigenous traditions along with Mexican cult favorites like la gordita and a 4-years old mole. The experience is one I will never forget & one that redefined my views on high-end dining. Mexican Chef Enrique Olvera has found a way to not only honor his culture, but also  introduce the world to high-end Mexican cuisine without tainting flavor or compromising his identity. Bravo! All accolades for Pujol are truly deserved. 

Overall, my trip was a testament to the wide array of offerings that Mexico City has. I was truly blown away by the amount of history, culture + endless flavors found in every corner of the city. I recommend the city to anyone looking to challenge their thinking about Mexico. I promise that you will walk away with a brand new understanding of life. Most importantly, I am grateful for the beautiful memories created with people I truly love + care for. Cheers to life!

Photography Credits: Annelies Martinez, Cashmere Boulevard

Have you checked out my past editions of the Street Art + Food series? See the links below! 

STREET ART + FOOD: Chicago Edition

STREET ART + FOOD: Lawtown Edition

STREET ART + FOOD: Bangkok Edition

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About Writer: 

Beya J. is an urban enthusiast. Through her travels, she ensures to engage in local culture, customs + food while exploring concepts that build community and highlight themes around urban living. She is Dominican-born, raised in Lawrence, MA. IG/TWITTER: plump_lips