Merci Used Book Cafe @ 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003, Paris
This was the entrance to the Merci Used Book Cafe, or the Cafe itself. If you walk through the gate on the side, you’ll end up in a small courtyard (where my little red car was parked, of course) that leads to Merci’s chic and trendy department store, and through which you may also enter the Cafe.
Dreams do come true. Merci Used Book Cafe and Shakespeare and Co. have been on my to-go list since time immemorial. I had discovered these two bookstores when I was on Tumblr years ago, and I would often flood my blog with photos of them.
I knew I was going to venture to Merci Used Book Cafe in Le Marais during my time in Paris, but the best part of the excitement was learning that scones were on their menu. Scones constitute my favourite breakfast, and to have it at this dreamy cafe, wow, was I ever on Cloud 9!
The scones were orange, and so was the jam. The hint of citrus was scrumptious! Their coffee was ace, too. And their butter? Well, let’s just say that any butter in France is tummy- and fat-approved.
A cozy corner fit for coffee and philosophical discussions on a fine autumn afternoon, don’t you think?
Besides Merci Used Book Cafe, Eric Kayser’s bakery was also on my to-eat list. I had read that he makes mean baguettes, or mean breads and pastries of all types in general. Many people recommended his financiers, particularly the pistachio financiers.
Being a fan of pistachio desserts myself, I tried one, and it was heavenly — not too sweet and it actually had large chunks of pistachio baked into the cake. Even my partner loved it more than her pain au chocolat.
Eric Kayser’s bakeries are widely dispersed around Paris, so it’s relatively easy to find one while getting lost in one’s exploring adventure. I stumbled upon one quite easily myself when I ventured off the Seine River into the Saint-Germain-des-Près shops area.
The following day was low key; it was Juliana’s last day in Paris, and since it was raining, we thought spending the afternoon at the Musée d’Orsay would be ideal.
Out of all the works of art at the museum, Van Gogh’s paintings were my favourite, not only because they brought back memories of my art classes in high school, but because back then, to me Van Gogh was, and today, still is, one of the most enlightened men who had ever lived (even if throughout his life it seemed otherwise).
Back in high school, I felt enamoured every time I looked at photos of The Starry Night, Starry Night Over the Rhone, Café Terrace at Night, and Bedroom in Arles in art history textbooks; they were among my favourite paintings by Van Gogh. I even tried replicating La méridienne or La sieste with oil pastels (my favourite art medium besides charcoal), and Bedroom in Arles with oil paint and papier-mâché!
I was lucky to see some of his famous paintings at the Musée d’Orsay. Whether it was the younger me in high school looking at his paintings in books, or the current me standing physically in front of his paintings, my feelings never changed: I didn’t see what people would often call a passionate artist, because to me, this man couldn’t be labelled; instead, I saw a regular individual, a human being like you and me, who had reached a depth of self to such a staggering degree, that this painful and sweet process itself became a work of art. And I see in his works of art just that: the depths of his vulnerabilities, in all their madness, darkness, passion, and beauty.
After navigating the Musée d’Orsay, we walked around looking for a place to eat lunch, until my partner pointed to a cafe/bistro that had just what I’ve been wanting to try: French onion soup, which was perfect for a cold and rainy day.
I wish I remembered what the cafe/bistro was called, because that French onion soup was delicious (and so was their margherita pizza). Some people will cry at the thought, sight, and smell of onions; as for me, I might as well marry them. I love onions so much that I can eat them with anything, even raw (while praying to my biochemical processes that I never smell like one).
Something else I tried spontaneously was gelato from Amorino. After seeing people licking these purdy looking rose-shaped gelato, Juliana and I both knew we had to try one. A few days later, we saw a family of three eating them again, so we did what normal, sane people would do: we stalked them to trace the whereabouts of the gelato store, and, Bingo.
If I get arrested in Paris, it’s probably because of one or all of the following reasons:
1. Stalking someone because they have good food;
2. Walking over uncharted grass;
3. Whacking someone with a baguette to test its freshness.
There were many incredible flavours to choose from, and you were able to choose however many you wanted. I chose speculoos, pistachio, and fig — the flavours were really nice! At first I thought it was an artisanal gelato chain in France, but to my surprise, I came across one here in Prague, too.
One of the neat things that we often take for granted, is learning how to survive and perform our normal daily routines in a new country. My first time at a laundromat in Paris was memorable — fun, even. Normally, people don’t equate travel and fun with doing laundry, but for me, it was an opportunity to learn how to live like a local. Of course I had to ask for help, but that was part of the neat experience; and frankly, I found sitting at a laundromat quite calming.
The second time I went to a laundromat, I met a gentleman (sounds like a romantic love story, doesn’t it?) who was, I’d say, about twice my age. I asked him if the machine was working as it should, and this later sparked a conversation. Perhaps it’s my intuition about people, but I read his energy even before we spoke. From his physical appearance alone and the air of malaise and ennui about him, I knew we were similar in profound ways.
Some people — a rarity for me — feel safe at first encounter, as if I recognize them on a soul level. It might sound crazy to some, but it’s an experience many empaths can understand. As it turns out, I wasn’t far off in my observations. I learned that we’ve read the same books and appreciate the same authors, that we think similarly philosophically and ethically, and that we share an overall similar life perspective. This is no love story, but I appreciate having met someone who shares so much with me.
In retrospect, I’m still amazed that the universe can conspire two individuals with such uncanny similarities to meet at such an unusual place. For lonewolves like myself, we often feel alienated and alone in the universe, but when we can connect with someone (at least one other person) who understands us, it feels amazing — more than we can ever articulate in words.