Fun Fact: Le Chat Noir

For years, I had a copy of this French poster hanging on the wall in various apartments I lived in in Chicago.


I never knew the reference. I always assumed it was from a novel or story.

During my recent visit to Paris, I picked up a postcard for my parents with the same photo. They have a black cat named Oz, who is one of the Great Loves of my Life — despite the fact that Oz, for reasons my family and I have never been able to decipher, HATES me with a burning passion.

Why do you hate me?

I decided to Google “Tournée du Chat Noir” (tour of the black cat) in order to finally learn the history of the poster. According to Wikipedia, Le Chat Noir was, “a nineteenth-century entertainment establishment, in the bohemian Montmartre district of Paris. [April’s note: This is the same neighborhood where you can find the Moulin Rouge.] Le Chat Noir is thought to be the first modern cabaret: a nightclub where the patrons sat at tables and drank alcoholic beverages while being entertained by a variety show on stage.”

And, upon further reading, I discovered this: “Its imitators have included cabarets from St. Petersburg (Stray Dog Café) to Barcelona (Els Quatre Gats).”

Wait, what? I’ve actually been to Els Quatre Gats! I was in Spain last February.

The meal I had at Els Quatre Gats was probably the best thing I ate during my whole trip. (And future travels, take note: the lunch special includes a 3-course meal. That + wine cost me only 20 Euro.)

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Squid ink spaghetti + chocolate lava cake

How funny to learn of the connection now!

Saturday: Musée d’Orsay

Okay, okay, here’s the last of my vacation photos, I promise. I wanted to show you a bit of the d’Orsay Museum, though.


The d’Orsay is much smaller than the Louvre, but remarkable in its own right. It has the largest collection of impressionist paintings in the world. Honestly, I wish I could have appreciated it more, but I was museum-and-touristed out by the end of our trip. And though the line to get in was shorter than most of the massively long lines we’d encountered all week (future travelers: take note), it was still another line to stand in.

(If I visit Paris again [and I hope I do!] I will try to travel during an off-tourist time. As in, not the summer and not the holidays.)

Not sure who created this …
Olympia, by Manet

One last thing I’d like to note: I was really impressed with how inexpensive museums in Paris are. I don’t think I paid more than $15 Euro during anything we did, even at the Louvre (okay, the audio tour was $5 extra). I think it’s great Paris values making art accessible to the public. In comparison, I think admission to the Art Institute in Chicago is now up to $27? And my friend Nicole recently visited the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, and said she paid over $30.

(Also, some people might argue this point with me, but I think food in Europe is far less expensive than in the U.S. I feel like food is always the major variable during domestic vacations, but I really didn’t spend much for food on this trip.)

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed following along with my Paris/London adventures!

Friday: the Catacombs

When I was in London on Thursday, my friend Nicole arrived in Paris from Boston. Friday morning, I finally got to see her when she met up with me and Chelsea at the Catacombs.

Something interesting we learned: French people HATE line cutting. A woman approached us to ask if she could stand in line with us, stating she had waited in line 5 hours the previous day and was unable to get in. (I believe it — we waited 3.5 hours to get in, and we got in line 40 minutes before the Catacombs opened.) Nicole definitively told her no, while Chelsea and I … pretty much said nothing. Anyway, this woman and later, a man, both tried to ease their way into the line. After a while, the people behind us realized what was going on. They freaked out to the point that we wondered if the situation would come to fisticuffs.

“Non! Non! Non! Non! Non!” they yelled at the line-cutters. There was much arguing in French. This went on for a while until the line-cutters left.

“Non! Non! Non! Non! Non!” became a kind of catchphrase throughout the rest of our trip. We’d look at each other and say it out of the blue.

The Catacombs were interesting, but I wouldn’t wait in a freezing 3.5-hour line to see them again. (Nicole joked it was a “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” because we’ll never go back. Haha.)






Later that day, Chelsea opted for a night in. Nicole and I met up in Montmarte, to walk by the Moulin Rouge. (Show tickets were over $150 Euro … too expensive for me!)


Then, we walked up to Sacré-Cœur, a church at one of the highest points in the city.


Sacré-Cœur seems to be more of a “working” church than some of the other tourist spots I’d visited. There were signs everywhere asking visitors to be quiet and respect those praying.

Afterward, Nicole and I had dinner at a nice French Bistro upon the recommendation of a friend. It was a great evening!

Wednesday: the Louvre

Given that lines we long everywhere we went in Paris (on Tuesday, we tried to go to the Catacombs before Versailles and waited for an hour before abandoning our efforts to get in), Chelsea and I got up early Wednesday morning and got in line at the Louvre 40 minutes before it opened.

Early morning at the Louvre

Our friend Sierra had been there previously, and told us to go directly to the Mona Lisa before looking at anything else. “Don’t get distracted,” she had warned. Once we got into the museum, we heeded her advice and practically ran to the exhibit. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the Mona Lisa, but damned if I was going to miss my chance to see the World’s Most Famous Painting.

da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

After that, we relaxed a bit. I dropped off my coat at the coat check, and we picked up our headphones for a guided tour of the museum.

Winged Victory
“Why is my penis curly?”
When you’re trying to hail a cab, but a baby is tweaking your nipple.

There was SO MUCH to see. Chelsea and I spent 5 hours at the museum, and probably only covered 2/3 of it. It was amazing to see so many famous paintings.

This was one of my favorites:

Giuseppe Arcimbaldo’s Four Seasons

I get the feeling my dad would really like these paintings. (Do you like them, Dad?)

Bellimi’s Salome and the Execution of John the Baptist


I bet you’d like this piece, too, Dad. 🙂


I sent this photo to my friends back in Chicago. Have you ever seen the movie Boxing Helena? (It is cheesy 80s erotica and the perfect choice for a “bad movie night” with friends.) If so, you’ll understand the reference. (Uh, not to mention this statue is famous in its own right.)

Venus de Milo

Some others …

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’ “La Grande Odalisque”
Inside the Louvre
Napoleon’s apartment
Great Sphinx of Tanis
Photo bomber!

Afterward, we took a long walk by the Seine. It was truly an awesome day. 🙂

Chelsea, April, and Sierra

Tomorrow … our day trip to London!

Tuesday: Versailles

Our trip to Versailles is one of the few things Chelsea and I planned for our Paris vacation. Initially, we debated whether or not to go, given that it’s on the outskirts of the city. But, ultimately we decided we should visit. (Also, I spoke to my great aunt a week before my trip, and she told me she regretted not going to Versailles on her trip to Paris.)

Chelsea found this $50 tour through Get Your Guide. The price included a bus to and from Versailles, ticket for admission, and an audio tour. We had a set admission time and were able to bypass an extremely long admission line.

I think the tour was totally worth it. Here are a few pieces of advice, though, should you ever want to go to Versailles:

  • This was my first time visiting Paris, so I don’t know if Paris is always such a massive tourist cluster or if it was just that way due to the holidays, but Versailles was JAM PACKED. And it’s HUGE. And it was still wall-to-wall people. I’d recommend NOT visiting on a Tuesday, because a lot of the other museums are closed that day and I think people funnel into whatever is open.
  • I’d recommend springing for a full-day tour of Versailles. With transportation time, we were only able to spend about an hour and 40 minutes at the palace. There wasn’t much time to process/absorb what we were seeing.
  • We packed a lunch, but hardly had any time to explore the grounds before we had to meet our group at the gate for admission. We scarfed our lunch and took a few quick photos. Again, I’d recommend going for a full day (and packing a lunch).

So, here you go … King Louis XIV’s palace:

Golden Gate
The ceiling … every inch of the palace was this elaborate!
The Hall of Mirrors
Upshots are never flattering.
Versailles in the evening.

Tomorrow’s post will be about  … the Louvre!



Monday: Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen, Saint-Chapelle and Notre Dame

During our trip to Paris, my friend Chelsea and I decided we wanted to visit a flea market. After reading this article, we settled on Marché aux Puces.

It was a rainy, overcast morning, so I didn’t take any pictures. The market is HUGE, and has every possible thing you could imagine. I bought two vintage postcards to send to friends back in Chicago. Nothing else really struck my fancy, though.

The most interesting thing we saw was a roomful of taxidermy big-game animals. (I wish I could’ve taken pictures, but a mean-looking guy was keeping an eye on the room.) While part of me thinks it is sad people hunt exotic animals, another, tiny part of me thinks it would be awesome to buy a rearing zebra to greet visitors to my home.

After our visit to the market, we hopped on the subway and went to Saint-Chappelle, which is famous for its stained glass.



Honestly, it wasn’t my favorite place we visited. The church is small … only a basement entrance and then the main chapel upstairs. However, admission was only $10 Euro and the line wasn’t as ridiculous as all the others we encountered.

Then, we took a short walk to Notre Dame.


The admission line was looooooong, so we didn’t go inside. (Hey, we have to save something to do for the next trip!)

Tomorrow’s post will be about Versailles … !

UPDATE (1/12/17): Someone from the flea market contacted me and asked if I would include another link to it, and if I would post these photos to my blog. So, here they are:

Friday Gratitude: Back from Paris

Here is a list of things I am grateful for this week:

  • We made it safely back to Kosovo, despite our initial trouble.
  • It’s nice to hear Albanian again! Sierra and Chelsea (my friends/travel companions) said the same thing … we can understand what people are saying! Though I took French in high school, it’s been so long since I’ve spoken or heard it that it now sounds like pretty gibberish to me.
  • We visited London for a day, and it was the first time in 6 months we’d been in an English-speaking country … I could read signs! I could understand overheard subway announcements! I could talk to bartenders! It was amazing.
  • I got a haircut in Paris (and it was surprisingly cheaper than what I used to pay in Chicago). My last haircut was a $4 Euro job in Kosovo at the beginning of August. So, yeah, I was overdue for a professional trim and I lost about 2 inches. My hair looks so much healthier now.
  • It’s nice to sleep in my own bed again. 🙂
  • I ate McDonalds twice and Pizza Hut once. Feel free to judge me.
1. Eating McDonalds for the first time in six months. 2. Cooking at the hostel 3. Sushi in bed!
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Chop chop
Even the street garbage in Paris is classy.