Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I had yet another delicious weekend! On Saturday, I spent a long time exploring the Jardin des Plantes, another huge, beautiful, old garden in Paris, and one that I never made it to while I was here last time. It's a pretty cool premise - one of the kings, Louis XIII, I think, had it built as a medicinal garden, and the goal was to grow every species of plant that could possibly be useful medicinally! As I understood it, in my not-so-extensive visit, there's a section of more "officially" (I guess?) medicinal plants, then a section for plants that can be used in tinctures and the like, and then a section on interesting/beautiful plants, so it's a mix of pretty flowers and cool things from the tropics. The Jardin also has an iris garden, a rose garden, an alpine garden, tropical hot houses, a botany school's teaching garden that tries to include plants from all clades and varieties (I STUMBLED UPON THREE TYPES OF EQUISETUM HERE - YEAH THESIS, YEAH!), the Natural History Museum and a couple of other smaller museums, as well as a small zoo (the old royal menagerie) and a cute labyrinth on a hill! The labyrinth is more of a spiral of shrubs that walks you up to a cute little gazebo on top of the hill, unless you're a kid - there are a bunch of little tunnels through the shrubbery that you can scoot up and down, if you're not too big! Super cute.

Next, I went in search of a different kind of cultural exploration: I went nextdoor to l'Institut du Monde Arabe. It was a little late to go to the museum, as it was closing in less than an hour, but I went into the really neat, modern building (that clearly has incorporated Arabian influence, in really beautiful but super modern ways) and went up to the tippy-top. There's a café up there... and an amazing view of the right bank! L'Institut is a bit off towards the eastern side of Paris, so the view didn't extend much past Nôtre Dame, but it was really spectacular nonetheless. Not to mention the great weather! I sat and enjoyed a cup of mint tea that ROCKED my world, and it came with a whole assortment of tiny little treats, including date-flavored mousse, a somewhat-baklava-esque pastry, two sesame seed cookies, and rose-flavored ice cream. NOM. I finished the evening by going to Mariage Frères to pick up a small bag of that same mint tea that I had so so so enjoyed, and then stopped at my favorite crèperie for my favorite beurre/sucre/citron crèpe. Once again, my new friend Yazid (the kind Arabian who runs the place) pulled me inside to have a complimentary cup of mint tea, and then I was on my way. :)

Sunday, I didn't do a whole lot, but I had a nice time soaking up Paris (and some actual sun!!!). I spent a few hours just roaming along the Seine, way up one side and way back down the other side. The bouquinistes (the tiny "shops" that consist of small, green, collapsible, wooden boxes along the banks of the Seine) have such an interesting mix of things that I couldn't help but spend hours just pawing curiously through all their wares. Their collections of things for sale range from the super-repetitive, super-touristy posters/magnets/postcards (all of the touristy bouqinistes seem to use the same suppliers...) to maps, art, trinkets, and more maps that date back a couple of centuries! I found (a reproduction of) a map of Paris in 1615 that I loved, and that reminded me of all the cool things I learned about Paris' history in my class here while I was studying abroad. I also found a legit old map of Haiti from its French colonial days (so it was actually a map of Saint-Domingue), and I was sorely tempted to buy it... until I saw its price of 75 euros!! Interestingly enough, it doesn't look hugely different from a more modern map of Haiti, other than the border with the Dominican Republic - there haven't been many (any?) new major cities built, it would seem.

Anyway, after some additional wandering and soaking it all up, I grabbed some bread to take home for dinner before the boulangeries all closed, and split the rest of my time between reading in Shakespeare & Co. and reading in a little park nearby that is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. Unfortunately, the fact that Pathologies of Power is a lot of essays (and in fact somewhat repetitive at times, although not necessarily in a bad way) means that I'm not getting through it as quickly as I would like. I'm getting behind on my "reading list" schedule! It's still a pretty incredible book, though - I've realized that it's a good thing I'm already planning on being a physician who spends at least some of her time working abroad in poorer countries/areas, because I might otherwise be feeling a bit guilty after reading this book! It's seriously a call to "arms", if you will. ...Just read it, already.

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