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When you visit a place for only a few days, especially for the first time, it’s natural to want to see and do as much as possible. At home, in contrast, we typically follow comfortable routines. For better or worse my stays in Paris increasingly feel like being at home rather than being dazzled by contact with a new environment. The difference was particularly noticeable this year since I started off as a first-time tourist in Rome and Venice. My arrival in Paris was fun and pleasant, but also familiar and cozy. Actually more like being in Boston than in Venice. This was inevitable, and isn’t at all unpleasant, but it does mean that I may have to look elsewhere for really challenging travel adventures.

One advantage of coming back year after year is that you can see how things change. In 2013 I was impressed to see that a wall in the Montorgueil quarter had been transformed into l’Oasis d’Aboukir. Here’s how it has developed year by year:

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l’Oasis d’Aboukir, 2013.

It was arguably even nicer last year:

L'Oasis d'Aboukir, 2014.

L’Oasis d’Aboukir, 2014.

Still gorgeous this year, but has it possibly gotten a bit shaggy?

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l’Oasis d’Aboukir, 2015.

2016 Update: Quite similar to 2015, so perhaps it’s reached full maturity.

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l’Oasis d’Aboukir, 2016.

2019 Update: I think it’s more beautiful than ever this year! Truly a vertical botanical garden.

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l’Oasis d’Aboukir, 2019.

The concept of the Vertical Garden or Mur Végétal has become all the rage in Paris, and worldwide. Its creator and chief exponent is a botanist named Patrick LeBlanc.

Walking around Paris is still fun for me, even when the sights have become familiar.

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Medieval towers of the Archives complex along rue Vieux du Temple in the Marais.

Last Friday afternoon I took a walking tour of lower Belleville, focusing on history and current cultural institutions. I chose the district because it’s trendy, and was listed as one of Fox News’s idiotic “No-Go Zones” after the Charlie Hebdo murders. I was impressed by the Théâtre de Belleville so I went back there on Sunday evening to see a play, Play House by Martin Crimp. It’s a wild and woolly work, very well realized by two talented young actors. I followed what was going on throughout — even when it was pretty crazy! — even though my French was only good enough for me to understand about half the sentences. I plan to go back to see another play there: Werther & Werther. By the way, whenever I’m interested in entertainment in Paris I first check the BilletReduc site. Usually there’s some savings, in this case 80% — the Play House ticket cost just 5 euros!

I wandered down along the Seine after dinner and felt a desire for something sweet. I noticed the line of tourists waiting for ice cream … and bought a banana instead.

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The line waiting for ice cream at Berthillon on l’Ile Saint-Louis.

Mot du jour: balade – stroll, though often more specifically a guided walk.