Paris bits and bobs

We got back to Boston last Friday, and even the morning of our departure, I was terribly down. I find myself torn between wanting to be in the mountains/by the ocean, but also wanting the culture and amenities of a proper city. Boston has a pretty good Western food dining scene, but I would not call it a city. I miss the ethnic diversity of major cities, the different neighbourhoods, a proper public transportation system. I am struggling to map out next steps, because I am not sure what the concrete end goal is. Do I try and pursue skiing and climbing as a full-time endeavor, while trying to make a difference in the world and in the lives of others? To do these things simply for fun is not enough. Or do I choose to have these be hobbies, while trying to find meaning and purpose in a career? How do I achieve either of these given constraints – financial, personal, physical etc.?

In the mean time, I am posting some of my favourite photos from my trip. Paris is just a hop-skip away so I know I can always go back. Yet, right now, it seems so so far away.

By total chance, I stumbled into a total gem of a shop: the Librairie des Alpes in the 6th arr. along the Seine. I highly recommend this book store if you are in Paris and at all interested in alpine climbing/mountaineering and the history of it. I got talking with the store owner and expressed my interest in old manuals for climbing, skiing, mountaineering.


I am not sure if there are enough shades of blue in the photo. (Photo credit: Scott McKay)

These are not the oldest texts I own, but they are still pretty damn cool. This is the 1934 publication of the Alpinism manual from the French Climbing and Mountaineering Federation. The two volumes together are remarkably comprehensive. The first volume covers the “Science” of alpinism e.g. meteorology, geology, snow science and much more. The second volume covers techniques and skills for alpine travel and climbing. It even had a diagram on how to do a hand-jam. Who said the French don’t climb cracks?

1934 publication of the Alpinism manual from the French Climbing and Mountaineering Federation

1934 publication of the Alpinism manual from the French Climbing and Mountaineering Federation

When I am in Boston, my back pain and leg neuropathy can get quite intolerable from work, driving, and the generally sedentary lifestyle outside of being in a gym/weekends. However, I found my pain levels were much lower when I was in Paris, due to all the walking/standing and not sitting at a desk.  This is a clear job requirement, but it is tricky because I need to move/can’t sit (or stand) for extended periods of time, but I also can’t take on a job that revolves around manual labour.

Morning calisthenics along the Seine

Morning calisthenics along the Seine. It is funny, one arm pull-ups are quite easy for me yet there are many other goofy exercises I cannot do. (Photo credit: Scott McKay)

All the walking in Paris meant that I could eat like this every morning. The croissants and baguettes at Blé Sucré are honestly the best I have ever had, and there other pastries are fantastic too (the madeleines are considered some of the best in Paris).

Blè sucre's pastries are unaware of the impending demise.

Blè Sucre’s pastries are unaware of the impending demise. (Photo credit: Scott McKay)


While I never tired of going to this bakery for breakfast every morning, I did tire of the museums and old architecture of Paris. Yes, that sounds a bit awful, but I feel like my tolerance/interest in these things is quite low. For our last day, I did not want to see yet another monument, building, etc. So we went to Belleville. This neighbourhood was a big surprise for me, in that I was not expecting to enjoy it so much. Quite a few things there reminded me of Hong Kong, and not just because there are lots of Asian people there: the slightly hillier residential areas, with lots of stairs, the density of restaurants (lots of Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Lebanese restaurants)…

I really enjoyed the Parc des Buttes Chaumont in Belleville because the paths, foliage, people using it reminded me a lot of the parks in Hong Kong.

Parc des Buttes Chaumont

Temple de la Sibylle in Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Belleville, Paris. (Photo credit: Scott McKay)

And, of course, we got up close to the Eiffel Tower. My friend Yves lives very close by to the Eiffel Tower, and picked a wonderful spot for dinner with a great view of it.


Eiffel tower from the Pont de Bir-Hakeim

View of the Eiffel tower from the restaurant on our last night in Paris.

View of the Eiffel tower from the Café de l’Homme on our last night in Paris. (Photo credit: Scott McKay)

The Eiffel tower later that night.

Same view, different light. (Photo credit: Scott McKay)

As a total aside…we were riding the Paris Metro and opposite from us, an African man dressed in baggy jeans, a flat brimmed hat, was carrying an instrument I had never seen before. He saw my quizzical look and said in English, It is a Kora. He proceeded to pluck a few strings casually. Beautifully. Then launched into a song in an African language. I have no idea what the origins are of that song, but the spontaneous act of playing this instrument and singing while riding a train, making the people around him smile…this man who would not look out of place on a basketball court in an inner-city neighbourhood…brought me to tears.

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