Gimme a Croissant. NOW! – Tuesday 5/29/2007

Still unable to face another bowl of oatmeal at Big Boy, I ventured to the best croissant place I’ve found… Corner of Lankershim and Moorpark, I think.

Ordered a double espresso. The owner, who I’ve dealt with once before when I got there before the cashier, hadn’t a clue what I was talking about.

He said, “Small, Medium or Large?”

I said, “Um, a double espresso.”

“Small, Medium, Large?” He repeated, pointing to each stack of styrofoam cups in turn.

“Espresso?” I said, pointing, “The little porcelain cups?”


I should have recanted and ordered a hot tea right then. But I wanted that espresso.

So he makes it. Brings it over to the counter sloshing all over the sides of the cup, filling the saucer, and spilling onto the counter. I can see grounds floating in it.

“Is that okay?” he asks. “I’ve never made it before.”

“It’ll be okay,” I say. I don’t think making him start again will really help. I order a bottle of water and a croissant with it.

He rings up $8.00. Er. Let’s try that again. We get it down to $5.90, but I’m still not satisfied. I read the prices to him from the board behind him. This time it’s under $5.00 and I’m willing to let it ride.

Thank goodness we’re speaking English. Well, at least I am. He’s speaking English via somewhere in the South Pacific, maybe?

I sit down to write and end up listening to the elderly guy at the next table greet everyone he hasn’t seen since before the long weekend. He’s sitting with a guy with a very strong East Coast Italian accent. A couple comes in and she says to the elderly guy, “How’s my little Italian Jew doing?” Laughter.

A guy in painter’s clothes comes in. “Miguel!” he doesn’t speak a lot of English, either. But enough to josh about going back to work again. Then there’s a guy with what might be an East Indian background joining in the helloes.

Don’t tell me Los Angeles isn’t an international city. There was a lot of good will in that little shop, and it was a nice reminder that this isn’t a bad place to come back to at all.


Home – Monday 5/28/2007

Home sings me of sweet things
My life there has it’s own wings
Fly over the mountains
Though I’m standing still
Karla Bonoff

Thank goodness for a long holiday weekend upon my return. Did some yardwork, including cutting back the incredible blossoming jasmine on the front porch posts. It was so wonderful arriving home Saturday night to come around the corner from the garage and be greeted with their scent. Heady stuff.

Did I Mention….? Sunday 5/27/2007

That even new habits die hard? Yeah, I think I did.

First breakfast back in my own cozy home. Yes, that’s butter on the toast. It’s going to be a gradual withdrawal process, like overcoming jetlag. And that’s the water carafe I bought at Monoprix, alongside a glass that a dessert came in from the grocery store. Something chocolate mousse-y.

We ran errands in Palmdale.

“Friday night I dined across the street from the Seine!” I wanted to tell the sushi chef.

“I woke up in Paris yesterday!” I wanted to cry to the Trader Joe’s cashier.

Sigh. It was an amazing amazing trip. Thanks so much to Mom, who made it happen. You’re my hero and my inspiration, always!

Comin’ Into Los Angeleees – Saturday 5/26/2007

Bringin’ in a couple of kees. It’s only cheese, if you please…Mr. Customs Man. (Apologies to Arlo.)

Cab picks us up at 6:40 a.m. and proceeds to take us on the most frightening taxi ride of our lives. The guy–absolutely no kidding–fell asleep on the freeway on the way to Charles de Gaulle airport! He was slowing down oddly and drifting into the next lane. He’d been sniffling loudly, maybe coming down with a cold. I looked over his shoulder and saw he was only going 50K an hour…slower than the traffic around us.

Then I saw his eyes close in the rearview mirror!

“Sir!” I said, tapping his shoulder.

“Madame!” he cried, jumping awake.

“Don’t fall asleep.”

“No! No! Not sleeping! I am from Tokyo, Japan! Tokyo, Japan! Not sleeping!” I think this was supposed to indicate he was a good driver. I don’t know from Tokyo, honey pie, but I’m from L.A. Ever heard of that?

“I saw your eyes close,” I said, “I’m going to be watching you!”

“Tokyo, Japan!” he said again, emphatically.

Good. Fine. You’re in France now, pay attention.

Mom and I exchanged glances and confirmed to each other that he was dozing, and kept an eye on him the rest of the way. It was really scary. Kept thinking, you can’t just ask to be let off and get another ride. Had to be there on time. Whew, we made it.

Inside the British Airways terminal at the airport. What a mess getting to this place! The BA desk was completely unhelpful. We checked in at automated ATM-like things. I had to insert my passport to get my e-ticket print-out. You just think, Okay, it’s not going to shred it. It’s not going to shred it.

Then we got into the line to go to our gate. Stood there for about 15 minutes when a French man came up and started talking to me. In French first, and I thought he was asking me a question. I was trying to explain that I didn’t speak French–this happened to me several times there, people asking me questions in French so it’s not as absurd as it might sound–when he switched to English.

We were in the wrong line! We had to check our baggage in a different line at a different gate. Well… huh! But how utterly nice of him to make the effort to a) tell me and b) persist in spite of my telling him where to check in electronically and generally not comprehend for a few minutes.

This, my friends, is typical of the treatment we experienced in France. At least the same amount of helpfulness and concern for strangers as you’d find anywhere else in the world…maybe even more than in some places.

So we got into another line. A massive, nearly un-moving line. As we rounded a curve in the bend a couple of women tried to get into the line in front of us, pretending that they didn’t understand the line was behind us, and acting like they didn’t speak English or French, which possibly they didn’t. Who knows? They were physically trying to push ahead of 2 or 3 parities of passengers, and we all turned around and scolded them. This emboldened me to take a stand. If they had been nice at ALL about it, I would have let them in ahead of me. But the older one actually pressed her luggage cart against my legs.

Okay, game on, lady. I told Mom to be ready with our cart when the line moved and I pushed back on the other’s cart with my elbow so she couldn’t move forward, then stood in front of it with my calves against the rail at the bottom. It sounds petty, but their behavior was just so rude when everyone was feeling pretty desperate that we had to get through this line and the other massive line in time for our flights.

Another pair of American women were next to us and we got started talking. Easing up the tension, because it’s so weird to actually fight back against that kind of rudeness. But at that point I’d thought it wasn’t going to be any more upsetting to me to stand up for the right thing than it would to cave to someone’s rudeness.

After about 15 minutes of inching forward, lo and behold! The rude women realized they were in the wrong line and left, bickering between themselves on the way to the line for what I think someone said was a Turkish airline. A little chorus of laughter followed them, along with phrases like “poetic justice” and “instant karma.” Sheesh.

We finally get inside the terminal above after inching through the security checks, only to find that we have 1/2 an hour before boarding and there are no restrooms inside. Post 9-11 airport redesign fails again. There’s no question of going back into the main terminal and coming through security again. It would take too long. Suffer, suffer.

Okay. You don’t realize it, but I took photographs of 90% of the meals we ate in restauarants in France. Even new habits die hard.

This brioche-bread, ham and cheese sandwich was actually pretty good. But the coffee.

It’s what we would have wanted when we first arrived, but oh, did it taste weak after three weeks of dark strong French brew.

May I refrain? O, how the mighty are fallen.

And I should explain. I did carry a couple of soft French cheeses home in my carry-on backpack. Wow, was the one ripe-smelling by the time I got to L.A.! Good thing they didn’t open that bag!

Last Supper – Friday 5/25/2007

First off, we packed up the apartment. Then we got dressed and started breakfast. Vladimir stopped by two hours earlier than arranged (he’d said he would call, but didn’t) to pick up the key. No biggie. We dropped the key and trundled our bags about 5 blocks to Delhy’s Hotel, where we left the bags for the day and went roaming until after checkin time.

Went over to Notre Dame to photograph some more of the carvings, and decided to visit the Crypte Archeologique which explores the history of the site of Notre Dame. Took several fuzzy photos of the old walls of the city that date back to Gallo Roman times when they first came and messed with the original Germanic tribe, the Parisii who’d settled the Ile de la Cite.

I loved this display of the pigments used to paint the walls, alongside fragments.

Walked to the point of the Ile de la Cite furthest from Notre Dame because we’d seen the green stretch of park out there. This is the very end, looking toward the Pont des Artes. The Pont Neuf is behind us. We actually lay down and took a nap on the grass…until a bunch of school kids started playing tag around us and woke us up. Felt like real Parisians, though.

I talked Mom into going on a Seine river tourist cruise. It turned out to be a relaxing and fun way to end the trip. A bit of a review of things we’d seen as well as some new things we hadn’t reached. Cool to go all the way around both islands, and to go past the Bateau Johanna again, etc.

Some school kids on the cruise. She’s eating a tomato like it’s an apple, and some has just fallen onto her shirt. In the next shot, she’s sucking her shirt! I took three, and the boy is always very intent upon her. Think he likes her?

Another kid on the boat. Nobody wanted to sit with him, and the kid that did routed him out of his outer rail seat. Mom and I both wanted to tell him it was going to be okay someday, but he probably wouldn’t have understood us.

1/4 scale replica of the Statue of Liberty donated by Americans living in Paris, and the actual Eiffel Tower. Cameras were snapping all over the boat.

Pont Neuf from below.

That last supper I was telling you about. Back to the Bistro des Augustins (39 quai des Grandes Augustins, 5th arrt) where I asked for a recommendation and received this amazing Salade Neptune… smoked salmon, warm goat cheese, toast drizzled in olive oil. Mom’s was kind of like a capresi with lettuce. The woman, who I think is one of the co-owners, gave us a deal on a better wine (by the 25 cl carafe rather than by the glass) and held a finger to her lips. So don’t tell her I told you, okay?

They warned us at the bistro, but did we listen? “Tahn, tahn, tahn,” she said, pointing at the sky. That’s like boom boom boom in French I guess. Thunder’s coming! We were near the Place Saint Michel, getting money from an ATM for the cab ride in the moring, when the wind kicked up and people started scampering back and forth. As we readied to cross the street, a gust picked up a very large umbrella and sent it twirling into the the outdoor tables. A few started diners scrambled, but I think they were okay.

We ducked into this passage between Saint Michel and the tiny rue des Hirondelles, where our hotel was while the rain just pummeled the streets. Every so often a gust would send us all scurrying. It hadn’t quite stopped when Mom and I decided to make a run for it. Got fairly wet in the half block we had to run.

Now that was an impressive au revoir from the City of Lights!

Musee Rodin – Thursday 5/24/2007

A musician in the Metro. I’d stopped to take a photo of him as I was coming down the stairs, but he saw me and got up and moved. I felt awful. Apologized as I dropped a Euro into his case. I didn’t mean to offend. “Oh, no,” he said in a heavy accent, “It’s all right.” He waved me back. “You’d be surprised how many take pictures but don’t want to pay.” Ah, okay.

To the Musee Rodin! I love Rodin’s work. I had an amazing experience here in ’83. I was here on my own, and spent the afternoon sitting in the nearly empty galleries sketching various statues. I didn’t see the whole museum because they began calling out that the museum was closing. My watch had stopped. It was kind of magical, because I would never have spent the kind of time drawing that I did if I’d realized the time. Hmmm…

This one reminds me of Braveheart. In the best way. The attitude, not the skin quality!

I watched this girl sit on the floor with her classmates and draw The Thinker. The drawing was kind of a mess, as a kid’s drawing will be. But she looked at it, cocked her head, smiled and gave herself a little nod.

How wonderful! The drawing barely represented what she was looking at, but she was so happy with it. It would be nice to feel that way about one’s art a little more often!

She noticed me a moment later, and I have another photo of her looking into the camera solemnly. Then she politely backed away to get out of my shot. Sweetie. I thanked her.

Le Petit Chatelaine by Camille Claudel, Rodin’s lover. It’s great that she’s represented here. Rodin did not give her the due or the help she deserved.

Le Cri (The Cry), by Auguste Rodin. So expressive.

Detail from The Burghers of Calais. This is an amazing study in the various ways that individuals deal with their own impending deaths. There’s a great story behind this statue, if you care to read about it. It struck me that each of those 5 stages of grief are represented here.

Back in our nieghborhood, we walked the Seine to the Pont des Artes, which is a footbridge (not the one pictured here). It was full of people of all ages, picnicking on blankets or benches with bottles of wine, deli foods, street-vendor foods (panninis, crepes or gyros). What a wonderful way to spend an evening.

Having had a very late lunch in a cafe on the Boulevard St. Germain, we went home for leftover Asian noodle soup from the night before and fabulous citron (lemon) tarts we picked up at a patisserie along the way.

Our last night in the apartment. It’s the blue door to the right of the wooden cafe Le Balto facade. Sigh. A flurry of au revoir photography ensued. There’s the one I took of my feet on the ceiling above the loft bed, but I’m not sure you really want to see that.

Looking up rue Mazarine toward the Institut de France, which we had dubbed the “home dome,” because it was a landmark in finding our way back to the apartment. I took several photos of this as I hung out the apartment window, which was up to the right of this shot, but this one came out the best.

Musee Cluny -Wednesday 5/23/2007

Heads of saints.

Mom and I went our separate ways for a few hours. I wanted to go to the Cluny Museum, which is hard to find in the guidebooks, because it’s actual name is the Musee National du Moyen Age, or the National Museum of the Middle Ages. When Ms. Lyte and I were here in ’83, we stayed in a hotel at the corner of St. Germaine and St. Michel, and could see down into the courtyard, but they were rennovating to create this museum, and we couldn’t go in.

These guys fell out of favor for a while, I guess! This was formerly an outdoor courtyard, but it was glassed over. The light inside was wonderful.

I’m always amazed at the architectural details. I wish there were more opportunities to get up close and personal with them.

A reader!

Outside the Cluny. A good example of the arches that are so hard to get a good photo of inside the cathedrals.

Just a rustic fence in the park outside the Cluny. I sat here for a while and wrote.

Back to Shakespeare & Co. This time I bought a book for Hydra. This is the writer’s room upstairs. I think they might hold their salons here.

Hands of Saint Therese at the church of Saint-Severin. It’s just amazing the number of huge churches within blocks of each other. You can see this church from the courtyard of Saint Julien le Pauvre. I sat inside the latter and wrote some more. Something about these cathedrals makes me want to write. Maybe it’s the resonance of all the hopes and fears expressed here for hundreds of years.

Mom and I walked back over here later and were surprised to see people going into St.-Severin around 7pm, after it was closed. We went in and were treated to the sound of a choir practicing while we looked around. Lovely!

Another reason to like the Bistro des Augustins. The great view over the carafe du vin.

And then there’s their specialty, the gratin. This one was potatoes, tomatoes and lardons (bacon in…rectangular cubes; do a Google image search if you’re curious) in a creme sauce, with cheese on top. WOW! It’s a good thing we split one!