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.

Place des Vosges – Tuesday 5/22/2007

We set off throuh the city on our way to a couple of parks suggested by Eric Maisel as good places to write. I’d written for two hours in bed before we took off, so I was feeling rightious and ready for a little more scribbling. (Since arriving in Paris, I’d been writing at least 2 hours a day. That was the deal.)

We saw this street art on the rue San Andres des Arts, I think.

Lions on one of the four fountains in the Place des Vosges. I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I’d be. I mean, on of the things they are proud of about this place is the uniformity of the buildings, as you’ll see if you click on a link. Huh. I mean one of the things I like about Paris is that the builders will give you 10 angles on a roof that in the States you’d only be able to muster one or maybe two for. (I know I have an example of this somewhere in the 1770…)

We followed Maisel’s directions to a perfect little park called V???? Saint Gilles. Just a small place where like-minded people come to quietly enjoy lunch. This guy was feasting on one of the crisp and delish panninis you can buy on the street.

We saw examples of this street art recurring in various places. Wish I’d taken more shots of them!

We went from the park in search of a shop called Cornershop that I’d seen an ad for in the Metro. Cool little designer housewares. Then to Monoprix, where I found a perfect carafe for my eau for only 2.60 Euros!

On our way back to the busstop, we ran into the amazing ceramics and silverware shop La Vaissellerie. Absolutely my kind of place. I bought some little espresso spoons, six for 3 Euros, and a little yellow pot I’m using for butter, and a couple of other little things. We’re not big shoppers, but when we do, we enjoy ourselves.

Cute baby’s tee shirt we saw in a shop window on the way home… “My mommy always says yes.”

Booked a hotel for our last night just around the corner from the cybercafe. Whew. Nice to have that settled. We’d enquired at about 8 local hotels, but they were all full. Hmph. And Vladimir had told us not to worry, he’d help us find a place. He did not. Ah well.

Pere Lachaise – Monday 5/21/2007

Now this is the way to clean a street. None of this riding around on a machine that just kicks the dust around, like they do in L.A. You don’t even have to move your car for these guys to do their work!

We went back to Montmarte because Mom hadn’t gone. Had a nice stroll around, but didn’t find the same square that Hydra and I had visited. We’d planned to take the funicular to Sacre Couer, but it wasn’t running!

Stopped for lunch in the neighborhood. We had so many cafe au laits (Mom) and regular espresso-style cafes (me) that I thought I should get a photo of them. Great way to top off a meal.

We bought a map at the entrance to Pere Lachaise cemetery, and the vendor let us pay 2 US dollars rather than 2 Euros, which is a savings of about seventy cents. In order, he said, to show his company’s continuing gratitude for the U.S. liberating Paris. Nice surprise.

Just liked the look on this woman’s face.

Oooh, now this is what I was hoping for more of. Sort of creepy stuff. There was less of it than I expected, but I liked this a lot.

Another expressive statue.

There were also a handful of more recent graves. These pebbles were arranged on the tomb of an infant. Toys had also been placed all over the surface.

Just a shot of our supper. Typical meal at home in Paris for us. We are beginning to seriously crave veggies.

O, How the Mighty Are Fallen – Saturday 5/19/2007 and Sunday 5/20/2007

You may or may not have noticed that I don’t post photos of myself very often. Well, I don’t take photos of myself. So it stands to reason that I’d feel compelled to post this one, which is completely unflattering. It’s a reenactment of my tumble down the stairs from our loft bed in the studio apartment. I was heading down to write early in the morning.

May I just say OUCH! There was seriously a moment after I’d fallen (my feet had been about 3 feet above floor level before I fell) when the breath was knocked out of me and I wondered if I’d ever walk again. I still don’t understand how I didn’t break my neck. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about this.

Poor Mom, having to hear all that! Yikes. I did go into shock. Shivering and all that. Went back to sleep on the couch downstairs for a few hours. Developed a hematoma on the back of my leg (don’t Google hematoma, you’ll regret it). Trust me when I say that I had one before of the variety that is a sort of bag of blood under the skin, without a lot of skin discoloration until a couple of days later.

I felt pretty good, other than my leg hurting off and on, but getting out and moving seemed best, so we did.

Small bottles of olive oil hung as a chandelier at Olivier & Co., on rue Cler. We went back to this market street to pick up wedding gifts.

This was our shopping day. Rue Cler, and then off to the Marais district where we found the BHV department store. Where I found gifties for my writing group! We found out from a couple of guys on the bus that Samaritaine has been closed because fire hazards were discovered. No wonder we couldn’t find it in the Yellow Pages! (And it was about 4 blocks from our apartment, if we’d only looked UP!)

It was our day for getting roughed up. As we got on the Metro, the doors slammed shut on Mom! Whomp. She wasn’t getting out without a bruise. Scary!

Hydra called this evening, sounding like a French woman, and I was completly stumped, thinking it must be for Vladimir, the owner of the apartment, until I heard him trill Chevrolet coupe’! Sheesh!

Okay, I messed up when I posted this the first time because I was looking at the photos, not my little notebook. We went back to the Musee d’Orsay on Sunday the 20th. But the rest is all true all the time.

Safe inside the Musee d’Orsay. Yes, we went back and spent another few hours here, and had lunch in the cafe, behind the clock (not this clock). This photo was taken from the observation platform at the top.

One of my favorite pieces. And the light from the window was very helpful.

I was waiting for this hallway to be clear of people in order to take a photo, but one or two stragglers would always be there, and they often stopped to look out through one of the small openings down to the floor below. (This is the wall shown in the overview photo above.) Finally, I got it: this is the picture, not the empty hallway!

Stopped by a traiteur (no not a Vichy sympathizer, a deli) on rue de Buci to pick up a couple of salads to go along with our bread and cheese for dinner. Mmmm.

The area we stayed in was dotted with art galleries. This installation went in kitty-corner across the street while we were there, I think. Seemed like we’d seen it empty when we first arrived.

Recon Day – Friday 5/18/2007

The view from the big double windows. We decided not to go for any museums or sights on our first full day. Just figuring out the neighborhood and settling in.

Mom did one of those wonderful mother things… well, she’d do it for you, too, I’ll bet. She’s a really nice person. She offered to take our two-weeks worth of laundry down to the laundrette a couple of blocks away and I could stay in the apartment or go to a cafe between here and there, and write. Great offer! I snapped it up!

I did wash out a few things in the apartment. Here’s one of my camisoles drying. In Paris!

After a while I went down to the bistro below the apartment and sat at a table in an open door writing and taking photos of people across the street. Like these two boys waiting for their parents to decide about something.

Went to the Latin Quarter, got caught in a downpour, and ducked into a fondue restaurant. Probably the most touristy and overpriced place we ate, but it was dry. And the fondue was good but my god, that’s a lot of cheese.

Saw this amazing street performer on the walk home. There’s no way to capture how amazing it was to watch him dance with this glass ball. He made it look like a bubble.

Back at the apartment after strolling the streets, we decide to cheer up the day-old champagne with some of the kirsch-soaked cherries Laweeez gave Mom as we left her house. Wow. A person could get used to this.