Assessment

This year’s Paris visit was very good, but also very different from my previous petits séjours.

The family parts of my visit were deeply rewarding. While I’ve spent time with family members on previous long stays — principally cousins Lisa, BJ and Brian — this was the first time, since my much shorter 2008 trip with my nephew Andy, that I’ve actually stayed in Paris with family: for eleven days at the start of the trip with cousins Jackie, Lisa and Aya, and almost a week at the end of May with Andy. I also had meals and an outing with Brian and his wife Sheila, as well as, after they left, an apéro with their (now our) friends Rick and Cheryl. It was the first time in my adult life I’ve shared a household with my cousins, apart from a short visit to Boston by Lisa and Aya a couple of years ago, and the first time that I’ve helped look after a four-year-old. Andy’s visit was very nostalgic for both of us, since it was the first trip we’ve taken together since our eleven-day trip to Paris ten years ago, when he was fifteen. He proved to be an avid flâneur and art enthusiast as well as a fan of planes, trains, space flight and gadgets. As I analyzed in my post Where is the Journey?, I realized this year that time with family and friends can itself be a satisfying “journey” whether or not physical travel is involved.

This was also the first time that none of my gay friends was scheduled to stay with me, although Stan and Q did crash for a couple of nights (as an “expected surprise”) and I took a three-day trip to Strasbourg with Zhizhong. Apart from my always-reliable friends Zhizhong and Elliot, the gay friends I have made here in prior years were either away or busy. The only time I set foot in a gay bar was one Sunday afternoon at Rosa Bonheur, and I only met two guys through social networking apps. The half dozen dinners I had with Theseus were enjoyable enough, but I realized from the start that he offered no possibility of an enduring friendship so in a larger sense it was a waste of time. The upshot was that this was by far the least gay of my long Paris stays. This was due in large part to my mood, but also to some extent because I was happily busy with family for much of my stay. Not, on balance, a drawback, but certainly a difference.

The apartments were excellent, apart from the problem with hot water in the shower of my second place (and the quickly-fixed gas leak). The second apartment’s rooftop location might have made it an oven in hot weather but every night during my stay was cool enough for sleep, and the superb cross-ventilation brought the cool air inside. The first apartment was in the remote 15ème, which proved surprisingly comfortable but a somewhat daunting 45-minute métro ride into the center; I was happy from that perspective to move to the central 2ème. Both apartments were rented through Airbnb, which avoided brokerage fees although it added smaller cleaning and overhead fees. As I noted before the trip, unregistered Airbnb’s are under legal attack, so it may become harder, and more expensive, to rent short-term in Paris.

Weather overall was just ok. There were some beautiful days but there were thunderstorms almost every afternoon and on the whole it was unusually cool. My conclusion is that there are no definite patterns to spring weather in Paris, except that I still consider June the safest month.

I averaged seven miles of walking per day — about twice my average at home — as usual for my Paris stays. I neither gained nor lost weight, also typical. I didn’t swim or go to the gym this year, partially because walking seems to maintain my fitness but also due to simple laziness. I was also somewhat deterred by how busy the many Parisian pools often seem to be. Another year I would hope to find an accessible pool that I could use at some quieter time of day.

In all my visits I’ve never once taken a class! This is primarily due to laziness, but also a desire to keep my time open for taking advantage of opportunities as they arise. Another year I hope I can motivate myself to take a cooking course and/or a French course.

After I realized all the cool stuff I was missing in the latter part of June I seriously considered extending my stay to the end of the month. I eventually decided to stick with my June 11 departure date because of attractions in Boston and the fact that I felt ready to head home. But another year I will try to include all of June in my stay, whether the overall visit is six or eight weeks. My previous pattern of the first two weeks of May somewhere else in Europe followed by six weeks in Paris still appeals.

As usual, I had good meals, saw a lot of stimulating art, and enjoyed exploring the endlessly interesting nooks and crannies of the city. Blogging every few days took quite a lot of time but continues to be a key facet of my petits séjours in Paris.

The dollar had weakened dramatically over the past two years, so this was a considerably more expensive trip than in 2016. My personal finances continue to be strong enough, however, that I really don’t care.

I would certainly consider another long stay in Paris, although I would also be open to trying the pattern in another city, or returning to Tokyo.

Last Weekend

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The open studios walk Andy and I took a couple weeks back ended up in a neighborhood of Belleville called the Village Jourdain. I had noticed a banner for a festival being held there on my last weekend, so on Saturday morning I headed over to see what it was like.

A flâneur at the Village Jourdain festival

The festival was very charming and almost 100% local. There was a brocante (tag sale), shops and restaurants, a stage with local performances, and lots of convivial people. Anti-Macron demonstrators took advantage of the crowd to organize an impromptu sing-along, with lyrics on banners set to a popular tune.

An anti-Macron sing-along at the Jourdain Festival

There were many budget lunch options but since it was my last weekend I felt like going a bit upscale. Fortunately I was able to get a seat at the bar of Le Jourdain, a delightful seafood tapas place a few blocks from the center.

The happy dining room at Le Jourdain

The service was friendly and professional and the food was excellent; the kitchen was somewhat slow but I was in no hurry.

Seafood tapas at Le Jourdain

More seafood tapas at Le Jourdain

After lunch, on a whim, I strolled up to the pretty neo-Gothic church on rue de Belleville, across the street from the Jourdain métro station, for a tour offered by the parish priest. I assumed that it would take about half an hour but I didn’t anticipate the gusto with which the priest would explain every facet of the church’s history, architecture and decor: it ended up taking 90 minutes!

19th Century Neo-Gothic church at Jourdain

The priest explained that the tympanum is like a bande dessinée (comic book)

At left, John the Baptist’s head is about to be chopped off. At right, it’s being served up on a platter.

I understood almost everything the priest said! (Addressing a group is a key professional skill for a preacher: he was speaking so slowly and distinctly that any fool could understand him.)

I had been anticipating a photo opportunity from climbing up the bell tower but in fact the most interesting view was of the excavation for modernization and extension of métro line 11.

View from the church tower of excavation for modernization of Jourdain station on métro line 11

That evening I thought it would be nostalgic to go over to the Latin Quarter, where I had always used to stay, from my student days through the 2008 trip with Andy. I tend to avoid it these days, but I do have a soft spot for the area, if not for the throngs of tourists.

A dancing couple at Place Saint-Michel, heart of the Latin Quarter

My plan had been to eat in the tourist district, as I had done for so many years, but I simply couldn’t bear it! I walked a few blocks further, to a Vietnamese place in a quieter area.

The Tourist Track in the Latin Quarter

I had planned a photo shoot along the banks of the Seine for after dinner but it started to rain so I high-tailed it home and called it a night.

On Sunday I spent most of the day at the Grand Palais (described in my previous post).

My last week had been fairly solitary, since most of the people I spent time with this year had already left. Even Zhizhong had unexpectedly been called away to China on business, but fortunately he got back in time for us to have a farewell dinner on Sunday night at one of his favorite local places, Café des Anges on rue de la Roquette near Bastille.

Farewell dinner with Zhizhong at Café des Anges

Packing at the end of a trip is infinitely easier than packing at the start, since there are almost no decisions: you just throw everything into a suitcase (after triaging liquids, sharp objects and spare lithium batteries). The only issue I encountered on Sunday morning was weight. I travel with a hand-held scale, which showed that my checked suitcase was two pounds overweight. I moved a book to my carry-on and ditched some replaceable bottles to duck under the 50 pound limit. Then I tidied the apartment, wrote my previous blog post and checked out.

The process of getting to the airport, checking in, going through security, etc. was predictably annoying, but not in any interesting ways. The flight itself, on Air France, was surprisingly tolerable. Among the 200 movies they offered I chose Jules et Jim, directed by François Truffaut, in French with English subtitles. I found all the characters believable and relateable. Jules and Jim were both in love with the same woman but in the end I was even more deeply moved by the affectionate and respectful friendship between them.

Farewell to the view from my 2018 Paris apartment

Robotic Art in a Grand Palace

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I had been avoiding an exhibition at the Grand Palais called Artistes & Robots, but I decided to see it this Sunday since I read a good review. My reluctance to see the show had been because I find randomly-created art soulless; an important part of my reaction to an artwork is the idea that it came from the mind of another human being. My concerns weren’t completely misplaced. It was mesmerizing to watch these little robots wander around a sheet of paper making random marks, but I found the results uninteresting.

I was charmed, however, by another of the robot-art pieces in the early part of the show. This involved three robot “artists,” each using a camera and a pen to draw a still life. Some of them were quite talented! The artwork was for sale in the gift shop, but I found that a bridge too far.

Human Study #2.D. La Grande Vanité au Corbeau et au Renard by Patrick Tresset

Another piece I liked was installed in a grand stairway. It’s composed of an array copper tubes suspended in mid-air by almost invisible lines, which gently move them in graceful, ever-changing patterns. Even if there’s an element of randomness, the patterns seemed meaningful and satisfied me.

Grand Hexanet by Elias Crespin

Yet another installation that impressed me was a room of computer-generated and 3d-printed columns. While there was an element of randomness in their details, their overall symmetry was satisfying, and the experience of walking among them was intriguing

Astana Columns by Michael Hansmeyer

One piece that seemed stale was a room decorated with flowing black and white patterns. Yes, it’s a selfie-magnet, but I was underwhelmed.

Me in an Untitled room by Peter Kogler

One of my favorite pieces was a variation of a now-standard video work that presents a distorted image of the viewer. The unique feature of this piece was the fact that the image was created by a swarm of digital flies. It’s “Portrait on the Fly” by Christa Sommerer & Laurent Mignonneau.

My hands-down favorite, however, was this Takashi Murakami robot. It didn’t do much except roll its four eyes and mumble, but it was gorgeous and creepy to look at. Part of my appreciation, I think, is that it was a robot made by an artist rather than “art” made by a robot.

An additional reason for going to the show was that the nave (nef) of the Grand Palais was open to visitors for just two weekends this spring. Although I have been to shows many times elsewhere in the enormous building this was the first time I have been in the central space. Just an huge empty room, but with lovely glass and metal roofs.

The nave of the Grand Palais

Pano of the nave of the Grand Palais

Cleverly, they set up a gelato stand, which I was happy to patronize.

Beer isn’t my only vice!

Last Weekdays

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Monday evening I had my farewell dinner with “Theseus,” at Comme Chez Maman in Batignolles. The meal itself was just ok, but there was a funny moment. I noticed our waitress pouring glasses for another table from an enormous champagne bottle (either a magnum or a jeroboam I think). I asked if I could take her picture, after which the host, a genial American, treated me to a glass of rather good champagne!

Pouring from a big bottle of champagne

Enjoying my free glass of champagne

On Tuesday I met a young Chinese guy who is studying the perfume business in Versailles. We had a very nice lunch, and perhaps will meet again in a later year. It’s striking that he’s only the second local guy I’ve met through online apps this year. This mostly reflects a reduction in my own level of interest, but also an increased level of caution after my Australia/New Zealand trip.

On Wednesday evening I took the métro out to Pont de Sèvres, at the end of line 9, to see the Canadian group called 7 Doits a la Main (7 Fingers to the Hand). I had wanted to see them when they were in Boston but didn’t get it organized so I thought this would be a good choice. They offer a combination of acrobatics, modern dance and theater that doesn’t involve much language. I got only a general idea of short monologues in French at the beginning and end, but for the most part I fully enjoyed their physical performances. It was a worthwhile outing.

On Thursday afternoon I finally made it over to the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris at La Villette to see some thesis performances by graduating students). They are free and open to the public. The starting point for finding them is to Google “Récitals de fin d’année [Year Date].” This will bring you to a booklet like the one at this link, which gives the overall schedule for when the performances for particular instruments, etc. will be held, usually from mid-May to the first week of July. Then you go to the Conservatory and pick up the schedule for the current week, which shows who is performing when. I was lucky enough to hear the thesis performance of a superb young violinist, Nathan Mirdl.

Nathan Mierdl, the talented violinist whose thesis performance I happened to see

I’m sure the selection of his first piece couldn’t have been intended to remind the judges of his angelic charm

I had another expected surprise earlier in the week when David contacted me to say that he and his partner Sean would be visiting Paris for a few days at the end of my stay. We got together on Thursday evening for a glass of rosé at my place, a walk around the Village Montorgueil, and dinner at La Régalade de Conservatoire, which we thoroughly enjoyed despite the fact that the service, while well-intentioned, was stretched by the full house.

Bob, David and Sean after dinner at La Régalade de Conservatoire

On Friday I had an afternoon beer at La Hasard Ludique, a new bar in the 18ème using an abandoned station and platform of La Petite Ceinture, which I had visited and photographed in 2014.

An afternoon beer at La Hasard Ludique

La Hasard Ludique, a new bar using an abandoned station and platform of La Petite Ceinture

Meanwhile, I’ve continued to wander around Paris and take pictures:

Who would have expected to find Neil Armstrong in a shop window?

A Parisian gentleman with a beard almost as impressive as my own

Does it look to you like this building is collapsing?

Not to worry. The engineers are keeping track of the rate at which the crack is widening!

More Paris Art

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This statue, in front of Saint-Eustache, survived the five-year redevelopment of Les Halles. Click here for a pic of the work site from 2012 showing the head tenuously protected by barriers.

Ecoute,” 1986, by Henry de Miller (1953-99), visible again in 2018

The gallery show that most strongly impressed me this year was of Afro Libio Basaldella (1912-1976), better known as “Afro,” at the Tornabuoni Art gallery in the Marais. The artist — who I hadn’t heard of — was born in Italy and worked there and in the U.S. One example is below, but if you like it please look at: [“Afro” Photo Set]

One of many excellent paintings by “Afro” at Tornabuoni Art Paris

Naturally I was interested in owning one of these excellent paintings! The price list was held behind the counter, but a gallerist offered to tell me the price of any specific work I was interested in. This one, for example, was priced at 4,900,000 euros. Negotiable, I’m sure, but still a bit rich for my blood.

These odd sculptures are from the imaginary country of “Nambia,” inspired by a bourde of Donald Trump.

« Nambias » by Gérard Cambon at Galerie Béatrice Soulié in the Latin Quarter

I was quite impressed by Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in the Marais– not the art, which I didn’t find memorable until the top floor — but the gallery itself, which is a large and beautiful space.

Stunning circular stairway at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

I did respect, on the top floor, the reprise of a Palais de Tokyo show by Patrick Neu I had liked in 2015, and enjoyed a quirky little installation, which you’ll have to enlarge to fully appreciate:

Concert for a Fly, by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

A few weeks back I stumbled on the vernissage (opening party) for a David Hockney show at a newly opened branch of Galerie Lelong & Co. Some functionary tried to shoo me away because it hadn’t officially started but the gallery owner waved me in. #seniorprivilege

New branch of Galerie Lelong & Co. at 38 avenue Matignon

David Hockney show at Galerie Lelong & Co. with vernissage snacks. These are numbered reproductions of digital images Hockney creates on an iPad

I’ve many times appreciated the mostly-buried bicycle wheel at the back of this photo as I’ve strolled through the Parc de la Villette but this year is the first time I noticed the rest of the bicycle!

Buried bicycle parts in the Parc de la Villette

Street art in Batignolles

Apollo atop L’Opéra Garnier

19th Century Street Art in the Marais

21st Century Street Art along the Canal d’Ourcq

An artist and his model in Parc Monceau.

Mot du Jour: bourde. Blunder, boner, mishap.

After June 11

Since my first year, when I came for the full months of April and May, my springs in Paris have included the full month of June. Initially I came for both May and June, but most recently I’ve gone somewhere else for the first two weeks of May (Italy in 2015 and the south of France in 2016), but then settled down in Paris for six weeks. This year, however, the schedule of my cousins — and the prospect of a May Day walk with Lisa! — brought me to Paris at the end of April. I rashly supposed that six weeks in Paris would be “enough,” and I didn’t feel the need for a longer break, so I scheduled my return flight for June 11.

Only after arriving and looking at the schedule for June did I realize how much I would be missing! I looked into extending to the end of the month. Changing my Delta flight would be punitively expensive, but I found a remarkably cheap direct flight on Norwegian Shuttle that would give me another couple of weeks here. I could stay in my cozy apartment for an additionaly week at the monthly rate, then could easily find another place for the last week. Only after a friend asked to stay with me in Boston for the first week I was scheduled back did I drop the idea and finally decide to stick with my original plan.

One of the many reasons to consider extending was the fact that my good friend Jared R. — who has stayed with me in Paris twice — is arriving for a week on June 12, the day after I leave! Partly for him, and partly to remind me to stay through the end of June in future years, here is a partial list of the cool stuff happening here in the latter part of June, plus my own favorites from earlier in the trip.

One of my favorite ephemeral things this year in Paris was the Au dela des limites immersive light show is on until September 9. The similar Klimt/Schiele/Hundertwasser light show is also good if one particularly likes those artists.

Surprisingly, none of the museum shows this year particularly floated my boat, but the gallery show that most strongly impressed me this year was of Afro Libio Basaldella (1912-1976), better known as “Afro,” at the Tornabuoni Art gallery in the Marais. The artist — who I hadn’t heard of — was born in Italy and worked there and in the U.S. One example is below, but if you like it please look at: [“Afro” Photo Set]. It closes on June 16.

Most importantly, La Fête de la Musique is, as always, on June 21. This has been an important part of my visits ever since I first stumbled on it in 2011: 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

The new exhibitions at the always-edgy-and-sometimes-fabulous Palais de Tokyo open on June 22. Foolishly, I missed the exhibitions that closed in May.

Paris Gay Pride (the Marche des Fiertés LGBT) is on June 30 this year.

The Heures heureuses (happy hours), in which restaurants all over the city offer a little drink or a little tapas plate for 2 euros, have been slipping later each year, and in 2018 are 5-7 July. I wouldn’t extend just for that, but I did enjoy the occasion in prior years, when it was held in late June.

My general advice on things to do in Paris is in my post After the Top Ten Sights. Additionally, Time Out Paris has just launched a free weekly magazine, distributed in métro stations.

Diary of a Flâneur

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While I’ve mostly posted on specific topics and visits this year I’ve continued to log my Paris walking average of seven miles a day. This post collects some of the interesting or attractive things I’ve run across in my wanderings (saving art for a later post).

One of my favorite walks in Paris is along the Promenade plantée (also called the Coulée verte), which transformed abandoned railroad infrastructure into a leafy linear park. It begins near the Place de la Bastille and runs several miles to the Parc Vincennes. The first section is elevated, connected with a short level stretch, through a tunnel, with a depressed section.

Even on a gray day the Promenade plantée is lovely

These Parisians know how to party!

This street sign for the “road of little square stones” is itself made up of little square stones.

The monument in the center of the Place de la Republique was totally renovated in 2010-13, then trashed after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015 and during the Nuit Debout protests in 2016. It has now been restored, ready for the next popular uprising.

The statue of Marianne in the Place de la Republique

There’s a lot of history on the plaques around the base of the monument. This one commemorates the biggest naval victory of the First French Republic, over the British fleet. In our calendar it took place on June 1, 1794, but the Revolution established a new calendar starting at year 1, including new names for the months.

Plaque on the base of the monument in Place de la Republique commemorating the battle of 13 prairial an 2

There are officially sanctioned skateboard areas all around Paris. This one is right on the Place de la Republique.

A skateboard area in Place de la Republique

A nostalgic 2CV

A field of flowers (with a secret)

La Grande Canopée, almost empty

The Parc de la Villette in the northeast corner of Paris contains a dozen or more “folies.” Some have uses but many, like this one, are purely decorative.

A folie in the Parc de la Villette

There are a lot of ancient-looking ruins in Parc Monceau. The columns themselves are fairly old, but they have been repositioned for aesthetic effect much more recently: “The Naumachie of the Park was built with the columns of the ancient Rotunda of Valois, ordered by Catherine de Medicis to house Henry II tomb.” [Source]

Ancient-ish ruins in Parc Monceau

Gare Saint-Lazare from Europe

Mot du jour: 2CV. The Citroën 2CV, 1948-90. 2CV literally means deux chevaux, “two horsepower,” but the original version actually had nine.

An Expected Surprise and a Secret Garden

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Each year it turns out that friends will be visiting Paris while I’m here. This has become so predictable that I call it an “expected surprise.” Usually we just meet up for meals, drinks or activities, as with Brian, Sheila, Rick and Cheryl in May. But not infrequently my not-very-surprising visitors will stay with me for a few days. Thus I wasn’t actually surprised when I learned a week or so back that my old friend Stan would be arriving with “Q” the day after Andy left.

Stan, Q and me

They ended up staying for two nights, before jetting off to Ibiza for their first-ever beach vacation. They treated me to a couple of drinks and breakfasts, and most kindly took me out on their last night to La Bocca, an Italian restaurant I have eaten at just about every year. I had exactly the same meal as in 2016 with Zhizhong, and enjoyed it just as much.

I had gotten farther behind on my blog than ever before so I spent much of the weekend catching up. While blogging takes time away from experiencing it’s part of my Paris life that I’m not (yet?) ready to give up. If you’re reading this, thanks for your attention. You are the digital flâneurwho is necessary to complete my project.

The sun came out on Sunday afternoon, so I strolled over to the 7ème, to which I have given short shrift in prior years, to visit the magnificent garden of the Hôtel de Matignon, the residence of the French Prime Minister. The garden is open to the public only three days each year. Security was intense but after emptying my pockets I entered a lovely hidden garden. The full photoset is here: [Hôtel de Matignon Photo Set] but a few samples are below.

Panorama of the garden of the Hôtel de Matignon

Lawn of the Hôtel de Matignon

Hôtel de Matignon

Last Days with Andy

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On Wednesday we went to one of the two immersive light exhibitions currently on view in Paris. Since I had previously seen Au dela des Limites, we went instead to the Klimt/Egon Schiele/Hundertwasser show at L’Atelier des Lumières. I thought this would be interesting because I like all three artists (yes, even the relatively obscure Hundertwasser). Both exhibitions use hundreds of video projectors managed by a massive computer system to create an immersive environment, with light projected on the walls and floor, as well as on visitors. This exhibition is made up of several shows, one mixing Klimt and Schiele, one on Hundertwasser and one that just plays with digital motifs.

Klimt show at L’Atelier des Lumières

Death at the Klimt Show at L’Atelier des Lumières

We both enjoyed this exhibition, but it’s different in several key respects from the other one:

  • This show is based on classic fine art, so at times it offers an intense shock of recognition. The other one has many lovely artistic elements, but all newly created by the developers.
  • The space is a former foundry, retaining many architectural elements. These can be interesting but also distracting. There also seem to be more awkwardly placed exit lights.
  • Basically the same video shows on all the walls at the same time, so you only move around to get a more interesting angle.
  • The video isn’t interactive.

Bottom line, if you can only see one go to L’Atelier des Lumières if you are strongly attracted to the artists, but go to Au dela des Limites if you want to have a more stunning immersive experience.

After the Klimt show we had reservations at La Régalade Conservatoire, which I had enjoyed earlier in this stay. So … stay tuned for more food porn!

We were ready for the restaurant with time to spare so I took us on a circuitous route, down rue d’Aboukir to see Design et Nature, the most famous taxidermy store in Paris that allows photography (Deyrolle does not).

Which is fiercer? At Design et Nature

Our preprandial walk continued to the nearby garden of the Palais Royale, then through the series of passages (covered arcades) that start with the 1823 Galerie Vivienne, continuing through the 1799 Passage des Panoramas and the 1836 Passage Jouffroy. We arrived just in time for our 7:30 reservation. We were the first patrons, but the restaurant quickly filled up. There was a bit of language confusion at the start, but otherwise I enjoyed the meal almost as much as my earlier one there.

My octopus appetizer at La Régalade Conservatoire

A waitress decanting a bottle of red for another table at La Régalade Conservatoire

Andy at La Régalade Conservatoire

My delicious strawberry rhubarb dessert at La Régalade Conservatoire

On Thursday morning we started with breakfast and people watching at La Grappe d’Or on rue des Petits Carreaux, which is the name for a segment of the same street between rue Montorogueil and my current rue Poissonière. I’m glad that Andy enjoys the passing show here as much as I do.

Breakfast and people watching at La Grappe d’Or on rue des Petits Carreaux

Andy had wanted to see the Catacombs, but they were closed due to a strike, so on Thursday we went instead to the other light show. We both enjoyed it, even though I had been before. Instead of posting separately I added our pics to my earlier post: Au dela des limites.

After the light show we walked up to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont and each enjoyed a beer at Rosa Bonheur.

The suspension bridge at Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

I was puzzled at first by the calmness and peacefulness of both park and ginguette, but then I realized that I have always been there on Sunday, when the park is filled with families and the bar is filled, by early afternoon, with gay men.

We had a quick Italian dinner at Il Tre and made it an early evening since Andy had to be up at the crack of dawn the next morning to catch his flights back home. It was a pleasure to explore Paris again with him, and we agreed that next time he should plan to stay longer!

Arts et Métiers with Andy

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On Sunday afternoon Andy and I headed back from Belleville around 6 pm to get ready for an apéro at Rick and Cheryl’s place. Two of Rick’s nieces were staying with them so we thought it would be fun to get them together with Andy. Rick and Cheryl also invited their friend Carl and his nephew Alex, so we ended up with four aunts and uncles and four nieces and nephews. (I thought I was so original but it seems that quite few uncles invite their nieces and nephews to visit them in Paris!)

Neices, nephews, uncles and an aunt at Rick & Cheryl’s apéro

It turned out that one of the girls was best friends with one of Andy’s former roommates, who gave him a good review. After snacks and several bottles of champagne the young-uns went out on the town while Rick and Cheryl and I had a nightcap at Blanco.

There was talk of another 20-something outing for Monday night, after Andy’s and my second day in Belleville, but thunderstorms were predicted so everyone stayed in.

On Tuesday Andy and I walked over to the Musée des Arts et Métiers. He loved it as much as I expected. I’ve taken so many pictures in prior years that I only added a few to my extensive [Musée des Arts et Métiers Photo Set]. The museum is hard to describe but here’s a try: It’s an historical museum of engineering, design and science; basically the attic where every French gadget that’s too cool to throw away ends up.

Loved this diving suit! It never worked but has nevertheless become something of a steampunk icon.

Diving suit by Alphonse and Théodore Carmagnolle, 1882

Hood ornament, Coupé de maître, Hispano-Suiza, 1935

We had lunch at the nearby l’Absinthe Café so we could easily return to finish the museum. It used to be a classic neighborhood restaurant, recommended by my friend Elliot, who formerly lived in the area. I have seen it change over the years, adding burgers a few years ago and this year doubling or tripling the price of a carafe of wine. It’s still ok but I miss the old days!

Lunch at l’Absinthe Café

For dinner we walked over to Bouillon Chartier, an old favorite that has retained its classic character, despite being a tourist attraction.

Bouillon Chartier. The cubbyholes at the right were for the napkins of the workmen who frequented the restaurant back in the day.

At Bouillon Chartier you are seated with other patrons. This couple met when they were both 20; the American guy was a serviceman stationed in France, the woman was a local girl, and the rest is history. We had a lovely conversation with them.

With new friends at Bouillon Chartier.

When I mentioned that Andy had never eaten a snail the woman offered him one of hers. To my surprise, he accepted!

Andy preparing to eat his first snail!

The moment of truth!

Ummm…

We were still thirsty after dinner so we stopped off at Hoppy for what turned into a couple of beers.

Beer at Hoppy on rue des Petits Carreaux

That only made us thirstier so we finished the evening at another old favorite, Experimental Cocktail Club.

A couple of after-beer cocktails at Experimental Cocktail Club

Mot du jour: Scaphandre rigide: Diving suit. You can never be sure when this may come in handy!