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Today started out freezing but sunny, and by afternoon it was a perfectly lovely day. Cold again this evening, but c’est printemps à Paris!

A charming shop near the Opera.

(Update: La Cure Gourmande turns out to be a chain with 30-some stores, so credit goes to a corporate marketing department rather than to a local shopkeeper.)

I began my day with a remarkable exhibition, Rose c’est Paris. It is composed of an hour-long video and a series of gorgeous black-and-white art prints of tableaux from the video. The “plot” — the search by a lovely young woman for her twin, Rose — is an excuse for an extraordinary sequence of images, of Paris and of surprising and often explicitly erotic encounters.

After a quick lunch I walked over to the Tuileries and ended up at the Orangerie museum. Its “piece de resistance” is the Monet water lilies, which were charming. Since renovations finished in 2006 the presentation is lovely. Being there made me feel as though I was underwater myself.

Monet’s Water Lillies in the Orangerie Museum.

I also enjoyed the art on the lower levels of the Orangerie, especially Utrillo, who for some reason I had not previously noticed. I was disappointed to find that all the Rousseau’s were out on loan.

After getting home to check email I had a pleasant coffee date with Jacques, a Parisian I met over the Internet, after which I capped off the evening with yet another fish-fillet-with-string-beans dinner — my fifth!  Over the weekend, however, I promise to flash out and explore a few Parisian restaurant meals. (In my own defense I can only say that the last three fillets were purchased near closing time at the local fishmonger, when the guys come out onto the sidewalk offering irresistible bargains on fish that is still fresh but not fresh enough to sell tomorrow.)

It occurs to me also to comment on language, based on the three extended conversations I have now had with francophones — a future landlord and two dates. The most important fact is that in each case conversation flowed easily with only brief moments of perplexity. And when a problem did arise we switched rather effortlessly to the other language. That natural process caused the first two conversations to be mostly in English and the third to be mostly in French, simply because that was our most comfortable common language. Each of my interlocutors complimented me on my French (even though it had to be explained to me in English that this is what “félicitations” means, since I only knew the word in the context of Christmas cards). It’s curious to me how often le mot juste is there for me, considering that my only formal education was a couple of years of high school French, with indifferent grades. I’ve visited here half a dozen times, but never for more than ten days, and rarely involving long conversations. The only explanation I can offer is that over the years I’ve also read half a dozen French books, stopping to look up a word only when I feel completely lost. Whatever the reason, I’m pleased to find that language has so far been a source of occasional confusion but not a barrier. Update on 11/4/10: After reading the above a friend commented that he had taken French for two years in college but wouldn’t dare tackle a book. I’m thinking now that lack of fear is one of the reasons for my happy relationship with the language. French is very “correct” — there is in theory one mot juste for each concept and one grammatically correct way to express something. The early years of traditional teaching involve these rules being drilled in, and errors constantly being corrected. This instills a fear of failure that can be somewhat paralyzing. For me, in contrast, French is pure fun. I don’t worry overmuch about correctness — so long as I can throw in a few words that more or less point at what I’m trying to say I’m good to go. And as for reading a book, or the magazine Science et Vie, I treat it as a puzzle to decipher rather than an impenetrable thicket. If I sometimes have a distorted idea of what’s being said, so be it; I can always look up a word or two in the dictionary if I’m truly stumped. It’s also important to recognize the limits on my accomplishment. Last night the waiter said Bravo at the fluency of my French. But if you think about it one would never say such a thing to someone who was truly fluent. You say that only to someone who is obviously struggling, but making a brave attempt. C’est moi!