Ryan and Alan traveled home on Wednesday morning without incident. Last heard they were recuperating from jet lag and the trip was rapidly ripening into a fond memory. That afternoon I mostly lazed around and did errands. The bedding was bulky for the little washer/drier in the apartment so I took it down to the laundromat across the street; all went smoothly except that I was surprised to discover that a load of washing cost almost $6.00 (4 euros). While waiting for my laundry I had lunch at the café across the street, where I got into a complex but ultimately very friendly interaction with a bunch of Italian tourists, only one of whom spoke French. When I commiserated with the long-suffering waiter as I paid up he observed that the Italians seemed to think that speaking Italian very loudly would overcome the language barrier.
That evening I went back to the Gaîté Lyrique, which I had found during my first week. I first saw the video art exhibit by Matt Pyke and friends, which included an impressive computer-generated environment that you can glimpse at this link. Then as I was leaving I noticed a lot of cool people lining up for something; after asking a few questions I bought a ticket myself and saw an interesting (if over-long) documentary on funk music in the favelas of Brazil. These government-funded cultural centers offer a lot to the life of the city.
Thursday morning was overcast and threatened rain but I decided nevertheless to tackle the first trip suggested in An Hour from Paris, to Champs-sur-Marne. Although I got lost a few times, and the château was closed for renovations, the visit was very interesting, helped substantially by the fact that the clouds parted and the day turned absolutely beautiful. Here is an 1871 building from the Menier chocolate factory in Noisel:
Good enough to eat! And here is the flower garden at the Château de Champs-sur-Marne.
My favorite spot was a little glade called the salon des philosophes. Here is a video clip I shot while I lay there listening to the birds and gazing lazily up at the clouds.
Both nights I made my standard Parisian meal, fish filets sautéed in olive oil with chopped onions, green beans, a green salad, fresh bread and red wine.
Ryan, Alan and I had planned to cook this together on our last night in Paris but for some reason the fish shop had no filets that night. I have promised to cook it for them — and show them the (very easy) process — when I get back to Boston.
Friday morning I met Antoine, a French art history student with whom I have been chatting for a while on line. Between morning coffee and lunch he took me on a relatively non-touristy walk through his neighborhood, the Buttes Montmartre.
We share a passion for Balzac and other French writers and I hope we will find time to get together again while I’m here.