The London trip was quite active — two ten-mile days in a row — so I mostly rested on Thursday. That evening I invited Lisa, Ali and Zhizhong Joël Yao over for an apéro and dinner at L’Hedoniste, which Lisa and Ali had enjoyed with Alexis a few years back, and which we liked again this time. I had been wanting to introduce Lisa and Ali to Zhizhong, since he is still forming a friendship community here and they have several things in common: working in academia, living on rue de Tolbiac, and being very nice. It was a lovely evening, but tinged with the “sweet sorrow” of parting.
Friday morning I set out to finally see the oriental museum, Musée Guimet. The top two floors were closed, however, and I just missed a big Japan exhibition opening July 3. Discouraged, I passed on it once again and grabbed a sandwich for lunch. Looking at my TripAdvisor City Guides app (which I highly recommend) I noticed that the Palais de Tokyo was nearby, and decided to have a look. This is an avant garde contemporary art museum that I had been underwhelmed by on an earlier visit. There was a lot of buzz this time, however, and right off the bat I stumbled on a photo shoot out front. Naturally I joined the fun!
The guys turned out to be models at a jam-packed young men’s fashion show. The hoi polloi weren’t allowed to watch the show — except through a chain link fence! — but another of the models agreed to a snapshot as he was leaving.
After I got over being dazzled by all the fashionistas I saw the current exhibition, Nouvelles Vagues. It was an enormous hot mess, its 21 big rooms each being curated by a different young artist. As usual I hated nearly everything, but enjoyed the overall experience, and found a few pieces that gave me a chuckle.
After the museum I strolled down to the Pont d’Alma, and recalled something about newly-opened improvements to the nearby quais. These turned out to be a series of floating gardens that resemble New York’s High Line and Paris’s own Promenade plantée. The gentle rocking of the floats added a pleasing touch when I stretched out on one of the lounges for a bit.
This evening’s farewell dinner was with Colin and Jamie Blasina, with whom I had enjoyed an afternoon at Rosa Bonheur at the very start of this year’s petit séjour. They are both leaving Paris shortly as well, but they will be back in Cambridge, as housemates of my book-group friend John O’Connor, in the fall.
I had hoped to be able to watch the Paris gay pride parade the following afternoon, but cleaning my apartment — comme d’habitude — took forever and I had to cancel. As I was scrubbing and mopping I did wonder, however, why I clean my Paris apartments so obsessively. Initially the habit may have come from anxiety about being charged a cleaning fee, and I have heard horror stories about landlords that complain about every water spot in the shower. But my cleaning goes way beyond what could reasonably be expected — taking most of a day. And in this particular place they always bring in a cleaning lady anyway, who after my efforts must feel frustrated (actually delighted) by her inability to find anything to clean. To add to the absurdity, the owners of this place like and trust me so well that they don’t even look around. Another year perhaps I’ll try to ease up a bit!
Zhizhong Joël Yao had planned to stop by on my final evening to leave me a gift for my Boston roommate Vikram, and to pick up some Paris guidebooks that Colin had returned. He surprised me with a lovely little music box, playing La Mer, that he had bought for me in a boutique at Palais Royal. We looked around the quartier for a nice and really affordable restaurant but eventually decided to make a meal from two frozen dinners I still had, along with smoked salmon, olives and a few other random items. It was a (previously frozen) feast! For dessert we shared a puit d’amour (Well of Love — props to Geoff for calling attention to it) from Stohrer, the famous traiteur just a block or two down rue Montorgueil.
These last few days have reminded me of the final week of last year’s visit: “The days are getting cooler, and the evenings downright cold: time to move on.” But wait, that was September and this is June! My first week this year was lovely — albeit cool — but the rest of the month has been on-and-off rainy and cloudy, and quite chilly for June. I’ve had lovely days, and taken good advantage of them, but the weather overall has been only so-so. The winter and spring in Paris were truly terrible, though, so I can’t complain.
Leaving to catch my flight home in half an hour! Au revoir, Paris !
Mot du jour: « rebeu ». This is a slang term for French residents of North African ancestry, with a particularly interesting etymology. Since the 16th century there has been an argot of French called le verlan in which two syllables of a word are reversed. The term « verlan » itself derives from reversing the phrase « à l’inverse ». In the 1980’s the term « beur » started being used for North Africans in France. This was a verlan transformation of “Arab,” reversing the “r” and the “b.” More recently, the term « rebeu » arose, especially among young beurs, as a further verlan transformation, again reversing “b” and “r”. Props to Zhizhong Joël Yao for being the first to explain verlan. Our Pig Latin has a slight resemblance to verlan, but verlan generates new slang words rather than applying a simple transformation to any word.