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Omar and I met for drinks on Friday night. That evening is a bit of a blur but the upshot was that it would be a lot more convenient if he stayed at my place for the next few days rather than at the garret apartment he had been living in. On Saturday evening we set out to explore the Marais. We started — as usual! — at the Open Café, then continued on to Quetzel, then … that evening is something of a blur as well…

Me and Omar at the Open Café

Me and Omar at the Open Café

Omar and me and many new friends at Quetzel

Omar and me and many new friends at Quetzel

One detail I do recall is that three touristy guys (on the left in the pic) barged into Quetzel while Omar and I were sipping our beverages. I was annoyed when one of them bumped into me. They came out with beers and eventually we got into conversation with them. They weren’t so bad after all, although we were ready to say farewell when we went off to our next destination.

I had two previously-scheduled events on Sunday: A dinner party hosted by my friend Elliot for the Paris chapter of the Harvard Gender & Sexuality Caucus at 6 pm, and a Skype connection to my classics book club meeting at 10 pm (4 pm Boston time). Elliot’s dinner was delicious, as usual. About eight members attended, some of whom I already knew and others were new to me. It was an interesting evening but I had to leave at 9:30 to get home for book club … only to find that the meeting had been canceled. I was just half-way through Mémoires d’Hadrien myself so I was happy to defer the discussion to our July meeting.

On Monday Omar and I went to Fontainebleau, which I had hoped to see with Manu earlier in the trip. I’ll post about that separately.

On Tuesday we did some shopping and hit some art galleries.

Mer de Kumano étincelante (Kumano sea sparkling)

Mer de Kumano étincelante (Kumano sea sparkling) by Kazuho Hieda at Galerie Yoshii

Many pieces by Shepard Fairey at Galerie Laurent Strouk

Many pieces by Shepard Fairey at Galerie Laurent Strouk

Tiffon Cognac in Crystal Dragon bottle. 2,100 euros at La Part des Anges

Tiffon Cognac in Crystal Dragon bottle. A bargain at 2,100 euros. At La Part des Anges

We had a late lunch on Tuesday at our local Icelandic sandwich shop, Lemon. I mentioned to the server in passing that Omar was treating me to a special birthday lunch; at the end of the meal they brought us coffees and a chocolate cake on the house, explaining that I was one of their best customers.

Free coffees and cake at Lemon to celebrate my birthday

Free coffees and cake at Lemon to celebrate my birthday

Zhizhong had previously invited me to a posh Harvard-Yale reception on Tuesday evening. We had had an amazing time at the American Ambassador’s residence the previous year so I accepted, even though this year it was at a mere hôtel particulier. Zhizhong was called away to London for work at the last minute so I considered skipping it but eventually decided to attend. The space was quite a comedown from last year, but still pas mal.

Hôtel de Tallyrand-Périgord. Ho hum.

Hôtel de Tallyrand-Périgord. Ho hum.

Harvard-Yale Reception.

Harvard-Yale Reception at the Hôtel de Tallyrand-Périgord.

I had some pleasant conversations at the reception but nevertheless I was happy to step out into the Place de la Concorde and meet up with Omar for dinner.

Place de la Concorde after the reception

Place de la Concorde after the reception

Waiting for Omar at the Ferris Wheel at Place de la Concorde

Waiting for Omar at the Ferris Wheel at Place de la Concorde

We had a couple of false starts with reservations on The Fork but we ended up having a good Italian meal at Il Tre 3 on good old rue Montorgueil. I had walked by this restaurant dozens of times but had never eaten there, since I had the impression that it was just street food (as is the Thai restaurant across the street). The patrons and servers were indeed young but the food was perfectly respectable and the interior decor was pleasant.

Omar is a keen observer. Not only did he notice the cool street art mosaics by Invader, but he found an app — FlashInvaders — that lets you score points by finding as many of them as possible. Invader started out in Paris but now has put up works in major cities around the world. I’m just starting out but I hope to do a lot better before the end of the month!

My gallery in the FlashInvaders app

My sparse gallery in the FlashInvaders app

Omar left for Budapest on Wednesday, in part because I had to get ready for my next house guest. Meeting him, and spending several days together, was a special pleasure of this year’s stay. A true “expected surprise!” We both hope that our paths will cross again.

Meanwhile, another Omar was killing 49 LGBTs and allies in Orlando, to the horror of decent people everywhere in the world. I don’t minimize the intolerance of many Muslim countries for homosexuality, but I hope that the future of Islam will be closer to the spirit of my own modern, kind and moderate Omar.

Mot du jour: « hôtel particulier » “mansion”. The French word « hôtel » is an unreliable friend. In « hôtel de ville » it means “city hall.” Used alone, it actually means “hotel.”