After my visit to Centquatre on Saturday I headed towards the Bassin de la Villette, but was distracted by a sign offering a free boat trip on the Canal Saint-Denis to something called Le Millénaire. What good flâneur could resist? It proved to be an enormous shopping mall in the adjacent suburb of Aubervilliers.
I had no interest in shopping, but I was impressed by the completely different Paris that is growing up on the outskirts of its historic center.
On Saturday night I saw a gay-themed French film that Alexis had highly recommended: Eastern Boys. I was impressed and moved by it, and am still turning aspects of it over in my mind. It starts with a relatively banal pickup in Gare du Nord, then takes a predictable dramatic turn, then takes a series of turns that are perfectly consistent with what we’ve seen but that I challenge any viewer to anticipate. By the end I found it a remarkable meditation on sex and love, even though in real life the story would very probably have had one of many other tragic and sordid endings.
On Sunday morning I met up with Zhizhong for lunch at Breizh Café in the 3e. Breizh is Breton for Brittany, so I wasn’t surprised to find the galettes and crêpes to be authentic and delicious.
The dining experience was good, even though the other diners were mostly tourists. The restaurant has two other branches, Cancale (in the heart of Brittany) and Tokyo (um, not).
After lunch I took Zhizhong down to the end of rue du Trésor to see the dreadful percement sauvage (barbarous hole) that has defiled it for the past several years.
An American couple overheard my explanation and told us that they have been fighting it for years. We ended up exchanging email addresses and I just sent them the link to the site where I learned about the issue.
Zhizhong then gave me a guided tour of the trendy clothing shops of the Marais. My idea had been to open my wallet and buy one proper French outfit. Though my U.S. shirt size is medium I was braced for the fact that I would be extra large here. We did indeed see some beautiful clothes but I’m afraid that my Yankee frugality prevented me from spending $250 on a shirt, even quite a nice one. And when I got close to pulling the trigger I was discouraged by the fact that the shirts here aren’t wrinkle resistent, so would end up in my pile of clothes to be ironed — someday.
Note to self: When a friendly shop clerk appears to say, “You are soft” (Vous êtes doux), in fact he’s probably saying, “Where are you from?” (Vous êtes d’oû?).
By this point it had gotten really hot! We strolled over to the Place des Vosges and enjoyed a couple of rather expensive ice creams on a shady park bench. After a deep conversation about work, life and love we came back to my place for several glasses of sparkling water, then wrapped up the day with a perfectly ok quasi-Mexican dinner at La Perla. As so often happens in Paris, the other diners were at least as scrumptious as the meal.
At 1 am I was awakened by strange flashes of light. It was heat lightning (éclairs de chaleur), so far away that thunder was barely audible. I took a short video clip out my living room window of the way these flashes illuminated the buildings across the street: Heat Lightning in Paris. At two points you can see the beacon from the top of the Eiffel Tower sweeping across the sky. Half an hour later the storm arrived, with torrential rain and large, noisy hailstones. A fitting end to a day of near-tropical heat!
Mot du jour: bob. I was amused to learn that the floppy sun hat I wear (at the insistence of my dermatologist) is called a bob.
This type of hat was introduced to France by American servicemen during WWII. Since G.I.s were then called “Roberts,” the hats came to be called “bobs.”