My first two weeks in Paris have been reasonably good, and there have been some pleasant surprises, but my own mood has been somewhat ho-hum. Here are some high and low points:
- My apartment this year is simply fabulous. Not only is the decor lovely, which I could see from the pictures, but everything is well-designed and functional, and it’s squeaky clean. The through ventilation (street to courtyard) will be terrific when it gets warm. The location is convenient to all the shopping and energy of rue Montorgueil but the immediate neighborhood is very quiet at night, so excellent for sleeping. The washer-drier actually dries! All this has been such a pleasure after last year’s disappointing (though ultimately ok) place. (There have been tiny glitches: a slow drip from the water heater and a couple of things I decided to buy for the kitchen — a set of sharp knives and a colander — but really nothing to complain about.)
- Playing house. Feel free to laugh, but one of the pleasures of these stays has been shopping for food and all the other supplies that make life comfortable. Everything is a bit different here, so there’s a little challenge in finding the right item the first time you need it. But mostly it’s just fun to fill a big shopping bag and walk home with your groceries the way real Parisians do.
- It’s been chilly. The highs have typically been in the 60s and the lows in the 40s. That isn’t terrible — and it’s often been quite nice in the sun — but it certainly isn’t sunbathing weather! I had encountered similar weather at the start of May in prior trips so I cleverly spent the first two weeks of May in Italy. That worked great — it was lovely in both Rome and Venice — but the cold weather returned just as I got to Paris.
- Visitors. My first house guests — Matt and Chris — arrive on Saturday morning. I’m looking forward to the energy (and cooking!) they will bring. But already there have been several unexpected visitors: I caught up with Mustapha for dinner — he and his partner are expected visitors towards the end of June but his May visit was a surprise. I met up with Taka and his partner for dinner at a Michelin star restaurant. And I had a walk, a dinner and a day trip with my cousin Brian, his wife Sheila, and their travel companions Rick and Cheryl. Various other formerly-unexpected visitors have surfaced over the last few days so the rest of the stay looks to be even more sociable.
- Old Paris friends. As I feared, my cousin Lisa’s absence (in Uganda!) has left a real void; every other year she has been a big part of my welcome. Zhizhong has been great, and I had a cozy dinner last evening with Lisa’s partner Ali. I also have a few meals with other friends coming up. But the French guys I’ve met on prior trips have been elusive this year. I’m sure I’ll catch up with some of them before my stay is over, but I’m reminded that after all my visits my friendship community here is still pretty thin.
- New Paris friends. Part of the adventure of spending time here has always been the possibility of meeting new friends, typically through gay social networking sites. This year, despite a lot of chat, I haven’t actually met anyone new! It’s possible that I’m being more selective, or less seductive, but for whatever reason social networking has this year not repaid the time and effort it has absorbed.
- Favorite Restaurants Disappearing. I was shocked this year to find that Le Loup Blanc had closed, as Le Marsangy had last year. I was warily pleased yesterday to see on The Fork that Le Marsangy had reopened so I booked for dinner. My heart sunk when I saw “cheesburger” on the menu, and it turned out that the chef whose cuisine I loved had retired and the new cook was not up to the job.
- The Weak Euro. The dollar is much stronger against the euro than it has been during any of my prior stays. I can afford the trip either way but my Yankee soul exults in how much cheaper everything is, starting with the apartment itself and continuing through eating out, etc. And things that seemed cheap in prior years now seem like ridiculous bargains: bread, cheese, wine.
- My Mood. Despite the good features of these first two weeks I’ve been in an odd mood, less excited and adventurous than in prior years. I’ve spent more time at home than usual, and when I’ve ventured out it has tended to be day trips to the provinces rather than going alone to gay bars or engaging artists in conversations, as I did at the start of last year’s visit. I’m not sure why this is, but I certainly hope my mood improves!
Finally, here are a few photos I’ve taken over the past several days.