The weather has stayed lovely; unseasonably cool, indeed, but I much prefer gentle spring breezes to sweltering heat. Especially in Paris, where nobody has air conditioning.
I ran a few errands on Tuesday morning — including, just for you, gentle reader, my previous post. Then I headed out to visit the Jean-Jacques Rousseau museum in Montmorency, based on the guidebook I have previously recommended, An Hour From Paris. Once again my precious chip-and-pin card failed to work and I was forced to change bills and use coins, which is now my go-to strategy for local train trips. The town is not far from Paris but the trip is first by train and then by bus. There is nothing unmissable about the town or the museum, but both are modestly charming. The museum is in a tiny cottage (subsequently enlarged) where Rousseau lived and wrote for several years (1754-62) before he was forced to flee to Geneva.
Rousseau’s bedroom, on the second floor of the cottage.
The garden path from Rousseau’s cottage to the “donjon” where he did most of his writing.
Admission includes an audio guide to the garden, en français, including delightful excerpts from Rousseau’s letters and journals. It was mesmerizing to sit or stroll in his beloved gardens listening to his own glowing commentary from 250 years before. I had the whole place entirely to myself, apart from two friendly and helpful staffers. The full photo set is at: Rousseau Museum Photos
Tuesday evening I met up with Joël Yao, who I met five years ago when he was a newly-minted Harvard graduate student. After getting his PhD last year he started a new chapter of his life in January by moving to Paris. He loves the city and his work although some of the practical aspects of living here have been a challenge. We started with kirs royale (9.5 euros each!) at my favorite people-watching café, the LB, at the corner of rue Montorgueil and rue Tiquetonne.
Kirs royale at Café LB.
Joël and rue Montorgueil from the window of my June apartment.
I had already snagged my favorite deal at the local fishmonger — three filets de rouget barbue for 5 euros — so we cooked my standard Parisian meal, of which I have not yet grown the slightest bit tired.
Wednesday morning I had a household project: the lovely rain shower I enjoyed in prior years didn’t work; the rental agent said that the nozzles get clogged with “calcification” and that the solution is to soak the shower head in vinegar for an hour; I pointed out that it could not be removed without a wrench; she then said to pour the vinegar in a plastic bag and tie it around the shower head. I couldn’t resist undertaking this bizarre project. While the mechanics proved to be awkward it actually worked!
Soaking my shower head in vinegar. Life in Paris is not just a bed of roses!
That afternoon I headed out to a favorite spot, bourgeois but charming Parc Monceau. The people watching was unexpectedly good since it was hot in the sun even though the air temperature was still rather cool.
I, however, concentrated most of my attention on Pride and Prejudice, which I am reading for my book club — hélas I’m afraid not diligently enough to be ready with comments by this Sunday.
Wednesday evening I saw a German movie called Oh Boy! It was v.o., version original, i.e. with French subtitles. That’s my preferred way to see movies here since I can follow the subtitles much more easily than I can spoken French. The French take their cinema seriously, so the room, the seats and the behavior of the other viewers is always agreeable. The movie itself was “a day in the life” of a late-twenty-something Berliner. Not much really happens but he encounters a variety of odd characters and amusing frustrations. It’s photographed in gorgeous black and white.
Thursday I strolled across the Marais to have lunch with my Harvard friend Elliot Marks. I brought a store-bought salad and he made a delicious risotto. After we agreed on the solutions to most of the world’s problems — and those of our mutual friends — I walked over to the Place des Vosges to read some more Jane Austen. It wasn’t quite as distracting as Parc Monceau the day before, but at least as lovely.
Thursday evening I met up for dinner with my not-so-old friend Nick. We first met in 2010, after his first trip to Paris and shortly before my own first petit séjour. He lives in Australia but our visits to Paris have by coincidence overlapped several times over the past few years. We had an apéro at my place, then dinner at Aux 3 Elephants, a quite adequate Thai restaurant on rue Tiquetonne that neither of us had been to.
One aspect of my first days here took me by surprise. On three occasions when I first parted with friends — Colin, Lisa and Joël — I experienced a mood shift, from slight elation to slight melancholy. I’m a rather self-sufficient person, and I’m not in love with any of my lovely friends, but it resembled the “shift from major to minor” that Cole Porter describes in “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.” This hasn’t happened since, even with the same friends. Nor do I recall it from prior years. Not important, I think, just curious.
Mot du jour: kir. A bright red cocktail commonly taken in the late afternoon as an apéro (apéritif) before dinner. It is composed of 1/3 cassis and 2/3 white Burgundy, though there are many variants. A kir royale for example, is made with sparkling Burgundy.