I’m on my own for a few days between house guests. I’m always struck by the difference between traveling with friends and traveling by myself.
When I’m with others a large part of my consciousness involves my companions. I’m making sure we’re together and everyone is happy, or if not trying to figure out how to do better. Decisions require discussion, but they also also have the potential for a more interesting choice than if I followed my usual preferences. I don’t spend as much time absorbing my surroundings, but by seeing the environment through the eyes of others I often perceive something I would have missed. And being with friends is cozy and comfortable.
Alone again, however, it can feel as if curled-up antennae open out; even that a third eye opens! Suddenly I’m more aware of everything around me, and of my own thoughts and feelings. Acute self-consciousness was sometimes a problem when I traveled alone before I came out, but in recent decades it’s been stimulating rather than excruciating. Safety is another aspect; there’s a greater need to be aware of your surroundings when you’re alone (and I’m afraid that as I age I am becoming an increasingly attractive target). Loneliness and horniness can also be factors, causing me to pay more attention to those around me than when I’m already with a nice or attractive guy. On the other hand, being alone is more stressful, and I can run out of steam more easily on my own than when I’m swept along by the enthusiasm of a group.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have no clear preference between traveling alone or with friends. They are simply different experiences, both of which have their pros and cons.
On Tuesday, after Matt and Chris left, I did laundry and reorganized the apartment, met a promising young man for an afternoon drink, then had dinner with an old friend, Larry Tu, at 16 Haussmann, in the Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel. As Larry says, it’s a calm and elegant room, and both service and food are good.
My delicious salmon appetizer at 16 Haussmann.
Larry and me at 16 Haussmann.
To put the cherry on top, by reserving through The Fork (which I heartily recommend) we could order from the regular menu for half price! Yet it somehow seems off kilter to come all the way to Paris and eat at a Marriott. I tend to prefer places that are more crowded and noisy, but also hip and trendy. On the other hand, this meal has me wondering whether it might sometimes be more pleasant to have a good French meal in a lovely calm room — especially at half price!
After dinner I strolled back home along the Grands Boulevards. At the end of rue Lafitte, right next to the hotel, Sacré-Coeur loomed like a Disney castle, or a hallucination!
Sacré-Coeur at the end of rue Lafitte viewed from Boulevard Haussmann.
When I was almost home I noticed that Bonne Nouvelle, the little bar on Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière across from the Grand Rex, was overflowing with gay men. Lisa’s Geoff had introduced me to it last year, but it had been dead every time I’d seen it this year. Tuesday seems to be its big night! I had a beer there just because. The owner greeted me warmly — possibly even remembering me from last year? — but I didn’t strike up any other conversations.
Wednesday I had lunch at Pur, a trendy locavore place on my own street that I had discovered with Matt and Chris last week. I really like the experience but I have to agree with one reviewer that you’re still hungry when you leave: the portions are tiny.
Lunch at Pur. Tasty and healthy but not filling.
Then I went over to have a look at the Modern Art Museum of the City of Paris in the 16th arrondissement. It’s overshadowed by the Pompidou Center, but it’s much less crowded and I quite enjoy it. I’ll put up a photo set of my favorite pieces from this year’s visit at some point, but for the moment here are a few glimpses. There’s a truly bizarre “House of Horrors” in the basement, a scary two-person ride in the dark with strange creatures popping out at you. The ultimate convergence of fun house and contemporary art!
House of Horrors at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris.
In the House of Horrors at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris.
And here’s a video panorama of the Surrealism Room.
Wednesday night I made and enjoyed a home-cooked meal with fresh pasta and pesto sauce (left by Matt and Chris), green beans, salad and a pain de tradition.
Home-cooked meal at 12 rue des Jeûneurs.
For Thursday lunch I tried out a Bretonne restaurant a few blocks away that I have walked past many times, Délices de la Lune (“delights of the moon”). The staff were friendly and professional, and the food was delicious and seemed authentic.
Lunch at Délices de la Lune in the 2ème.
I had not allowed enough time on Wednesday afternoon to see the three exhibitions that had just opened at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris so I went back on Thursday afternoon to take them in. All three showcased eccentric artists somewhat out of the mainstream: Markus Lüpertz, Carol Rama and Henry Darger. They were all intriguing, but of the three I preferred the Lüpertz show.
Markus Lüpertz exhibition at the Modern Art Museum of the City of Paris.
Rough sculptures depicting characters from Greek mythology were my favorites. Much of Carol Rama’s work is lesbian porn, which can be stimulating but isn’t really my style. Henry Darger’s work is profoundly weird. His entire oeuvre was discovered in his cluttered apartment after his death. Most of it depicts a grisly war between imaginary countries involving a group of androgynous girls, who are usually depicted naked, with immature male genitals. The progression of drawings might well be as interesting to an abnormal psychologist — or a child molester — as to an aesthete.
After the museum I strolled across the Seine and took a photo of the new Rosa Bonheur floating bar. I have been skeptical about this, since part of the charm of the original Rosa is its relative inaccessibility. Most of the patrons seemed straight — which is also true of the original guinguette, except on Sunday afternoons — but after taking the photo I did notice a table of four young men who seemed friendly.
Rosa Bonheur sur Seine. Bobo going posh?
On Friday morning, before Yunpeng arrived, I climbed the Tour Saint-Jacques in the Marais. You have to reserve on line several days in advance, and only 17 people are allowed up at a time. It was an interesting tour and a breathtaking view. Here’s a sample photo, and you can see the full photo set at: The View from the Tour Saint-Jacques.
Les Invalides, the Eiffel Tower and the Musée d’Orsay from the Tour Saint-Jacques in the Marais.