Saturday, August 05, 2006

Paris 2004

28/29 Avril - Our Air France 747 left Miami International Airport at 6:00 PM. It was fifteen minutes late taking off. It turned out to be the Flight From Hell. Robb's dinner sucked, there were several screaming kids and there was a lot of pretty rough turbulence (especially while I was eating). After bringing it all back up, I managed to actually get a few minutes of sleep.

We arrived at Aéroport de Paris Charles de Gaulle at 8:15 AM Paris time. A few minutes ahead of schedule. We got lost in the airport while trying to find the baggage claim. The weather was cold and windy but sunny. We got a taxi into the city. I recognized the area from all my webcam viewing and gave the driver pretty exact instructions to reach the apartment we had rented at 18 rue Raymond Aron. You can see pictures of the apartment HERE.

We had to wait quite awhile for the concierge, Monsieur Caulier, to show up with the key. His wife took us up to the apartment which was on the third floor (Paris - fourth floor in the US). It was a lot bigger and nicer than it appeared in the pictures on the agent's website. It is directly across the street from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, which consists of four twenty-four story buildings, each L-shaped which is representative of open books, of which twenty-two are above ground. There is a huge courtyard in the very center of the BNF which, when looking down into it, appears for all the world like a tropical rain forest. To the left of the apartment (north), is the Seine on which we can see several cruise boats (bateaux-mouches). On the other side of the river, is the Palais Omnisports de Paris and Cour St. Emilion. To the south of the apartment are the train tracks going to and coming from Gare Auzterlitz. Though we were less than two blocks from these tracks, we never heard a train the entire time we were in the apartment, although we heard several leaving the station while we were walking.

Monsieur Michel Malaval, from whom we had rented the apartment, left some excellent directions to various places we might need during our stay. One of these was a small grocery store named FranPrix. We walked the three blocks to Boulevard Vincent Auriol and got stuff for coffee and some salad stuff. While in the store, I heard a woman speaking to her daughter in English (real English) and on the return to the apartment, we got acquainted. She was in Paris with her Egyptian husband, an engineer. They were living in a building just down the street from us.

It began raining, lightly, about 4:00 PM. At about 9:30, we took the métro to Place d'Italie and had dinner in Café de France. We both had Veau Grille et Frites (grilled calve's liver and french fries) and shared a carafe of red wine. After desert and a café each, we métroed back to the apartment. We watched a bit of TV before going to bed. It rained rather hard for the rest of the night.

I had forgotten my umbrella.

30 Avril - I tossed and turned most of the night. It was cold in the apartment because we couldn't figure out the heating system and, also, I had developed cramps in my feet. First one foot and then the other, all night. Robb couldn't sleep either. I finally gave up at about 8:00 AM, by which time Robb had managed to get to sleep. He slept till noon. I set up the coffee pot and made coffee. Ahhh, good French coffee!

The first order of business was to go to Avenue Italie so that I could buy an umbrella. I had planned to just leave it in the apartment for whomever might need one, but it was so nice that I may take it with me. We walked back to Italie2 (a large, three-story shopping mall) to see if we could find a scarf for Robb, since he had forgotten to bring one. We found no scarves, but he bought a nice shirt at Armand Thierry. Then we went to the pharmacie where he bought shaving cream, toothpaste and shampoo. We stopped at Brioche Dorée for a ham and cheese baguette with an Orangina. Then we métroed to the Latin Quarter and walked over to see Ste. Sulpice, a cathedral on my list of things to see. It was really quite nice and well worth the walk. From there, we decided to walk to Boulevard St. Germain to find the New Man store for Robb. He thought the address was 155 but when we got there, it was something else. We drove past the address a few days later and it had magically appeared where it should have been. We're still puzzled about that.

We had walked quite a bit and we were both tired, so we métroed back to Quai de la Gare , the métro stop nearest the apartment. Robb thought most things would be closed on 1 May, which is Labor Day and a BIG holiday in France. We got some sandwich stuff and cookies at FranPrix.

Robb poured us some wine and and we drank that while enjoying some pâte. After, he tried on his new shirt. It fit him nicely.

After a short nap, we went out to find a place for dinner. We walked down to the quai and walked west along the Seine. Right on the corner was a Buffalo Grill. We passed on that. Then we came to a Quick (a French fast food place). I suggested it, but Robb nixed the idea immediately. We continued along the quai until the street was blocked by construction work. We walked up Boulevard Vincent Auriol and found an interesting looking place and went in. It was very nice. Kind of modern but classic at the same time. There was a neat mural on the ceiling very reminicsent of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The name of the place was Djoon.

We were seated and ordered dinner and wine. Everything was excellent: the ambience, the food, the decor, the staff and the clientèle. We will return there before we leave.

After dinner, we walked along Avenue de France and found another interesting looking restaurant: Brasserie Au Bureau. We'll try that one night.

1 Mai - I couldn't sleep and got up around 7:00 AM. Robb slept till noon, again. I made coffee, then we decided to walk to Gare de Lyon to check out Le Train Bleu. Because today is a major French holiday (Labor Day), we weren't sure it would be open. It was quite a long walk. We began our journey by walking down to the Seine to check on what we thought was a floating restaurant, but it was just a boat with an advertisement. We continued along the river to Pont de Bercy where we crossed to rive droite (north side of the river). While we were walking along the Seine, Geoff called from Rio. Is that amazing to you guys or am I just a babe in the woods? Oh yes, I guess I forgot to mention that I had taken my cell phone with me and this time, it actually worked in Paris.

We finally got to the train station and found Le Train Bleu. It is an absolutely beautiful restaurant. All the pictures I've seen do not do it justice. We made a reservation for 10:00 PM.

We left the train station, re-crossed the river and walked up Boulevard Vincent Auriol to Place d'Italie. We stopped at a small store to check on pillow prices because the pillows on the bed in the apartment were like hotel pillows - way too small and thin for my liking. They were closed because of the holiday. Since we were so close, I decided to check the computer place. It was open, so I rented an hour, wrote a quick FOD entry to let all the wonderful folks there know where we were, then Robb and I both checked our email.

We walked back to the apartment. Robb made a nice salad, then we rested until about 9:00 PM. We caught the métro to Nation station, where we got the #1 to Gare de Lyon. We arrived a bit early for our reservation, so we just sat in the station for awhile watching the people coming and going, then went up to the restaurant.

We started with a Kir Royal, during which we discovered that our waiter (whose name I did not get and Robb cannot remember) had been to the States as many times as we had been to Paris and absolutely loved Key West. Robb told him that he had lived there and from that point on we were treated like royalty. When we had drunk about half of our Kir Royals, he refilled the glasses with champagne. Our first course was Gros Escargot de Bourgogne. It was so much better than snails with just butter sauce. We had a glass of white wine with that. The main course was Pavé d'Espadon (Swordfish steak), with a glass of red wine (one recommended by our waiter). For desert we asked for his recommendation again. Robb had a rum-soaked cake. He brought the cake and a bottle of rum. I had puff pastry that had been halved and filled with vanilla ice cream and covered with a really rich chocolate sauce.

Although we had been in the restaurant for hours, it seemed like we had just gotten there when it was time to leave (they were actually closing the place down when we left).We got the #6 at Nation. At the next stop, a group of 6 - 8 young guys and one girl got on. They were all wearing big, red clown noses. The girl brought out another and I asked, "C'est pour moi?" She seemed surprised but put it on my nose anyway. That was all it took to become bosom buddies with the rest of them and I had a great time until Robb and I got off. The train departed with all of them saying, "A bientôt, amis!"

2 Mai - After last night, we were both exhausted and slept till noon. Robb made coffee and we discussed what we might do today. I was so worn out, I didn't feel up to much of anything, but decided a walk would do me good. We walked up rue Raymond Aron to Avenue de France. We stopped to check out the MK2 and found a couple of nice restaurants there: Jules and Jim, Limelight and Café Bibliothèque. Thought we might try one for dinner tonight. As we continued down the avenue, we discovered even more nice looking restaurants. We turned onto rue de Tolbiac and walked all the way to Avenue d'Italie, where we stopped at a small store and bought some napkins.

We crossed Place d'Italie to Boulevard Vincent Auriol and began the long walk back to the apartment. We wanted to stop at ED (a supermarket) but it was closed.

When we got back to the apartment, we tuned the radio to Chante France (90.9 FM). After awhile, we turned on the TV and watched some news. I slept a bit, then we had tea and cookies. Monsieur Malaval was supposed to have called to set up a time for meeting tomorrow, but had not called by 9:00 PM when we left for dinner. We checked out the Café Bibliothèque, but it seemed like a snack and drink place. Jules and Jim was closed until Mai 2005. The stairs up to Limelight were blocked off. We decided (as if we had a choice) to keep walking and looking.

We cut through the second part of MK2 and discovered it is a place where you can go to the movies (there were 12 theatres), buy movies (VHS or DVD) or buy books and/or CD's. One of the movies playing at MK2 was "Mambo Italiano", which I had been wanting to see ever since I had found a synopsis of it on a movie website. We kept talking about it, but we never got around to actually going.

After MK2, we found a nice place just down the block - L'Avenue. There were lots of outside tables (café terrace) but it was a bit too chilly for me and we opted to sit inside. The decor was moderately modern. There were music videos (some French, some American) being shown on a large screen on the rear wall. We ordered moules (mussels). I had Moules Marinière, Robb had Moules à la Provençale. They came with a side of frites. We split a bottle of Sancerre. For desert, I had Panna Cotta, Robb had Souffle de Cointreau. They were both excellent. To finish the meal, Robb had his usual café and I had a cappucino caramel.

I was too tired to walk tonight, so we just returned to the apartment.

3 Mai - Up by 10:00 AM, coffee and then off to ED for groceries. Good grief, what a terrible store. As bad as FranPrix is (compared to Monoprix, FranPrix is tiny and only marginally sufficient), it's many times better than ED. It was dirty and very poorly organized. We got most of what we wanted and returned to the apartment.

We métroed to the Richelieu-Drouot stop and walked down Boulevard des Italiens. Robb stopped at a shoe store (Heyraud) and bought a pair of brown shoes. We continued down the boulevard to Boulevard des Capucines, looking for yet another New Man store. This one was actually where it was supposed to be. Robb bought a pair of slacks and a matching lightweight jacket. We left there and walked to Springfield just down and across the street. Robb bought two pairs of slacks and another lightweight jacket. I bought two pairs of slacks. They will be ready for pick up on Wednesday.

We métroed back to the apartment. We were barely in the door, when Monsieur Malaval called and asked if he could stop by for a few minutes. He was knocking at the door about twenty minutes later.

He is a very distinguished looking, older man. He told us he is an engineer and that he had bought the apartment for his son who is in a wheelchair. We chatted for quite a while. He told us that he and eight other couples had rented a huge chateau in Avignon, in the south of France. He went on to explain that Avignon is a place where during the summer, there are more than six hundred theatrical shows in various places around the town. I offered him a glass of wine but he refused, explaining that his wife was downstairs, waiting in the car. We talked a few minutes longer, he recommended a couple of nice, very French, restaurants, and then he left.

Robb and I had some wine and watched a bit of TV until about 10:00 PM. Well, okay.....I fell asleep. Hey, I was tired.

Then we went to the Limelight for dinner, but discovered that it's closed on Monday. We decided to check out the Buffalo Grill. It was better than we had expected. We had no sooner sat down than the waitress brought us a very nice salad. Robb ordered a carafe of wine. We had the "dinner menu", which consisted of salade, entrée (we chose filet de Dorade - a white fish), and desert (we had the pear tarte). Ended dinner with an expresso. There were very few people in the restaurant. It was amazing to sit at a table eating dinner and looking out the window to see one of the most famous rivers in the world. While we were there, several bateaux-mouches went by. We discovered there is a place to board them just across the river. After dinner, we crossed the street and walked along the Seine for a short while.

4 Mai - We got up late. Even though it looked like rain, we didn't take our umbrellas. It had gotten colder and, to make matters worse, it was very windy. We métroed to the Châtelet area. We went to BHV, where I bought a hand-held shower head very much like the one we had had in the place on Avenue de Choisy, which I had really liked.

Afterwards, we walked up rue de Temple. It had begun to rain lightly. We stopped at a gay clothing store (rue de Temple is reputed to be the western edge of the Marais, which is very gay). I bought a neat metal belt and Robb bought another shirt. We continued our walk, stopping at a small place to get a couple of cheap, but serviceable, umbrellas. We walked as far as Square du Temple, then started back to Hôtel de Ville. We stopped at a small bistro for a sandwich and coffee. While we were eating, the weather took a turn for the worse. Métroed back to the apartment area and stopped at FranPrix to pick up a few things for dinner.....just in case it was too miserable to go out.

It was a good thing we prepared for the worst, because that's exactly what happened and we spent the rest of the night in the apartment. It was so cold. I slept for an hour or so, then we watched a little TV but mostly listened to the radio. We ate dinner around 10:00PM, after which, I took a few thousand mg's of vitamin C with juice. Went to bed around midnight.

5 Mai - Got up about nine. It appears to be a continuation of yesterday - cold, windy and miserable with a light rain. We had our morning coffee and I consumed some more vitamin C. Robb, in a moment of supreme confidence, decided to walk to FranPrix alone. I made certain he had memorized the address, but for once, he had no problem.

When he returned, we métroed across town to Springfield to pick up the stuff we had bought on Monday. I bought two shirts, like T-shirts, but not. Robb wanted to go to Au Printemps to get perfume for his mother, so we walked up there. While he was doing that, I strolled around and found a cute set of Swarovski penguins and bought it. Robb got the perfume, then while browsing, he found a beautiful multi-blue sweater, which he bought. On the way to a pharmacie, we stopped at a Habitat (a home accessory store). They have a lot of really nice stuff. Robb bought some candles because, at home, we dine by candlelight every night. At the pharmacie, Robb got some stuff for his contacts.

We caught a taxi back to the apartment. We tried on all our new clothes and had tea and cookies. Have I mentioned the wonderful butter cookies they have over here?

We hung out till about 9:00 PM, then took the métro to Corvisart and walked to La Touraine for dinner. Robb had Salade de Coquille St. Jacques (salad with scallops), I had Salade d'Asperges (salad with asparagus). My main course was Saumon avec Champignons et Pommes de Terre (salmon with mushrooms and potatoes), Robb had D'Agneau de Cordon Bleu (Lamb Cordon Blue). We both had the Chevre fromage (cheese) course. For desert, Robb had Crème Brulée and I had Crème Caramel. We split a bottle of Sancerre. Finished with a cup of Café Colombe.

We checked out Brasserie Au Bureau several times. It seems to be lunch only.

6 Mai - Robb jumped out of bed around 7:00 AM thinking it was past nine. Métroed to Boulevard Montmartre and Musée Grévin. It is a wax museum. What I thought was going to be a few wax figures, turned out to be so much more, and from the lack of people while we were there, very unknown to the average tourist. There are wax figures from just about every period in history. All costumed expertly and placed in settings in which you would expect to see them. Napoleon, Josephine, Marie Antoinette, Louis XIV, Joan of Arc, Voltaire, Molière, Dubya, Tony Blair, Putin, Clint Eastwood and John Wayne, Laurel & Hardy, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Julia Roberts, Ghandi and, yes, even Michael Jackson. They are all so very lifelike. At one point in the display, which takes you through room after room, up stairs and down stairs, there is a special surprise, but I'm not going to tell you what it is. You will have to go and see for yourselves.

After the Musée Grévin, we walked to Place Vendôme. Robb was hoping to get a parasol for his aunt, but evidently, they no longer make them. Place Vendôme is where you will find Van Cleef and Arpels, Chanel, Dior, Bulgarie and the Ritz Hotel, among others.

We left that area and walked down to rue de Rivoli, stopping at Regent and B, where Robb bought another nice shirt and a cashmere scarf. We finally made it to rue de Rivoli and turned to the east, past all the souvenir shops to rue de Richelieu, where we checked out the Palais Royal. There was an art class there, apparently completing an assignment. As you would expect, some were rather good while others should perhaps think of a different vocation.

We métroed back to the apartment and had some tea and cookies while Robb tried on his new stuff.

We were going to go to one of my favorite oriental restaurants for dinner, but Robb decided, because I sneezed a couple of times, that it was too cold for me to be outside. So, we had dinner in the apartment - a very nice salad, prepared by Robb, then Quiche Lorraine, washed down with a few glasses of lovely Saint-Emilion wine.

7 Mai - After morning coffee, we walked down to Pont de Bercy, crossed the river and walked down to Marina Bercy to check on the prices of a Seine cruise. They only have lunch and dinner cruises. The prices are very reasonable, but we didn't want a dining cruise. Perhaps we can take the cruise and just have a glass (or two) of wine. We'll think about it.

After, we re-crossed the river and got the métro to Place d'Italie, cause Robb wanted to go to one of the nice pharmacies there to get throat lozenges and more vitamin C tabs. He got his stuff and we stopped at Le Canon de Tolbiac for lunch. We both had the Omellette Mixte (sort of a Western omelette). Robb had the salad, I did not. We split a demi-carafe of red wine. It was so nice sitting in the bistrot drinking our wine, that we had another demi-carafe and just sat there enjoying the wine and the bistrot and the crowds of people walking and driving by.

A couple of hours later, we decided to go to the Monoprix, just to remind ourselves of what we were missing in the new neighborhood. While there, I bought a pair of heavy socks to wear like slippers in the apartment and Robb bought some conditioner. We stopped at a patissierie and I bought a couple croissants.

We went to Italie2 because Robb was going to buy some cologne, but he changed his mind and bought nothing. We métroed back to the apartment.

9:30 PM we left for dinner at Limelight but it turned out to be a bar with a DJ. We decided to go to L'Avenue again. I had Spaghetti avec Sauce Bolognaise, Robb had Spaghetti Carbonara. We split a bottle of Saint-Emilion. For desert, I had Darquoise Fruit Rouge (three kinds of red-fruit sorbet) and Robb had the Panna Cotta I had had last time. Of course, café to end the meal. We had a different waiter this time, but on the way out, the cute guy we had last time, stopped us and stated that next time we came, he would like us to give him a few more pointers in English and he would help us with our French. I think we've made another friend.

8 Mai - The day the French celebrate the end of World War II.

What a lousy day it has turned out to be - cold, wet and windy. I can't handle this kind of weather. I can take cold and windy. I can take cold and wet. But all three is too much; I become like a bear, I look for a nice cave where I can hibernate until warm weather arrives.

Robb (bless his heart) told me I couldn't go out to play today. And I did not. I spent the whole day either sleeping, watching TV or listening to the radio. There are no English-language channels on the TV in the apartment, but I guess that's a good thing from the stand point of learning real French.

For dinner, we had sandwiches of roast pork and cheese, a salad and wine.

9 Mai - Because of his continued success, Robb has decided to venture even further from the nest today. He wanted to go to the pharmacie which is in a different direction than the FranPrix. I explained the directions a couple of times and he took off. He returned a while later. The pharmacie was closed, but he had continued his walk all the way to Gare d'Auzterlitz. I'm so proud!

While he was gone, I got myself ready to go.

We métroed to Place de la Bastille where we checked out the Opéra de la Bastille and the Colonne de Juillet (July Column). The opera building is a relatively new structure built in 1989 by Canadian architect Carlos Ott and very modern in appearance. There was nothing being presented during our brief stay but the next program was to be Don Quixote. The Colonne de Juillet is a huge column in the center of the Place which commemorates the storming of the Bastille - an event that never actually took place, at least, not in the way it is commemorated (although the date, July 14, marks the beginning of the French revolution).

We walked from there to Place des Vosges, which is a park surrounded on all four sides by very old, very expensive apartments, one of which was formerly occupied by Victor Hugo of "Hunchback of Notre Dame" fame. For a fee, you can go in and have a look around. We did not.

Around 8:30, we métroed to Place d'Italie where we changed trains to rue de Tolbiac. We walked down to Au Village de Choisy for dinner. We started with some delicious spring rolls. Our main dish was Coquille St. Jacques Imperiale, accompanied by a bottle of Sancerre. They used some very hot chilis in this dish. Desert was a Mocha Parfait with alternating layers of mocha ice cream, cream coffee sauce and whipped cream. It was sooooooo good! And café.

10 Mai - We awoke to what appears to be a carbon copy of Saturday - except it's not quite as windy.

We said, "The hell with it," and métroed to Etoile-Place Charles de Gaulle. Before you even get all the way up to the sidewalk, l'Arc de Triomphe looms before you. It really is an imposing, massive structure. We hadn't been here since our second time in Paris, and the weather had turned really nice, so we decided we would walk the length of the Champs-Elysées (see it HERE and HERE) to the Place de la Concorde. Then we walked along rue de Rivoli to rue Royale. We walked up rue Royale to the Madeleine. Just across the street is a store that sells nothing but Maille Moutarde (mustard). We stopped in there because Robb wanted to get a jar of Moutarde à l'Ancien, which is a mustard that is very spicy, but it's difficult to find in the US. We had a nice chat with the salesgirl. got the mustard and left to pick up Robb's pants at New Man on Boulevard des Capucines.

After getting his pants, we stopped at a brasserie for a late lunch. Then, we walked to les Galeries Lafayette so Robb could get a nice scarf for his cousin (who is quite a bit older than he). She was married to a Frenchman and still has relatives in Paris. We did not visit them because the French are very formal and don't appreciate "strangers" popping in unannounced.

He found a nice scarf, we left and caught a taxi back to the apartment. We deposited all of Robb's packages and went out to go to the pharmacie and FranPrix for wine. We met our "landlord", Michel, as we got off the elevator and made a date to have drinks on Wednesday evening at seven.

Because of the big, late lunch (we'll try not to do that again anytime soon) we decided to just have a sandwich for dinner - with wine, of course.

About 11:00 PM, we decided to go to L'Avenue for desert. Boris, the cute waiter from the other night, was our waiter again. I keep saying that he is cute, so let me try to describe him. He is about 5'9", early twenties with jet-black hair and a swimmer's body (though we only saw him wearing clothes). He is half-French, half-Russian and lives in a hotel because he cannot yet afford an apartment. Comparative look-alike? Dean Cain (or maybe Rob Lowe when he was a lot younger), but Boris is much better looking. Robb and I had desert with champagne. After we called for the check, Boris gave us each a glass of champagne, compliments of him.

11 Mai - The original plan was to take the métro and, after a couple of changes, we would arrive at the Sully-Morland terminal from which we could cross the Pont de Sully and walk around Ile St-Louis, the island east of Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame. But before we got to the métro station, we decided the weather was nice enough that we could walk along the Seine. We weren't certain exactly how far we could go and once we reached Port de Plaisance de Paris Arsenal, we had to leave the river and use Quai Henri IV. We walked down the quai to the Pont de Sully. We crossed over and walked about the island for awhile. Other than a lot of very old buildings, some nice restaurants and one famous ice cream shop (Berthillon), there isn't much of interest - unless you happened to have read a book titled, "The Married Man" by Edmund White, since most of the first third of the book takes place on this very island. What a unique and magnificent experience!

We left Ile St-Louis and walked to rue de Rivoli. We strolled down past BHV to rue du Renard where we turned north toward rue de Rambuteau and the Centre Georges Pompidou. We thought we would go to the restaurant on the top floor for lunch. Sadly, the Centre is closed on Tuesday. We continued down rue de Rambuteau to the Forum des Halles and found a nice place. Since the weather was so beautiful, we decided to eat on the terrace. We each had a ham and cheese baguette with a glass of wine.

After, we stopped at a parfumerie and Robb bought some for one of his co-workers. We continued down rue de Rambuteau to L'Église Saint-Eustache. We had passed it many times in previous trips, but had never gone inside. We did that today. It is quite large inside and, while not on a par with some other cathedrals we've seen, was interesting in its own right.

After, we walked back past the Forum des Halles and the Fountaine des Innocents to a fountain conceived as a physical representation of Stravinsky's music. The fountain has a lot of ultra-modern sculptures. Some are stationary and some spin around due to water pressure.

We left there back down rue du Renard to Hôtel de Ville, where we caught the métro back to the area of our apartment. We stopped at Djoon and made a reservation for dinner. Then we walked to MK2 so Robb could see if there were any books or CD's he couldn't live without, but he bought nothing.

At 9:45 PM, we left for dinner. They had told us while making the reservation, that they were expecting a large party of people, but when we arrived there were no more than ten people in the place. During the course of our dinner, that changed and the large group showed up in pairs and more, until there really were a lot of people. Evidently, it was a birthday party.

Dinner began with a great entrée: Croustillant de Chevre (Chevre cheese in a puff pastry with a wonderful salad). That was followed by Curry de Lotte (a white fish in a delicious curry sauce, with sides of Saffron Rice and a combination of Baby Corn and Okra). We had a carafe of red wine with the entrée and a carafe of white wine with the fish. For desert, we asked the waitress to choose something for us. She brought out two fantastic dishes. The first was Champagne Sorbet in a Vanilla Sauce with a brulée-like sugar crust. The other was a wonderful, molded chocolate-mousse-like confection. There was a guy and a girl at the table adjacent to us and Robb remarked, to me, that she was very beautiful. As soon as she turned, I had a look. She was indeed beautiful. Then, her bag fell to the floor and a magazine fell out. We were somewhat amazed to see that she was the girl on the cover!

We left the restaurant once again stuffed and very happy.

12 Mai - Robb rushed out to the store to buy coffee. Then we gathered a bunch of stuff together and left to get soap powder with which to wash them in the laundromat across the street from FranPrix, but when we got there, we found that the place was closed on Wednesday. So we lugged all the stuff back to the apartment.

We métroed to Place d'Italie because Robb discovered that the shirt he had bought at Armand Thierry was flawed. They gave him a bit of a hassle at first, because he had lost his receipt, but eventually gave him a replacement (because the manager happened to stop by and recognized Robb from all our previous shopping excursions there).

We were left with most of the afternoon to go, so we decided to go to Montmartre for lunch. After several train changes, we arrived in Montmartre only to find that neither of us was hungry. We figured as long as we were there anyway, we might as well go up and check out La Basilique du Sacré Coeur (click on the picture and move your cursor). As can be seen by any exterior shot, it is a really beautiful thing. What can not be seen, since interior pictures are prohibited, is that it is just as beautiful inside. They have changed the website since I first wrote this. Somehow, they have included a 360-degree video of the interior of the basilique.

Monsieur Malaval was late for his 7:00 PM meeting with us because of the Parisian traffic, but he did call to let us know that he was on his way. He arrived a bit after 7:30. We sat chatting and drinking wine until after 8:30. Then he offered to show us a couple of restaurants that he prefers when he is in the city. We chose Au Bon Coin (the Good Corner). He asked if he could join us and we were more than pleased to have his company. The restaurant was crowded when we got there and we had to wait, behind the bar, until a table (there were only ten in the place) opened and we could be seated. Michel seemed to be on excellent terms with the owner. When we were shown to a table, we asked him to chose the meal and he, in turn, asked what we liked. Then he ordered. The entrée was: Michel - Herring with Potatoes, Robb - a Charcuterie (cold cuts), me - Escargot (even though they were prepared in the traditional garlic-butter sauce, they were excellent). The main courses were: Michel - Roasted Duck, Robb - Sea Bass, me - Sole (it was the whole fish). For desert: Michel - Crème Brulée, Robb and me - Crème Caramel. After desert, Michel ordered three different kinds of brandy - Calvados, Alignac and Vieille Prûne. We all had a sip of each.

During the course of the meal, we talked at length about a lot of subjects and, of course, we eventually got around to Bush and Iraq. Now, I think, is a good time for a bit of background on Michel, He is an engineer who works for an American company and spends a lot of time in the US (mostly in California). He likes the people (Americans) but he, like most Europeans, thinks Bush is totally lacking in understanding what and how the world outside of the US conducts their affairs. Bush is perceived as a bully and a typical American christian who wants to shove his beliefs down the throats of everyone else. Michel told us that all of Europe was surprised when it was announced that Bush had been "elected" President. He asked how we could have voted for someone like that. Robb and I tried to explain the election hi-jinks that had occured, but it is difficult to understand at best and I don't think we did much better. I asked him about the European opinion of Bill Clinton. He brightened at the mention of the name and told us that Clinton had been highly regarded in Europe and the "scandal" of his sexcapades, only made him appear more realistic to them. They thought the whole affair was terribly funny because their view of sex is so totally different than the Puritanised version practised in the US. The only thing they found disagreeable was that he found it necessary to lie about it.

After dinner, as we walked back to his car, he introduced us to another French innovation. They now have a device which is about the size of the average credit card, that locks and unlocks the car doors and turns the lights on and off. The new thing is that once it is set, it does all that automatically. When one is a certain distance from the vehicle, it shuts off the lights and locks the doors. As we approached his car, and got into range, it automatically turned on the lights and unlocked the doors. What a super handy device, especially if your arms are full of packages.

Michel drove us back to the apartment, where we said our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch. He also suggested that since we now have his phone number and email address, if we wanted to rent the place again, we could just contact him and avoid the agency fee (which is about 25%).

Back in the apartment, Robb called to have a taxi pick us up at 8:00 AM. The company was represented by an answering machine, so I suggested that perhaps he should try to get one where he could speak to a real person, just in case, so he called another.

It was a bit after one when we finally crawled into bed.

13 Mai - We arose at 6:30 AM. We were supposed to leave about 8:00. Robb was worried that both taxis would show up, but in fact, neither showed up. Since we had left the key in the apartment as per Michel's request, we had no way to call another. As luck would have it, Monsieur Caulier was working in the atrium and I asked him to call for us. He tried several numbers, but none of them would send a taxi. We still do not know why! He suggested we walk down to the corner where, maybe, we could flag down a passing taxi. So, off we went, luggage in tow. We saw a lot of taxis, but they were all occupied. It was getting late and I was beginning to think that we were not going to make the plane.

Just as things looked pretty hopeless, I saw an empty taxi heading in the opposite direction and waved him down. He made a U-turn and picked us up. He was a Greek who was born and raised in Marseille. About five years ago, he moved to Paris. He was a walking bibliothèque of French history. He also talked the entire trip to the airport, which took quite a bit longer than usual because the traffic was basically stop-and-go the whole distance. But he somehow got us there with over a half-hour to spare.

The flight home was long - about ten hours, but a lot better then the one going. 747's are nice, but I think I prefer the Airbus, which I remember being a bit roomier plus the added bonus of having individual TV screens with which you could choose what you wanted to see.

When we got back to Miami International, the customs people gave Robb a bit of a hassle because he honestly reported that he had bought about $1,000 worth of clothes. They did not make him open his bags, but still it was obviously just them being assholes because they could. And who would have believed that in an airport the size of Miami International, there would be only ONE ATM machine? I mentioned that to Geoff and he stated that there are at least six ATM machines in the airport. But every time I asked directions to one, I always got the same advice. So, until I see for myself that there are more, I will assume there is only one. And that was so small and badly placed that I nearly did not find it. To add insult to injury, the taxi home cost twice as much as we had paid in Paris.

I think we have decided that we will never fly out of Miami again.

I hope some of you liked all the picture links I tried to include. I feel it definitely adds to the experience.

A bientôt, mes amis.