Monday, August 11, 2008

Paris 2008 - Hostages

31 Juillet (Jeudi) - We were up around 08h00 getting everything together for the journey back to the US. We had already changed our schedule several times because I get fidgety when I have to be some place at a specific time. For some reason, I remembered our plane leaving at 14h00, when in fact, it was to leave at 13h40. I believe in getting to the airport at least a couple of hours before flight time because you never know what kind of glitches you're going to encounter.

Robb went down to the gardienne's office to ask her to call a taxi. The taxi dispatcher told them it was too late, we should have called earlier. Another glaring example of how illogical Parisians can be. There are taxis all over the city just sitting, waiting for a fare, so how can it ever be too late to pick up someone? As much as I like the bus drivers, that's how much total disdain I have for the taxi drivers of Paris.

Mme Chicha's mother showed up a little after 10h00 to inspect and begin her clean-up (bed linens, towels, etc.). Evidently, she is the 'crew' who comes in and cleans up before the next renter arrives to take over the place. She is a delightful woman; cheerful, competent and talkative.

Robb had already taken the bags down to the lobby, so after we got the 'all clear' on the shape of the place, we went down. I stayed with the bags while Robb walked down to Place Léon Blum to fetch a taxi. He returned in a few minutes and we were on our way to Orly Sud. We had no trouble getting a couple of baggage carts and then we were off to find the check-in counter for L'Avion. It was, of course, at the far end of the terminal, but check-in was easy and quick. We had about half an hour to kill before boarding began.

The plane was freezing and I spent a good deal of the flight under my blanket. About an hour before we landed in Newark, it warmed up enough for me to feel comfortable.

We were shocked in Newark when we went down to get our bags. Evidently, American airports now charge $3.00 per cart for baggage carts. The very same carts we used for free in France. On the plus side, we didn't have to haul the bags to the Continental ticket counter. We simply pushed the carts to a drop-off area where they tagged them for the next flight and sent them to the proper airline baggage area. We had almost four hours to kill between planes.

The Continental flight to Fort Lauderdale went rather quickly because I managed to sleep most of the way down, even though feeling like I was stuffed into the tiny coach seat after the roomy, comfortable seats on L'Avion.

When Robb went to pick up our bags in Fort Lauderdale, two of them were damaged. The handle was falling off his smaller bag and somehow they had broken the wheels off his large bag. I know they don't handle the bags gently when loading and unloading the planes, but that seemed a bit unreasonable to me. We found a baggage handler who loaded them onto his cart and took them out to the taxi stand.

We were home a little after 01h00, sad to be back in the US, but glad the travel ordeal was behind us.

1 Août (Vendredi) - It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. This, our longest ever stay in Paris, was a very mixed bag. We learned a lot that we previously had not known, and in a way, wish we still didn't know. Paris is not the paradise we had thought. We would still prefer to live there (or some place in France, maybe Toulouse), but we no longer have the blinders on our eyes.

That's especially true if you have any kind of handicap that prevents you from climbing steps or walking long distances. Paris is not handicapped friendly.

We met some really nice people and we had some nice adventures. We saw some places to which we had never ventured before, and were glad we had the chance to see them. We had always avoided La Défense on previous trips, but it was much better than we had expected. Riding buses as much as we did this time, was a new and interesting experience, though not using the métro as often really cut into our ability to get around. I regret that we never tried using the Noctilien, the after hours bus system.

Before we left for Paris, I was anticipating a more interactive experience due to knowing several bloggers. It didn't turn out to be as interactive as I had hoped. They were friendly enough when we contacted them, or joined them for their outings, but it was less than I had hoped. I mean, I know they have their own lives and friends and such, but I kind of thought at least one or two would call (they all had our number) and suggest a get together for a drink or something. No one did that. It was disappointing on a major scale. I suppose we were spoiled by our friends in Toulouse, who went out of their way to invite us for drinks and dinners.

9 Août (Samedi) - We went to our favorite French restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Sage. Again, we were shocked at the noise level and the place wasn't even crowded. Our favorite waitress, Edith from Limoges, France was on vacation in France. We had a waiter named Pablo, from Equador, who practically hovered over us during the entire meal, which wasn't that good. In fact, we noticed that most of the staff we saw were people we hadn't seen before. We wondered if maybe the place had been sold, but Pablo assured us it was under the same owner, but with a new manager.

We were drinking our café, when Pablo informed us that an armed robbery was taking place just down the street. I turned and looked out the window, and sure enough, the parking lot was crawling with police cars with lights flashing. Naturally, some of us had to go ourside for a better look. According to the people who were already out there, the supermarket down the block was being held up and the gunmen had hostages. The police told us to get inside because they were expecting gunfire.

The restaurant manager handled it quite nicely by offering everyone free drinks (wine or coffee, since they only have a beer-wine license).

After a half hour, everyone was getting a bit anxious to get out and get on with whatever they had planned, but the police weren't letting anyone leave.

Finally, about an hour later, it appeared the police had gotten inside the store and they were relaxing their vigil. Robb suggested we try to leave, so we got into our car and drove to the exit. I stopped and asked the policeman there, if we could leave and he told us to go south because they still had the northern section of the street blocked off.

We haven't seen or heard anything about what actually occured or how it turned out.

11 Août (Lundi) - I won't be posting any further entries here until we travel again, possibly Atlanta, Georgia in September. We're thinking we might move there and we want to check it out. Geoff has a friend who lives there, and has for several years. Maybe we can pick his brain.

If you're masochistic enough to want to read about our dull lives any further, just click on "Whatever" on the top right of this page.

À bientôt, mes amis.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Paris 2008 - 29-30 Juillet

Samedi - It appears I am going to finish this trip the same as I started - sick.

- This will be the last entry from Paris. By this time tomorrow, we will be midway across the Big Pond on our way to exotic Newark, New Jersey.

Today for the first time since last Friday, I left the apartment for a couple of hours. In hindsight, I'm not certain how smart that was of me, but it's done now. I don't feel my best, but I've been worse.

We walked down to rue de la Roquette and caught the 61 bus, ostensibly to ride up to Place Gambetta because the other day I thought I saw an area from where one could view the entire city below. I must have a really, really good imagination, because there was no such place where I thought I had seen it. So we stayed on the bus. We were going to ride to the end of the line again, but we got to a stop where you could see a good bit of the city below you. We were in a totally new part of the city to us. I'm not really sure where we were, but if anyone who lives here reads this, the bus stop was Jean Jaurès in the XXé.

We caught the next bus back to our area where we stopped at La Grande Roquette for a café.

Speaking of buses, I think it would only be fair to say some nice words about the bus drivers in Paris. I told you about the one bad experience when the guy lied to me. That was kind of equalled out by the story of the driver who let us off between stops. But that doesn't tell the overall story. Time and time again, I have seen drivers wait for someone who was at least a half block away running to catch it. I have seen drivers open the door and let someone in who came and knocked on the door while the bus was stopped at a light. So, let it be known that the bus drivers in Paris are another much maligned group who in no way deserve a bad reputation.

A few moments ago, Geoff called to inform me that my car had been towed because the local police who are never around when they're needed, drove through and noticed my tag had expired. I'm sure I re-newed the tag, but I don't think I put it on yet because my insurance expired while I was here and I couldn't see paying for three months of insurance that would be useless. Oh well, time enough to sort that out when we get back.

We are, hopefully, going to have our last dinner in Paris at l'Angella in a few hours. We made it to the restaurant, but after eating very little, I had to leave and go back to the apartment. I was getting sicker by the minute and felt if I had stayed any longer, what little I did eat would have ended up on the table. What a perfect ending for this trip.

À bientôt, mes amis.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Paris 2008 - 25 Juillet

Vendredi - Went out and re-took some pictures that didn't turn out too well the first time, after which we went to L'Oisive Thé for a light snack.

During our trip to the teahouse, an interesting phenomena occured. When we first got on the bus, a couple also got on. When we got to our stop, they were somehow already there waiting for the next bus. Now, I know they did not get off the bus before us, and, because of their age and walking difficulties, they could not have gotten off at the previous stop and walked there before the bus got there. So my question is; how did they do that? That's at least the second time that has happened since we've been here. I find it really strange.

By the time we got to the teahouse, I was feeling even more tired than usual and I feared I was on the verge of some sort of illness, which later in the evening, proved to be the case. I have come down with something but I'm not sure what it might be. Just another of the joys of using public transportation.

Now, I don't want to leave the impression that I'm against public transportation. Quite the opposite. I love using buses and métros simply because you get to experience the people as well as the city. But you do have to realize that there will be times when you will contract some sort of illness. It's unavoidable.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Paris 2008 - 24 Juillet

Jeudi - We decided to go back and view the Musée Guimet today. We had no sooner boarded the 63 bus, than a troop of twelve to fifteen children were brought on by their day care supervisors. I had no problem with the kids, but one of the supervisors, who was seated directly behind me, would not shut up. It was bad enough that she keep her mouth moving the entire time until we got off a stop or two ahead of them, but she was extremely loud.

We walked up to Musée Guimet only to find a long line waiting to get in. We decided to take a walk around the area. In the distance, a few blocks, I saw an interesting building tower and thought we could have a look, but we never got there. Robb was feeling hungry and we came across a nice bistrot just across the street from the Musée Galliéra, I'm not certain but this appears to be the main entrance. At bistrot Galliéra, we sat on the café terrasse. I had fish-on-a-stick and Robb had salmon. Never heard of fish-on-a-stick you say? Well, actually, it was a brochette de Perche. A brochette is usually beef, pork or veal on a skewer with peppers and onions, but at this place they used perch. It was very tasty. Just across the street is a tiny litle "park" with a statue of Rochambeau.

After our delightful repast, we walked back to the Musée Guimet, but the line was still rather long. I was beginning to think we would either have to come back another day or just forget it. Then I noticed a sign pointing up the street indicating the existence of the Centre Culturel Allemand (the German Cultural Center), so we traipsed up there. There wasn't really much of interest. They had about a dozen posters for movies/sports and that was it. We checked them out and went back to the Guimet (be sure to check out the visite virtuelle). If you click on "le version plein ecran" under the words "Michel Urtado" you can see the virtual visit in full screen mode. The line had dwindled considerably, so we joined at the rear and found that the cause of the long lines was a security checkpoint just inside the door.

I don't know if you can get a feeling for the size of the place from my exterior picture, but it is huge. There are five floors and it covers most everything one would consider Asiatique: India, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Japan, etc. By now, I was pretty tired, so we only wandered around the main floor, but even that was quite large, with room after room of mostly statuary.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Paris 2008 - 23 Juillet

23 Juillet (Mercredi) - We got a late start, leaving the apartment after 16h00, which considering how I was feeling, was a major accomplishment in itself. I really didn't feel like going out at all, but the days dwindle down, etc, etc.

We picked up the 63 bus and rode over to the Palais de Tokyo and the Musée d'Art Moderne, which are actually two separate buildings behind the same façade with a café terrasse in the center. Until the other day, when we rode the 63 to the end of the line, I didn't even know they were there. I mean, I had heard of them, but I didn't know where they were. I had been under the impression that the Palais de Tokyo was on the Left Bank near la Tour Eiffel, but now realise that is the Maison de la Culture du Japon a Paris, an interesting place in its own right.

Speaking of La Tour Eiffel, this is the view we got after leaving the bus.

We entered the Musée d'Art Moderne first, only to be told they would be closing in five minutes. I saw people entering the Palais de Tokyo and none were coming right back out, so we went over and found that it is open until midnight. We bought our Tarif Réduit (reduced price ticket) and started our tour. Remember our impression of the Pompidou's permanent collection? Well, ditto for the Palais de Tokyo. One exhibit was a room painted white with a small white box in the center of the floor. Another was a huge mound of garbage, literally. There was one exhibit which, though stupid, was interesting. It was a machine that loaded bottles into a barrel and blasted them against the wall at the far end of the room every fifteen minutes or so. There was quite a build-up of broken glass and I wondered how often they cleaned it and what they did with the glass. Maybe that's where they got the garbage for the other room. My favorite exhibit was a room full of Darth Vader masks on rods. They were all wired to a machine that produced a strange kind of music. It could have been really something if they had used the entire outfit so that it looked like there was a room full of Darth Vaders, but that's just my opinion.

We left there and discovered, just across the street, a beautiful building we had seen during our bus rides, but didn't have a clue about what it was. It is the Musée Galliéra. The sign indicated that the next scheduled exhibition would be in November, so we didn't go in. Beside, we weren't sure it was open because we only saw one person on the grounds and she appeared to be just walking through.

We walked up the street to Place d'Iéna where we discovered a statue of George Washington. On the other side of the Place was another museum about which we knew nothing, the Guimet, musée Asiatique. It looks very interesting so I hope we can go back and investigate a bit further before we have to leave.

We had dinner at l'Artiste Café. We both had the Salade Parisien. Ham, mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots on a bed of greens and topped with a poached egg. Super delicious, but again, more than I could finish.

I saw these two headlines on an internet news site: Obama urges Germans to work with US to stop terror. McCain visits German restaurant in Ohio. I find that hilarious!

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Paris 2008 - 22 Juillet

Mardi - What a fantastic day we had. Robb may not agree, but I thought it was great! First, we boarded the 69 and rode to the end of the line, Place Gambetta, where we got off and re-boarded one of the buses sitting there while its driver took his break. There were three buses sitting there, which explains why it takes so long for one to show up when you're waiting at the bus stop by our apartment. So, we did finally get on and rode to l'Hôtel de Ville.

We started with a short excursion through the BHV plumbing section, where we noticed that those prices too, have risen significantly. We left and walked over to the quai de Seine, where we got a look at Paris Plage. Neither of us wanted to go down and mingle with the tourists, but it was interesting to see the real thing from the safety of the quai between the bouquinistes. If you're interested, most of the people on the lounges and in the tents, are Parisians who get there before sunrise to secure a place on the sand.

Afterward, we rode down to Avenue d'Italie. While we were waiting for the light to cross the street, a young black girl came over and asked if I knew the location of Avenue de Choisy. She was with a large group, of whom only one was an adult male. I pointed it out to her, but they went the wrong way anyway. If we hadn't been right behind them and saw they were starting in the wrong direction, they probably would never have found it. After sending them in the correct direction, we walked down Avenue d'Italie to rue de Tolbiac, then down to Avenue de Choisy and the Village de Chinois (Chinatown). That was kind of disappointing. There seemed to be more Anglos and blacks, than Chinois. But we walked all the way to Porte d'Ivry by way of Avenue de Choisy. We did stop at a McDonald's and got a milkshake from the walk-up window. Then we walked down to Porte d'Ivry where got the new Tramway Ligne 3, on the way getting the opportunity to see the Petite Ceinture that used to circle the city. We rode to the end of the line and then got back on and rode to the end of the line in the other direction. Once there, we got on and rode back to Porte d'Italie where we planned to get the bus.

Unfortunately, there was a guy there who was so drunk, and smelled of piss so bad, that no one could stand him. Seriously, you couldn't get within ten feet of this guy. We all waited to see if he got on our bus. When he didn't, we got on. But then, son of a gun, he got on by way of the rear door. He no sooner got on, then the rest of us got off; and I do mean almost everyone else on the bus.....he stunk that badly. Luckily for us, the driver came back and escorted him off the bus. We all got back on.

After getting back to the apartment, we decided to go to le Bouchon de la Roquette, a nice little place that we have come to like, that is only five or six blocks from us. But tonight was exceptional. I hope I can explain this to sufficiently describe the comraderie we experienced. We have been there two or three times previously. Tonight, it was as though they have known us forever. You know, like you would greet and treat friends. The waiter did that tonight when I was laughing at Robb taking so long to order. That's just a tiny example, it gets a lot better. A guy and his wife/girlfriend came in. It was his birthday. The owner asked everyone what they would like to drink to celebrate the guy's birthday (his name was Mark). Everyone else chose l'Armagnac, Robb chose Calvados for us. I'm not explaining this as accurately as it happened (I can barely type. I'm so full of alcohol). Previously to this, the owner was going from table to table, joking with everybody and making everyone feel like they were family and in a family atmosphere. It was just so fantastically friendly. Some time during all his table-hopping, he had asked if we were American. I said yes, but Robb said he was Allemand (German), to which the owner replied, "We can't all be perfect." Everyone was laughing, because we realized it was just a comment and not a serious accusation. At any rate, we all got our drinks and toasted the birthday boy (he was thirty). Later, as we were leaving, the owner stopped us and told us how much he enjoyed our visit. I'm sure this doesn't convey the real feeling of the night, but it's the best I can do, under the circumstances. Suffice it to say, it was one of the best nights we've had since we've been here.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Paris 2008 - 19-20 Juillet

19 Juillet (Samedi) - Another new adventure for us today. We bused over to Place de la République, walked up rue du Faubourg du Temple to the Canal Saint-Martin. I've been reading how it has become the latest "in" area of Paris with trendy bistros and restaurants where all the hip people like to be seen. I was kind of disappointed, although it looks kind of cool in this video.. We walked quite a way along the canal, where we did get to see a tour boat that had to wait at each lock before it could advance in its journey. We passed a few restaurants, but certainly nothing that looked the least bit trendy. Even Hôtel du Nord didn't look all that famous. It is, you know. It was the title and the feature of a romantic movie made in 1938. It has since become a pretty well-known comedy club.

During our walk, we saw this colorful, rather artistic sign for summer festivals throughout the city. Now, if summer would only arrive. I can't believe we have to wear jackets and scarves with only a few days left in July.

We walked as far as Place du Colonel Fabien, where we got the 46 bus to Nation. We then boarded the 57 and rode to Italie2. It is the last day of the soldes and Robb was hoping to find something he liked on sale.

As we were walking through the mall, he became aware that the gold chain he had bought during our first Parisian vacation, had broken. He luckily, found his ankh and his Aries pendant inside his shirt, but the chain itself was gone. We found a jewelry store and he bought a new chain. Then, for some reason, he was feeling dizzy, so we stopped at the Brioche Dorée for a sandwich and a café. When he was feeling a bit better, we bused back to the apartment.

Dinner at L'Angella.

20 Juillet (Dimanche) - Today we made good on our resolve to visit the Petit Palais. It was a much better experience than the Grand Palais, and it is free. You do need to go to the reception desk to get a ticket, but there is no cost for it. Another example of French logic. Both the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais were built for the Universal Exhibition in 1900. If you decide to visit, be forewarned that there is a lot to see and several floors on which to see it. Although most of the art and artifacts are clearly labled, some are not, this was at the bottom of the staircase going downstairs (according to Wikimedia, it is Ugolino by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux) and Sur les Ailes de la Victoire greets you when you first enter the building. Robb stated, and I agree, the building itself is worth the visit without all the fantastic art and artifacts. Even the garden in the center is worth a visit. There are some nice views from the garden. If your visit wears you out, there is a nice, though expensive, snack shop just off the garden.

There are some interesting things to see outside, also. I'm not sure if this was part of the grounds or something entirely separate. This, of course, is on the top of the Grand Palais. Another surprise, was this vintage Citroën driving past on the street in front of the palais.

After, we walked across the Pont Alexander III and boarded the 63 bus. The 63 is one of the best for seeing some of the sites of Paris on both sides of the Seine, and you'll remember, it was the one I thought we were getting on when we were returning from the Grand Palais. We rode it to the end of the line, stayed on and rode it back to Le Jardin des Plantes, where we got the 61 home.

Dinner at Au Cadran Voltaire.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Paris 2008 - 17-18 Juillet

Jeudi - Robb went to a funeral at Pére Lachaise today. Of course, he didn't know he was going to a funeral, he had just planned a short walk in the cimetière and came across the service. According to the information he overheard, it was a young woman of about 24 who apparently was well-liked.

Around 20h00, we walked down, settled into our seats in the very back of the 69, behind an American family of dad, mom, two daughters and one son. Judging from the conversations we couldn't help overhearing, it was their first time in Paris, except for the dad who would point out things from time to time as we rode to the Champ de Mars.

If any of you are familiar with Rick Steves, you know he always mentions rue Cler in every show he does about Paris. We have never been there. I want to rectify that today, but I wasn't really sure where to get off the bus in order to get there. As luck would have it, when we got to the area where it's located, the bus was stuck behind a garbage truck. That meant that the bus could only move forward as the truck made it's pick ups. It also meant that I had time to check the street signs. We had no sooner passed rue Cler than the bus had to stop, less than a block past it. I ran up to the driver and asked, in my best French, if he would let us off. That is usually a big no-no, as the bus only stops at designated bus stops. But the driver was very accomodating. He pulled over to the sidewalk and opened the doors. We thanked him and jumped off.

We walked back to rue Cler for our first, and most likely, last look at the street made famous by Rick Steves. It's a lot smaller in real life than it appears on his TV show and in pictures. To be fair, it was about 20h30 and the markets for which it's so famous were closed, but still there wasn't much to recommend it. On top of that, every restaurant we passed was overflowing with tourists. We had hoped to find a place on the rue in which to have dinner before attempting our primary objective of the evening. It's also supposed to be pedestrian only, but there were a lot of cars driving through.

As we continued down the rue, Robb noticed a place on one of the side streets. It too, was crowded, but mostly on the café terrasse while the interior was mostly empty. We could tell from the conversations that most of the clientele were French. So we had a blah dinner at the Bistrot. It was okay, but far from great. Our waitress was a lovely girl who, though she is French, has only been in Paris for a few months. She seems to have been just about everywhere. She told us she needed to practice her English because she was going to start a job in which she needed to speak English.

After, we walked over to the Champ de Mars for the main event of the evening, la Tour Eiffel in its new decorative coat of blue. Because France is the seat of power in the European Union for the next six months, la Tour Eiffel has been bathed in blue light, both inside and out. On the side facing the Trocadero, are the golden stars that can be found on the EU flag. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it was even more beautiful than I thought it would be.

18 Juillet (Vendredi) - Sinus headache.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Paris 2008 - 15-16 Juillet

15 Juillet (Mardi) - I'm a little calmer today, but I'm still very upset and when I get home I intend to write a letter to the mayor demanding the return of the money we spent for these passes with which we are constantly having problems. Last night was not the first time we couldn't get them to work in the métro. Obviously, that will be an exercise in futility, but it will give me the satisfaction of venting my anger.

Rode the 56 to Place de la République where we got the 20 to l'Opéra. Perhaps I should explain that in order to use the passes on the bus, you simply show them to the driver, they don't go into a machine like in the métro. From there we walked over to the Madeleine area, with a short side-trip through the passage leading to the Athénée Théâtre, where musicals are performed, though we've never seen any......yet. Just before the theatre, we found this cool statue of Pegasus and a rider (does anyone know who the rider might be?).

We stopped at a bistro for a café and some people watching, then made our way down to street to the Madeleine. We walked all the way around it, checking out some of the nicer stores in the area, like Hediard and the Maille showroom. Then we walked back to the Opéra area, where we got the 29 to the Bastille.

While waiting for the 69 at Bastille, we noticed the FNAC Bastille store. We walked over and Robb went down to buy the new Carla Bruni CD. We discovered at home that he had bought the wrong one, so we're planning to go to Italie2 tomorrow to get the right one.

Dinner at l'Artiste Café again. We've noticed that every time we go to l'Artiste, the waiters are different. I wonder what the problem might be.

16 Juillet (Mercredi) - In the ongoing saga of Robb and his French bank account, he called someone at the bank, asking about his debit card. Yes, the same card they had already told him to pick-up that he ddin't get. Whoever he spoke to at the bank, told him there was no problem and he could come in and pick it up.....again. I told him should have gotten the name of the person to whom he spoke, but of course, being Robb, he didn't. I also told him it would be another wasted trip. After nearly an hour at the bank, they once again proved me correct and we left without the promised card.

We left the bank and walked along Boulevard Montmartre to Boulevard Poissonnière, which is actually the same street but with a name change after a couple of blocks. This same street,depending on where you are, is also named Boulevard Haussmann, Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle, Boulevard Saint-Denis and Boulevard Saint-Martin. Together, they make up what is called Les Grandes Boulevards. Okay, if you want to be terribly correct, it also includes from the Place de la République to Place de la Bastille, Boulevard du Temple and Boulevard Beaumarchais.

We saw pretty much all we wanted to see and headed down toward the Bourse, the French Stock Exchange. Just across the street is Le Vaudeville, a bistro that my French friend in Fort Lauderdale says is his favorite restaurant in all of Paris. Naturally, we had to go and have a café and see what was so special about it. As far as we could tell, Le Vaudeville was just another in a long list of restaurants in Paris that are a bit nondescript and totally inter-changeable. But we had our café, then walked down and across the street to get the bus to Place de la République.

The bus was a long time coming, as was the 56 bus at Place de la République. When we finally arrived at Place Léon Blum, there was a 56 bus already sitting there. We walked over to rue de la Roquette for the 61/69 bus, where Robb decided he couldn't wait and took off. I remained and waited quite a while for the bus to arrive, during which time I noticed that the two 56 buses had not yet moved. It occured to me that it must have been some kind of mini-strike by the drivers, because they didn't stop service completely, just slowed it down quite a bit. As friendly and helpful as the French can be (when the mood moves them), they can also be the most annoyingly inconsiderate people on the face of the planet. And I don't mean only to tourists, I mean to everyone, including their own neighbors.

We walked down to Boulevard Voltaire and rue de Charonne for dinner at L'Ingenu. We both had Escalope de Poulet. Which was a slice of chicken breast under a slice of ham under a slab of mozzarella cheese which were placed to form a five-point star over a base of penne pasta in a light tomato-basil sauce. It was so yummy.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Paris 2008 - 13-14 Juillet

13 Juillet (Dimanche) - Dinner at Au Cadran Voltaire. There was some poor guy there who had drunk a bit too much and fell asleep. The waiter tried to get him up but had no luck. It wasn't long before the security guy was there rousting him out of his slumber. Who would have thought they actually have security people at a restaurant?

14 Juillet (Lundi) - I am so pissed at this city right now. We could not get to the Invalides for the party with our new friends last night. Both the buses we needed were not running. The two taxi stands in our area were closed because of a music thing they were having at Place Léon Blum and the ones we tried to hail on the street wouldn't even think of stopping. On top of that, our €55 passes would not work in the métro. To say I was upset is putting it EXTREMELY mildly.

Around ten-ish, we decided that we could either hang out at the apartment stewing in our own juices, or we could bop on down to Place Léon Blum and check out the festivities there. We walked down, got ourselves a table at Au Cadran Voltaire, ordered deux bieres and set back to take it all in. There was some kind of music thing going on that was either presented or, sponsored, by MTV. I'm not sure which but there were MTV signs in front of the stage area. They played a lot of old stuff (like Respect by Aretha and We Are Family by Sister Sledge, for example) plus some new stuff and a few French things that I recognized.

It wasn't the way we had planned to observe the celebration of le Quatorze, but it was the best we could do under the circumstances. If the situation had been different, it would have been much more enjoyable.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Paris 2008 - 11-12 Juillet

11 Juillet (Vendredi) - I got up early today (before noon) and we decided we would go to MK2 on Avenue de France in the 13'eme to see Sex and the City, Le Film. Does anyone hear the annoying buzzer? We caught the 61 to the end of the line where we saw beaucoup des Gendarmes. They started appearing just before the bus made the turn to cross the pont. They seemed to concentrated on the pont, and then there were a few on the other side. While we were waiting to cross the street to get the next bus, several police vehicles drove past with sirens wailing. Shortly thereafter, the gendarmes disappeared and we still don't really know what was going on, but we suspect it has something to do with le Quatorze on Monday.

We got our bus, the 89, to the MK2. As we walked to the entrance it began to rain very lightly. Once inside, we were greeted by this anatomically correct gentleman. We checked the movie schedule only to find that Sex and the City was no longer being shown.

We walked over to L'Avenue, got a table on the café terrasse, in the shade, and had a café. It was then decided to take a walk several blocks down the street, where we came upon what we think is an attempt at art. Either that, or they're bringing in blocks to construct another building. Robb stopped into a Monoprix and bought himself another pair of sunglasses, then we caught the 89 bus, but didn't get off until it got to Le Panthéon.

We walked around it, taking pictures of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont and the Mairie du Véme. We walked down rue Soufflot and for the very first time ever, entered a Quick, because Robb needed a pit-stop and I wanted an ice cream. Then it was off to the Jardin du Luxembourg. We strolled around the grounds taking several pictures: Pan, the Medici fontaine, a general view of the gardens and back towards the Panthéon.

Our bus stop was just outside the entrance and we rode back to the Jardin des Plantes to get the 61 back to the apartment.

We were trying to decide where to go for dinner. I suggested we should give L'Angella another shot. We're glad we did, because the dinner tonight was excellent. Also, it was the most people we've seen there since it opened a month or so ago. I speculated that they might have hired a designer to do the interior because it really is very nice and looks like it would be a lot more expensive then it actually is.

12 Juillet (Samedi) - While I was waiting outside for Robb, I happened to see, parked just across the street, a cool Ford (another you will unfortunately never see in the US) of which I've been trying to get a daytime shot for over a month. If Ford would offer this car in the US, I guarantee it sell thousands within a week of its debut. It's called the Ford Streetka according to this article about it.

We caught the 61 bus to the Pére Lachaise métro area. We were going to walk back to the apartment, but I decided to take a detour down rue de la République. It was an interesting walk during which we noted there were no buses at all. I thought that was kind of odd for a major street, but there you have that Parisian logic again. When we reached Avenue Parmentier, it started to rain and Robb had not brought his umbrella. There was a nice bistro right on the corner, Les Anemones, so we went in, ordered a café and observed the comings and goings around us.

While we were in the bistro, I noticed the 46 and 56 buses going past. After leaving, we walked across the street and caught the 46 to Place Léon Blum.

When we got off the bus, we noticed a restaurant named Candide, We walked down there and had a very nice dinner around nine-ish. We would like to return before our trip is over.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Paris 2008 - 9-10 Juillet

9 Juillet (Mercredi) - We rode to Place de la République where we caught the 75 bus downtown. According to the plan de l'autobus, it should have gone down rue de Turbigo to rue des Archives. It didn't, and I knew it wouldn't because rue des Archives is one-way in the opposite direction. We got off at the Centre Georges Pompidou, at which we checked out an exhibit through the window. I'm not sure what we saw, but it appeared to be proposed buildings for the city. I suppose we'll have to go back to check.

From there. we walked over to rue des Archives and down to the area in which we had an appointment to meet Rhino75 at Les Marroniers for an apéro at 21h30. We had originally proposed a dinner meeting, but he works until 21h00. We were early because we had yet to eat dinner and I thought it might be a good idea to do that before we went out drinking, even though I didn't plan to drink very much.

Next door to Les Marroniers, there is a Thai restaurant named Chez Tsou. Robb suggested we eat there. It was really good and the waiters were all cute Asians (although I don't think any of them were actually from Thailand, they looked more Chinese than anything). Here's a poor video.

At 21h30, I went out to see if I could spot Rhino75 and he had just arrived as I got outside. We went back into the restaurant to join Robb. We drank and chatted for a couple of hours.

When we left, we planned to catch the bus just outside the restaurant, but it was not running that late. That meant we had to find a taxi stand. We didn't. But we did find a Parisian couple who stopped a taxi and asked him to take us home. I hope we have finally put to rest the crap about Parisians being cold and arrogant. We had actually just asked for directions to the nearest taxi stand. They went way beyond simple instructions.

10 Juillet (Jeudi) - I awoke around 04h30 with a splitting headache. I took some effervescent aspirin (everything over here comes in effervescent) and waited for it to work. It didn't. I took a regular aspirin. it didn't work either. So I got up, checked some email and sat on the sofa for a couple of hours. I returned to bed but couldn't sleep. Around nine or ten, I asked Robb to go to a pharmacie and get me a sinus medicine. Unfortunately, either he or the pharmacist made a mistake and he brought back a cold medicine. I didn't think it would work, but took one of the pills anyway in the hope I was wrong. I wasn't. It didn't. I went back to bed around four-ish and slept rather fitfully until about eight.

We walked down to rue Léon Frot to Les Casseroles for dinner around nine-ish. While there, Robb got into a conversation with a brother-sister couple from San Francisco. She was American and he was a Mexican professor. We chatted for a few minutes and they left.

We went for a short walk after dinner, during which I videoed a car I have been trying to get a picture of since I first saw it several weeks ago. The video isn't all that good because it was night and the light wasn't very good, so I'm not going to put it up.. It is a Ford sports car that I guarantee will never be seen in the US. I did finally get a daytime video, though it's a bit jumpy, but I'll put it up in a day or so. There are so many economical vehicles here that the US will not let into the country, and this is just another in a long list. One that I particularly like is the Mercedes A Class.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Paris 2008 - 7-8 Juillet

7 Juillet (Lundi) - We went to L'Oisive Thé for an afternoon snack, after which we walked up to Italie2. We started by going to Darty, an electronics and appliance store. We had thought that the prices of LCD/plasma TVs had risen and wanted to check. They have risen a bit, but no where near as much as we thought. Then, Robb, in his quest for the perfect pink shirt, stopped at a few stores, but found nothing to his liking for less than €75 ($118).

We walked out to get the bus, but there were a bazillion people waiting. I suggested walking down to the next bus stop, where I felt we could get a seat before the hoards charged on. One bus came past, but it was full.

Then, I got the idea to walk across the street and get the bus in the opposite direction and ride it back, as we've done before with some success.

The bus arrived and was nearly empty. The ride was a lot longer than I had anticipated, but we got to see a whole new section of Paris and a bit of a suburb called, Arcueil. It wasn't particularly attractive, but it wasn't a terrible place.

Once there, we had to leave our bus and board another for the return trip. There were actually three buses lined up. It seems as though the drivers drive their route and then take a break. I estimated the breaks to be around fifteen minutes from the time we had ridden the 69 to the end of the line and had to wait while the driver took his break. We decided to ride all the way to Nation. We had barely been there for a minute, when it started raining lightly. We had anticipated rain and had our umbrellas with us. While there, I managed to get a shot of a rainbow.

After waiting about fifteen minutes, our bus showed up and we rode to Place Léon Blum.

It was almost 20h00 and Robb announced that he had to get milk, so we stopped into the ATAC SuperMarché. Evidently, everybody else in the area had the same idea. The place was packed. We took our time finding the items we wanted and had only a short wait in the check-out line.

8 Juillet (Mardi) - They've been working on the main entrance to Square de la Roquette since we've been here. The work is finally completed and people can once again use the main entrance to access the park. Until it was nearly finished, I had no idea that a beautiful fountain was hidden from sight just behind the work area.

While we were wandering around, I saw a couple of cute Fiats. I haven't seen a Fiat in the US for several years. I think I prefer the little yellow one, to the the sporty red one.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Paris 2008 - 5-6 Juillet

5 Juillet (Samedi) - Robb has been chomping at the bit to get back to La Défense, so we bopped on over to Nation to get the métro. For at least the fourth time, we had a problem trying to use our monthly tickets on the turnstiles. This time it was my ticket. The thing is, if your ticket doesn't work, you have to squeeze in behind someone else, and they're not always happy about that because they think you're trying to beat the system and get in without paying. But you can't use the same ticket twice at the same location. We've tried that both with mine to let Robb through, and Robb's to get me through. When we got to La Défense, I went to the ticket window and got a new ticket. I'll admit that it's not a problem to get a new ticket, but the point is, you shouldn't have to get one.

We wandered around Les Quatre Temps simply amazed at the number of people trying to buy out all the stores. Here's a shot of the escalier mécanique to the third floor. It is the time for the second annual sales event (Soldes). I didn't expect that much craziness at La Défense. And we joined right in. Actually, we only shopped in one store, C & A, where Robb bought a really nice jacket and I bought a pair of jeans.

We wandered around a bit more and then stopped at a bistro for a café. Twice, while we were sitting there, water poured down from some place. I never could figure out where it was coming from, but it was like someone had emptied a bucket. The first one was right next to two Japanese girls sitting to our left, who screamed in surprise. The second one was about three tables in front of us.

We left the bistro and wandered to the back of la Grande Arche, where we came upon another neat sculpture and a lot of very modern buildings. It had the feel of being in a science fiction movie.

When we tried to leave, it was Robb's turn to have a ticket problem. Fortunately for him, a young French girl let him squeeze in behind her.

We had dinner again at the Q Bar. It was quite crowded.

6 Juillet (Dimanche) - We had planned to take the 69 bus to Champ de Mars from which we would go somewhere to eat and then check out la Tour Eiffel after dark. But, of course, being in Paris, you can't make plans like that. Both of the buses we needed to get there were not running today.

Instead, we went for a long, long walk. Down Avenue Ledru-Rollin, with a few side trips to rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine, during one of which I found this interesting place. Then, we caught the 61 to Pére Lachaise where we came upon a large crowd. It only took a few minutes to realize it was some kind of mobile soup kitchen. There were two vans givng out bags of food to anyone who got into the line to get one. Robb saw a guy with a shopping bag in the line. I took a picture and was chatised by a Muslim woman with a bag in her hand. It occured to me later that if I had been a TV reporter, she would had been the first to try to get her picture on TV.

You may have surmised by now that I'm not crazy about most of the Muslims in Paris. Whenever you go into the métro, the people you see begging are Muslim women. Their children think nothing of asking total strangers for money (Robb and I have been approached several times by them since we've been here). They just seem to have no shame when it comes to begging. I know it's not easy to get a job in France. but to come here with no intention of getting a job and just live off the state and begging in the streets, is wrong, and yet, that's exactly the impression I get of most Muslims in Paris. Okay, rant over for now.

After taking the picture, we continued up Boulevard de Ménilmontant to Boulevard de Charonne. We walked a few blocks and then started back toward the apartment. We did stop at the Petit Casino and bought orange juice.

Back at the apartment, Robb was having hunger pains so we popped open a bottle of champagne and spread out some crackers and pâté.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Paris 2008 - 2-4 Juillet

2 Juillet (Mercredi) - Did nothing. Went nowhere. We watched as they put up this scaffolding on the building across the way. it has been now been there for a week and we have yet to see anyone on it.

3 Juillet (Jeudi) - Our day started with a concert by an organ grinder. Then, we bussed over to Italie2 to pick up Robb's repaired jacket. They either did a good job, or just replaced it, we're not sure which scenario is the real one.

After, we walked down to Café Canon so I could get a picture of it with it's new name. I figured as long as we were in the area, we might as well go down to the computer place we always went to before, to get a print-out of our eticket from Newark to Fort Lauderdale. I was surprised to find the place was gone. It seems a lot of things we've liked for several years, are no longer here. Quel dommage. We left there and walked further down the avenue then we've gone before.

We caught the 47 bus to Pont de Notre Dame and walked over to l'Hôtel de Ville (stopping to get a photo of the Conciergerie and Chatelet) where there was a ceremony for Ingrid Betancourt. We didn't really see anything except a lot of reporters and TV cameramen. We walked across the street to a bistro. While sitting there, we could hear Mayor Delanoe giving his speech.

Bussed home. Went to Beyrouth for dinner.

4 Juillet (Vendredi) - Walked down to the corner of rue de Charonne and Boulevard Voltaire for dinner at l'Ingenu. Again, I opted to use my video function for a couple of short videos. One for the exterior area. I think you can almost tell from the video that we were only a couple inches from being on the café terrase. And one for a short tour of the interior.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Paris 2008 - 1 Juillet

Mardi - We started by going to the Marché for some fundamental things, which of course, includes champagne and cheese. After carting it all back to the apartment and putting it away, we went down to the bus stop and caught the 69 to Pére Lachaise because I wanted to go to the pharmacie there.

A strange thing has been happening since I reported that I could buy my medicine with no prescription. Apparently, it's not true. I've been to at least a half-dozen pharmacies in the attempt to buy it and they have all turned me away for lack of a prescription. That had me wondering how and why the one guy sold it to me so easily. So to find out what was going on, we went back to that pharmacie. The guy with whom I did business the first time was not there, and the guy who waited on me asked for a prescription. I told him that I had bought the medicine there a couple weeks ago without one and that started a general conversation between the other three people working there. It was finally decided that they would sell me another, but they put my name into their computer. I'm not certain if that was for the next time I try to buy the medicine, or if it's just something to cover their butts. It doesn't really matter becuse now I have enough to last until after I get home at the end of the month.

We walked out of the pharmacie just in time to catch the bus. Neither of us wanted to go right back to the apartment, so we stayed on the bus (during which we passed a group shooting a TV commercial as we passed Place Léon Blum) until it got to rue de Rivoli. We walked down rue de Rivoli for a while and then walked up to rue des Archives to les Marroniers We got a nice table that was technically inside, but for all intent was on the café terrasse. We ordered a couple of beers and sat back to enjoy people watching. The bar and the area were quite crowded. We sat there until after 19h00, then left to get the 75 bus right outside the door.

Before the bus came, Robb decided he wanted to go to BHV Homme, right around the corner, to see if he could get a pink T-shirt, which apparently is all the rage right now. He first found a hat that he liked. He put it on and asked a couple of strangers what they thought of it. It turned out that the "strangers" were two gay guys who have been together for about a year. We sort of bonded after they asked how long we've been together. Their names are Ashan and Enias. One is Swedish and the other is French, but we're not sure which was which since they were speaking English. They wanted a picture of us and we of they, so we had one of the salesgirls take a picture, first with their camera, and then with mine.

We said our goodbyes and Robb continued his search for a pink T-shirt. He found one he thought he loved until he got home and tried it on. It's a V-neck and it doesn't quite fit right. We're hoping "it will ride up with wear". Is anyone familiar with that phrase? Think: Mr. Humphries.

We hopped onto the 75 and rode to Place de la Republique where we just sort of wandered about for a while. I saw a little manége and couldn't resist shooting a short video.

After, it was the 56 to Place Léon Blum, then the 69 to our stop and home, where we crashed for a couple hours.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Paris 2008 - 30 Juin

Lundi - We walked down to rue Léon Frot, on a corner of which is La Poste, turned there and walked down to rue de Charonne. There we were confronted with the choice of several interesting restaurants in which to have dinner. I had already decided which I preferred, but asked Robb which he liked. He was basically non-committal, so we had dinner at the one I chose, l'Armagnac. I had the Faux-filet with gratin du jour. Robb started with a salad of tomatoes and mozzarela, followed by duck. I had ordered the faux-filet because I was curious to see what it might be. It turned out to be a piece of steak. Why it's called a faux-filet will forever be a mystery. It was good though. Something we've noticed on this trip is that the cuts of meat we've been getting, aren't very good. We were wondering if it's because of inflation and the smaller restaurants can't afford the good stuff. Also, into the mix, we must add that we normally don't eat this much meat, so it may be that we're noticing now what has always been true.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Paris 2008 - 29 Juin

Dimanche - Laid around the apartment all day. Around 21h00, we went down to Place Léon Blum and Au Cadran Voltaire for dinner. We sat at a table that was, for all intent and purpose, on the café terrasse even though it was technically inside. We got to see Italy win the EuroCup 2008, though at the time I had no idea who was playing, nor the importance of the game.

About the same time as we got our meal, three black guys came and sat at the table behind Robb. He hadn't seen them come in, but it was only moments before he was complaining about the smell. It's true, almost every time one is anywhere close to a black person over here, one is overwhelmed by the stink. Of course, it's not just black people. One day on the bus, a cute guy came and stood next to me. Then he raised his arm to hold onto the overhead rail. Oye, such a stink. Strangely enough, most of the French people aren't offended by it and probably don't even notice it.

Later, I used my new video tool to do a short video of the Place and a bit of the restaurant from our table.

A few things I really don't like about being in France. First and foremost, having to wait for a bus or walking down to the metro instead of getting into my car and driving to my destination. That isn't a major problem at this time of year, but I don't even want to think about having to do it in the winter. Secondly, the inability to communicate and be understood easily. If you don't have a good grasp of the language, and don't understand the colloquialisms
, you miss so much and feel like an outsider all the time. Thirdly, the "stink factor". Especially at this time of year on the bus or on the métro. And finally, having to watch where I walk.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Paris 2008 - 28 Juin

Samedi - Paris Pride - If your only gay pride experience has been in the United States, you haven't really experienced gay pride. I've been to several pride events in the US and I finally stopped going because I became disenchanted with all the commercialism connected with them. Everyone was simply out to get as much money from you as they could. Insurance companies, security companies, real estate companies, banks. They were all represented and all of them were there just for the money. Also, adding to my disenchantment, was the fact that most of the participants were not truly representative of the gay community.

Today, we went to the Paris Gay Pride event. It was so refreshingly different. Not one vendor selling anything but pride objects (flags, dolls, balloons) or food. Thousands of people, mostly young, turned out to enjoy the spectacle. The crowd was estimated at between 400,000 and 700,000. At least fifty precent of them were straight. And when was the last time you saw the openly gay mayor of a world class city attend the pride events?

We got there around 15h30 after walking for miles because bus service was discontinued because of the parade route from Place Denfert-Rochereau to Place de la Bastille. Even so, when we arrived there, the place was jammed with people and music was blasting throughout the Place. We heard it for about four blocks before we got to it. They had set up a giant stage with all the DJ paraphernalia, including the ever-present flashing lights. The parade had started at 14h00 and since they were walking all the way across the city, I assumed they wouldn't get to Place de la Bastille until about 16h00. I was wrong. The first float didn't show up until almost 17h00.

While we were waiting for the parade, we walked to the edge of the Place which overlooks the Bastille métro station and the Port de l’Arsenal, where a lot of lucky barge owners get to moor their barges for the summer in the middle of Paris. As you can well imagine, competition for the relatively few moorings is quite spirited.

We didn't get to really "see" much of the parade because the closest we could get to the street was about ten bodies back. We could see most of the "floats" though, because they were mostly large tractor-trailers and high enough above the crowd for a decent view.

While we were watching the parade, I saw two guys, one of whom looked very much like a guy I have seen in the bars in Fort Lauderdale. I got brave and went up and asked if they were from there. One guy (the one I think I recognized) said nothing and the other guy said he lives in Paris. He did recommend a gay restaurant named Aux Trois Petits Cochons (The Three Little Pigs). We'll check it out one of these days.

We watched until there were no more floats coming down the street and started wandering around a bit. I was somewhat tired and Robb suggested we try to go to a café. I laughed at the idea because with all these people in this place, there was no way we were going to find a table at any of the cafés. Well, don't ask me how, but we walked to the closest café and there waiting, as though someone had known we were coming, was one table with two chairs. You've never seen two guys move so fast. Comfortably seated on the café terrasse, we ordered deux bières and sat back to enjoy the multi-faceted crowd parading before us.

Among the people we saw were a group of guys wearing kilts, except one guy didn't have a regular "skirt", he had a mini-skirt. I kept waiting to see if it was true that they wear nothing under their skirts, but he never did bend far enough to give me a glance. There was a group of about six drag queens, who were kind of sad, because most of them were way beyond the age when they would have looked lady-like. Now they just looked like tired, badly-dressed old men pretending to be women. There was a small group of three or four leather guys, one of whom was wearing something like you might see in one of the old Roman gladiator films. A lot of girls were after them to have pictures taken with them, and I must say, they were very accomodating.

That was the prevailing attitude of the day, I think. There was a lot of drinking, of course, but I didn't see anyone who could have been called drunk. Everyone just seemed very laid-back and okay with whatever went on around them.

Of course, there were a lot of gay flags of various sizes. Some were carried aloft while others were worn like superhero capes.

The last of the parade didn't show up until after 20h00. After we had thought it was over, they just sort of kept straggling into the Place. When the last of them did arrive, Robb and I gave up our table and mingled with the crowd. Somehow, over a throng of people, I saw a guy selling small gay flags and we each purchased one. Then we wandered around just watching people and enjoying the really loud music. When we had been sitting at the café terrasse, it was sometimes so loud, it actually rattled the windows of the café. There were people dancing almost everywhere you looked; in the street, on top of taxi stands, on top of bus stop stands and on the steps of the Opéra Bastille.

After I had taken most of my pictures, I remembered that my Canon A530 is supposed to be able to take videos, so I had a look to see if I could figure out how to do that. There is a movie camera like symbol and I guessed that was the thing to use, so I moved it to the on position and pushed the start button. I couldn't tell if it was doing anything or not, but when I got home and downloaded the pictures, sure enough one of them turned out to be a short video. Now that I know how to do that, look for more. I still don't know how long they can be, but I'll experiment wih it till I find out.

Here is a video of the local news coverage. All my pictures can be seen at Flickr under Paris Pride.

The festivities were announced as "over" around 21h00 and we started the long hike back to the apartment. We walked all the way to Place Léon Blum, where we stopped at Le Rey for dinner. While we were there, a goup of about seven or eight Japanese people came in. They ordered and after a tiny taste, got up and left. Just across from us were two British guys and a girl, who were still there when we left.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Paris 2008 - 27 Juin

Vendredi - I got the possibly brilliant idea that Robb and I should try to get our Juillet métro tickets now. That way he could maybe use that instead of having to buy regular tickets which are only good for one ride, one way. We walked down to Place Léon Blum to the Voltaire métro station, but not only do they not sell tickets there, there wasn't even anyone there to tell us that. We had to take the bus up to the Pére Lachaise station, where we got them with ease. We still don't know whether or not we can use them now, but I guess we'll find out soon enough.

When we went to dinner at Les Casseroles on Wednesday evening, it was next door to a Libanaise restaurant, Fakra, which looked interesting, so that's where we went for dinner tonight. Once again, we've found that when going to small places, the owner is usually also the waiter, and is always very friendly and helpful and chatty. We had some amazing dishes, the names of most of which I've totally forgotten. As has been the case here on this trip, the portions are super-sized and I cannot even come close to finishing what they bring to the table. Tonight we also had our second bottle of Lebanese wine. If I hadn't seen the label, I never would have known.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Paris 2008 - 26 Juin

Jeudi - I had tentatively planned to take us to a couple of museums today, but Robb wanted to take his jacket back to Armand Thierry to see what he could do about getting it fixed. We are beginning to realize that the clothes Armand Thierry sells are not exactly the best. This is not the first time we've bought something there and had a problem with whatever we bought. I'm convinced to not shop there again, Robb is taking a bit longer to see the light. I will admit that he had no trouble getting them to fix the broken zipper on his jacket. The sales clerk was almost cheerful. But the point is we shouldn't have had to waste time (and métro tickets) going back to get it repaired.

It is the time of the summer soldes (sales). In France, the stores can only have sales twice a year as regulated by the state. They can have "going out of business" sales, and frequently use that excuse to have an unregulated sale from time to time. No one seems to get too upset when they don't "go out of business". We did check out a few places, but saw nothing we couldn't live without.

After, Armand Thierry, we were waiting for the 67 bus that would take us across the Seine to rue de Rivoli, when we decided to go over to O'Jules for lunch. I had my usual mixte baguette (it's about the only time I get to enjoy a baguette), and as usual, I couldn't eat all of it, so I wrapped it in a napkin and placed it in my bag to bring home for tomorrow.

We walked back over to the bus stop and got the 67. It was an interesting ride and we got to see a section of the city we wouldn't ordinarily see. We got off at the rue Vielle de Temple stop, which was several blocks from the street for which I was looking, rue de Pavée, but it took us past several stores I had seen many times on previous bus trips that I was glad to have the opportunity to check out.

We eventually walked up rue de Pavée to 11, rue de Payenne and the Centre Culturel Suedois (Swedish Cultural Center) where the current exhibition was paintings by Hilma af Klint. When we entered the courtyard, I wasn't sure we were in the right place because there were a lot of people sitting at tables drinking wine, tea and coffee. But it was the right place and we found the entrance to the museum and the exhibition, which was free. Ms. Klint was definitely ahead of her time.

We left there, walking back to rue des Francs Bourgeois We walked down to the corner of rue des Archives where we stopped at a bistrot (3eme Chinon) for a beer and a bit of rest. Just down the street was this interesting building.

Then it was off again to rue Rambuteau and the Centre Georges Pompidou. The Pompidou is as interesting outside as in. In front of the musée is a large square where lots of people gather to just sit around watching and listening to the buskers (street performers) and there are usually many of them performing all kinds of things from mime to playing a digeridoo.

Upon entering the musée, we were uncertain what we wanted to do, but decided to get a ticket to check out all the exhibitions, of which there were several. We started with the permanent collection which was, pardon my French, shit. I mean really people, how much talent does it take to stand on a ladder and pour a couple cups of paint on a canvas? Or to nail a few boards to a piece of plywood? There was one large painting(?) of about eight feet square, that was nothing but black paint on canvas. If these things are art, then I'm the world's greatest artist and you should all be paying homage (and money) to me. While we were walking through, Robb heard a group of German tourists complaining that this stuff was garbage.

Luckily, there was another exhibit to which we went. It was titled Traces du Sacré, and contained the work of many real artists including the just-visited Hilma af Klint. There were many, many pieces on display. So many, that I couldn't do the whole exhibit. We made our way back to the main entrance area where I found a bench and sat for quite awhile.

We left the Pompidou, walking up the square to a souvenir shop where Robb finally found the T-shirt for which he had been looking since we arrived in Paris. He had seen a lot with the inscription "I (heart) Paris" but he wanted one with Je (heart) Paris. And he got it at a good price. We walked back over rue Rambuteau, passing this cute fella, to the 29 bus stop. We waited quite a while but it finally arrived and took us across town to the Bastille, where we got the 69 bus home.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Paris 2008 - 25 Juin

Mercredi - Laundry day again. This time for both of us. During the wash cycle, we walked down to La Grande Roquette, sat at a sidewalk table and had a café. After the wash was done and we had returned to the apartment, Robb realized he had forgotten his man-bag with his wallet. He got lucky and it was still there when he went to get it.

A few days ago, we had received a flyer for Les Casseroles, Restaurant Espagnol which is just down the street, so we decided to give it a try. We started with a tapas. Part of it was a delicious olive spread. I got bold and asked the waitress, a lovely young Parisian girl, if I could get the recipe and she went to the chef and got it for me. Our main course, was grilled Tilapia, done perfectly, with a nice veggie side dish of green beans, mushrooms and diced potatoes accompanied with a small salad. Dessert was wonderful ice cream (glace) with cocolate sauce and coconut.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Paris 2008 - 24 Juin

Mardi - Dinner at Beyrouth.

I think we've solved the mystery of the upstairs neighbors: it's obvious they are vampires. I mean look at the evidence, as soon as the sun rises, they are nowhere to be seen or heard. As soon as the sun sets (actually around 01h00), they're up and re-arranging their furniture, or building bookcases, or whatever it is they do up there to make all that noise when everyone else in the building is trying to sleep.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Paris 2008 - 23 Juin

Lundi - Even though I don't really feel rested, I've done very little for the past three days and so I'm hoping we can have a nice trip over to La Défense on the far western side of the city. We have never been there because it's basically a corporate village with a lot of ultra-modern buildings. But I know from viewing on the internet, that it also has a lot of art work and a nice shopping center, and you know how we love shopping. Also adding to ease of the trip, is the fact that we only have to take one métro, the #1 line (though we do have to take two buses to get to the métro).

We left the apartment somewhat later than planned (so what else is new), but we got the métro at Nation and got seats which we will not give up since La Défense is the last stop. By the time we got to La Défense Esplanade (the next to last stop), the métro was packed and we decided to get off. That is a significant difference from the last stop and requires a lot of walking to get to the major attraction, la Grande Arche. That is not a bad thing, because there is a lot of artwork throughout the entire area. Almost every corporate building has something and they are all rather fascinating and mostly large sculptures.

Other than la Grande Arche, the major attraction for me is Les Quatre Temps, a shopping mall. I have been wanting to go for some time, but I had no idea it was so massive. Kiddies, we are talking at least a half mile long and four stories high. The funny thing was that we didn't even get past the first store (strangely called Pull and Bear before Robb was buying clothes. It was after that when we discovered just how big the place is. By the time we got near the end of the first level, we were hungry and stopped at a chain bistro called Paul, for a Baguette Mixte, pretty much the best I've ever had. It was more than we could finish, so we wrapped the remainders in a napkin and brought them home.

You can see all the La Défense pictures here (click on the La Défense group, of course): Flickr

After our lunch break, we walked out to the main court and found ourselves next to la Grande Arche. There is an elevator to the top, but we didn't go up. We were preparing to find the métro, when Robb discovered he had misplaced his bus pass. We thought he might have lost it in Pull and Bear, so we walked all the way back to the beginning of Les Quatre Temps. It was not there. I didn't really think it would be, because it's good for unlimited rides on the bus, the métro and the RER until the end of the month. That, of course, means that everytime we want to go some place, Robb will have to use a regular ticket. We went down to the métro area, which is another level of the mall, found a ticket booth and he bought a carnet of ten tickets. He will use three just to get back to the apartment.

When we got on the métro, we got a seat, but we had to give them up at the next stop. Let me explain that. All the cars on the métro have seats that fold down, where you can sit until the car gets really crowded, then you are supposed to stand up to allow more people into the car. We had to stand all the way across the city to Nation.

We had dinner at a Thai restaurant, the Q Bar, that Robb had thought was a gay bar , because of the Q, I suppose. If you drew a line from the Q Bar to l'Artiste Café to l'Angela and back to the Q Bar, it would form a nearly perfect triangle. Once again, we were the last to leave.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Paris 2008 - 20-22 Juin

20 Juin (Vendredi) - These next two or three posts are going to bore you because we basically did nothing. I am taking a few days to recover what little strength I can before attempting to do anything else.

Robb went for another of his marathon walks today, but this time he got himself really lost. He called me several times to get directions, and at one point seemed to be within a few blocks of Place Léon Blum, but somehow he managed to make a wrong turn and ended up quite a distance away from it. Or so it seemed from the way he was describing the area to me on the phone. It turned out that he was only a few blocks from the apartment, but didn't recognize things he has seen almost every day since we've been here. His basic problem is that when he realizes he's lost, he won't stop and figure out where he is, he just keeps on walking, getting more and more lost.

We went to l'Artiste Café for dinner. I, again, had Penne aux Trois Fromages. Robb had so much food, even he couldn't eat all of it.

21 Juin (Samedi) - I slept till almost 12h30 and then forced myself to get out of bed. I was still tired. Even when I don't recognize that I'm tired, I can tell by the way my eyes feel very heavy and it's almost painful to open them.

Today was a beautiful day in Paris, with temps around 24C (74F) and blue skies with almost no clouds. Around 15h00 or 16h00, we heard really loud music coming from the street. We had the window open, so I had a look but could see nothing. I suggested to Robb that he could go down and have a look. He called me a few minutes later, but I could barely hear him over the music and people. He had found the source of it all. Near the Square de la Roquette, there was a free, outdoor disco-like thing set up. When he returned to the apartment, he said there were signs indicating that the music style would change every couple of hours (it didn't) and that it was scheduled to end around 21h00 or 22h00. We went to
Bistro Expo for dinner around 21h30 and it was still going strong. It is now 01h30, and it is still going. I suspect it may last all night.

I've just learned that the music was because Saturday was the occasion of the Féte de la Musique, with music being played at many places around the city. It's all free, of course, so wherever it happens, there are hundreds of people in attendance; dancing and drinking until the early hours of the morning.

22 Juin (Dimanche) - A real nothing day. We didn't even go out for dinner. Robb went for a walk for an hour or so somewhere near Pére Lachaise. I can never say exactly where he went because he doesn't usually know. He just starts walking and, sometimes, finds his way back without assistance.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Paris 2008 - 19 Juin

Jeudi - We got up around 07h30, packed everything that wasn't packed already, paid our bill and took a taxi to the train station.

One thing I dislike very much about using the trains in France, is that they don't tell you which track it will be on until about twenty minutes before the scheduled departure time, and every once in a while, they change that at the last minute. We waited in the lobby with many other passengers awaitng the track information. Fortunately, we were on track #1 and we didn't have to drag our bags down the stairs, walk to the indicated track and drag the bags up the stairs to the train. We simply walked out to the track area, checked the sign that tells you which car will be in which area, walked down there and got on.

Something we hadn't counted on was that the train would take us to Gare Montparnasse and not Gare d'Austerlitz. It also would go through Bordeaux and not Limoges. In direct opposition to the trip down, this time we got to see a lot of the countryside and the neat little towns along the way, including an occasional chateau. It was a much nicer journey and it was on a TGV, although it took the same six hours to get to Paris that it had taken to get to Toulouse.

The closer to Paris we got, the cloudier it became. Toulouse had been warm and sunny while we were there and when we left there wasn't a cloud in the sky. When we got to Paris, it was very cloudy.

We dragged our bags to the taxi stand and were on our way to the apartment, when LIF called to see where we were. I hadn't called before we left, because I felt relatively certain that they probably hadn't gone to bed until about the time we were getting up to leave.

Maybe because of the weather, Paris seemed so grubby compared to Toulouse. And dirty.

As we got out of the taxi at the apartment building, it started to rain. After we were safely inside, it started to pour. It did stop in time for us to go to dinner at L'Angela, which was disappointing. The last time we were there, Robb had had a terrific Osso Bucco. I ordered it this time, but apparently, the chef doesn't make the same dishes each time. He changes them according to the ingredients with which he has to work. That's all well and good if you don't have your mind set on something in particular, but I was very unhappy with the dish I got in place of the one I was expecting. I'm not sure we will return there.

Plus à venir, mes amis.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Paris 2008 - Toulouse3

Mercredi - Another terrible night. I didn't even get up for breakfast, but I must have fallen asleep because when I awoke, Robb was gone. He returned in a while with a guy carrying my breakfast on a tray. My stomach wasn't feeling all that steady, so I just drank the orange juice and ate some fruit.

Sadly, we have decided to return to Paris tomorrow, instead of going on to Barcelona. I just don't see the sense of going if I'm not going to be able to really walk around and check it out. It will be our first time and it's totally illogical to do it, if it can't be done right. Perhaps, in a year or so, we can make a trip with Barcelona as the first city at which we stop. Hopefully, by then, I'll be sufficiently rested to enjoy it.

We walked over to Place Wilson and caught a taxi to Gare Matabiau, where we stood in a long, long line which surprisingly moved quite quickly. Then we took a taxi back to Place Wilson. Robb was feling hungry so we stopped at a café but were told they were not serving food. We left there and went to the Hippopotamus. While sitting in the Hippo, I noticed a police car drive up and block the street. Robb had run into a manifestation yesterday during his journey, and said that was the way it had started. Sure enough, by the time we left the restaurant and started walking to FNAC, a group of protestors, with police escort, began marching and chanting their slogans. It was a rather small group, and once they were past, we continued to FNAC where Robb bought a CD by Christophe Mae.

We walked down to Place Wilson and walked around there for a while, until I was really needing to rest.

LIF called to confirm our dinner appointment this evening.

LIF met us at the hotel, and we walked to Place Saint-George. Tonton had secured a table on the café terrasse (under the white covering on the right side of the picture). It was to be the very first time Robb and I had ever eaten dinner at a café terrasse. Fortunately, the weather co-operated and was warm and dry. For dinner, Robb had ordered a Toulousain specialité, a sausage. He didn't much care for it, but I liked it and traded the piece of grilled salmon I had left for his left-over sausage.

After dinner, it was decided we would all walk to another gay bar, Bears. Tonton and Robb walked ahead while LIF stayed back with very-slowly-moving-me. About a block from the bar, he and I ran into a couple of guys from Barcelona, who explained to LIF that they were looking for cocaine. LIF told them we didn't have any, nor did we know where to get it. Then we continued on our way to the bar, followed by the two guys. Robb and Tonton were already inside and we joined them. One of the Barcelona guys (the cuter of the two) came in with us while his friend waited outside. After a few minutes he left. We had our drinks and prepared to leave because the bar was about to close. It was somewhere around 02h00. When we got outside, we again ran into the two Barcelona guys, who joined us on the way to another bar that would be open for several hours later. During the journey, Tonton and one of the Barcelona guys walked ahead, the other, cuter guy stayed back with LIF, Robb and me. When Tonton and the guy's friend turned a corner, cute Barcelona made his move, telling us that he was gay and started kissing all three of us. It was quite amusing. As luck would have it, we had to pass our hotel, and when we were in front of it, Robb and I told the others we were just too tired to go any further. We bid the other four adieu and entered the hotel.

Earlier in the evening, while going to the Bear bar, we had discussed the possibility of staying another few days in Toulouse and then returning to Paris. But during the night, Robb and I talked it over and decided it was just too much of a hassle to return our train tickets (we weren't even certain we could do that), drag our bags to LIF's apartment because we had to leave for one night, drag everything back to the hotel on Friday and party hearty every night. Ten years ago, I wouldn't have questioned doing that, but now I'm just too long-in-the-tooth for that youthful stuff.

Plus à venir, mes amis.