Monday, July 8, 2013

This and that

The blogging site now makes me title my entries. It didn't when I started.

Just one of those times when you get lucky
and the modern vehicles almost disappear

We're in the midst of a weather change - several days of warmth (not by California standards), the low 80s which seem quite hot compared to the 60s we've had for most of my trip. Sun expected for the rest of the time I'm here.

Cats in a window

And by this time next week, I'll be on a train headed for Great Britain! Hard to believe that I've been dreaming of this trip for years and now the Paris part is almost over. I'm having a hard time with that.

More windows

As I've gotten to know my neighborhoods, I understand how long I've been here. At the same time, I feel like a total stranger - certainly not part of the culture, no matter how many times I sit at a sidewalk cafe.

Such a beautiful day, how could I not
sit and enjoy a citron presse?

I like to think I'm seeing a more relaxed culture, but I don't really know. After all, all those people in the cafes, are they people who don't have children? I suppose so (or the kids are home with the nannies - mostly African immigrants, as far as I can tell). But if you go to a park - and little ones are everywhere and most have playgrounds - at the same time (between 6 and 8 pm), they are filled with people with their children. So maybe these hours are set aside by this culture - unless, of course, you work in one of the cafes!

Parisian summer - games printed on the walkway,
floating restaurant, paintings on the river walls,
and a giant ferris wheel in the Tuilleries

Close-up of the paintings by Reza

I was walking down an old boulevard in what is now a working class neighborhood and there were definitely many fewer sidewalk cafes (mostly Turkish restaurants). Is it a different culture, less free time, or less money when they have free (read "unemployed") time? All of the above?

The Giant Colon

But there's always something for everyone - such as a tour of the insides of a giant colon right on the Place de la Bastille overlooking the canal. It was an educational display about colorectal cancer.

My street of bars

Drinking seems to be one of the really popular activities - I've done my share, though I'm not getting drunk like most of these people. Outside my window, it goes on until about 4 am. Last night was quiet - most of the bars close early on Sunday. Saturday night, however, it was on overdrive.

Lavender I bought to perfume the apartment

A giant semi stopped to unload stuff for the next day's farmer's market and it reved it's engine and left at 1:30 am. That was followed by some fireworks that young people were setting off. They were as loud as municipal ones and shook the building. Bastille Day should be interesting.

Paris rat

Did I ever post this photo of a Paris rat in front of Notre Dame? Lots of them come out at night.

Glass wine "cork"

Or this of the glass wine "cork" that I'm bringing home - one of my few souvenirs? See? I can't remember what I've posted.

Stock Exchange skateboard ramps

Or this? Right by the stock exchange, a short street has been blocked and is now a small skateboard park. Maybe we should try this on Wall Street so those fools can get their tensions out in better ways.

Victor Noir and his well-rubbed erection

On Saturday I went back to Cimitiere Pere Lachaise so I could spend a few leisurely hours strolling through it without family or Alix in tow. I had never gotten a photo of Victor Noir's grave - a journalist who was murdered. Check this link for his story:  Apparently the penis cult was invented by tour guides!

Two men holding hands

I don't know the story of these guys - the grave only mentions one person. I have so much fun roaming around this place and seeing all the ways there are to memorialize a person. Sometimes you wonder if the dead person would be embarrassed if they knew.

Pere Lachaise scene

After a couple of hours, I heard a lot of music coming from outside the cemetery.

Dancing to the music

So I left and discovered a big parade. It was the Canaval Tropical de Paris - a celebration of the cultures from tropical climates which are now found in Paris.

A break from the dancing

The crowd and the participants were having a lot of fun and you could see how much they were enjoying celebrating their cultures - mostly African, Caribbean, and Pacific Islands.


There was even a contingent of white/European people wearing chef's toques and carrying large whisks and wooden spoons. Chefs in solidarity with tropical culture? I have no idea.

This was an impressive contingent

More dancing

And more dancing

I also happened upon these poor pigeons who must have been wondering why they were caged when so many of their comrades fly free.

Cooped up pigeons

I put in a lot of walking that day - about 5 hours of it actually walking, not counting the time for a citron presse and later for my first gin and tonic of the summer.

A gin and tonic and an article about Sarkozy
- what a combo!

The glass is advertising Clan Campbell whiskey. I have only limited experience with whiskies, but I'll be getting a chance to change that when I'm in Scotland and Ireland.

Victor Hugo and his daughter

Because I walked so much on Saturday, I decided to do a lot less on Sunday. Though I was actually out for about ten hours, a lot of it was spent sitting in lovely places. Victor Hugo's house is a short distance away, so I checked it out.

View from Victor Hugo's dining room

They had a special exhibit devoted to Hugo's politics. I could have rented the headset, but I really like trying to decipher the French. I didn't do as well with this as at some museums, but there was a lot about his work against the death penalty (lots of people thought he was crazy). The exhibit was dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, who considers Hugo one of her heroes.

 Place des Vosges

I spent some more time in the Place des Vosges (Victor Hugo's house is on it) doing my usual writing of words and phrases that have yet to become anything. I've just finished Possession by A.S. Byatt (first book of hers that I've read). It's about two 19th century poets and two 20th century scholarly researchers - a Ph.D. candidate and a professor - a multiplicity of love stories set around poetry and, essentially, extolling the potential thrills of scholarly research. She even manages to sneak in some mocking of the "free market." And it contained a little warning to me.

Tell me then, what do you write? For I suppose you do write? It is a metier where the desire without the act is a destructive phantom.

Oh dear!

And more windows

I get to overhear lots of conversations. A few in French, such as, "And the communists think they can cure everything by throwing money at it," but mostly English. Tables everywhere are right against each other. Yesterday I listened to a French economics professor (who had studied in the US) and a US economics professor discuss why corporations are holding on to all their cash. They haven't a clue. They are perplexed. Both had done stints in the "real" economics world (one at the Fed), but both had fled.

Night sky from the apartment

Then another time I sat by two Belgian women and two US women who were in town for a trade show - women and children's clothing, I think. One of the Belgian women asked the Americans their reaction to the NSA spying. Both were absolutely fine with it. I never did figure out what the Belgian women thought. But it almost ruined my dinner listening to them. I was so tempted to interrupt. I imagine they would have thought I was crazy.

Cool chimney - there was an anti-same sex
marriage flag flying beneath it,
which I've chosen not to display for them

There was a long discussion of cell phone plans and costs and the Belgian women said that costs in Belgium were the highest in Europe, but then it turned out to be quite a bit cheaper than in the US.

Pretending to be a writer -
notice how small the notebook is
(the big one's in the apartment)

And then last night I had a 3-1/2 hr. dinner on the sidewalk of a local bistro. 3-1/2 hours doesn't mean that you're eating more food. It means that everything is very leisurely and enjoyable. When I left just before 11, there were still people waiting to get in. First, I just sat and relaxed. Then I finished my book and then I struck up a conversation with the young women sitting next to me.

Those love locks have expanded to every bridge possible -
not the Pont Neuf - in background - no wires

The Australian woman was couch surfing in the Parisian's apartment near Pere Lachaise. Apparently there is more couch surfing in Paris than anywhere in the world - so they told me. She was on her way to Plum Village in Burgundy to spend a week with Thich Nhat Hanh. Then she was singing for a band for a week in Great Britain. Sounded as though she was having fun.

Hotel de Ville/City Hall

She had a few questions about the history of Paris - particularly architecture - and the Parisian didn't know the answers. Takes a tourist, who has been reading up, to answer questions like that, so I did.
Delightful and relaxing day without a lot of walking. Woke up this morning with a sore throat and slight cough - maybe I should have walked more.

In Balzac's garden

Still catching up - a few days ago I went to Balzac's house. 

Where Balzac wrote

He wrote a ton of stuff and I don't think I've read any of it. The house was in a village outside the city when he lived there. The neighborhood is called Passy and I had never been there before. 


It looks as though it's right by the Eiffel Tower, but it's across the river and to the west. Nothing in this photo was there when Balzac lived there. The neighborhood is all very much of a period and harmonious - approx. 1880 to 1925. The beautiful apartment buildings have the names of the architects and the year they were built carved into them near the door.

Lots of Art Nouveau

The neighborhood is also very neat and tidy and, I imagine, conservative. There was certainly a lot of sentiment against same sex marriage in evidence. And all the black women were pushing white kids in strollers.

Grave at Pere Lachaise

I'm almost caught up. I promise.


  1. I'm really enjoying your photos and commentary. Thanks.

  2. "At the same time, I feel like a total stranger - certainly not part of the culture, no matter how many times I sit at a sidewalk cafe." That line really resonates with me and reminds me of X-pat days when we called that the two-month blues. There was another at six months. But there is also the perspective of your wonderful achievement in all its complexity and richness. Thanks for sharing it. We have so enjoyed the beautiful photos and commentary. So next is Wales. What draws you there? Family history? I would readily imagine you in Dublin---that matrix of revolution and poetry! xxxxx m

  3. Actually, one day in London - visiting Highgate where I lived when I was 11 - then ten days on the west coast of Scotland - family history there and it's just beautiful - then two weeks in Wales as part of a poetry workshop (after signing up, I found out I had ancestors who came from there and founded a Baptist church in Philadelphia in 1658 - or was it 1678?), and finally three nights in Dublin staying in the Trinity College dorms. Trying to fit way too much stuff in.

  4. Good luck! Have fun! Family history in Scotland too---highland Andersons. Can't go wrong with trinity College....what history.