Monday, August 30, 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Last spring I noticed an alarming number of padlocks sprouting on the Pont des Arts, the pedestrian bridge between the Louvre and the Institut de France. They're still there, and they've been multiplying. There are hundreds of them, in all shapes and sizes, some with names written on them, some fresh from the hardware store. Now I see them on other bridges that have wire fencing they can be attached to. What is all this about?
I gather this is the latest way to swear undying love for your mate: hook a padlock onto the bridge and throw the key into the river. I suspect many of these romances end before the key floats very far downstream, leaving an ugly excresence as the only reminder of love's short stay.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
We seem to have developed a tradition that I would just as soon drop, i.e. Gene injuring himself shortly after arrival. Last year he cut himself on some broken crockery, which gave us some unlooked-for insight into the health care system here. This year he scraped his thumb on a bit of rough metal and the darn thing wouldn't stop bleeding, hours later. Tiny wound, lots of blood. Visions of tetanus; when was that last shot?
The local pharmacy sent us to a nearby clinic, where a very nice nurse looked at it immediately and explained that she thought a tiny vien had been nicked and it would need a suture. Unfortunately in France, only surgeons do sutures. We had to go to the emergency room.
She carefully wrapped the bloody thing, gave us directions on which bus to take and where to get off and wished us luck. No mention was made of payment.
At the emergency room he was quickly triaged and the nurse there said she thought it didn't need a stitch, but she would defer to a doctor, for whom we had to wait. And wait. So far, this was the only resemblance to US medical practice we had encountered. We waited three hours.
Yes, of course we thought of just leaving and assuming the best outcome, but if it continued to bleed we'd probably have to come back the next day and wait all over again, so we just stayed. And stayed. Finally his name was called, the doc looked at it, cleaned it, and said she thought it was fine without a suture, apparently because he had been holding it in the air for the last three hours and there was no way any blood was going up there at this point. Waste of time? Sure, he could have been doing the same in front of the TV or at a café. Oh well. Another slice of French life.
No one asked for money. We left. There was a full moon. Oh...
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
We woke yesterday to the sound of rain.
This new apartment is the quintessential Parisian garret, the top two floors of a 17th century building in St-German des Prés, with two smallish rooms on each floor, connected by a narrow, steep staircase that I'm sure originally led to the maid's room. Her little chamber is now our salon, and adjacent to it is a makeshift kitchen. At one time a little roof terrace, this has been covered with a glass greenhouse frame and has an undercounter refrigerator (no freezer), a nice stove, a small sink, and a bistro table and two chairs. The cookware hangs on the walls and the food pantry is a couple of baskets. We love it.
And so we breakfasted surrounded by rain-covered glass, cozy and safe in our little aerie. Rather than go out for lunch we went to the market and came back to sit snacking and reading in the kitchen. The rain stopped, but we stayed in until it was time to go to the movies. I think we'll be happy here.
Monday, August 23, 2010
St. Tropez? The Greek islands? No, it's an island a bit closer to home, the western point of the Ile St-Louis. On a sweltering Saturday there's no reason not to act as if you're en vacances someplace wonderful. After all, Paris is pretty wonderful, isn't it?
The river allows a bit of breeze to blow and sun worshippers are out, but a few minutes in full sun are enough for us. The incredibly blue skies and sharp light are better viewed from a bench on the shady side of one of the little parks scattered here and there.
And although there are a lot of people on the streets in the tourist areas, the streets themselves are incredibly empty. Few cars are on the roads and the stop lights are blinking in vain, ignored by pedestrians who recognize the uselessness of waiting to cross the deserted streets. Except for the occasional tourist from some very law-abiding place who simply cannot make himself cross against the light.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
A pleasant flight, 7 hours of sleep onboard, bags that were the first to tumble onto the conveyer belt, a light snack for dinner at l'Avant Comptoir with bises all around and a move into our new apartment...life is good.
Jet lag and a very hot weekend is slowing us down a bit, but we have already managed dinner with friends, some minimal Monoprix grocery shopping and a piano concert in the (blessedly cool) Armenian Cathedral in the Marais. And we actually walked all the way there from St-Germain des Prés, admittedly with a few stops for cool drinks and shady benches, from which we watched kids digging in sandboxes and an unusually large number of adults engaged in ping-pong tournaments.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
OK, I admit I've been lax. I notice it's been a whole month since I posted here, but that will give you an idea of the tempo of my days in Berkeley. Not doing much, and doing it slowly.
What have we been up to recently? Well, a good friend arranged an extraordinarily successful exhibition of her late mother's painting at the Lost Art Salon, specializing in mid-20th century work of little-known or forgotten artists. It was a big crowd, and her mother, Aline Stix, sold dozens of paintings posthumously. The gallery is in an industrial area south of Market Street in San Francisco and the view from the rooftop could make for an interesting show itself. The graffiti is great.
To get back in the mood for our return to Paris we drove over to the Legion of Honor Museum, which I've mentioned before. It's modeled on the Hôtel de Salm in Paris, which houses the original Paris Legion of Honor museum. A stunning building in a spectacular site, sitting on a headland overlooking the Golden Gate, it was temporary home to an exhibit called "Impressionist Paris".
The art is accompanied by some of the loveliest views in San Francisco. Not to mention the summer fog that has dogged us relentlessly since the 4th of July.
But it's over for the year, we're heading back to Paris. No more Mexican food (although we did finally find a very good Mexican restaurant in the 5th arrondissement), and a continuing search for spicy Chinese. We think it's a fair trade.