Mini Blog: A day to flâner

Daniel and I took advantage of a day on call with no calls to flâner in the Marais and go shopping at Les Halles today. He is looking for some specific things (a suit; shorts with zipper pockets). I am looking for things that are nice to wear and bien soldé.  He was also looking for a cooked breakfast so we went, inevitably, to Breakfast in America. I was not in a hurry to go back–as I’ve said, I do not go to Paris to eat American food. But he was THRILLED.

(Granted, in this pic he looks more demented than thrilled.)
I’ve realized that BIA makes me very depaysée. Look around the restaurant, I’m in the U.S. Look out at the street, I’m in Paris. And I cannot figure out what language to speak. 
But the coffee was really good.

On our shopping round we discovered Uniqlo, a store I’d have been better off not knowing about. Something about Uniqlo ticks all my boxes. We also went into the Swatch store where they polished the crystal of his watch to take a scratch out for the princely sum of 0€. We went by the Musée Carnavalet and peeped into the garden; we passed by L’As du Fallafel before the line had started to form. (Unfortunately that was right after BIA, so no falafel for me today.) We tried on clothes and heard many iterations of “So, you are from Québec, right?”

More of the same at Les Halles, a mall that is very comprehensive but also kind of stuffy and airless because it’s underground. By midafternoon it was time to take a break for a drink and a snack so we passed through a small pedestrian market and fetched up at a café called Etienne Marcel. Outside it looks like a traditional café but the inside looks like late-series Mad Men with primary colors and molded plastic furniture. It was nice to relax in a quiet place with comfortable seats for a while!

Finally on our way out, I talked Daniel into stopping into St. Eustache, built in the 16th and 17th centuries and then restored in the early 19th after the Revolution:

Chapel of the Virgin

The altar

The organ has 8,000 pipes and is supposed to be the largest in France!
Here is what it sounds like.

The organ keyboard is right out where you can see it.

To cap off this excellent day we had dinner with Dr. Kirk and his wife Betsy at Rouge Pomme, which is becoming our go-to place for dinner/dessert/coffee/a drink. I always get a galette du sarrasin for dinner there but the Kirks both had tartines that looked amazing. Then we bought chocolates at Leonidas for dessert. Say what you want to about Paris but the food is hard to beat. So are the cathedrals and the shopping.
Tomorrow, Vicki and Robert and their kids come over from London. We are going to the Louvre tomorrow night. And on Saturday I am going to see Alvin Ailey at Théatre du Châtelet. It’s gonna be an excellent weekend!

Un regard ouvert sur la Grande Mosquée

On my first trip to France in 2004 (when I was a student rather than a professor on Study Abroad), we had a little cultural orientation at the beginning of our stay and we learned that Americans have un regard ouvert, which means “an open look.” Compared to other cultures we look other people in the eye more readily and we are quicker to presume or create relationships with others whereas the French are more private. We were told about this idea in the context of a warning: be careful about looking people in the eye on the street (it’s not done) and be ready for more formality and social distance than you are used to. So over lunch today I told my students about this idea. They readily understood and agreed that it was correct, but also said that they think un regard ouvert is good because it means you’re open to new people and situations, and you are willing to take an interest in others. From their perspective, I can’t disagree, and they carry their open eyes into our class and our field trips in a very positive way.

So today we took our American openness to the Grande Mosquée and then to its attached café for lunch. Dr. Yahgoobi brought her class to the mosque with us as well. Click through for the details and pictures, s’il vous plaît?

We had the same tour guide, Yemina, as last year. She is very friendly, obviously loves her faith and is a great ambassador for a religion that is not always regarded positively. She’s also patient with my imperfect skills as a translator, so I was happy to see her again!

The mosque was constructed between 1922 and 1926 from stone, marble, plaster, ceramic, and wood, with decorations in mosaic tile, stucco, and cedar of Lebanon. Most of the woodwork, several chandeliers, and some of the wall hangings were donated by imams and kings from other countries.

The horseshoe-shaped arches are typical of the “hispano-mauresque” style.

Stucco decorations–made of marble dust mixed with plaster. See the calligraphy inset?

Mosaic decoration–the dark brown tile above the mosaic has calligraphy that tells the story of the mosque in verse as well as representing some Koranic verses.

Yemina explained that helping construct a mosque is thought of as something like a donation and that it makes you a part of the mosque’s history. Since Islam does not practice iconography at all (no images of people or animals) the whole mosque is decorated only with geometric patterns and calligraphy. The garden contains beautiful rose bushes (still in bloom–I told Yemina that roses in Georgia finished blooming weeks ago), citrus trees, and fig trees as well as fountains and little basins.

The crescent represents the Muslim lunar calendar. The star represents the 5 pillars of Islam: the shahadah, prayer 5 times a day, giving to the poor, observing Ramadan, and the hajj.

A square minaret, typical of North African mosques.

The students were very attentive through the tour and asked some good questions. I got a little tangled up in what I thought I remembered about Islam (from my high school World Religions class in 1990, cough cough) and Yemina had to set me straight but it all worked out. I learned from Dr. Yaghoobi that “shahadah,” the name of the Muslim profession of faith (“There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet, may peace be upon him”) means “testimony.” When Yemina recited it in French she said “Je temoigne que . . . ” at the beginning: “I testify that . . . ”  Somehow the whole thing made a lot more sense to me after that.

We took pictures together:

Then we ate in the café. For unfamiliar food it’s good to have un regard ouvert. If we learned nothing else today we learned what couscous is, what a tagine is, and why mint tea is a good idea. One student ordered “pastilla” and was surprised, although not displeased, to receive a meat pie. This is what I love about study abroad: you learn something everywhere you go!
Mint tea, y’all.

From “What’s couscous?” to “Can we get more couscous?” in 1 hour or less.

Chow Italia, Part 2

It was late by the time we returned from Alberobello on Friday night, so Saturday we blew off a trip to the beach (probably a bad decision, in retrospect) in favor of relaxing, watching Italian TV (i.e. American TV dubbed in Italian, plus some baffling infomercials), and spending time with Karine and Antonio’s kittens. In Italian, “kittens” is “gattini.” Easy to remember because kittens are teeny!
This is Maurice Ravel.

This is Coco Chanel.
(also pictured: the nifty tile floors in the apartment)
In the afternoon I went with Karine to buy cheese and vegetables at some of the small shops in Corato. The whole weekend was a linguistic and cultural adventure and this may have been the highlight. The man who runs the cheese shop loves Karine so he dished out some fresh mozzarella knots for us to try as soon as we came in the door. Then he chatted with her while taking her order even though there was a line and some people were griping at him to hurry it along. Karine says she is not always accepted everywhere in Corato but obviously she is well beloved at the cheese shop and at the fruit-and-vegetable shop where she got guidance about her lemon trees. It was fun just to tag along even though I couldn’t understand everything or contribute much. Karine would just point at me and say “Famiglia!”
That night after serving as Antonio’s roadies (broken elevator, music gear up 6 flights of stairs: let’s try to forget that this ever happened) we went and got takeout pizza from a place called Pizza Teatro. It was jam-packed and boiling hot with a disorderly queue and one beleaguered waiter rushing back and forth with pizzas for the people eating at the tables outside the restaurant. Naturally, the pizza was delicious. I had a “Caprese” which was black olives, fresh tomatoes, and onion on a thin crust cooked in a brick oven. Worth the wait and the strange drama of ordering and paying there. Afterward I told Karine that it’s called Pizza Teatro because they could film a reality show in the restaurant.
It was very interesting being a native English speaker/second-language French speaker on this trip. Daniel and Karine have French as their first language and English as their second. Antonio is a native Italian speaker (of course) with English as his second language and no French. And Karine has learned to speak Italian incredibly well in only a year and a half. So when Daniel, Karine, and I or just Karine and I were together we would speak French because she doesn’t get to speak French very often. When the 4 of us were together we would speak English, and I would be the only one without (to my own ears) a melodious accent. But I learned a few words in Italian, such as “Molto bene!” which means “Very good.” Lots of things in Italy are molto bene.
Yesterday morning we went to the Adriatic coast for a photo op before heading to the airport. It was very crowded but so pretty!

Cousin love!

Look, I was there!
Soon it was time to take our flight back and our Italian adventure was over. Karine says we need to come for 2 weeks next time so we can travel around. Good idea or GREAT idea? In any case I am so grateful for the warm welcome we received there and the fun and relaxing time we had. Hooray, Italy! 

Chow Italia, Part 1

Daniel and I are back in Paris after a fantastic weekend in Italy with his cousin Karine and her boyfriend Antonio. It was terribly hot the whole time we were there, and neither of us speaks any Italian, and we flew Ryanair, and the whole thing could have been disaster, but instead we had a great time. Karine and Antonio are excellent hosts! Let’s click through, shall we?
Thursday afternoon we took the Paris Beauvais Airport shuttle from Porte Maillot to the Beauvais airport. It calls itself “Paris Beauvais” but is actually an hour and fifteen minutes away. On that logic I am going to start calling our house Paris Lizella. However, the shuttle is pretty convenient and quite cheap: 32€ per person round-trip if you book online, which is less expensive than the Groome shuttle and it’s a much nicer bus! Ryanair was a better experience than I expected as well. They do charge for EVERYTHING (drinks, snacks, newspapers, checked bags, printing your boarding pass) but the flights ran right on time and the planes seemed decently maintained (albeit not pristinely tidy because their turnaround times are very short). I would definitely do Ryanair or another low-cost carrier again if I travel within Europe for a weekend. As long as you travel light it’s an excellent deal.

We landed in Bari, which is about 35 minutes from Corato, the city where Karine and Antonio live, and they picked us up at the airport. Let me just say right now that everything you have heard about Italian driving is true. Antonio is an excellent “Italian style” driver; I am both terrified by and jealous of his skills. He says he does not drive fast compared to his fellow citizens, which is probably true. “What if I had an Audi?” he speculated.

After a stop at their apartment to drop off bags and freshen up, we headed out to dinner and that’s when the real fun began. They are regulars at a local restaurant called Le Stagioni di Puglia that does typical cuisine from the Puglia region (which grows a lot of olives and other vegetables as as making some unbeatable cheeses). First we got a crash course in Italian dining, which goes like this:
1. Start late. 8:30 is about the earliest you can eat dinner.
2. Antipasti: small dishes of preserved meats, cheese, or cooked vegetables
3. Primi: pasta
4. Secondi: meat or fish dishes
5. Dessert
6. Depart restaurant in a wheelbarrow, probably.
We gave Aldo, the owner, free rein to choose antipasti for us, and they just did not stop coming. Moreover, everything Francesco, the waiter, brought out was delicious: ham, salami, pecorino, parmesan, stuffed mushrooms, grilled zucchini, bruschetta, fresh olives, cooked zucchini leaves (who knew?), grilled string beans . . . It was all so good but we were expecting 2-3 more courses. Finally we had to ask them to stop bringing out antipasti!

This was AFTER we’d already eaten so much we thought we might die.
We had pasta (I had orecchietti with I forget what but it was yummy), canceled our secondi, and went straight to dessert. Karine was not feeling well but she did perk up after a chocolate mousse. I tried limoncello for the first time. It was good but I’m not sure I will order it again. Liqueurs are just not my thing, maybe. Meanwhile I’m still wondering if we should have canceled our pastas as well and just eaten antipasti all night. 
After traveling and a late dinner we simply did not get a jump on the day Friday but sat on the terrace at the apartment most of the morning:
Views from the 6th floor!

Corner apartment = Lots of skyline

At right, one of Karine’s lemon trees. 
Karine & Antonio’s apartment is big and very pretty; the only drawback is that it’s on the 6th floor and the elevator is not 100% reliable (as we learned!). We did eventually get dressed and venture out for lunch at a small café called Cofy Cloud (panini: average, gelato pops: A++++). 
Daniel wanted to rest but Karine and I decided to take the train to visit Alberobello, Alberobello is known for its domed houses called trulli, for which it is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The train journey was a little grueling and we thought we would not have much time to visit before needing to catch the train back. But Karine had the excellent idea to call Antonio and invite him to come out with Daniel in the car and meet us for dinner. So we had time to take quite a few pictures, taste some locally made liqueurs, and sit down for a beer before the gentlemen arrived. Here are some of my pics. I’m so glad we went to Alberobello. I might never have known there was such a place and it is unique and beautiful.

Antonio and Karine

. . . and Daniel

Looking down on the beer festival in Alberobello just before we left
We ate another huge meal Friday night: I had bruschetta and orecchietti (again) plus part of a grilled cheese entrée that Antonio ordered. It was literally a thick slice of a gouda-like cheese, cooked on a grill. Unbelievably delicious and I want to try making something similar at home. By the time dinner was over we had to go straight back to Corato as Antonio, who is a musician, had a gig the next day. Did I fall asleep on the autostrada? I’ll never tell . . . 
Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the Italy Report, featuring KITTENS!

Epic Loire Valley Sightseeing Weekend

This year, the EC Paris program and other European Council programs decided to add a “bonus” to each program in some form, both to take advantage of this year’s favorable exchange rates and to help attract students. The Paris program’s “bonus” was a weekend trip to the Loire Valley to see some of the famous châteaux. It was an excellent trip and I am writing this post in the autocar on the way back. It will be light on narrative but heavy on pictures, so get comfortable and click through…

We set out Friday morning from Paris in 2 autocars. Ours was piloted by our trusty driver Guy and we were led by our old friend Tour Guide Josh. We arrived at our first destination, Amboise, before lunch and had plenty of time to visit the castle and enjoy a good meal in town. I had not been to Amboise before. It is very impressive and definitely shows the military and strategic roots of chateau architecture.

Amboise castle from below

Tour Guide Josh gives the history of the castle

Exterior views 

For lunch, Daniel and I and Dr. Mann went to a charcuterie and got “ardoises” (slates) of mixed cheese, charcuterie, and cold salads. Everything was delicious! I can’t remember what the cheeses were called but one was a goat cheese that’s grey on the outside–we would see it again, twice, before the weekend was over. We had more than we could eat and yet we still managed to get ice cream afterward. How does that happen?

Getting lunch in Amboise

Our lunch!

The view from our table

From Amboise we continued into Tours, which would be our base for Friday and Saturday night. Because we are a large group (almost 100 people counting students, professors, bus drivers, and tour guides), we were split between 2 hotels. One hotel, St. Eloi, was closer to the center of Tours. Our hotel, La Terrasse, was outside of town but right on the tram line so we could easily go downtown. We had a very quick city tour from Josh including some cathedral ruins that are right in the town center. Standing in front of the two towers, which once made up the northwest and southeast corners of the transept, respectively, you suddenly have a new perspective on the size of a cathedral that comes from examining how many normal-sized houses and shops can fit into the space where the cathedral once was. It’s amazing.

This is the southeast corner tower

Looking northwest to the other tower

This is the basilica that replaced the ruined cathedral but not until the 1800s.
Close-up of the northwest tower which is called the Charlemagne tower
View from where we ate dinner–a medieval half-timbered house.

We had a very traditional French dinner that night at a restaurant called Le Bouchon Tourangeau that is right off the main square, Place Plumereau, in Tours. For my entree I had chevre chaud (there’s that goat cheese again) on a salad, followed by andouillette and frites, and a chocolate mousse for dessert. Let me explain about andouillette: it is delicious, but like a lot of delicious French food (especially cheese), it smells terrible. The most polite word I can find to describe the smell of andouillette is “Swiftian.”  Or maybe “earthy.” And yet it is sooooo tasty. Again: how does that happen?

Saturday morning we had breakfast at the hotel and got a leisurely 10 a.m. start for our winery tour and tasting in Vouvray. We toured the “cave” (in this case a literal cave though sometimes it just means a cellar!) where Vouvray wines are aged for at least a year before they are sold. It was a fascinating enviroment and interesting to learn about. Then we went on to taste 3 different Vouvray wines plus some local snacks (GOAT CHEESE). Tasting wine at 11:30 a.m. was a little unusual but fun! I bought a bottle of my favorite of the wines we tasted, a “petillant,” “demi-sec” Vouvray. In the wine world “petillant” means “half-fizzy” (all the way fizzy is “mousseux”) and “demi-sec” is semi-dry. I am excited to open it next time the professors get together to raise a glass.

Daniel & Dr. Mann with Guy
Students walking into the cave

Madeleine, our tour guide at the winery, in front of a rack of 15,000+ bottles.

Goat . . . (wait for it)


The wines we tasted–the middle one is the one I bought.

From the winery we went on to Chenonceau, a short hop down the road. I had been to Chenonceau before but was more than happy to go again. It is so beautiful. I could probably have sat all day just looking at it!

Students listening to Josh’s introduction

I was there! (And using my worst posture, apparently.)

After lunch in Chenonceau we returned to Tours and had time to catch a nap before heading back downtown in Tours for dinner and some fun. We ate pizza (don’t worry; it was French: there was a fried egg on it) and walked down toward the riverfront where there is a little strip of bars and restaurants called La Guinguette. On the way, we stopped to ride the Ferris wheel that is in another square right next to the river. The views were breathtaking at sunset.

Down at the river Daniel managed to befriend some guys with guitars (OF COURSE HE DID) and they jammed around playing classic French music for a while as everyone relaxed and enjoyed the riverfront scene. But today was an earlier start–9 a.m. departure–so we did not stay out too late. Today we had a slightly packed agenda with a stop at Chambord for photos, followed by lunch in Chartres and a look at the cathedral, and then “home” to Paris. These were also the longest sections of the drive with a generous 90 minutes separating each stop, so we have been a bit rushed to get everything in. But it was worth the stop to see Chambord again (less worth it to pay 50 cents to use a porta-potty, merci beaucoup, domaine de Chambord):

And I am always thrilled to see Chartres again especially now that the restoration is really coming along. A large part of the nave is covered in scaffolding right now, but there is plenty left to see. And the restoration is extraordinary. The somber gloom that we associate with cathedrals is wonderful enough, but seeing the stone scrubbed white and the faux marble painted is thrilling. I can only wish we’d spent a bit less time eating cheeseburgers with our students and a bit more time in the cathedral. On the other hand, we are here for the students and lunch was good fun.

I love this plaque because it talks about students coming to Chartres on pilgrimages.

Notre Dame du Pilier

Left to right: completed restoration, non-restored, restoration in progress

The main altar: already fully restored

Arches & keystones above the main altar
Look, I was there too!

So now we are rolling back to Paris in our autocars and getting ready for next week. It’s going to be a mad scramble for the washing machines but a good weekend trip is always worth the laundry you have to do afterward.

Update at time of posting: Going straight to the laundry room from the autocar is the secret to success. À bientôt!

Anatomy of a Steak Tartare

This blog is teetering on the edge of total disarray because so much has been going on that I almost can’t keep up with it. In addition to teaching, field trips, and a couple of other fun excursions, I’ve been to the doctor three times this week with sick or injured faculty or students. THREE TIMES. Today when I sat down in his office, “our” doctor looked at me across the desk and said “Vous savez, nous sommes fermé le dimanche.”* Everybody wash your hands and be careful out there, okay?

So in between trips to the doctor’s office I have managed to get in some top-quality cultural experiences. Last night with Dr. Kirk’s class I saw L’Anatomie de la sensation by Wayne McGregor at the Paris Opera Ballet. It was an incredible experience. I have plenty of background with ballet but none with contemporary ballets such as this one, set to a piece of music titled “Blood on the Floor” and featuring a high-tech movable set. The dancing was simply extraordinary. Contemporary dance is fairly easy to do badly but incredibly evocative when done well. This ballet does not have a storyline but instead focuses on the quality of movement and the shifting relationships among the dancers, so it really shows off the artistry and the technical prowess of the company.  I was thrilled at the opportunity to see it and disappointed when it was over–I probably won’t get a chance but I was tempted to attend a second performance just to study the dancing again.

Today’s highlight was a visit to Les Tontons with the 4 students who had signed up for my “Dinner Club.” Dinner Club is one of the optional activities our program is offering; professors choose a restaurant for dinner and students sign up to go with them. I picked Les Tontons on my Parisian friend’s recommendation because their specialty is beef tartare. Two years ago I discovered that I love tartare. Meanwhile, most Americans probably haven’t tried it and/or are horrified by the idea of eating uncooked chopped beef. So I was surprised when I posted my Dinner Club on Facebook and 4 students immediately signed up. Three of them ordered tartare poêlé (seared), which I think is cheating, but you have to start somewhere, right? They were all very enthusiastic and everyone cleaned their plates, so I’m calling this Dinner Club a success. Les Tontons is relaxed and friendly, not at all touristique, and of course the food is excellent. Next time I might splurge and get the Tartare A.O.C.–see if my little American palate can tell the difference.

My choice: tartare traditionnel, frites, salade (not pictured: a 1664 en pression and a chocolate mousse for dessert).

The students with their meals.

Tomorrow we go to the Loire Valley to see the châteaux for the weekend. I am so excited. Get ready for LOTS of pictures.

*”You know, we are closed on Sundays.” He was teasing me, and in fact I was amused and touched that he cracked a joke because he has seemed very deadpan and shy in the past.

Breakfast in America and Dinner on a Boat

Field trip day #2 for my World Lit. class. I think this means half of our field trips are already done! Holy cow. That makes me feel like time is flying, but in fact we do not have a field trip next Tuesday because that’s Bastille Day. So it doesn’t really mean the program is half over. Whew.

We went to the Musée Carnavalet which is an eternal favorite of mine. It is the museum of the history of Paris and it illustrates the ways in which Paris has changed throughout its history. It’s also a beautiful structure–2 hôtels particuliers put together–and worth going just to see the building:

This was my third time at the Carnavalet so I did not take very many pictures inside but I still love the shop signs:
18C cats: vaguely horrifying, at least when made of metal.

My first take was a barbershop but I’m sure these scissors probably represented a tailor.
Also found this great painting of Voltaire dictating to his secretary while getting dressed:
The audioguide said that the painter, Jean Huber, was a friend of Voltaire’s and did a whole series of paintings of him in distinctly domestic/non-glamorous circumstances. Voltaire ultimately felt that Huber had imposed on their friendship, which is probably true, but I love the reminder that this great philosopher and writer was also a real person and didn’t just look like this all the time:
This summer I’ve been requiring students to participate in field trip planning and execution, including input on where we eat lunch. Today they picked Breakfast in America, a place I’ve known about for years but never visited. Although I am a “When in Rome…”person and don’t choose to eat American food when overseas, I know how evocative and comforting food can be when one is homesick. And I have to admit that B.I.A. knows its way around a burger and fries. The class was pleased with their American-style lunch; the server was incredibly nice and obliging; and now we have a place to go when Daniel gets really desperate for eggs and bacon in the morning.
(But next time we’re going to L’As du Fallafel. Because I’m the teacher and I said so.)
No sooner had we returned from the Marais than it was time to get ready for the dîner croisière a.k.a. Dinner on a Boat. This is the second year we have done a “formal” dinner on the Seine and it is a lot of fun. Everybody got there in good time and looked splendid. Luckily the few drops of rain that started to fall as we were waiting to board did not dampen us or our spirits too much as we boarded the boat. Daniel and I sat with Dr. Guglielmi and his wife and we did so much chatting during the meal that I did not take a single photo. This might mean we have to do another dinner cruise once our friends get here in a couple more weeks, right? Then, unfortunately, the sky opened as we were disembarking and we got pretty wet on the way back to the RER. But by then everyone was in the mood to have fun and took their best “soaking wet in Paris” selfies on the walk while laughing it off and huddling under umbrellas. 
The company we use is Bateaux Parisiens; while I have not tried any others and can’t compare, I think the food is pretty good, the service is pleasant, and it’s overall an enjoyable atmosphere. It’s a relaxed and unique way to see the monuments of Paris. And the students really have an excellent time. After a few days in the routine of classes and field trips it is good to put on a nice dress and be served a nice meal. It’s even better if you bring your dance partner and he gets you out on the floor as dessert is being served. I’ve heard there is video so I’ll see if I can add a link to this post later on.
In the words of Samuel Pepys: And so to bed.

An Excellent Sunday

Yesterday (Sunday) was a fantastic day! We had a relaxing morning (a nice change after the hectic week) followed by lunch with my Parisian friend. She is the provider of SIM cards, vocabulary clues, and transatlantic Viber chats complete with extensive photo exchanges of the “Here’s my lunch” variety. A recent highlight was her photo of the selection of vinegar at a large grocery store. I responded with a photo of an American breakfast cereal aisle. Maybe it’s not normal but I love that sort of thing. Because of our respective schedules, we rarely get to see each other even when I am here, so we jumped at the chance to get together and for Daniel to meet her for the first time. Even though we talk online multiple times a week it was wonderful to see her face in person. We had lunch at Café Rostand, across the street from the Jardin du Luxembourg, which was very nice. I had a salad of shrimp, avocado, tomato, and grapefruit. Perfect after several days of high temperatures. Then we went 2 doors down to Dalloyau, which is an upscale patisserie with a long history and a very good reputation. I ordered something fairly modest–café gourmand with 3 chocolates–and it was all delicious. I just wish I could have had some of everything!

Daniel’s choices–a pain aux raisins and something with raspberries (I don’t remember its name).

Friend’s choice: un fraisier, which tasted like a strawberry shortcake.

Café gourmand aux 3 chocolats (and a bonus macaron, which was very tasty).
I hoped to take a walk in Luxembourg Gardens but it started raining right after we sat down at Dalloyau. We came back to Cité U. and both took a nap. By the time we woke up it was almost time to leave for our second outing of the day, a “Bal de Swing” at Chalet du Lac, a gorgeous Art Deco-style venue on the southeastern edge of Paris. We got there in time to catch most of the beginners’ dance lesson offered at the beginning, and thank goodness for that. The style of swing they were dancing was Lindy Hop, which neither of us knew anything about beforehand. So we at least learned 2-3 good steps, which of course is enough to get you through a social dance and make you understand how the dance works. We also figured out that we could dance East Coast Swing to some of the Lindy music, although the style is different. 
The floor was already crowded for the lesson, and by the time the evening really got under way, people were dancing on the “extra” dance floor off to the side as well as packing the main floor to dance to a live orchestra, which is always fun. It was an amazing night! So much energy and fun to watch as well as dance. Daniel even entered the Jack & Jill competition and had a great time. I was not quite brave enough. We also found out that Chalet du Lac hosts other weekly dance events so we will definitely go back. It’s a fantastic venue that I wish I could pack up and bring back to Macon.
Here is Daniel lining up for the Jack & Jill under the HUGE disco ball.
We never ate dinner last night and it was almost midnight before we got back but it was worth it. What a great day. 

Ten Things I Miss/Look Forward To About Paris (Mostly Food & Drinks)

  1. Un café 
  2. L’Écir (in my head this is “our” café as it’s down the street from the classroom building)
  3. Carte Noire 
  4. Badoit Rouge (intensément pétillant, and isn’t “pétillant” a nicer word than “fizzy”?)
  5. Falafel in the Marais
  6. Volvic au Jus d’Agrumes (and pretty much anything else aux agrumes including Volvic Citron)
  7. Amorino gelato 
  8. Boeuf tartare 
  9. The RATP
  10. Les soldes

Saturday, August 2: Last Parisian day of the year

The last day before departure is a free day for students (and faculty) to do their last-minute sightseeing, souvenir shopping, and fun-having before we are all subjected to the rigors of departure day. I approached the day with a list of places in mind and I took some pictures along the way. Let’s click through, shall we?

First was Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre (still my favorite place in Paris) where I planned to attend Mass. Despite not being a Catholic, I love going to Mass in cathedrals because it just feels more involved and special than simply walking through the cathedral as a tourist. I was early getting to Montmartre so I stopped and had second breakfast at a café called Le Carrousel where, I realized, my students and I had had lunch on a field trip last year. It’s not extra-special as cafés go, but it’s on a charming little corner (of which Montmartre has a few) and the waitress is nice.  I had a café crème–a little too milky for my liking–and a croissant that would be my last croissant in Paris. *snif*

Made my way up to Sacre-Coeur slowly, which is the best way to do it because it’s a steep climb. Tourists were just beginning to arrive but string-bracelet guys were out in force. Fortunately I seem to have developed a proper Parisian “don’t mess with me” face (counterpart to Parisian public-places voice) and I did not get hassled. Got into the basilica with time to walk around and visit everything before the mass started. A nun with a beautiful singing voice led the congregation through the responses, accompanied by another nun playing a sort of flat wooden harp (must ask Dr. Muth what it could be). I enjoyed the service even though I couldn’t follow along very well. There is never a printed order of service available and sung French is too hard for me to understand. Maybe next year!

Le Selfie de Sacre-Coeur

Such a breathtaking place

Panorama of the view from the Butte

After the Mass I walked to Place du Tertre and bought a little watercolor painting of Montmartre for my parents. It was fun picking it out from among all the different artists in that square. I asked the lady I bought it from  if she likes her work. I think it would be tedious–constantly painting in public, in all kinds of weather (presumably), and doing the same subjects over and over. But she said she enjoys it. The painting is very cute and I hope Mom and Dad will like it.

My next destination was the Musée de la Mode, so I took the metro southwest across the city to Alma-Marceau. It was lunch time and I had decided to be sure I had steak tartare before going home so this was the moment. Of the restaurants around the Pont de l’Alma I picked one called La Mascotte that had tartare on its lunch menu. It was delicious. Lots of capers and onion, and I love the way tartare seems light and rich at the same time. I drank an Affligem (Belgian, I think?) with my meal and then had crème brûlée for dessert. There are 2 kinds of crème brûlée in the world: the lazy kind that are made and the sugar caramelized all at once so they come cold from the fridge and with condensation on the sugar crust, and the good kind where the custard is just cool and the crust is still a bit warm from the torch. This was the good kind. I also had a coffee and got told by the waitress that my accent is “adorable.” I’m hoping this is an evolution from “Oh, you speak French so well!” (Which is also nice to hear, don’t get me wrong.)

A table at the edge of the salle is my favorite.

While eating lunch and watching the goings-on on the terrasse (American family having tense words and teenage son storming off!) I decided I’d rather walk a while than go to a museum. So I set off heading east on the Rive Gauche and ultimately made my way all the way down to the Tuileries. It was a gorgeous day with lots of people out walking. The Seine was sparkling. The Tuileries was just plain crowded but there were still chairs in the shade to be had. I grabbed one and sat reading my latest polar (Travail Soigné by Pierre Lemaitre) for a while. That was almost unbelievably pleasant. Parisians are champions at hanging out in parks. Americans do not spend enough time hanging out in parks. But maybe our parks are not as nice or as numerous? Relative to its density I can’t believe how many parks Paris has.

Finally saw the T-Rex statue in person. Like the Mona Lisa and the Mannikin Pis, 
it’s smaller than one would expect.

Looking toward the Eiffel Tower from the Pont Alexandre II

And looking toward Invalides from the same spot.
(the police vehicles were anticipating a pro-Palestinian protest, I later learned.)

In the Tuileries

I still needed to find a couple more souvenirs and it was just too hot on Rue de Rivoli, so I made my way to Notre-Dame mostly to have a chance to sit down in the metro. Walked around for a little too long looking at this and that, until my luck with the weather ran out. It had been windy on and off and clouds had started to pile up; as I left my last souvenir-buying stop, big drops started to fall. Everyone was opening umbrellas and running for shelter. There was no shelter at the stealth entrance to St Michel-Notre Dame metro stop (stealth entrance is the elevator on Rue Xavier Privas) so I got a little moistened waiting. Then I got a LOT moistened getting out at Cité Universitaire and hustling to the tram. Who should I run into but Dr. Guglielmi, who was also coming back to change for our “directors’ meeting” dinner. I looked a mess: hair flat and dripping, mascara all over my face, wet clothes.

Through the Louvre courtyard . . . 

. . . past Samaritaine . . . 

. . . through the Place St. Michel where Penelope Cruz 
is advertising Schweppes Agrum’ (delicious, unavailable in U.S.)

Not pictured: self as drowned rat.

In my room I closed the curtains and ended up leaving them closed while I got ready for dinner and finished my last bit of packing. Imagine my surprise when opened them and discovered bright blue sky! We had a beautiful walk/ride over to this tiny Italian restaurant that Dr. G had discovered near the Eiffel Tower. Dr. G, although born and raised in Belgium, is from an Italian family, speaks Italian fluently, and knows his Italian food (actually knows food in general–I’ve never had a bad meal with him). So this place is actually a sort of deli/restaurant hybrid that sells a bunch of Italian food and wines as well as seating about 14 people and knocking their socks off with a delicious homemade menu. My starter was a salad consisting of wine-cured ham (something like “braescola”?), arugula, and shaved Parmesan with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sooooo good. For the main course I had risotto with asparagus–also delicious and not so large that one feels like the Sta-Puft Risotto Man after eating it. Dr. G recommended the tiramisu for dessert. I will eat tiramisu at any time for any reason, so I had no trouble following his advice. This was definitely above average tiramisu. The whole meal was outstanding and the gentleman who owns the place is a great character, walking around shouting in a pastiche of Italian and French. Maybe I will have to learn Italian next? For a final souvenir I bought a package of coffee to use in my Moka pot back at home. Can’t wait to try it and see if it beats my Café Bustelo.

Risotto with asparagus

Inside the restaurant. J’adore!

With the dinner meeting finished it was time to head back and catch a few–very few–hours of sleep. Official “Au Revoir, Paris” time was scheduled for 6:25 Sunday morning.