One of the things i find interesting about France is the way people use the telephone for everything. I hadn't recognised how much society had changed in the US until I moved abroad, and everyone used the phone for everything. It's actually a lot like Arkansas in that respect. So today, when the train was seriously delayed due to "various incidents" (which sounds absolutely dire, really) everyone immediately leapt onto their phone.
Which is actually a subject all its own - people here don't talk on their phone, per se, they use their headphones to listen and hold the phone in front of their mouth so they can talk into it and see it at the same time (not sure if the 'see' part is intentional or coincidental). It took a bit of getting used to - at first I thought everyone was video conferencing on the street, which seemed weird (and dangerous).
:: David (4:31 in Arkansas, 11:31 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, May 21 2015 ::
I spent a few days in Copenhagen with an old friend, hanging out (perhaps even finding hygge?) and seeing the sights. I even went to a dance recital for their daughter. We biked around Copenhagen one days, seeing sights both old and new and eating in a crazy food truck warehouse. The next day, after the recital, we went to Tivoli and rode rides until I was somewhat ill. It's been quite a while since I rode crazy scary amusement park rides! The last day we went to the new-ish Aquarium (Den Blå Planet) before catching a plane home. I learned a few Danish words (my favourite is piratfisk, which is a Piranha, although 'mad' (food) is a close second!) and brought home some Danish licorice (Haribo 'super piratos') which should be fun at parties.
On the subject of learning Danish words, I think the kids very much enjoyed hearing me butcher common words (like 'mad'). Their son was quite concerned at the number of words I was unable to express because our alphabet doesn't have certain Danish letters. He decided this meant that we could not have those things, rather than that we would just use a different word.
:: David (2:19 in Arkansas, 9:19 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, May 14 2015 ::
Sasha has flown back to the states for a conference, so I'm on my own for a few days. Her flight out was a crazy mess, as there was a security lockdown at CDG, but she made it out (amazingly) more or less on time. It was a fairly early flight, and with the added stress of the security blockade I was already exhausted by 9am. I went in to town anyway, and wandered around. I ran across an interesting place while exploring a neighbourhood a friend and I had met in the day before, but it was closed, so today I went back. It's called the 'chapelle expiatoire', and it's a monument to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, built during the brief restoration and finished under Charles X (who was apparently king from 1824-1830).
A side note - 19th century France has become for me a sort of joke - there's so many revolutions and counter-revolutions that I've almost given up trying to understand it.
It was supposed to rain today, so I'd planned a museum or two, but ended up doing almost nothing on my list. There's an exposition at the Grand Palais on Jean Paul Gaultier that I've been somewhat interested in, but apparently so are the tourists, so I've yet to go at a time when there isn't a huge line. Today was no exception. I did finally make it to the Madeliene, and then made yet another visit to C&A, but when the JPG exhibit was full up I just headed home. Later in the evening I came back to town to take some evening photos of the city.
Tomorrow is Copenhagen to see an old friend. The days are flying by, and I can now see the end of our stay here in Paris. We've been discussing how it will be sad to leave, and yet how we're ready to head home (to see our kittens!)
:: David (16:27 in Arkansas, 23:27 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, May 13 2015 ::
One of the things I forget about places that aren't Paris is that they don't have espresso everywhere. In most of the large parks in Paris you can get a cup of coffee to sip while you sit and watch the people or the birds or whatever it is you do in a public park. It's a lovely option to have, and I wish everywhere did it.
The train stations also for the most part have coffee machines, and most restaurants will sell you an espresso from a real espresso machine (as opposed to whatever the train station coffee is). Overall it's a very caffeinated place.
:: David (15:28 in Arkansas, 22:28 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, May 11 2015 ::
Water heater wasn't working this morning, so we had a bracing shower.
:: David (3:49 in Arkansas, 10:49 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, May 10 2015 ::
Slow weekend before a crazy busy week. Friday was VE day, and we went to see the president lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier. This was a very different affair than in London, and we discussed extensively why that was the case (no conclusions were drawn). Certainly it seemed a much more informal affair here - we had French families on both sides of where we were standing, and the comments they made were more political than anything else.
I actually spent much of Friday watching the stunning results from the UK election roll in. I kept expecting things to shift, but in the end it was the Tories who carried a full majority. I knew Ed Miliband was a weak candidate - worse maybe than John Kerry (who coincidentally was at the VE ceremony). But I had expected Labour to win on, basically, not being Tories. Apparently I underestimated many things.
Yesterday we headed over to the Parc Floral and the Chateau de Vincennes. There was a nature photo exhibit in the Parc Floral that I had wanted to see, and as it turned out we had never been in the chateau, so we did that as well. The Parc Floral was an interesting contrast to Kew Gardens in London - free vs. very expensive, but also wild as opposed to formal. Which is the opposite of how it usually works - most gardens in France tend to be formal 'keep off the grass' affairs, and in the UK they tend to be much more 'for the people' type things.
:: David (3:43 in Arkansas, 10:43 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, May 6 2015 ::
Went to see the David Bowie Is exhibit downtown today. He's a fascinating guy, and while I'm not sure how much was art and how much was propoganda (he is known to fierly control his image), it was certainly interesting.
:: David (13:27 in Arkansas, 20:27 in Paris) - Comment
I have a bit of an addiction - once I start fixing something, I keep coming back to it. This time it was the blog's menu - it has been done in a certain way since 2003 (a table, if you know html). At some point I added some color and font and such, but basically it hasn't been updated in a decade. So I finally went through and fixed it. But of course it took too long, and was too irritating. So I think now I'll do something that makes more sense, like go to a park or something. On days when it's not clear if it's going to rain or be sunny it's a bit hard to decide what to do - museum or walking around the city. I think I'll risk it today, and if worse comes to worse, well, I end up at the Museum. Which is not terrible.
:: David (4:12 in Arkansas, 11:12 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Sunday, May 3 2015 ::
It was free museum day today, so in theory we were going to get up early and hit several. But we had friends over last night, and it ran very late, so instead we meandered in around noon. We still managed to visit the Picasso museum and the Georges Pompidou. I had read an article last year that said the Picasso was a mess, but I didn't know what that meant. Now I do. We literally went from the first room to the second, and turned back around, assuming we had gone the wrong way - the jump was so sudden and so completely unrelated that we simply couldn't believe we were supposed to move from the one to the other. It continued this way - there were occasional rooms that were well done, but with no explanatory text we had to figure out on our own how things related. So if it wasn't obvious, we just moved on. It was, frankly, awful. And, as the article noted, the new space is no longer intimate, so what used to be a pleasant museum now just feels overdone - I imagine, in part, the fact that we had no idea what was going on, and the new space is quite large, so we spent quite a lot of time having no idea what was going on made it all seem worse. Overall it was a stunning example in how badly you can screw up what should be a lot of interesting artwork.
Thankfully the Pompidou was much nicer. And to compensate for our troubles as we left the sun came out and we had a lovely walk through Paris. Given that it has rained the past few days that was nice indeed.
:: David (14:25 in Arkansas, 21:25 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, May 1 2015 ::
I was a little disappointed in May Day today - I had hoped for a few more protests, and a few fewer basketball tournaments at city hall. And a lot less rain. But still, a nice day - and the beginning of a three day weekend!
:: David (15:16 in Arkansas, 22:16 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, April 29 2015 ::
I knew there was a chance I would regret it, but as part of my quest to get my website mobile ready (or at least the parts that draw in Google searches), I decided to make the blog somewhat responsive. Basically this meant hiding the left hand menu if someone was using a phone to view the blog. But as with most 12 year old web pages (!!!) this one required a bit more work than some simple tweaks. I think I've fixed most of the tricky stuff, but I'm sure I'll be poking at it with a stick for the next several months trying to make everything semi-perfect. Fortunately, as soon as I'm done with this I'm going to head in to Paris and go to the Musee d'Orsay, so that should make things better.
:: David (5:45 in Arkansas, 12:45 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, April 28 2015 ::
Paris has been hazy for weeks, and the pollution has been in the spotlight several times - alternating traffic restrictions, gags like 'here's your number, here's your gas mask' for the Paris Marathon, etc. Fortunately, nothing clears the smog like a good rain, which it seems to have done while we were out of town, and again last night. So this morning dawned as clear as it's been in a long while. As such, I decided to take advantage by going up somewhere high. I debated several spots (Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Grand Arch de La Defense) but settled on the Tour Monparnasse, in part because it's the easiest to get to, but also because it's very, very tall, but not very well known. Sure enough, I was able to walk right up and head right to the top. And then I just spent a great deal of time taking pictures. Lots of them. It was actually nice, because there's an enclosed part I could retreat to and warm up in before heading back out. So I did. repeatedly. I doubt I'll post very many of the pictures anywhere, but it's fun to see the city, each building, when you know them and walk past them everyday.
And to top it all off, we're headed to the theatre this evening to see Antigone. There's a well known French actress, Juliette Binoche, in the lead role, so it should be an excellent production (fingers crossed!)
:: David (9:47 in Arkansas, 16:47 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, April 26 2015 ::
We took a week off from Paris and headed down to the Auvergne (Clermont-Ferrand and the parks south of it). It was simply breathtaking. We stayed in Le Puy-en-Velay the first several nights, then in a little place near Murat-le-Quaire in the Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d'Auvergne. Lots of old stuff, as we had another medievalist with us, and lots of hiking and amazing scenery. Seriously one of the prettiest holidays I've had in a while.
:: David (14:15 in Arkansas, 21:15 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, April 19 2015 ::
Lazy spring days. We went looking for a suitcase (it was really just an excuse to go for a walk), and then drank wine in the back yard. Pretty.
:: David (14:05 in Arkansas, 21:05 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, April 18 2015 ::
We spent a lovely weekend doing crazy weird things - I booked into a sushi restaurant that turned out to be one of those places where you sit at the grill and they cook in front of you. The high point might have been the flower pot full of dry ice they put in front of us as we received our desserts - fog rolled over both our plates and the rest of the table. Surreal. We then wandered along the new banks of the Seine... experience?... with art displays and games and etc. Then today we stopped at the Parc de Sceaux south of Paris to see the cherry blossoms. It turns out it's a whole chateau with formal gardens, so we spent a couple hours wandering around (there's a museum, as well, which we might go back to). Then we headed into Paris to go to a wine tasting at a small wine shop. There were three vignerons there, and we chatted with them while drinking the wine. At one point the proprieter of the shop brought a glass of a yellow drink to the vignerons we were talking to, and we learned it was Chartreuse, and that the proprieter of the shop was a huge fan of the stuff, head of the association, etc. So as we were checking out, I asked if we could try some. It's an experience not to be missed, though surely a drink that is not for everyone. We then made our way back, stopping to grab some yummy desserts from the Boulanger.
:: David (15:16 in Arkansas, 22:16 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, April 13 2015 ::
We celebrated Sasha's birthday with a trip to her favourite medieval worksite: Guedelon. We went in 2005 and wanted to see how much progress had been made. Quite a lot, as it turns out - here's a photo from 2005 and a photo from our visit this year. Because of the weird way car rentals work, it was cheaper to rent for more days than less, so we took a long weekend instead of just the one day. We stayed in an amazing guest house / chateau where we were the only guests and the owner was super gregarious and the whole family was really nice. After the first day, we really didn't have any plans, so followed the Route Jacques Coeur map we found in their tourist brochures, which turned out to be a really great way to spend a couple of days. Coeur was a medieval French merchant, so the various sites were all right up our alley. We also, through some prodigious driving, managed to visit a regional park with some nice birdwatching. On the drive back up we also stopped in Sancerre, and went to a ridiculous (but informative!) wine museum, complete with a '4D experience' theme-park style movie/ride. Overall we had a great weekend, and assuming the car rental people managed to find the keys we left in a mysterious drop box at the Massy Palaiseau TGV station, everything worked out very well!
:: David (6:00 in Arkansas, 13:00 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, April 4 2015 ::
We booked a transatlantic crossing (I'm informed it's not a cruise, it's a crossing) for this summer. I'm quite looking forward to it, but I'm also keeping my expectations in check, knowing I am not the target audience. This review of the voyage in the New York Times basically confirmed my expectations, good and bad.
:: David (11:33 in Arkansas, 18:33 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, March 30 2015 ::
I read the guardian as my main news source. It's not my only news source, but as a general rule I like what it has to say. This means I read a lot of UK news, and right now get a lot of news about the UK election. A great deal of the news talks about the erosion of the public sector, and about the gap between rich and poor. The election coverage is about how Cameron said Milliband is a doody-head and Milliband said 'am not' and Cameron responded 'are too'. The UK has changed a great deal in the 20 years I've been going there, not always for the better. Surely they deserve a more serious discussion of the way forward than they are getting.
:: David (16:59 in Arkansas, 23:59 in Paris) - Comment
I am somewhat addicted to statistics, so usually when I post a link to social media I do it through a tracking service so I can see how many people are clicking it. I usually hit about 100. Apparently stories about the new anti-gay Indiana law are more interesting to people than most, as I'm nearing 1000 click-throughs on that link. Ironically (or perhaps relatedly?) I had posted a story about how women shouldn't attack other women for being a working parent a few days before, and it had been my most read, with over 400 clicks.
:: David (4:12 in Arkansas, 11:12 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, March 29 2015 ::
Our friends left this morning, bright and early, and on the day clocks change in Europe, which adds a bit of insult to injury. We hit some good sites in Paris before they left, including the catacombs, a nice Alsatian restaurant, shopping on Rivoli, the Louvre... you get the idea. Now we've got a bit of down time before our next adventure, which means I can do fun tasks like 'paperwork' and 'taxes'. Whee! I've also been working on my website a bit, polishing old pages and adding some new ones.
:: David (2:19 in Arkansas, 9:19 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, March 26 2015 ::
A nice lazy day yesterday - I walked the city a bit with my big camera (I've taken to mostly carrying my smaller camera, so this is notable) stopping at Notre Dame and the Louvre. Our friends met us for the evening, as our Louvre passes got them in free. The big event yesterday was buying our tickets home, on a boat. We'll be taking the Queen Mary home from the UK this summer.
:: David (4:09 in Arkansas, 11:09 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, March 25 2015 ::
As we made yet another joke about one of the movies we watched while living here, it occurred to me I should jot them down. We've been sticking to low-brow films in the hopes that their language will be simpler. So in no particular order, since arriving we have watched Rien à déclarer (in part because we visited the town in Belgium where it was filmed, and they had a big sign saying 'visit the town where this movie was made!'). We also watched Avis de mistral which, for some reason, had Jean Reno in it, despite having a ridiculous plot. We actually visited seemingly all the places the movie was filmed when we went to Avignon and Arles, which was kind of ridiculous. And on the subject of ridiculous, Un monstre à Paris was about a flea blown up large by a crazy science experiment who can play guitar. But it was in French, so we watched it! That's all we've done so far, save our regular dips into Les Guignols de l'info, which has both kept us abreast of French news and introduced us to some crazy French personalities.
:: David (3:08 in Arkansas, 10:08 in Paris) - Comment
Our house guests and I walked up the Eiffel Tower on Tuesday, and had a coffee near the Champs Elysees. Then yesterday they headed off to Versailles, and I had a nice lazy day, with a quick stop at the Musee d'Orsay. They seem to have changed their policy regarding photos (they used to say 'none allowed' and now it seems to be 'no flash please'). I can't decide if this is the change in season, or a change in policy that happens to be very nice for people like me who like to take photos.
:: David (2:43 in Arkansas, 9:43 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, March 22 2015 ::
Busy busy touristing! We headed to Chantilly today because, due to pollution, they've made public transport free, so we took advantage. A long train trip, a long lunch, a nice wander through a lovely castle, and a hike back through the woods looking for exciting birds (our friend Rick is a birdwatcher). Due to a weird set of circumstances we ended up taking back the fast train (it's not clear we were supposed to), followed by drinking several local beers and the insane chocolates our friends purchased (along with dramatic reading of their associated stories).
:: David (16:01 in Arkansas, 23:01 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, March 20 2015 ::
Our friends Rick and Lisa arrived today for a week's visit. I'd forgotten how slow the train from CDG can be. Add that to an inability to read timetables and it ended up being an all-day adventure. We're playing it low-key today, they're down for a nap and we'll do dinner in. Then tomorrow we can start the crazy!
:: David (9:27 in Arkansas, 16:27 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, March 19 2015 ::
An article today talks about how writing down what you did each day can make you happier. So today I worked on this website (uploaded some pictures from London), caught a train to Paris for lunch at this crazy little place that had tasty tartes in the Marais, and went to see the Paris Magnum photo exhibit, which had just an amazing assortment of photos taken in Paris by the agency. We then caught the train back, had dinner, and watched our first episode of The Revenants, which had me on the edge of my seat.
:: David (15:57 in Arkansas, 22:57 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, March 9 2015 ::
We spent a nice long weekend in Brittany, eating a simply ridiculous number of crepes and seeing the sights. We rented a car and drove around the peninsula from Nantes. It was terrific, but only a sampler - we'll have to go back to see the islands. Next up is Avignon, which is kind of fun - very rarely do I go back to places I've been before - we're talking about seeing if we can find some of the restaurants we ate at 10 years ago. And in between we have friends and family visiting. All in all, this is a super busy time! It's great that people are coming now, though - the weather has just turned full-on Spring, with flowering trees along the highway and in the parks - the next month or so should be just amazingly beautiful.
:: David (4:47 in Arkansas, 11:47 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, February 9 2015 ::
If I were to describe my time (this time) in Paris, I would probably tell many stories of interesting events I walked into, or amazing places I visited, or things of that nature. What I might not mention is my current impression of life here, which is basically 'my mouth is falling apart'. When I arrived back in December, I went to the dentist because I was having pain. He did some major work, and I was happy. Then on Friday, the first day of a road trip out of Paris, I lost a crown. So today I went back, again, to my dentist's office, and I'll go, again, tomorrow. I imagine it will end up like the Scottish Death Flu (a sickness I acquired while visiting Edinburgh). If prompted, I'll remember it happened, but my narrative of events, given the choice, will omit the bad (or uninteresting) stuff.
:: David (9:54 in Arkansas, 16:54 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, January 9 2015 ::
Life in the big city is weird. Life in the big city of a not-very-big country is even weirder. Everything is so local. Not only because often, it actually happened in the city, but also because, at least in the case of London or Paris, when big things happen the government responds, and the government is located in those cities. So even big things that happen far away, like the Sivens dam project, which is about as far from here as you can get and still be in mainland France, it still feels like much of the action is happening right next door.
Unfortunately, the most recent thing to happen really did happen right next door. Gunmen stormed the building of Charlie Hebdo and shot many of the staff members. There's no question at this point that it was Islamic extremists. They escaped, and a manhunt is still underway. Although I never felt threatened, I was certainly relieved that when they headed to the suburbs, they went the other direction.
I went yesterday to their offices - it was actually an accident, but once I saw the long line of satellite trucks and reporters I decided to walk by. It feels a little odd, actually - I had my camera, but I felt awkward taking pictures. Clearly the media felt no such compuctions. I even watched what seemed to be a staged laying of flowers at an impromptu memorial.
Right now it looks like the (inter)national outpouring of support will mean Charlie Hebdo will survive. It's a shame people wait until you're no longer living to say how important your work is. The articles written for an international audience have been very complimentary, as Le Monde notes.
:: David (3:18 in Arkansas, 10:18 in Paris) - Comment