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sniffling

I'm still sniffling and coughing a bit, but otherwise I feel back to normal.

Last night I took the bus to Busch's, got a bunch of groceries, and walked home, which gave me another occasion to be happy with the new music player--it gives me something to distract me from the heavy backpack on the walk back.

My only complaint about the gadget: half a gig of memory doesn't seem like much. But probably I'd only be satisfied by something that would hold my whole CD collection, and at that point I'd need a big hard drive and it wouldn't be so convenient any more.

Dosas

I did a half-day Friday, then stayed home Friday night and Saturday.

Sunday we went to a party at the house of one of Sara's coworkers. I wasn't feeling terribly social. But there were home-made Dosas. Yum! It didn't seem terrifically hard, but it did require at least some special machinery to make the flour. So I don't think we'll be trying it any time soon.

Catching a cold

Sometime during the trip home or the last days in Paris I managed to catch some kind of cold, but it didn't really hit me till yesterday. I did a half-day's work Tuesday and went to juggling that night, and did a full day yesterday. But by the end of the day I was feeling pretty crummy.

So today I'm staying home, doing some work and resting.

Monday: flying home

I woke up early and took the metro to the RER to Charles de Gaulle. I forgot to get the right kind of ticket, so had to pay a fine to exit the RER at Charles de Gaulle. Oh well, live and learn--25 Euros was more than I wanted to pay, but not a disaster.

I hadn't taped up the box I intended to check, so had to ask for help at checkin. Their tape was not very sticky or strong, so I had to use up some significant portion of a roll before the person at the counter was satisfied.

My flights both did appear to be running as normal despite some sort of ongoing labor dispute, but they didn't have any catering at all, so they gave me a food voucher and I had a fairly nice ham sandwich before boarding.

I was hoping to do the same at Heathrow, but the flight there arrived a little late, and the airport was full of British Airways passengers trying to buy sandwiches. Fortunately there were people at the gate handing out bags of snacks for us to carry on. I took a couple. That got me some fruit, a couple bags of chips, a candy bar or two, and some cookies--not what I'd hoped for, but enough to keep the hunger pangs away for the 8-hour flight back to Detroit.

On the flight back I read some more and watched "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" (which I was kind of disappointed by--there just didn't seem to be much to it), and parts of a couple other movies.

I arrived tired but happy to be home. I like Paris a lot, but it's always a little stressful being in a foreign country when you don't know anyone, and it was nice to be back in my own apartment and to see Sara again.

I also like the being-in-a-different-place part of travelling a lot more than the actual travelling part. I think my ideal way of travelling would be just to move someplace different every now and then.

Sunday: last day in Paris

I got an early start thanks to an ear-splitting fire alarm at the youth hostel that they couldn't figure out how to turn off.

As a result I found myself downtown before much was open. So I sat in the park by Les Halles and read the newspaper.

At 11 I went back to the Pompidou center and went through their "d-day" exhibit on modern design. It was full of silly and interesting things. My personal favorite was a short film demonstrating a tray that included all the props necessary to play along with Jean-Paul Belmondo in "A Bout de Souffle" while eating your dinner.

I had a baguette sandwich for lunch while sitting next to a nearby fountain, and then checked my email and tried to figure out the status of the next day's flight--which there was some question about, thanks to some sort of strike at British Airways.

That done, I wandered up and down the Champs Élysée a bit, ate a crêpe from a street vendor (yum! I should have tried that before), then took the metro back to Clichy to do my laundry and pack.

Saturday, Aug. 13: Jardin du Luxembourg, Notre Dame

On the advice of a friendly hostel roommate, I started out the morning at the Jardin du Luxembourg.

The gardens there are nice, but I was mainly impressed by how heavily people use the place. There were people having coffee, reading the morning newspaper, playing chess, playing tennis, walking, and watching everyone else do the above stuff. Kids were playing on the play equipment and floating toy sailboats.

Not wanting to feel left out, I grabbed a free chair and read the first six chapters of "L'Exil d'Hortense" while finishing my leftovers from last night.

In the afternoon I did a little more book shopping, and a lot more walking. I ran into a square that later turned out to be Place des Vosges. An accordeonist at one of the entries was doing some suprisingly good Vivaldi.

I wonder if that isn't the best way to see Paris--walk wherever you feel like, stop wherever you get hungry (it's not as if there's a shortage of good food), and look up the sights later if you're curious what you saw. It's just such a nice place to walk.

I had some dinner at the same restaurant I had lunch in Wednesday, then walked to Notre Dame for the evening concert. It was a concert of gregorian chant and organ music. The organ music was really wild, lots of very loud dissonant stuff, and I loved it. How do organists get away with it?

After the concert I went back to the comic book store off the Place de la Bastille in hopes that they would have a cardboard box of the right size--I wasn't sure the books I'd bought would fit in my backpack any more. Sure enough, they came through. It was also one of the more succesful exchanges I'd managed to have completely in French. Maybe there's some hope for my spoken French....

Friday, Aug. 12: Musée d'Orsay, Paris Plage

The hostel doesn't allow stays of longer than 6 nights, so today I took the metro to Marie de Clichy and walked to another hostel, checked in, and left some of my stuff in a locker there.

Then I rode back downtown, walked around the left bank for a while, had a Croque au Chevre and a beer at a café, and then went to the Musée d'Orsay.

Compared to the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay is actually somewhat manageable, though I was a bit tired by the time I reached the impressionists on the top floor--the part most people actually come to see. It's an interesting building. And I particularly liked some or the art nouveau stuff on the second floor. (At least I think it was the second floor--the configuration and numbering of floors was very confusing.)

After that I walked around some more and picked up some groceries on the way, aiming for a picnic on the Paris Plage by nightfall.

There were some jugglers at the east end of Paris Plage when I arrived, so I actually got to pass clubs a little bit before I sat down with my dinner of bread, cheese, tomatoes, and a peach. Yum.

Writing this now, I can't remember whether it was this Friday or the previous Friday that I ran across a large mass of cyclists slowly parading down the street. I assume this was Paris's local version of Critical Mass.

Thursday, August 11: Louvre, Kilo

In the morning I went to the Louvre, looked around a while, had lunch at a nearby café, then went back and poked around a little more before closing time.

The popular stuff was really busy, so I spent more time looking at some of the neat old greek pottery, the medieval Louvre foundations in the basement, and a temporary exhibit of Islamic artifacts.

At night I went to the Parc de Villette to see "Kilo", a show put on by the graduates of the national circus school. It was a really neat show, though somewhat rough around the edges, and full of all sorts of crazy ideas going on all at once where it might sometimes have been better to simplify a bit.

It turned out they had rather good food for sale on-site, before and after. If I'd understood I would have shown up earlier! But I enjoyed some of the yummy carrot-and-orange soup afterwards. I walked back by way of the outdoor movie, which was "Total Recall". I succumbed to temptation and sat down to watch it, which was a mistake--it wasn't that great.

Wednesday, August 10: Notre Dame, bookstores

I managed to get up at a slightly more reasonable hour and get to Notre Dame at a time when the line was a little shorter. I wasn't as interested in it as in the Sainte-Chapelle, so I didn't spend as long. But I enjoyed looking at some of the stone carvings, and was also happy to get a ticket for a concert on Saturday.

I had a nice lunch at a restaurant somewhere on the left bank, with some kind of pâté, a mashed-potato-and-ground-meat thing that was more interesting than that makes it sound, some salad, crême brulée, and a couple glasses of the house red wine. Yum. I spent some time browsing in book shops on the left bank, then went back to the hostel early to take a short nap and then do some laundry.

Tuesday, August 9: Bibliotheque Nationale

I woke up late, barely in time to miss getting kicked out of breakfast and then my room at the hostel. I checked email at the internet place near the Pompidou center where I had a short and not entirely succesful conversation about Linux with the friendly owner.

Then I walked to the left back and had lunch at a random middle eastern café, and visited the Bibliotheque Nationale.

I was mainly there to see the building, but figured if it was a library I should use it, so I get a day pass, found the math section, and sat down and read a bit of the history of algebraic geometry from a slim book by, if I remember right, Dieudonné.

I walked back slowly along the Seine in the vague hope of seeing some jugglers hanging out, as I'd seen on the web that this was one popular meeting place. I didn't find any jugglers, but there were tons of people picnicing and, for some reason, taking dancing lessons. People really really seem to like picnics here. I wonder if they'd be as popular in the states if alcohol were more commonly allowed in public parks?

There was a movie playing again at Paris Plage, which I'd been sort of looking forward to watching, but it was crowded and I eventually gave up.

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