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.

Monday, Aug. 8: Churches

I got up fairly early and took the metro to the Cité, one of the most interesting-looking metro stations.

I got in line to see Sainte-Chapelle. First there was the line for the bag search, then the line for tickets, then I could walk into the basement, then into the chapel above--an amazing sight, as I remembered from visiting as a kid. Chairs lined the edge of the chapel, so I sat awhile and stared, then tried (and failed) to match up the descriptions of the biblical events with the images on the stained glass, then wandered out onto the balcony and examined some of the stone carving, then went back to sitting and staring for a while more. I knew that a google image search would probably turn up far more spectacular pictures of the Sainte-Chapelle than I'd ever take, so instead I amused myself by taking pictures of other tourists taking pictures.

When I finally left, I checked Notre Dame, but the line to get in was a little long and I was tired of lines, so instead I sat in a park for a while and then caught the metro for Montmartre.

I tried and failed to find Truffaut in the Montmartre Cemetary, then walked up to the Sacré Coeur. The location was more interesting than the church itself.

By then I was pretty hungry. The owner of the bed and breakfast in Ottawa had suggested the cafeteria on the roof of the Printemps department store as a pleasant place to have lunch. He was right.

Finally I went to see "Les Poupées Rousses" in a movie theater on the Champs Élysée. It didn't impress me much, but it was fun to watch anyway. I'm a poor judge, though, since I probably lost a third of the dialog or so.

Sunday, August 7: Pompidou

I went to the Pompidou center and toured their main exhibit, an overview of 20th century art called "Big Bang", organized thematically. There was lots of interesting stuff, but it was very big and very full, thanks to free admission today (the first Sunday of the month).

One of my favorites was "Five Angels for the Millennium", with 5 films projected in a very dark room--it took a moment for your eyes to adjust to the point where you could really even see the films well. I was also amused to see one of Bruce Conner's dense labyrinthine ink things in a section under the heading "ivresse", together with a copy of Howl and some random stuff by Patti Smith.

For lunch I had a baguette sandwhich sitting next to a nearby fountain.

I also found a reasonably convenient and inexpensive place to hook up my laptop nearby. It was oddly primitive--for example, they didn't have a dhcp server set up for some reason, so you had to manually configure the networking based on a piece of paper stuck above each desk.

hostels, Parc de la Villette

I checked out in the morning and walked to a nearby youth hostel, the cheapest and closest listed in my guidebook. There was a crowd at the reception desk, and a sign above the desk saying the hostel was restricted to 25 and under only. Ugh! I think that's the first youth hostel that actually claims such a restriction. If there'd been less of a crowd I might have asked them about it. As it was I went on to the next choice. That also turned out to be full, so they sent me on to a third choice, which I'd omitted partly because I assumed it was too inconveniently located. As it turns out it was quite a bit closer to the metro than I'd realized.

I left some of my things in a locker, and took the metro to Parc de la Villette. Thanks to a lapse of attention, I missed my stop, and ended up walking back a ways to get to the park.

After wandering around the park a while, I got a museum ticket and walked through the math exhibit (including a demonstration of Zeno's paradox featuring Obelix and Dogmatix), then spent the rest of the time until closing in an exhibit about André Franquin. The exhibit was fun. He was very fond of crazy small details, and it was fun to be able to look at his original drawings close up.

After closing I had a dinner of "sandwich grec", fries, and beer across the street, and then went back to the park for their nightly outdoor movie. There were still a couple hours before dark, so I read "Pierrot Mon Ami", which is turning out to be an immensely amusing novel--I should read more Queneau.

Everybody but me had a picnic before the movie, complete with wine and lots of good looking food. It was tempting to look around with a hungry expression and see if someone would take pity on the poor unprepared tourist.

The night's program was actually a collection of short films, on the subject of "le bisou". They were all immensely fun:

  • Quirky silent movie pastiche starring Godard & Karina, about the dangers of dark sunglasses.
  • "Tous les garçons s'appellent Patrick": Two roommates are picked up by the same boy.
  • "Une Histoire d'Eau". Co-directed by Truffaut and Godard. Somewhat hard for me to follow because the story is mostly told in the narration, though I started to pick up more of the language as I went on. One joke I got: were the works of Homer actually written by a different Greek who was also named Homer?
  • "French Lovers": A guy driving around in a car picks up a woman who is waiting for the bus. They don't get along particularly well.
  • "Le Baiser": A couple faces the camera, kisses each other, then faces the camera again. This is repeated many times with different couples. The variety, especially of post-kiss facial expressions, is very funny.
  • "The Interview": The dialog was fairly quiet and informal, and people near me were talking. So I had some trouble following it. But the basic story (claimed "d'après une vrai histoire"): journalist spends a month preparing for meticulously for an interview with Ava Gardner, travels by train and Ferry to London, only to find that she won't even let him in; all she'll do is take a few distracted minutes to answer questions over the intercom while he stands on the street. His best-prepared question is about a picture she doesn't even remember.
  • "Alice et Moi": guy takes his aunt and her two friends someplace. Misses a rendez vous with his girlfriend. The fact that he can only communicate with her by cell phone from the crowded car (with the women commenting on every call) exacerbates an already bad situation. He is dumped.
  • ?: painted animated thing I didn't get the name of. It didn't seem particularly original, and was the only one I wasn't excited about.

Friday, Aug. 5: no more ietf

Everyone was leaving the ietf already, but I went by just to use the network for a while in the morning.

Later that night I made it to a nice concert by a Russian chorus, singing in a style that was more folk than classical, at the church Saint-Louis-en-l'Ile.


After meeting with people most of the afternoon, I made my way slowly back to the hotel, stopping off at the nearby comics store on the way. After picking up my dirty laundry at the hotel and getting my laundry, I sat and read my newly acquired copy of "Journal d'un Album" sitting in the laundromat on Rue Rivoli. The comic is a journal written collaboratively by the authors of "Monsieur Jean" during the writing of "Les Femmes et Les Enfants D'Abord", partly about the writing, but mainly just about whatever was going on at the time. I'm enjoying it. It's close enough to the "Monsieur Jean" books that it's easy to confuse the authors with their characters.

I picked up a cheap (and surprisingly good) sandwich on my way back, then watched a little TV until the sandwich was gone and I was ready for bed.

Paris Plage

After meetings yesterday I walked home again, this time by way of Paris Plage, the river-side summer festival which includes (most amusingly) temporary "beaches" with imported sand. Attractions included: a guy doing a cute boy-meets-girl story to music, using wooden dolls with string-attached removable heads that made them look like souped-up kendamas; a gypsy-like band with double bass, violin, and a few guitars; a jazz trio; and several percussion groups. They were all good.

My favorite was just a guy with a piano hosting a sing-along for a group tightly packed around him. When I got there they were doing a lovely song that I didn't know. Based on a google search on the lyrics, it appears to be "Emmenez-moi", by Charles Aznavour. It was funny to hear them launch into YMCA after that. No one knew the words outside the title, so they "na-na-na"'d along for most of it.

I also walked past the free boules grounds, a couple temporary cafés, and and some other nifty stuff.

There was a movie screen set up at the end. I watched the end of the movie, Le Signe de Lion. It was an interesting movie, especially since much of it took place on the banks of the Seine, during "les vacances", hence at the same place and time of year as we were watching it.


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