Tuesday, July 2

I take it easy most of the day, then go up to the Seine in the evening to listen to music.

Not feeling so great this morning. I don't think it was allergies that made my nose run yesterday. I think I've got a cold. I will survive! But no forced marches across Paris or tourism for me today. I'm going to rest.

The day is getting started here. Window wide open. Children playing at school across street. Painters have arrived for work in second floor apt across alley with windows open. People strolling past talking. Cool breeze through window. On MacBook wasting time on FB. Thinking about taking shower and starting laundry loads, but in no hurry. Looking forward to going out a bit later and getting one of those nice sandwiches for lunch at the boulangerie. Doesn't get much better than this.

Nose starting to dry up at last, I think and hope. Maybe it was allergies. I had no wine at all yesterday (a first). So that's not the problem.

On the train home last night I sat next to a terribly attractive young woman (redundant, I know) who had her MacBook Pro open on the fold-down tray and was working furiously on an Excel spreadsheet. Felt right at home, except I use Apple's much superior Numbers spreadsheet program, not that abortion Excel. Absolutely everyone here has a smartphone, and they use them constantly, most of them iPhones. Apple seems to be doing well in France.

One American woman who was on my tour yesterday was talking on her cell phone ("portable") throughout the entire trip, some kind of conference call about hiring someone at her job. Very annoying. Haven't you heard of "vacation", lady? Get a life, and get some manners too while you're at it.

Had quite a funny conversation with our driver/guide yesterday about our various medical "old man" problems. We both take cholesterol medication. He suffers from sciatica and bad back pain, but has good pills. I told him about my neck and shoulder pain from too many decades pounding on keyboards. The French take "beaucoup de medicaments" and love talking about all their medical problems. Real hypochondriacs.

Nobody ever checked my ticket on either of my TGV train rides yesterday. I could have just hopped on the train and taken the ride for free. Weird. They must do spot checks with big penalties for cheating or something like that.

I'm getting better at casual conversations. Told the driver/guide that my favorite part of the tour was the gardens. I said "le château?" and made a French kind of dismissing gesture with my hand while saying something like "pffft". He laughed. Then I said "mais les jardins, ..., formidable!". This led to recommendations for other beautiful gardens I should see in France.

Got into a hilarious car race yesterday. We got stuck behind a slow-moving bus. The driver announced that he was going to take a short cut to try to get ahead of it. He veered off speeding onto a serious of narrow streets barely wider than the van. We cheered him on. We came back out onto the "main" road ahead of the bus. Much applause for his skill behind the wheel. What a blast.

I am losing belly fat from all the walking and looking quite good for an old man in the mirror. But only with my clothes on.

Sad face. Did a bit of cleaning. I think the wonderful cheese in the fridge is going bad. So half a kilo each was too much? Learning, learning.

Still no word about my French classes level or schedule. Starts Thursday. Getting anxious. They said a few days before class via email, and to be sure to check my "spam box". If I don't hear by tomorrow I'll stop by the office down the rue and ask.

Encouraging. Just ran daily errand to convenience store. Total was 13,40€. Pulled 5€ bill from poche (pocket) and mountain of coins. Put what I thought was right amount on counter. Close but not quite right. Corrected mistake, counting out coins and total in French fairly quickly. Commented to clerk "Je presque comprends votre monnaie" (I almost understand your money). Got a wry but definitely approving look. Any kind of progress here is a good thing. It's damn strange and damn hard.

And by the time I return to Chicago it's going to be hard to get used to using a decimal point instead of a comma when writing dollar and cent amounts.

Ran out of my American cigarettes yesterday. Bought a pack of Galois in Tours that were horrible. Maybe that's what gave me my cold. The van driver/guide was smoking Marlboros and said he didn't like Galois either. He used to live in Senegal and still visits often. Interesting man. Fun to talk to and share smoke breaks with. Cigarettes cost less than a euro per pack there and he always brings back dozens of cartons when he visits. The Galois ran out last night. Finally at 9 am this morning the stores opened and I bought some Marlboros. "Fumer tue" means, quite brutally, "Smoking kills". Chatted up the nice shopkeeper, an older lady. Learned that the word for a "box" of cigarettes in not "boite" (box), but "paquet" (packet). Learn new French stuff every day!

Ran down to my lovely boulangerie on the corner to grab a light lunch/dinner. Don't need much after last night. Turkey, tomatoes, and eggs on good bread. Tasty.

Pretty much the same as the similar sandwiches in the States, except the bread is much better, and it's obviously very fresh. It hadn't been sitting in its plastic wrap on the store shelf for days. Tastes like it had to have been made today. I nuked it for a minute. They offered to heat it for me at the store, but I said "Non, merci, comme ça."

It may be my imagination (probably is), but I think some of the people in the stores I've been frequenting lately are starting to recognize me as a regular. I think I've caught looks that say something along the lines of "there's that funny old maybe kinda cute American man again." They're all quite pleasant and patient, so that's good.

Again my bottle of Bordeaux is almost gone? This is ridiculous. May have to start buying it by the case.

All is not lost. There's still Sauternes and roquefort left for later, if the cheese hasn't gone completely bad. How would you tell? The smell isn't going to help. I'll look for mold.

The roquefort is still good. I don't think it's possible for it to rot - it's made that way already. So I think I'll pack some up along with the Sauternes and take a short walk up to the bank of Seine at sunset and consume it. Couldn't be all that unpleasant a thing to do. Still a bit congested but feeling better. Resting for a day did me good.

Went up to the Seine with my wine and cheese at dusk and stayed till well after dark. Listened to some music, watched the boats go by, and had a nice time. I've got Georgia on my mind, and now I can't get it out of my mind. One of the songs the musician performed, a nice version.

This musician was performing for tips. His partner on the left really didn't play or sing much at all. He played acoustic guitar and sang, sometimes also playing a flute and a harmonica. He was very good. Did lots of classic American stuff, including some Stevie Wonder, some Michael Jackson, and some blues and jazz. Listened to him for over an hour. After taking this picture I found a great seat about half way up those steps you see at the bottom of the picture, up on top of the railing part, about three inches from the edge. It was a great place to sit because I could stretch my legs out and lean back against the riser of the next section of railing - kind of a natural chair, and I had a nice flat surface for my wine glass. Good thing I was only really mellow on the wine, not drunk, or they'd be fishing me out of the river. Don't laugh. Happens all the time. The bridge you see is Pont au Double, with Notre Dame just to its left. The steps I was sitting on lead up to Petit Pont.

A young guy asked me for a light: "Avez-vous un feu?" I understood him! He need to light a little stub of a hand-rolled cigarette, so I offered him one of mine: "Voudriez-vous un cigarette?" Well, oh my, the conditional mood, and I didn't even think about it. "Would you like ..." instead of "Do you want ...", the more polite form.

Yeah, I know, I'm getting some unusual thrills out of these little adventures. Cut me some slack.

He appreciated the cigarette. Lots of "Oh, merci, merci, merci." Not a bum, just a young man.

For me, this kind of outing is much more pleasant than stuff like seeing the Eiffel Tower. I mean that was nice and everything, and I'm glad I did it, but this was more fun. Am I strange?

One of the boats that went by was a small yacht. On the deck in the rear there was a single table set for dinner, with very fine linen and tableware. A single couple, way dressed up, was sitting at the table having dinner. Their waiter was standing in the background with a white towel draped over his arm, ready to provide anything that might be needed and serve the courses. A private dinner cruise for two on the Seine. Everyone on the bank gawked and then looked at each other and said "wow". Must be nice.

The Seine shortly after nightfall, from my perch on the edge of the stairs. You can see some of the other people listening to the musician at the far left edge of the picture. This is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Notre Dame all lit up for the night.

The café and bar night scene on rue Descartes very near my apartment. These places are busy during the day too, but they don't really start getting packed like this until around 9 at night. This picture was at about 11 pm.

Rollin's Pub, my corner bar, about 20 or 30 meters from my apartment. The building to the left of the one with the "Restaurant Bio" sign is the one Hemingway and Hadley lived in, in the early 1920s before he was famous. It was a really bad neighborhood back then. They only lived there for a few years. Hadley got pregnant and they went back to the States to have the baby. When they returned they lived down in Montparnasse.