Wednesday, July 3

I stay close to home in my neighborhood all day and take a another break from the tourism to rest up.

Still under the weather a bit. Staying at home again today except for little errands around the neighborhood. And laundry.

I love my life here. I planned it for nearly a year, starting shortly after my wife Robin died last June. Been looking forward to it. Thought I'd love it. Turns out it's even better than I expected. Could use a friend, though. Sad face. It's a good thing my friends and family back home are keeping me good company on FaceBook.

Although, a new thought, about that nice young couple from Springfield I met on our châteaux tour. They were certainly enjoying their two week vacation in Italy and France, but in some vague way I don't think they were as "into" it as I am. I think it's because they had each other. A large part of their focus was on themselves, not their surroundings. This only makes a tiny bit of sense to me, and probably none at all to you. In some way being here alone and trying to learn the language focuses almost all my attention to my surroundings, outside of myself. Everything is so immediate, in the moment somehow. Confusing but very pleasant.

And being a bit melancholy wandering around Paris is certainly better than being a bit melancholy wandering around Old Orchard!

My apartment looks like a Chinese laundry. I'm doing linens. Every available surface is covered with damp sheets and towels drying.

Facebook just informed me of my recent places: La Contrescarpe, about a week ago. Food4Less, about two weeks ago. Funny. Thanks for the reminder, FB. There's a much bigger distance between those two places than just a few thousand miles.

Shakespeare and Company is a tourist trap. As a Parisan, I wouldn't be caught dead there. I've walked past it three times already. Long lines just to get in the door. To look at books in English? What's the point?

3:30 pm. Checked the email. Nothing from the Sorbonne. Damn. Putting on shoes to walk down there and bitch at them.

Oh, that famous infuriating French bureaucracy. Bonjour. Je suis étudiant. Mon cours va commencer demain, mais je n'ai pas reçu un courriel. Hello, I'm a student. My class starts tomorrow, but I haven't gotten an email. Reply, in a dismissive nearly insulting tone of voice: Ce soir, monsieur, ce soir. Tonight, sir, tonight. Jeez. Waiting till the last minute aren't you? I need more wine.

On the way to the Sorbonne office I was asked for directions to the Panthéon. I started a response in French, then mentioned I was American. The couple said they were German. So we switched from French to English for the rest of the conversation. You get used to that sort of thing here. Polyglot city here.

I'll probably get the stupid email 30 minutes before I'm supposed to show up for class in some building half way across the city, then get slapped on the wrist with a ruler for showing up late.

You should see the hilarious brochure I got when I registered. A million rules and warnings about proper conduct and being respectful at all times and not missing any classes and always being prompt. I don't think that ruler slaps are at all out of the question.

Here's some of the funnier quotes from the English section of the brochure. The first funny is in the title "General informations". "Informations" is always plural in French.

• It's strictly forbidden to show any kind of disrespect to France or 
the French citizens.

• A respectful dress code is required.

• The students are asked not to stand abusively in front of the 
doors of our buildings.

• Students are not compelled to stay inside our buildings after the class.

• Presence, punctuality (of any kind: being on time in class, 
giving back exercises on time etc.) and regularity in work are 
part of the compulsory elements to succeed in our cours.

• Any breach of trust to these school rules will be submitted to 
our disciplinary hearing, which will recommend to Direction the 
sanctions that have to be taken. Those sanctions include the 
possibility of a definitive exclusion, without any refund of 
the registration fees.

So how long do you think it will be before I'm thrown out on my ass? Should we start a pool?

Speaking of disrespect, that English may have been funny to us, but it's really not bad. Try the reverse sometime, saying something like this in French or some other foreign language. See how well you do.

10 pm. Still no mail from the Sorbonne. Grr. I'm going to bed.

Today's lunch (and probably repeated for dinner later). Fresh baguette smeared with butter and lots of that superb brie which is still good, nuked to make open-face hot melted cheese sandwiches. Plus a new bottle of wine, this time from the Loire in honor of my visit on Monday, a Domaine Filliatreau Saumur Champigny 2010.

You know, I really like these Loire Valley wines. Very mellow. Not strong or bitter at all. Smooth. Yum. And the more you drink the better it tastes!

Good wine is cheap here. 14€ for my bottle of Saumur. I'm certain this would be much, much more expensive at Binny's.

I was reading about the Saumur region where my wine comes from. Found this:

It is Saumur's red wines that are showing the most promise for the 
future. They have traditionally taken second place to the district's 
sparkling wines, but this is now changing. Saumur reds are produced 
exclusively from ever-increasing quantities of 'Cabernet' (a combination 
of Franc and Sauvignon in which Franc is invariably dominant) and
correspondingly reduced proportions of Pineau d'Aunis. These are 
enjoying significant progress, after an extended period in the 
shadow of their counterparts from Chinon and Bourgueil. 
Saumur-Champigny, the town's most-respected red appellation, is 
often regarded as being under-rated and 'good value', but not up 
to the standard of, say, Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil. The creation 
of the Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame appellation in October 2009 is a 
reflection not only of ongoing improvements in the Saumur reds, 
but also of the local focus on developing this area of Saumur's 
wine portfolio.

OK. TMI, I think. People really go crazy over this stuff. My wine, Saumur-Champigny, is "the town's most-respected red appellation, is often regarded as being under-rated and 'good value', but not up to the standard of, say, Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil."

Interesting? I'm not sure. Screw it. Pour another glass.

Dinner = lunch plus some duck in its own sauce, plus a sliced fresh tomato with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Made up this combination all by myself. Very good. Only a tiny bite of brie left. Oh well, there's more where that came from. I've gone through 1.1 lbs of brie in a week all by myself? That's kind of a lot, isn't it?

Got the duck at an Asian deli shop on the mouf, 2,99€. The tomato at the open-air marché on the mouf, 0,68€.

Thought I'd be doing more restaurants and less meal preparation at home. I was wrong.

The bread was still fresh, but starting to fade a bit. After only 4 or 5 hours. Amazing.

There's 110,000 independent wine producers in France alone. I had a menu from my lunch at Ô Chateau. When I brought it in to my wine shop here looking for one of the wines, they helped me find one similar, but they never have exactly the same one.

This is my wine shop on the mouf, La Fontaine aux Vins. From a French review:

Michèle et Raymond vous proposent une large sélection de vins de 
petits propriétaires afin de s'assurer une grande qualité de leurs 
produits. Ils vous conseilleront, grâce à leur savoir, tout cela 
dans une ambiance chaleureuse !

Translation:

Michèle and Raymond offer you a large selection of wines produced by 
small growers to assure a high quality of their products. They guide 
you through everything, thanks to their knowledge, in a welcoming atmosphere.

I think that's "Michèle" way in the back behind the counter, but it's hard to see and be sure.

I didn't take the picture. It's from a panorama on the net. Everything is badly distorted. The shop is much smaller than it appears here, but it has lots and lots of wines.

Michelle, la propriétaire de mon marchand du vin à la mouf est gentille. Michelle, the owner of my wine store on the mouf is nice. She greeted me effusively when I walked in like an old friend and helped me select the wine. We talked for a long time. I was the only customer. She has a very nice laugh, a very nice older lady, super friendly. Talked in French, of course. I did well. Only hesitated a little bit. Long conversation covering many topics. My best one so far. When she handed me the bag with the wine I clutched it to my chest. She was a bit aghast. Oh no! You must carry it by the handle like a true Frenchman!