Tuesday, July 23

I visit the Paris Plages and get soaked in a fierce thunderstorm.

It was hot today but not as hot as yesterday. After classes I decided to go the beach. Yes, there's a beach in Paris. It's called "Paris Plages". They barge in sand and turn the right river bank into a beach, complete with umbrellas, beach chairs, and fake palm trees. I thought it would be crowded with tourists and tacky, but it wasn't. It was very nice. Then I had lunch on Île-Saint Louis and walked home in a violent thunderstorm.

Cracked up the prof today. We were supposed to complete the sentence "I'll always remember ..." People said boring things like "my childhood" or "the day I got married". I said "all the errors I've made in this class." Je suis toujours le smart-ass.

That job letter is indeed to be handed in, tomorrow. I gave it to the prof today.

Interesting lecture this afternoon on the fountains of Versailles, and how Louis XIV built aqueducts and amazing machines driven by windmills to keep them supplied with the water they needed. Lots of stories from mythology behind individual fountains, most of them involving Apollo.

The gardens of Versailles were modeled after the ones in Italy at the time, including the fountains. Le Nôtre wanted to surpass them.

One of the bookstores I walk past on Boul St-Germain every day has an entire display window filled with books about Le Nôtre and the gardens of Versailles.

In class yesterday we listened to a funny song titled "Y'a une fille qui habite chez moi" ("Theres a girl living with me"). I made the following translation:

A trail of clues has made me suspicious.
I open my eyes.
I'm going to investigate to get to the bottom of things.
I'm getting worried.

Some details can't be ignored.

The bedsheets, blanket and pillowcases
aren't mismatched anymore.
Right next to my messy pile of clothes
there's another pile neatly folded and ironed.

Some details can't be ignored.
I think there's a girl living at my place!

There's two toothbrushes in the bathroom,
some soap that's not really soap, and a hairdryer...
It's definitely not mine!
Strange little balls to scent the bath.
It's a real nightmare!
Someone has massacred all my cockroach friends!

In the kitchen there's bags of tea,
vervain and chamomile.
On the answering machine, a message from a Mom who's not mine.
And there she goes insulting my family!

Some details can't be ignored.

Someone treacherously did the dishes.
What about my habits?
My quarterly cleaning schedule?
I open the fridge, it's horrific, pure madness!
There's lots of vegetables!
Even fruits!

Some details can't be ignored.
I think there's a girl living at my place!

Where are my friends
who were hanging around watching TV?
Pizza boxes, chip bags ripped open,
cigarette butts crushed in the plates,
my collection of Playboy: All fallen into oblivion!

On the bed table there's no more condoms,
only aspirin.
There's a girl living at my place!
And perfumed candles to mask the stink of cigarettes.
There's a girl living at my place!

Some details can't be ignored.

There's an actual curtain,
no more bedsheets nailed to the window!
What's that? Oh my God,
that's a green plant!

The vacuum cleaner is still warm.
It's gone too far, I'm going to file a complaint.
I'll take it to the lab
and get it checked for fingerprints.

It looks like I'm not single anymore.
I've found the culprit.
She's right in front of me. I'll get her!
She's glued to the phone, sitting cross-legged
in a pretty dress with flowers.
She tells me "stop being a drama queen, we're not in a movie,
and I pay the rent as much as you do!"

People are funny (or strange, as Jim used to say). There's only one souvenir I want to bring home, a Sorbonne T-shirt (or polo, probably). Here in Paris the students never wear clothing with their school's name or logo, but they love to wear shirts with the logos and names of American universities (Oxford and Cambridge are OK too). I see them all the time. So I figure I can't wear a Sorbonne T-shirt here in Paris, but it will be OK to wear it when I get back home. Weird.

The French supposedly disdain Americans. Uncouth. Dirty. Loud. Désagréable. But they love our jazz, Jerry Lewis, Woody Allen, New York City, Apple computers, and t-shirts with the names of our universities. Consistency is evidently not a notable French trait.

The Sorbonne as a distinct entity actually doesn't exist anymore. It was split up a long time ago. The main descendant today is "Université Paris IV Paris-Sorbonne", or just "Université Paris-Sorbonne" for short. It is not one of the exclusive "grandes écoles". From their web site: "The biggest complex in France, dedicated to Literature, Languages, Civilizations, Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, is located on the original medieval foundations, and now extends to the Latin Quarter and to other areas in Paris." It was founded in 1250. That's 863 years ago.

Paris Plages on the right bank of the Seine. This is just one section.

They had a stand with free water. Flat or sparkling, of course (plat ou gazeuse).

Found a shady spot under a tree. It felt really good to rub my bare feet in the sand. I was up against the wall using my book bag as a pillow. I rested for half an hour or so with a drink, half dozing and half awake looking around and watching the people go by. It was very peaceful and pleasant.

Looking up river. That's Île de la Cité across the river. As you can see, it wasn't crowded at all shortly after Noon on a workday.

There were 1,000,001 tourists upstairs crowded around Notre Dame and environs. Why were they all up there in the sun and the heat when they could have been down here? I don't understand it, but I'm very happy that they were all that stupid.

I don't know who belongs to that shoe next to me.

Looking down river. That's Pont Notre Dame crossing over from the right bank to Île de la Cité and the dome of the Conciergerie poking up over the bridge.

Ate lunch at Le Lutetia on Île Saint-Louis. This is the view from my table. That's Pont Louis Philippe, with the right bank in the background. The sign in the middle of the picture is for the Paris Plages. See the pretty blue sky? That didn't last long.

Lunch was a salade Parisienne. Ham, emmental cheese, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, greens, and a dressing. Very filling and nutritious too! I drank a whole liter of water. I had un café to finish the meal.

Waiter tried to talk to me in English but I wouldn't let him. Took my grammar book out of my bag and put it on the table to let him know I knew what I was doing. Not.

A first: this restaurant had no wi-fi.

I saw that waiter carrying a big tray loaded with plates and glasses, balanced on the tip of his index finger. Just showing off I think. Those guys are very good at what they do.

Just as I left the restaurant a very violent thunderstorm rolled in. I had my umbrella but had to take cover when the wind was just too strong to walk in. Once the wind died down I walked the rest of the way home. The bottom half of me got pretty soaked but I didn't care. Walking in Paris in the rain? What's wrong with that? When you have views like this one to look at?

Audrey's right. She smells sweeter in the rain. Il y avait beaucoup de tonnerre.

And now the sun is shining brightly again.

And my lighter dried out and is working again. Don't have to use the stove anymore.

I wasn't singing or dancing like Gene Kelly. I was too busy trying to stay upright in all the wind and hang on tight to my umbrella. It wasn't "la pluie" (rain), it was "un orage" (thunderstorm).

I wonder if wet métro tickets that dried out overnight will still work? I'll find out later. And the shoes are still pretty soggy and I didn't bring an extra pair. That might be uncomfortable.