Monday, August 19

I make plans for my trip to Normandy and attend a great lecture on French gastronomy.

Hardly recognized my friends in class this morning because we were all sober. A few sheepish looks and smiles were definitely exchanged. Found myself in a two person group with Raquel where we were told to discuss what we did this weekend. Gee, Raquel, what did you do? Gee, Jean, I don't know, what did you do? Funny. Only 9 classes left.

New classroom on rue de l'Estrapade is modern and sterile. No charm. Not funky and scary and old like the crypt.

Eating some horrible microwaved cheeseburgers from Carrefour. Won't do that again.

Big fight outside a store down on Rue Monge on my way home from the lectures this afternoon. Older man and older woman going at it with loud yelling and threats of fisticuffs. We had to restrain the man and try to talk him down. Not clear what their relationship was or what the problem was. As I left there was talk of calling the police because they weren't calming down. Such excitement. First time I've seen something like that here.

Booked my hotels for my stay in Normandy week after next. Monday and Tuesday nights in Bayeux, Wednesday night in Cherbourg. Looking forward to the trip. Will be gone 4 days and 3 nights. Will see the peace museum in Caen, the tapestry and other sights in Bayeux, the WWII Normandy beaches, and the sights in Cherbourg. Plan to do some extensive sampling of the regional cuisine!

Now to book 4 train tickets for Paris -> Caen, Caen -> Bayeux, Bayeux -> Cherbourg, and Cherbourg -> Paris.

Both hotels are in the city centers close to the train stations. No need for a car.

From the web site of the hotel in Bayeux:

In the restaurant itself or on its terrace, you can savour suckling 
veal bred in Normandy, for example, before delving into a selection 
of local cheese and finishing in style with an apple Saint-Honoré 
cake, accompanied by a light Calvados cream and cider caramel.

Well, gee, that sounds pretty good!

Booked a full day guided tour of the beaches in a mini-van with a small group:
Sainte Mère Eglise and Airborne Museum
Utah Beach
German Cemetery
Pointe du Hoc
Omaha Beach (2 stops: Vierville 29th Division and Colleville, 1st Division)
American Cemetery and Visitor Center

Went to a great lecture on French gastronomy. Quite interesting, especially the formalities about order of service of the courses (apéritif, entrée, plat principal (plat de résistance), fromage, dessert, digestif), what the courses may and may not consist of, their purposes, the wines that accompany them, how the table should be set and decorated, how the guests should be positioned around the table, and how the meal should be served.

Here's a definition, which very much emphasizes the essential social nature of the French meal. As the lecturer emphasized, one can feed oneself alone, but one cannot have a good meal alone. The definition is from the UNESCO web site, the gastronomic meal of the French, inscribed in 2010 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The gastronomic meal of the French is a customary social practice 
for celebrating important moments in the lives of individuals and 
groups, such as births, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, 
achievements and reunions. It is a festive meal bringing people 
together for an occasion to enjoy the art of good eating and drinking. 
The gastronomic meal emphasizes togetherness, the pleasure of taste, 
and the balance between human beings and the products of nature. 
Important elements include the careful selection of dishes from a 
constantly growing repertoire of recipes; the purchase of good, 
preferably local products whose flavours go well together; the 
pairing of food with wine; the setting of a beautiful table; and 
specific actions during consumption, such as smelling and tasting 
items at the table. The gastronomic meal should respect a fixed 
structure, commencing with an apéritif (drinks before the meal) 
and ending with liqueurs, containing in between at least four 
successive courses, namely a starter, fish and/or meat with 
vegetables, cheese and dessert. Individuals called gastronomes 
who possess deep knowledge of the tradition and preserve its 
memory watch over the living practice of the rites, thus 
contributing to their oral and/or written transmission, in 
particular to younger generations. The gastronomic meal draws 
circles of family and friends closer together and, more generally, 
strengthens social ties.

Hotel le Lion d'Or, Bayeux.

Hotel du Louvre, Cherbourg. The hotel is the building on the left in this Google street view.

Walking to class this morning at 8:30 down rue de l'Estrapade, the shadows looked pretty, so I took this picture. With our new classroom, I'm only 5 minutes away on foot.

Here's a picture of my friends sitting on the steps of Église Saint-Étienne-du-Mont down the rue looking at their watches and waiting for Woody Allen's magic taxi to appear and take them to the 20s. Funny because that's my plan too, in my imagination anyway. Told them it only comes at midnight.

From left to right: Hiroshi, Wee Ling, Laddaporn, Raquel, Deo.

Ah, des touristes. Bête comme ses pieds.

They want to meet Hemingway. I told them: À ce moment Hemingway fait la grasse matinée sur mon canapé. Il a passé une nuit blanche à cause de trop de kir royale hier soir. Quel homme! (Right now Hemingway is passed out on my couch. He had a sleepless night due to too much Kir Royale last night. What a man!)