Saturday, September 29, 2007
Friday, September 28, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
I'm also including a photo of our favorite patisserie, Maison Rouyer, which just happens to be located on Place Leon Blum, in fact directly opposite the above photo.
The image below is a patisserie right down rue Parmentier from our apartment -- word is the bread is good but the pastries less so. We have not tried it yet but it seems to be popular with the locals.
I expect to check out their pastry creme offerings today.
Right next door to the entrance to our building is the very tiny Arte cafe. They make the best Italian coffee we've had in Paris so far and usually have a homemade quiche or gateau of some kind or another out for sale.
Wish you were here,
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Whew! It makes me tired just thinking about the tribulations Pascal has to deal with. But he still seems his old self, cool, calm, collected and goofy as the best of Looney Tune characters. Jean Marc, his brother is back in the front of the house and enjoys practicing both his Italian and English on us.
When I stopped by to check up on ma petit patissiere she was up to her arms so to speak in making sandwiches! But she was all smiles so something was working right.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
First I must tell you a bit about Diane's travel style: she does serious research before her trip and plots out exactly what she wants to do and when she wants to do it (on index cards mind you). Lest you think she is one of those fussy types who schedule everything down to the last minute, you couldn't be more wrong. Diane focuses on the truly unique and occasionally very odd thing to see or do: whether it's eating at a restaurant designed to give the sighted person an idea of what it is like for the blind to eat out (Dans Le Noir) or actually finding a soiree to go to on a Sunday morning she has a real gift for finding the unusual and unusually fun thing to see in Paris. She leaves the tourist icons behind, and with them the tourists of course, and skips tourbook recommendations, looking instead for those gems found almost only online.
And she wanted to go to the top of the Arc so Susie and I met her Monday at 4 pm directly beneath the arch and next to the tomb of the unknown soldier.
She was all smiles and after chatting for a few minutes we bought our tickets and headed up to the top of the Arc. We spent some time enjoying the many views of the city: looking up (or down) the Champs Elysses toward the Tuileries and the Louvre:
Or turning 180 degrees toward the skyscrapers that dominate the enormous commercial and shopping complex that is La Defense (more on that later).
Or looking northeast toward Sacre Coeur:
And of course the Eiffel tower is so close you can almost reach out and touch it. Yeah, OK, I know, no photo of the Tour Eiffel. You can, however, check out the video I shot from the Arc that day, a hint at what it's like from on top and you can see the Eiffel tower from there. You can also see more photos as well. Just click here! If you need a larger version then you can certainly find it by clicking this link.
We returned to ground level in half the time (some physical law at work here) and since Diane had never been out to La Defense the three of us jumped back on the no. 1 (well jumped might be a bit strong) and several stops later arrived at the Esplanade, the second to the last stop before La Defense. (Walking up the esplanade allows you to really appreciate the architecture at work here.) We think this is an often overlooked part of the city and enjoy bringing people out here -- their faces are always a giveaway: looks of amazement and awe at the fantastic buildings, the artwork that seems to be everywhere and, if you must know, the enormous shopping complex (the largest in Paris in fact). (Check out the video online at both my apple website or the larger version at Youtube.
After strolling for a while we headed back down into the bowels of Paris and the metro, taking the no. 1 to Saint-Paul. From there we strolled up (or down) rue Saint-Antoine, stopping in at Lenotre's pastry and food-to-go shop (they actually have a cooking school located right ont he Champs Elysses) and ended up at the Place de la Bastille. This seemed like a perfect place to stop, collect our wits and have an aperitif and let the rest of the world spin by. Folks were racing every which direction, pretty much like you'd find in all large cities I suppose. But not us.
Ater paying the bill we cross the Place and headed down rue de la Roquette looking for a plae to eat. Susie and I had actually strolled up this same street earlier in the day and remarked on how many Japanese restaurants were james in just a few short blocks. Well we picked on, Fuji-San, which touted sushi, sashimi and Korean barbecue. That sounded too good to pass by so in we went.
We all had the barbecue and after a delicious cabbage salad (we couldn't quite put our finger on the dressing, very mild but still pungent at the same time) the waiter came over and pulled out the middle top section of our table to reveal voila! a small grill beneath. After lighting the grill he left and returned a few minutes later with three plates, two of beef Susie and me and one of chicken for Diane, each plate ringed by raw sliced carrots, pepers and zucchini. It was now up to us to do the cooking and we went at it with a vengeance (hunger had set in before we hit the restaurant). The meat was sliced razor thin and at first present somewhat of a challenge to get it off our plates and onto the grill -- I kept wondering how did they slice this and put the slices on the plates so neatly?
As each piece came off the grill we would dip it in the accompanying sauce, again we couldn't quite pin down the flavor, rather like peanut-suace in appearance but not as sweet. But boy was it delicious. And we washed each mouthful down with cold Korean beer. Not too bad a meal we thought.
Normally we don't spring for dessert in an Asian restaurant; the few times I have it's always been a great disappointment. But we thought this might be different so we took the plunge. Susie ordered one scoop of ice cream, I also ordered an ice cream thing and Diane also ordered dessert as well.
When the desserts arrived Susan was tempted to call the police to report the theft of her ice cream -- but after the three of us started looking we found it in the bottom of the cup. The scoop was about the size of a pea, which gives you some idea of the desserts. Anyway mine was OK, rather like an anemic sundae that had seen better days. But when Diane got her dessert she noted the absence of the cherries, which had clearly been in the photo in the menu. We called the waiter over and Diane pointed this out to him and he repliied "No, no the cherries are just in the picture. They don't really come with the dessert."
We had a good laugh on that one for sure. What a crazy idea, that the photo of a thing should actually represent what the thing would look like when it arrived. It was a bit of photographic license, a very useful marketing tool to promote the product. "No sir, the tires on the car in the brochure just gives you an idea of what it would look like. The care doesn't come with tires."
Notwithstanding this gaffe of the evening we still would go back there for the food.
Afetr paying the bill we said goodnight to Diane -- I'm giving here a tour of Montparnasse cemetery on Wednesday and we hope to get together for one mroe dinner before she leaves Paris. It's just finding our way onto those idex cards that seems to be the problem. . .
Wish you had been there,
And of course some were looking for that perfect hat.
There was also a garden festival going on in the 11th and lots of folks were just enjoying the live music played off and on throughout the day right in the Square Gardette, just a few meters from our front door.
We did manage to get our cartre l'orange, our public transport passes (I had to get my picture taken again). The passes allow us unlimited use of the Metro, busses, trams or RER (within historic Paris). Very cool. I cannot tell you how much we enjoy not having a car. We thoroughly enjoy living in a city like Paris where much of what you need or want is within walking distance and that which is not is easily access by the Metro system. So where does that leave us in Providence? Well I suppose we'll have to wait and see. . .
And speaking of the Metro, Sunday late afternoon we took the number 9 from St. Ambroise (3 minutes from our apartment) to the Trocadero, on the other side of Paris. It took us probably 20 minutes or so to get there! What a way to travel.
Anyway, the Trocadero was packed with tourists, many of whom were probably in Paris because of the World Rugby Cup now going on here. I suppose most of them were down at the huge beer tent splayed out below the Trocadero overlooking the Eiffel (which has a huge scoreboard on it right now). I still can't believe this city once contemplated tearing it down. But then it was painted a bright yellow originally so that might explain such a hostile reaction.
There were a couple of groups of young kids out breakdancing (for a few Euros, not a bad way to pick up some spare change, eh?).
And there were also several members of the new generation of breakdancers hovering right on the edge of the crowd:
In case you're interested I've also put online a short, very short video from our whirl across the esplanade at the Trocadero. You can access it along with more photos taken that day and a couple of other videos from our Monday outing with friend Diane by clicking here!
After leaving the Trocadero we walked down to Place d'Alma where we sat outside enjoying a superb fall evening, sipping a little campari and watching the crowds spin around the rotary overlooking the Seine with an occasional person deviating from the crowd toward the impromptu diana memorial. (Curiously the memorial is on and around the facsimile of the Statue of Liberty torch. I suppose because the accident happened nearby by in the underground motorway beneath the Place.)
We left the Place d'Alma and walked down into the Metro to take the no. 9 back home. All in all not a bad way to get back into living in Paris again.
Wish you had been there,
For an aperitif we enjoyed Au cadran du XIeme, right on Place Leon Blum in the 11th arrondissement. Also in the 11th, is the Q Bar on 50 rue de la Folie Regnault, just off of rue de la Roquette and a block down from the main entrance to Pere Lachaise cemetery. Both are close to our apartment -- probably no mroe than 5 minutes by foot -- and great places to enjoy a late afternoon beverage (or two).
On the Place de la Bastille at no. 7 in the Cafe Des Phares 1er Bistrot Philo. Good view of the place but no credit carge charge for less than €20. For an even better view try Le Grand Corona on Place de l'Alma in the 8th arr. Right across from the improv memorial to Diana (actually facsimile of the torch held by the Statue of Liberty but located we are told over the underground autoroute where she was killed). You'll pay a premium but it's worth one shot anyway. Easy walk down from the Trocadero and right by the noo. 9 metro.
Our only real dinner out so far was at a place we highly recommend: Fuji-San, located right around the corner form the Placee la Bastille on 15 rue de la Roquette. Outstanding Korean barbecue, also Japanese yakitori and sushi and sashimi. We ate there with our firend from Oregon, Diane, and all three did the Korean barbecue where we cooked everything ourselves right at and literally on the table. Delicious food and reasonably priced too.
Our first lunch in the city was right down the street from our apartment, on the Place Leon Blum, at Le Rey. We do NOT recommend this place. Our salads were very wilted and the food not terribly good in general. The quality of service matched the salad.
Our second lunch was infinitely better. We strongly recommend the Cafe Etienne Marcel in the 2nd arr. Located on rue Etienne Marcel right on the corner the cafe wraps around toward rue Montmartre. We had a fanastic lunch of Croque Monsieur very well prepared (this French version of an open face grilled cheese was done to perfection with very tasty, crusty cheese that we both savored), and the pomme frites were equally delicious. Great atmosphere as well (I think WiFi is also available but am not certian of this). Delicious coffee too, I might add. And friendly service.
Another place where we had a very good lunch, and also located on the Place Leon Blum was a traiteur asiatique. Plenty of Asian food to go or eat in, which we did. Superb noodles and rock-bottom prices. You can't miss it, it's right next to the cafe Au Caudran.
Speaking of markets I tried the Asian markets in Belleville, near the Belleville Metro stop, and really quite close to here, but found them to be a bit disappointing, particularly in the selection of condiments and fresh Asian produce. Of course I suppose this was to be expected after spending so much time in the Porte d'Ivry Chinatown. In fact I returned to Porte d'Ivry to stock up on my condiments.
Wish you were here,
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Susie quickly unpacked our things and we collected what few wits we had between the two of us and headed out from the apartment to explore our immediate surroundings and buy some groceries to stock the larder. Naturally we also had to stop somewhere for a bite to eat and on such a beautiful day it had to be outside. "Oh look at all the people sitting outside eating. . . "
We found a cafe on the Place Leon Blum where we ate a fairly mediocre salad -- but hey were were in Paris, sipping wine and watching the world rush past us, some at speeds approaching mach 1 I think. Anyway, afterwards we walked a block or so over to Monoprix where we bought some groceries and then headed back to the apartment and turned in early.
Friday was our first full day in Paris and we had things to do. First off was to make coffee and relax.
That done we showered, dressed and headed off for the Metro (the 5 to the 6 to the 12) and Le Cordon Bleu. Susie needed to pick up her convention from the school, a document that would allow here to return to Pascal's without anyone getting into trouble with the ever-present document-obsessed authorities. She also had a chance to stop and chat with her friend Julie at the school (a wonderfully pleasant woman who seems to be completely unruffled by anything and obviously a person who enjoys life minute-by-minute).
From LCB it was back on the Metro (the 12 to the 10) to Jussieu, back in our old stomping grounds as it were. We walked the few short blocks to Pascal's where Susie at last caught up with her friend Misato. (Pascal's wife Keiko was working the front of the shop -- Jean Marc who usually works the front for his brother was off today.)
Misato introduced Susan to the "new" Japanese working at the shop. (We were informed that Miss Bread and Miss Chocolate are both suffering from physical ailments at present.)
Misato then raced upstairs to tell Pascal that Susan was back, and a few moments later he came strolling downstairs and began making quite a fuss about her return. Several minutes later and the papers were signed and she was ready to come back to work.
Susie said goodbye and that she would see everyone next Tuesday morning bright and early.
We then walked out of the shop and strolled past the Paris Mosque; it being Friday there was plenty of hustle and bustle and men entering and leaving the Mosque for prayers. We walked down to the Jardin des Plantes, wandering past all the gorgeous plantings and then across the Seine and on toward the Bastille, along the St. Martin canal.
At the Bastille we took the Metro (the 5 to the 11) to Belleville and upon exiting to the street found ourselves in the "other" Chinatown. (I used to shop at the one in Porte d'Ivry but Drea suggested we check the Asian markets here since they're much closer.) We stopped at one of the two supermarche where we stocked up on fresh vegetables and Asian condiments and then decided we would walk home.
Along the way we saw the vendors tearing down the huge Belleville open air market -- I'll be back here next Tuesday for sure -- and past dozens of Middle Eastern shops along Blvd. Menilmontant. There were lots of vendors with tables outside on the sidwalk in front of their shops selling fresh breads, nuts, sweets and the like. The sheer variety and diversity and availability of food in this city is astounding and unlike anything I have evr experienced anywhere else.
Susie and I were both a bit tired by the time we got back to the apartment and before long I started preparing our first meal in Paris: chicken breasts roasted in olive oil with onions and ginger. We ate late and went to bed much, much later.
It's good to be home.
Wish you were here,
PS: out our front window:
We've been here not yet two days and already it feels like home. In fact we like the view out of our fourth-floor window much better than our last apartment on rue Poliveau in the 5th arr. It seems much more residential I suppose. We are located on a short tiny street just off of rue Parmentier (Antoine Parmentier brought the potato to France and he is of course buried in Pere Lachaise) and a stone's throw from a lovely little park (Square Gardetta). And the piece de resistance is that we are only a 10-minute walk from Pere Lachaise! (photos, above: our front door is just before the Pressing sign; below: that's our place the last row of windows at the top.)
The building and surrounding area is very quiet, with an amazing view of so many other folks going about their daily lives.
We're within an easy walk to just about everything one could want or need: supermarche (Franprix and Monoprix are two of the biggest names here), the enormous Belleville open air market, stretching for what seems like forever along Boulevard Menilmontant, is Tuesdays and Fridays and about 15 minutes from our apartment. A large stretch of that boulevard is also packed with Middle Eastern shops and restaurants as well; lots of new things to explore. The Bastille is maybe a 20 minute walk and of course the metro lines are easily within 10 minutes (no problem for Susie getting to Pascal's shop for sure).
The apartment itself is a large two-bedroom space with a great kitchen, and filled with books and music and hi-speed internet access. Pretty much heaven for us. We're renting from the same young woman we rented from on our last trip here and she has been terrific about helping us find our way through the maze of living in the 11th, with suggestions and tips galore to get us up and running on living here. Thanks Drea!
Up next, our first day here! Stay tuned!
Wish you were here,
Friday, September 21, 2007
After taking the Logan Express shuttle bus service from Framingham to the airport we left Boston late Wednesday night on Air France; in fact we left on the very last flight of the day out of Logan airport. I must say there is something to be gained by flying late at night -- much less frenetic at the airport, easy walk through security and we had plenty of room on the airplane. Susie and I shared a three-seat row together on the upper deck of a 747-400. The economy seats had to have at least 38 inches! It was like riding on the train we had so much room.
The plane was dark for most of the trip -- we flew directly over Winter Harbor, Maine but couldn't see any lights on at Gerrish's cafe -- and just about everyone, us included, spent most of the next five and a half hours sleeping.
Picking up a strong tailwind we arrived about 20 minutes early, landing at about 11:30 in the morning Thursday. After passing through the dour looks of passport control personnel we picked up our bags and walked to the meeting point to connect up with our shuttle into the city. When we left Paris this past spring we used the Bluvan shuttle service -- about €29 for the two of us round trip door-to-door -- and so we set the same thing up but this time for a roundtrip. I highly recommend this service: it's a great compromise between taking a taxi (expensive) and using the RER/metro system (very inconvenient).
Anyway the shuttle ran about 45 minutes late but the weather was nice and so we sat ouutside and enjoyed sharing the second hand smoke of several hundred very nervous travelers.
Eventually the blu van arrived (and yes it is blu), our bags were loaded and we were off zipping into the city, our driver weaving through traffic seeking to recapture happier days as a Formula One driver for Renault. The other passengers aboard our jet-powered van was a mother and her adult three daughters all from western Michigan of all places; in fact they were from Grand Rapids originally! Small world. They were on a whirlwind three-day visit to the city and already loooked tired. But they were happy to be here: "Oh," one remarked again and again once we were in the city proper, "look at all the people sitting outside at the cafes." Obviously not something she was used to seeing in western Michigan, eh?
After dropping our fellow passengers off at their hotel just off the Champs Elysses the driver piled back into the van and sped us across town to the 11th arrondissement, our home for the next six weeks or so.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
In the meantime we're heading back to the City of Love, the City of Lights, the City of Pastry Creme! We'll have an early supper here with Dick and Dorothy and then they'll drive us to catch the shuttle bus in Framingham. Our flight, non-stop Delta/Air France, leaves at 11:20 this evening and arrives in Paris at a little before noon tomorrow.
By this time tomorrow we'll be in bed in our apartment in the 11th, after stopping for groceries and probably a bite to eat at a local bistro (I can say "bistro" now without sounding pretentious).
And I hope to have photos and the occasional short video to pass along to you. All this and more as Susan plunges ever deeper into the world of pastry dough and I find myself walking the streets of Pere Lachaise cemetery wondering if it's just a coincidence that our new home is in an old funeral home.
It's got plenty of character -- note that we actually have our own fire escape -- and in fact the family used to live there when it was an operating funeral "parlor." It's also got plenty of parking of course! We are honing out th4e details of our upgrading the kitchen and bathrooms -- they are spartan to say the least -- but it's got tons of space.
I've put plenty of photos of the exterior online, just click here, and some of the interior online as well. Just click here for those.
Sooooo today, our last day in the US, we went to the attorney's office in Providence, the first real step to signing on the dotted line. Financing is in place, appliances ordered, kitchen layout done, and set up delivery for our household goods.
Now we go to Paris and get on with life.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
On 12 September Susie and I took a little time off from house hunting to vist the traveling World War Two airplane show that was on display at the airport in Lincoln, RI, just north of Providence. We had both seen the B-17 and B-24 in Rutland, Vermont when we lived there some years back but there was the added attration now of a B-25, medium, bomber as well. (photos: B-24 top, B-17 bottom.)
The place was packed with lots of guys who looked like they might have been WW2 vets and plenty of families as well. It was niceto see such enthusiasm for a small piece of one of the more important moments in our nation's history.
After we left the air display we met up with Seth, our realtor, and checked out a couple of condos closer to downtown. One of which we have decided to buy but I'll talk more of that next time.
On Thursday, 13 September, we took a bit of time off from looking at condos in Providence to drive down to Brooklyn, New York. We had two objectives, both involving friends. One was to pay a visit to Don and Gloria Archer whom we hadn't seen for a year or more now I guess. Don heads up the Museum of Computer Art and we both commiserate on the state of digital art -- or I should say on the difficulty in gaining full recognition from the so-called traditional art community.
We also wanted to stop in Queens and see Beth who had been in school in Paris with Susan and who now works at a restaurant in Manhattan.
So on Friday we spent a grand day in Brooklyn just visiting with friends and taking a bit of inner city trip to Green-wood cemetery, which sits on the hisghest point in Brooklyn.
This place is fantastic and well worth a drive and then plan to spend a couple of hours walking. At nearly 500 acres and the final resting place of more than a half million souls, Green-Wood is one of the grandest parks in the city. The entrance is quite impressive.
And if you look closely when you go you can actually see green parrots nesting in the top towers of the gate! (Apparently some 15 years back a crate of parrots broke open upon arrival at JFK airport and the birds have ben nesting here ever since.)
I stopped in the office to check on where exactly, one of my civil war veterans was buried. I was thendirected to a kiosk just inside the main entrance where you can track down anyone and everyone in the cemetery and even get a printout of the exact location! How cool is that, eh?
It being such a nice day we decied to stroll to the grave and take in the gorgeous scenery. No sooner had we left the entrance than we came across some incredible statuary:
A few hundred meters along and we found ourselves on Battle Hill and at the Civil War memorial:
Oh. and we also stopped at the grave of Leonard Bernstein (that's Don confirming that Leonard is in fact buried there):
On Friday we said goodbye to the Archer family and headed north to spend a little time with Beth in Queens before driving back to Providence. I had an appointment at the Apple store to resolve some serious RAM issues so we soon were back on the road heading north -- and Beth on the subway into the city -- heading north toward Providence and, as it turned out, destiny.
And if you want more photos of the Green-wood excursion check out this link!
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Our realtor, Seth Price, patient as a saint, quickly came to understand what it was we were looking for -- probably sooner than we did -- and before long we had visited more than a half dozen properties in or near the downtown of Providence during our first few days in the area. One place in particular, an octagon shaped house just a stone's throw from the enormous gothic state armory, struck as a real possibility the first minute we saw it. Aside from the overall shape the condo was very nicely appointed and had a gorgeous outdoor common area for late afternoon get-togethers, but the absence of any real storage space and the odd-shape of the rooms -- it's an octagon remember? -- were the deciding factors and we decided no.
It wasn't long before we had pretty much exhausted Seth's list of available downtown condos that fit into our budget and so we started branching outward from the city center. At the same time we continued our search through craigslist online.
After looking at several properties in the neighborhoods surrounding Providence, and even spending a Sunday testing the Open House theory of home buying -- not highly recommended -- we found a wonderful place in Cranston, a surburb of Providence. Although the condo was basically a turnkey place needing no overhaul or upgrading, it was on the high side and again we passed.
Moreover, we realized that living out in the surburbs really no longer appealed to us, and continued our search for a place with a bit more of a community feel to it, more urban I suppose. Perhaps our months in Florence and Paris in particular had more of a lasting influence on us than we realized.
We found ourselves at something of an impasse, not sure where we were going to look next, when we came across a place online at Craiglist near downtown that sounded quite nice; solid, sound and leafy neighborhood, just a stone's throw from downtown. We called Seth to see if he could arrange a time for us to get in.
He said no problem. "Oh, and by the way I've got another place you might want to see."
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Saturday, September 08, 2007
We had a wonderful last evening with the Gerrish staff: a late night dinner out at Frazer Point and then a last trip to the tip of Schoodic Point in the pitch-black darkness to bid a farewell to this part of the planet.
The following day, Tuesday the 4th of September we packed the last of our stuff, drove to Gerish's for last goodbyes and last coffees and then headed north to Orono to spend the night with Joyce and Carl.
On Wednesday we packed up the Mini with as much stuff as we could carry. As it turned out Carl had to go to New Hampshire for a meeting on Thursday and he planned to hand off our remaining boxes to Bruce D. from Douglas, MA. Bruce was attending the same meeting and we arranged to pick them up from him when he returned. And sure enough on Friday he called and I drove over to pick up the last of our things. Ten minutes later we had all of our things back again.
We now have all our stuff in one place -- what isn't in storage in Vermont at any rate. Thanks Bruce and Carl!
In the meantime we started looking for a home in earnest in Providence.
Initially we had planned to rent a place but after a short trip down earlier in August to look at possible rental units and then comparing the cost of renting versus just buying we opted for the latter.
We next had to find someone who could help us wade through the confusing and often perilous quagmire of Real Estate World! And we couldn't have picked a better or more able person than Seth Price of Residential Properties (no kickbacks here). We had been given Seth's name through word of mouth -- always the best source of information I believe -- and met with him for the first time on Thursday morning at his office on the east side of Providence.
Seth is tall with an open face, an easy smile and has a way of being comfortable with anyone and everyone. And the more time we spent with him the more we realized he knows a great deal about Providence and, equally important, he knows a lot of people in Providence. His easy-going personality just brings out the same in others I suppose.
We spent the better part of Thursday looking at perhaps a half dozen condos, broken up by a stop for sandwich and root beer at Seven Stars bakery on Broadway on the west side. Seth even introduced Susan to one of the owners, Lynn, who was just on her way out the door. Most of the units we visited were double- or triple-deckers that had been recently remodeled and are now just awaiting someone to buy them and starting living.
One in particular caught our attention, an octagon-shaped building that was built in the Armory district in the 1980s. In fact we even brought Dick and Dorothy to see it on Saturday afternoon on our way to dinner. The condo was very nicely appointed throughout; someone had put a great deal of care and time in making the space a very comfortable living space. The problem was the lack of storage: it had virtually no additional storage beyond what was in the unit itself. Although we are certainly keen on downsizing our lives we can only downsize so far, I mean really. . .
So after much discussion and a couple of visits we decided to pass on the Octagon House.
Back to square one.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
For Susan and I it was truly a closure: our summer along the rocky coast of Downeast Maine had come to an end. Susie's first baking job had for all intents and purposes been a rousing success. And to top it off we met some of the nicest people we've ever known.
Susan had a short day Monday and spent the early afternoon finishing packing and getting our household ready to move back south, eventually, we hope to Providence, RI. After we closed the cafe I met up with her at the apartment and the two of us drove out to Schoodic Point, or rather near there at Blueberry Hill parking lot.
We left the car and hiked the Anvil trail to the top of Schoodic Head so that I could show her the spectacular overlooks, particularly the one looking north toward Winter Harbor. From there we hiked down East Trail to the loop road and then back to the car. It was a gorgeous day for a hike -- I know, gorgeous is a word that has almost become standard in my descriptions of Schoodic. But if you ever get the opportunity to visit that section of Acadia National Park you will quickly see why.
Anyway, there were absolutely no bugs! Nor were there any sounds at all in the woods. As the shadows lengthened through the trees and cast themselves over the moss on the forest floor I thought how odd that with the exception of a few seconds near the end of the hike, there was deafening silence on the trail.
We zipped home and Susie showered and dressed. The plan was to meet the Gerrish crew back out at the park, at Frazer Point, which overlooks Winter Harbor, for dinner and a bonfire.
We pulled into the parking lot right behind Natalie and Rosemary and a few minutes later, Margaret, Natalie's Mom, drove up with Guzel and Jessica. We off-loaded the food, camp wood and picnic paraphenalia and of course the wine. (photo above: Jessica and Guzel.)
The wind that evening was strong and gusting from the southwest but it only added to the delicious flavors of the evening: Rosemary's grilled shrimp, shrimp creole, noodles in peanut sauce and coconut rice, all washed down with cool French whites and all topped off by champagne!
At one point during dinner, in between gale force winds, I realized that the four people sitting across from me now comprised the entire staff of Gerrish's cafe! And what a group too, I might add. If anybody can pull off holding that fort down for another month it's those four. Of course the cafe's hours are now reduced and they are now closing on Sundays; also sandwiches will be dropped from the menu as the food runs out (roast beef and turkey are not long for this world in fact).
(Natalie, Rosemary, Jessica, Margaret and susie -- where's Guzel?!)
Anyway, the night darkened, the winds remained strong and a roaring fire never felt better. But all things, as they say, must come to an end and so it was with our wonderful last supper in Winter Harbor.
We packed up the cars, cleaned up the trash, doused the fire and while the gang headed back into town Susie and I drove down to Schoodic Point one last time.
As we stood in the parking lot all alone, in near-total darkness, with the wind driving the breakers onto the rocks below us, and gazed upwards we could see a sky filled with stars. And more than that, there was the Milky Way strung out from one end of the sky to the other. I said to Susie I couldn't remember the last time I saw such a congregation of celestial bodies. And certainly not the Milky Way. Was it a "profound moment?" I have no idea. All I know is that it was absolutely, utterly
Wish you had been there,
Monday, September 03, 2007
Natalie will be taking on the responsibilities of the sandwich board as well as kitchen prep and most likely do some cooking as well (she's rumored to be quite accomplished in that are), so we'll spend a little time this morning going over some of the intricacies of getting the bread made every morning and prepping the sandiwch board. Exciting stuff, eh?
It's also a short day today: 9 am to 2 pm.
Yesterday it was just me, Guzel and Lidia, the last two Russians remaining here at Gerrish's. I'll have more to say about them later in the next week or so. (Jessica and Natalie were taking a much-needed day off. They won't have many now.) Suffice it to say we were busy on Sunday but somehow we all managed to get through it without any major crises or problems with the computer. And there was no gunplay or sharp objects thrown so that's certianly something to be happy about.
So after today there will just be four or five people at most working at Gerrish's: Natalie, Jessica, Rosemary and Guzel for sure and maybe Lidia. The cafe will have lost easily half its staff in less than a week's time. There will be plenty of changes to come over the next month or so, until the cafe closes after Columbus Day.
Or not. It is rumored that the cafe might stay open through the winter. Chi lo sa? Not us, that's for sure!
Sunday, September 02, 2007
August 5, 2007
A French Actress’s Life on Screen. Kind Of.
FOR half her life the 37-year-old French actress Julie Delpy has been trying to direct. There was the screenplay she wrote at 17 that captured the interest of a French publisher but never made it to the big screen. There were two shorts, including her self-financed experimental film in 2002, “Looking for Jimmy,” that she never found the backing to finish. And numerous other screenplays she’d write and show around but never seemed to get off the ground.
But while she wasn’t writing, there was acting: performances in 50 films, including her role as Celine in Richard Linklater’s 1995 cult film “Before Sunrise,” which she wrote with Mr. Linklater and her co-star, Ethan Hawke. Mr. Hawke and Ms. Delpy briefly reprised their roles in Mr. Linklater’s animated “Waking Life” in 2001, and the three received an Academy Award nomination in 2005 for writing “Before Sunset,” a sequel shot in Paris. It was that recognition, Ms. Delpy said, that helped her win financing for her first feature film, “2 Days in Paris,” opening Friday.
Like “Before Sunset,” “2 Days” is about a romance between a Frenchwoman and an American man. But while she was happy to hint at certain similarities as a way to get the movie made, she said it’s “totally different” from the Linklater films.
For starters “2 Days in Paris” is less romantic, more wicked and very personal. Ms. Delpy wrote, directed, edited, produced, composed music for it. She sings and stars in this irreverent comedy about Marion, a French photographer living in New York, and her American boyfriend, Jack, who decide to rekindle their two-year relationship with a trip to Venice, stopping off for 48 hours in Paris.
Ms. Delpy cast her own parents, the actors Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet, to play her on-screen parents. Her ex-boyfriend Adam Goldberg plays her character’s boyfriend. Even her real-life cat, Max, plays Marion’s pet, Jean-Luc. Scenes from the film were shot on the family compound in Paris where Ms. Delpy keeps a studio above her parents’ apartment.
So what is Ms. Delpy doing in a hotel in the bourgeois Seventh Arrondissement, the last place you’d expect the bohemian heroine of the film to haunt?
“I’m not bourgeois at all, and my family doesn’t live in the Seventh,” Ms. Delpy said. She looked like a 21st-century Alice in Wonderland, dressed up in a ruffled, powder-blue lace dress, wearing teal-colored patent leather ankle boots with black tights on a June afternoon, her blond angel hair whisked into a tiny bun.
Ms. Delpy is an only child who grew up in Paris hanging out backstage with her parents, who began taking her to the movies at the age of 2. “We couldn’t afford a baby sitter,” Mr. Delpy said over coffee on the terrace of Le Select. “She saw all of Godard, American cartoons, popular French comedies. I think it’s good she had all those influences. You can see it in her work.”
In addition to acting, young Julie danced, played the clarinet and took weekly language lessons over tea with “real English ladies,” said Ms. Pillet, who recalled that one high school teacher tried have her expelled for “too much artistic activity outside of school.” Another suggested the outspoken girl needed psychoanalysis. “We were against that,” Mr. Delpy said. “Luckily she wasn’t psychoanalyzed, or she would never have gone into this business.”
By the time Ms. Delpy went to the New York University Film School in 1989, she had been directed by Jean-Luc Godard and Bertrand Tavernier and been nominated for a César award, the French Oscar, for best newcomer at the age of 17. But she had also broken a film industry taboo by revealing that a middle-aged director had tried to force her onto the casting couch as a teenager. “It’s cost me my career in France to say what I think,” she said.
She moved to Los Angeles in 1993 and has worked mostly in the United States since.
Ms. Delpy’s film depicts a sensual, live-and-let-live Paris, with Jack as your classic American fish out of water: stranded without language, paranoid about hygiene, disgusted by the rabbit Marion’s father stews for lunch, threatened by an endless stream of her ex-lovers. Yet he is also the kind of American you’d think would feel right at home in Paris. Early in the film he gives false directions to a pack of his countrymen wearing Bush-Cheney T-shirts.
“He’s an American who overidealizes Paris as a sort of idyllic political and cultural mecca,” Mr. Goldberg said by phone. “And this American who is not a jingoist or a fan of George Bush finds himself becoming more and more American the longer he’s there. That character is like a really thinly veiled version of me. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m like a raging hypochondriac neurotic freak.”
But Ms. Delpy said she based the character of Jack on her own experiences.
“When I come back to Paris, the first few weeks I’m in shock at how people elbow you in the Métro and nobody smiles,” she said. “And then because I am a born Parisian, I go back to kicking cars that don’t stop at the crosswalk. Once you get to know the French, they can be very friendly. But the first impression is really hard for Jack. It seems to him that everyone’s rude, obsessed with sex — and obviously I focused on that to feed his paranoia.”
In a conversation with Jack, one of Marion’s male admirers uses sex as a metaphor for the American fondness for “entering hostile territories.” A jealous spat between Jack and Marion turns into a reflection on the ramifications of oral sex on modern American democracy, something Ms. Delpy said would never happen in France.
“There’s a lot of things I like about America,” she said. “That puritanism, I don’t like.”
But the film also takes aim at France, and Ms. Delpy said that she had a hard time finding French financing, later fighting the French distributor to keep two scenes, one involving a racist French taxi driver and another a Parisian ex-boyfriend who moved to Asia to sleep with under-age girls.
“It’s only because the film went to Berlin, was well received and sold to many countries that they were like, ‘O.K., we can’t re-edit the film for France,’ ” she said. “France doesn’t have a very easy time with self-criticism, especially from someone who lives overseas half the time.”
In France Ms. Delpy is both admired for her talent and resented for having moved to Hollywood. But the film received positive reviews when it opened here July 11 and was second to “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” at the box office. Several critics even compared her to Woody Allen.
Ms. Delpy’s closest collaborators say her directing debut is no surprise.
“My whole relationship with Julie has always been like talking to a fellow filmmaker,” Mr. Linklater said by telephone from Texas. “Julie Delpy making a feature film is just a logical and completely natural extension of what she’s been doing with her whole life.”
Mr. Hawke, in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, said he’d been listening to Ms. Delpy’s movie ideas for years. “Eventually, with somebody who has as many ideas per minute as Julie, you’re not going to be happy sitting in your apartment reading Vogue waiting for somebody to hand you a good part.”
Mr. Goldberg (“Saving Private Ryan”) agreed to do the film before seeing the script. “I used to read scripts of hers, and it always seemed nuts to me that she wasn’t directing,” he said. “I thought we had a very strange and funny dynamic, and I definitely liked the idea of at least attempting to put that on film. Working with Julie was very simple and easy and natural, but a bit surreal. I could definitely see where it would be confusing whether I was the character or not, and I myself wasn’t entirely sure.”
Some of the film’s most hilarious scenes involve Jack’s being teased in a language he doesn’t understand. “He’s a very funny actor, and the more sad and tortured he looks, the funnier he is,” Ms. Delpy said, adding that she didn’t translate the French dialogue for Mr. Goldberg. “He hated Paris. I mean, I think he’s a Method actor. Let’s say that he was so Method that he hated France and every French person except my parents. He got along so well with my father, I almost had to keep them apart.”
“2 Days in Paris” is as much about the differences between human beings as between cultures. But its ending is a hopeful, post-romantic pantomime study of what holds people together.
“Meeting someone you love is so rare,” Ms. Delpy said, “and finding someone you can communicate with — even if sometimes it’s uncomfortable — that you have to make an effort to make it work. I personally have had a life of going from one man to another, and I just don’t want to do that anymore. So this film is — well, my friend called it ‘The Last Temptation of Julie.’ ”
Ms. Delpy may have stopped looking for the next man, but her heart is set on directing her next film project, “The Countess,” a costume drama based on fact about a murderous 17th-century Hungarian countess. “It took years for people to trust me to be capable of making a film,” Ms. Delpy said. But she knows the risks, invoking an ill-fated Terry Gilliam opus. “It’s all set, but you never know. You can have the money in place, a full cast — then ‘Lost in La Mancha’ happens.”
Saturday, September 01, 2007
36 Hours in the Cinque Terre, Italy
WITH its miles and miles of breathtaking trails, the Cinque Terre along northern Italy's Riviera has long been a magnet for hikers. And while trekking through the five villages is certainly a backpacker's dream — each town is a unique destination carved rather amazingly into the steep terraced-vineyard coastline — that shouldn't preclude lesser jocks from heading to this wildly charming region. In fact, the only way to truly experience the sensory overload that this small area has to offer is by getting off those well-trodden paths. It's almost unfair how much intense beauty, great cuisine and amazing aromas are jampacked into such a compact space.
1) GAIN SOME PERSPECTIVE
Before you start connecting your Cinque Terre dots, bouncing from one village to the next, take a 15-minute uphill trek through gorgeous vineyards, to the Santuario della Madonna di Montenero (entrance is a five-minute drive west of Due Gemelli, a hotel at Via Litoranea, 1; 39-0187-920-111). The storybook journey, replete with fragrant wildflowers and colorful butterflies, is topped with uninterrupted views that allow visitors to size up the region's entire 11-mile coastline from 1,100 feet above sea level. The sanctuary, an active church with a pink and yellow bell tower, is a spectacular example of the 14th-century buildings that put these small towns on the map.
2) LOVERS' WALK
Drive down to Riomaggiore proper, park your car and head downhill to explore its marina. Then double back to the main drag and look for signs pointing to the village's biggest attraction: the Via dell'Amore, the first segment of the Sentiero Azzurro or the Blue Trail — a five-hour and somewhat challenging hiking trail that connects all five hamlets (5 euros for a daily pass). Connecting Riomaggiore and Manarola, this patch is just a leisurely stroll, offering a relatively flat coastal path that was carved into the mountain almost a century ago. The inspiring views and romantic nooks have earned it the nickname, the Path of Love. What will you really love? It's super easy.
3) TASTE TEST
The tiny town of Manarola is a sight to behold: a confection of pastel houses that climb up the side of black cliff, next to the region's most productive vineyards. This small area is known for not one, but two specialty wines: Cinque Terre white, a dry, tangy blend of three different grapes, and sciacchetrà, a super-sweet late-harvest dessert wine generally reserved for special occasions. To create your own special occasion, grab a table at the lovely Marina Piccola (Via Lo Scalo, 16; 39-0187-920-923), next to the waterside hotel of the same name. Ask to sample a Manarola Cinque Terre and then compare it to one that's made from grapes blended from all five villages (8 to 12 euros for a half-bottle). While you're at it, order the Cinque Terre sciacchetrà, too.
4) FAMILY-STYLE DINING
For a taste of a home cooking, head to Trattoria dal Billy (Via Rollandi, 122; 39-0187-920-628), a quaint three-story restaurant tucked into Manarola's lush mountainside. An enchanting climb through the village's mazelike alleyways leads to a set of garden terraces where you can sample local specialties like anchovies with salt or lemon, and taglierini with tomato, pecorino, pine nuts, baby shrimp, pepper and olive oil (both 8 euros). Sweeping vineyard and sea views abound.
5) SECRET BEACH
With three towns to hit in one day, take the quick regional train via the Spezia line (www.ferroviedellostato.it, 1 euro) to Corniglia, the smallest and most remote of the five villages. Forgo the 365-step climb to its tourist-filled center. Instead take the road much less traveled, to the clothing-optional private beach, Guvano, that only locals seem to know about. It's not easy to find: above and to the right of the train platform head down a narrow flight of stairs, follow a brick coastal wall and turn right, until you come to an industrial tunnel with a metal gate. Ring the bell to the left. Someone on the other end will buzz you in. Walk through the 10-minute-long path to a private vineyard overlooking two phenomenal beaches. Pay the gatekeeper 5 euros for your little slice of sunbathing heaven. Be sure to stock up on water and snacks at the train station; there are no concession shacks at the beach.
6) SQUARE MEAL
Vernazza, the next village over, could certainly nab Miss Congeniality in a Cinque Terre pageant. Everything from its historical attractions and manageable size to its somewhat chic vibe make this port arguably the most agreeable of the five towns. From the train station, walk along Via Visconti, the town's bustling main street, until you reach its adorable main square. Have a leisurely lunch at Trattoria Gianni Franzi (Piazza G. Marconi, 1; 39-0187-821-003), a 45-year-old institution that still serves scrumptious dishes like ravioli with fish sauce (13 euros) or baked fish with potatoes (20 euros). Finish things off with a glass of limoncino (3.50 euros), Northern Italy's answer to limoncello, the lemon liqueur popular in the south.
7) HIGHS AND BUYS
With a full belly and a slight buzz, you'll want to check out these sights in the following order: Santa Margherita d'Antiocha, a 1318 church built on sea rock with an odd facade that seems to turn its back on the piazza; the lookout towers of the 11th-century Castello Doria (1.50 euros) where you'll be rewarded with magnificent aerial views of the entire region; and La Cantina del Molo (Via Visconti, 27; 39-0187-812-302), a high-end enoteca that sells the most divine delicacies, along with wines from the owner's vineyards.
8) SAIL AWAY
You've been stealing glimpses of the Mediterranean Sea since you've arrived; now it's time to seize it. Board the last ferry (www.navigazionegolfodeipoeti.it; 3.50 euros) to the westernmost and largest village, Monterosso al Mare (or Monterosso by the Sea), which, as its name suggests, is the sandiest and most resortlike of them all. Upon disembarking, hang a left toward Fegina beach and join the locals enjoying sunset aperitivos after a day in the sun. Top-notch wines and terrific bruschettas (6 euros), as well as fantastic promenade people watching, can be had at the outdoor wine bar and shop Enoteca 5 Terre di Sassarini Giancarlo (Via Fegina, 94; 39-0187-818-063).
9) A MODERN FISH TALE
Traditional Ligurian cuisine, while entirely delectable, can also get repetitive. For something regional yet refreshing, head to L'Ancora della Tortuga (Salita Cappuccini, 6; 39-0187-800-065), a new spot housed in a converted bunker that was used during World War II. The contemporary kitchen specializes in fish dishes, including a seafood carpaccio with country vegetables (11 euros) and the daily catch served on grapevine leaves (12 euros). Be sure to reserve one of three tables that overlook the sea, or a spot on the upstairs terrace.
10) BEACH PARTIES
You didn't come to the Cinque Terre to party, but if you're looking to keep the torch burning in Monterosso al Mare, you might be in luck. During the warmer months, day trippers and locals alike will stage beach parties along the Via Fegina. All are welcome. Or mix with the congenial crowds at one of the mellow, pub-style bars on Via Roma in the historical district.
11) DOUBLE DELIGHT
The sweet and savory goodness at Il Frantoio (Via Goberti, 1; 39-0187-818-333) should be enough of a reason to get you up before your alarm clock rings. Bring your euro coins to this unassuming alleyway shop and make a breakfast of its unique dolci castagnina — warm circular pastries baked with chestnuts, salt, milk, pine nuts and raisins (1.60 euros each). Be sure, too, to grab a selection of the superior focacce to go (1.50 euros a square). The varieties are endless, and they'll make for the perfect lunch at the beach later on.
12) GET YOUR GLAM ON
Soak up the town's biggest selling point: it's Riviera-ness! Not far from the entrance up to Convento dei Cappuccini monastery, you'll find the Bagni Eden beach club (Via Fegina, 7-11; 39-0187-818-256), a postcardlike world of colorful chaise longues (with matching umbrellas), turquoise water and bronzed beauties playing Kadima paddle ball. For 16 euros you get the chaise longue, umbrella and use of the changing cabin. Pellegrino, focaccia and salty air never tasted so jet set, especially after all that hiking.
While there are no regularly scheduled direct flights between Genoa and the United States, Delta Air Lines offers direct service between Kennedy Airport in New York and Pisa. It may be easier to fly to Milan's Malpensa airport and then drive three hours to reach the Cinque Terre.
Leave your car at the Autosilos garage, at the tip of Riomaggiore, and retrieve it at the end of your trip (40 euros for two days). Driving is not permitted within the villages. Shuttle around by foot, by train (one-day pass for 5 euros) or by ferry (except to and from the port-less Corniglia).
Lodging is scarce in Manarola, so book early to snag one of the 10 rooms at Ca' d'Andrean (Via Discovolo, 101; 39-0187-920-040; www.cadandrean.it), a charming hotel converted from an old oil press and wine cellar. The lemon-tree garden and cozy fireplace lounge are nice bonuses. Doubles start at 92 euros.
Expect a wider range of hotels in Monterosso al Mare. Avoid the well-worn warhorses and opt for the sharp new Hotel Margherita (Via Roma, 72; 39-0187-808-002, www.hotelmonterosso.it), the closest thing to a boutique hotel in the area. The 25 rooms have plasma-screen TVs, cosmopolitan mini-bars and luxurious bathrooms. Rates begin at 90 euros.
There are few ATMs and many places don't accept credit cards, so take cash.
Correction: August 19, 2007
The 36 Hours column on Aug. 5 about Cinque Terre, a coastal region in
The 36 Hours column on Aug. 5 about Cinque Terre, a coastal region in