horz line

Like Old Times

photo, sandwiches, limosin, bayonne

Paris–type limosine sandwiches.

A Cure for Jet–Lag

Paris:– Saturday, 30. October:– Nigel, my partner in crime from the '60s, flew in yesterday from Washington, DC, and Sydney. I thought he was coming via India or some other place over there, but he seems incapable of getting here without a touchdown in Washington.

After getting himself installed in the Mistral around the corner, and letting me sleep off Thursday's club report, he showed up for a café and seemed mildly irritated at the lack of milk. I would keep some in the house, but it might go off between his annual visits.

He was also irritated to get instant café. I didn't think it was as bad as some ditchwater I've had, but I had to agree with him. Nobody comes from the other side of the world for instant café.photo, building without perspective, raspail

So we went to the Monoprix where I found some Italian stuff on sale, plus some other stuff to eat. We forgot to get milk though, and my plastic bags were heavy enough anyway. It was nice to have something to look at in the frigo again.

Then we went out because the sun was shining, lighting up the leaves in the cemetery across the street, which we passed through to get to Montparnasse central, by way of the Boulevard Raspail.

A Monparnasse building with strange perspective.

Because of substandard airline food we stopped in a sandwich joint for some carbs, before strolling down towards the Luxembourg. The garden attracts me like a magnet these days, especially when I am weak after a Thursday club meeting.

There is nothing special about the place except for the fellows playing boules and all the kids playing on a school holiday, and the other fellows playing chess, and all the other diverse people sitting around like they were in their fresh air and sunshine–splashed living room.

Like along the wall of the Orangerie, where the sun worshipers are basking. Some of the tanned Parisians you see in fall or winter haven't been in Tunisia or up in the Alps – they've come back from trips to the Luxembourg. How fine it is!

We checked out the photos of China that are hanging on the park's grille along the Rue de Médicis. This is one of the best places to see an exhibition because it is outside and the sidewalk is wide. In the afternoon the sun bangs through the grille so you might have to squint a bit, but free is free.

Later on, moving south, I couldn't resist taking another photo of the Marco Polo fountain's turtles shooting jets of water on the green horses. Working fountains are much more thrilling than crusty old dead waterless fountains.

After stopping in a café for a café we took a look in the Old Times shop in the Rue Campagne–Première. I had to show Nigel the jukebox with the 78s in it. The Joe who runs the place was in good form, ranting and raving, like he does in the afternoons. It's a pretty exciting experience, exactly the kind of thing Nigel appreciates about Paris.

All of this walking and excitement tired us out. We took a pause before returning to the life in the Ruephoto, thistles, luxembourg garden Daguerre, which we did in the Bouquet, where it is still shout–night. We had a chance to be glum for about four minutes until Uncle Den–Den miraculously appeared, almost right off the plane from San Francisco.

This brought our jet–lagged people total up to two. "We need to eat!" Dennis said. "The Italian or the Rendez–Vous?" We opted for the closest, but not the best. They treat us equally good in either place though.

Cultivated thistles in the Luxembourg garden.

For two hours we played with food and drink and talked loudly while the waiters paid attention to our every need. When the two had a duet of 'Drunken Sailor' nobody made any untoward remarks. The jet–laggers topped it off with huge balloons of cognac – strictly for the medicinal purpose of sleeping through the dreaded post–flight 03:00 wakeup.

On the way back – in the direction of the Bouquet – who should we meet but the author of 'Drunken Sailor' in person, with Elizabeth. They had just left the Friday night feed at the Bouquet, but readily agreed to about–face. Open it still was and ready to serve more balloons of cognac to the twisted flyers. Nobody noticed the extra shouting.

This noon Nigel misses milk in his café again. The morning's overcast is being blown away, according to the forecast, soon. I am astonished to learn that Nigel has never given Montmartre a proper look–over.

And he has never noticed the Rue de la Gaîté either. It is our own bit of Pigalle in Montparnasse, but classier with all of its theatres, and even a couple of bookshops. Well, maybe only one.

At Edgar Quinet the band is playing for the folks on the terrace of the Odessa. This is the same band, sounding much more in a good groove, now that the guy it was named after, is playing elsewhere. I don't know the band's new name, but Jonathan is still wearing the odd little hat with mirrors. It makes me ask him if he is a Mason. I think he says 'no' just before the next downbeat and then they are off again.

So are we, down Odessa to the Métro,photo, nigel, dragon photo expo and the long underground haul to Lamarck–Caulaincourt. This is a deep Métro station with an elevator. It's a fake elevator that doesn't move – it just transfers riders to another fake elevator up at the top, and out you step.

He came halfway around the world to see Chinese photos in Paris.

It's a good introduction to Montmartre, about halfway up the north slope. Since it is Toussaint weekend, we glance in the Saint–Vincent cemetery, and then we climb up the Rue des Saules to check on the cabaret and the vineyard, which looks pretty mellow.

There are a lot of other Toussaint celebrants around. We almost need an entry ticket in order to go up the Rue des Saules. Clots of gawkers are standing around catching their breaths, taking in the pink café.

There's fewer in the Rue Cortot, by the Musée de Montmartre, but more deciding whether it's worth it to go downhill up at the Rue du Mont Cenis. It has a big view to the north, but the only way not downhill is back to the mess of the Place du Tertre.

The holiday and the bright weather have brought out crowds about as thick as on 13. July. Taxis are lurking all over the place and one of the Disney trains chugs through every five minutes, carrying more of the breathless.

I gather my courage and lead Nigel through the Place du Tertre to the lookout from the top of the Rue du Calvaire. From it we pass the Dali place and come out at the Rue Norvins again and we go up it so Montmartre newbie Nigel can see the view of the Consulat, mobs of people, hearses, taxis, more trains, buses.

And then like a passing cloud, most disappear and it looks like a near–normal Saturday. A bit of the way down the Rue Lepic Nigel sees his first Montmartre windmill. We slip down an alley and come out – by luck, by chance – right at the place with the Bateau Lavoir.

We think about Picasso and his merry band of copains hanging out here and in the bars and cafés all around. To add a bit a lateral depth to our tour, we move along the lightly–peopled Rue des Trois Frères to Yvonne Le Tac, which we follow back to Abbesses where we find thick crowds again.

Continuing west until we turn left down the Rue Lepic, we first stop to observe the antics of some Serbian gypsies who are brassily tooting some Russian ditties for a small audience. It is Nigel who says they are Serbians. To me they are too short to be Serbians.

We do not go into Amelie's café. Nigel saw the whole movie, and I've been in the café both before andphoto, skyline montmartre after it. We slide down to the Place Blanche and cross to the middle, to get a good look at the Moulin Rouge with a background of very blue sky.

Montmartre skyline near the Bateau Lavoir.

Further along towards Clichy a lady hands me a brochure. She is a saint's lady, so I discuss Toussaint with her and she is very surprised to find out that I know the names of last Thursday's saints. I use the opportunity to ask if she knows why so many lady saints who started out in France ended up martyred in a Syrian desert long before there were any Club Med places there.

She does not have a ready answer. She begins to look sorry that she gave me a brochure about why Halloween is a 'bad thing,' about death and witches, and not pro–life like the church. I wish her a happy Toussaint when we part.

After being lost in the Rue de Clichy we get on the Rue d'Amsterdam, where most of the old cafés are closed or disappeared. At the Place de Budapest one has been converted into a upscale joint, but its café is okay.

Then we battle against an army of shoppers on the sidewalk down to the Gare Saint–Lazare, and find the Métro fairly easily for the ride back to Montparnasse.

Nigel falls asleep while getting ready for another round at the Bouquet, and we get there when they are putting the chairs on the bar and sweeping out the day's 50 kilos of trash. Unperturbed, Uncle Den–Den is sharing a pot of wine with Laurel Avery.

Matt Rose comes in and he is angry. He doesn't want to know how it became impossible for us to go to his first public reading of 'Plan B' on Friday evening. He tells us about the five litres of wine nobody drank. He doesn't invite us to his place to drink it.

We can't go anyway because we are waiting for Dimitri, and pretty soon we are waiting outside the Bouquet, with its doors locked and its lights off. Matt grumbles some more, swears to get revenge, and goes home to look at his wine collection and plan his next artistic coup. We will have to go next time or he will become impossible.

When Dimitri arrives nobody wants to go to the Rendez–Vous so we go to the Italian instead. We get a great round table and we have lots of room for our elbows. Dennis orders some Italian wine he fancies, and we all order Italian food we fancy.

We are treated like the kings of Naples. We learn that the waiter is from Mexico City. We learn that the wine Uncle Den–Den fancied – he drank the last bottle. The patron says he passed on a chance to re–order a six–pack only last week and realizes the mistake he made. The substitute is barely acceptable, a weak sister.

Jet–lag of various forms kicks in. Nobody wants a balloon of cognac, café or dessert. The Mexican comes over and says everybody has to have a grappa. Laurel wants something more civilized. Uncle Den–Den never refuses a free grappa. Nigel passes. Dimitri accepts one.

Out on the street in front of the police station, nobody feels like shouting any more. All have the droops.photo, seine, grand palais Twenty–four hours of jet–lag is a lot to celebrate, especially for those who haven't been flying. We drift apart under the street lights.

Nigel makes two visits to the Grand Palais in two days.

Until Tuesday. All this fighting against jet–lag in public has its limits. By Tuesday all will be in fine trim to climb up Uncle Den–Den's five flights of stairs. Somebody should call Matt and ask him to bring his five litres of wine, and maybe a copy of his 'Plan B' so we can find out what it's all about.

Somehow, I think there will be some new rounds of 'Drunken Sailor.' The only thing likely to be missing will be the lady who sings the Maori sailor songs. We will miss her.

horz line
Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini