vendredi, novembre 24, 2006

CarlaVisit Day 3: Luis buys a suit and Le Mans

The cold was in full force by that morning, so we stopped by a pharmacy to get some decongestants and vitamin C. Then, we headed off to Patisserie Millet (of "best croissant in Paris" fame) to have a coffee-and-croissant-enhanced breakfast. I took some of that cold medicine, which had the highest over-the-counter dosage of pseudoephedrine my sister had ever seen. By the time we were leaving the patisserie, I could already feel the effects: my nose was almost painfully dry and I was more than a little bit jumpy. We had also bought me one of those spray-decongestants for "instant relief", but the stuff was AWFUL. They actually put menthol in the spray! Can you imagine what it feels like to spray menthol up your nose? I'm surprised I didn't just hemorrhage all over my breakfast.

Anyway, we headed off from there towards the Montparnasse train station. We were visiting some friends of the family in Le Mans (they had taken me in nearly 10 years ago when my exchange partner in there went ballistic) and we had a train at 14h30 from that station. However, I also needed to buy a suit. You see, I had been successful in making a reservation at über-restaurant Taillevent for next Monday, and this was definitely a jacket-and-tie place. Of course, when I flew to Paris, I didn't pack all of my suits or other heavy formal stuff.

So off we went to TATI, which is apparently the French version of Walmart of Dress Barn or something like that (it's not even classy enough to be a Target). While it may be an unadorned mess of bargain-basement products, it is truly European in that it offers decent knockoffs of Armani suits from 29€. Within a few seconds of finding the suit section, I had already found a nice slate-grey pinstripe suit. I tried on a few sizes, asked about alterations, and then headed to the cashier. On the way out of the mall (yes, it was in a mall), we stopped by a slightly higher-end menswear store to pick up a couple of nice shirts and discovered that they also offer alteration services (retouche). Well, that took care of everything, then. We wrapped up the sale, left my suit to be tailored, and then headed off for lunch.

We didn't have much time before our train, so we grabbed lunch in the restaurant at the station. The food was surprisingly good, although the service was slow considering that it was a train station restaurant. Nonetheless, the meal was pretty filling, which he later regretted when we saw the dinner our hosts had prepared for us...

After paying for the bill, we zipped off to our train (we had only a few minutes left) and hauled-ass into our seats. The train was full, so we had to sit a few seats away from each other, but it all worked out. Unfortunately, I was in one of those accursed "square" seating areas (i.e., 4 seats facing each other), which meant that the rather tall man across from me kept playing involuntary footsie with me. Mercifully, the ride was only an hour long.

One of our hosts—let's call him S.—met us at the train station will his usual warm cheer. By then, I really had to pee, but the washrooms were on the other side of the train station, in an area with a lot of construction, so we just headed out, with a promise from S. that we would find a washroom or a secluded corner on the way. As we loaded into his car, he said that he knew of an abbey nearby that sang mass in plainchant (i.e., "Gregorian" chant) and had wonderful architecture and gardens. It was only halfway there that we realized that this was the same abbey (Solesmes) that I had visited with the student group a month ago. Anyway, Carla hadn't seen the place yet and I was always happy to check it out again, so we continued and eventually found the place.

Once we got there, I finally found a washroom and peed like there was no tomorrow. We wandered around the little gift shop in the front of the abbey (of course they have a gift shop!), checked out the property, and then attended their vespers service (if you're Anglican, think "evensong"). The ritual/performance was great, nowhere near as slow and equal-length as they have been reputed (there is a "Solesmes" style of Gregorian chant that presumes all notes are of equal length). Also, their chapel was beautiful and very interesting in its decor.

After the ceremony, it was getting on time for dinner, so we bought some bread at a nearby boulangerie and then headed back towards Le Mans. By the time we got there, S.'s wife, N., had prepared an unbelievable spread. She prepared a seafood choucroute, which managed to beat out a similar dish I ate at Bofinger at the beginning of my stay in Paris. We also had something delicious for dessert, but I had drunk a fair bit of whiskey and wine by then, which, combined with my cold medicine, made me unfit to drive my body, let alone a car. After the standard good-night kisses, we each went and crashed out in our respective rooms. (I was on the fold-out couch.)

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