samedi, novembre 25, 2006

CarlaVisit Day 4: More Le Mans and Jazz in Paris

S. and N. were too nice to wake us up that morning, so we both slept in until at least 10am. I finally got myself together and say my good mornings, only to see N. in the process of making a tarte au chocolat (somehwere between a chocolate cake and a brownie). Carla and I drank some coffee, we each had a little bit of yogurt, and then we headed out with S. to the local farmers' market to accompany him on his weekly grocery run.

For a town the size of Le Mans, the market seemed enormous. There were at least two if not more vendors for each specialty, and pretty much every specialty was there. After picking up the necessary fresh veggies, S. showed us around the other vendors tables and pointed out some of the local or unusual produce. We got home to find out that we still needed bread, so we headed back out for bread and also stopped at a butcher to pick up some rillettes.

Lunch, as per usual with N., was amazing. We had a pintade (a.k.a., guinea fowl) prepared in a thick sauce of apples, raisins, cinnamon and some other lovely stuff. Amazingly delicious and very delicately prepared. For dessert (after a rousing cheese course) we had the tarte au chocolat. Now stuffed to the gills, we piled into the car and headed to another, closer abbey (l'abbaye d'Epaux) to wander through the buildings and the grounds. With a bit of time left to us, N. and S. also took us on a quick tour of the racetrack grounds for the 24 heures du Mans (the famous yearly 24-hour car race in Le Mans). Finally, we zipped home, picked up our bags, and then headed over to the train station to catch our train back to Paris.

But the day wasn't over. One of my U of C professors was in town, accompanying her partner on her European tour. Her partner is a jazz pianist and vocalist, playing two nights in Paris at the New Morning as part of her tour. My prof had reserved two comps (complimentary seats) for us at the Saturday show; we arrived at Montparnasse at 18h30 and the show was at 21h00, so we had some time (we thought). It took us nearly an hour to get home by transit (to get from the train quays in Montparnasse to the métro ligne 4 requires nearly 1.5km of walking through tunnels). Once we got back to the residences, I was greeted with the news that none of the 3 WiFi networks were working. While Carla showered and changed, I forwent my shower and started working on the various wireless routers. Of course they would choose tonight to be finicky; and I couldn't just leave it till tomorrow, because the students had papers to submit by Sunday morning (nobody had told me about this, either). Ug.

By the time I have everything in reasonable order, we have a little less than 30 minutes to get there. By some miracle, we cross the threshold at New Morning at 21h03, but I still felt horrible, since I had said that we would show up early to claim our seats. My prof had indicated that they would be holding seats for us, so I felt even more horrible, thinking that she had been sitting alone at the front, trying to save seats for us against an aggressive crowd. There were tons of people there. Not only was every seat in the house taken, there were people sitting in the aisles and standing around the bar. Carla and I made a few futile attempts to maneuver around the room to find my prof, but to no avail. We waited until the end of the first set, and then took advantage of the flow of people in to the bar to find my prof, who had come out to look for us as well. After a warm greeting amidst a torrent of bodies, she told us that she and her partner's niece had been sitting at the artists' table behind the bar.

We headed back there and took a seat. I have to admit that there was something amusing and very fun about having a "private" table behind the bar and even elevated a couple of feet for a better view of the stage. We enjoyed the rest of the show from there and even got to meet the owner of the club, a grande dame if there ever was one, who was gracious enough to order us a round of drinks. At the end of the show, we hung out for a minute while the crowd filed out and then met my prof's partner at the stage door for a round of thanks and compliments. As we were heading out, we overheard a middle-aged man with an American accent say the following to a pair of young girls:

"Essentially, I see music as the relation between the Artist and the audience..."

I don't know what was more annoying, his hipster wanking or the fact that the two girls were eating it up with a spoon. Either way, I was amused with how the rest of us all overheard the same phrase and had similar reactions to it. "Yeah, I never heard that line before." *eyeroll*

Carla and I stumbled onto the street at 0h30 in the morning and found ourselves completely famished. We started walking down Faubourg Saint-Denis, hoping to find a some cheap restaurant or brasserie that was still open, and stumbled across, Julien. As a brasserie, they were open till 2am, so we happily sauntered in for a late dinner. The place was hopping, and one look at the interior would explain why. The brasserie dates back from 1903, and the interior is a well-preserved monument to Art Nouveau. The walls all have complex biomorphic scrollwork and moldings, alternating with glass and painted-glass artwork. The ceilings were topped with stained-glass and everywhere there was wood. Although we didn't want to seem too conspicuous, we managed to steal a few images:

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Of course, I totally suggest that you go to the website of the managing company, FLO Brasseries, and click on the link to Julien and check out the "l'endroit du décor" link. Either way, we also soon discovered that the food was very good. I had a plate of oysters as an appetizer, while Carla had something that involved cheese and pastry dough (for the life of me, I can't remember the exact ingredients). Carla had a Chateaubriand steak with fries (the steack et frites staple at brasseries) and, believe it or not, I can't remember what I ate (I'm writing this a week later, mind you). I think I had a duck plate, but I could be wrong. Either way, the food was delicious and the ambiance was perfect (if a bit smoky).

We wandered out around 2am and started looking for a taxi, not realizing that it was 2am on a Saturday night and everybody was looking for a taxi. Aw crap. We walked towards République, thinking that we might find more taxis there. As we walked, we passed taxi stands full of people waiting and fighting with each other for taxis. When we got to République, we realized that going there was a bad idea, because everybody else was there, too, looking for a !@#$ing taxi. From there, we started walking in the general direction of home, too desperate to wait for a free taxi at République. By the time that we were halfway to Belleville (i.e. 1/4-way home), we saw a line of taxis heading towards République. The first two passed us without stopping, but the third had to wait at the light, so we jumped in. I wasn't sure why the first two taxis wouldn't stop for us (we were pretty well dressed, and the neighborhood wasn't particularly bad), and our taxi driver wasn't exactly enthusiastic either, but he took us home and that's all we wanted.

Either way, we fell into bed at around 4am.

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