vendredi, juin 01, 2007

Carla&Friends Day 14: Departures in Stages and Chez Denise

Today was rather non-stop.

After coming home rather late from Nathan's b-day party last night (pictures and blog write-up soon!), I woke up around 11h00 and got ready to receive my sister. Carla and her friends had to leave their apartment a day before their actual flight back to Canada, due to scheduling conflicts with the next group renting the apartment. So, the solution (since they didn't want to cancel the whole reservation) was to book a room in a hotel near the airport for that final night. However, this created a bunch of complications: They needed to have the apartment ready to vacate by 11h00, and they couldn't leave their luggage behind past 15h00, but heading over to the hotel in Roissy-Charles De Gaulle would take about 3-4 hours out of their final day in Paris. What to do?

Well, the solution was complicated, but admittedly pretty smart. At 12h00, Carla and one other friend loaded up a large van-taxi and headed over to my place, while the rest of the group headed off to Musée d'Orsay to make a final dash through the impressionist works. When Carla and her friend arrived at my building, we took a moment to load all their luggage into the luggage room in my building, and then headed off to take a short tour of Lilas. You see, one of Carla's friends (the one who came over on the taxi) will be coming back in two weeks with another friend, and they will be staying at Hotel Paul de Kock (teehee!), which is right in the middle of Lilas. So it made sense to show her where her hotel would be, and how to get around the area. Also, Carla needed to buy an extra piece of luggage (girl likes to shop).

We wandered over to the shopping mall where my local Champion (grocery store) is, and bought a piece of mid-sized rolling luggage from the luggage shop across the hall. From there, we wandered through the main areas of Lilas, and then stopped off at a pizzeria that DJ had shown me a while ago. The place is called Mil' Soleils (I think), and they serve great thin-crust pizzas. After chowing down on pizza (and taking the leftovers in a box with us), we wandered over to where my sister's friend would be staying, and then back toward my place.

From there, my sister and her friend headed off on their own towards Parc de Belleville for a little walk, while I started to get caught up with work. However, this came to an end pretty quickly, as the rest of the group arrived at my place earlier than expected. I ran over to the métro station to meet them, and got them seated in a nearby café for late-afternoon salads, and then sent a text message to Carla. After a little while, Carla caught up with me and the group was re-united. I left them to order their salads, while I ran back to my place to get a bit more done.

By 18h00, it was time to start sending them off to their hotel. The plan was for them to reclaim their luggage from my building and then hail a cab to their hotel, so I met them downstairs, got the storage room opened for them, and then started calling taxi companies. After a long time spent on the phone trying to convince the dispatcher that my street did, in fact, exist, we went outside to wait for the taxi. I had asked for a taxi that would take 4 people and 5 pieces of luggage, but the dispatcher clearly underestimated the size of their luggage, since the taxi that arrived as a small sedan. The driver, of course, angrily proclaimed that their luggage would never fit in his car and it was my fault for failing to make that clear in my phone call. I protested that I had made the space demands clear in my phone call, but he stormed off in a huff and drove away.

Tired and beginning to run late for a dinner date, I called the same taxi company again and tried to be more specific with my request. At first, I tried asking for a "camion," which was the Spanish equivalent for van, but the woman on the other line chided me as if I was a child, saying "We only dispatch taxis, not camions." As if I had asked her for a pizza rather than a taxi. Before she could hang up on me, I explained to her that I had asked for a taxi that could fit four people and 5 suitcases, and the car I got was too small. After a some more crossed signals and more condescension from her, it became clear that what we would call a van in English, the French call a "break" (yes, some nonsensical anglicism). Sure. Fine. Just gimme a fucking "break," please.

While the girls waited for the van to arrive, I ran back upstairs and started getting ready to head out. I had dinner with a former professer from U of Toronto along with her daughter, and I still had to cross Paris to meet them, and then take them over to Chez Denise for 20h00. As I was getting ready to head out the door, I got a text from my sister, telling me that the taxi had picked them up. Relieved that they had successfully found their way onto an appropriate taxi, I headed out the door and off to pick up my prof.

I made surprisingly good time getting to the hotel, so we decided to walk to the restaurant from there. When we arrived at Chez Denise, the younger (and rather cute) waiter saw me from the back and yelled "Hey! It's Monsieur Garcia!" Apparently, I've become a creature of habit. Considering my culinary habits, I don't know if that's a good thing or not.

Anyway, after checking my reservation with the venerable Denise and shaking hands with the wait staff, we were shown to our seats. I convinced the two of them to try the rillettes (another set of converts!), and then my prof and I ordered the haricot mouton / stewed mutton and beans (by far the best dish in my opinion), while her daughter ordered the onglet de boeuf / hanger steak.

The food was as delicious as always, and by the time we stopped eating, I was ready to burst. My prof ordered a little tea as a digestif (we skipped dessert, obviously), and her daughter and I each ordered a bit of alcohol: peach liqueur for her and poire william (pear brandy) for me. We took a moment to sit back and admire the craziness that is the leather pants on Denise's son (along with his mullet and handlebar moustache), and then headed out the door. We helped my prof hail a cab along rue Rivoli, and then her daughter (for simplicity's sake, let's call her M.) and I headed off for a night out. Since it was still FAR too early to do anything clubby (it was only 22h00), we headed over to the Marais for some drinks in the gay neighborhood.

Stopped at a café/bar called Open Café and ordered some drinks. M. wanted to order a martini, but martinis here are just some dry vermouth-like stuff, rather than a mixture of hard alcohols, cooled with ice and filtered. Instead, she opted for the next best thing: vodka on the rocks. The waiter was both surprised and bemused; it's pretty rare that someone orders straight vodka here--even more rare that it be a girl.

We spent some time chatting over our drinks and giggling at the rather cheesy videos playing on the big screen (i.e., muscular athletic men doing the whole "we just decided to spontaneously do sit-ups in our underwear on this football field for no reason" thing). From there, we wandered over to the other end of the gay area and grabbed a beer in a more pub-like place that had an older and less twinky crowd. It kinda reminded me of Bar 501 in Toronto. We sat next to this hilarious wall-sculpture of a male torso without a head or arms or legs. It was like a campy, plastic venus de milo.

Once we were done our beers, it was getting close to 1h00, so we started walking towards the Rex. By the time we got there, the line up was still nowhere to be seen, although a line-up magically formed as we arrived with a few people. This is a common practice in club management. When there isn't a visible lineup outside, create one. It's a powerful and easy to maintain form of advertisement. Anyway, more people gathered behind us, and this seemed to convince the guards to let us through.

The bar wasn't packed and since it was a trance night (not my cup o' tea) we didn't do all that much dancing. Instead, we got drinks from the bar and then picked a good seat and did our share of people-watching. This mostly took the form of snarky comments about people's outfits and/or state of inebriation and/or style of dancing. All in all, it was some good times.

We both ran out of steam around 3am, so I put M. into a taxi and then headed home myself. I tried to catch a taxi, but none of them seemed interested in picking me up, so I headed over to République and caught the next bus home.

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