samedi, juin 02, 2007

Carla&Friends and Moving and Birthdays and Le Rex

Today doesn't entirely count as a Carla&Friends day, as they were already at the airport in a hotel last night. I got a text message from Carla saying that they were on the plane that morning, and off they went.

On the other hand, I had volunteered to help a friend, S., move into his new apartment, so I got up around noon (I had been out last night), and texted S. By the time we got in contact, it was 13h00 or 14h00, and S. was arriving at his new place with a truck full of stuff. I hopped on the subway and headed over, and saw that he had enlisted the help of a big group of people. There was maybe 15 friends helping to lift things and get things into the apartment. This is a good thing, considering that he was on the 6ème étage (7th floor by American standards), and there were no elevators. We distributed ourselves along the stairwell and created a chain, passing items up the stairs. For most of the items in their apartment, this worked really well and saved everyone a lot of strain.

However, there were two exceptions: the fridge and the washing machine. The fridge took three of us maneouvering carefully up a stairway that had been designed before the advent of large appliances, walking all the way up the six flights of stairs (there was no point in "passing" this thing off along a chain). A friend of S. and I spent a good while wedging the fridge between the kitchen sink and the wall, only to discover later that they wanted it somewhere else. The washing machine was even less fun; although it was smaller in dimensions, it was quite heavy. Three of us tried to carry it up on a handtruck, which worked for a couple of flights. At one point, the machine slipped off the hand truck, banged against the wall, and started spilling water from one of the hoses. At that point, we cleaned up the water and continued with two people carrying it by hand. It was tiresome, but eventually they got it up there.

After that, we set up their couches and then sat down for a moment. Everybody suddenly realized that nobody had been charged with the task of bringing beer, so we quickly started planning what to do next. A few people were going home to shower and change and then come back for an apéro that afternoon. There was Loco Dice spinning at the Rex that night, so the plan was to continue to Le Rex later. I decided to head home and clean up and rejoin them for the apéro a bit later that evening.

However, on the way home, I was reminded by a text message that in fact my friends from Nantes were in town tonight for a birthday party, along with an old friend from my high-school exchange days, so went home and prepared to go out and meet them. After a couple of hours of work at home and trying to catch up on blogging (still several days behind), I headed off to La Flèche d'Or to meet the birthday party. La Flèche d'Or was apparently an old station of some sort, which has been converted into a rock concert hall / bar and hipster nightclub. Apparently, the way it works is that they have a lineup of live acts during the first part of the night, and then by midnight they transition to a couple of DJs, who seem to be doing less of the beatmatched rave-style set, and more of the pop-rock song-after-song set (although mostly nostalgic electro tracks).

Anyway, after taking the long way around to get there (I got a bit lost), I finally showed up and started looking for my friends. The place was packed and there were multiple rooms, so I was having trouble finding them. I poked my head into one room and a young woman came up to me and shoved me back out, saying "The restaurant is full, sir." I tried to explain that I was looking for someone, but she was having none of it. I called one of my friends on her cell phone, and--go figure--they were in the restaurant. Thankfully, my friend came to find me at the door to the restaurant section, so I was allowed to enter.

It was really great to see some familiar faces from the Le Mans days, although I think we were all a bit freaked out when we realized that that was nearly 11 years ago. I am so fucking old. Anyway, we hung out, guzzled drinks, talked politics, and giggled at a television screen mounted on the restaurant wall that gave us a view of the stage and night vision. During one conversation on politics, I got the following question: "What's your solution for Canada's aboriginal issues?" Well, that's sort of like asking a French person what they're going to do with all the undocumented immigrants in France. That's probably what I should've asked him in return, but instead I just went with, "Um, there's no clear solution, but I suppose a lot of it will involve a dialectic of heritage conservation and cultural integration." (This is a more articulate paraphrase of what was actually 5 minutes of "Umm...err...well...maybe..."

Anyway, I head a great time and at around 1h00 we all started making our move. My friends were heading home to crash, and I headed out to catch the subway toward Le Rex, to meet S. and the rest of the moving party.

By the time I got to Le Rex, it was probably 1h30 and the lineup was of moderate length. It was moving fast, though, so I got in a few minutes later, checked my coat, and then headed off to find the rest of the crew. I hadn't brought my camera this time (since I had heard last night from a bouncer that cameras were banned in the club), so I don't have any audio or video evidence of my night out, nor am I structuring this post in my usual hour-by-hour format. That being said, I saw plenty of people using their cameras throughout the night, so I think next time I'll bring my camera anyway. What I really need is a high-quality camera phone....

So I found S. and D. and the moving party hanging out in a corner on the right hand side of the room. It appears that they had pooled their money for bottle service, as a bunch of the group were seated around a table, with a bottle of vodka and some mixers. I greeted everyone from this afternoon's move, gave S. a little housewarming present, and grabbed a drink. A little while later, Fantômette and Nathan showed up, and I chatted with them for a while. Apparently, they had been spinning at another party earlier that night, and they had run into someone I knew.

As the resident DJ, D'Julz, concluded his set and the headliner Loco Dice came on (seen previously on this blog here), Fantômette was eager to get to the front of the room to watch him spin. Loco Dice's set started off rather unexciting, but got better after a few minutes. His set had less of a housey feel as the last time I saw him, and he also tended to stick more to a big-room-techno or progressive sound rather than a minimal one. So not my usual cup of tea, but I had a good time. Also, Loco dice has this adorable tattoo of a treble clef on his right forearm. So music-geeky; I love it.

The fan-boys REALLY loved Loco Dice, and would crowd around the DJ booth in a buzzing mass of homoerotic desire and scream his name in the hopes that he would look up from his turntables and grace them with a smile. Among the fan boys, one young woman came up to the booth and tried to get his attention, similarly with little luck. I think she had noticed that some of the guys were typing messages on their cell phones and then holding them up for Loco Dice's approval, so she stood in front of the booth, with her back to him, held up her camera, and tried to take a picture of both her and Loco Dice in the same frame. Then, she would try to show the picture to him while pouting (presumably because the picture didn't come out). Whatever the reason, he paid her absolutely no attention. She tried this one or two more times, then walked off rather miffed. Girls aren't as used to rejection as guys, methinks.

Tonight was also THE night for homoerotic displays between presumably straight guys. As you might recall if you've been reading this blog much, I've noted this phenomenon several times already in Paris. Tonight, at least three separate groups of guys were going at this at one point or another. They would fondle each other, dance against each other (front-to-front or front-to-back), simulate sex, and generally perform same-sex desire while making sure that the girls around them get a good luck. As I've said before, it's like Girls Gone Wild in reverse.

I saw one particularly intense performance between two guys (I presume good friends), where one was seated at a table with the rest of the group, and the other was standing next to him. The standing one was gyrating his hips, and his seated friend had one arm wrapped around his leg, with his hand planted very far up between his thighs. He essentially gave his friend a nut-rub from behind, and at the same time leaned in and mimed performing oral sex on him. His friend grabbed his head and ground it into his crotch, all the while smiling and looking at the rest of the group. I pointed this out to my friend S., who chuckled and said, "Yeah, I think that phenomenon is pretty particular to Paris." Hmmm, interesting.

Anyway, the moving crew dispersed during Loco Dice's set, and I was only really able to keep tabs on Fantômette and one of her friends, S. and D. and later Nathan. By about 5h30 I began to get tired and started heading home. The subway ride back was delightfully uneventful, and I wandered into my boulangerie, bought a pain au chocolat and a baguette, and headed home. I was REALLY looking forward to sleeping in.

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.

jeudi, mai 31, 2007

Carla&Friends Day 13: Seafood at La Brasserie du Dôme

After a day of work and such fun, I headed out of the office to meet Carla and company for dinner. I had stayed late at work, planning to go directly to their apartment and then off to La Brasserie du Dôme with them for our 20h00 dinner reservations. It was pouring rain outside, however, and I had a long way to walk to get to the métro station; things took a lot longer as a result, since I would dash from awning to balcony to awning, waiting for breaks in the rain. While on the métro, I texted Carla and asked them to come meet me in the métro station near their apartment. Of course, what I should've realized was that it was a) rush hour, and b) raining, which meant that the entryway to Saint-Paul station was clogged with buisinesspeople doing their best to wait out the storm. Apparently, I wasn't the only person to have forgotten his/her umbrella at home.

Anyway, after finally meeting up with the girls, we headed off to the restaurant and got settled in. Our dinner was culinarily fantastic, but marred by poor service. Actually, I should specify: the service by the doorperson, the coat check, the maître d'hôtel, and the busboy were all very polite and helpful. However, our primary waiter was jerk. His misheard my order for a pastis and brought out cassis syrup with ice cubes (huh?), and when I pointed out the error, he corrected it without excusing himself. Fine, perhaps he didn't want to admit it was his error, and it's certainly understandable when the room was as noisy as it was, and so I was willing to ignore it.

However, when our main dishes came out and one of our group got the sole rather than the risotto, things got much worse. When we sent the busboy back with the unrequested dish, the waiter appeared shortly after and said very sharply "Madame said 'sole.'" I insisted that I (who was sitting next to her) had heard risotto, and the other three people sitting around her agreed, but he insisted that she had ordered the sole, implying that she was a liar and we were lying to cover her ass. What sort of motivation would she have to lie like that? If she had changed her mind, she would've said so and apologised for the inconvenience; at a restaurant like this, it shouldn't have been a problem.

In contrast to the service, the food was excellent. Carla and I shared an order of frogs legs and decided that we really, really like them. The flesh is like a very very tender chicken, and the preparation was in a bath of melted butter, lemon and roasted garlic, which made for delicious aroma and flavour. Everybody else's dishes were reportedly just as tasty, and my tuna belly with roasted tomatoes and eggplants were perfectly cooked.

Nonetheless, at 40-60€ a plate ($55-85 USD), I expected far better service. There is no shortage of good restaurants in Paris, and I'm not going to hurry back to a restaurant that treats me or my guests like crap. We made a point of giving a cash tip of 20€ (huge by French standards) directly to our very friendly busboy, and nothing to our asshole waiter. I don't know if that will have left a lasting impression, but at least it's likely that the story got around the kitchen.

Nathan's B-day party

So, after all the drama of dinner at La Brasserie du Dôme, I headed home and got changed for a night out. Nathan was celebrating his birthday (which was sometime last week) at this bar that I had never heard of called Yono. It was right in the middle of the gay neighbourhood in the Marais, but down a small alley and through some doors. The space itself was really nice. There was a narrow bar area at the front, and then an alcove of seating in the back to the left, and then an open, loft-like set of stairs down to a basement level, where they had set up some turntables for the event.

Pretty much everyone that knew Nathan was there, which meant that I ran into a lot of people I hadn't seen in two or three months. This was actually really well-timed; I was leaving Paris in a month, and I had a chance to catch up with almost everyone I knew and get their contact information. I also got some very cute pictures of Nathan (see below), and made a few new friends. After doing the rounds and saying hi to everyone, I settled at a table with S. and D. (you may recall them from my time in Berlin, and met some of their friends. One of them was a costume designer that had previously spent 3 years in Indonesia working for a primatologist and was now trying to start a fair-trade garment design business on her own. As you can imagine, we had a lot to talk about. She made a particularly insightful observation at one point about work in creative fields: "It's really tough to work in a manner that's ethically responsible but doesn't pay well. But, on the other hand, I recognize that I have able to make that choice." Indeed, to sacrifice security or privilege implies that you had it in the first place, and not everyone has the choice of devoting their lives to careers that will barely support oneself and bring little back to the family. For me, for example, although I'm probably damning myself to a life of working as an associate professor in some community college for the same pay as a law firm receptionist, my ability to choose that path partially rests on the fact that my family was financially secure enough to not require me to become a doctor, lawyer or businessperson. Many second-generation immigrants like me are marched directly into professional schools by their parents, with no option of doing otherwise.

By 2am, the bar was closing (bars have different hours than clubs here), and they turned off the music and started shooing people out the door. I don't quite know what happened after that, but somehow an argument between two guys at the bar spilled out onto the street. It was interesting to see the grand theatre of masculinity play out. The two guys yelled epithets at each other and tried to approach each other, while friends / companions on either side held them back. They yelled about how eager they were to fight, what body parts they intended to break, and how certain they were to fuck your mother later that night. As is so often the case, it seemed as if both men were interested in performing their willingness to fight without actually starting anything, as they didn't make a very great effort to break past their friends. The clearest example of this was when one guy allowed himself to be pushed by a friend easily half his size down the street and around the corner, effectively finishing the confrontation without any major contact. Who knows why they were fighting in the first place? The important part was that they had both proven themselves MEN, and without having to mess up their hair.

As one of my friends suggested, it would be a lot simpler in these situations if guys just hauled out their cocks and measured them, and then went home.

mercredi, mai 30, 2007

Carla&Friends Day 12: Rain and Apéro

For some strange reason, I can't recall at all what we did during the day. I'm pretty sure that I took the day off and hung around with Carla and one other of the group while the rest of them attended the French Open (Roland-Garros), but I can't recall our precise paths throughout the day. All I remember is that at some point that afternoon, Carla and I split off from the group to have a "small" apéro with two friends from the staff at my residence building.

These were the two people that I worked with for a large part of the year as the mediator between the University of Chicago, and the Résidence Lila. They were always friendly and kind enough to help me find a place for my sister to stay when she visited in November and April, so we took them out for dinner the last time they were in town. In exchange, they offered to organize a "little" apéritif before dinner tonight, although there was nothing small about it.

We met in the new workplace of one of them, which is a new student residence in a rehabilitated shipping building on the banks of the large canal, bassin de la villette, in the 19th arrondissement. Between the two of them, they had brought a sweet and strong white wine that dated from 1971 (seriously!), a large roll of pâté de foie gras, strawberries from their family's garden, some wonderfully stinky cheese, a delicious hazelnut sponge cake (called a creusois, and some macarons from La Durée. As you can imagine, this was practically a meal in itself.

The original plan had been to walk to the parc Buttes-Chaumont, but it was rainy and cold that day, so we just ate in the cafeteria in the residence building. Nonetheless, it was a great time and it was really nice to hang out with them again outside the context of work. As we parted ways, Carla was feeling a bit tired (and tipsy from all that wine), so we headed back to the apartment for a bit.

From there, DJ (who was back from a wedding in the States) invited me out for drinks and pizza at Resto Rigoletto (a little bar/restaurant near Porte des Lilas), where we caught up on the past weekend and enjoyed some delicious pizza. Mine was a mountain of ground beef and vegetables, with a raw egg cracked on top (rather common here). After a long night of commiserating and eating and drinking, we wandered back to our humble abodes and checked out for the night.

mardi, mai 29, 2007

Carla&Friends Day 11: L'Ilot Vache and whimsical racist-kitsch rice bowls

I had to run a video conference at work that afternoon, which kept me bound to work a bit longer than I usually like. Nonetheless, I managed to make a few phone calls and reserve a place for dining tonight and Thursday night. Tonight, it's L'Ilot-Vache, which Carla and I had visited last November. Essentially, it's a cute, beef-centric restaurant with décor that is a mixture of quaint and kitsch, plus floral arrangements that are always gorgeous but nearly lethal in size. For Thursday, we're hitting La Brasserie du Dôme, which Carla and I visited last April, and is apparently known as the best place for seafood in Paris.

We met at the restaurant at 21h00, with Carla sporting one of her new scarves (don't ask her how much she paid for them, but note that one of them is a Kenzo scarf). We headed inside, where we were greeted warmly and sent to a round table near a window, with a HUGE flower arrangement in the centre.

After spending a fair bit of time translating the menu and pondering the wine list, we ordered our dishes. For an appetizer, I had a warm foie gras with fig jam and coarse salt, while Carla and the rest of the group had some salads with various delicious things on top. For the main dishes, one of us had the steak with 3 sauces (béarnaise, roquefort, and green pepper), Carla had the steak with mushrooms, one of us had he lamb, and I had the duck confit (which was AMAZING). Since I knew we weren't going to drink much wine, we went for a half-bottle of something much more expensive (I wish I could remember the precise vintage, but it was a Burgundian red, 1999). It was a fantastic wine, although I felt that I could've gotten similar results with a mid-range Bordeaux. We managed to embarrass ourselves by pouring our water into the wine glasses, which were so oversized as to look proposterous for wine-drinking use.

Anyway, the food was great and dessert was fantastic (I had the coupe normande, with green apple and pear sorbets covered in calvados liqueur), and we enjoyed the attentions of an adorably cheerful waiter. After dinner, we wandered over to Notre-Dame so that part of our group could take some nighttime pictures of the façade. On the way, we passed a store called Pylones (several locations throughout Paris), which had this set of racist-kitsch rice bowls in the front window. This, along with the minstrelsy-inspired "plantation" statues that I see all the time in the dollar store near my house, provide a good example of how differently the boundaries of racial discourse are placed in France (and Europe in general, I think).

Anyway, after getting a few photos of the cathedral, a few photos of the préfecture across the street (while nearly getting accosted by an angry bag-lady), we headed back to Hôtel de Ville on foot, taking a few more pictures of the building itself before disappearing into the métro station.

lundi, mai 28, 2007

Carla&Friends Day 10: Back from Le Mans

This entry will also be pretty short, since we spent the first half of the day in Le Mans. After a delicious and filling lunch at our friends' place in Le Mans, we climbed on our train and headed back to Paris. The rest of the group had kept themselves busy while we had been in Le Mans, so by the time we got back, I just headed off to my apartment to do some work and try to catch up, while Carla rejoined the girls, who opted for a quiet night in.

dimanche, mai 27, 2007

Carla&Friends Day 9: Off to Le Mans

Early in the morning, I got up and packed an overnight bag, and then headed over to Carla's apartment. She was waiting outside, and we promptly walked back to the métro and made our way to Gare Montparnasse. We were going down to Le Mans to visit some friends of the family while the rest of the girls went to Père Lachaise cemetary and some other stuff. Way back when, in my high school years, I had come to Le Mans to do an exchange for a trimester. After some "difficulties" with my exchange partner, I ended up spending the rest of my time there crashing with various friends that I had made at school. I stayed in contact with the last family that took me in; every time I've come to France, I've made the trip down to see them, and nearly every time that my sister been in France with me, we've gone down to Le Mans as well.

Anyway, I'm reluctant to blog in much detail about our time in Le Mans, partially because it's in Le Mans, and this blog is about Luis in Paris, but also because I like these visits to remain private; I don't want to reward their repeated hospitality with a tell-all exposé of their lives. That much being said, Carla and I were welcomed as warmly as always, they took us out to Sainte-Suzanne, a well-preserved medieval fortress city in La Mayenne, where Carla took many, many pictures of beautiful mill-houses and flower gardens, and we were continually fed fantastic, fantastic food. The mother of this family is a culinary hero of mine. She made a tartiflette with a white wine-cheese-cream base that was fantastic and rib-sticking. I have a big bag of potatoes sprouting in my kitchen, so I may give this a try sometime soon.