Wednesday, December 27, 2023

The Blazing Summer in Paris: Meeting Unique People, Food, Drink, and Art.

I looked at the Mona Lisa for the second time in my life, and I had the same thought when I looked at it 22
years ago: What's so special about this painting? There were so many people crowded around her, all wanting to selfie with her. I wasn't that interested. To be honest, the Mona Lisa looked more like a man than a woman to me. And apparently, the Daily Mail also thinks so. Anyways, I think the most beautiful girl at the Louvre is the Mysterious Antea from Naples, featured below.

It was fun to be in the Louvre again. I bought the virtual guided tour, and they give you this Nintendo DS. It's like a Nintendo Game Boy, to use, to navigate through the place. 

I felt like a kid being in the Louvre again. It's so huge, and it feels like a labyrinth. I could only stay for four hours though. Otherwise, I feel too overwhelmed. You can't do the Louvre in one day, and I wasn't coming back on this trip. I was arted out.

I will have to say, I spent a good amount of time studying the golden symmetry and proportions of the art. What you notice about the masters is that they mastered the skill of proportion, which is the same as beauty. I try to design all of my aquariums with the same type of symmetry, but it takes work and time

Paris was hot and sweltering in September. The locals told me it was unusual. When you exited the shower, the sweat stuck to your skin. Passion and excitement were in the air in Paris.

* * * 

Over 20 years ago, I was in Paris. I told myself I would never come back. I was studying my physics, then, in the South of England, and we all took a trip to Paris for three days. I was too poor back then to take a plane ride to Paris; so, we took some ferry across the English channel. A number of us got seasick.

It was raining. The French were mean and told me to go back to my country, because I couldn't speak French. I told myself these were the nastiest people I ever met and was never coming back to France, let alone Paris.

And yet, I gave France another chance back in 2012, when I lectured at the law school in Aix-en-Provence. I'm glad I did. The people were amazing. And I certainly fell in love with the country and people when I was living in the Alps. I learned French then, because no one spoke English there.

I have to say that Hemingway is right that there's no place like Paris, even though they still have some of the most inhospitable people one can find. I think the one thing that Paris does, unlike any other city, is that it brings special people together. The other two things are the art and food.

I sat down at a cafe near the Notre Dame Cathedral, which was still being rebuilt. I spoke French to the waiter. On the left were English people. On my right were Germans. I spoke to the Germans in German. The gentleman was an older man with a mustache. Retired, maybe, or could be. Him and his group push biked from Cologne to Paris. People looked surprise that I could speak in German, French, and English. I was the strangest Asian guy they met. Like I said - Paris brings everyone together.

While I looking at the River Seine, I had a glass of Cote Du Rhone. The English guy on my right was actually a Member of Parliament. That's the equivalent of an American senator. He told me he wanted to become the Prime Minister. He broke his arm a lot for some reason.

We chatted about this and that. I wonder who the German was and what he did. He just told me liked the cheese and potatoes and his beer tasted good.

On another day, I sat at another cafe by a museum. There was an old obese American guy chatting up a 60 year old art expert. The American guy was trying to have a mistress in Paris. She was elegant and spoke English with the coolest French accent. She reminded me of the actress Helen Mirren.

And then on another day, I sat at another cafe and ordered a glass of champagne. The couple on the left were Dutch. So was the guy on my right. I greeted them in Dutch. I know a few words. I had a Dutch boss once. We got along really well.

The Dutch couple on the left, older, told me they took a carriage ride from Amsterdam to Paris with four horses. They dressed up in a proper morning coats and lady outfits. The woman said she waved to everyone coming down to Paris, and she felt like a queen for day.

The waitress was impressed I could order in French. She said my pronunciation was very good. Later a young guy and girl replaced the Dutch older couple. They were locals. And the guy was in love. And the girl was shy. And it was so nice to watch them on a hot summer's day.


I can't say everyone I met was pleasant. We had these two Vietnamese Americans who never traveled before at our hostel. The girl was probably 18-22. The father was 35-40. The girl said she was wild for sex and practiced lots of it. Safely - of course. Did I really want to know that?

They looked more like a couple then parent and child. In fact, they also acted that way. They were selfish and awful and unpleasant.

Well, they were civil enough in the beginning. But they liked to club and make a big raucous when they came back from clubbing, waking everyone up. They had no respect for other people's space, as their stuff was everywhere - like a messy teenager's room.

And they hogged up the fan too. Remember; I told you it was boiling hot. 

The day they left, I almost told them, "I"m so happy you're leaving. Good riddance to bad rubbish." But I controlled myself. But I didn't want to. I wanted to tell them. And badly too.

* * *

I stayed by the main train station, at a hostel called Saint Christopher. There was a young women receptionist by the name of Ruth. She was the sweetest soul. Her smile always brightened my day. She told me her father was Italian and fell in love with her Brazilian mother in the Amazon. She had a European passport and came to Paris to better her French. She always provided great instructions around the city.

Where we were at, the residents were mainly black Africans. They gambled outside, screaming and hooting at wins and losses. I ate at a chicken restaurant there. The food was amazing. The chicken was spicy with an African kick. Tasted like jerk. The Africans told me they were mainly from Cameroon or the Ivory Coast. Like in the United States, I noticed that they were mainly the manual labor in Paris. 

I invited a white guy at the hostel to eat with me there. His name was Patrick. He was scared at first of the different culture. I told him to relax and sit down and eat. He did. He agreed that the food was amazing.

* * *

One night at the hostel, there was a big rugby match against France and New Zealand. The streets were flooded with people. You couldn't find a seat at any nearby bar. 

Patrick replaced the annoying father and son duo. Patrick was from New Zealand. I could tell he didn't travel much. He asked me to go with him to meet Kiwis at the Rugby World Cup. I don't know why, but I wasn't in the mood.

Instead, I walked to a local bar. I sat down by myself with my book - A Moveable Feast. I ordered a glass wine. Cote du Rhone, again. A graceful woman came and introduced herself as Lucy. I don't think I was going to be reading my book. 

We talked. She was an art curator. She practiced her English with me, which was very good, and she knew it. She told me where to eat and what museums to see. Lucy said the best French restaurant was around the corner, but that I needed a reservation. It was always booked.

* * *

The next afternoon, I walked to this restaurant, which was booked. The owner said that there wasn't going to be a space open until next week. I told him I was leaving soon, though, and I had to eat here. I spoke to him in French and asked him to please give me a seat. He took pity on me. He said, "Now then. I'll sit you now."

I said, "Yes." I ordered fried breaded lamb sweetbreads. That's lamb pancreas. I ordered it with red wine and had their creme brûlée. It was excellent. Crispy on the outside and meaty and soft on the inside. It washed down well with the silky wine.

I told the owner that the food was excellent, and I needed to come back. He said he had no space for dinner, but he would make room, just for me. I thanked him again.

Later, towards the evening, I went back to my hostel room and saw Patrick in bed. He said he didn't feel well from the Rugby event yesterday. I felt bad he wasn't seeing much of Paris. I asked if he'd like to walk with me to Montmartre, which is a large hill in Paris, which has a cathedral on top. He agreed. 

So, we took a 40 minute walk through the back streets of Paris. Patrick told me about his life. He was on his overseas experience. He broke up with his partner. They were saving for a house. Now he had money for a trip. He was a surveyor. And living in the United Kingdom.

When we went to Montmartre, it was full of people. People everywhere sitting on the hill, overlooking the City underneath the expansive pink and red and orange sunset sky. Patrick and I went to the cathedral inside, which was exquisite and ornate. I actually liked the cathedral there better than when I visited the Notre Dame.

After spending time there, I asked Patrick if he wanted to eat at the French restaurant I made a reservation at earlier. He said yes, and we walked hurriedly back to the train station area.

The host was fine I had another person there, even though he was booked. We ordered cockles and wine. I had cuttlefish in mustard champagne sauce. It was amazing. Patrick ordered a red meat dish. And Patrick agreed the food was amazing.

I thanked the host again. The waiter was so happy and thrilled and gave me the warmest hug. I hope I could see the two of them again.

After eating, we returned to our room and there was a new guest. He was from Tibet. He told us some a harrowing story. This guy put up a poster of freeing Tibet. The Chinese government found out. They started hunting him down. He hired a coyote and escaped to Nepal. And from there, they forged him a passport to seek asylum in Paris.

He was a very kind person, and I welcomed him to the Western World. He spoke good English. I told him his courage was very impressive and thanked him for telling his story, which I'm retelling to a limited version here.

* * *

And that was it. The next day, I took the train from the central train station to the airport. I just made it to my flight back to Los Angeles. The flight attendant was excellent in finding a lost phone, I dropped between the seats on Air Tahiti Nui.

On the plane, I was processing my entire summer trip of 2023. There were definitely some big themes to it. I think they were, hospitality; North and South (I kept going up and down on this trip); and new people and what they represent.

A friend picked me up at the bus stop near home. I brought him some fried chicken from the African restaurant. And I shared that food with him. And after he ate it and enjoyed it, I realized that the Moveable Feast was over. It'll come again.

* * *

Merry Christmas everyone! And Happy New Year!

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