30 June 2022

L'Arc de Triomphe : les hauts-reliefs (2)

My photos from September 2007. They can be enlarged to display more detail.

« La Paix de 1815 » d'Antoine Etex (left).
« Triomphe de Napoléon » de Jean-Pierre Cortot (right)

29 June 2022

L'Arc de Triomphe : les hauts-reliefs (1)

Here's one of the four large haut-relief statues that are on the front and back of the Arc de Triomphe. The sculptor was an artist named Antoine Etex (1808-1880), and the title of the work is La Résistance de 1814. I took these photos in September 2007 using a Panasonic Lumix TZ3 compact digital camera. I'm posting two full views of the work taken from different angles, and then two details. All of the photos can be enlarged.



P.S. Yesterday I put diesel fuel in the Citroën. At yesterday's exchange rate, it cost me $8.50 per U.S. gallon. So for nine gallons I paid over $76US. And by the way, we got the check back from the disappointing contractor yesterday, after we sent him a check for a thousand euros for the work he actually did out in the garden shed. With the new check I sent a self-addressed stamped envelope for the return of the 18-month-old check he had been holding for all that time. Now we don't have to worry about that check (about $2,000) being deposited and paid.

28 June 2022

L'Arc de Triomphe : une idée de sa grandeur

L'arc de triomphe de l'Étoile, often called just l'Arc de Triomphe stands at the top of the avenue des Champs-Élysees on the place de l'Étoile. The arch is 50 meters (164 ft.) tall. It was ordered built by Napoleon Bonaparte and its construction took 80 years (1806-1836). Napoleon had been defeated at Waterloo in 1815 and ended up in exile. The Cadogan guidebook for Paris says that the arch "is not a tribute to Napoleon, although it certainly would have been had the emperor been around to finish it. The arch commemorates the armies of the Revolution..."

I think the photos above give an idea of the scale of the arch.

P.S. I'm still having a lot of trouble with our internet connection. My posting may be erratic for a few days. Besides, we have house guests arriving tomorrow, and we are really busy making the house ready after two years of confinement. And then yesterday there were reports that Covid19 is surging again in parts of France, most notably in Toulouse and the southwest. Wish us luck.

27 June 2022

L'arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile...

...en trois images. The three images are different crops and zooms of the same photo. I took it on August 26, 2015, from the top of the Tour Montparnasse. My friends Evelyn and Lewis were in Paris at the time I went up to spend a day or two with them. On one day, we had lunch with CHM in a restaurant near his apartment.

26 June 2022

Nouvelle série : l'Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile

I've been to the Arc de Triomphe, at the top of the avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, countless times over the past 52 years. I've been under it, around it, and on top of it. I've seen it up close and from afar. One time I went there and took a lot of photos was in 2007, with CHM. It boggles my mind to think that was 15 years ago. I'm going to do a one-photo-a-day series about it over the next week or two.

On another subject, we're having a lot of trouble with our internet connection right now. It started yesterday morning. When I turned on my computer, it wasn't connected to the internet. I restarted the router and it connected, but then the television froze. I think that's because it too was connected to the internet and it froze when the connnection was interrupted. I had to restart the decoder box by doing a hard reset. This morning it did the same thing. Yesterday afternoon the connection was dropped too. This morning, including right at this moment, the DSL is again dsconnected.

25 June 2022

Summer fruit, chilly weather

Saint-Aignan is in the process of getting a new "downtown" these days. On the south side, outside the old medieval quarter, a new shopping area is being developed. The Super U supermarché out there is being turned into un hypermarché, expanding to twice its former size. A fairly recent addition to the neighborhood is a big produce market called Terre Y Fruits — a name I don't really understand, but a concept I really like. Another big store in the neighborhood is called Cassy's. It's a bread bakery and pastry bakery combined, with a big parking area and both indoor and outdoor seating for people who want to have tea or coffee and a sandwich or sweet pastry.

There are two reasons for so much new development. One is the presence of the Zooparc de Beaval just a few minutes farther south. Annually, hundreds of thousands (maybe a million) visit the zoo to see its white tigers, manatees, exotic birds, and, especially, its giant pandas from China. All those people — whole families, including countless children of course — need places to buy groceries and eat breakfast and lunch. And they need parking, since I'm sure nearly 100% of them arrive by car. There are at least three new hotels nearby, and another one under construction. More and more houses and apartments around the town are being turned into vacation rentals (gîtes ruraux, Air Bnbs, etc.) You should see the miles-long traffic backups across the area on fine weekend days in summer and during school holidays year-round.

I certainly don't like the traffic, but it's not heavy 365 days a year the way it was in the San Francisco Bay Area. But I do like the bread and pastries from Cassy's (made and baked on site, they say) and, especially, the fresh produce at Terre Y Fruits. It seems to be very well managed, with reasonable prices and beautiful fruits and vegetables that seem to be carefully carefully maintained so you seldom see anything in the store that looks like it's past its prime. Above is a photo of some of the priduce I bought there yesterday morning — apricots, plums, cherries, etc. I also got delicious tomatoes and two of the most perfect avocados I've ever seen, along with a big head of local lettuce of a type (salade multifeuilles) I'd never seen before.

Meanwhile, we're having a rainy weekend with high temperatures in the upper 60s in ºF (between 15 and 20 in ºC). It definitely feels chilly. That brief idea about getting some kind of air-conditioning in the house seems like a distant dream. Or nightmare.

24 June 2022

Cars I've owned and still own

I don't think I would ever have believed that I would own two French cars at the same time. But that's what happened back in 2015 when I bought my Citroën C4, and I still have and drive them both. You might have the idea that Citroën only makes or made the 2CV, but the company makes a full range of automobiles of different sizes. In the picture below, the C4 is the grayish-colored car. The car behind it is my pale blue Peugeot 206, which I bought when we first came to live here in 2003.

As for the Citroën [see-tro-'ehn], I was planning to take it in for service about now. The last time it was serviced was a year ago. At the time, its odometer read 100,400 kilometers. Right now, the odometer shows 102,400. That means we've driven it two thousand kilometers (1,200 miles) in 12 months — an average of 100 miles a month. In fact, I've only put 12,000 miles (20,000 kilometres) since I bought it seven years ago. At the end of my career in the SF Bay area, I was driving 100 miles a day just to get to work and back from our house in San Francisco to my job in Silicon Valley.

Above is a picture of my Peugeot 206 that I took this morning. To me it still looks and drives like a new car. I think it's the best car I've ever owned, and certainly the one I've owned the longest (19 years). It has nearly 200,0000 kilometers (120,000 miles) on it. It's almost 22 years old. I put as many kilometers on the Peugeot annually as I put on the Citroën. With fuel prices what they are right now, it's just as well.

Over the course of my life I've owned five new cars: a 1973 Opel, a 1984 Subaru, a 1990 VW Jetta, and two VW Passats (1993 and 1996 models). I've also owned a used 1966 Ford Fairlane and a used 1973 Renault 4L. Only the 1990 Jetta (and possibly the 1973 Renault) was more fun to drive than the Peugeot, which still looks like a new car. Just above is a photo of the other French car I've owned, a Renault 4 that looks like the one I had in Paris in 1981-82. The much larger and more comfortable 2007 Citroën C4 is almost 15 years old already, but you'd never know it. I bought the Peugeot and Citroën, both used, here in Saint-Aignan.

23 June 2022

Domesticated animals

Natasha — Tasha for short — is now five years old. She is a pure-bred Shetland sheepdog and was born near the old town of Chinon in Touraine. About a month before her fifth birthday last February, she suffered a torn ligament in one of her back legs, and we were afraid for a while that she might never recover all of her mobility after orthopedic surgery. The good news is that she's doing very well, has lost weight, and walks normally. We still keep her partially confined and take her on walks only on a leash to prevent her from running and jumping too much.

Bertie the black cat turned 16 in May. He's been living here for 12 of those years. He's half Siamese, we think, and an accomplished hunter. He's missing a couple of fangs and has had various injuries over the years, but he seems to be in good health, basically. Of him, his vet says in French: Il est cool. He spends more and more time in the house these days, and less time outdoors prowling — especially at night, when we usually are able to shut him in. Bertie was born here in the Saint-Aignan area, and his first family was made up of himself, a small dog and two British friends of ours. They left him with us when they moved back to the United Kingdom in 2010.

Tasha and Bertie get along swimmingly. They eat together, drink out of the water bowl together, sometimes take naps together, and generally just hang out together peacefully. It's a nice situation, and a nice atmosphere. In the first photo above, Tasha is watching Walt intently to see if he might be ready to give her her lunch. The the second photo, I said her name and she immediately turned her head toward me to see what I was up to.

22 June 2022

A hoopoe on a wire

A morning or two ago, I walked into the kitchen and looked out the front window. What I saw was a bird on a wire — it was a hoopoe, a bird we hadn't seen for a few years. It's called une huppe fasciée in French, and it is a summertime visitor from Africa, I believe. These are not the best photos I've ever taken, but I think they are worth posting. What happened was that, in my hurry to take a picture, I grabbed the wrong camera — not the one with the longer zoom.

The first time I ever saw a hoopoe was in 2008 on the île d'Oléron, just off the French Atlantic coast not far north of Bordeaux. I wrote about it here (two linked posts). We knew there were hoopoes around the vineyard this year because we've been hearing their distinctive poo-opp-poo call in the distance. I didn't expect to see one so close to the house.

P.S. France has been experiencing a large number of hailstorms this month. Hailstones the size of ping-pong balls or even tennis balls have fallen all around Saint-Aignan, —  as close as 10 miles north in the town of Contres. We have been spared. We got more than an inch of rain over the past two or three days, but no hail.

21 June 2022

Salad Days

I know that "salad days" has another meaning, but for me today it means that we've been eating almost nothing but salads (with ice cream as dessert) for at least a week now. Here are a couple of examples.

This is a salad that Walt makes every summer when we have an abundance of tomatoes and zucchinis. It's sort of based on what in French is called taboulé, a Lebanese salad. The ingredients are diced raw zucchini, diced raw tomato, corn kernels, chopped shallot, chopped mint, and cooked bulgur wheat, etc. The dressing is white wine vinegar and olive oil. You can use cucumber instead of zucchini, or steamed couscous instead of bulgur.

And this is a mushroom salad that I remember being served often in Paris cafés and restaurants as part of an assiette de crudités. It's thinly sliced raw button mushrooms (champignons de Paris) dressed with a  mixture of white wine vinegar, a little Dijon mustard, and vegetable oil (olive oil if you want). It's good with a lot of chopped fresh herbs — parsley, celery leaves, basil, etc. It's served cold after the mushrooms have had a chance to absorb some of the dressing and "cook" in it.

20 June 2022

Much ado about everything

I really like these mornings when you wake up to a warm, still house, with a good amount of humidity in the air, and then you open all the windows and doors to let cool morning air in. When I got up at five, I asked Walt if any rain had fallen overnight. He answered, you didn't hear that storm? It lasted two or three hours. Was there loud thunder and close lightning? Yes. Well, I slept right through it. I didn't hear a thing. I think I was really exhausted after not being able the sleep in my own bed since last Monday night.

An early morning view from the front deck

The 18-hour over-nighter in the ER at Romo was not exactly restful. Then I spent a few nights sleeping on our guest bed, just wrapped in a sheet. It's not an uncomfortable bed, but it's not the one I'm used to. And the heat! I'm not somebody who enjoys hot weather. And I'm not much bothered by cold weather. We keep the house at 18.5ºC (about 65ºF) during heating season and I find that comfortable. It's a lot hotter than that in here now, even with all the windows and doors open. So last night I really crashed. I'm happy to have done so.

19 June 2022

ER memories

For whatever reason, but thanks be to the gods, the itchy heat rash that I had on my legs and arms over the past few days, is gone! It's like a miracle. The weather is still hot, and now it's humid. We had thunder and lightning that woke me up at about four this morning. I had to go around and close windows, especially up in the loft. I again had slept in the guest room downstairs, where it is cooler. At first I couldn't find Walt anywhere, but when I turned on a light in the living room there he was sleeping on the couch. I told him to go sleep where I had been sleeping, on the guest bed, so that I could make some coffee and turn on the TV to see the morning news. I haven't been sleeping in the guest bed, but on it, wrapped (or not) in a king-size sheet, depending on how hot I felt. I've actually been sleeping pretty well.

There was no news yesterday from the tile contractor. I guess I don't expect any, unless he sends us a bill for the garden shed work. We're glad the shed has been shored up and maybe now it won't fall down. The cracks in the walls don't matter, since we've never seen evidence of any water inside the shed after it has rained. Maybe we'll get some cement and patch the cracks ourselves, just for esthetic reasons.

I keep thinking about that emergency room at the hospital in Romorantin. The space where I spent about 18 hours on a gurney was not exactly a room. It was kind of a passageway with a door on each end, and a sink, a wall of shelves, and quite a few cabinets on one side. There was a lot of traffic through the space. When I first got there, there was a man on a gurney on the far side of the room from me. He basically slept, snoring loudly, all the time. And then a woman was brought in. My bed was pushed back to make room, and portable screens were set up to give each of us a modicum of privacy. The woman who was brought in had suffered a very bad fall at home, I gathered, eavesdropping shamelessly. I had nothing else to do. She screamed in pain every time she moved or one of the nurses tried to move her. She pleaded with the nurses — aidez-moi, aidez-moi — in a weak and squeaky voice. I could only imagine how old she was and what she looked like.

Then three young gendarmes came into the room and questioned her. How did you fall? She said she didn't know. Did you jump? No, she said. Did your husband push you? No again. I was beginning to understand that she had fallen out of a window, not down a flight of stairs. When she said she had fallen out of her bedroom window as she was washing it, they told she was wrong. You weren't in the bedroom. You were in the débarras (a room used as a storage or "junk" room) one floor up from your bedroom. We found a spray bottle of window-cleaner and a cleaning rag up there, and the window was open. I imagine it was what we call a French door. So how did you fall? Maybe I had a malaise, the woman said, almost sobbing. Had you been drinking alcohol? A little bit, she said. They ended their interrogation there.

Half an hour or so later, a couple of nurses came in to help the woman relieve herself. She again screamed in pain. And the nurses started interrogating her too, asking her pretty much the same questions the gandarmes had asked. When I told Walt about that, he said that maybe the nurses were working with the police to see if the woman's story was consistent — and because they seemed to suspect foul play. After that, a man wearing medical whites with SAMU Médecin (emergency squad doctor) printed on the back of the shirt, came in. He told the woman she had a cracked lumbar vertebrae and was why she was in such pain. He also questioned her about how she had been injured. You know, you fell from a third-floor window, a distance of 6 meters (20 feet) to the ground. Luckily you seem to have landed on your back and not on your head. Otherwise, you'd be dead now. At that point the woman was given a sedative and seemed to go to sleep. The screen separating us was re-positioned slightly and I could see the woman's head and face. She was younger and less frail-looking than I had imagined — maybe 50 years old with short, graying hair and an unwrinkled face.

The next morning, the man on the other side of her had disappeared and I hadn't even noticed. A doctor showed up to talk to me. He concluded that I was ready to be released. He handed me a prescription form for some drugs to take during my recovery. He advised me to go see an allergist and get tested. A nurse came over and took out the catheter though which I had been receiving some kind of medication intravenously. At the same time, I was talking to Walt on a cell phone that another nurse had let me use to call home for my ride. We were speaking English, of course, but the nurse interrupted and asked me if my friend was going to come pick me up. She smiled and said to me: Press down here because otherwise it's going to ring! That's what I heard, so I pressed a button on the phone I was holding in my hand. No, she said, and burst out laughing, pointing at a gauze pad on the back of my hand that she was holding in place. I laughed too, having understood. She hadn't said sonner (the French word for "to ring") but saigner (French for "to bleed"). A few minutes later I was outside waiting for Walt to arrive, and he and Tasha drove up about 10 minutes later. It was all like a dream.

P.S. The woman in the space next to me was given a Covid test at some point in all this. I asked a nurse if I could be tested too. No, she said, we're running short of tests and only giving them to people who are going to hospitalized after leaving the ER.

18 June 2022

Definitely better and making progress

We have company coming from California in about 10 days, so we are busy preparing and cleaning the house for their stay. After two years of having nobody in for even just for an hour or two — with the exception of Evelyn and her friend from Alabama for two casual dinners a year ago — the place really needed some freshening up. It's only when you see your house and yard through somebody else's eyes that you realize how shabby it is starting to look.

On Wednesday, the day Walt drove over to Romorantin to bring me home, we lost several big plants that were in the greenhouse to the extreme heat we're experiencing. One plant's leaves were burned black, and another's leaves were without exception roasted to a dark brown color and hanging limply off the stems. A beautiful nasturtium in a big pot was completely toasted. And so on. On Thursday, I spent an hour or two in cool morning air moving most of the rest of the plants out of the greenhouse and putting them outside on the north side of the house where they are in the shade all day. I watered them all generously. This is something I would have done a month or two ago had we not been expecting the contractor to start demolishing the old tile on the deck and laying new tile. The plants would have been in his way if they had been where they are now. It was just one way the contractor was holding us hostage to a schedule that was never clearly defined.

I just snapped this photo of our front porch and doors, with clean glass.

Yesterday I did something I hadn't done in two years. I washed the sliding glass doors that we had installed more than 15 years ago to close in the little porch at the front door of the house. I guess I should be ashamed to tell you that, but that's the reality right now, after two years of Covid confinement. I also watered the plants in there generously. The little sunporch faces east, so doesn't get direct sunlight in the afternoon. The plants in there didn't burn up, even though they desperately needed a drink.

As far as the disappointing contractor is concerned, when I called his office on Thursday morning, his wife told me that her husband had asked her to give him our dossier that very morning. Forgive me for thinking that was just a ploy. When I told her we had decided to cancel the tile work, she got pretty hot under the collar. I've talked to her at least a dozen times over the past 18 months, and until Thursday she had always been polite, if evasive and hard to pin down. She always said her husband would get in touch with us, but he almost never did. A few months ago, I told her that every time I called to ask whether our job was on their schedule, she replied with some expression like "it will get done un jour ou l'autre" or on ne vous oublie pas. She was taken aback and acted offended that I said such a thing, but it was the truth.

I also just snapped this photo showing why the deck needs renovating. The underside of the structure needs to be
scraped or sand-blasted and probably painted. The deck edge needs some kind of treatment to prevent moss
and algae from growing on it when the weather turns rainy. You can't see them here,
but quite a few of the tiles on the deck are cracked and loose.

On Thursday, I pointed out to her that the two-thousand euro check we had sent her in December 2020 had, as my bank confirmed, expired. It could no longer be put through. I told her that nevertheless, I would appreciate it if she would send it back to me. "I'm not paying the price of a stamp to send you a check when you don't want us to do the job you contracted us for," she said. Before I could stop myself, I heard the expression Ça c'est vraiment mesquin come out of my mouth. Mesquin means petty, stingy, small-minded. My mother would have used the adjective "common" to describe that kind of behavior and attitude. BTW, did I say this already? In France, you cannot stop payment on a check once you have signed, dated it, and delivered or sent it to the payee. The only checks you can stop payment on are checks that you have misplaced, or lost, or that have been stolen from you, and that you have not dated or signed. Still, banks have been known to accept checks that are legally expired, and it can be quite complicated to get your money back when that happens.

So Thursday afternoon, the contractor sent me an e-mail — that was a first — saying that he would be over here the next day to do the patching of cracks that have appeared in our garden shed walls. The one part of the job we had engaged him for and that he actually had done was to strap the walls of the concrete-block shed together with tie rods to stabilize the structure. We were happy he got that done, and we now owe him payment for that work. I'm just going to wait and see if he sends us a bill. Do you think he showed up yesterday? Hell no. Two months ago, when he did the garden shed work, he promised us that our deck work would be finished avant l'été — before summer. All he was waiting for was some dry, sunny weather. We've had nothing but that kind of weather for a couple of months now. If this June doesn't qualify as summer, I don't know what would.

17 June 2022

Slowly recovering

I'm still in the recovery phase, of course. My face is still swollen, but not grotesquely. The emergency room experience was not horrible by any means, but it was bedlam. There were people running in every direction, and talking in loud voices. All I could do was lie in my bed, or sit up a little, and observe what was happening all around me. There was no food or drink. When I had a very painful sore throat Tuesday night, I asked the doctor if I could have some water to drink. He refused, saying he didn't think that was a good idea.

I was given medications through a catheter inserted into a vein in my right hand. I don't know what it was. Twice during the night I had what the doctor called un aérosol, which was some kind of nebulizer — my mother used one of those to soothe her respiratory discomfort. I think it was dispensing something like prednisone as a kind of mist that you can breathe into your lungs. I wasn't experiencing any respiratory distress, and I'm not now, but I've been prescribed a course of prednisone in pill form for the next week. I'm also taking antihistamines (which are called des antihistaminiques in French — that word is a mouthful.)

Walt and I got a lot done yesterday, but I'll tell you about it later. Temperatures are supposed to be in the 95ºF range this afternoon, and as high as 100 or even 105ºF tomorrow and Sunday. And it will stay hot for another week after that. This is reminiscent of the Grande Canicule of 2003, the year we moved into this house. I guess we ought to have found some air-cooling device we could use in the house during spells like this, but I've always until now thought these kinds of heat waves would stop plaguing us eventually. Now I guess not. It's global warming gone crazy.

Here's some news: we fired the contractor who was supposed to lay new tile on our front, east-facing terrasse. Not that he was doing much work. I went to the bank Tuesday morning and confirmed that an 18-month-old check has expired and cannot be cashed or deposited. I'll tell you the whole story in a few days. Walt pressure-washed the old tile and put the table and chairs out on the terrasse yesterday, after 18 months of safe-keeping in the garage. We can enjoy sitting out there in the shade again, which is a real pleasure in this kind of weather. The temperature out there is about 68ºF right now, which used to be considered a good afternoon high in this part of the world in June.

I've abandoned the loft for the time being. I slept in the guest room downstairs last night. My unusually extensive heat rash on my arms and legs is driving me crazy, but I have plenty of soothing intensive care lotion to slather onto it.

16 June 2022

Heat wave emergencies

Right now, I've got a lot of the windows wide open to let some cool morning air in. We're expecting a week of high temperatures in the upper 80s and 90s in ºF. — or even over 100 on Saturday and Sunday. Yesterday afternoon, the sun burned at least three plants in the greenhouse to a crisp. Literally. One was an aucuba that had been doing really well in there, and another was a schefflera (umbrella tree) that had been happy in there too. Now they are both compost. I'm afraid Walt's basil seedlings are completely fried too.

I wasn't here to do anything about those plants, at least not soon enough, and Walt was busy with other things too. Preparing food for my return was one task. Tuesday morning I had bought carrots, cucumbers, and beets for salads, but I wasn't here to peel, grate, and dice them on Wednesday. So Walt did it. Predictions had indicated that the really hot weather wouldn't start until today. Already this morning I have some kind of heat rash on my arms, and I just noticed that it is present on my legs as well. It itches.

Where was I? Well, in the emergeny room at the hospital in Romorantin, that's where. I had to spend the night, and that was the first time I've ever had to spend the night in the hospital. On Tuesday, I had taken Natasha out for her afternoon walk. Outside it was hot, or at least very warm, and the sun was blazing hot in a clear blue sky. I didn't walk for long — maybe 30 minutes — and I took a route that kept me and the dog under shade trees as much as possible. But even before I got back home at 5:00, I noticed some swelling in the left side of my face, near my mouth. I got home, had a glass a water, and told Walt what was going on. He said he was starting to see it. Over the next hour, the swelling continued to spread across the lower part of my face. My lips were puffy and tender.

By about 6:30, I realized I had to call for help. What if my throat starting swelling closed? Or my nasal passages, or my tongue? I called an emergency number for the little hospital in Saint-Aignan, which doesn't have an actual emergency room. The woman who answered the phone asked me to describe my symptoms. When she heard what I had to say, she told me she was going to transfer my call to a doctor at the local fire department's SAMU (Service d'Aide Médicale Urgente) — what I call a rescue squad. The doctor picked up in a minute or two, and asked me to describe my symptoms for him.

He especially wanted to know my age and whether I was having any difficulty breathing. He said he was sending out paramedics who would examine me. A few minutes later we started hearing the siren of an approaching rescue vehicle. When it arrived here, a nurse was one of the four men on board. He started checking my vital signs. The whole crew was astonished and impressed with how swollen my face was. One man started laughing every time he looked at me. He apologized, and I told him I realized that I looked like a freak or some kind of clown. I laughed with him because it was all good-natured.

In a couple of minutes a SAMU doctor — probably the one I had talked to on the phone — drove up. He examined me too — I was flat on my back on a gurney inside the vehicle. The doctor made a phone call and then told me he was having me taken by ambulance to the emergency room in Romorantin, a town of 20,000 about 20 miles east of Saint-Aignan.

The paramedics strapped me to the gurney, turned on the air-conditioning, tooted the siren a couple of times, and off we went. Nobody could tell me whether I'd need to spend the night over there or not. I didn't have anything with me except my French national health insurance card, and the prescription form from my doctor's office listing the pills I take regularly. No wallet, no money. I was dressed in shorts, a t-shirt, and sandals. I should have taken a cell phone with me, but that idea got lost in the shuffle. We headed toward the east, rocking and rattling, siren blaring at every intersection, and cooled by AC.

Here's what I looked like. I had snapped a selfie just before the paramedics got here.

15 June 2022

We interrupt this program...

This is Walt, substituting for Ken. He had a little emergency on Tuesday and won't be blogging today. It's not very serious and he hopes to be back at it on Thursday. He'll tell you all about his excellent adventure then, so stay tuned! W.

14 June 2022

Daylight in Paris - 10

The oldest pâtisserie (bakery specializing in sweets) in Paris is the pâtisserie Stohrer on the rue Montorgueil, just on the north side of the les Halles neighborhood in the center of the city. It was founded by a baker named Nicolas Stohrer in 1730. He was the favorite baker of the queen of France back then, during the reign of king Louis XV. Stohrer is said to have invented the pastry called the baba au rhum.

I took this photo of the window display at Stohrer in March 2006. Bon appétit !

13 June 2022

Daylight in Paris - 9

Today I was going to post just this picture. It shows the brasserie le Mistral, which is on the right bank
across the river from the palais du Roi on the île de la Cité in Paris.

Then I noticed the photo below on the web site of the brasserie le Mistral.

The photo above reminded me of my photo of the same scene (below),
taken from a slightly different angle, that I posted last week.

So the big white blob you see in the brasserie's photo (in the middle of the image) and in my photo (on the right side)
turns out to be the floodlit fronton or "pediment" of the building where the French Cour de Cassation sits
(daytime photo below). It's not the moon and it's not the dome of the Institut...

12 June 2022

Daylight in Paris - 8

On the internet I found this 1920s-era menu for the café called Au Père Tranquille at les Halles in Paris. The prices are in French francs, of course. It appears that you could mix and match dishes as you wanted to make up a meal that matched your appetite. Souper is supper, not a really fancy meal.

This is what the café looked like about 90 years later.

11 June 2022

Daylight in Paris - 7

Here comes a series of photos of people enjoying a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Paris. It's hard to believe that I took these photos on November 1. I was on the right bank of the Seine, on my way to see a play in a theater on the Grands Boulevards.

I read a web page yesterday explaining what the differences are between a café, a brasserie, and a bistrot. It said that many people don't understand the terms. Running a brasserie, the article said, means being open for business from early in the morning, serving breakfast, until late at night. It means serving a full range of foods and dishes, from salads to seafood to sauerkraut. Brasseries originated as "micro-breweries" in Alsace. Brasserie means "brewery."

A bistrot is only open for lunch and dinner. It's menu is much more limited, often featuring daily specials. Bistro(t)s are smaller and have modest kitchens serving modest cuisine. They sell more wine than beer, and they strive to provide rapid service to customers. Bistrot food is more like food you might make at home. (The English-language spell-checker flags bistrot as an error, but in French it can be spelled with or without the final T. Either way the pronunciation is the same.)

A café, the article says, is an establishment where you go to enjoy a hot or cold beverage and spend time in conversation with friends. Cafés serve some food, including sandwiches, salads, and omelets. but it's more like snacks than full-blown meals. The article pointed out that some famous places in Paris that are called cafés are actually brasseries...

10 June 2022

Daylight in Paris - 6

Here's another pair of daytime and nighttime photos. It's the pizzeria on the corner of
the boulevard St-Germain and the rue de Cluny in the Quartier Latin where I've had dinners
a few times when staying overnight in Paris in advance of flying out to the U.S. the next day.


Yesterday I finally decided that it was time to call our delinquent contractor's bluff. We signed his bid for the job of re-tiling and renovating our terrasse (front deck) and our garden shed in December of 2020 — 18 months ago — and sent him a check for 1,958 euros (about 2,000 USD) as a first payment. Then we had no news for more than a year, despite calling his office half a dozen times. About 6 weeks ago, he stopped by, had a look at the house and garden shed again, and promised us that all the work would be done avant l'été (before summer). Then he dropped out of sight again.

So yesterday I told Walt I had decided to go to the bank early next week and ask to have payment stopped on that check, which has not been cashed or deposited by the contractor. Then we'd start looking for somebody else to do the job. And we'd have use of the deck this summer. We would be able to put the patio furniture back out there, as well as some potted plants and a cabinet we use for storing pots, gardening tools, and other odds and ends. For far too long all that stuff has been cluttering up our garage.

This morning I did some quick and dirty research on the internet to see what steps I'd have to take in order to have payment on the check stopped. It appears to be impossible. The only justification for stopping payment (y faire opposition) on a French check is if it has been stolen or lost. In that case, if somebody sends the check through fraudulently, the bank will give you the money back and pursue whoever cashed it. I think I've understood that right. I still have to go the bank and ask for confirmation.

At the same time, I read on the internet that in France a check is valid and will be honored by the bank until a total of one year and one week has passed after the date it was written. Therefore, I believe that the check we sent the contractor 18 months ago is now null and void. Again, I have to get confirmation from the bank. If it really is no longer valid, we are free to start looking for a different contractor.

09 June 2022

Daylight in Paris - 5

A restaurant that specializes in snails — how French is that? It's on the rue Montorgueil on the right bank, and it's been there for nearly 200 years. Here's a link to the menu, which features a lot more than just escargots. A sampler of 36 escargots cooked five different ways will cost you 80 euros. This is another restaurant that's on my next-time-I'm-in-Paris list.

08 June 2022

Daylight in Paris - 4

Do you think this is a so-called bateau mouche? Is the term used generically as a name for all the tour boats that cruise the Seine in Paris? I just read on the web site of the Compagnie des Bateaux-Mouches, which is a brand name, that the company has a fleet of 15 boats in Paris. And the boat in my photo below has Bateaux Mouches painted on its stern. I think there are more tour boats on the Seine than 15, however. Il y a les Vedettes du Pont-Neuf, par exemple.

It's raining in Saint-Aignan this morning, and at least one weather site is predicting that we'll get a lot more rain over the course of the day. Hurray. Maybe I'll be found planting my collard patch tomorrow.

07 June 2022

Daylight in Paris - 3

Two photos today — one in daylight, one in darkness — of the same scene.
I took them on the same day, five hours apart.

The Roman governors of Gaul and the earliest kings of France lived on the Île de la Cité in this complex, called le palais du roi. King Louis IX, known as saint Louis, lived here in the 13th century and had the Sainte-Chapelle built in a courtyard of the palace. The complex was turned into the palais de justice (the law courts) at the time of the 1789 Revolution.

06 June 2022

Daylight in Paris - 2

La cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris on a sunny November 1 in 2015. I was in Paris by myself for about 24 hours and took a lot of pictures in the afternoon as well as many of the nighttime pictures I've posted over the past three weeks.

There were hail storms in Touraine over the weekend, but thankfully not here in Saint-Aignan. Hailstones the size of walnuts or ping-pong balls fell just west of Tours — most notably in the town of Ballan-Miré (pop. 8,000) — causing serious damage to green houses, crops, orchards, vineyards, and automobiles. The band of storms moved northeastward up to Blois and Chambord. At Chambord 30,000 (yes, 30K) boy scouts were camping in the parc du château and had to take shelter inside the château itself. Farther north, there were flash floods in Rouen (Normandy). We were lucky, I guess, to be spared that misery. We got a little bit of rain yesterday but not nearly enough to do us much good.

05 June 2022

Daylight in Paris - 1

La tour Saint-Jacques stands very close to the geographical center of Paris, and is just one kilometer north of Notre-Dame cathedral. It's all that remains of a 12th-century church that was called l’église Saint-Jacques-la-Boucherie. The church was torn down in the late 18th century. The Saint-Jacques bell tower itself was built between 1509 and 1523.

I was lucky to be able to climb to the top of the tour Saint-Jacques in 2013 and take in the views from up there, 54 meters (177 ft.) above street level. It was open to the public for a few months in summertime back then, but it's closed to the public now, according to the Paris tourist office web site. Even if it were open, I wouldn't be able to make that climb again (about 300 steps). So I'm glad I did it nine years ago. The link just above will take you to some of the posts I wrote about it and some photos I took.

04 June 2022

Paris after dark - 21

Le dôme de l'Institut de France et la Tour Eiffel... They look like they are very close together, but actually they are two miles (3 km) apart; both are on the left bank of the Seine river. The Institut is where the Académie Française meets on Thursdays to work on its dictionary of the French language. There are four other académies that meet on other days of the week and are dedicated to les sciences; les beaux-arts; les sciences morales et politiques; and les belles-lettres.

03 June 2022

Paris after dark - 20

This is a restaurant where I have enjoyed a few meals, but long ago. I need to go back. Restaurants can change radically over the years and decades, depending on who owns them and who is doing the cooking at any given time. One of the events I remember enjoying at Les Noces de Jeannette, which is near Opéra and les Grands Boulevards, was a group dinner with 12 or 15 American students back in 1982. We had a lot of fun. I just read on the restaurant's web site that a new chef took over in 1987 and has been cooking there ever since. He bills his cuisine as française, traditionnelle, et sans prétention.

Here's a link to the restaurant's web pages, where there are menus and a lot of other information, including the history of establishment, in both French and English.

02 June 2022

Paris after dark - 19

This morning I planned to write a post about my sister in North Carolina. When I turned on my computer a minute ago, I saw an e-mail from our cousin there telling that my sister fell and broke her arm yesterday. Oh lord. She'll be okay, but will need 8 to 10 weeks to recover. My cousin and sister are the driving forces behind a big food "mission" — in France it would be called a Restaurant du Cœur — that distributes food to people in need in our home town.

What I was going to write about my sister was that when she visited Saint-Aignan in 2007, at the end of her trip we drove up to the Mont Saint-Michel because she really wanted to see it, and then we drove to Paris. As we arrived in the city, I decided to go to see the Eiffel Tower with her. She hadn't yet seen it at night. Just as we got there, the tower's lights changed. It was kind of thrilling, and I took this picture from the car. The next day we went to the top to see the views from up there.