Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wherein I'll Catch the Conscience of the King

I'm doing something a little different this summer. I'll be playing Celia in a limited run of As You Like It. The rehearsals will be in Hong Kong, but the theater itself is in Macau. That's not much of an issue since it's so easy to get from one to the other.

The biggest issue for me is that I haven't read this play in about a hundred years. I don't really remember much about it, except that it's a comedy – which means it has a happy ending – and it's one of those plays where everyone takes on a thin disguise or alter ego. It also has Rosalind, one of Shakespeare's better female characters. But I'm not playing her.

I didn't bother to read the play when I got the part because I need to concentrate on the adaptation we're doing. When it comes to Shakespeare, different productions can be practically different plays. Reading the original might only confuse things when I read what we're doing. After I have my part down, I'll probably look at the standard version and compare the differences.

For now, I need to memorize a few lines – which is pretty easy to do with Bill. He wrote some memorable stuff. Also, Celia's only in a handful of scenes.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Paris Recommendations

Obviously I'm not the world's foremost authority on Paris. I was only there for a month. I barely saw anything.

But I saw something, and this is what I would recommend to anyone who goes there. Others might disagree.

(in no particular order)

Musée du Louvre
1st arrondissement
Featuring Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens, Titian, Goya, Tintoretto and ancient artifacts out the wazoo.
Métro stops: Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre, Louvre – Rivoli, Tuileries, Pont Neuf, Châtelet, Pyramides, Assemblée Nationale
RER stops: Châtelet – Les Halles, Musée d'Orsay

Musée d'Orsay
7th arrondissement
Monet, Manet, van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, Pissarro, Seurat, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec. Across the river from the Louvre.
Métro stops: Solférino, Assemblée Nationale, Varenne, Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre
RER stop: Musée d'Orsay

Holocaust Memorial
4th arrondissement
This is a terribly depressing place, but worth remembering what happens when hatred and intolerance become politically correct. A block from Église Saint-Gervais.
Métro stops: Pont Marie, Saint-Paul, Hôtel de Ville, Sully – Morland, Cité, Châtelet

Musée Rodin
7th arrondissement
Rodin, van Gogh, Renoir, Monet. Next to Les Invalides.
Métro stops: Varenne, Saint-François-Xavier, La Tour-Maubourg, École Militaire, Rue du Bac, Solférino

Musée National d'Art Moderne
4th arrondissement
Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky, Chagall, de Kooning, Magritte, Klee, Balthus, Pollock, Miró. In the Pompidou Center.
Métro stops: Rambuteau, Châtelet, Hôtel de Ville, Les Halles, Étienne Marcel, Arts et Métiers, Pont Neuf, Cité
RER stop: Châtelet – Les Halles

Musée Picasso
3rd arrondissement
Picasso, Matisse, Degas, Cézanne, Seurat, Rousseau. Next to the National Archives.
Métro stops: Saint-Sébastien – Froissart, Chemin Vert, Filles du Calvaire, Saint-Paul, Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville, Bastille, Arts et Métiers

Musée Carnavalet
3rd arrondissement
A history museum dedicated to Paris. It has a great model of Île de la Cité, plus a lot of personal knick knacks from historic French figures. Between Musée Picasso and Place des Vosges.
Métro stops: Saint-Paul, Bastille, Chemin Vert, Saint-Sébastien – Froissart, Filles du Calvaire, Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville, Arts et Métiers

Musée de la Musique
19th arrondissement
This place had the largest collection of mostly antique and obscure instruments I've ever seen. At Parc de la Villette.
Métro stops: Porte de Pantin, Corentin Cariou, Porte de la Villette

Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie
19th arrondissement
The largest science museum in all of Europe. Also at Parc de la Villette.
Métro stops: Porte de la Villette, Corentin Cariou, Porte de Pantin

Arènes de Lutèce
5th arrondissement
An ancient Roman ruin in the middle of the Latin Quarter. Small by Roman standards, but interesting in that it's surrounded by 19th and 21st century Paris. Between Jardin des Plantes and the Panthéon.
Métro stops: Jussieu, Place Monge, Cardinal Lemoine

Château de Versailles
Not actually in Paris, but close and very easy to get to.
RER stop: Versailles-Château-Rive-Gauche


Notre Dame de Paris
Île de la Cité
The best looking church I've ever seen. The tower is a bit of a climb, but the view is fantastic. The rest of the church isn't too shabby either.
Métro stops: Cité, Saint-Michel, Châtelet, Pont Neuf, Hôtel de Ville, Pont Marie, Saint-Paul, Sully – Morland
RER stop: Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame

Église Saint-Eustache
Les Halles
A beautiful church in the heart of Paris. It's almost impossible not to walk around or past this place. As long as you're there, you might as well go inside. The architecture is amazing and there are some wonderful paintings and stained glass windows.
Métro stops: Les Halles, Étienne Marcel, Sentier, Louvre – Rivoli, Châtelet, Hôtel de Ville, Rambuteau, Arts et Métiers, Pont Neuf
RER stop: Châtelet – Les Halles

Basilique du Sacré Coeur
Another long climb to get to the great views, especially after climbing uphill just to get to the church, but a nice little church nonetheless. Photography is not allowed inside, and unlike a lot of places, they enforce this rule politely but firmly.
Métro stops: Abbesses, Pigalle, Anvers, Barbès – Rochechouart, Château Rouge, Marcadet – Poissonniers, Jules Joffrin

Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis
le Marais
A beautiful Jesuit church built in the early 1600s.
Métro stops: Saint-Paul, Pont Marie, Sully – Morland, Bastille, Chemin Vert

Église Saint-Augustin
Not the most famous church in Paris, but very impressive. You can't help but see the dome from most of the towers and hills around the city.
Métro stops: Saint-Augustin, Miromesnil, Saint-Lazare, Europe, Villiers, Monceau
RER stop: Haussmann – Saint-Lazare


Sixieme Sens
Rue de la Roquette, Bastille
Hole in the wall restaurant on the street that connects the Voltaire metro stop and the Bastille, pretty much right in between the two. It's hard to find until you know it's across the street from a Monoprix. The owner/chef is incredibly friendly and knows how to cook.
Métro stops: Bastille, Voltaire

Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île, Île Saint-Louis
A nice little cinema themed bistro on the middle of the island. Less than a block away from Chez nos ancêtres les gaulois.
Métro stops: Pont Marie, Sully – Morland, Saint-Paul

L'As du Fallafel
Rue des Rosiers/Rue des Ecouffes, le Marais
Israeli restaurant with the best hummus in Paris. Between Place des Vosges and Hôtel de Ville.
Métro stops: Saint-Paul, Chemin Vert

Nick's Pizza
Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, Opéra-Haussmann
A slice and a pop. What more do you need? People can debate all day whether it's authentic New York without the water, but the owner/chef is from New York – for what it's worth. Between the Folies Bergère and Hard Rock Cafe.
Métro stops: Grands Boulevards, Richelieu – Drouot, Le Peletier

Pur' at the Park Hyatt
Rue de la Paix, Opéra
Fancy Michelin star restaurant with good food despite the hype. Near Place Vendôme and Madeleine.
Métro stops: Opéra, Madeleine

Harmony Café
Boulevard de Port-Royal/Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques, Montparnasse
Another friendly owner/chef and some of the best frites in Paris. Near the Montparnasse Cemetery.
Métro stop: Raspail
RER stop: Port-Royal

Pizza Julia
Rue de Charenton, Place de la Bastille
Nothing fancy on the outside, but great pizza inside. Some of the toppings are questionable, though fresh, but the dough is pretty close to perfect. Around the corner from Opéra Bastille.
Métro stop: Bastille

Chez nos ancêtres les gaulois
Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île, Île Saint-Louis
The strangest little restaurant in Paris. It's supposed to look like a tavern in medieval Gaul. This isn't the best food in Paris, but the atmosphere is unique, with people singing and a resident troubadour wandering around. Less than a block away from L'Orangerie.
Métro stops: Pont Marie, Sully – Morland, Saint-Paul

Rue Bachelet/Rue Custine, Montmartre
Italian restaurant owned by actual Italians, this tiny place is dangerously close to the tourist food that litters Montmartre, but it's on one of the tourist-free streets where you never see anyone selling t-shirts. It's easy to find, with large Italian flags hanging out front. Two or three blocks from Sacré Coeur.
Métro stops: Château Rouge, Marcadet – Poissonniers, Jules Joffrin, Lamarck – Caulaincourt

American Corner
Rue Saint Jacques/Rue Cujas, Latin Quarter
“New York” style bagel shop with hot dogs and American desserts. Nothing about this place reminded me of New York, but they had great cookies and better bagels than anything in Hong Kong. Between the Panthéon and Jardin du Luxembourg.
Métro stops: Cluny – La Sorbonne, Cardinal Lemoine
RER stop: Luxembourg

La Maison du Chou
Rue de Furstenberg, Saint Germain
Chouquettes and other pastries at a small shop on the tiny street where the final scene of Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence was filmed, across the street from Countess Olenska's apartment. Very close to Église de Saint-Germain des Prés.
Métro stops: Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Mabillon

Le Jamoncito
Rue Quincampoix, Les Halles
Spanish restaurant on a dead little street wedged between the Pompidou Center and Les Halles, 2 blocks west of Place Stravinsky and 3 blocks north of Tour Saint-Jacques.
Métro stops: Châtelet, Hôtel de Ville

Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île, Île Saint-Louis
Considered by more than a few people to be the best ice cream in Paris, I went there mostly because it was on our island. Food snobs will explode when I say that I prefer Ben & Jerry's, but this place was pretty good, too. Between L'Orangerie and Chez nos ancêtres les gaulois.
Métro stops: Pont Marie, Sully – Morland, Saint-Paul

Twinkie Breakfasts
Rue Saint-Denis/Rue Greneta, Les Halles
Most people dreaming about sitting at a sidewalk café will never go to this place, but if you're an American living in Asia, it's a nice change of pace. They have a large selection of American and English foods that are not common in Paris – including a full breakfast menu and all kinds of American condiments that some of us don't see all that often. Across the street from the Love Shop.
Métro stops: Réaumur – Sébastopol, Étienne Marcel

Eric Kayser Artisan Boulanger
Rue du Bac/Rue de Verneuil, Pont Royal
This is a chain, so they have a few locations and you're not going to get the personal touch of a family business, but they opened a shop in Hong Kong in one of the old Starbucks locations, so I wanted to compare the Paris version with the Hong Kong version. They both look remarkably similar, which is not standard practice when companies bring their food to China, but what they make in Paris is much better.
Métro stop: Rue du Bac
RER stop: Musée d'Orsay


Eiffel Tower
7th arrondissement
You have to go here when you go to Paris. It's the law.
Métro stops: Trocadéro, Passy, Bir-Hakeim, La Motte-Picquet – Grenelle, École Militaire
RER stop: Champ de Mars – Tour Eiffel

Palais Garnier
9th arrondissement
Even if you never go to the ballet or opera, it's worth going into this building for the grandeur.
Métro stops: Opéra, Chaussée d'Antin – La Fayette, Havre – Caumartin
RER stop: Auber

Arc de Triomphe
8th arrondissement
You don't have to climb the stairs or take the tiny elevator to fully appreciate the history, but the view from the top is nice.
Métro & RER stop: Charles-de-Gaulle – Étoile

5th arrondissement
Burial site to a lot of famous French people. It hasn't been a church in a long time, but the interior still looks like a grand cathedral.
Métro stops: Cluny – La Sorbonne, Maubert – Mutualité, Cardinal Lemoine
RER stop: Luxembourg

Tour Montparnasse
15th arrondissement
People complain that it's ugly, but from the top, you can see all over Paris. And you can go on the roof. A lot of tall buildings only let you go to an indoor observation deck. Here, you can get a 360 degree view and feel all that wind in your face.
Métro stops: Montparnasse – Bienvenüe, Edgar Quinet


Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
19th arrondissement
My personal favorite park in Paris. It has a nice little lake with a nice little island connected by two bridges, one of which was designed by Gustave Eiffel. There is a waterfall near the lake and sloping green lawns with patches of bright flowers.
Métro stops: Buttes-Chaumont, Botzaris

Bois de Vincennes
12th arrondissement
The largest park in Paris, with a few lakes, a zoo, a concert stadium, sports stadium, French gardens, lots of flowers and Château de Vincennes. Mata Hari was executed here.
Métro stops: Château de Vincennes, Bérault, Saint-Mandé, Porte Dorée, Liberté, Charenton – Écoles
RER stops: Vincennes, Joinville-le-Pont, Nogent-sur-Marne, Fontenay-sous-Bois

Bois de Boulogne
16th arrondissement
The second largest park in Paris, with a few lakes, a zoo, a concert stadium, sports stadium, English gardens, and Château de Bagatelle. The first manned balloon flight was here.
Métro stops: Porte Maillot, Porte Dauphine, La Muette, Ranelagh, Porte d'Auteuil, Michel-Ange – Molitor, Pont de Neuilly, Les Sablons
RER stops: Neuilly – Porte Maillot, Avenue Foch, Avenue Henri Martin

Parc de la Villette
19th arrondissement
A large park on the canals that were built to bring drinking water to Paris. This is a cultural park rather than a garden park, though there are gardens, with the Musée de la Musique, Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, a concert stadium, symphony hall, live theaters, movie theaters and a large array of modern architecture.
Métro stops: Porte de la Villette, Corentin Cariou, Porte de Pantin

Jardin du Luxembourg
6th arrondissement
A pleasant, if crowded, public space that borders the Latin Quarter and Montparnasse. Lots of statues and fountains.
Métro stops: Odéon, Saint-Sulpice, Rennes, Notre-Dame des Champs
RER stops: Luxembourg, Port-Royal

Parc de Belleville
20th arrondissement
A small park on top of a hill, it has great views of Tour Jussieu, the Panthéon, Notre Dame, Tour Montparnasse, Église Saint-Sulpice, the Pompidou Center, les Invalides and of course, the Eiffel Tower. Running through the park is a series of fountains that flow downhill.
Métro stops: Couronnes, Belleville, Pyrénées

Jardin des Plantes
5th arrondissement
The botanical garden, with thousands of plants and hundreds of different roses.
Métro stops: Jussieu, Place Monge, Censier – Daubenton, Saint-Marcel, Gare d'Austerlitz
RER stop: Gare d'Austerlitz

Jardin des Tuileries
1st arrondissement
This used to be several grand French gardens that inspired painters and poets, but those days are over. It's still an excellent walkway between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde with a few sculptures by Rodin.
Métro stops: Concorde, Tuileries, Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre, Louvre – Rivoli
RER stop: Musée d'Orsay


Le Marais
A great little historic neighborhood for a walk. Home of the Musée Picasso, Place des Vosges, Musée Carnavalet, Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis, Hôtel de Ville and National Archives. Just north of the river at the islands.
Métro stops: Hôtel de Ville, Saint-Paul, Bastille, République, Arts et Métiers

Bassin de la Villette
An interesting residential neighborhood with walking, jogging and biking paths along the canal. Between Parc de la Villette, Canal Saint-Martin and Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.
Métro stops: Stalingrad, Jaurès, Riquet, Laumière

Home of Sacré Coeur, Théâtre Trianon, Moulin Rouge, and former home of some great artists. It's mostly a tourist trap today with the red light district and that little train for children, but there are some nice winding little streets with authentic food. You just have to avoid any place with postcards and t-shirts nearby. Between Gare du Nord and Gare Saint-Lazare.
Métro stops: Blanche, Pigalle, Anvers, Château Rouge, Lamarck – Caulaincourt, La Fourche

Île de la Cité
The most famous island in Paris, mostly because of a big church and a couple of popular bridges.
Métro stops: Saint-Michel, Cité, Pont Neuf, Châtelet, Pont Marie
RER stop: Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame

Île Saint-Louis
My favorite island in Paris. Mostly because our apartment was here. For most people, there's not much to see. But it's still a good place to walk around.
Métro stops: Pont Marie, Sully – Morland, Cité, Saint-Michel
RER stop: Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame

Latin Quarter
Mostly touristy, but there is good food if you're willing to look around and go to places without English menus. Home of the Panthéon and Sorbonne. Just south of Île de la Cité.
Métro stops: Saint-Michel, Cluny – La Sorbonne, Odéon
RER stops: Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame, Luxembourg

Île aux Cygnes
A thin island between Pont de Grenelle and Pont de Bir-Hakeim that is little more than a nice place for a walk. It also has a tiny Statue de la Liberté.
Métro stops: Bir-Hakeim, Passy
RER stops: Avenue du Président Kennedy, Champ de Mars – Tour Eiffel

Disneyland Paris
Not actually in Paris, and probably not everyone's first stop on a visit to France, but it is Disneyland. Home of Phantom Manor, Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains and Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant. In Marne-la-Vallée, about 20 minutes from Île de la Cité.
RER stop: Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy (separate tickets required)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Paris Diary part 25

Day 30
12°, rain off & on most of the day.

I got rained on during my last morning run in Paris. Morning rain was nothing new, but this was the heaviest rain while I was out running. This was my last chance to run along the Seine, so I ignored the rain and pushed through.

Lily & I had no real plans for our last day in Paris – other than getting to the airport on time. Our flight left later at night, so we still had some time to experience the city.

After a full month, we did almost everything on our lists. We saw the big tourist sights and more than a few little places. We ate big fancy meals in big fancy restaurants and quick snacks from sandwich shops. We went to just about every type of bistro, café, brasserie and salon de thé. Lily & I shared a bedroom in a large seaside mansion and had our own rooms in a beautiful little apartment. We met locals who lived in Paris their entire lives, foreigners and expats working in France, and people just passing through. We went to the borders of the city and beyond, and took a few side trips outside of Paris altogether. We rode on trains, cars, scooters and bicycles. I even got to drive a little myself.

We did everything and almost nothing. We covered everything in the typical tourist guide and then some, but living in Hong Kong has taught me that you can spend months, and even years, in a city and still barely begin to understand it. I chuckle a little to myself when I meet people who spent a week in Hong Kong and think they are now experts. Lily & I were always aware that we were never going to know Paris in a month. We barely scratched the surface.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Paris Diary part 24

Day 29
16°, partly cloudy day, mostly cloudy night.

After my morning run in a light rain, Lily & I spent a relaxing morning at the apartment. We opened the tall balcony windows in the living room and watched the Seine wake up.

After our last day at work, we went back to the Eiffel Tower. We had seen it before – as everyone who ever goes to Paris is required by law – but this time, we went up and watched the sunset. The Eiffel Tower has three levels, of course, but everyone disagrees on which is the best. In my expert opinion – as someone who has been there fewer times than I have been to foreign hospitals – I say the second level has the better views. You can see a wider angle than the first level and more detail than the third. The first level is better for architecture and the neighborhoods around the tower. The third level is too high to really see anything, but you do get better views of the distant landscape.

For our last real dinner in Paris, we went to an overpriced Michelin star restaurant with tiny portions on large plates. I generally have a low opinion of this type of restaurant. More often than not, I'm disappointed that the emphasis is on presentation and whatever celebrity chef they have than on the taste of the food itself. But this place was pretty good.

We had a six course meal, which is entirely too much, but the portions were tiny despite how large the plates were. We also had a nice bottle of some kind of French wine. Everyone said it was great, so we accepted their advice. It tasted like wine to me, but I'm not an expert on the subject. I can tell the difference between a $100 bottle and a gallon box for $6.95, but when it comes to vintages and wineries, they're all the same to me.

After dinner, we took our last nighttime walk along the Seine. It would have been an incredibly romantic moment if I was there with a boyfriend instead of my best friend. It was still nicer than a walk along the Yau Ma Tei typhoon shelter.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Paris Diary part 23

Day 28
15°, partly cloudy.

This was our last full day off in Paris and I wanted to make the most of it. We didn't work every day we were there, but sometimes it seemed like it. I wanted to experience the city as much as I could while I could.

I went for a morning run along the Seine in what was looking like a gloomy day. Our first few days in Paris were cold and wet, but the weather cleared up for most of the month. By the end, we were back to cold and wet. There might be better times of the year to spend a month in Paris, but April is not a bad choice.

Lily & I went to Normandy because it was one of the places to see on both of our lists. It was not on the top of the list, so it had to wait until the last minute. Had we not gone on this day, we never would have.

We took the train up to Caen, which is easy, and then rented a car, which was more complicated. June is the big tourist season, for obvious reasons, but April is not exactly empty. We wanted to take a guided bus tour, but since we decided to go at the last minute, nothing was available. The tours also tend to go to one beach or another, and we wanted to see Omaha and Juno.

We went to one of the many car rental places near the train station where we met an American couple who also never bothered to reserve anything in advance. We solved all of our problems by renting a car together. They also wanted to see Omaha, but did not mind going to Juno. With the other couple, we could all save money and we would have more drivers. The area around Caen, Bayeux and the beaches is not especially large, but Lily can't drive a manual transmission and doesn't have an international license even if the rental company had automatics.

We drove from Caen through the country roads to Courseulles-sur-Mer, which looked like a great little village. I wanted to look around more, but we had places to go.

From Courseulles-sur-Mer, we followed the coast to Vierville-sur-Mer. It was not the fastest way to get there, but the scenery was beautiful and it took us to Gold Beach on the way. We went to most of the monuments, but spent most of the day on the beaches. West of the American Cemetery is an enormous stretch of beach with nice French cottages behind wooden fences.

We picked a great day to go to Normandy. It was cloudy, but there was no threat of rain as there was in Paris, and it was cool enough to walk along the beaches and coastal paths.

From the beaches, we went to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. No one in any of our families was buried there, but we had to go anyway. After looking at so many battle sites, it seemed only appropriate. From the cemetery, we drove down to Bayeux.

Bayeux was a nice little town with more monuments and cemeteries. We also checked out Bayeux Cathedral.

After Bayeux, we headed back to Caen. I had done all of the driving at this point, so I offered to let our new American friends drive. One of them could not drive a stick shift and the other was too intimidated by the French freeway system. It seemed pretty basic to me, so I stayed behind the wheel.

We spent more time in Caen than we had in Bayeux. There were more D-Day monuments, but Caen took us further back in time than the 1940s. William the Conqueror was everywhere. He built several of the older buildings, including Château de Caen, Église Saint-Etienne and Église de la Sainte-Trinité.

Château de Caen is right in the middle of the city and a good place from which to branch out. It was attacked a few times during the Hundred Years' War, vandalized during the French Revolution and bombed before D-Day. William would never recognize it today – especially with its ample parking.

Église Saint-Pierre is an ornate but small Gothic church across the street from Château de Caen, but has nothing to do with William. It was built and rebuilt a few hundred years after he died.

Église Saint-Etienne and Église de la Sainte-Trinité were built at the same time by William to make the Pope happy. St-Etienne is larger and more elaborate than Ste-Trinité, with museums and grounds rather than simply sitting on a street in the middle of town.

When we were all done for the day, we returned the rental car, exchanged contact information with our new friends and hopped on separate trains. They were headed for London and we went back to Paris.

Back in our Paris apartment, Lily & I decided to eat in rather than go out. We spent the entire day eating snacks in various seaside villages. We were ready for a home cooked meal. I also wanted to use that kitchen while I still could. We have a nice apartment in Hong Kong, but we don't have access to the fresh ingredients we had in Paris. I miss that apartment kitchen with its morning sunlight and the smell of the flowered courtyard outside the window, but more than that, I miss what I could find in local markets and bring back to it.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Paris Diary part 22

Day 27
16°, partly cloudy day, clear night.

Lily & I went to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the morning and got caught in a sudden rain shower. We had umbrellas with us since it looked like it was going to rain, but it started too suddenly for us to stay dry. Since we were already wet, we took a swim in the lake. That might not be entirely legal, and the lake water was much colder than the rain water, but how many times do you get to say you went swimming in a Paris lake in the rain? We knew that our time in Paris was going to end soon and we wanted to experience as much as we could.

We spent a month going to all the popular tourist sights, but we also explored neighborhoods that most tourists never see and ate at restaurants that are not in any of the travel guides. But we knew that we still barely saw the city. A month is better than a week, but still not long enough for a city like Paris.

We went to le Marais for lunch because someone told us about a great falafel place, L'As du Fallafel. The owners are Israeli, so we assumed they were going to do everything the Israeli way, but we had no idea what that was. The best falafel I had ever had at that point was at an Arab place in Bangkok. One could argue that Bangkok is no more Arab than Paris is Israeli, but that was the best we could do. Lily & I have never been to the Middle East.

Lily & I agreed that the Israeli hummus was outstanding. I make my own hummus at home, but this was a million times better. Probably because of the spices that I can't get in Hong Kong. Or because they know what they're doing.

For dinner, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe, which is not exactly authentic Paris. But it was the most authentic American meal we had on this trip. Paris has more than a few restaurants that claim to have authentic American food, but everything I ate was a European interpretation of American. The Hard Rock Cafe in Paris was just like any other Hard Rock.

I got a t-shirt while we were there because that's what you do. I have shirts from almost 20 different Hard Rock Cafes. I never meant to collect them. Most of the time I just happen to stumble onto the restaurant. I didn't even know they had a Hard Rock in Tokyo, Bali or Bangkok until I went there. There was even one in Nice, but I never went there. It's close enough to Antibes, but I didn't want to go out of my way for a t-shirt.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Paris Diary part 21

Day 26
16°, light rain off & on all day.

On our last Sunday in Paris, Lily & I went to Notre Dame. We had already been inside the cathedral, and we walked past it a million times, but we had never gone up the tower since it was always closed. We figured everything would be open on a Sunday. A lot of things are closed on Sundays in Paris, but this is a church. We could tell that the tower was open as soon as we walked onto Île de la Cité and saw the long line of people along Rue du Cloître Notre Dame.

The climb up the tower was torture. I'm in pretty good shape – as is Lily – but those 387 spiral steps take their toll. It was a cloudy day, but the view was worth the climb. Paris is a pretty low city, so the high clouds never covered much of anything, and only made the view more dramatic. We could clearly see the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides and Sacré Coeur. Since we knew the city a lot better than we did the first time the tower was closed, we also noticed our roommate's hospital, Saint Sulpice, one of our grocery stores and more than a few restaurants.

After we climbed down all of the steps, we went down even further into the crypt. That's probably more interesting to archeologists, but still worth a look.

From Notre Dame, we went to Bois de Boulogne. We had already been to Bois de Vincennes, so we figured we might as well go to the other giant park. Bois de Boulogne is smaller than Bois de Vincennes, but not enough to notice. Bois de Vincennes has the Château de Vincennes – a small medieval castle – while Bois de Boulogne has the Château de Bagatelle – a neoclassical mansion.

Both parks have lakes and streams, but Lily & I agreed that Lac Daumesnil at Vincennes was the best of the bunch.

We spent the evening on our apartment's roof terrace. It had just stopped raining and was about to start up again at any moment, but we both decided that we liked our Paris apartment more than the big Antibes house. The Antibes house was much bigger and had a swimming pool, hot tub and all kinds of gardens and grounds to walk around, but it never felt like a home. Paris has plenty of places to walk around anyway.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Paris Diary part 20

Day 24
22°, sunny day, cloudy at night.

After work, I spent the afternoon wandering around the cape. I went to Chapelle de la Garoupe and the lighthouse, with the views on the hill, and made my way south and downhill to the postcard sentier du littoral.

There are some great walking trails around the southern tip of the cape. Given enough time and energy, you could walk from Chemin de la Garoupe at that little nothing beach all the way to Anse de l'Argent Faux and the very end of the cape without ever crossing a street with cars. All you need are some good walking shoes that can get wet, a bottle of water and a good deal of stamina. I should have started earlier in the morning, but I had no idea that I was even going here until I went.

Dinner was at La paillote blanche, a fancy restaurant on the Vallauris side of Golfe Juan. Every restaurant we went to on the gulf was for the tourists and food snobs. It was the tiny restaurants on tiny side streets that had the best food, where the owners made our food and spent time with us. At the big fancy restaurants, the owners were not the chefs and were probably rarely in the building. It's like going to Starbucks instead of a neighborhood barista. This place was not bad by any means, but there were better options. I liked the location. It was on the beach, so we could feel and smell the sea while we ate. That always makes any meal better.

This was our last night in Antibes, so Lily & I made sure to use that big hot tub while we still could. We were going back to Paris the next day, which isn't such a bad deal, but there was no hot tub or swimming pool at our Paris apartment.

Day 25
20°, cloudy, light rain at night.

I had breakfast at Le Goût-Thé, a wonderful little bagel shop near the marina in Antibes. This was the kind of small café/bakery that would do very well in Hong Kong, but no one ever opens anything like it.

Lily & I left Antibes after work and arrived in Paris in time for dinner. We went back to Sixieme Sens, the restaurant we went to on our second night in Paris. The owner either recognized us from our first visit or he was simply friendly to everyone. He treated us as well on this night as he had 3 weeks earlier.


Happy 4th of July, Americans.

If you're not American, happy Saturday.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Paris Diary part 19

Day 23
20°, light clouds.

Lily & I spent the morning at Marché Provençal, the local farmer's market, and walked along the promenade toward the marina before going to work.

After work, I learned how to use a real camera with a borrowed 1960s Nikon F. I wanted to experiment with the camera, but you can't just delete the bad pictures on film. You have to pick and choose your shots more carefully.

We had dinner at Romagna Mia, an authentic Northern Italian restaurant in downtown Antibes. The owners – who were also the chefs and waiters – were from Romagna and seemed to know what they were talking about, so we let them decide what we should eat.

After dinner, we spent the evening walking along the Mediterranean, which is a world away from a nighttime walk along Victoria Harbour. Antibes is a lot cleaner than Hong Kong and the air feels fresh – just as any coastal area should.

We also went to a Carrefour in the Old Town neighborhood. That might not be the most exciting thing in the world, but I thought it was interesting how different French Carrefours are from the Chinese versions. There is far more fresh food in the Antibes store and fewer – if any – living creatures inside the packaged items.

The night ended with a pool party where almost no one went swimming. That seemed like a waste to me. When you have a perfectly good swimming pool at your disposal, you should use it. But I think most of the people were only at that party to get drunk and/or laid.