Category Archives: 2021 France

20211220 Paris-Orléans

Get up and make sure everything is charged and packed for train travel.  Clean myself up and walk to a different brasserie called Brasserie Izem and get two good looking items:  paris-brest and tarte à la rhubarbe (et poire).  May as well indulge for this last morning.

Having eaten those I will now make my way to Gare Austerlitz to get the train to Orléans.

Getting to the train station was nothing but a half hour slog, carrying all that poundage of nonsense that represents a lived life. Or at least a life lived by some sucker who insists on carrying three glass lenses along the journey.

The train station was, as usual, confusing. The first ticket machine I tried didn’t like any of the cards I offered it. I went to a different machine, finally buying the ticket for the train which way back when was seven minutes away. Then I turned to realize there was no signage and about where platforms were or how to ready the fucking ticket. Time is not your friend.

I find the first person to ask and picked a person who was likely deaf. He wasn’t able to speak but those subtle vocalizations of one who can’t hear them, so using a variety of gestures and a lot of pointing he walked me through using the data on the ticket and a reader-board to figure out which platform. Great. Fantastic.

Neither of us knew where platform five would be. But this guy, quickly becoming one of my favorite people ever, continued to drive me along as we sought out platform five. Rolling around one last corner, my new friend very excited as we neared the truth of this miniature destination, there was a gate agent closing a gate but asking if I was after this train. I asked if it was for Orleans and yes and hustled through the gate and down the platform to the first available entrance to the train. Feeling like OJ, obviously.

Onto that last car in the train and, selecting the last berth, joined the sole person working on his laptop in a birth built for six. Now I can relax for an hour. But I still pulled out Google Maps to follow the journey.

The train rolls through the countryside, passing farmland and industry and windmills and a lot of terracotta tiles. I alternate between reading and snapping random pictures of nothing in particular. Looks like the train must average about 80mph (it’s about an 80 mile trip which takes about an hour).

Orleans is the last top for this line. I exit the train and make my way toward Flo’s address. That’s another half hour slog. Is everything in France a half hour apart? I sit on my bag out in front of 11 blahblahblah and text Flo via Fb “I’m on the sidewalk”. She responds “which one?”. The one in front of 11 blahblahblah. “Didn’t you get my message? I moved to 1 blahblahblah.” Oh. So that’s a fifteen minute slog. I guess not everything is half an hour apart.

Finally I see here name on a buzzer and she buzzes me in and calls out from above. I make the vertical slog and we baissou and make our greetings. She quickly tells me everything I need to remember but will forget for the next several days. I will meet her new husband at dinner and he speaks no English. The kids, the plans, all that. Yes, yes, I understand. More stairs to get to the top floor where I will stay. Three windows, interesting views, and what can only be described as palatial accommodations where I have a full bed and a private bathroom with shower. I have a kitchen. Will I use a kitchen? Probably not. But I have one now! I’m sitting at a four-top tall-stooled table writing this now, watching the pigeons out the window on the neighboring rooftops strutting with blissful attitude. The world is their toilet.

And now I have had my first real shower since leaving Seattle. Some lady and I could dance in this shower. I feel good. I may take a bit of a walk before Flo finishes working, take some pics or just wander. Maybe a bit of both. She’ll finish at 18:00 and there is an appointment with a remodeler at 19:00. I must return between that time so we can go together. I think this means I’ll see a remodel in progress here. Cool.

It is now the next morning and I will recount the remainder of the day.

I made another photographic walk and eventually made my way back here to meet Flo. We talked until 19:00 and then descended to the street to await her husband. He was late and ran up with the parking pass.

The area is surrounded by retractable posts in the street where you scan a pass and the post lowers. We scanned the pass to allow the person buying a piece of furniture to enter, but the post didn’t lower. Not understanding how the system worked, I watched the driver then drive into and move the post out of alignment and the whole system was fucked.

R arrived to see the scene and kicked the post back into alignment, but the system insisted all was fucked. So the driver went off to park elsewhere. As we were talking the post magically lowered itself! Eventually the system sorted itself.

So we sought out the new set of apartments Flo has purchased. There are three floors (not the ground floor) consisting of one apartment each. The first floor is a one bedroom, the second floor has the same footprint but the living room and bedroom are combined for a large studio, and the third has a roof deck within that same footprint (I think also a studio). We only looked at the first floor (the piano nobile) since that was the only currently unoccupied. It needs a lot of work.

Anyway this person bought a set of drawers (after assisting R in removing a large particle board shelf from a wall) and R helped him take this back to his car (wherever that ended up). When the second person arrived intending to buy a table like for a living room but was also tempted by the shower door and the medicine cabinet. In the end, just the table. So close!

We returned to chez F&R for dinner. We had a dish of green lentils and pork. Since Flo doesn’t eat pork she didn’t eat any of the pork from the lentils, instead eating some different pork which was apparently less porky. The pig is a great and mysterious animal.

Of course there was wine, a couple different bottles (and one bottle which R opened but insisted was vinagre though we all agreed it would still be good for cooking) and cheese (probably a Camembert and some emmentaler).

There was a moment of panic because there was no bread. R was inspired and ran to the kitchen. I told flow about my loaf of travel bread (don’t judge me) which was excellent if a little squished. She suggested we wait until R had made his attempt first. He did manage to return with a number of points of toast, presumably from some secret French bread stash.

We talked until Flo wanted to sleep and I climbed the stairs again.

I cannot get the Internet working here. The name listed on the wi-fi device never appears on the list of available networks, neither for my phone or my lappy, so I can’t connect. I’ve even tried using the reset button. No love. So all this is being typed into my text editor and will be posted… sometime?

Like the next day in fact.  In the afternoon.


20211221 Orléans

Woke early but tried to get the Internet working again. Failed again. I think the button needs to be pushed in the other apartment to sync this extender with the main device. Someone will come later to help, the daughter of the owner I believe.

Since Flo is working from the office today I make a move for the river and start taking more pictures. There is a group of ducks and maybe geese that I disturb and shoot for a while.

As I follow the river East I encounter a simple lock and one end of a canal that run parallel to the river. I realize I can cross to the median or far side of the canal and do so to continue East. I find several photo-worthy spots and even descend to the river level via a staircase set in the outer wall of the canal. At this point the river is at least fifteen feet below the level of the canal. I’m not clear why this canal is here running along next to the river but I suspect it is to accomodate deep vessels all year long.

Eventually I begin to wonder if there will be another way to get back to the mainland and ask a guy walking past. He points to a small bridge on approach and that will take me back over. I do cross back over because Flo has texted me to say I should meet V at 14:00 about the Internet. I still have time to wander but probably best not to be trapped on the canal.

I walk along the road which runs again parallel to the river but this time it ascends above the river and the canal and the walking paths. A small compacted dirt tract with fancy houses to my left and river views to my right. It’s no difficulty to guess these are expensive homes for the area.

Walking along with my hands on my face to warm it some, a couple passes the she informs me that the wind is coming from the East so it is on my face now but will be at my back when I return. We chat briefly. They have friends on Long Island from whom they have just received an American style Christmas card along with a letter detailing their last year of events. They ask if this is a normal thing for the US. I say that it’s less and less so for the (in particular for the inclusion of the details) and that it may be a stronger tradition in the East due to longer family traditions there. “It hasn’t been that long since we had wooden sidewalks in the West.”

I make my way eventually away from the river and back into the city streets and back again to the West, back to the old Orleans where I am staying. I will rest for a time; V should be here within the hour.

Turns out it’s the daughter of V.  We cannot get my device working but I connect to hers instead (from which this repeater gets its connection).  Good enough.  Now you can read my insane ramblings once again!  Or just these travel posts.  Whatever.

There is a dinner planned for tonight at a restaurant.  I think there will be many people but I haven’t been keeping close track.  I should probably eat a little something now though.

I did eat some bread and cheese and organized my thoughts here in this grand apartment.  About 18:00 Flo informed me they would return to the remodel to sell some more of the old fixtures and such at 19:00.  About that time we did exactly that.  We sold the water balloon (hot water tank) and a sink with its cabinet and a piece of wood and a shower door.  They are rich in environmental protection!  Nothing goes to the landfill.

After that we went to dinner and met friends (Alain and Hélène) from my previous visit.  At that time they ran une gîte, which is like a special sort of rental property for weekends or holidays where you likely get several rooms and space to do this or that.  Anyway, it was one of my favorite days with a grand table and many friends and food and wine.  Today though we are merely five at this restaurant with classic French dishes.  I start with pâté de canard, of course, and then move to bœuf bourguignon (basically beef stew but, you know, more elegant!).  For dessert I have mousse chocolat.

There is a dessert of pineapple and chocolate sauce which I just can’t get my head around.  Two of us did order and love it and I did try it, but still it remains elusive to me.  I may have to investigate this further.  Can I make something of these two ingredients which appeals to me?  Challenge accepted!

After dinner it’s back to bed for everyone.


20211222 Orléans

Up before eight but needed a shower and so didn’t leave until closer to nine.  It’s been rather frigid here, very close to zero (32f).  Also I lost my wool cap somewhere along the way, presumably when it wasn’t so cold and I wasn’t wearing it every day.  So today I must get a new cap and maybe some laundry.

Flo said yesterday she knows a shop where I can get one, so I send her two texts (about the cap and about doing a load of laundry).

I’m not clear how much adding a cap is going to help since it’s my hands and face that are bearing the brunt of this cold weather, but it surely won’t hurt.

While I am out taking pictures and today wandering northward, Flo sends me a text about the shop to buy a new cap and to say laundry is a go.  Google Maps fails to offer the correct location so I return to Flo’s and start my whites in a bowl of bleach water, and Flo gives me the address for the shop so I can fetch a cap while my whites soak.

Leaving my camera gear with Flo I make my way across town for the ten minute walk to Celio.  Sure enough they do have a small selection of caps.  I end up getting a dark green cap and a dark blue scarf.  That should help even though it will do nothing for my hands or face.  And I head back to Flo and my laundry grabbing a sandwich (on a small baguette, poulet mayonnaise which also has sun dried tomatoes) along the way.

I drain the bleach water from the whites (two shirts, a hand towel, and a handkerchief) and toss those into the machine with all the socks and such.  Mostly socks.  That’s the one item you can’t bring enough of for a long trip.  Gotta have fresh socks every day!

Flo is working but also perhaps she is making compote de pomme.  We talk while she prepares apples but she has to get back to work so I come upstairs, eat my sandwich, and write this part.  Now I will walk some more and take more pictures.  The light is not as good today as it was yesterday but we’ll see what comes.

Picked a destination and made a long walk.  Figured I would head North since yesterday it was South.  There is a church amidst some woods some distance and I’m good for a long walk, especially since yesterday was light.  It’s about an hour forty one way.  I’m guessing, with photographing, it’s maybe a five hour voyage.

As predicted the light is nothing to write home about.  Yet here I am mentioning it for all the world:  mediocre light.  These things happen.

Walked through and out of the city, then through a more rural area spotted with farms, industry, and residential areas.  A lot of wide-open spaces and freshly plowed mud.  From Maps you might expect to see a giant park in this area but there is no park but a lot of farm land.  It’s a nice country walk.

Nearer the church there is a small park and I spend a small amount of time there recording and shooting.  It’s very tranquil.  The creek that runs through the park has man-made banks typical for this area, and apparently habitat for beavers.  I did not see a beaver unfortunately.

Left the park and made my way toward the church.  Pretty easy to site since it’s much taller than anything else in the surrounding area.  Shoot some pictures from the outside and rattle the door a bit.  Closed.  Apparently Wednesday is not a good day for god.  Shoot some more pictures and begin the return journey.

Returning goes by really quickly, at least in part because I’ve already shot my way through here.  But when I get back to cross the bridge back into the old part of the city I hear and see a glorious bit of water fowl:  a blue heron (l’héron bleu).  I do snap a couple in-flight pics with my 28-70 mm but that’s too far away.  I swap in the 70-200 mm and shoot some pics as the heron stands around and looks with disdain at the other water fowl.

It goes like this, with him occasionally eating a small fish, for half an hour.  Some people from time to time stop to see what I’m doing standing in the middle of the bridge with this giant camera.  Mostly my fingers solidify.  Half an hour and that fucker can’t be bothered to do more than cloak himself and preen a bit.

Finally though he makes a bit of noise and I grab a few pics as he flies under the bridge.  By now I’m completely frozen.  Pack up the backpack and make a beeline for the apartment.  Also I have to pee.  I hope these pics turn out worth while.

Anyway, back here and writing this latest bit.  Dinner tonight with F&R will be blanquette de veau.  A sort of stew I would guess made with veal and cream and mushrooms.  First, though, we will visit a small market or maybe a farmer’s market nearby for some supplies.  Hmmm… maybe twenty minutes?  I’m almost thawed.

Flo came up because it was time to feed the rabbit but there was no bunny sighting.  Also the lights in the friend’s apartment were not working for some reason so that probably didn’t help.

We then went down and departed for the shopping.  Bringing a little bag and cart device, which you have probably seen being dragged along behind some old people, we walked to the local open-air market.  We expressed pity for the cold workers all day out selling vegetables and meats and eggs and such.  One woman who currently had no customers was huddled around a small heater, seemingly content.

We bought vegetables and eggs, visiting three different stalls.  After that we walked to a different apartment Flo rents out for AirBnB.  The most recent resident had left some stains and a broken bit of trim or molding.  Then we walked back to chez Flo for dinner.

As mentioned dinner was blanquette de veau and it was simple and delicious.  Since the zombie outbreak it has been popular to buy a dinner from a restaurant, retrieve the meal in sealed containment (a jar in this case), and reheat it sous vide style (no precision required just warm enough for eating).  This was done tonight.

I should try to make this dish but getting veal in Ballard could be challenging, you know, evil and all.  Did I mention a government official of a particular city has banned foie gras on the grounds it is animal cruelty?  Even in France ignorance abounds.

We had tiny chocolate cakes (like little lava cakes) and some compote de pomme (like chunky apple sauce) for dessert.

We also had an excellent chardonnay with dinner but I forgot to take a picture of the label.  Or two.  Maybe two.  Anyway, that was this day done.  Off to bed.


20211223 Orléans

Up early again.  Awake shortly after seven and gone maybe before nine.  Today I walk South again since North was a bit of a bust.  There’s another église.

Mostly on this walk I used my long lens (70-200 mm).  It’s a beautiful sunny day and there is a lot to shoot in this direction.  I get some good bird pictures but not the blackbird I was trying to get.  Also a beaver on the return trip.

The church is nice.  It’s Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Saint-Jean-de-Braye (Paroisse de Saint Jean de Braye) according to G.  There are some decorations for the holiday, of course, and there is a small group and an organist preparing for a show of some sort.  Gothic style, wonderful dais.  Worth the walk even if I didn’t get birds.

I make my way back.  This course along the river and along the canal is great.  Lots of people out jogging or riding or walking, but long enough that you only pass a person here or there.  Really wanted to shoot a blackbird but they kept escaping.  Did get some other birds and the aforementioned beaver.  Shot a short video of the beaver cleaning and preening.

Returned to the building just as R was rolling out and we passed on the stairs.  I went up for a quick shower and a rest.  After the shower though I thought I’d better get a chicken to have in my refrigerator for those times when I’m not eating with everyone else.  Just as I descend the steps there is Flo emerging from her apartment with Redbull in tow, heading for the vet.  He is in a rolling cat suitcase which is perhaps comfortable enough but the rattling cobbles make me laugh.  He is not amused.

The vet is nearby and the visit is short enough.  He becomes even less amused.  Flo had to chase him at home when he saw the cat-case, but when she moves to return him to the cat-case in the vet’s office he is all too eager to return to those familiar surroundings.  One vaccination down and a good enough bill of health.

As we return Flo and I stop at a shop to see if they have the poppy liqueur I bought previously.  They do not but they do have a very tempting chocolate bar with pistachios and caramel.

Back to the apartment.  We will eat later but I say good-bye to Flo at the door and go in search of a rotisserie chicken.  Under 7e for a whole chicken.  I look around for bread and cheese but we will shop again later so I just return with the chicken.

Up in my apartment I knock down half that bird and a bit of the red wine from the other night.

I read for a time and rest my feet.

R comes to prepare the apartment across from mine for his daughter (Lola) and her fiancé (Carlos).  Carlos is from Puerto Rico and so also speaks English and Spanish.  They get to sleep with the bunny.  I’m not jealous.

I did manage to get some mediocre pictures of the bunny.  He was not very cooperative.  Models can be such drama queens.

There was a problem with the electricity in that apartment but R flipped a breaker or two and the heater started working and we found a lamp that turned on so that’s probably good enough.  The bunny has insulation so doesn’t care about human-level cold.

We descend and meet Flo to retrieve the salmon smoked by a restaurateur friend.  We walk directly there but the restaurant is closed.  Instead we meander along the river and Flo tells me about le Festival de Loire, which happens here every other year.  The river and bank fill with boats and everywhere are people and food and drink.  This takes place in September.  Could be worth a visit!

Eventually we circle back around to the restaurant (Bangkok à Osaka) which is now open.  There we meet Ty and retrieve and pay for the smoked salmon.  He is wearing the best shirt.  I think to offer a trade but you can tell he’s not likely to give it up.

I am told it is a tradition to have a drink when they visit and I am not about to break such an important tradition.  Champaign and a nibble of those deep fried rice things found in Chinese restaurants, they have a name, and some of his excellent smoked salmon (lox style).  He also informs me that I have been forcing Flo and R to drink wine every night so apparently I am out Frenching the French.  What can be said when so much of it is so good?

Later Lola and Carlos arrived with R and we four talked in their apartment for a bit.  I showed them where the bunny was likely hiding.  Then back to resting my feet and reading until dinner.

For dinner it was Flo and Raynal, Lola and Carlos, Nina, Hugo (Flo’s son whom I had met on my last visit but he was only 14 then), Xavier, and myself.  Raynal had to cut a bit of board and extend the table (which ironically was cut down from its original size at the previous apartment).

Before dinner there was Champaign around the couch and chairs.  Mostly this time was spent with everyone listening in awe of R’s second daughter who spoke with great passion and speed none of which was available for my understanding.  It appeared only Flo was able to comprehend and communicate with her.

We had raclettes, which consisted of a couple of cheese and charcuterie plates and potatoes and gherkins and pickled onions.  The idea is like personal fondue.  Each person has a small wedge-shaped pan in which one places cheese, then this pan is inserted into a central electric heater thing which melts the cheese.  Pour that onto your whatnot on your plate and mix and match for goodness.

There was a wonderful white and red wine, of course.

For dessert there was a spiced bread and compote de pomme and the chocolate mentioned above and eau de vie de poire.

Eventually the night ends and Lola, Carlos, and myself ascend to our apartments for sleep.  I already told you I’m not jealous they are sleeping with the bunny.  On an inflatable mattress.  On the floor.  In the bunny zone.


20211224 Orléans

Up before six today.  Not my fault.  Everyone has been retiring early.

Finished writing about yesterday but haven’t published yet since I need some names spelled.  I’m sure everyone is on the edge of their seats awaiting the next chapter.

Started off to take a walk after nine but Flo caught me in the hall and told me to check with Lola and Carlos who were in her apartment.  Carlos taught me how to exchange contact information for WhatsApp which is easy and good to know (sharing a QR code).  I left with Nina and Lola who were searching for some last minute gifts.

We pass some stalls being arranged on one street (street closed) and one is filled, filled!, with sausages.  Another is similarly arranged with cheese.  Mental note to return.

They have no luck finding one particular item and they enter a shop that sells make-up and perfumes and the like.  This is too much for me.  The smell starts to give me a headache and my eyes water.  I bid them adieu and run off in search of a bit of bread for those aforementioned comestibles.

The first couple of boulangerie I see are packed with a line, so I make may way further from the festivities in town toward a district with more Muslims.  The boulangerie I find there has one person in front of me.  I buy a baguette and two pastries.

Takes me a bit to find those stalls again since as I followed Nina and Lola we twisted this way and that and all I had was a couple of photographs to remind me.  Found them though.  Bought ten sausages for 10e.  It’s like they were giving them away.  Maybe I should buy more.  I bought three cheeses (tomme de savoie, morbier, and fourme d’ambert).

I will give most of the cheese to F&R since I think I have eaten all they have now.  Terrible house guest.  Vive la France!

Seriously though, everyone here is incredibly nice.  Could it be the season?  This doesn’t strike me as the sort of thing one unpacks once a year.  I think this is just normal here.  The other day I saw to people nearly collide (one on a bike and the other walking).  They each stepped over themselves taking blame and apologizing.

Anyway, came back to the apartment for a nibble and to leave the food.  I will go down and deliver the cheeses for Flo now.  See what’s next on the agenda.

Of course I interrupted lunch for them.  But I managed to hand off the cheese without causing to much ruckus and extract myself more or less gracefully.

Again I walk along the river South.  You really have to wonder what Washington will be like in a thousand years.  More pictures of course.  I walk out for at least forty minutes and then turn again toward the center of the village.  I want to eat some ice cream and I noted a place in Maps called Moustache.

I have a hazelnut caramel ice cream and a pistachio ice cream.  I sit and eat it there before returning here to write this bit.  Still a couple of hours before dinner so I will rest.  Also published the post for yesterday and sent the Italians the pictures I promised.

Ok.  So dinner.  Well, that was amazing.  Let me just dump here.

There were some little nibbles with Champaign before dinner.  There was a fire.  Not a bad fire but in a fireplace.  It was a nice fire.  Once we got it going.  That was a thing.  And the nibbles.  Probably a dozen different things.  Including the smallest cheeseburger ever built.  Maybe you’ll see a picture.

After that there were presents.  Even they got me a present but I realize now it is down on the couch.  Some chocolates.  I’ll get those tomorrow.  Lots of presents and talking and laughing.  A little I felt like an outsider but the last present was for me and that made me feel at home more.

But then there was dinner.  And again I’d like to outline all the dishes but there were many and I don’t have all the time and mind to list all that out.  Just think of many courses with several different options.  Each delicious and none dominating.  I did spend probably fifteen minutes thinly slicing those lox mentioned earlier.  Man, salmon is the bomb.

Oh, you know, then there was cheese.  I think eight or so cheeses?  I really lost track.  Maybe it was the wine or maybe it was because the details stopped mattering.  Why did the details stop mattering?  Because it was more about these people and all the love in the room than about any dish or whatnot.  Yes, all the dishes were wonderful but maybe any dishes would have been wonderful.  Or maybe these dishes contributed perfectly to the wonder.  Anyway, you know I love cheese.

But then there was dessert.  And a selection of course.  I won’t, again, bother to list out all the options.  No one went unsatisfied.  This is the sort of meal you get.  Did I mention who was there?  It was R&F and C&L and Nina and Hugo and Manon.  These really are some of my favorite people.  Who could ask for more?

After that we played a game called Esquissé.  You start with a word and alternate between pictures and words until you come full circle to see if your word has survived intact.  Hopefully your word has generated enough laughter to power a space station.  I think that’s in the rules.

Anyway, we all won.  Except Flo who slept on the couch under the watchful eye of Redbull.  After which we all went off to bed.  That’s where I’m heading now.  See you!


20211225 Orléans

Even though I woke about seven, it’s been a lazy morning without doubt.  Currently I am making a recording of the bells ringing.  I wonder how long they will ring?  It’s very nearly noon.  Is there a mass at noon?  Who knows.

I ate one of the pastries I bought the other day.  It’s like a calzone with apples in brioche.  Handsome as well as delicious.

I have typed this.  And I suppose I will leave this apartment at some point.  Soon?  Probably.  In spite of the abuse to my feet I am continually restless and cannot stay in here for long.

I make another long walk.  Who needs feet anyway?

I head for a large park called La base de loisirs de l’Ile Charlemagne which looks good for pictures and recording birds.  There are threats of rain so I have added my rain layer.  About half way there (about a 42 minute walk says G) I remove my insulation layer and stuff that in my backpack.  The cloud cover, though not great for photography necessarily, has definitely warmed things up a bit.

I have some trouble finding a toilet because the facilities are partially under construction/remodel and partially because my French is like that of a two year old.  But once that is done I get about disappearing into the slight woods and trails of this vast park.

There are many families and pets strolling around the area, but as I walk West (back toward Orléans) I find quiet places and listen to the local sounds of nature and try to take some interesting pictures.

I take a picture of a dog and chat with the owner.  Here name is Charlotte Sarou and it turns out she currently has no pictures of her dog.  I offer to send the ones I’ve take and take a few more so we are sure there is a good one.

I send those as I’m reminded typing this part of the story.

I make my way through the park, heading back toward the bridge to take me across the river again and back toward home.

Since I have exhausted F&R I seek out dinner for myself.  Many places are open but mostly bars.  I stop in at a bar and meet some young Frenchmen.  One is a student in IT and another is a real estate agent.  We talk for some time and I drink a cocktail, also talking with the owner, Ben (Benoit I think).

I need some food though.  They tell me of an ok restaurant which will be open.  I head there to have the rumstek de bœuf.  I talk with a couple who have moved from Paris to Orléans.  We chat for a long time at their table but I excuse myself because I really am hungry.  We chat again as they are leaving, passing my table.  The make a restaurant recommendation which I hope to try Monday.

When I was leaving the bar the card devices were not working (one was dead battery and the other was frozen) so I return again at least to pay.  My new friends are still there so we talk again and I have a beer.  They leave but I have met a second group of people (a beautiful woman and two talkative gentlemen).

Everyone wants to know why I’ve come to Orléans since it’s not a particularly touristy destination.  I explain that I have friends here but that I have worn them out with my enthusiasm.  Also, and I mentioned this before, everyone is very friendly.  It also probably helps that I’m the exotic traveler from abroad.

Finally around midnight I pay and bid my new friends good night.  Elie (the guy I’ve been talking with until the end) says we should get another drink before I leave for Seattle and so I will try to get that in as well.  Time is not your friend.

Back here and crash.  My toe has a blister.  Traveling in the winter is much harder on my feet.  I mean, traveling to a place where it is winter.  My feet were made to be bare!  To be naked!  To be free!  Fuck, they hate me.


20211226 Orléans

Up with my alarm around eight this morning.  Flo goes to see her mother every Sunday for dinner so we will get together for lunch today.  I spend time writing about yesterday and sending pictures and responding to people.  Tomorrow night I will have to make my way back to Paris and eventually to the airport.  I can’t take a Tuesday morning train because the earliest train doesn’t give me comfortable time to get to the airport before my eight o’clock flight time.

I will head down for lunch shortly.

Great lunch of roast chicken, green salad, and truffled mashed potatoes with Flo and Raynal and Nina.  Then cheeses and desserts.  I am happy to know these people.  So kind and so loving.  Very happy to be a part of their lives.

We talk about tomorrow, my last day.  They work, of course, so lunch is out.  After work they must work on the new apartment (demolition of the old bathtub with hammer and chisel).  Thus tomorrow I will be on my own again in this wonderful village, as I am for the remainder of the afternoon now that F&R are leaving to visit Flo’s mother (and to feed Manon’s cat along the way).

If I do not see them otherwise I will stop at the new apartment to say good-bye.

As usual, my dreams are larger than time.  Even though I have done a lot I can see that there are unchecked items which will remain on my list.

I have made my promises to return, and with this new job these seem likely to come true.  If I visited France every couple of years for a month my French would get very good.

Regardless of my plans for the remainder of today, I have a full belly and can continue to rest my feet.

As it is my last chance I looked to see if any of the restaurants on my Orléans list were open this Sunday.  Ty’s restaurant was not.  However, the restaurant recommended by the Parisian couple was open:  Le Brin de Zinc.  It’s a place with fun decorations and an extensive menu.  Also pretty busy (though it turns out there are like five different seating areas over three floors and the main bar and two outdoor areas so it’s possible only the lower bit was full).

I start with Notre incontournable foie gras me-cuit, which is their foie gras served with a rhubarb compote with Sichuan peppers.  I still prefer fig.  The foie gras is quite good though.  I also order a kir royale.

For the main I order Poêlée de rognon de veau, which is veal kidney served with pasta in a house-made foie gras sauce.  At this point the server stopped me.  He was very concerned that I did not know what I was getting myself into.  The menu does show the English version which clearly states kidney.  He was struggling to explain I was ordering organ meat (though he did keep pointing to his liver) and I kept saying “yes, it’s kidney”.  Finally he looked up the word on his phone and we agreed it was in fact kidney.  I explained to him you have to try new things.

He was very afraid for me and thought I’d perhaps lost my mind.

The sauce was amazing.  It is true the kidney has a strong flavor, but being veal I would think it less strong than beef kidney.  That being said, if you cut a piece and combined that will the sauce and a bit of carrot or mushroom and some pasta it was pleasantly balanced.  He asked several times if it was ok.  I think he was still suspicious even when I emptied the fry pan in which it was served.  Kids today…

I ate a dessert.  Probably I was already full but it was called ma cherie and was a scoop of chocolate ice cream, two scoops of cherry sorbet, chocolate sauce, berry sauce, some crunchy bits of cookie, and whipped cream.  So… full…

Nothing to do but return to the apartment and sleep.


20211227 Orléans-Paris-Seattle

Up lazily between eight and nine.  Last day.  Have to make my way back to Paris tonight since the early train isn’t early enough to make my flight.  I’ve messaged with Edgar and Fred so I may have someone to hang with until the wee hours when I have to depart for the airport.  The flight is at eight so I’ll probably leave Paris by five.  Also I have to get a test today so I can return to the US.  Hope I pass!  Fucking zombies.

Belly really bothering me after eating so much the night before so I spent much of the day lounging around, reading, getting things ready for travel.  But by the afternoon I really need to find that test so I head out in search of my test.

In Paris there were pop-up testing centers all over the place.  But this is Orléans.  They do have several pharmacie but even the self-tests are running out in some of them.  And not all of them perform the proper antigen test for flying.  I walk to the first one.  He can’t help.  I ask where and he shrugs.  I walk to the second one and read a sign indicating they are out of tests (we’ll come back to this).  I walk to the third one and wait in line.  By this point I’m overheated and my belly is annoyed with me.

I get to the person at the counter and explain I need a test for flying.  She offers me a test in a box.  I don’t think this will work so she asks another.  They think I need a lab so she looks up the address for this lab and offers to take a picture of this with my phone.  I pull out my phone and get the camera ready and am also trying to remove some of my layers because I’m overheated and I’m also trying to understand what she is saying because this is medical jargon and I’m pretty lost and my mask is keeping my face hot and wet and I’m stressed to find this test.

Long story short, I pass out before I can get myself cooled down.  Seemingly everyone in the shop leaps to my aid.  Super embarrassed.  They sit me up and help me get some of my layers off.  Then they help me to some chairs in a waiting area.  Terribly embarrassing.  Anyway, I sit there until I am ready and cool again.

No scarf, no hat, and my jacket open I make my way toward the lab.  Can’t find the entrance only the exit.  So I go in the exit.  I explain my situation:  must have test to fly.  They can’t help me.  I need a pharmacie.  I feel like Yossarian.

I start walking back toward the apartment thinking maybe I’ll talk to Flo, see if she can help me find what I need.  I decide to call the Embassy as I’m walking.  They shunt me to a recording.  The recording says I need an antigen test that comes with a QR code from a pharmacie.  I turn on my heels and walk back to the previous one.

I explain what I need:  antigen test and QR code.  Does the test in the box provide that?  No.  The very nice lady walks me to the street, points to another green cross glowing in the near distance, and says “go there”.  I go there.

That’s the one with the sign I mentioned earlier.  The thing is that one has a sign that says they are out of tests.  I was caught by the verb they used for “out of” which translates as “breach”.  This helped me to overlook the autotest (self-test) part of the sign.  They can test; they just are out of the self-test boxes.

They can test me.  I get into a second line to wait for my test.  Back up the nose they go (just one nostril here!) and tickle my brain a bit.  Come back in half an hour I’m told.  And half an hour later I have a piece of paper with my negatif.  Fucking ordeal.  Done.

I return to the apartment to rest and shower.

After that I venture out to get some nibbles for the plane (remember that Delta flight and no food service on account of the plague?).  I walk past the new apartment to see if Flo and Raynal are working but the lights are out.  I walk back and get my food situated in a plastic back from the bread purchase and stick that all in the fridge.  Mostly I’m ready to go.

The first morning train is too late to give me time to get to the airport so I will take an evening train instead.  I text Flo and they are downstairs.  I hang with them for a bit and tell them of my testing woes and my embarrassing moment.  It’s been a day.

We watch the President and the Health Minister on TV talking about the plague.  My basic impression is “don’t be idiots; wear your fucking masks!”.  The US State Department has France at level 4, which means don’t travel there.  You’d have to be an idiot to travel to France!  Zombies everywhere.

I’m going to take the train about half-past nine.  Flo suggests we get pizza.  I figure I’ll try eating a bit.  I eat one small piece.  I fucking love pizza!  It’s been a day.

I get everything ready and drag everything back down to say good-bye to F&R and hand over the keys.  I promise to come again before a decade this time.  Now I slog to the train station.

For the second time the stupid machine doesn’t like my card or something.  I have to switch to a different machine to get my ticket.  At least I’m ready for that this time.

I’m looking for the train since I can’t see an indication on the ticket for maybe which spot to find it and I talk to another guy going to Austerlitz.  I just follow him until we are situated in a train car.  Rest more for that hour train ride.

We get to Paris and it’s raining pretty good.  My plan to walk to the next station sucks.  Fuck it.  I walk the forty minutes.  I marvel at all the testing pop-ups.  Keep in mind it’s nearly eleven.  I could get ten tests right now.  Ten tests and a fucking cocktail.

I have some real trouble finding the entrance for the station.  There was the helpful bus driver who thought it was best for me to take a bus from the next street to a totally different station.  I walked in the direction indicated but really just went looking for someone else to ask.

I circled that entrance like a stalking cat.  Well, like a stalking cat with Alzheimer’s and no clear objective.  I’d ask someone and they’d point just over there and turn left.  I’d see nothing resembling stairs or an escalator or anything.  Finally I turn some corner and there is this huge subterranean entrance with long glorious escalators four wide descending into the bowels of the Earth.  I go down and buy a ticket for the train.

Then I walk back up and mark this location on my map.

Now I go in search of a bar.  My plan is to hang out not at the airport.  I find this great bar called Mamie where I have a juice cocktail and listen to the great DJ music they are running.  I chat with the owner.  He tells me that after he closes there is a bar around the corner which has a stage (a stage bar) and live music.  So when he closes I walk around the corner.

I find it but at first it looks packed and overflowing.  I stand behind three other guys with suitcases waiting for the bouncer to finish telling some asshat to piss off.  Then it’s scan our QR codes and in we go.  Turns out it’s just the outdoor patio that’s packed and overflowing.  There is plenty of room inside.  I sit next to the stage.  I mean it’s a small place so everywhere is next to the stage.  Those three other guys sit at the table next to me.  It’s a hip little music club.

They are from further South in France and are on their way to Columbia for a wedding.  We talk and the music plays and we are having a great time.

I order a Kriek but it’s not 10e so the bartender doesn’t want my plastic.  I offer to pay for a tea as well which I will drink later.  We do that.

Mostly the music is American rock covers (Nirvana, ZZ Top, Queen (UK), others) but they do slip in a French punk classic (Antisocial by Trust).  Everybody is into whatever they do.  It’s a fun night.

We talk about getting to the airport.  I check the train times.  If I run down now I can catch this train.  They suggest I come with them via Uber.  The train is only a 10e loss and we are having a ball.

More music it is then.  And I kinda want to be going to Columbia for a buddy’s wedding.  Eventually the hour comes and we head outside to find that Uber.  France isn’t allowing anyone in the front seat due to the plague and Uber can’t count so send cars that can’t hold four humans in the back.  We order a special car (read:  van) for a bit more coin.  Off we are driving for the airport.

Air France only allows 12kg of carry-on luggage.  I have no choice but to check my suitcase.  This sucks because baggage takes forever.  Not submitting it.  That took no time.  It’s at the other end.

Anyway, I get through security and meet back up with my new friends.  Our gates are close so we settle in at a table and get some nibbles (for them) and coffees (for them) and some water (for me).  I also eat some of my carrots.  I offer, of course, but they say something very French about it being the wrong time (of day).  I explain my belly situation.  They are sympathetic.  I figure the fiber might help.

Their flight is called first so then I walk over to my gate to wait the last little bit before boarding.

Descent flight.

Amsterdam airport must be the best I’ve seen.  It’s like someone made signs.  Intelligible well-placed signs.  Nice job.

I can’t use the machine to print this boarding pass.  I think it’s because of the test requirement.  A nice lady hooks me up.

Another nice flight.  Sat next to a kid from Valencia on his way to see a friend who is an exchange student in Seattle.  And a guy who works in remodeling here in Seattle.  Mostly I read my books and nod off from time to time.  Making occasional long-legged walks to the toilet or around the plane to keep my knees from seizing up.

Back to SeaTac and the long slog through all the check points.  Fill out this piece of paper.  Show it to this person who stamps it.  “Do you have any food or stuff?”  No, I lie.  Go there to get your luggage.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Get your luggage.  Show your paper.  “Do you have all your luggage?”.  I do.  Welcome to the USA!

Long walk to the train.  My phone is going nuts because it’s in range again.  I have to disable the Euro SIM to get everything working again.  Beep beep boop.  I’m on a train.  I think I forgot to pay.  My friend C meets me at the ID train station so I don’t have to deal with the bus thing with the snow.

Back home.  Dump both bags on the living room floor and take a fucking shower.  It’s been a day.