Category Archives: France_2010

Trip to France June of 2010.

Three-teen!

19 June

(Photos)

I stayed the night in the apartment of Dominique who lives on the second floor (or first floor depending on how you count them).

Rise at 9 in the morning. Some of you are thinking “man, that’s sleeping pretty late” and others are thinking “damn, that’s still early”, but for my part I was thinking “not bad for no alarm clock and yet another late night”.

I went downstairs to Flo and Olivier’s apartment and Flo offered me some chocolate mousse for breakfast. Who would say no to that?

We walked through the streets of Orléans enjoying the sights and sounds. For my edification, Eric reenacted some of the route of Joan d’Arc while I clapped horse sounds. “You Brits; I will fuck you up!” She really said that.

I also noticed that the bicycles here are a different color than those rented in Toulouse. We stopped in to see a Canadian friend of Eric’s (from Montréal) (XXXXXX) of whom I neglected to shoot a picture. However, I did take a picture of the largest tub of crème fraîche I have ever seen.

We saw a wedding party spilling into the streets and having a grand time. There were also more preparations for music for the evening going on all around.

Floflo had to do some shopping or something equally important so Eric and I split off at some point. We met Galette (another Eric) et Domie (another though female Dominique) while walking about and hung with them until dinner time.

We ran into an ex-girlfriend of Eric’s brother named Frederique (better known as Puce) and talked with her for maybe twenty minutes. She was a bundle of kinetic energy and I liked her a lot. She went off to do her thing and we continued our ambling.

Later we met with Jean Paul Duché and toured his studio, taking time out to sample some of the last of the NW weed on the roof deck of the studio.

Finally, we walked back to chez Olivier et Florence to get ready for dinner out. That meant back to town for dinner at a restaurant specializing in fondue. One of the appetizers was a plate of breaded and fried tiny whole fish served with a sort of tartar sauce. I loved it. Flo refused to eat them because of the eyes. Sometimes I feel bad for Flo, but not very much (because I ate what she wouldn’t) and not very long.

I had a charcuterie plate for my fondue. You know how I feel about cured meats.

There was a problem with my pot as the torch had gone out. For a while there I felt like Jacques Tati fumbling about with my cheese being much less runny than everyone else’s and being very confused by the whole process. Eventually I realized what was not right and got it lit. Again the impossible became possible.

For desert, there was chocolate fondue though I opted for something like a lava cake with crème anglaise. Very yummy.

The music festival was already started when we finished dinner. We were four who broke off to pursue the tunage: Eric, Gallette, Dominique, et moi. Jazz was the order of the day. We watched some decent music during the day, but it was too cold as the evening set in to enjoy much of it and we ended up in bars.

We ran into FF (François Fougeroux friend of Dominique’s daughter Lisa). FF had a guitar and I played guitar and sang until proprietor asked as to stop for the sake of the neighbors as it was rather late and they didn’t have the proper license for music. I guess that was a kind of compliment.

I took a picture of this distinct cat a local graffiti artist painted (and paints all over the world) in this bar.

Then we played shut the box (12 tile version) and drank some tequila and rum drink until even later. Not requiring anything more, especially after the previous night, we went to another pub for beer. (I tried to pass but drank about 2/3 of a beer.)

Eric complained girls in Orleans were not as pretty as those in Toulouse, and it was probably true; but there was still plenty to see in the way of girls I could hardly call myself disappointed.

Eric became very excited to show us ‘something’ at the bar (remember, this is the town in which he grew up). So we went into this utterly black spiral stair well and began to climb. I have a little LED flashlight in my pocket (IT Nerd, at your service) and that was helpful as we four ascended the four flights of stairs winding up into the darkness to find:

An old washing machine.

Apparently this is not what he was expecting but I’ll be damned if any of us could understand what he was trying to say through all the laughter.

Not a bad day, all in all.

JamesIsIn

Twelve

18 June

(Photos)

The large part of today was spent driving from Toulouse to Orleans.  We made a couple of stops along the way and one of those is really important.

We stopped at a village known as Oradour-sur-Glane which is really two villages now.  One new where all the people live, and one lying in ruins which stands as its own memorial.

According  to Eric a Panzer division with orders to move toward Normandy in anticipation of a suspected allied invasion and with additional orders to make an example should they encounter any resistance, encountered resistance (presumably) and make an example of Oradour-sur-Glane.

Many of the villagers were herded into the church along with cans of gasoline, the doors barred, and set alight.  The entire village was burned and any remaining humans were killed.  Only a handful survived by having been far out in the fields when this all took place and thus able to hide and avoid discovery.

The entire village was left untouched and simple labeled Remember.  So next time you think “Remember the Alamo” you can think also about Oradour-sur-Glane.  A disquieting but important visit.

We also stopped at a strangely excellent rest stop.

Finally we routed through Floeury les Aubrais (where Eric grew up and where his mom’s shoe store was for so many years).  There we stopped and bought a bouquet of flowers for Flo.

When we arrived at chez Olivier and Florence (Flo), I again got the full tour (they all must think me mad taking pictures of everything I see) and fell in love with their cavernous bath room.  One day I will bathe there with the assistance of three or four village girls and wine.  I have simple tastes.

The evening was spent at a barbecue for the building.  In attendance were Eric et moi, Olivier et Florence, Manon, et Hugo; Dominique (widower of Olivier’s sister) and his son Antoine; Stefan and his wife; Michel (metre d’ouvre) et Caroline; and some other children whose names escape me.

Dinner consisted of pork skewers (with tomato, bell pepper); a kind of pasta salad; a zucchini sauce; and Côte de boeuf.  This was accompanied by copious amounts of wine (eight bottles for twelve people), champagne, ricard, scotch, eu de vie de poirre, and maybe some other stuff (it all gets a little hazy at some point).

After a nice meal and a visit (for no apparent reason) to the dirt cellar I suggested we take a little stroll around the neighborhood (you all know how I love to walk).  So we filled our glasses and ventured out into the Toulousian night where we met a group of four youths in a small square just around the corner.

They were rolling a joint with blends of hash and weed (no tobacco so we stayed with them to help keep them out of trouble and to enjoy their company, and besides what one really needs after a night of opulent eating and drinking is a bit of marijuana.  Another group of their friends arrived and we all talked and joked and laughed together.

All very happy we said goodnight to our companions and made our way back home with our empty glasses to discover what sheets feel like anew around three in the morning.

JamesIsIn

Eleven

17 June

(Photos)

Eric and I went downtown to wander around before his meeting with his (former) HR people.  We spent some time in the garden of plants (where I had previously visited with Julien) and saw a peacock (le paon) and some other birds.  Love the pretty birds.

After that we went out to Colomiers to have a bite to eat on our way to where Eric used to work.  We stopped at a restaurant Eric knew and had a nice meal.

The salad course was a simple green salad with a vinaigrette accompanied by melon and white port (for dipping or dousing the melon).  We drank Ricard (of course) then a palatable house red.

For the main course Eric had trout and I had beef with lardon.  Then Eric had a cheese course (with which I assisted) and I had a couple of deserts that looked interesting (a kind of chocolate lava cake and a sort of compote with fruit).

All in all quite an excellent repast.

We visited his work where I met several people and tried to nap in a chair in Nelly’s office.  That went ok because she likes naps too (I think), which is to say she didn’t try to talk to me very much and let me close my eyes whenever they happened to do so.  After a meal like that a little nap really is in order.

After that paperwork was all signed and ready to go, Eric and I split back for Bonnefoy.  Once we got back we took a little walk around the neighborhood.  Ostensibly seeking a used store where we might find a lamp, but really just wandering around familiarizing ourselves with his neighborhood.

As we meandered we found an art space that does both visual and audio arts (such as sculpture and music) and promised to return when their new show was up after our visit to the countryside.  They seemed like cool people and the space is great, so I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like when it’s in gear.

The guy we talked to at the art space told us about a fountain in a nearby park which featured the alphabet (font) they had developed based on triangles.  We walked around the corner to the park and took a look around.  The fountain was nice but I can’t say I’ve deciphered the font as yet.  I think they have the font posted somewhere and I’ll try to post a link for that at some point.

On our way back to chez Eric we stopped in to see his landlord.  Her surname is Mazas and her family is very old to Bonnefoy.  Her house is in the oldest building in Bonnefoy and it’s on the corner of Rue de Mazas.  She gave us a nice tour of her place and we talked about castles and electricians.

Why electricians?  I may have already mentioned that the electrical wiring in Eric’s place is a bit wonky, and the previous night Eric was changing a bulb and shorted a lamp as he twisted the bulb out.  This killed the lights in the kitchen, the toilet, and his bedroom.  The fuse box (yes, fuse box) has no markings so we were at a loss to determine which fuse might be in need of assistance.

Anyway, she promised to get an electrician over to the apartment while we were off in the country, and apologized for the lighting (which she doesn’t like and would prefer changed).

Since we were delayed from leaving for an extra day it gave us another opportunity to visit the music festival.  Today was the official first day of the festival and we went down that evening to have a go at it.

We stood in a long line for tickets, and Eric didn’t notice that though he asked for two tickets she only sold him one.  I quickly pointed it out and we were ushered to a special window for problems where we were able to buy a second ticket without standing in line again.

We met with Nelly and Patric who were already inside.  We had a great snack consisting of red wine, cured meats, tomatoes, olives, and baguette.  Damn, what a great fair snack.  Take that elephant ears.

Johnny Clegg was the headliner (and the act we had hoped to see the previous night) and all the music was pretty good.

We also ran into Jeff at the booth for his restaurant and we helped to drink some of their beer (a kind of white beer).  Such a rough evening.

JamesIsIn

Ten

18:07 Wednesday

16 June 2010 Toulouse

(Photos)

We hit the pizza place across the street both because we’ve been meaning to and because we are waiting for a call from the plumber.  We each ordered a different pizza (33 cm and not 29 cm).  I had one called capricciosa (sauce tomate, jambon, artichaut grille, mozzarella, huile d’olive, olives) and Eric ordered a bolognaise (sauce tomate, oignon, boeuf, emmental, origan).  They were both quite excellent with a paper thin crust.

We drank a bottle of Bardolino Chiaretto Classico (a rose from Italy; 2009 Cesari).

All together the meal and wine totaled about thirty euros and we left stuffed.

However, before we left we met a fascinating lady who asked if she could steal my pizza while I was still inside.  Of course Eric said it wasn’t his.  We talked and laughed with her on the sidewalk until she walked on her way and we ate our food.  It’s nice eating on the sidewalk like this.

The sun came out while we were waiting for our pizza.  It was hot and nice when we came back to the apartment, and the plumber came and conquered the blocked drain.  Baby steps.  Loads of laundry running regular now.  We also got the call telling us our tickets for the concert this evening were secured.  We would leave to meet at Julien’s about seven.

21:04 Wednesday

Oh, those well laid plans of mice and men… we left the pad to climb in the car and head to the show in spite of the fact that it has started really raining.  There was thunder and lighting and the rain was coming down in buckets.

Eric’s car started having this issue recently were his alarm system stops, randomly, allowing the car starting.  “All this shit went wrong right before you got here; I’m sorry Jim”.  While Eric was fucking with the alarm (and I was writing in my notebook) we received a call announcing that the show was dead due to inclement weather.  (I so much prefer intimate weather.)

Gave up on the alarm and walked back to the homestead.  Eric wanted to stay in but I was hoping to spend at least a little time out where there might be girls.  I took a reconnaissance walk down Bonnefoy to find a place that might work.  The late night activity is really all downtown here.  The local pubs are geared toward the work day nips and dinner time supplements.

I found a place on the corner near the canal which stays open until midnight and looks like it has dancing.  No, I don’t dance; but girls do and you’ll remember that was the point.

Returned home full of useful information.  Nice change.  We ate some bread, some saucisse sèche, some more of that Médoc, and some cod livers from a tin (foie de morue gout fume; riche en oméga 3; Balthor).  Even in defeat we celebrate.

This radio station is still excellent company.  One song goes “he’s got barbed wire in his underpants” and “oh, mama!” and it’s followed by a reggae version of “A Whiter Shade of Pale”.  How can you argue with that?

“Let’s open this, Jim.  I really don’t feel like seeing people right now.  I want to get this shit fixed.”  So we opened a bottle of Les Compagnons du Château La Grave Béchade Côtes-de-Duras and I wrote this blog post while Eric did his taxes on-line.

We’ll try for some excitement tomorrow.  We should be leaving for Orleans Friday morning.  In the meantime we are going to attempt getting the electronic alarm problem fixed and there is also an electrical problem in the apartment (which was anticipated).  “Tomorrow will be an electrical day, Jimbo!”.

Problem solvers are we.

JamesIsIn

Close the Nine and Open the Ten

12:51 Wednesday

16 June 2010 Toulouse

We have been treading water for a day now.  The plumbing problem is really causing havoc.  We can neither do laundry nor do dishes.  I know what you are thinking: you are two heterosexual males; you don’t do laundry or dishes.  Well, you’d be very wrong.  We are hets and tidy.  Go figure.

Anyway, last night I just snacked around here trying some other things I had bought.  I tried the cheese and bread I bought at the Tuesday market.  I tried a different cured sausage.  We opened a bottle of Médoc (Grand Vin de Bordeaux) which I’ve always liked.  This was good too.

This morning the Internet went out so we were stuck here, neither laundry nor dishes, and no Internet.  Starting to resemble un cauchemar around here.  Too bad it’s not more like the statue I saw at the museum.

Got the Internet sorted (obviously).  The plumber is coming sometime today, presumably at his leisure.  I think we’ll sneak across the street for pizza in the meantime.

All this time allowed me to get pictures offloaded, shrunk, and uploaded.  My curious friends should be well entertained at least (even if I’m a bit trapped).  Don’t pity me though; I still have cheese and wine and cured meats.  Could use some girls is all.

We’ll see what the pizza place has in store.

A bientôt, mes amis.

JamesIsIn

The Remains of the Nine

16:28 Tuesday

15 June 2010 Toulouse

Lunch was light but delicious.  We had  Rillettes de Poulet Roti en cocotte on bread (maiz, but not corn bread but rather bread with corn in it).  We drank a Medoc.  Lovely.

The plumbing problem is ongoing and we need laundry, so it’s annoying.  “I’m fucked, poutant!” says Eric.  I agree, nodding my head as I eat the poulet.  The French word for plumber is un plombier.  Merde!

I’ve been working on getting images up on the Web and that’s coming along well enough.  I finally settled on Picasa and will get links all over once I have things set up as I want them.  Maybe even by the time I finish this post.

JamesIsIn

Nine

13:49 Tuesday

15 June 2010 Toulouse

(Photos)

Got up early and corresponded from bed.  Then showered and left the apartment so Eric could manage some more paper work.

I walked down to the Tuesday market here in Bonnefoy and bought a little goat cheese, some bread, and some different duck salami.  I haven’t tried the cheese or the bread yet, but the sausage tastes a bit of cumin and is slightly spicy.  I got pictures of all three stands but only the bread man wanted his picture taken.

Then I went for a walk.  I just picked a street and started wandering.  There is a secondary school close by and I took some pictures around there.

Oh, I also bought a chocolatine from the bread man.  I ate that while walking near the school.

Then I picked a new street and walked in the other direction.  To the NW of Rue du Foubourg-Bonnefoy there are a bunch of nice houses with gardens.  I met a lonely dog who slipped his paw under the gate so I could pet him.  I also met a few people who were very friendly and said hello.

Finally I met some real estate people.  I talked with two of them at some length about many things.  Turns out the young man has a cousin in Portland.  The young man and I shot a picture together and I left them to whatever real estate business they had.

Seems women here, like everywhere, don’t want to be in pictures.  That will make my new idea to take pictures of everyone I talk with rather difficult.

Eventually made my way back here.  Lots of wrong turns down dead end streets.  Ate one of the duck sausages to test it out.  Yummy but not my favorite.

Now we are trying to sort out a plumbing problem.  We thought we had it sorted out the other day.  We have installed both the washing machine and the dish washer, but for some reason the drains appear to be blocked in one particular area so we can run either one or the other but we cannot attach them both because of the blockage.  We’ll sort that out at some point.  Every new space has its unique problems I guess.

It’s closing in on two so we’ll likely eat lunch soon.  Though we may have to run after a plumbing tool which will likely throw our schedules off.  But damn it, I’m hungry.

Later.

JamesIsIn

An Eighth Ending

23:13 Monday

14 June 2010 Toulouse

(Photos)

Quiet evening.  I maybe am wearing poor Eric out.  As is famous enough I don’t sleep much.  I have this odd ability to just stay awake.  I wonder if I could set a world’s record, but why would I want to?  Fuck that.

Anyway, we had some new (to me) cheeses and beverages so I’ll tell you a little about that before I hit the sack.

We had a cheese called bamalou.  I don’t know maybe it’s textured similar to fontaine or gouda.  Tasty.  We also had a cheese product called Boursin, which I have had in Seattle.  This was a cow cheese mixed with garlic and herbs.  We spread it on bread, but you can also use it in cooking or whatever.  Nice.

When we were at the store earlier we picked up some encased meats and we tried the saucisse sèche de canard, that’s right duck salami.  When I was walking with Julien in the public gardens on Sunday I saw some of the ducks.  Several varieties I had never seen before.  One was enormous.  They even have these little duck condos for the ducks that live in the garden.

Where was I?  Oh, yeah, encased.  Not bad at all.  So nice to see the love of duck taken to such a fine art.

We drank a beer called Jenlain Ambrée (biere de garde).  Julien called it a beer for winos, but Eric defended it and I did my best drunkard drinking imitation.  We also drank a different Fronton (Carte Noire) for comparison I suppose.  I liked both of them well enough.

We also ate a banana.  It really changed the direction of the Fronton from, say, the canard.  This is what I really love about wine.  It responds to its companions in novel and complex ways.  Drink wine and eat food.  The wines you drink were meant to be drunk with food.  Don’t short change yourself.  Experiment.  Some things will be better than others, and some things will evoke flavors never anticipated.

Good luck with that.

I’m either going to shave and then go to bed or just go directly to bed depending on how tired I feel when I get close to the mattress.  Eric, can you guess?, is laid out on the couch.

I know there is a bunch of shit I am forgetting to tell you about.  That’s life though.  I’ll try to fill in the gaps, but guess there was even more adventure than you see here.  And the women are so beautiful it’s breaking my heart.

I think yes, either les canards ou les femmes: one of them will touch me and I will be lost forever.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about lunch today.  We stopped at a restaurant called L’Entrecôte.  They serve one dish: L’Entrecôte (literally, between the ribs) with les pommes frites (these were what we might call shoe string fries).  We had that, me rare and Eric not so rare, and some Bordeaux.  I, at Eric’s recommendation , tried one of their desserts called profiteroles.  Basically vanilla ice cream, these little donut/cookies called choucuettes, and chocolate sauce.  The meat was amazingly tender which is precisely why they are famous.  Amazing to think of a restaurant that makes one dish every day.  The only menu they have is the dessert list and you could write that on the back of your hand (if you were so inclined).  Yet the place was packed on a Monday.  Has been for years.

Ok, that’s it.  Bed time.

JamesIsIn

An Eighth Day

20:23 Monday

14 June 2010 Toulouse

(Photos)

Organize for the day.  No shower necessary because I douched upon return last evening.  Out into the rain.  What happened to too hot?  Bah.  I’m from Seattle.  This is barely rain and it feels warm enough not to bother.  Was probably even still a bit too warm for most.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: I’d rather be too hot than too cold.  Merci, Toulouse.

We went to the car glass place (conveniently called Carglass) and found that it’s a mechanical problem they can’t deal with.  Seems all these excellent German car makers are using this stupid little plastic part in the window mechanism (a common failure for BMW, Audi, Mercedes, &c).  We will have to go to a dealer or a parts place and get the part and have some mechanic fix it.  Not happening today.  The glass dude totally hooked us up by putting the glass back in a closed position.  No more passenger window.  C’est la view.

We went into a grocery to fill up le frigo.  All sorts of stuff.  Now we can eat our snack meals here with ease.  We also picked up a squeegee for keeping the terrace surface clear of standing water (well, once it stops raining).

Then we went downtown again and visited the Musee des Augustins.  Fucking wow.  Old (and current) church.  Possibly a monastery or abbey or cloister or some such originally.  Now it’s mostly museum.  The church part was closed today.  At least the door was locked.  Maybe they saw us coming?

I recognized several pieces from art history classes, but it was overwhelming to suffer (pleasantly) the inundation of works of art lining the walls and halls of this ancient building.  Yes, fucking wow indeed.  Three euros well spent.

Wandered all over some more.  Finally got a card reader so I can offload images to my lappy (and subsequently upload them).  I’ll likely just vomit them onto some snapshot posting site in daily buckets, but it’s coming.  Raw and dangerous.

It’s snack time for now though.  We shall see what the remainder of the evening has to offer.

JamesIsIn