jeudi 26 février 2009

Is there really a "tapisserie" in Bayeux?

Although you probably have forgotten who I am or what the hell I'm doing in Paris by now, I've decided to reintroduce myself with a recapitulation of my last few weeks, complete with biting sarcasm and juicy details.  It has been three weeks since my last blog, so I apologize if my short term memory loss affects the quality of my story-telling though I will try my hardest to recall what has been going on.  Donc:

We'll start with the week following our return to Paris, from London, which involved hours of recovery for our poor, swollen feet (and I literally mean, quite swollen).  Katie and I took two days to ourselves, and class of course, to ignore the city bustle and stay  in.  Wednesday we journeyed to the Cluny Museum, a hidden morsel next to Sorbonne that houses art and tapestries from the Middle Ages.  We were to visit the museum with the intent of discovering the differences between Occidental art and Islamic Art, though we were disappointed to find only several pieces originating in Cordou.  We did, however, enojoy the Lady and the Unicorn (which apparently has many sexual connotations and comes from an unknown origin).  Up close, one can observe stitching patterns that modern technology cannot duplicate and wallow in the wonder of the Dark Age's women who sewed this masterpiece.  The next night, we decided to go out after a three hour dinner (or so) with Laura and Chiama.  

The Auto Passion it was.  The only bar in Paris that is designed for "bikers", or their version of bikers...We sat at the bar, as it is cheapest to do so (you pay more if the waitress has to make the effort to come to YOUR table), and were officially the only women in the bar that were unchaperoned by men.  Sitting and sipping our beer (clarification:  my beer, her cider), we glanced to our left where an older man was trying to play matchmaker and get us to talk to this young gentleman, who apparently spoke English.  The young man looked like a deer caught in headlights, and we were just as repulsed by the idea that we shook our heads and said, "No thanks."  When I left for the restroom, the old man badgered Katie to talk to this poor man until the bartender had to step in and tell him to "Mind the ladies;" Actually he said to leave us alone, that quote would be more expected in a city like London.  Just as I returned, a group of older men (like, my father's age) offered to buy us drinks and we politely refused arguing that we were on our way out.  But as we put our coats on, we were offered drinks from the guys on our left at the bar, who were much younger and less creepy.  What was going on?  We couldn't get a free drink for five weeks...we've been paying ridiculous sums of money to enjoy one or two drinks in a bar, and now in one night, we're getting mauled from every angle?  Free.99...How could we resist?  Enjoying beer with two brewers from Barritz, we talked to the younger gentlemen until they took their leave, whereupon the older men reappeared and offered us champagne.  We decided to accept and be kind, smiling and crossing our legs at our ankles to maintain a sincere look at lady-esque behavior.  Of course politics came up (the infamous question of, "Did you vote?  For Obama?"), and I always, when drinking, take this as an invitation to open my mouth and not shut up for about a half hour.  I apologize to those who are ever around me when and if this happens.  After the bill of 189 Euros came and one of the men paid, we were ready to take our leave back to the Marechal.  Unfortunately, fate would not have it that we ever get the chance to enjoy a smooth escape.  I was offered a free show in New York from a man with "a lot of money," to which my answer was a laugh and a tug on the arm from Katie.  We walked very quickly to get home, finally unchaperoned.

Friday we returned  to IES to watch Casque d'Or for our film courses, a wonderful French film made in 1952 by Becker, which includes a very surprising ending.  I won't give it away, but I hope that this compels you just a little...Afterwards, we got ready for a dinner at Chez Papa with Amaresh and his friend from London, James.  Dinner was incredibly scrumptious and authentic, including a bottle of red wine, brioche with egg, cheese, and vegetables with a salad that included spices, potatos, ham, and a lite oil seasoning.  I am definitely taking my friends there when they come to visit.  Quite tight, space-wise, but that is one of the reasons for which it is authentically French.  We then visited one of my newer favorite bars, the Cluny Bar in the Quartier Latin, which included live music composed of one acoustic guitar and one electric...two Frenchmen (not bad, not bad), and a plethora of music tastes that suited my tastes and needs.  I do say, I prefer the natural sounds and eclectic talent to the incessant beats of techno that move the chair you're actually sitting on every time the bass hits.  Thanks for the introduction to the bar Amaresh.

Saturday we had a quiet day just outside of Paris proper, with Marie.  We caught up on The Office and stand-up comedy.  The rest of the weekend passed without much to note about (same old, same old).  

The following week I taught my first yoga class for IES, where I was paid 3 Euros per person to teach a one hour class, hot and over-crowded, but I cannot even explain how happy I was to finally do this.  It felt great and I slept wonderfully that night.  We also bought our train tickets to Normany this day, so my mood was good and prospects were looking quite nice.

Later in the week, Katie and I took a morning trip to the Musee d'Orsay, where we utilized our student IDs that attest that we are "Histoire d'Art" students and that means, free.99.  We toured with our date, Rick (have you heard about him yet?), who showed us the impressionist works of Monet, Degas, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Seurat, and my favorite, Van Gogh (pronounced Van Gog in France).  We will definitely be returning here, so expect more comments.  The ballroom is hidden, lovely, and looks over the Seine.  Perhaps it would make a good location for a wedding reception in a million years (or when Hell freezes over).

Friday, Katie, Amaresh, and I departed at the crack of dawn for Normandy, a trip that I have been long awaiting.  We took a train from St.Lazare to Bayeux, a small town where we would spend one day commuting to the D-Day beaches before heading to Mont St. Michel.  In the town, we dropped our bags off at the bed and breakfast, Le Petit Matin.  It is owned by Pascal and Antoinne, the cutest of men who keep the place homey and adorable.  Our "Rose" room even had teddy bears and bedtime stories.  Walking to the bus for our excursion to Omaha beach was quite entertaining as the town seems to have some kind of fascination with this tapestry.  They have sign upon sign pointing to each other to guide you to the center of all life and creation (for these people, at least), called the Bayeux Tapisserie.  This is a tapestry that was created to tell the story of Guillaume le Conquerant to the illiterate French people who lived nearby.  It runs about 100 yards and is composed of roughly 65 scenes depicting William's invasion of England and his coronation as their king.  Well, I guess it's nice to see about once, without a school of French students learning English in front of you (answering questions in a packet about the tapestry that is LITERALLY right next door to them), but we had no such luck.  What should have taken about 20 minutes turned into an hour and twenty minutes of starring at stitches and a 1000 year old linen.  

After a turbulent bus ride to the American Memorial Museum at Omaha Beach, we toured the museum and walked through the American cemetery (which is home to over 9300 white-washed grave stones) along the side of the beach.  The weather fit the mood, somber, cool, windy, and just enough sun to make it beautiful.  It was weird, you know, to see this place that is so remote today, so calm, that displays an ambiance of tranquility, but to know that over 90,000 soldiers gave their lives for the idea of freedom not only 65 years ago.  It gives you chills to know that these men left home, unaware of what they were to encounter and to give back a country they didn't know and to a people they didn't know (and who would come later to criticize Americans for our excessive adoration of liberty).  Funny how things change.  The people in Normandy, though, remember and are friendly, extremely so, and called our soldiers "their liberators," which made me smile.  The beach was gorgeously blank, just a small beach with small tides ebbing against an endless skyline.  We walked back to the bus to return to Bayeux.  This bus ride was even more fun than the first one, with speed bumps and sharp turns taken at record speeds.  Needless to say, I was feeling unwell upon our return so we returned to Pascal's for a little R & R, but for me, a good time to lay and read.  That night we dined at l'Assiette Normande, where we indulged in traditional specialties of Normandy and arguably, the best cidre in the country. 

That night, we went out to a small pub where I was to experience my first Calvados.  Like cider, but beaucoup times more alcoholic, we received little glasses that smelled quite potent.  One sip and a small fire in my stomach started to burn (I would not be cold on the walk home tonight, I thought).  It was a good thing to try, but I will probably not order this again as they serve it warm and if I am to drink any liquor straight, I will be taking it on the rocks (which generally goes against customs here in France).  We ran into some guys we had met on our way to the beaches, American studying in Barcelona, only to bar hop (mind you, this involves one hop up the one street with the two main bars in town and all 50 people who go out on Saturday) to Pub Fiction.  As we walked in, there were tables with swings as chairs (I wanted to sit at one SO badly, but they were taken) and drinks named after famous movies.  Since this was the first bar that had pitchers, we ignored the cheap cocktails and like Americans, had massive quantities of beer.  Though we thought we could escape without paying for one of the pitchers, we were caught mid-hustle and forced to pay.  Oh well, nice try anyway.

The next day we got up for the most delightful breakfast and conversation with the men of the hour, Pascal and Antoinne.  Coffee, croissants, jams unlimited, and fresh yogurt, we talked about Obama (briefly, but we had to), Mont St. Michel, and our previous day of travel.  Afterwards, we departed for the other part of the trip that I had been long awaiting:  Mont St. Michel.

Located just off the coast of France, connected by a temporary causeway, we rode up to the small town (with only about 30 permanent residents and 400 temporary Asian tourists).  Now we finally understood why Antoinne walled this Chinatown and told us to skip right to the top.  I mean, I definitely wanted to buy the Jamaican souvenirs, Barbie toys, and Pirates of the Caribbean skulls.  To my disappointment (this is some of my well-tuned, biting sarcasm), we walked up steep staircase after another to the top of the "hill" (is that what I am supposed to call this incredible mound of dirt that has been turned into a artistic piece of history?) to find the Abbey.  Again, those damn "Histoire d'Art" cards came in handy and we got in for free to tour an Abbey that defies explanation.  It is built on the top of the island and cascades down the sides of the hill, making the inside of the church quite uniquely laid out.  My favorite part was the west terrace where we could see the English Channel, flowing water with individual rivers and shallows filled with quicksand.  We conversed over how we thought that quicksand would be a rough way to go (as in death, if you couldn't guess).  After the Abbey, we dined at a small restaurant overlooking the water and enjoyed crepes just next to the part of France that invented them.  We also tried their specialty cheeses, Pont l'Eveque and Camembert.  We then walked to the bottom and along the causeway so we could get a good view and about 50 pictures of the island in all its glory.  Another beautiful day and a trip totally worth the hassle of difficult transport.  

Last night, we hosted one of the guys from Barcelona (Tony) who has an earlier flight back from Paris to Spain than his traveling companions.  We decided to go back to this Auto Passion bar, where Katie and I had already had an "interesting" night out only to step it up with an even more interesting night.  I've found the translation (one "semi-official" translation) for the word creeper: pot de colle.  They are everywhere, so I figured it was time for me to know what to call them.  We sat near the DJ at the only table large enough for the four of us, with me facing the bar.  How lucky!  There was a man starring me down, conversing with me through the air (not the right person to flirt with me through the air, that role has already been taken by someone ELSE!), who decided to tell my male friends that I was a "fille charmante" and they should take care of me tonight.  Amaresh told him to fuck off.  We also were SO lucky as to have front row seats to a strip show.  Katie was the closest, so she definitely won big time.  A slinky blonde who probably weighed about 80 pounds and whose face looked like it was painted on, strolled around dancing for men in none other than her bra looking contraption and a sheer black skirt (that of course was showing her ass cheeks as she moved) and "hid" her black thong.  Then the chair was placed next to our table and a lucky man (who willingly volunteered!) was seated down for "his" dance.  She sat on his lap and moved up and down in a disturbing recreation of sex, put his head between her legs, and even put her hands down his pants...we laughed and avoided eye contact.  Soon though, she was talking to us and my eyes opened so wide as to indicate how surprised I was that she was conversing with us while her ass what in this guys face (and my creeper at the bar was smiling the whole time and trying to get my way buddy, I am avoiding you too).  We backed up to give her more room.  Soon though, she stood up this pathetic man and surprise! started to undress him.  We didn't know both of the them were working for money like this.  His shirt was off and his pants around his ankles...she turned his back to the crowd and pulled his underwear into a wedgy, then smeared lotion on his buttocks.  Soon her excuse for a skirt came off, then the top (to expose quite fake breasts), and there were more legs in the air, bad dance attempts, and at the finale, she took a peak down his briefs, gave him a small pout, and shook her head questioningly as if to say, "where is it?"  He just threw his hands up, palms towards the ceiling, and probably muttered, "buf!"  Just when you think things are going to be relatively normal for one day or even one night...BAM, you get slapped right in the face with blonde strippers and creepers.

What a city, what a city...

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