California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

Jellyfish in the Steinhart Aquarium at the new California Academy of Sciences building in San Francisco

San Francisco’s newest museum building thrusts one of its oldest institutions into the 21st century, with the latest in sustainable architecture and green technology…

My most recent travel article, on the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, appeared in the May 2009 issue of The Advocate. If you missed the print edition, you can read the entire article on their web site at:

http://www.advocate.com/issue_story_ektid76378.asp

Added 12 September 2009: The original text of the article is reproduced below:

Nature and Nurture

San Francisco’s newest museum building thrusts one of its oldest institutions into the 21st century, with the latest in sustainable architecture and green technology.

A field of native California plants rolls across a plain of undulating hills—hovering high above the ground in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Supported largely by glass walls, the “green roof” is only the most surprising of the many striking features of internationally renowned architect Renzo Piano’s new building for the venerable California Academy of Sciences.

The Academy, which houses research and educational facilities and a vast collection of scientific specimens as well as the Kimball Natural History Museum, the Steinhart Aquarium, the Morrison Planetarium and more, was formerly housed in a hodgepodge of 13 buildings built in Golden Gate park over the course of 20th century. The park location was chosen after the Academy, founded in 1853, lost it’s original building and and most of its collections to the 1906 Earthquake and fire.

The new building grew from San Francisco’s second major earthquake, the 1989 Loma Pietra. While the museum remained open until 2003, structural damage from the quake presented the opportunity to reinvent the Academy in a totally new, unified, and revolutionary building.

The Academy selected Pritzker Prize winning Architect Renzo Piano, designer (with Richard Rogers) of the revolutionary Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and numerous other museums, to create a new structure that is not only an artistic landmark but also reflects and reinforces the mission of the Academy.

“The Academy’s mission is to explore, explain, and protect the natural world” according to Executive Director, Gregory C. Farrington, Ph.D. The result is a structure that is not only visually striking but is also the world’s “greenest” museum. The building has earned a Platinum rating for for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), making it the largest sustainable public building in the world, incorporating, among other features, solar energy panels and a passive cooling system.

“This museum has always worked on three levels – displaying the collection, educating the public, researching the science. The spirit of this new building is to announce and enforce this complexity of function,” Piano explains.

The long lines waiting to enter the building since it’s opening at the end of 2008 likely have as much or more to do with the awe-inspiring exhibits inside as the environmentally friendly structure however.

The main floor, an enormous rectangle of glass and limestone, houses the Morrison Planetarium in a giant opaque sphere, and a four story rainforest in a sealed transparent dome, on each side of square glass courtyard. Exhibits on the main floor are a creationist’s nightmare: the evolution of species is thoughtfully and clearly explained in series of very visual exhibits illustrating natural selection and biodiversity. The second main floor display is devoted to the effects of climate change and habitat destruction.

Interestingly, favorite sections of the old buildings have been incorporated into the new museum to delightful effect. The neoclassical African hall, with it’s classic dioramas of taxidermied animals has been preserved—with a twist. The main window now contains the Steinhart Aquarium’s collection of live South African penguins, swimming and waddling in startling contrast to the stuffed creatures. Other parts of the original buildings have been preserved to great effect as well, including the 1934 entry colonnade, the Foucault Pendulum, and the playful brass seahorse railings of the original aquarium building.

The aquarium itself now occupies the entire basement of the new structure—an underground, underwater fantasia of 38,000 living creatures. Twenty-five feet high and holding 212,000 gallons of water, the Philippine Coral Reef is one of the deepest exhibits of live corals in the world; while the 100,000 gallon Northern California Coast tank highlights local sea life. Other exhibits feature a walk beneath a glass bottomed Amazon lake, tanks of delicate jellyfish, a hands-on tide pool, and a swamp housing the aquarium’s famous decades-old Albino Alligator.

And high above, a rooftop viewing platform provides a close up look at the amazing living roof.

Finally, the building also features the Moss Room, a gourmet restaurant open for lunch and dinner, featuring local, organic, and sustainably raised produce, sea food and meat—addressing the one question not answered elsewhere in the museum: how does nature taste?

The museum is located at 55 Music Concourse Drive in Golden Gate Park. It’s a short walk from the 9th Avenue N-Judah streetcar stop. Admission can be guaranteed by purchasing tickets online at least 24 hours in advance. Phone: 415 379-8000. www.calacademy.org

Dresden: 800 Years New

Dresden

When Dresden celebrates its 800th anniversary with a year-long party in 2006, it won’t just be a celebration of centuries of history and culture. It will also be a birthday party for the new Dresden—a city that has, in a frenzy of reconstruction and renovation, recreated in a mere 15 years the historic city that was almost entirely lost, overnight, some 60 years ago…

Possibly Europe’s greatest Baroque city, the 18th century imperial seat of Augustus the Strong, capital of Saxony, Dresden had become a nearly mythical symbol of loss and of the destructive power of modern warfare. The city stood intact, virtually untouched by WWII—officially recognized as an open city—and filled with refugees from the collapsing Third Reich, when its historic center, the Altstadt, was completely destroyed in a single night of Allied bombing, February 13-14, 1945. With its splendid monuments then reduced to rubble, Dresden became most famous for its destruction—an event immortalized in Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s celebrated novel Slaughterhouse Five. The sense of loss can still be felt, as large tracts of central Dresden are only now being redeveloped. Locked behind the Iron Curtain, forces that wanted to rebuild the ruins and those which wanted them replaced with a modern Socialist utopia collided in stalemate. However, with reunification came both the desire for reconstruction and a huge influx of public and private funding.

Today, most of the historic buildings fronting the Elbe have been rebuilt to give a breathtaking glimpse of what the city once was. The resurrected Frauenkirche—one of Dresden’s most famous monuments, largely completed and reopening on October 30th, is only the most visible symbol of a city of splendors finally rising from the ashes. With the Schloss to be fully reconstructed in time for the anniversary, and previously rebuilt monuments newly renovated, the baroque city of 18th century seems reborn. Dresden is now arguably Europe’s newest historical monument.

River front

Simultaneously, across the Elbe, a different sort of rebirth has taken place. Without the benefit of EU funds or massive financing, local Dresdeners, with gays and artists leading the charge, have reclaimed and restored the city’s Neustadt. This neighborhood of 19th century apartment blocks was just outside the area of firebombing—with the consequence that its buildings are now among Dresden’s oldest. Under the communist regime, this was an undesirable area of crumbling buildings and cold-water flats. Now squats and crumbling buildings have largely given way to lovingly restored courtyard apartments with restaurants, bars, coffee houses, and hip, interesting shops—making the Neustadt Dresden’s liveliest neighborhood. Still, it’s far from gentrified; a Bohemian, even slacker, air prevails. The creation of the Kunsthof Passage (Alaunstrasse 70, Görlitzerstrasse 21, 23, 25), a renovation by local artists of a series of interlocking courtyards is typical Neustadt—a triumph of creativity and imagination over limited funds.

Zwinger

The Sights

Despite the wholesale destruction of the second world war, the main attraction is the city itself. The Schlossplatz, at the foot of the Augustus Bridge, surrounded by the reconstructed riverfront monuments, is perhaps one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Likewise, the baroque folly of the Zwinger complex, perhaps Dresden’s most photographed monument, is a riot of sculpture and elaborate decoration surrounding an immense but perfectly proportioned courtyard. A number of rebuilt churches are likewise impressive, and with the reconstruction of the monumental Frauenkirche, and the completion of the reconstruction of the Schloss by 2006, all of the major monuments of the baroque city will be in place. It is worth the 8 euro fee to climb to the cupola of the Frauenkirche (be advised, the elevator only takes you halfway) for a magnificent view from the highest point in the city. Already the riverfront skyline is largely returned to its appearance in Canaletto’s famous 18th century paintings. These paintings occupy pride of place in Dresden’s Old Masters Picture Gallery—while his celebrated views of Venice are confined to a small side gallery. This is perhaps as much a testament to the impressive quality of the museum’s collection as it is to local pride—the collection is large and positively stuffed with Dutch and Italian old master paintings. The galleries are remarkable too for the lack of crowds; you can really enjoy the artworks. All of Dresden’s famous museums will be open again by 2006, following various major and minor refurbishments. Well worth a visit is the Abertinum, for its New Masters Gallery—a comprehensive collection of German art from the 19th and 20th centuries. Newly reopened is the first phase of the famous Grünes Gewölbe or Green Vault, in new high-tech rooms in the reconstructed Schloss. The second half of the collection opens in 2006 in adjacent, restored baroque rooms. It is a vast—truly vast—collection of jewelry, precious metals, and fanciful curios elaborately constructed of gold filigree and gemstones assembled by the fabulously wealthy Saxon Electoral Princes. This is the only collection in Dresden where you’ll find a crowd—it’s on the top of the list for coach tours—and whether you find it to be a magnificent display of artistry and craftsmanship or a shocking excess of jewel-encrusted wealth, you will be impressed. Don’t miss it. And there are plenty more museums; depending on your interests you can explore Meissen porcelain, mathematics, transport, folk art, hygiene, history, Trabant autos and more!

The Semper Opera is famous both for its architecture and the quality of its productions. All of Dresden turns out for opera, ballet and the orchestral performances, so tickets can be hard to come by. In summer, outdoor concerts abound, with choices ranging from classical to contemporary—many with free admission. If you speak German, you may want to visit the very popular river-front open-air cinema. Do take some time to visit the Grosser Garten, Dresden’s expansive and lovely urban park. There’s a palace at the center and a charming miniature railroad to take you back when you’re tired of walking. Beyond the Altstadt, a walk through the Blasewitz district is worth it to see the elaborate 19th century villas built by wealthy Dresden bourgeoisie. The neighborhood escaped destruction in 1945 and the villas are now being lovingly restored. Though most tourists rarely venture to the Neustadt, you will definitely want to spend time there, with its lively cafes, gay scene, fun shops and bohemian atmosphere.

Elbe

Don’t miss a walk along the banks of the Elbe. This wide, marshy river is unique among urban waterways in bringing nature right through the city center. The banks of the Elbe are excellent as well for bicycling—whether you take a leisurely ride through the city or a longer trip to a picturesque nearby town, the scenery is beautiful, the terrain flat, and you’re protected from cars. Indeed, bicycle paths extend the entire length of the Elbe, from the Czech border to the port of Hamburg! Even in the city, traffic is light and the drivers polite, making a bike a convenient and pleasant option for getting around the city. Rent a comfortable, modern bike from the pleasant folks at Engel Reisen (Wiesontorstrasse 3, somewhat hidden at the Neustadt end of the Augustus bridge; +49 351/281 9206; 8 euros/day) and they will even provide maps with suggested city and out-of-town routes. They also organize longer group bike tours in the region—enquire for tours in English. If all that sounds too strenuous, you can tour the Elbe in a vintage paddlewheel steamboat—you can’t miss the ships docked near Augustus bridge.

It is worth purchasing a Dresden City-Card (widely available at hotels, stations and tourist offices; 19 euros for 48 hours) upon arrival. Not only does the card get you free admission to almost all Dresden museums, it allows you unlimited use of the city’s public transit (love those yellow trams!)—allowing you to bypass the expense and hassle of individual tickets.

The Gay Scene

You’ll see plenty of gays in Dresden: in shops, cafes, walking the streets— looking handsome, and even cruising. You’ll find them rather less often in Dresden’s handful of gay bars. Gay people were so central to the revival of the Neustadt area (buying the old buildings as the post-communist government disposed of them; renovating them, moving in, and opening business) that the gay community is a more than integral part of area. Dresden my be a model for the “post-gay” city. Because they regard the whole of the Neustadt as their own (while happily sharing it with young straight couples and wide range of slacker youth types—the median age in the Neustadt is ten years younger than the city as a whole) there is not a strong tendency to congregate in exclusively gay venues. As one Dresdener told me, “We usually go where ever the nightly drink special is—and the gay bars never have specials!” That said, BOYS (Alaunstrasse 80; 8pm—5am; www.boys-dresden.de) with its front windows open to one of the Neustadt’s main streets, draws a lively crowd most evenings—it’s your best bet. The smaller, campier Queens (Görlitzer Strasse 3; from 8pm; +49 49 351 810 8108; www.queens-dresden.de), sometimes draws a younger crowd for its various theme parties. For the leather and fetish crowd, Bunker (Priessnitzstrasse 51; +49 351/441 2345; www.lederclub-dresden.de) is open Friday and Saturday nights only (and on Saturday dares to limit attendance with a strict dress code!) It has a friendly bar and a large darkroom, but I suspect many Dresdeners prefer the infinite variety of the Berlin cruising scene, only two hours away. The other “cruise” venues are barely worth mentioning. The relatively new Pick Up (Jordanstrasse 10) is a darkroom bar that has yet to find a clientele, and across the street stands Duplexx (Förstereistrasse 10; +49 351 65 88 999; 9 euro entry!), a branch of the Berlin sex shop, comprising a cavernous warren of deserted video cabins. The Showboxx (Leipzigerstrasse 31; www.showboxx-dresden.de), while no longer featuring exclusively gay nights, is one of several mixed discos popular with gays for dancing. In addition, the open-air “beer gardens” than pop up on vacant lots in the summer months are also popular. Lesbians can enjoy the aptly named frauen café and bar Sappho (Hechtstrasse 23; +49 351 4045136; www.sappho-dresden.de) open nightly for drinks and dinner and on Sunday for brunch.

Neustradt

Finally, what could be gayer, and at the same time more mainstream, than a drag show? Carte Blanche (Priessnitzstrasse 10/12; +49 351 20 4720; www.carte-blanche.de; 25 euros, reservations essential) is a relatively new basement cabaret hosting a very professional troupe of drag queens. Shows feature a mix of comedy, lip-synch, live performance, audience humiliation—and costumes worthy of a Las Vegas production. If drag is your thing, the show is a scream; though without a command of the language you are likely to miss a lot. And while the performers and cute waiters may be gay, the audience tends toward straight middle-aged German tourists.

Sleeping it off

The ultimate place to stay in Dresden is the Hotel Bülow Residenz (Rähnitzgasse 19; +49 351/800 30; fax +49 351/8003100; www.buelow-residenz.de ; 180—220 euros), a 30 room ultra-luxury boutique hotel in a restored 18th century palace. This place has everything: an historic building, luxurious rooms, and great location in the charmingly restored inner Neustadt—a short walk to the historic attractions and convenient to the to the gay area. It even features complementary mini-bars! The service is friendly and efficient, and it’s really a bargain for this level of luxury.

All the major international chains are represented in the old center of Dresden, from the modern yet inexpensive Mercure Hotel Newa (St. Petersburger Strasse 34; +49 351/48140; from 69 euros; www.mercure.com) to the ultra luxurious Kempinski Taschenbergpalais (Taschenberg 3; +49 351/491 2636; fax +49 351/491 2812; www.kempinski-dresden.de; 340—700 euros). Housed in a reconstructed Baroque palace adjacent the historic schloss, the Kempinski is arguably Dresden’s most beautiful—and most expensive—hotel. The Holiday Inn (Stauffenberallee 25 a; +49 351/81510; fax: +49 351/815 1333; www.holiday-inn-dresden.de; 100-150 euros), of all places, gets points for actively courting a gay clientele—though most of its guests are businessmen and women. It’s a generic, but perfectly pleasant property, and though its location at first seems somewhat remote, it’s actually very convenient to the Neustadt, and a nearby tram line offers a speedy connection to the city’s attractions.

For the independent-minded traveler, the best option may be the City Cottage Dresden (Louisenstrasse 11; +49 179/5228241; fax +49 351/442 4584; www.city-cottage-dresden.de; 41-62 euros), a gay owned rental apartment that sits inside a quiet, enchanted garden in the very heart of the Neustadt. It can be rented with one or two bedrooms and accommodates from one to four persons. Currently there is only one apartment available (so book early) although several more are being renovated.

Eating Well

Eating in the historic center of Dresden is far more pleasant than one would expect from an area frequented mostly by tourists. The cafés and restaurants offer good quality and surprisingly reasonable prices—along with some truly gorgeous locations. You can try traditional Saxon specialties like wurst and beer (do try the local Radeberger Pilsner) at Radeberger Spezialausschank (Terrassenufer 1; +49 351/484 8660; fax +49 351/484 8631; $3-12), which offers an unbeatable location with a umbrella shaded terrace overlooking the Elbe and the Augustus bridge. The terrace café at the Kempinski Hotel Taschenbergpalais (Taschenberg 3; +49 351/496 0174) offers both traditional and lighter, international fare in a convenient and charming setting (and at non-luxury hotel prices). Likewise, Café Alte Meister (Theatreplatz 1a; +49 351/ 481 0426; www.altemeister.net) with a terrace nestled in the shade of the Zwinger complex, is a nice option for either lunch or the German tradition of afternoon coffee and cake.

For the best selection of restaurants though, head over to the lively, untoursisty Neustadt. Here the streets are lined with local eateries, offering an array of international cuisines and everything from inexpensive cafés to moderately priced upscale restaurants. Here you can find just about anything: French, Italian, Indian, and salads and sandwiches in charming cafes, many with outdoor terraces. As a local resident remarked, “Only the tourists eat Saxon food!” which may be only a slight exaggeration. To start your exploration, try the local favorite Tiki Ice Cafe (Gorlitzer Strasse 21; inexpensive) in the charming Kunsthof passage. Or make for the nearby bar-restaurant Cigales (Aluanstrasse 68; inexpensive) on the bustling Aluanstrasse. For a more elaborate dinner, try the delicious, Mediterranean influenced Villandry (Jordanstrasse 8; +49 351/ 899 6724; www.villandry.de; dinner mon-sat; main courses 9—15 euros.)

For the dedicated gourmand, Dresden offers one Michelin-starred restaurant, the elegant Caroussel (in the Hotel Bülow Residenz; Rähnitzgasse 19; +49 351/80030; fax +49 351/8003100). As you might expect, you’ll find top ingredients exquisitely prepared, flawless service and a formal setting. It’s still rather a bargain for the Michelin star experience, with four course menus about 60 euros.

Shopping the Neustadt

A number of gleaming new shopping complexes have sprung up around the main train station (currently being rennovated in high-style by London architect Sir Norman Foster), offering the usual cornucopia of European and American brand names. But for the truly interesting shopping opportunities one must head across the river to the Neustadt. Check out the club-kid fashions at Men Only (Alaunstrasse 18; +49 351/821 0836), a fun, über-gay clothes shop where the friendly staff are also well informed about the local nightlife scene. You’ll find shops here selling everything from second hand clothing to expensive designer jeans; from skateboards to hand-made paper. The Alaunstrasse and the adjoining side-streets, and especially the Kunsthof passage, are filled with trendy and unusual shops. You can even check it all out online at the stylish website www.gappy.de.

Grossergarten

More Information

As in most German cities, the Dresden Tourist office (in the neo-classical Schinkelwache, on the Theaterplatz; +49 351/ 491920) is a terrific resource. As well as providing maps, schedules of events, and guides to the museums and sights, they can also find you a hotel room or get you tickets to the Semper Opera. Scope it out in advance at www.dresden-tourist.de , where they also have an online hotel reservation service. Gegenpol is Dresden’s own free local monthly gay magazine, which can be scored at the bars and shops throughout the neustadt. They have comprehensive listings with addresses, which are also conveniently available on their website at www.gegenpol.net.

Story and Photographs by Clay Doyle

I had the pleasure of revisiting Dresden in August of 2005. This is an expanded version of an article written for gay.com Travel. You can find the short version at gay.com Travel at http://www.gay.com/travel/article.html?sernum=9544 .

—Clay Doyle

A Paris Travelogue by Michael Logan

A week of meals (mostly) and lazy sightseeing in the City of Lights with my friend Randy.

Paintbrushes

18 June

My traditional first meal in Paris: Brasserie Balzar, with the now-traditional steak tartare and frites. I remember it very unclearly, as I was tired and jet-lagged and not even a good meal in Paris could really wake me up. Randy had lamp chops. After lunch and a long walk, we went back to the Hotel Sevigné to nap, and only rose at about 9 to head off to the Open Café for several large beers and people-watching.

19 June

In the morning, we lazed, then wandered: my favourite thing to do on a nice day in Paris. Lunch at Willi’s Wine Bar is always a treat, and we were both hungry enough at about 1.30 to set off towards the restaurant. It took awhile to get there on foot, and I was worried we were too late, but they were happy to seat us. We did end up the last lunchers by about 20 minutes, so my fears weren’t misplaced. I ordered a “giraffe” (500 ml carafe) of Touraine sauvignon blanc, which sounded refreshing, and was—very cool and nicely acidic. I had a lunch of cold meats. I started with super-tasty beef carpaccio, and followed that with vitello tonnatta, which was cooked veal, of course, but was arranged on the plate exactly like the carpaccio. I hadn’t had it in ages, and really enjoyed the sauce of puréed tuna. Randy ordered something with crab for a starter, and followed with the vitello tonatta as well. He thought it very odd, indeed, but tasty. For dessert, I felt compelled, as I often do, to order le specialité du collège de Cambridge (crème brulée—it’s an in joke at Willi’s,

where a patron once claimed that crème brulée was invented in a dining hall at Cambridge). Randy had the always-delicious chocolate terrine. I wanted to pick up the year’s Pudlo guide (my favourite French restaurant book, available in a Paris and a France edition), so we headed off towards the Louvre and visited the mall, rather than the musée. Then Randy napped and I made our dinner reservations for the week. After that, we wandered the Marais. We shopped at the excellent gay bookstore les Mots à la Bouche, and snacked on cold cuts & cheese with a nice Chinon at our favourite Marais wine bar, the AOC Café.

20 June

Our activity for the day was the Musée d’Orsay. I was expecting a crowd, but it was calm. There was a huge retrospective of some mediocre Dutch painter named Jongkind, and smaller ones of a Polish symbolist hack and a very odd glassblower. Most disappointing. The permanent collection is always good for a few hours, though, and I got to show Randy my favourite bad painting, a huge 1890s canvas entitled “The School of Plato.” I’ve always called it by the more appropriate title “Jesus and the Nelly Apostles.” It’s a hoot! After that, we walked back to the Marais via the Café Les Deux Palais, where Randy had a salade Perigourdine with paté and duck breast, and I had a croque madame on Poilâne bread. Les Deux Palais looks very unpromising, situated in prime tourist country and sporting a big sign offering “American Coffee.” But it’s the unofficial canteen of the Ministry of Justice, and they’re demanding customers. The place is really quite good. After lunch, we both had a long rest.

Few good Paris restaurants, aside from the big brasseries, are open on Sundays. Who knew Le Table d’Aligre was one of them? Apparently not many people, because it was very quiet. This was our first real dinner of the trip, and I was looking forward to it. Randy was jonesing for foie gras, so he ordered a ballotine of foie gras surrounded by a mixture of smoked duck breast and onion confit. It had all the usual accompaniments, but Randy was reluctant to use the cracked pepper and fleur de sel, because he liked it so much plain. I encouraged him to try them. Meanwhile, I was enjoying an asparagus dish and a half-bottle of lovely Cheverny. For seconds, I had a rascasse (the main fish in boulliabaise, and quite rare outside the Mediterranean) and Randy had confit of pork cheeks, which he’d never encountered before. He made an entire meal of cold meats (much as I had done the previous day at Willi’s), but he liked it fine. We shared a carafe of a rich, red St-Joseph from the upper Rhône Valley. For dessert, Randy chose a clafoutis au cerises and I a rhubarb tarte. Then we set off into the night and walked home.

21 June

Rouen

My friend and business partner, Clay Doyle, suggested that Randy and I make a day trip to Rouen, where neither of us had ever been. It was raining on and off when we arrived (one hour and five minutes by train from the Gare St-Lazare). We left the train station and made purposefully for the Cathedral, since I was convinced from long experience that the tourist office would be across the street from the cathedral. I was right, of course, and wanted to get directions for lunch. I forgot to ask, though, and went back about an hour later as our lunch window was nearing its end. In the meantime, we wandered, and visited the St-Maclou church. Clay also gave us a lunch –the restaurant Le Vieux Carrée was great! Our lunch there was our big meal of the day. We both started with an asparagus gratin, very eggy, with fennel seeds on top. The fennel was a nice touch. After that, I had a pissaladière tarte with caramelized onions, anchovies and olives. This being Normandy and not Provence, there was a custard base to the tarte as well, which I wasn’t expecting. It was very tasty anyway. Randy had a skate wing, which he liked a lot. By mid-meal, we were the only people in the place (we’d arrived for lunch just a bit before 2, and they were quite busy), so I was a bit relieved when an odd gay couple (probably drawn there by a recent article by Clay in Out and About, I imagined) stopped for coffee. They were followed by some young straight French kids in love.

For dessert we both had a very good rhubarb tarte, and I bought a couple jars of jam to take home. After lunch, we returned to the very impressive cathedral to look inside (it was closed til 2 pm), then made our way back to the train station. With a few minutes to kill before the train, we sat down at a café and had Kir Normandes, which (no surprise) involve cider. Quite odd.

We got back to Paris to find the metro unusually busy, and every third passenger seemed to be carrying a musical instrument. We both wanted to rest, but a bad band was making a racket by the Metro entrance. I discovered in my guidebook that it was the solstice tradition of the Fête de la Musique, when anybody could set up and play late into the night. We got enthusiastic, and went down to the Metro entrance to hear what was by now a much better band. Apparently the etiquette of the evening involved no one group monopolizing a good spot. I got the bright idea to go to the Trocadero, because I thought it would be a happening, young music scene. The trains were by now truly mobbed, and there were lots of policemen in the Metro keeping order. We never got to Trocadero, because I found a discarded program for the evening’s more organized events, and thought an alternative-rock bill at place Denfert-Rochereau sounded good. So we made our way there, and stood around in a big, fun crowd (I fell in love three times), but the music was uninspired. When the last act turned out to be bad, mass-market American punk à la Green Day (but worse), we split. We set off towards home. I suggested we come up from the subway at St-Michel, and walk home from there, hoping to hit on a fun scene on the way. There was an odd little band at Place St-Michel doing a sort of klezmer-ska-Camper Van Beethoven thing that was ragged but fun. When they quit, we wandered toward home, and ran into a huge throng of gays on rue des Archives. The DJ playing standard gay dance music didn’t seem at all in the spirit of the evening, so (with much pushing and shoving) we moved on. At our doorstep, and disappointed by the Fête de la Musique, we heard something fun coming from the Metro entrance. There was a band standing around, waiting for a loud horn group to finish up. They looked like teens from the neighborhood, mostly Jewish kids, with an incredibly cute, baby-faced lead guitarist who couldn’t have been more than sixteen. Then they started to play–the Pink Panther theme, also in a klezmer-ska-Camper Van Beethoven vein, but much better than the kids at St-Michel, and with a big dose of Django Reinhart added. They were brilliant. They drew a fun, cute, mixed crowd, and encouraged audience participation. Gentle moshing ensued. We were very, very happy. I tried several times to photograph the angelically beautiful guitarist with my cellphone, but it was too dark, and the photos all came out crappy.

22 June

In the day, we went to Montmartre and to the Catacombs. Heights to depths. It was a concept.

Montmartre was as dull as I remembered. The basilica of Sacre-Coeur is astonishingly ugly, and historically associated with the right wing of French politics. The neighbourhood is full of t-shirt shops and pushy street vendors. The views are spectacular, though, and the funicular is fun.

After our trip to the top of the hill, we headed back to place Denfert-Rochereau, and the Catacombs. The caverns full of human bones arranged in layers like a fancy paté are very impressive, and the tour is very popular with boisterous American kids. It’s a jarring combination.

Both Randy and I were especially looking forward to our dinner at le Villaret. I’ve been there many times, and i has never disappointed—and once again, it didn’t. We were the first to arrive (always embarrassing), but a French couple followed almost immediately, which was nice. I ordered us two glasses of Banyuls for aperitifs. I still think it’s an odd aperitif (I drink it with dessert, since it’s the only wine I know that goes beautifully with chocolate), but what do I know? For wine, I ordered a positively cheap white Burgundy from Pernand Vergellesse (Clay and I drank some when we were there, and liked it a lot). It was brilliant–exactly what a white Burgundy should be, with buttery and tannic flavours above the fruit.

For the amuse-bouche, they served a little cold asparagus cream soup, ideal for the warm weather. For the first course, I had a delicious terrine of pigeon with a confit of onions and balsamic vinegar, and a rocket salad. Randy had a salad of langoustine tails. Since I couldn’t taste his (I have a potentially-fatal shellfish allergy), I forget the details. So does he. During the first course, the surrounding tables filled up. To my left was a very odd couple indeed–a Frenchman of about 50 with an American girl of about 24 (Randy says “no way, she was 35.”) He manages the Gipsy Kings (!) and she works for the record company. He was obviously trying to seduce her (in a businesslike way, just to keep his hand in, cuz he’s French) while she kept talking about her recent wedding. To my right was a party of four Americans from Boston, who were grateful that I could translate the entire menu for them. I couldn’t talk any of them into ordering lamb’s tongue, but they enjoyed themselves hugely, nonetheless.

For the main course, I ordered the dos de lieu jaune, which I remembered as being a tasty fish. It was very richly flavoured, and sat on a lovely leek purée. Randy had a dish that was mostly mushrooms, asparagus and artichokes, with a bit of mackerel. It was perfect warm-weather food. For dessert, Randy had a sort of milk-chocolate soup with a cookie and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I had a sablé cookie on top of a layer of very good raspberries and whipped cream, with a spoonful of rhubarb sorbet. We walked home in a fine mood through intermittent light rain.

23 June

In the day, we went to the Louvre to see “The Raft of the Medusa,” and a few other highlights. Then we shopped—it was the season for les Soldes—the big summer sales.

Dinner was at Le C’Amelot (on the rue Amelot, on the border between the 3rd and 11th arrondissements. This is the new place we tried in Paris on this trip, based on very favorable reviews both in the New York Times (by Jacqueline Friedrich, who wrote the wonderful Wine and Food Guide to the Loire Valley) and in le Pudlo de Paris 2004. What tipped me in its favor was the fact that they serve a set meal, with choices only for dessert. I knew Randy agreed with me that lack of choice is a luxury, so I reserved a table.

We’d walked by the restaurant the night before, coming home from Le Villaret. It was super-cute, and looked tiny and rustic. They had the wine list posted in the window, and I noticed absinthe listed among the aperitifs. Of course, I had to have it, so when we arrived the next evening I ordered two. They came in proper, tall, parfait-shaped absinthe glasses, with proper, flat, antique, slotted absinthe spoons, sugar cubes, and a miniature pitcher of water. I instructed Randy in the ceremony, and we drank what tasted like slightly watered-down Ouzo. Sadly, a little crock of delicious, garlicky sausissons secs in olive oil arrived as an amuse-bouche, and clashed violently with the absinthe. They were, of course, swept off the table when our soup course arrived, so we missed out on enjoying them.

Our wine choices included my usual suspects of Loire Valley and Burgundy whites, so I asked for a recommendation and got a white St-Joseph, which was a bit pricey but really, really good. It was especially nice in contrast to the Pernand Vergellesse of the previous evening, because it was equally fruity while much less tannic, so the flavours were vastly different.

Our first course was a cold tomato soup with a curry cream quenelle. That could go either way but it was brilliant. The soup itself was just tomato-y enough, the quenelle was just curry-y enough, and the tiny croutons were just crunchy enough. Very refreshing on a warm and humid (and incredibly windy!) day. We got two bowls, each containing a quenelle, scattered croutons and a dusting of finely chopped chives. Then a big footed bowl of soup arrived—that sort of French bowl with the lions on the side–so we got a generous course of soup, both in quantity and in time.

That was followed by a couple slices of roasted monkfish on a bed of fennel remoulade with a simple sauce of some meaty jus and some mild acid (I forgot to look at the menu again as we left). It was a perfect smallish portion of beautifully melded flavours.

The main course was a Pintade de Bresse with roasted potatoes and girolle mushrooms. The entire pre-dessert menu was ideal for showing off the virtues of a really appropriate white wine, so I’m glad I asked for advice. By this time the very specific absinthe buzz had kicked in, and we were plastered–but in a good way.

For dessert, I had a mi-cuit chocolate soufflé cake thing, and Randy had peach slices with milk/mint sorbet. Mine was excellent but his was better. Our walk home revealed just how buzzed we both were.

24 Juin

A day of shopping–Randy went hog-wild at my favourite men’s clothing store in Paris, Melchior. The clothes there are beautiful, but designed for a longer, leaner silhouette than mine—so I shop there vicariously. I a bit wild at Celio (Spain’s answer to The Gap) Then, lunch in Belleville at le Baratin. Clay, Randy and I had been in Paris last May for an open artists studio weekend in Belleville, and we’d been smitten with this little bar. The place has been written up as the pick of the 20th in the new Pudlo guide! I started with one of the specials: a whole small rouget, simply prepared. It was very nice. I followed that with poitrine de porc with mashed potatoes, then charentais melon in a light vanilla syrup. Everything was simple and delicious. Randy started with especially good sautéed chicken livers on a salad, then lamb shoulder with curry and rice, and finally a clafoutis au cerise again. For wine I chose a cinsault vin gris from “the Valley of Paradise”–slightly, pleasantly sour and a tiny bit pettillante. After lunch we popped into a show of photos of the restored Giotto frescoes in Asissi ,with lots of useful explanation. The Italians seem to have done a great job. And, apart from a nice little concert at the Sainte-Chappelle, that was Paris. A good time was had by all.

The next day, we set out for London.

The Convalescent’s Guide to Paris

I had promised to accompany my friend Randy on his first trip to Europe in late spring 2003, which I arranged for us to spend mostly in Paris, where we would meet up with several friends. I spent the winter in Los Angeles, tending to the rather grueling task of closing and packing my West Hollywood studio/gallery/living space. This task finally complete, I was suddenly hospitalized with attack of pancreatitis–surely one of the most painful ailments ever devised. The attack was the side effect of a medication I had been prescribed–with over inflated warning labels on everything from hot coffee to plastic bags, I admit I didn’t pay much attention to “caution: may be fatal” stamped on the bottle. After all, it says the same thing on a pack of cigarettes. Perhaps if it had said “caution: may lead to an immediate and exceedingly painful shut down of your digestive system causing you to spend eight days in the hospital on hallucinatory intravenous pain killers while you are allowed absolutely nothing to eat or drink, not even water” I would have requested something else. In any case, with the medication discontinued, after ten days the doctor shook my hand, pronounced me cured, and sent on my way. I wasn’t entirely convinced, but as plans had previously been made, I decided that I could just as well convalesce in Paris as Los Angeles. Thus, a bit oddly, begins yet another Clay Doyle in Paris travelogue…

St. Denis Feet

18 May 2003 Paris

Late Sunday in my little room in the nicely renovated Hotel de Sevigne. New bathrooms, new paint, new furniture. Nothing fancy, but great value for the money, plus breakfast in the room! Arrived Friday after an uneventful trip from Amsterdam on the Thalys. Went out shortly after our arrival to take Randy for a walk through the Marais, across the Ille de Cite, around the exterior of Notre Dame, and finally to our dinner reservation at Balzar. A very fun dinner (even if the food is perhaps not as perfect as it once was, it’s still pretty darn good and the atmosphere of the place is just great). I had the poulet roti, with escargot to start and a fresh strawberry tart for dessert. Randy had escargot, lamb chops and the profiteroles. Lillet aperitifs and a half bottle of red wine. Two amusing Nederlanders at the next table. They had dinner, then coffee, then cognac, then another cognac and a beer and the waiter brought them the check before they asked for it and one of them read him the riot act— “We are not Americans,” he said! I thought I’d crack up. after that, our check did not come until I requested it. A nice stroll back to the hotel along the Seine.

Saturday was a very busy day. We walked to the Luxembourg garden. We went looking at a bunch of expensive galleries around the Rue de Seine in the sixth. Stopped at the usual shops around St. Sulpice. Wanted to go in the church but they were having first communion ceremonies all day. Lots of children in white robes. We did stop into St. Germain des Pres and I lit a candle to Santa Rita for my pancreas. Then took randy to Bertillion for an ice cream cone and we had some coffee in the Marais. It showered off and on all day, alternating with some sun. I bought a rain hat at Muji. We rested at the hotel and then went to the concert a bit after seven. Found it without any trouble. It was nearby, around the Bastille, but I usually seem to get lost over there. Really nice small venue—Cafe de la Danse. the concert was the Go Betweens, an Australian singer/songwriter duo/band that Randy really likes. They were fun. The opening act was Tim Keegan, a gay folky sort of singer/songwriter. He had this one really nice sad song—“Jamie’s going snowboarding”—about being abandoned by/driving away a boyfriend. After the show we had dinner at Au Gamin de Paris. Friendly, as I remember it. We shared a livery terrine to start (it was huge) and I had some lamb slices and Randy had a steak. We had a very rich super chocolatey tart for dessert. After dinner we walked around and I showed Randy where some to the gay bars were. We almost went into the Full Metal, and we would have gone into the Cox but the music was so bad, we just went to the Open Cafe. It was a bit too cold to sit outside so we crowded inside and I had a Perrier. It was after one when we got back to the hotel—my longest, most active day since the hospital. Today (Sunday) I was a bit tired, and my leg muscles were a bit sore from all the walking. None-the-less in the morning we went to the Picasso Museum and wandered all around its three floors. It wasn’t very crowded—I don’t think most tourists go in for Picasso. We had a baguette at Au Petit Fer a Cheval. It was pouring down rain. I spent most of the afternoon resting in my room. around five I went out for a walk—I went out to find the Place Aligre and the restaurant I like there (la table d’ Aligre) and I noted down the the phone number then stopped at a little Moroccan cafe nearby for a ‘the de menthe’ and a little pastry. It was raining when I left so I took the Metro back —two lines, though only one stop on each. Spent the evening resting—Randy and I had talked about going to dinner at nine, but when he hadn’t come by by 10:30 I went out on my own to get something to eat. Turns out he was in his room from eight on…not sure why he didn’t call sooner anyway I was already at Petit Fer a Cheval having a cheap entrecote and a glass of red wine, alone. Truth be told I like having the time alone, though if I knew Randy was in the hotel I would have taken him along to dinner. I thought he was out chatting up French boys!

19 May 2003 Paris

Resting in my room before dinner. It’s seven in the evening and I’m a bit tired. Took Randy on a tour of the monuments, so walking all day. We took the Metro to the Arc d’ Triumph and then walked back down the Champs d’Elysee…well you have to see it once! Stopped at the FNAC record store and listened to some French pop albums. Continued on through the parks by the Grand Palais…there was a big exposition about trains, all along the park, to look at…then to the Place d’ la Concorde. Then a short walk up to the Madeleine. There was a mass in progress, so we went to a little cafe on the square and had French Onion soup…a cliché I know but it was good…and sat there a while. It was all rainy during our walk, but not so rainy that it was really unpleasant. Went in the church, then walked through the Tuileries then got to the Louvre just at 3pm when they reduce the price. There’s a fabulous new secret entrance at the Porte de Lions, sort of at the end of the Sully wing under the Italian galleries…no crowds at all just two automatic ticket machines and no human ticket sellers…and just as we got there the ticket machines malfunctioned…so we had to go in through the shopping mall and buy our tickets under the pyramid which was much more crowded. Randy liked the Roman and Greek sculptures…I also took him to see the Caravagios and the Leonardos that are not the mona lisa. And we looked at the Davids and Delacroix and Gericaults. And the Italian renaissance sculptures. But we just did that one wing, rested in the cafe and saw that the sky had cleared and the sun was out. so we walked back…me to the hotel and Randy to the Open Cafe. I just need to rest before going to dinner at 9 at La Villeret!

***

The trip to Paris has been very good for my health—long walks to get my strength back and lots of good food to get my weight up to something more reasonable. I’m very glad that I made the trip. I was so worried about it; I felt terribly weak and unsteady even up to the day I left LA. Really, the only reason I didn’t cancel was that I felt so guilty about sending Randy on his own after I promised I’d be there to take care of everything! I just couldn’t abandon him (and Logan as well, though I don’t worry about Logan taking care of himself in Paris or anywhere)! So I crossed my fingers and hoped that my pancreas would not explode somewhere over the icy North Atlantic! And, I guess it goes to show that having some responsibility is a good thing—I feel I have recovered much more quickly in Paris than I would have in LA. And of course, I’ve been having a great time here.

***

Just a quick description of our fabulous dinner at La Villeret. Arrived at nine and left at midnight! Amuse bouche: a tiny cup of spinach soup. Starters: sweetbreads and white asparagus for me and fricassee of chicken and girolle mushrooms for Randy—both delicious. Plats: I had calf’s liver; I’d been craving it and it was perfectly cooked. Randy had a St. Pierre; he really liked it, I still can’t recall this fish’s English name. We finished dinner and still had a half bottle of Nuits St. George 2000 Burgundy (delicious) left so I ordered cheese for us—lots of runny smelly soft cheeses, and goats cheeses, please help yourself! Then we had desserts! For me a soup with strawberries and Randy had a chocolate mousse sort of thing. Then a cup of verbena. Then, fortunately, the nice walk back to the hotel. Everything was really good, and Randy was really impressed. 145 Euros, so not super cheap, but still an excellent value.

21 May 2003 Paris

Tuesday was a rather efficient day! In the morning went shopping with Randy in the Marais and bought a birthday present for a friend in the states, plus found a cute gift box to put it in. Then we took the Metro out to the Trocadero and the Tour Eiffel. Not really much of a line to go up into the Tour (Paris just doesn’t seem so full of tourists) but Randy wasn’t in the mood. We had some mediocre salads at a mediocre bistro and then went back to the hotel. I rested for an hour and then went out to mail the birthday gift. Found a big padded envelope to put it in at the stationers near the hotel, then took it to the post office at the end of the street. All very easy. Then I went wandering around hoping to find a wireless network I could use to check my email. Well, it couldn’t be more convenient! there is one in the range of the Open Cafe, so could sit there and have a tea and check email and stuff, while I check out the boys passing by! I went back this morning for coffee, and to send some replies.

Dinner at 8:30 at La Table d’ Aligre. We were the only American rufuses there of course. Randy said, after we were seated, “He knew who you were!” and I said “Of course. We are the only party of Americans.” OIC!

Dinner was pleasant, and reasonably bargainy. I had the most trouble translating the menu there for some reason. Actually felt like I rather made a fool of myself trying to communicate with the very friendly staff, but oh well. The walls were covered with some very interesting watercolors…mostly of banal american locations (airports, motels, etc) but very nicely done and interesting. They were for sale for 550 Euros, not a bad price but too much for me. The women who painted them happened to be dining in the restaurant and the waiter pointed her out. Anyway, I had the house made foie gras to start and randy had salt cod in a sabayon over rice. I had a special of fried pork medallion in a good mustard sauce with mashed potatoes and Randy had fried rabbit with some big wide hand cut pasta. For dessert there was a fantastic looking vanilla soufflé, but we neglected to notice that it had to be ordered early in the meal (naturally) so randy had this crispy pastry envelope filled with incredibly rich dark chocolate and I had this soft biscuit filled with (I’m not sure what actually) and raspberry sauce.

Today Mr. Logan arrived. We went to meet him in his hotel and Brian and his sister and his niece had arrived too. Logan suggested we all go to Polidor for lunch, so we did and I had lentil cream soup and hachis parmantier. Then we all walked over a visited Notre Dame. Brian and family went back to the hotel and Logan and Randy and I sat at the AOC cafe. I’m resting now but soon will be having another gorgy dinner at Balzar! Brian’s’ sister (Michelle) and niece (Lauren) seem very nice. The weather is still chilly and overcast, though there was not any actual rain today.

24 May 2003 Paris

Saturday late afternoon, raining, a good time to catch up my journal. Balzar Wednesday night—I had white asparagus and then the steak tartare. And one profiterole stolen from Michael Logan. It was all quite delicious. We finished dinner at ten, so everyone decided we should go to the Tour Eiffel. We took the metro over and there were hardly any people there. The Africans selling cheap souvenirs practically outnumbered the tourists. Well the weather was iffy and it was late, and it turned out that the top level was not open—perhaps because of the weather. So we went up to the second level and had a view. Then we took taxi’s back to our respective hotels. So speedy!

Thursday was a bit of a lazy day. I took Randy over to the St. Chapelle, but it was closed because of a strike. So we met Logan et al at the Samaritaine Department store because I wanted to take them up to the Panorama. It was closed too—not sure why. But we had some hot chocolate at the roof terrace cafe so we did get a view of the city after all. Then we strolled through the courtyards of the Louvre, and we sat in the garden of the Palais Royale (while michelle and Lauren and Brian went to find a sculpture) by the fountain (very pleasant, and we imagined some lounging boys to be our dates). Then the six of us went to lunch at Willi’s. It was a very fine lunch. I had slices of quail and vegetables in a rich, red “barbecue” sauce—but I think I should have had the tempura prawns—the ladies had them and they looked fantastic. I had a bit of Randy’s foie gras too, which was excellent. I had a fish—the rascasse—on Logan’s recommendation, it was quite good. Actually the table was 4 rascasse and 2 lamb chops. I can’t quite remember what I had for dessert—but I’m sure it was some kind of strawberry thing; I’ve been eating a lot of strawberries, they are really excellent. Some coffee and then we got up and strolled our separate ways. Logan and Randy and I met later at the Open Cafe and sat there during happy hour (6-8).

In the evening Randy, Logan and I decided to go to this “Spectacle” at Notre Dame (actually it was Logan’s idea in a rare lapse of judgment). It began at nine and mercifully lasted only one hour as it was torturously dull. It was basically a novena to the BVM, with a slide show and recorded music. It was sort of like being invited over to the Virgin Mary’s house to see her travel pictures! “and here we are in Egypt…”

Fleeing that, we went to the AOC cafe and had little snacks. Then back to the Open Cafe to meet Brian. Brian was complaining because while he was there alone guys tried to pick him up. Why is this a problem? Anyway there is a super sweetypie waiter there—of course all the waiters there are cute, but Kevin is the cutest of them all. He was there when we were there earlier and very sweet, but the poor thing seemed totally worn out by the time we returned at 11:30 at night.

Friday we went to Versailles on the RER. Takes about 45 minutes. Then we walked and walked. It was a very nice day for it, warm and sunny. we strolled through the huge gardens, the Grand and Petit Trianons and then out to Marie Antoinette’s little faux farm (Logan really wanted to see it). Everyone rebelled on the walk out to the little farm—they sat down and refused to go on. I managed it though—very pleased with my energy level. After that we took the “mini-train” to a cafe and had a spot of a late lunch, then back to the chateau. We sort of dashed through it lingering only to look at the chapel and the hall of mirrors. Well how much flocked wallpaper and mediocre paintings can you stand? Brian and Michelle kept losing their tickets—so there is a family resemblance. Took the train back and had a very brief rest and then dinner (again) at La Villerette. The girls didn’t come and Brian was in a frenzy because of some problems at work, but the food was good anyway. I had some langoustines, and then a pigeon. Logan had the mushrooms and a rabbit (leg, saddle and liver). Randy had langoustine soup and “assorted” lamb—a sweetbread, a fabulous liver, a chop or two. Brian had the sweetbread/white asparagus that I had before and the Lamb. No cheese course, but we all had this “brownie” with chocolate mouse and white chocolate Ice cream. Then we walked back to our hotels.

***

The city does not seem too mobbed with tourists. There is not much of a crowd or lines anywhere. There are some Americans, lots of Brits and Australians. One sees American homosexuals at the Open Cafe—quite a lot really. But it’s nice the city is not mobbed. And it seems very relaxed—especially compared to the war frenzy and the orange alerts of the US. Security here actually seems lighter than it has anytime since September 11—everything functioning normally (except for the occasional strike) and no teen soldiers with Uzi’s at the Gare du Nord!

***

Today (Saturday) rainy again. Didn’t do too much. Logan and Randy went record shopping at FNAC, I went to a cafe. We had a little lunch and toured the St. Chapelle to see the windows then had some Bertillion ice cream. We are supposed to go to a party at Peter’s friends’ place this evening.

29 May 2003 (Hemelsvaart) Aboard the Thalys to Amsterdam

As always, I tend to lose track of my journal as a trip goes on; I’ll try to recap (briefly) the past week.

Saturday night we went to the party at Peter’s friends’ apartment in the third. It was a really nice flat, very large with 3 bedrooms and two and half bathrooms! Lots of people there too; silly gay-sians, lots of indolent expat Americans, and wacky young French girls. We got restaurant tips from a girl who used to be a chef. All the guests got very drunk. We arrived at 9:30 and were the first guests to leave at nearly one. Peter says the guests stayed until five in the morning. He says there are constantly guests, and a continuous party. I had the idea of going to a bar as it was Saturday night, but was very tired once we left the party.

(Totally missed the Eurovision song contest this year…I don’t even know who won! But Martin was going to tape it so we could watch it together later)

Sunday we had a very nice lunch at Bofinger (oysters and rack of lamb for me). Then we took the Metro out to the Bellevue neighborhood in the 20th arr. to check out the open ateliers weekend. There were 122 venues scattered over quite a large area—we saw perhaps 25 of them. The art was mostly pretty cheap—20 to 300 Euros, so that was nice. Much of it was very decorative—pretty little abstract paintings and figurative sculptures which did nothing for me. There was a fun squatters collective in a big cool abandoned factory that was fun, and these really great moody little landscape paintings painted on top of photographs. These were shown in this cool little wine bar (Le Baratin, at 3 Rue Jouye Rouve). We had only a glass of wine, but they had food as well that looked fabulous. This went on until 9pm (the art things in Paris seem to run from about 3 to 9 in the evening) then we went to the Open Cafe for a Sunday evening drink. Mr. Logan returned to his hotel and Randy and I had a falafel and then we went to the Full Metal bar, which had a nice mix of people. Still managed to be back in the hotel by 1:30.

Monday had a quick walk around and a coffee with Randy, and put him in his taxi to the airport. I took another cab to transfer my things to Mr. Logan’s room at the Agora St. Germain. I really liked the Sevigne though—nice people, comfortable room (except the pillow, too pouffy) great shower and an unbeatable location. Logan, Brian and I set out in the afternoon and stopped at Balzar for a lunch of steak tartare! Good but sort of bloating, and I’m afraid it was my idea. Then we went shopping in the St. Germain des Pres and visited St. Sulpice. Then we had a long afternoon rest before dinner. Went to Benoit for dinner, the five of us. It is a very festive restaurant, the staff is so nice. I had the balontine with smoked duck and foie gras stuffed inside, and then a roast duck. Logan had a slab of foie gras and the rest of them had the crab soup with the roué and croutons. The charolais beef was fantastic (Michelle shared hers) with equally fantastic scalloped potatoes. Logan had rougets, and we had a nice bottle of Charles Jougouet Chinon. There was the usual cornucopia of desserts: a plate of complimentary profiteroles; I had a lovely custard thing covered with fresh strawberries. There was a giant chocolate mousse. Then verbena and the plates of little cookies and truffles.

There was a very amusing table of stylish, cute young Americans sitting next to us. They were having a great time, smoking, talking, offering advice to us. There was one boy who was very cute and very gay and reminded me very much of Rufus Wainwright. Anyway I have decided that it’s only the most fun-spirited Americans who have come to Paris this year—the war, and the anti-French nonsense has weeded out all the undesirables perhaps; and that can only be a good thing!

Tuesday we went shopping with Brian in the Marais. I bought a few gifts, and we had a salad at Petit Fer a Cheval. Then Logan and I took the long metro ride out to the suburb of St. Denis to see the Cathedral. It is famous for being the very first high gothic cathedral and also as the burial place of (all) the French kings. Lots of groovy tombs and funerary monuments.

We had a pleasant dinner Tuesday at Le Amoges, one of the places the girl

at the party suggested. It is between the Bastille and Nation. It was a simple place, but the food was quite good. I had excellent sardines to start and then a really tasty skate wing (raie) for my plat. I don’t think I had ever had skate before, and it was delicious! I don’t quite remember my dessert.

Wednesday we went to the Louvre in the afternoon—after three for the discount and in through the secret entrance at the Porte de Lions. That really is a great way to get in…no crowds and you can go directly up from there to the long Italian gallery. We looked at that, and a bunch of the Egyptian collection.

I met Peter at the Open cafe for a drink and then he and I met Logan, Brian, Michelle and Lauren at Bofinger for our last dinner in Paris. I had foie gras and a rare steak, and floating Island. With six of us, it was a festive end to my two weeks in Paris.

3 June 2003, Amsterdam